Thoughts of a person, with breasts

Amazing.

glosswatch

Breasts are curious things. They sprout on you, unbidden, transforming you from child – generic, self-contained, human – to woman, that cartoonish parody of a person.

The way in which they develop will influence the way in which the world receives you. Small-breasted women are bookish, intellectual, perhaps slightly repressed; large-breasted women are cheap, available, maybe a little dumb. Either way, growing breasts makes you fresh meat. It puts you on the market, regardless of whether that’s where you want to be.

I am a small-breasted virgin in the body of a large-breasted whore. A flat-chested non-binary in the body of a matronly ciswife. I have never quite been able to get the right personality in place to match my tits. God knows, I’ve tried.

For almost ten years I starved myself into almost-flatness, rolling back the first-girl-at-school-to-get-breasts humiliations of my final year at junior school. Then when I lost…

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Milwaukee Pride Parade strips Veteran Lesbian Activist Miriam Ben-Shalom of Grand Marshall Honors

GenderTrender

benshalom1

The nameless members of the Milwaukee Pride Parade Board of Directors stripped legendary rights activist Miriam Ben-Shalom of her honored spot as Grand Marshall of the June 12, 2016 “Heroes of Pride” event after men monitoring her Facebook page noticed women had made posts there that were critical of the idea of heterosexual “male lesbians”.

Miriam Ben-Shalom will be a familiar name to Lesbian and Gay Rights activists and historians. She was the first openly homosexual individual to be reinstated into military service after serving as plaintiff in multiple lawsuits and refusing a cash settlement.

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After serving in the Israeli Army as an Armored Personnel Carrier driver, she enlisted as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army from 1974-1976, when she was dismissed on the basis of homosexuality, and served again from 1987- 1990 following her reinstatement after a decade of trials. She was then discharged, yet again, on…

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Shrinking to survive: A former trans man reports on life inside queer youth culture

4thWaveNow

Max Robinson is a 20-year-old lesbian who recently detransitioned after 4 years of hormone replacement therapy. She underwent a double mastectomy at age 17, performed by plastic surgeon Curtis Crane in San Francisco. Max reports that her gender therapist at the time, Dr Shawn V. Giammatei, wrote letters verifying the immediate medical necessity of these treatments.

Max currently works to provide direct support to developmentally disabled adults living in group homes; she detransitioned on the job in December 2015. Her novel Laika, which tells the story of the little stray dog who was sent outside Earth’s atmosphere in a Soviet satellite, is available digitally or in print here. In addition, Max and her partner collaborate on many graphic art and creative writing projects.

 Max, like many young lesbians of her generation, was led down the path to FTM “transition” as a teen, effectively short circuiting her…

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You should be ashamed

 

Last night, like many other Americans, I watched the Democratic Debate. I watched it with, more or less, the same low expectations I have when I watch the Republican Debates (which, for whatever reason, I do).

But what stood out to me, last night, was not necessarily the theater of the debate (and let’s face it, most debates are little more than performance art), but that a question, delivered by Andrea Mitchell to Bernie Sanders, seemed designed to humiliate Hillary Clinton.

Here’s the question, posed to Senator Sanders, Let me ask you a question. You called Bill Clinton’s past transgressions, quote, “totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable.” Senator, do you regret saying that?

This was not a policy question. This was not a question in re: Hillary Clinton’s past actions. This wasn’t even a question for Senator Sanders. Rather, this was a question posed entirely to embarrass Clinton, to shame her, to remind us all of the time her husband (not she) engaged in some quintessentially male, utterly reprehensible behavior. And what we are, as the viewers, to infer is that she (and not her husband) is responsible for that “transgression.”

Politicians’ lives are laid bare. That’s part of the deal. Part of the political game has become to amass dirt on your opponents and use it for your own gain. That’s the way it works. (One has to be something of a masochist to even want to enter politics – I mean, none of us are fucking saints. There’s always something to be had.) But I was struck by how truly fucked up, how deliberately humiliating, the question was. And while Sanders responded to the question perfectly, Clinton had to stand there, a tight, seemingly indifferent smile on her face, while this man commented on her husband’s inability to keep his dick in his pants. I saw this, too, during a Republican Debate, when Trump told Fiorina he thought she was a “beautiful woman” – she, too, had to stand there, pretending not to be humiliated, while some belligerent, repulsive mogul “evaluated” her on her looks.

