“He For She” or, “What About the Men?”

*This piece was a collaborative effort between myself and the amazingly brilliant Phonaesthetica. (If you’re not reading her blog, you should, because she’s an incredible writer.)

It’s review day. Let’s clarify, once more, the differences between radical and liberal feminism.

Liberal feminism asserts that women’s liberation comes through equality with men, and therefore positions men as a benchmark, the “best possible case,” the default setting, the gold standard, the brass ring – if only to be respected like a man, if only to be paid like a man, or to be free to “choose pornography” or fuck anything that moves like a man. In liberal feminism, male is aspirational.

In liberal feminism, society itself isn’t broken, we just need to learn how to better exist within it – like men.

Radical feminism, on the other hand, understands that if you polish a turd, it’s still a turd. Radical feminism posits that the system itself is broken and the game is rigged. Radical feminism asserts that pornography and gender are designed to further subjugate women, while liberal feminism celebrates these as sources of female empowerment. Radical feminism is not concerned with appealing to males, or with making males feel comfortable, because radical feminists believe feminism should be a movement that prioritizes women, and that works to address and dismantle systems that contribute to female oppression – even when it makes men uncomfortable or angry, or divests them of some of their power.

Radical feminism isn’t very sexy.

So I’m never surprised that when the “f-word” comes up in popular culture, it is liberal – not radical – feminism on display. Liberal feminism is decidedly more palatable. Liberal feminism is totally safe and really poses no threat to the integrity of patriarchal infrastructures – on the contrary, liberal feminism often repurposes and supports the most pernicious elements of patriarchy.

This Emma-Watson-at-the-UN speech has been making the rounds on the internets, and I finally had a listen. I certainly wasn’t expecting anything radical, anything revolutionary, anything that challenged the dominant paradigms. Which saved me from disappointment, because it wasn’t there.

Watson was at the UN to promote a new campaign, called “He for She” – which is basically about reassuring men that feminists don’t hate them and that they should care about things like child marriage and rape because, um, gender can hurt men too.

While well intentioned, the speech is rife with liberal feminist “theory,” and I felt, given the popularity of the speech, it might be helpful to hit upon a few moments from Watson’s talk to illustrate some problems within liberal feminism, from a radical feminist perspective.

Exemplifying the rhetorical zeitgeist, Watson makes use of the term “gender equality.” What’s fascinating is the reliance on this term “gender equality” without any critique whatsoever of “gender” – e.g., men are, and are purposed for, Things A-L; while women are, and are purposed for, Things M-Z. (Hint: Things M-Z aren’t very fun. At best, they’re uncomfortable and limiting; at worst, they sign you up for violence and murder).

And on the heels of proclaiming the need for “gender equality,” Watson asserts, not unlike so many of her liberal feminist peers, “Men are imprisoned by gender stereotypes.”

Uh, no. That would be women. Are men impacted by gendered stereotypes? Absolutely. Do we “fix” men who stray from masculine stereotypes (as a way of upholding said stereotypes) by convincing them they are female? Yep.  Are men imprisoned by gender stereotypes? That seems, how shall I say, a bit histrionic to me especially when gender itself, by design, exists to subjugate women. Even within the gender constraints, men seem, on the whole, to be enjoying a huge amount of freedom in contrast with these women or these or these —   or even in contrast to Watson herself, who, for making some truly non-controversial claims about women’s equality has been threatened by men’s rights groups.

Watson also addresses the notion that people are reticent to embrace the word “feminism” in large part because the word has become synonymous with “man hating.” “Why has the word become an unpopular one?” she asks, following up with “If there is one thing I know for certain it’s that this has to stop.”

This of course is not the first time this question has been asked, and unanswered.

The word “feminism,” I would argue, has always been unpopular because it connotes a desire to free women from the prisons, literal and figurative, built by men.  The unpopularity of the word “feminism,” as long as it retains its actual meaning, will never stop, because the very notion of true, unadulterated women’s liberation is deeply unattractive to men – and unattractive also to many women who have been so steeped in male bullshit they cannot fathom a life without it, or they do not know how to define themselves independent of the trappings of patriarchy. (Think: Plato’s “Cave.” Think also: this.)

Watson also mentions that feminists are viewed as “too strong, too aggressive, anti-men, unattractive.”

Whether the 24-year-old, straight Watson knows it or not, this reads like an old, tired code for “lesbian.”

