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.