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Radfem 2013 and the MRAs

(861 Posts)
MooncupGoddess Mon 22-Apr-13 17:05:46

As many of you will remember, the Radfem 2012 conference in London was explicitly open only to born women and consequently attracted lots of condemnation and anger from people who saw this as transphobic. It was kicked out of its original venue at Conway Hall and went underground (very successfully in the end).

This year Radfem 2013 has not explicitly banned transwomen... but instead it's come under attack from Men's Rights Activists, who have staged a demo at the planned venue, the London Irish Centre, while making lots of unpleasant and ridiculous claims about how radical feminists want to murder small boys and the like. As a result the venue is threatening to cancel the booking.



I have mixed feelings about the whole trans issue but have no hesitation in declaring the MRAs utter misogynist knobbers and am disappointed the London Irish Centre has seemingly caved into them.

NiceTabard Sat 27-Apr-13 16:53:48

That's reassuring, mooncup.

Thing is if all women say their gender is female, and gender changes to encompass the characteristics of all those women, the gender has to vanish.

So eg if a women enjoys working with motorcycle engines and plays rugby in her spare time, does that mean those activities will now be considered feminine?

Because otherwise, if feminine remains as it is, and all women say they are feminine, then doesn't that mean that all other parts of themselves that do not fit with that are irrelevant? Doesn't that reduce everybody?

I really have a problem with gender, BTW.

vesuvia Sat 27-Apr-13 16:56:37

The protected characteristics the Equality Act 2010 (which applies to England, Wales and Scotland) are:
- age
- disability
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- race
- religion or belief
- sex
- sexual orientation

Full details of the Act can be read at www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents

NiceTabard Sat 27-Apr-13 17:05:58

OK so the poster upthread who said:
"Ok, lets talk Equality Act 2010 here: There are 7 protected characteristics, gender is one of them. There is another bit of legislation that permits people living as their gender of choice for 2 years (no need for medical or surgical intervention) they can apply to be legally recognised as being of that gender. This includes a change of birth certificate."

was simply talking bollocks then.
Sex isprotected. Well good.

SigmundFraude Sat 27-Apr-13 17:52:03

Weren't eunuchs chattels? Weren't they specifically selected on the basis of their sex to protect women?

BubblesOfBliss Sat 27-Apr-13 17:54:23

Protect or guard?

FairPhyllis Sat 27-Apr-13 17:56:46

There is absolutely no sense in which Sparta was a progressive society wrt women. Only in relation to Athens, which is how it's usually written about by the primary sources.

Joyce Tyldesley does not work at Cornell.

kim147 Sat 27-Apr-13 17:58:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TunipTheVegedude Sat 27-Apr-13 18:06:17

Yes it is shocking Kim. I am in no doubt that transwomen are discriminated against in your profession but as you say it is difficult to prove.
Is there a trans rights organisation that, for example, collects statistics?

NiceTabard Sat 27-Apr-13 18:07:42

Well quite Kim I often think that these laws are all well and good but they seem to be used mainly by people in ways they were not intended. Sad fact is that people who are discriminated against are often not in a position to pursue anything. Due to money or just the fact that often people in oppressed groups find it difficult to suddenly behave like someone not in an oppressed group when something happens. Of course the people making the laws don't understand that as they come from a position of privilege and so of course would pull out all the stops if that privilege didn't work out in some way they expected it to.

Don't know if I have made that point very well.

StickEmUpPunk Sat 27-Apr-13 18:12:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MiniTheMinx Sat 27-Apr-13 18:19:03

What about Castrato. Although I seem to recall the boys had a choice (although how much of a choice might be debatable) and they had a fairly high status within society.

Bubbles, I couldn't write an essay. But yes I agree with you regarding slavery.

I would be interested to understand what others believe is the cause of racism and how does this fit in.

I like Parenti's position on the cause of racism which is based on a materialist concept of history.

Parenti argues that western racism is systemic and historical in nature and should be regarded as more than just an attitudinal problem.
He identifies the origins of western racism in imperialism and slavery: To justify the colonial plunder of another nation or entire continent (as in the case of Africa) as well as the enslavement of conquered populations, imperialists and/or slave traffickers dehumanize their victims and define them as moral inferiors and subhuman.

Parenti maintains that racism serves several functions for ruling interests in the United States:

It divides the working class against each other

It creates a "super-exploited" group of people who are forced to work at below scale wages thereby depressing wage levels for the entire workforce

It distracts the (United States) white population from its own legitimate grievances by providing an irrelevant scapegoat in the form of minority populations

It seems to me that by dividing the working class into single issue political activism the ruling elite can largely obscure the realities and prevent people from forming alliances that threaten class society.