So.

What if we ARE very strong, both physically and intellectually? Like, with bulging muscles and a Ph.D? Like, bigger and smarter than all the men in any given room?

What if we ARE aggressive? (You know, like political activists tend to be?)

What if we ARE anti-what men as a class do to women as a class? What if we understand that individual stories, however interesting or inspiring – “My husband does half the housework and volunteers full-time at the rape crisis center!” – don’t take the place of class analysis; of statistics; of what we see going on around us every day?

And what if we are – horrors! – unattractive? Older than 24? Fat? Disabled? Big-nosed? Short-haired? Uninterested in couture and coiffure? Are we just a big dykey patch of shade thrown across the grand liberal feminist vision?

Granted, mainstream feminism has zero to do with liberating women, but the – ahem — stigma of the original meaning has remained. Even Watson says, “it’s not the word that is important.” In our world of hyper-relativism, ain’t that the truth.

Feminism should be unattractive to men, because men benefit from women’s oppression – from the theft of our labor as well as sexual and reproductive resources. Real, actual liberation movements shouldn’t give any fucks about what the oppressor thinks or feels. That’s for social clubs. And this ain’t the Rotary.

Liberal feminism posits that men and women share the same values, desires and goals across the board, because “We’re all just people, right?”

Radical feminism understands that men and women do NOT share values, desires and goals across the board (e.g. women don’t rape, nor do they generally make war, traffic in human beings or pillage the Earth for all available resources).

More importantly: radical feminists understand that we’ll all be “just people” after the first 24-hour truce in which there is no rape. We’ll all be “just people” on the day that no female infant is murdered for being female (having no way to “identify” her way out of it); on the day that no twelve- or ten- or five-year-old is sold in “marriage” to a grown man; on the day I can go where I can go where I want when I want without carrying a terrifying vulnerability between my legs. On that day we can be “just people,” but not before.

And as for speeches like Watson’s, as for campaigns like “He for She,” as for simply saying the word feminism, as for begging men to support its aims, or aspiring toward some abstract “equality” within a system that was built, from the ground up, with women’s subjugation in mind? This doesn’t work. This has never worked. This is merely an attempt to renovate a home that should by right be condemned and demolished.

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What You Don’t Define, You Can’t Control

Excellent post on language.

You think I just don't understand, but I don't believe you.

fuck this

I have not wanted to blog at this blog anymore. “Bugbrennan” has been more effective beyond what I had intended when I started this effort a few years ago. Go ahead. Google it. Google “me.” You will see how awful I am, how much of an antagonist I have been.

I am the most transphobic person in the world, apparently. Also fat, ugly, unloveable, unfuckable, etc.

Being an antagonist, disrupting the conversation around gender identity was the point, of course.  And when I finished what I wanted to do, I put this blog to bed, and I started another blog.

But nothing beats the allure of BUGBRENNAN, who with a single comment on a Facebook post can kill the identities of Men around the world.

That’s a lot of power you gave me. Thanks!

Anyway, since you are still paying attention, I figured I would pop in to make a…

View original post 998 more words

Same bullshit, different day

If I squint into the past, I feel like I can see a time when feminism centered around women; when feminists were, if nothing else, pretty much all in agreement that gender was a construct designed and upheld to subjugate women. I mean, I can totally remember having conversations with professors in undergrad about how problematic gender was for women. I can remember learning to examine my own “gendered” upbringing, and realizing for the first time that I could totally fucking reject a lot of that shit if I wanted to, that I could embrace (and be proud of) the ways I didn’t fit neatly into gender binaries, and that gender was a form of grooming, subtle and pernicious (for females) – and I could fuck with parts of the charade, I could straight up reject much of the game, and I’d still be female. And let me tell you, these “gender epiphanies” were essential, and liberating.

I really feel for young women who are growing up in a culture that is so drunk on gender it can no longer see the dogma for the patriarchal ruse that it is. My heart breaks to consider that gender non-conforming teenage dykes are confusing their same-sex attractions, their rejection of the “feminine” bullshit they were brought up on, their inability to identify with much of the frivolity thrown at young women, with being male. In our hyper-patriarchal society, lesbianism has been pathologized, has been turned into something that the medical community can “fix.” This is a component of gender. Gender deals in superficial exteriors. Gender is an internalized lie. And the medical community is making bank on our culture’s love of gender.