And while these women, knowingly vulnerable to public scrutiny, have practiced their poker faces, questions about their spouses’ unfaithfulness to a marriage, comments on their physical appearance are not part and parcel of “politics as usual,” but an active, deliberate effort to annihilate a woman’s credibility vis-à-vis shaming them into obscurity.

Aren’t you ashamed to be seen in public because you’re over fifty?
Aren’t you ashamed to stand on this stage when your husband is a known philanderer?

 Never mind your professional, political, academic accomplishments. You, as a woman, should be ashamed: for aging, for the decisions made by men in your life, for the thoughts and feelings you have had that don’t align neatly with what the male majority is telling you to think and feel and be.

And I think it matters that Andrea Mitchell, a woman, asked this grossly irrelevant question. I don’t know if Mitchell herself formulated the question, but it matters that she had to ask it and not the male moderator. Because I think it matters that we look at how women participate in these cheap “shaming” tactics, how women have internalized misogyny and, in turn, unleash that on other women.

There’s a lot of discussion in popular culture around the notion of “shaming” – “slut shaming,” “body shaming,” etc. Most of this talk, however, exists to encourage women to remain consumers and active participants in systems and industries that benefit men, but ultimately do women harm: make porn, keep prostitution legal and thriving, keep busy buying shit you don’t need, and buying into ideologies that work against your best interests . . . oh, and don’t stoooop believin’ that female is a feelin’ — in a man’s head!

Thanks to the gains made by liberal feminism, I can . . . uh . . . feel empowered by porn or my holiday weight gain (seriously, I got super friendly with the couch and went to town on some cookies and ham in the month of December) or I can empower myself by saying I’m “genderqueer” or something . . . And no one can SHAME ME for any of this because right now, all this shit is super cool.

Here are some things that women, according to the zeitgeist, CAN AND SHOULD be shamed for:

  • Knowing penis is male
  • Knowing gender is a construct
  • Being a lesbian who doesn’t want to date men
  • Having feelings that are “not feminist enough.”

I want to talk about the fourth variety of shaming for a moment, because it’s just as pernicious as the myriad other ways women are actually shamed, but almost never discussed. We reserve this fourth type of shaming for women who call “bullshit,” who feel their own feelings, who understand that their stories won’t always fit cleanly within the rigid parameters we’ve set up for “Feminist narratives,” but decide to tell those stories anyway.

As I’ve written, to the point of mental exhaustion, on this blog, feminism has come to mean “Whatever anyone says it means” – ergo, in popular discourse, feminism means absolutely nothing whatsoever. I mean, based on the current “meaning” of feminism, making this cup of tea I’m drinking was a feminist act because I, a female person, made the fucking tea.

And, as readers of this blog well know, I do not ascribe to 1) feminism means whatever anyone says it means (actually, it’s rooted in some solid theory and that theory requires meaningful praxis) and 2) feminism is for everyone. Because at its root, it’s not “for everyone” – it’s for female human beings.

I don’t even really believe in “types” of feminism: there is one feminism – the kind that prioritizes women and girls and tries to disentangle us from the toxic fucking mess patriarchal behaviors and norms (this includes gender) have ensnared us in: mind, body, and (ahem) ladysoul. This involves class analysis. This involves working with other women. This involves some knowledge of history, of theory, of root causes, of issues. This involves paying attention, and critical thinking. This involves being able to parse reality from delusion, even when the delusion feels better. This involves being able to call bullshit on dogma that, however trendy, will hurt women and girls in the long run. This involves empathy, and listening to women, and not shaming other women who have ideas that are different from my own. Shaming is a paternalistic tactic, and as a feminist, I don’t “do” paternalism.

