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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Now the term FGM is cissexist? WTAF?

232 replies

NormaStanleyFletcher · 28/10/2014 21:30

By the very brilliant Louise Pennington.

How can they try to erase the lived experience of violence against women by banning a discriptive term for what is actually happening?

"It is not “cissexist” to talk about the biological reality of women’s bodies and the damage done to them within a capitalist-patriarchy. Frankly, even the suggestion that it is “cissexist” demonstrates a fundamental inability to actually understand the reality of lives of women and girls in our world."

OP posts:
ElephantsNeverForgive · 29/10/2014 11:21

Oh joy, women are dying and exact words matter Hmm

JeanneDeMontbaston · 29/10/2014 11:23

Exact words do matter.

People used to refer to 'female circumcision' and it was changed because women who had experienced this felt it didn't capture what had happened to them. And that was their right.

Someone does not have the right to come along and label these women and girls against their choice. It's disgusting.

And, FFS, it is an issue that is gendered. It matters to say it is female genital mutilation because that is why it is done.

BriarRainbowshimmer · 29/10/2014 11:25

Misogynist attacks that are said to actually be about equality.
What can we do about all this dangerous nonsense?

weeklyshopping · 29/10/2014 11:26

Agree that the FGM stuff is dangerous and damaging nonsense.

But also really agree with the poster who pointed out that this whole storm appears to have been caused by just one poster on Twitter (and who knows, maybe that person is a deliberate provocateur/MRA anyway). I do worry sometimes that feminists are spending so much time and energy rebutting nonsensical fringe interpretations of trans that they're getting horribly sidetracked.

I understand that anger and frustration but basically we're arguingg with people who will say that black is white and two plus two equals five, and I'm not sure how much point there is in expending so much energy on it.

Most trans people in my (limited) experience just want to live their lives and be happy and really aren't trying to claim that the clitoris is a male organ.I worry that these rows will end up creating a more hostile atmosphere for the majority of trans people who aren't to blame for what a very small cadre of extremist activists are saying.

JeanneDeMontbaston · 29/10/2014 11:34

I agree with you up to a point, weekly. People do spend a lot of time engaging with the fridge of trolls. And I do think it's not really about most trans people.

My worry, though, is that there seem to be an awful lot of people who are feminists, not trans, perhaps don't know many (any?) trans people, and who have imbibed the axiom that it is terribly bigoted to object to the word 'cis' or to the view of gender identity it represents.

That's not a lunatic fringe position. It's widespread.

TheWanderingUterus · 29/10/2014 11:37

Weekly - these transactivists actually have quite an influence. I follow a lot of feminists (especially younger academic ones) on Twitter and I see them parroting these opinions over and over again. Radical feminism is very much seen as unprogressive and exclusionary. Hence the no platforming of Bindel and Criado Perez by feminist student groups.

They are shutting down discussion on gender, especially on feminist sites. MN FWR is one of the few places where these issues can be discussed without allegations of transphobia, bullying and misgendering. I have left several other feminist websites out of frustration at not being able to comment freely. I am too frightened to post on Twitter about this because I have seen what happens if you do.

These issues are tiny, but they have generated so much anger and emotion. It is ridiculous and derailing.

TunipTheUnconquerable · 29/10/2014 11:37

I wish you were right, Weekly, but a lot of younger feminists are buying this stuff and causing trouble for/no-platforming those who resist it.

Spiritedwolf · 29/10/2014 11:38

I find this a difficult issue to understand perhaps all the more so because I don't think my instinctive view fits neatly into either that of trans activists or those they would identify as TERFs.

I am supportive of people who identify with a different gender from their biological sex in doing so. I believe they should be treated with respect and not subject to abuse or harassment. I appreciate that they likely have challenges in many areas of life including access to appropriate and sensitive healthcare.

What I find harder to understand is the political argument that their original biological sex (whether male, female or intersex) did/does not exist, and that by extension biological sex generally does not exist, and that anyone who refers to it is attacking trans people.

FGM is a violation against the female sex. It is carried out against people who are born girls with female genitalia whatever their gender identity. If a man requires an abortion, it is not because he is a man or completely unrelated to biological sex. It is because he was born with female reproductive organs. He is in this respect still subject to the concerns of his original biological sex even if socially he identifies as a man.