Wiki en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Parenti

BubblesOfBliss Sat 27-Apr-13 18:37:49

Mini I haven't got time to follow link - but what you say comes very close to what I believe.

BasilBabyEater Sat 27-Apr-13 18:38:33

I don't know Parenti's work but absolutely agree that racism has a material cause.

In the 1530's I think it was, Charles V declared slavery unlawful throughout the Spanish empire, seeing as how it was sinful and an outrage unto God to enslave men. Because at that stage, black Africans were still considered men like white Europeans.

White Europeans needed to develop an ideology which justified slavery and racism was the solution - the idea that black men were sort of men, but they were not quite as human as the default men, the white ones. The ideology always comes out of the practice IMO, not the other way round. Just as it did with sexism - the ideology that women were sub-humans, was not the cause of women's oppression, it was the result of it. And then of course fed back into it and became a cause of it. Ideology and practice feed into each other.

BubblesOfBliss Sat 27-Apr-13 18:52:45

"Ideology and practice feed into each other"

completely agree with you too Basil

It is the only thing that makes sense - practicality feeding ideology and so on. It pisses me off that radfem haters often suggest we imagine something more conspiratorial- a secret society designing patriarchy on the back of an envelope at some specific point in time.

MiniTheMinx Sat 27-Apr-13 19:06:48

the ideology that women were sub-humans, was not the cause of women's oppression, it was the result of it. And then of course fed back into it and became a cause of it. Ideology and practice feed into each other

Yes, that is materialist conception of history and oppression.

There is a dialectic btw the base (material) and the super structure (ideologies)

Feminism has been accused of not addressing the very specific oppression of racism. I don't know enough about Radfem analysis to say either way.

What I do believe though is that all oppression comes from the same dialectic btw base and superstructure. If this is correct (IMO it is????) then we really need to be addressing some of the antagonism coming out of these blogs because a lot of it isn't based on sound analysis.

Also, if all oppression is caused by this dialectical process then it is possible to build solidarities on the left that would tackle the root cause of ALL oppression, but only if class is given ascendency over sex can this be achieved. (IMO)

MiniTheMinx Sat 27-Apr-13 19:09:44

Just seen Kim's post, wanted to just say, I really hope things get better at some point in the future both for you and in general terms.

BubblesOfBliss Sat 27-Apr-13 19:20:51

"Also, if all oppression is caused by this dialectical process then it is possible to build solidarities on the left that would tackle the root cause of ALL oppression, but only if class is given ascendency over sex can this be achieved."

That sounds good in theory mini but it doesn't seem very practical to me. The odd thing about women's oppression as a sex class is that it is so close to home - in the home - everywhere. This makes their oppression invisible by being so divided from their 'comrades' where they can share and understand the unique commonalities of their sex oppression.

Servants can't organise for their freedom with their 'masters' in the same room if you see what I mean...

BubblesOfBliss Sat 27-Apr-13 19:35:27

Mini I also want to address this: "Feminism has been accused of not addressing the very specific oppression of racism."

I disagree with this since a lot of black feminists came up through the civil rights movement and there are feminists all over the world of all races addressing the intersection of sexism & racism. The problem is more to do with black feminists not getting the recognition or centrality they deserve for their contribution to the feminist or civil rights movements within the dominant 'white' and 'male' discourses.

FloraFox Sat 27-Apr-13 19:53:41

Mini why does class have to be given ascendency over sex? I've heard this a lot from left wing (mainly) men but it usually seems to me that it is just because they don't actually really care about women's sex oppression. Is there some theory around that? (I've been very interested in your theory discussions, although I have nothing of value to contribute.)

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 27-Apr-13 19:54:52


Some further clarification from Radfem.

TunipTheVegedude Sat 27-Apr-13 20:16:23

Good blog.
Stavvers is an enormous shit-stirrer. I followed her for a bit on Twitter but she was just going around 'calling people out' as an excuse to bully them; it wasn't very edifying to watch.

BubblesOfBliss Sat 27-Apr-13 21:32:17

"only if class is given ascendency over sex can this be achieved"

Mini I wonder how the oppression of upper classed women by upper classed men would end by this process? (since it is not just the working or middle classed men who perpetrate domestic violence, incest, marital rape, psychological, emotional or financial abuse and so on)

MiniTheMinx Sat 27-Apr-13 22:39:00

BubblesOfBliss, Interesting questions smile

I shall be perfectly frank, I don't much care about the troubles of women of the ruling class. Since the formation of class structures with the discovery of surplus, ruling class women have benefited by upholding class society. If it came to a a shoot out they would take your head off! and they would stand firm with the men of their class to protect their elevated status.

