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Facebook feminist groups and LGBT

(87 Posts)
AnnieLobeseder Mon 01-Apr-13 21:18:10

I would like to run something by you folks.

I am aware that a good few feminists are lesbian. But is it normal for feminism to be intricately entwined with LGBT theory and activism to the exclusion of almost anything else?

I follow a few feminist pages on Facebook, and it seems that they post way more stuff on LGBT theory than feminist theory. Loads of posts and outrage about trans women being forced to use male restrooms and loads on equal marriage rights, but very little about FGM, the millions of lost women in India and China, the very rare post about women being lashed/stoned for extramarital sex after being raped in the Middle East.

Of course I understand there are some overlaps between the groups, but surely feminism is first and foremost about issues that are peculiar to women?

At risk of a flaming, to focus on trans and gay issues to the exclusion of women suffering horribly at the hands of men, particularly in the developing world, just smacks of first world privilege and frustrates me.

This Mumsnet topic/group seems to be focussed first and foremost on women, which is why I'm asking here. Have any of you noticed similar on Facebook? Are there any feminist groups I've missed which keep women front and centre? As a straight feminist, I just don't feel like I belong on some of the groups I follow.

FloraFox Tue 02-Apr-13 18:34:11

I find the genderqueer label quite sad. Doesn't it just mean you're not Barbie or Ken? I agree with Pretzel - isn't that almost everyone?

Beachcomber Tue 02-Apr-13 18:38:05

(That was in answer to deadlift)

Thing about genderqueerism is that much of it presents as being subversive and 'post-sexism' when in fact it shores up the patriarchal concept of gender (as critiqued by radical feminist analysis. There is a deep underlying conservatism and misogyny (internalized or otherwise) to a movement that is founded on notions of gender (queered or otherwise).

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 02-Apr-13 18:38:46

To be fair (ish), I think 'genderqueer' comes from people wanting a label that unites a wide spectrum of marginalized folks. So you have people who identify as 'queer' because they're gay, bi or lesbian, and (I think) some people who cross-dress identify as 'queer' too. And I think 'genderqueer' is a way to find a term that acknowledges that all sorts of people transgress the gender roles society expects of them.

I can believe that to call all of those things 'queer' could be a powerful unifying factor. I've read a fair bit of academic scholarship in history and lit that uses 'queer' to mean simply 'transgressing society's norms'.

I don't personally find any of this helpful to me, and I have reservations with a lot of it, but I think it's that attempt to find common ground that's behind a lot of this.

Problem with common ground is it tends to erase the differences between minorities, and it seems as if women are always going to be in the erased group. sad

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 02-Apr-13 18:40:37

Cross-posted with beach, but I agree.

I really dislike the idea that some people (I'm sure they're not typical, so I'm not generalizing from them) have, that 'queering' gender is somehow excitingly transgressive, something you deserve to be praised for and should aspire to.

PretzelTime Tue 02-Apr-13 18:51:19

The concept of genderqueer (as described by urbandictionary) sounds like the opposite of feminism.
If a girl likes cars and has other typical boyish interests, does that mean she isn't a girl but genderqueer? confusedsad

LRD what is queering gender?

SatsukiKusukabe Tue 02-Apr-13 19:07:45

not much to add, but agree with most of you. I have noticed in a girls guide that cis-gender is becoming a common term, which I find strange on a page devoted to saying you aren't a slave to your gender. But I think it's like pretzel said, women are supposed to fight for other people's rights.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 02-Apr-13 19:15:34

Well, I don't know if this is the normal understanding or if it's specific to people I know - because I know there's a lot of variation in how people use the term 'queer' and it might be this is the same.

In academic contexts, people talk about 'queering' gender to mean, an activity or image that transgresses society's expectations of male or female behavior. So, a woman dresses up as a knight and goes to war might be genderqueer, but a story that describes an army of woman (say, modern-day Amazons) is a story that's 'queering' gender ... it's providing a shocking and transgressive example of people acting against the gender norm that expects men to be the army and woman to be peaceful.

This seems to get extended, so I've seen people refer to 'queering' a situation when they are really only talking about transgression and not gender. Effectively they use 'queering' as a metaphor, and 'gender' as a metonym for any rigid social structure. So, a peasant who becomes king might be understood in terms of the 'queering' of social stuctures.

Gender 'queering' might also refer to sexuality in the sense I'm personally more used to, so a man who is attracted to another man might be described in the context of gender queer behaviour.

I really don't like this type of academia. I think it's disrespectful to actual gay people to use homosexuality as an analogy, and I think that if you are going to talk about gender, you need to be very careful not to assume 'transgression' is daring and innovative, when as people have said on this thread, transgression only reinforces the idea that there's a binary to transgress.