It seems very odd to suggest that this biological sex does not exist and that it is just chance whether the person affected by pregnancy or FGM is a man or woman. Feminists have worked hard over the years to protect the rights of those affected by being born female. Some of those rights are inseparable from biological sex because they only affect those born female (whether they are women or trans men) and some of those rights affect anyone who is socially identifiable as female (whether they cis women or trans women). In addition trans people also suffer from transphobia and rights specific to the discrepancy between biological sex and their presented sex.

It seems to be missing the point to berate feminists for not distinguishing clearly between the two kinds of oppression they are fighting (ones directly associated with the biological differences of being born female, and ones associated in appearing female - and probably have their origin in the biological differences of being born female, even if the individual suffering them was not) and lumping them under a header 'things which oppress women' because they also oppress either trans women or trans men too.

Feminists are not responsible for this oppression, the patriarchy is. It is the patriarchy that wants to deny cis women and trans men access to abortions because it gives power to those born with female reproductive organs. It is the patriarchy not feminism that socially excludes cis women and trans women from positions of power so they can be occupied by cis men.

I'm not trying to minimise the additional, intersectional oppression trans people face, but I don't think that feminists are the prime cause of this additional oppression. They/we are an easy target because we care about equality and can be hurt by accusations of excluding people due to isms, so we engage in debates that those who are not feminists do not.

I feel I may be likely to annoy both sides with this post because of not fitting neatly into a particular type of feminism box. I know I don't have enough knowledge of the different ideological arguments at work here. Sorry! Apologies for being clunky with terms like cis and trans, its hard to be specific without offending people, I don't agree with people saying it's 'cissexist' to talk about things which affect those born female as women's issues.

ZombiePuffinsAreREAL · 29/10/2014 11:42

Jeanne, she went yesterday, seems to be back today

weeklyshopping · 29/10/2014 11:42

Yes, it's a shame that so many people who identify as feminists don't stop to examine what it is that they're blithely signing up to. I saw a petition on Change the other day about VAT on tampons and the wording was 'this is unfair to women and men who have periods', errr what??

On the other hand, standing up to the radicals and saying you think they're wrong is scary and I suspect a lot of organisations are just following the crowd in a panicked sort of way, because nobody wants to be thought of as a horrible bigot and the loudest voices on social media are often those with the most extreme and weird interpretations of trans politics.

Trans politivs is still very young - think of the radical phases of black liberation or 1970s radical feminism - both of those movements, while broadly entirely sensible and right, had elements that just look laughable now. I'm hopeful that in 20 years time this will have shaken down into something we can all get on board with. No feminist wants someone to be oppressed on the basis of their gender identity, whatever your personal beliefs about how gender identity comes about

JeanneDeMontbaston · 29/10/2014 11:43

Honestly, I can count the number of 'feminists' who don't think trans people suffer and deserve support on the fingers of one hand, and my preferred term for them is wankers.

There are loads of people who manage to think trans people deserve support, while not liking the idea of reifying gender.

JeanneDeMontbaston · 29/10/2014 11:45

Thanks puffins.

TunipTheUnconquerable · 29/10/2014 11:52

Spiritedwolf, I don't think you'd upset radfems with any of that. TBH if you posted most of it on Twitter or some of the feminist FB groups you'd be viewed by the other side as 100% terf.
Look at the amount of flak Gia Milinovich has had for saying sex has a biological reality.
When you actually look at what so-called terfs are being no-platformed/abused/Blockbotted for it's generally surprisingly mainstream, it's just that feminist women saying it have to be silenced.

weeklyshopping · 29/10/2014 11:58

Agree that people get no-platformed for doing things like 'quoting basic biological facts'. It's through-the-looking-glass time and it's really infuriating.

The blockbot stuff just makes me titter though. Why would anyone care that a small group of slightly insane people have added you to their personal block list? I'd be quite grateful if they did. I'm assuming it doesn't have any significance beyond that.

I think what I'm saying is, keep your powder dry for the stuff that actually matters (defending VAWG organisations and defending perfectly decent people like CCP and Sarah Ditum and Gia Milinovich) and don't spend precious calories getting cross about an insignificant twitter troll whose views on FGM stand zero chance of ever going mainstream

ElephantsNeverForgive · 29/10/2014 12:00

For me the huge difficulty is the gulf between this debate and the debate my 13&16 year old DDs should be having in their predominantly white, Christian, rural school.