Many people love to cite the fact that the “medical community” affirms concepts like “gender dysphoria” and “gender identity disorder” as legitimate medical issues. “DOCTORS SAY SO,” is what you’re likely to hear if you’re critical of gender, as though this means something. Of course the fucking medical community affirms that gender identity disorders are real– doctors and hospitals and pharmaceutical companies stand to make a fuckton of money off of these notions. The medical community’s willingness to embrace gender identity as a condition has nothing to do with nobility – it has to do with dollars. (Remember, not too long ago lobotomies were considered healthy, legit ways to deal with the mentally ill – same fuckin’ medical community.)

But I digress. The reason I’m writing is because two articles came across my radar this week that PISSED ME THE FUCK OFF. The first one was this crowing, lengthy piece in New York Magazine about the “highest earning female CEO” – who happens to be male, who happens to have earned his millions as a male. So that’s a real win for the ladies, eh? See, gender, and our belief that gender says something essential about human beings, obscures reality. When we buy into gender, we lie to ourselves. Repeatedly. We lie so fucking much that the truth doesn’t even matter anymore. And in this case, the truth is that women (females) still don’t come close to earning on the level of their male counterparts, unless of course the woman used to be dude. (By the way, the subject of the NYMag piece made a robot of his wife so that when she dies, he can still have her around – does this tell you something about how men who transition view women? It sure tells me something.)

But perhaps the most depressing piece I saw was in the Huffington Post where the president of NOW (formerly National Organization for Women – no idea what the acronym stands for anymore) argues that transphobia is a “feminist issue.” I’ve always had a hard time swallowing the idea that feminism – as a political movement, as a philosophy, as a way of life – must embrace all marginalized people.  I’ve definitely taken issue with the notion that “feminism is for everyone” (blogged about this in the past), or that feminism should be about everyone and everything because a movement that is for and about everyone and everything is NOT a movement. Also, the expectation that feminism has to champion EVERYONE is a byproduct of a gendered tenet whereby women have to be everyone’s mommies.

In any case, the president of NOW uses valuable space in the Huffington Post (space she could have used to expose an issue that really impacts women – like maybe pay inequity or rape or spousal abuse or lesbian erasure in the gay community or the way men, and men who feel like ladies, threaten women online, or how males are working hard to dismantle female spaces) to convince the readers that feminists must prioritize trans issues: i.e. feminism must prioritize males who embrace misogynist gender stereotypes; feminism must bow down at the altar of gender, despite the fact that gender is seriously fucking harmful to women and children, and that this constant conflation of gender and sex is a serious fucking setback for women. She throws around the word “equality” a lot – what, pray tell, does this word even mean? – and makes liberal use of “feminism is for everyone!” — the very trope that has all but destroyed any cohesion within the feminist movement and laid waste to any kind of serious, intellectually rigorous feminist theory. She says equality is not just for a “. . . a certain type of woman. Not just women who look like me!”

First off, there are no “types” of women. Males are not “types of women.”

Secondly, I don’t know a single actual feminist whose politics are influenced by what women “look like,” but way to trivialize women’s thought process – I mean, if anyone is opposed to feminism embracing gender (and embracing it as this inherent wonderful thing), or opposed to having the feminist movement center around males and special identities, it can only mean that those voices of dissent are motivated by the fact that males who present as women don’t “look like me.” It’s not that fucking simple, but I’m glad the President of NOW has the courage to patronize women.

And naturally, she uses much of her Huffington Post space to list all the ways that transwomen are disproportionately victimized/unemployed/suffer from mental health problems. Yeah, I get it. If all those statistics are accurate (I’m skeptical at this point), that’s really fucking sad. And yeah, as a gender non-conforming lesbian, I get that it’s pretty hard to navigate through a world that likes its dichotomies and gets all bent out of shape when the gray area is traversed, but you know what? There are huge fucking problems facing women and girls – still. And I mean, the world over. I’m talking rape and abject poverty and rampant abuse, and countless other horrors and injustices  – EVERY DAY. Every day for CENTURIES. We’ve barely, as a society, begun to do the work of women’s liberation , so forgive me if I’m not ready to spend my time and effort working on causes that affect gender sick males.  Gender still disproportionately harms females, so forgive me if I’m not about to embrace it as something fabulous and inherent.