In a non-academic context I've seen people say that practicallyanyone who is not a feminine (and non-feminist) woman or a masculine (and non-feminist-friendly man) is 'gender queer'. I've also seen it used to refer to a much smaller subsection of people who really rage against gender sterotypes.

I don't really see what it has to offer as an idea, that the idea of getting rid of gender as a concept doesn't. I think it is only solidarity with the relatively powerful and/or prominent groups of gay men and trans people. Obviously that solidarity could be a good thing but when it's the only thing I can see to recommend this term and this concept, I get suspicious.

Whew, sorry, far too long a post. blush

PretzelTime Tue 02-Apr-13 19:32:30

Don't worry, thanks for explaining it LRD.

RiaOverTheRainbow Tue 02-Apr-13 21:27:50

I've never before seen gender queer to mean 'unfeminine woman' or 'unmasculine man'. Some of the people I know of who identify as gender queer feel that sometimes they are male, sometimes female, however that feels to them (and not in a 'today I'm male because I'm playing football' kind of way). Sort of a part-time transgender thing.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 02-Apr-13 21:31:13

I am aware it must be such a niche meaning. It is just the one I've come across time and again.

I certainly include in that people who feel sometimes male and sometimes female, of course - that goes without saying.

I think the crux of the issue is that some of these people think that gender is an oppressive category we should get rid of. Others wish to keep it, and of course it is true that as a category gender gives some people a huge amount of power.

RiaOverTheRainbow Tue 02-Apr-13 21:43:44

I understand that in an ideal society gender wouldn't matter/exist, and it's fine to work towards that, but I think ignoring that some people genuinely feel that their birth identity is wrong, as feminism often does, is not the way to get there. Not that feminists have to focus on other oppressed groups' issues, just acknowledge them. If everyone felt feminism was good at that, things like womanism wouldn't exist.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 02-Apr-13 21:54:45


The feminism with which I'm familiar acknowledges that the gendered identity (even the identity) with which the vast majority of people are born, is ... well, not so much 'wrong' as unhelpful, painful and limiting. To say it's 'wrong' is to imply there's a 'right' identity ... is there? If there were, that would mean sacrificing the needs of many people to the needs of the few, and that will never seen right to me.

I'm not qualified enough to speculate on womanism but I look forward to someone else explaining?

RiaOverTheRainbow Tue 02-Apr-13 22:17:56

I think one can campaign to destroy 'gender' as a concept without saying that people who are made unhappy by their body/gender need to suck it up. Maybe if gender ceased to exist then no-one would feel the need to be trans*, but until that point let people cope within the patriarchy as they deem best.

And to my knowledge womanism is basically feminism for women of colour who felt that they were being told to shut up about racism because if it doesn't affect all (white) women it's not a feminist issue.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 02-Apr-13 22:31:50

Well, of course. I've never heard anyone, even the most radical feminists I know (which may say something about the radical feminists I know) who think anyone should 'suck it up' about anything where they're marginalized by the patriarchy.

I am in a bit of a bind here, because I understand from women who're womanist that it is much more than a negative agenda formed in reaction to feminism. In fact my understanding is that womanism has its roots very old movements, doesn't it?

RiaOverTheRainbow Tue 02-Apr-13 22:42:59

TBH most of my knowledge of womanism is second hand so I may not have my facts straight.

I may have misunderstood you but 'sacrificing the needs of many people to the needs of the few' read to me a bit like there are more women than trans* people so their problems don't matter. I don't feel the trans* community is a particular threat to women, I know not everyone agrees.

KRITIQ Tue 02-Apr-13 23:06:52

Ria, I think your description of how womanism as a concept came about and why it still exists fits with explanations I've had from womanists. I don't think though they would say that it comes from a "negative agenda," but rather forming their own response to their experience of sexual, class and racist oppression that simply isn't seen as a priority within feminism, socialist worker type movements or civil rights/anti-racism campaigns. Intersectional oppression is a very real, lived experience for most women of colour, who feel compelled to "segment" their identities in order to be fully accepted into any one of these movements. So, not surprisingly, they choose to forge their own identity and focus on liberation form an intersectional perspective.

(Hoping this thread isn't heading in the direction I fear it might be . . . )

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 02-Apr-13 23:09:52

Oh, my knowledge of womanism is also second-hand, I was trying very hard to make that clear!

As regards the second part - not, that's not at all what I said! I am saying that the needs of women should not be excluded from feminism. Hardly revolutionary, you would think! sad Yet it can be.

What I was actually talking about when I referred to the many and the few, was gender identity.

I believe that only a very few people in our society are happy with gender identity as it currently is. There are men who enjoy feeling 'masculine', who think that it is purely hard work that gets them success. There are also women who love being 'feminine' and point out that it is so nice for women to enjoy men opening doors for them.

These people are the minority, the few. If we keep on insisting that gender roles are necessary, we pander to these few privileged people.