I’m not interested in “equality.” I’m not interested in individuals and identities. I’m not interested in telling women what they can and cannot do, and I’m certainly not interested in telling women what they can or cannot feel. See, part of what I want for women is that they can feel however the fuck they want to feel, and NOT be ashamed for that, and NOT be libeled and slandered and run out of town for that. I want women to feel all their feelings, and to know they own those feelings.

Because here’s the funny thing about “feelings,” they stem from emotion and emotion doesn’t always line up with theory, with political inclinations, with principles. Women are human beings, and human beings have instincts and inclinations and desires and drives that – for better or worse – don’t always neatly align with sterile philosophy, much less intellect. Our feelings, also, don’t always reflect reality. That’s the tricky part about feelings: they’re valid, they have meaning, but they don’t always “make sense.” This is why we can’t (or rather shouldn’t) legislate feelings, why we can’t let feelings alone guide social movements, why we sometimes (as sane, rational people) have to examine our feelings, weigh them against a larger whole. We couple our feelings with our intellect; we try to strike a balance, and for most human beings, this is an ongoing struggle.

I had some feelings last week that didn’t line up neatly with my feminist convictions. I felt sad that David Bowie died. Like, really fucking sad. Like, water came out of my eyes, and I listened to Low on repeat pretty much all day. And as many of my feminist “friends” were quick to point out: David Bowie was a rapist, so feeling sad is wrong.

 In fact, all over the internets feminists of all stripes – radical, liberal, genderfancy – were coming out of the woodwork to brow beat other women who felt sad that David Bowie was dead because he raped girls. Didn’t matter if you, like me, condemned Bowie’s actions, if you FELT SAD you were wrong. You were doing feminism wrong. And when a philosophy, even one I ascribe to, starts to mandate how one “feels,” we’re no longer merely in political territory: we’ve slipped into fanaticism, fundamentalism. And if history has shown us anything, it’s that fanaticism doesn’t bode well – especially not for women.

As someone who loves music and poetry and fiction and photography, I’ve long grappled with the fact that some of the art I admire was produced by horrible human beings: rapists, anti-semites, thieves, frauds, liars, men who battered women, women who abused their children . . . The question “how do we/should we separate the art from the artist?” is one of great interest to me.

And in a sense, I suppose I envy people who can simply say, “Now that I know that beloved piece of music was made by an asshole, I no longer feel an emotional connection to that music.” Or people who say, “Those two lines of poetry that gave me chills were written by a rabid anti-semite? Well! I am no longer moved!” But I can’t do that. And I don’t know if I’d want to do that. And while the question “should we/can we separate the art from the artist?” is a fascinating one indeed, it’s not a question whose answer – if it could be answered – has all that much meaning in the grand scheme of things.

I mean, yeah, you can stop watching re-runs of The Cosby Show now that we all know Bill Cosby is a monster (and he absolutely is), and I can stop listening to Ziggy Stardust because I know Bowie was a rapist (and he was), but as a “political act” where’s the value?

The music exists. My memories exist. My fondness for the music exists. Should I re-imagine my memories, reconfigure my feelings to fit my political ideologies? Am I committing a thought crime for having these feelings? Is this where we want to be? Where we’re accusing other women of “feeling crimes”? Is that our feminism?

Fuck that.

I’m not interested in feelings. I’m interested in facts. I’m interested in actions and ideas. I don’t want to be in anyone’s head that way. I don’t want to dictate how women may or may not feel about their lived realities – hell, the “LGBT” orgs have cornered the market on that shit. I don’t want to manipulate women into conforming to what I believe by way of “shaming” them. I don’t want to be part of a society, much less a movement, that only values “certain feelings” and makes “one feeling” compulsory. The whole impetus for this blog was being sick to the back teeth of dudes “who feel like women” telling me how I should feel about them, how I should feel about myself. And it’s still happening. And it’s fucking painful, and I’m not going to heap more of that bullshit upon my sisters.

The fact is, you can attempt to set rigid parameters on people’s feelings, but it’s a pointless, futile endeavor. And shaming – whether it’s happening on a campaign stage, or on Twitter – is a cheap and easy, albeit deeply malicious, technique used to diminish the worth of women’s perspectives.