Maybe the trans community needs to step the fuck up and take care of itself. That may sound callous, but this is precisely what gays and women have had to do. (Granted, with regard to the latter, our attempts to take care of ourselves are now being redirected toward taking care of males.) Start some organizations. Get political. Have a festival or two. Open a clinic. Why does the feminist movement (what’s left), have to absorb this one?

And the problem here – the discrimination that trans people face, the violence that trans people face is at the hands of men. And yet women are vilified (because that’s how patriarchy works), women are scapegoated (radical feminists in particular), women are the ones who have to “fix it” – even if it means deluding ourselves or putting our needs second.

But the problem trans-women face is not the fault of women or  lesbians or feminists (not even the radical kind). The problem is we still live in a male dominated society that worships gender and tells those who fall outside the expectations of gender norms that they need to be modified. We still live in a male dominated society, and that is why trans people of color are murdered. We still live in a male dominated society, and that is why we conflate sex and gender, and tell our girl children that their preference for trucks means they are male, and can be “fixed.” We live in a male dominated society, and that is why the President of NOW is using a platform like the Huffington Post to write about issues of interest to males.

 

A little something from the DNC

I can’t say I was entirely surprised when I happened across an article on Bilerico, penned by an elderly, straight, white, “ladybrained” male, that trashes MichFest (the trans/queer target du jour), and makes liberal use of the slur TERF. Nor was I entirely surprised to find that the author of this article was a member of the DNC because at the end of the day, the Democratic Party, just like the Republican Party, and the Tea Party is most interested in furthering the wishes, desires, and ideologies of males – even those who “feel like ladies.”

But in a way, this article is great, because it exposes the thought process of males, like Siperstein (the author), who believe (in error) that womanhood is merely an amalgamation of gender stereotypes that one may easily inhabit. The article is perfect, because it reveals precisely how males, like the author, understand womanhood – and in this revelation, furthers my conviction (and should further the conviction of other women) that what we have here are male colonizers, underminers, dudes whose male entitlement empowers them to parody and debase the female experience for their own gratification; dudes who repeatedly attempt to gaslight women into believing they are female – JUST LIKE YOU – because they say so, because they know womanhood better than you do, you silly, silly female.

And while this article is tremendous for exposing trans/queer thought around women, the rhetoric is toxic. If we continue, as a culture, to conflate gender and sex; if we continue, as a culture, to embrace the male notion that “anyone can be female,” or that “female is a feeling” then women’s true liberation is lost. If “woman is anything” than it is also nothing. And how fortuitous for men to reduce “woman” to the status of “nothing” – they’ve been trying to do that for millennia.

And let me make another thing real fucking clear – if people like the author of this article want to wear lipstick and skirts and heels, GOOD FOR FUCKING YOU. If people like the author of this article want to go through life believing that woman is a feeling, is a set of preferences, is a “hunch,” GO FOR IT. As the John Lennon song goes, “Whatever gets you through the night . . .”

But don’t cram that patriarchal bullshit down my throat; don’t fucking tell me my lived reality is an abstraction or a fondness for pink; and DON’T even attempt to convince me that your boyhood was a girlhood, or that your male-socialization doesn’t exist, or that your experiences as a man with a fondness for the stereotypical trappings of “femininity” even comes close to mirroring that of mine and my sisters – because it’s not even close; not even once.

People, like the author of this article, are males, and their rabid insistence on “belonging in women’s spaces” is thoroughly self-serving, is decidedly male. And at the end of the day, what these males cannot accept – because it runs so counter to THEIR lived experience – is that women’s realities, women’s spaces (like MichFest) do not exist merely to validate the special feelings and identities of males.  These males simply cannot fathom that there exists, on this planet, even one small space that is not ABOUT them.

So here we fucking go – AGAIN. I’ve chosen to address a few choice moments from the article (it really is insipid), and frankly, there’s nothing new here folks:

After establishing his “cred,” by explaining his late wife was a feminist, and that his current partner is a feminist, ergo he’s a feminist (the logic of these people is impeccably stupid), Siperstein lays right in to MichFest:

But not all women are welcome; only women who were assigned female at birth, raised as girls, and currently identify as women can attend.