This sums up perfectly what I mean

""Power feminism." Feminist author Naomi Wolf best summarized this new approach in her 1994 book, Fire with Fire. In it, she coined the term "power feminism" as an alternative to what she called "victim feminism,"

_Wolf admitted that capitalism "does oppress the many for the few," but she argued, "enough money buys a woman out of a lot of sex oppression_

Now you can see why Xenia makes me itch!

Sharon Smith Marxist is very interesting on the subject, Lise Vogel (earlier work confused) but Martha E Gimenez is very clear on why she thinks primacy should be given to a Marxist/class analysis.

socialistworker.org/2013/01/31/marxism-feminism-and-womens-liberation Sharon Smith, No I am not a member.


As Collins acknowledges (and this is something evident in the preceding sample of metaphors attempting to deal with this issue) "the area of race, class and gender studies struggles with the complex question of how to think about intersections of systems of oppression" (Collins, 1997: 73). One solution, based on the assumption that gender, race and class are simultaneously experienced, is to consider them as "situated accomplishments;" they are not only individual attributes but "something which is accomplished in interaction with others" who, in turn, render these accomplishments accountable within institutional settings (West and Fenstermaker, 1997: 64). From this ethnomethodological stance, people simultaneously "do" difference (i.e., gender, race and class) in the process of interacting with others and, through their "doings," contribute to the reproduction of those structures. As Collins rightly points out, this postmodern, social constructionist analysis that reduces oppressive structures to "difference," leaves out "the power relations and material inequalities that constitute oppression" Gimenez

In other words one perceives sex, class, gender, race difference as comparisons. So I could be gender blind, race blind,sex blind....... in fact I could be totally blind........but I could still be starving, exploited for my labour and lacking social power. The reason for this of course is because there is a net beneficiary to this exploitation. All social power under capitalism is "money power" it is what material advantage will buy you. So I could fit every definition of privilege over the other groups and still be exploited simply because of class. There is the question of racial and gendered poverty but underlying this is still the surplus value of labour theory, which essentially is blind in terms of gender/race. The only benefit to be had by sexism, racism and division of the working class is to divide and obscure social relations, create a class of super exploited people, to use women's reproductive labour, women's unpaid labour and the super exploited.......women and people of colour to undervalue labour and increase capital accumulation.

I would argue that to create a slave class(historically) or as now a class of super exploited (female/people of colour) creates the conditions under which these people have a unifying cause, that of class. If people lack the means of production, the material conditions that lead to social power then none of them have the means of overcoming their oppression. This is why under capitalism we have "liberalism" with its competing but equal oppressions" this is used to the advantage of those who benefit from this system by obscuring the primacy of class struggle in achieving equality for all.

Whilst you could argue that I have privilege over the super exploited, I would draw you to: Alexandra Kollontai who like other Bolshevik women called on men to support the equal wages for women. Having a class of super exploited workers places pressure on wages but also means that primacy is given to hiring the cheaper labour. This is why racism and sexism is of no benefit what so ever to other working class people......only capitalist can benefit from it.

BubblesOfBliss Sun 28-Apr-13 01:47:27

"I shall be perfectly frank, I don't much care about the troubles of women of the ruling class. Since the formation of class structures with the discovery of surplus, ruling class women have benefited by upholding class society. If it came to a a shoot out they would take your head off! and they would stand firm with the men of their class to protect their elevated status."

I'm not so sure about that. Many early feminist activists were from the ruling elite. I believe solidarity can exist between women beyond differences in race, social class, sexuality, etc and the thought of anyone being abused concerns me. In fact you are just as likely to find an insecure, grasping, class obsessed social climber showing cruelty and distain towards a poverty-stricken, abused and exploited working class person as you are someone from the ruling elite.

For me the link between the establishment of economic inequality by violent siezure of goods and forced/exploited labour must be factored into a class analysis.

For the required violence to occur to establish a robust unequal and exploitative class system, you need a culture of violent masculinity at the root to achieve it. Violent masculinity as a mindset and as a culture is nurtured and bolstered by othering, controlling and violating women primarily- though the same sentiments can be nurtured by othering groups along lines of race and nationality, social class and so on.

Violent masculinity transcends class and so does the grooming into submissive and placating femininity.

JuliaScurr Sun 28-Apr-13 12:25:58

mini Sharon Smith is cool.
the class before sex thing isn't about the sociology of different groups and whether some people are more important than others; it's about how soicety developedhistorically so the material/economic base gave rise to the oppression ofwomen/Black people - likewise, the group with by far the most, if not only, possibiity of changing the fundamental structure of society is the working class because they can organise on line of their own oppression and have the potential power to unite & overthrow the existing power structures & forming new ones

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