If they try to research these issues beyond what is on News Beat and come up against this kind of Twitter storm they are simply going to be totally confused and give up.

Zazzles007 · 29/10/2014 12:01

keep your powder dry for the stuff that actually matters

Very true weekly. I posted in a another thread "don't engage with twits", its a waste of energy that could be better spent elsewhere. Seems appropriate here as well.

JeanneDeMontbaston · 29/10/2014 12:09

Mmm. The only problem with 'keep your powder dry' is that I am fairly sure it was the same advice going round five and ten years ago: 'don't worry about these extremists who have hijacked trans issues, they are not influential, it's not going anywhere'.

Ten years ago, CCP would not have been threatened with no-platforming for questioning the label 'cis'.

ZombiePuffinsAreREAL · 29/10/2014 12:14

Agree, Spirited. I can't see too many RFs getting upset by what you've said. It also accords with my beliefs. There is no doubt that trans* people have incredibly difficult lives, there is also little doubt that these difficulties are not caused by RFs.

The problem is that people want to be seen as supporting the perceived underdog, right now, that means supporting a very small but very vocal TA fringe who seem to have a ridiculously loud voice. So, although this is a fringe group, they have got a lot of influence and have already made sure that some women are not allowed to speak, that women who wish to meet with other women have a great deal of difficulty doing that without a ridiculous amount of secrecy and so on.

TunipTheUnconquerable · 29/10/2014 12:17

Oh, the Blockbot is funny, I agree.

Spiritedwolf · 29/10/2014 12:19

Thanks for explaining Tunip as you can imagine with the length of my post, I don't get on well with Twitter, I'm just not succinct enough!

I did wonder if so called TERFs had a view that trans people shouldn't be allowed to identify as a gender other than the sex they were born with. But if I'd be considered a TERF just from what I said, it does sound like labelling people as a TERF is meant to exclude and silence them from speaking out against sexism which is specific to those biologically female. Hmm

NormaStanleyFletcher · 29/10/2014 12:22

I think that most Trans* people just want to get on with their lives in the best way possible, an that many of the trans-activists do not represent them or their views.

I have every sympathy for the extra difficulties and prejudice that trans* people face.

But I don't think these issues are insignificant - as others have said people have been no platformed, people are scared of talking about it, and about gender issues.

I don't feel the need to keep my powder dry for 'more important' stuff, I can care about both - I'll just add more powder!

Oh -and what is this blockbot I keep hearing about? (I am not good at twitter - I need lessons)

OP posts:
JugglingFromHereToThere · 29/10/2014 12:29

I know a couple of trans-sexual women and hope they'd both/all be very supportive of the campaign to end FGM, and not concerned about labelling it as such. So, just saying I can't believe all transexuals would feel as they've been presented here

I think some of the posts on here have included slightly anti-trans comments such as the word "real" etc, though I can quite understand the strong feelings that have led to this.

And I'd agree that it's obviously much more important to challenge the injustices and suffering of the girls in "third world" countries experiencing FGM than to argue over words and initials for issues largely affecting those in the "first world"

BriarRainbowshimmer · 29/10/2014 12:30

It seems that acknowledging that biological sex and oppression based on sex exists is a no-no, it makes you a "TERF" these days doesn't it.

ZombiePuffinsAreREAL · 29/10/2014 12:36

Norma.. Blockbot is a type of plug in that people can subscribe to in order to wholesale block people who's views they don't agree with/find offensive. Originally it was used so that people didn't have to put up with being messaged by far right activists and some of the more, problematic, MRAs. However, it's sort of morphed into a way for the really vocal TAs on Twitter to demand that women are silenced.

When it started it blocked people like holocaust deniers and MRAs, now, you can be added to it for simply saying that penises are not female.

TheWanderingUterus · 29/10/2014 12:37

Briar: Also any criticism of gender/stereotypes. Ladies have ladies brains and if you suggest that gender is a social construct = TERF.

There are some amazing TW on Twitter who are speaking out about this, they are referred to as Truscum.

What SpiritedWolf said pretty much sums up my feelings as well.

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