SIGH. Let’s try this one more time with feeling:  I wasn’t “assigned female at birth.” I am a fucking female because BIOLOGY. I’m so sick of these attempts on behalf of males to reorganize language so that the default sex is always male. I mean, the trans/queer community might as well just say what they mean and start referring to women as eunuchs. (A belief this writer does, in fact, hold as evidenced by the last, and worst bit of this article.) Also, is anyone else sick of this shit, yet? I know I am.

Then Siperstein goes on to reminisce about his shock and incredulity upon discovering the exsistence of MichFest, something Sir Ladybrain deemed most unladylike:

To be honest, my first reaction was “What kind of a real woman would want to run around in the insect ridden wilds of Michigan? Are you kidding? This is something you really want to do?” Camping in the woods and bonding with nature among our own gender sounds like a “guy thing” is what these “womyn” really want to do.

This is important – this, right here, dear readers, is IT. “Camping sounds like a ‘guy thing’” – because GENDER. “Real women” (that term, no matter who is using it, makes me want to do a “guy thing” and punch a hole in the wall) wouldn’t want to camp in the outdoors! Real women would prefer to sit a spell in the drawing room, drinking tea, nibbling cucumber sandwiches and gossiping/fainting. This is gender – “you are not a real woman if you like camping.” This is what the trans/queer movement is endorsing – bullshit dichotomies that ensure women who do not conform are erased, the same bullshit that ensures all women remain subjugated.

People like the author have a very specific, narrow view of womanhood and if you don’t embrace that view, then you are an ignorant bigot. Got that, ladies?

And I know it really burns straight males, like the author, to know that someone like me can enjoy camping, can wear blazers and boots and cut my hair short and can STILL BE FEMALE. Because my femaleness isn’t a performance, it’s my actual, lived reality. Shit, I can be misgendered and STILL be female. I can go to the pharmacy in blue jeans and a t-shirt and pick up my estrogen blocker from the pharmacist who calls me “sir” and guess what? STILL FEMALE. How ‘bout that?

So after his screed about “How come ladies like camping?” the author goes on to call Radical Feminists a “hate group.” Again, nothing novel about this. It’s a smart, effective tactic for males who are in the business of silencing women, who are in the business of defining womanhood for women, to see to it that those who are truly invested in women’s liberation are viewed as a hate group.

The new thing among trans/queer activists is to liken Radical Feminism to The Westboro Baptist Church – something lunatic fringe-y, something that can be easily dismissed and maligned. And, to be perfectly honest, as a lesbian, I’ve never wasted much time worrying about The Westboro Baptist Church. I’ve never written about WBC, and have never discussed WBC more than to say “yeah, those fuckers are nuts.” You know why? Because a group like WBC, while irritating and insane, doesn’t really threaten my existence or identity as a lesbian. WBC isn’t worth my time or energy. So I find it fascinating when trans-activists write and write and whine and whine and cry and cry about “TERFS” (a slur) because THEY’RE JUST LIKE FRED PHELPS. Because that’s not it at all, really.

It’s not that the trans movement really sees Rad Fems as Fred Phelps, or that (despite their claims) they see us as people who pose a legitimate threat to their safety, the problem (for males like the author of this piece) with radical feminists, is that we won’t put stock in the nonsense that they’re peddling, that we reject gender (and they need gender), that we poke holes in their po-mo doublespeak, and that we refuse to prioritize men’s feelings and ideas. The threat we pose is one to outmoded, misogynist notions of gender; the threat we pose is one to a world where “woman” is defined as merely “non-male.”

Radical feminists threaten patriarchy, and that’s pretty fucking scary for males when every privilege – right down to the privilege to browbeat lesbians, to claim a right to our spaces, to call themselves “female” — rests on the fact of male supremacy.

And finally, dear readers, this is how Siperstein concludes his article:

What drives these TERFs? Perhaps it is something very basic – insecurity, jealousy, maybe even penis envy? I do not know. I do not get it.

I mean, it’s just too fucking perfect in its sheer misogyny. What drives radical feminists? It must be insecurity. It must be jealousy. It must be . . . PENIS ENVY. It couldn’t possibly be that radical feminists are driven by a love of women, or solidarity with our sisters, or by being sick to the back fucking teeth of living in a world where straight white men tell us we have “penis envy.”

“I do not get it,” writes Siperstein.

He’s right on that one thing. He doesn’t get it. And he never will.

More on the article and Siperstein here: http://genderidentitywatch.com/2014/09/01/barbra-babs-siperstein-babscs-thedemocrats-usa/