The trans lot will keep shaming women for knowing dick is male, and the LGBT orgs will keep shaming lesbians for not wanting dick, religious organizations will shame women for wanting birth control, journalists will shame Hillary Clinton for being married to a cheater, feminists will shame other feminists for having feelings that aren’t feminist enough, and me, I’ll be drinking my tea in peace, not worried about your feelings, and enjoying some beautiful music made by a shitty person.

The Great Fishing Expedition 2016

Yep.

Mancheeze

Men are always thinking up new ways to intimidate and harm women. 2016 will be no different. We’ve come to expect this from the men’s rightsers but it also comes from transactivists, who are aligning themselves closer to MRA’s than ever before. The TransAdvocate has started a new 2016 feature called Conversations. Two men, John Stoltenberg and Cristan Williams, editor of the Transadvocate, are attempting to rewrite radical feminism, to make it more palatable for men. *yawn*

I found out about this new development on Twitter, when I came across Lucyfire’s tweet.

Cristan Williams: a man bent on rewriting radical feminism to suit himself

I find even the name of this new feature hilarious because women aren’t part of the conversation and with all the transactivists no…

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“Transparent”: Spitting on Michfest’s grave

Another great post from Phonaesthetica

phonaesthetica

Jill Soloway’s “Transparent” is a truly great TV show, primarily because its characters, the Pfeffermans, are unlikeable – selfish, lying, navel-gazing cheaters – yet totally engaging in a way I haven’t seen since “Six Feet Under.”

“Transparent” shines with clever dialogue, intricately layered story lines and an overarching awareness of the primacy and inexorability of truth, whether individual or epigenetic: The truth is patient and will find you, however long it takes.

Plus, “Transparent” portrays older female sexuality in laser-sharp focus. Not gonna lie, I didn’t enjoy watching Judith Light get diddled in the bathtub by Jeffrey Tambor, but I appreciate the message: Old women are human beings with human needs and you, the vaguely-nauseated viewer peeking through your fingers and dying for this scene to be over, need to call yourself out on your ageism.  And yes, Gaby Hoffman is strange-looking in the extreme, but it’s only because she refuses to adhere to Hollywood femininity requirements such…

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Jezebel Supports Ebony Williams’ Murderer

I’ve spent a lot of time today thinking about a child who died over twenty years ago. Her name was Ebony Williams. Had she lived, she would be just a few years younger than me. However, in 1993, Ebony Williams was raped, her throat slit, her body stuffed into a cardboard box and burnt beneath a bridge.

She was raped and murdered by two men. Both were convicted, and Ebony Williams is still dead.

I don’t know how often you’re around thirteen year olds, but I’ve spent some time working with this age group. Their brains are cleaved in half – one half child, one half young adult. You can have grown up conversations with them, and you can also easily engage them in word search puzzles and sock puppets.

In form, in thought, they straddle two worlds.

Those of us who lived long enough to be an adolescent might remember this state of being. And those of us who remember, remember how much it sucks.

Adolescence sucked for me, and I was a well-cared for, white child growing up in an affluent suburb, attending a nice private school. And still, adolescence sucked.

Imagine then (or maybe you don’t need to), how much more it would suck to be adolescent and discarded – homeless, unkempt, hungry. Her teachers remember that she “always smelled badly” – evidence of neglect. Others remember that she had a “pretty smile,” which is a detail we always remember about girls who we have paid absolutely no attention to.

Honestly, I can’t even think about this child’s demise without a lump in my throat.

Ebony Williams’ case is not an isolated incident. Men often prey upon, rape, and murder girl children. Recently, major media outlets released the stomach churning audio of Subway Spokesperson Jared Fogle explaining how he would groom children in order to rape them, singling out the “girl from the broken home.” Men, not just Fogle, target girls who are already somehow marginalized, somehow wounded, knowing that these are the very girls society is most willing to dispose of, the way in 1993, two gang affiliated men, literally disposed of thirteen year old Ebony Williams.

The existence, the prevalence of such crimes in a civilized society should make our stomachs turn, should make it impossible to sleep, should fill us with rage. Frankly, to live with the knowledge of such horrific events, should render us in a perpetual state of vomiting and weeping.