I fail to see what this has to do with being trans, except that many trans people do assume a gender binary is real. I am fortunate that I know a woman who is trans and who has told me that this is a reductive view of all trans people.

KRITIQ Wed 03-Apr-13 00:10:40

LRD, my understanding of womanism is also second hand since I'm a visibly white person myself and don't experience the same kind of intersectional oppression a woman of colour does.

I know you said that a trans woman said to you that she believes the "gender binary" is real, and I totally accept that is the experience for her, as it is for many folks who don't identify as trans. But, I'm not sure one person can genuinely say they know a belief to be shared by all people within a group. As a woman, I could say, "all women believe such and such," and even if I sincerely believe it, and the person I say it to also believes it, that doesn't necessarily mean it's an absolute truth.

From the study of young people I mentioned above, if anything, those who identify as trans* or "gender fluid," believe identity is far more varied and complex than just a binary. I'm wondering if some of these concepts we are struggling with here may be related to a different perception/perspective/understanding/experience of younger people coming through that we slightly older folks (and I know I'm alot older than you smile) are struggling to get our heads round. That's not to negate the experience, analysis, chosen terms, etc., of older people, regardless of their identity. I'm just wondering if some of this is partly a case of "things feel/are/seem different for younger people."

What makes me kind of wonder this is that all round t'interwebs, I hear somewhat older feminists (and I'm thinking 30 plus - sorry folks!) lamenting young women's disinterest in/dismissal of/poor grasp of/generally doing it wrong/etc. of feminism. To be fair, in the wider media, we get plenty of stories about disaffected, disengaged, selfish young people generally, so this could in part be a reflection of that. Maybe it's because of the work I do that I don't come to these conclusions, because I see alot of young people who give a damn, including alot of young women committed to feminism, whether they choose to use the term or not. Just thinking outloud here . . .

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 03-Apr-13 00:27:57

kri, I have very carefully and consistently stressed the fact that no-one can know a belief is shared by everyone within a group ... was this somehow not coming across? confused

I thought when I said, repeatedly, that was only talking in anecdotes or wasn't sure how typical my points would be, that perhaps it'd be clear I meant this. I apologize if that was opaque and I should have spelled everything out more plainly and more often in each post.

Sorry, I'll read the rest of your post tomorrow but that struck me immediately since I felt I'd clarified it several times already and I am worried about what it is that I'm failing to say? confused

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 03-Apr-13 00:31:29

Btw, I am very aware, as you say, that I fit into the younger group who're under 30 and therefore are perhaps missing something here. I don't think we're disengaged or selfish, though.

Beachcomber Wed 03-Apr-13 00:52:36

OK. I'm just scanning this thread now, because as happens so often, a discussion about feminism being about women having the right to be about women (for crying out...) is turning into accusations of racism/elitism/non inclusiveness.


Women will continue to be oppressed whilst we tolerate this sort of manipulative emotional blackmail.


<Checks out of MN once more>

Thanks Annie for starting this thread. I think the issue is very very interesting, valid and revelatory. But god forbid that women actually get to care about themselves, we can't have that.....

Beachcomber Wed 03-Apr-13 01:07:10

Oh and my understanding of womanism is that it is about women of colour analysing and describing the particular cultural modes of racial misogyny that are reserved for women of colour.

To make it a divisive issue is shoddy.

FairPhyllis Wed 03-Apr-13 02:47:36

My experiences of the use of 'queer' in the US suggest that it is the norm in at least some circles there for it to mean non gender-conforming. I have a friend there who describes herself as a straight woman who is queer. I don't doubt that this is a sincere attempt to describe her experiences, but it does feel like an excluding term to me - it feels like a word used by a club of people who like theory to set themselves apart - when as far as I can see if you struggle with gender then you are pretty much a normal human being.

KRITIQ Wed 03-Apr-13 03:16:44

Okaaay, knew it wasn't a good idea straying outside the Pet Forum here! Nevermind . . .

AnnieLobeseder Wed 03-Apr-13 11:06:59

FairPhyllis - that's exactly my view. To put everyone who doesn't feel like the stereotypical man or woman into a whole new category of "queer" is compeltely disingenuous. Instead of labelling themselves as "other", why not just campaign for inclusiveness in regular society, why not push for there to be no stereotypical norm which we should struggle to fit into? It seems like a determined effort to be seen as different, when really you're just as normal as anyone else.

There is a gay male mod on one of these Facebook groups who posted a rant about gay marriage, saying he opposed it because it's "an insidious attempt to normalise homosexuality". Huh? Surely homosexuality being seen as normal (which it is!) is a good thing? He seems determined, as do many of these queer activists, to be labelled as different and stand out. But we're all just people, and he's really nothing special.

It seems very attention-seeking to me.

I also question why a male queer activist is a moderator on a feminist board, but that's their decision, not mine.

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