So why am I writing about this? I’m writing about this because just when I thought liberal feminist media could not sink any fucking lower, Jezebel published, yesterday, a fawning interview with a child murderer and rapist, who is male, and who now “identifies” as a woman. See, we’re supposed to feel sympathy for this man because he feels he is a woman and he feels the conditions of his imprisonment are unfair and because he feels he has been treated unfairly by women who point out that he is a murderer and rapist.

(Trust me — they’ll do the same for Jared Fogle if and when he decides to come out as trans, and you’ll be a filthy transphobe if you disprove of their support of trans-Fogle.)

Let me be more precise: WOMEN are supposed to FEEL SORRY for a man who participated in the rape and murder of a female child because this man now feels like a woman.

I wonder if he “felt like a woman” when he was cleaning up after the murder of Ebony Williams. Or if he “felt like a woman” when he was smirking in the courtroom during the trial. Or did he first “feel like a woman” when he embarked on a storybook romance with the Zodiac Killer? (Google the latter, I’m not linking to any of this shit.) Or did he really, truly “feel like a woman” when Jezebel, a two-bit “feminist” website featured him as part of some “human rights” story?

In the whole of the Jezebel piece, the name of this man’s victim is not mentioned once. The details of the crime – which are horrific – are entirely obscured. Then again, the purpose of the piece is not to pay homage to Ebony Williams or the countless other girls like her whose lives were ended cruelly, brutally, at the hands of men.

At the heart of this piece is a “story” about how the convicted murderer was “hurt” when Laverne Cox and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project retracted previous public support for him after the gruesome nature of his crime was brought, once more, to the public’s attention: “[Cathy Brennan] publicized that Blast had been convicted for the murder of [. . .] Ebony Williams.”

The writer puts this information forth as though the story hasn’t been public record since 1993 (which it has), as though the interview subject was “mysteriously imprisoned” (which he wasn’t), as though anyone with internet access couldn’t Google the subject’s name and find countless documents detailing the crime (which they could), alongside a lengthy New York Times piece about his relationship with The Zodiac Killer.

The writer then notes that the convicted “was threatened and insulted online and received hate mail on the inside calling her a freak and woman hater . . .”

We’re supposed to feel bad about this. We’re supposed to feel sorry for this man because he was “insulted online.” And really, if we’re going to start filling online publications with “human interest” stories about people who were “insulted online,” then there will be no fucking room left for any other news.

Furthermore, we’re supposed to feel that he’s the victim of Cathy Brennan? Are you fucking serious? Laverne Cox withdrew public support for this man because despite Cox’s desire to make sad puppy dogs out of violent males who “feel like women,” even Cox couldn’t stomach the details of what this man did to Ebony Williams. Even Laverne-#Ilovemenbuthatepatriarchy-Cox didn’t want to align himself with this male person’s heinous crime.

But let’s blame Cathy Brennan. This writer’s purpose isn’t about advocating for prisoners’ rights, about critiquing the prison industrial complex, it’s about showing her allegiance to the bullshit notion that feminists (I mean the kind who advocate for and care about female human beings) are the cause of all the pain and suffering poor, poor men who feel like ladies endure. And it’s about ensuring that “thought crimes” – such as acknowledging that trans women are actually male — are more offensive to us as a society than “actual crimes” – like raping, murdering, and burning children.

The real purpose of the Jezebel piece is to vilify women who call bullshit on people like the article’s subject. If this wasn’t, in fact, the purpose then there’d be no reason to mention Cathy Brennan.

In the Jezebel piece, the murderer discusses his self-described “elation” when he found out Laverne Cox and the SRLP were going to “be” his “voice.” The world was going to hear my words, he writes.

Mind you, there was no one to be Ebony Williams’ voice, nobody to hear her words. Then again, she was just a girl.

The convicted then expresses how crestfallen he was when TERFS [. . .] started a smear campaign calling me a rapist.

 I know that I now live in a world where logic is not terribly en vogue, but when you’ve been convicted in a court of law of RAPE, it’s not a fucking “smear campaign” when someone calls you a rapist. Like, calling Jefferey Dahmer a cannibal isn’t a “smear campaign.” Calling Ted Bundy a “serial killer” isn’t besmirching his character. If you killed people and consumed their body parts, you’re a fucking cannibal. If you raped a child, you’re a fucking rapist. It’s not conjecture. It’s fact.

And if what makes one a TERF is acknowledging that it’s reprehensible, sickening, and incomprehensibly repulsive to make a folk hero of a man who raped and murdered a child then I’m happy to be a TERF.

The writer of the Jezebel article, however, wants us all to know that she is not a TERF. She tells us this by giving this criminally minded, murderous, person a platform to obsess over Cathy Brennan (how feminist! how responsible!), a woman who has absolutely nothing to do with this person’s crime or case.

The writer wants you to know that, unlike Cathy Brennan, she will happily defer to a child murderer, who is male, for insight on what makes one a feminist:

How do you think transphobia shaped the way Cathy Brennan described you – or the danger she claimed that you posed? Would you call her a feminist?

 Let’s take a moment to let this sink in. Really sink in. Here a writer for a so-called feminist publication is encouraging a violent, gang affiliated, MtT, who, by all legal accounts, participated in the rape and murder of a child, to ruminate on his feelings about a woman who, in his warped little mind, has “wronged” him. In the mind of this person, Cathy Brennan, and not his heinous actions, are the cause of his suffering.

The writer, vis-a-vis Jezebel, vis-à-vis Gawker Media, suggests that it is not the facts of the crime itself, not the fact that Ebony Williams was raped and murdered and burned, that suggest this person “poses a danger,” but Cathy Brennan who suggests this person “poses a danger.”

And, ironically (or not so ironically), in bringing Brennan up repeatedly in the course of the interview, stoking the flames of the interviewee’s irrational ire, the writer poses a danger to Brennan.

Oh, and then, the writer asks this “man who identifies as a woman” whether or not he thinks Brennan is a feminist, as if his answer should matter to the reader.

I, for one, do not care what this man, complicit in the death of Ebony Williams, thinks of another woman, thinks of feminism. I do not take my political worldview from unrepentant men who participate in brutalizing and murdering girl children. And I certainly don’t get my feminist theory from fucking Jezebel.

She is a monster, the convicted says of Cathy Brennan.

[She] is not a feminist, the murder and rapist says. I am a feminist. I am against women being harmed. I am against women being raped.

 And we are to believe he is against these things, just as we are to believe he is a woman.

Ebony Williams, sadly, wasn’t around for his change of heart. Ebony Williams didn’t encounter the womanly, feminist version of this man. In the course of her devastatingly short lifetime, I’d hazard that Ebony Williams didn’t meet many nice feminist men like the one who raped her and placed her body beneath a bridge to be burnt like so much garbage.

As for Cathy Brennan, her crime was daring to bring up Ebony Williams just as LGBT media and trans activist groups were in the process of canonizing her murderer.

Because this, apparently, is what we do now: if someone who identifies as “trans” has to face consequences for an unethical or illegal action, we make saints of them. If said “trans” person is a “trans woman” we automatically interpret their deserved consequence as “persecution.” In this way, trans women – even the ones who straight up murder people – benefit from male privilege. I mean, this gratuitous display of moral and ethical exemption has never been extended to women and girls.

Also, if “feminist publications” wish to extend their sincerest sympathies to people in prison, there are lots and lots of women in prison as a result of abusive spouses and boyfriends, lots of young women behind bars as a result of long histories of sexual abuse, lots of women serving out grim sentences because they were trafficked by men. There are lots of girls who, unlike Ebony Williams, survived adolescence and ended up incarcerated because they were societal throwaways.

But Jezebel isn’t interested in “being the voice” of those women.

So fuck Jezebel, and fuck their parent company, Gawker Media.

For my small part, I’ll be encouraging those I know to stop reading and sharing articles from these sites. I’ll tell anyone who will listen that Jezebel doesn’t care about girls like Ebony Williams, that Jezebel has a vested interest in encouraging violent males to target women who disagree with their brand of “feminism.” And I’d encourage any well-intentioned feminist reader of this blog to do the same.