Month: January 2015
I got really pissed off last week – so pissed off I couldn’t write about it – when I read about how Mt. Holyoke, a formerly female-only college, cancelled their production of The Vagina Monologues for fear it would alienate women-indentifying males who have penises. It’s not that The Vagina Monologues is all that amazing – I mean, in 2015 it’s a bit outmoded for a whole host of reasons, the least of which being “doesn’t talk enough about dicks” – but it’s the principle of the thing, it’s the terrifying realization that women cannot talk about their truths if their truths inconvenience/upset/upend males’ delusions about their lady-ness.
In a world that reviles women, art – writing, painting, sculpture, all that shit – has been one of the few conduits available to female persons in which they may – subversively and not so subversively — express their realities. Interestingly enough, the very trans movement that is so obsessed with “right to EXPRESSION” also has a really vested interest in censoring art made by females about the female experience. But this should come as no surprise, when we consider that men have historically had conniption fits when women talk about their lives, even when they are talking through an artistic medium. (I mean, think about what a major meltdown the male literary critics had when confessional poets like Anne Sexton wrote about menstruation and masturbation – women were not supposed to talk about such “delicate matters” because it made men feel uncomfortable.)
Could The Vagina Monologues have been more inclusive? Yes. Everything could be more “inclusive” – nothing written or produced will ever be able to account for every special snowflake’s super unique experience. It’s simply not possible.
I saw The Vagina Monologues – I found a lot of it schlocky, some of it compelling, and in no way did the play address every particular of my own lived experience. And so fucking what? That wasn’t the point of the piece.
But Mt. Holyoke didn’t pull the plug on The Vagina Monologues because it was a bit sentimental at times, or because it was a tad dated. Instead, they cancelled it because women must not talk about their vaginas unless their vagina talk confirms a male person’s delusion that penis is female and that a vagina is nothing more than an oddly shaped penis or vice-a-versa.
But alas, many, many people have lauded Mt. Holyoke’s decision to cancel The Vagina Monologues – because, you know, women’s biological, social, and historical hurt men’s feelings.
One tireless champion of males’ feelings has been, ironically enough, the website Everydayfeminism.com. Seriously, check that shit out. They love the men. And they love special, highly complex, super-specific expression and identities and – oh, yeah – they fucking HATE women, lesbians in particular.
Recently, Everydayfeminism published an article on Homonormativity. This was one of those “hey folks, lemme school you in nonsensical rhetoric so you fully take into account everyone’s fetishes, kinks, and severe psychological disorders” articles that has become de riguer on websites like Jezebel, Autostraddle, Buzzfeed, and, and, and – basically everywhere.
Written by heterosexual twenty-somethings – both male and female – these sites exist to erase the notion that females are real, actual human beings and to deride lesbians for not sucking dick. These sites also purport to be “feminist,” and in doing so employ the crazy-making double-speak “make you feel like you’re losing your fucking mind” patented technology employed by males to make women feel guilty and confused since, well, the beginning of time.
The article is entitled “Homonormativity 101: How it’s hurting our movement.” My first question, upon reading the title was, “What movement? Whose movement? Is there a movement?”
See the thing about a movement is that it has to center around something. The thing about a movement is that those in the movement are bound by a shared, common goal. So I’m not sure what the “movement” is; I cannot seem to find a unifying aspect to the “movement” publications like Everydayfeminism are referring to, unless, of course the movement is about not hurting anyone’s feelings ever (especially men’s), ensuring women-only spaces are destroyed, and convincing gender non-conforming lesbians that they are actually male. Is that the movement? Have I got it? If not, will someone please define it for me, because I’m really fucking lost.
Needless to say, whatever the “movement” is, it ain’t mine.
So the writer of the article about Homonormativity, a straight woman, waxes patronizingly about how queer people aren’t visible enough in the mainstream, and about how stupid gays fought so tirelessly for stupid marriage and what did that effort ever do for straight males who think they’re ladies? What did marriage equality do for gender-queer polyamorous agnostic furries? What did marriage equality do for straight women who like to call themselves “queer”?
And I want to dedicate a bit of this article to the derision of gay marriage, so often espoused by trans/queer activists, but first I want to talk about the issue of “visibility” that this writer, and so many of her ilk, whine and cry about.
First off, yes, visibility is important for every single marginalized group. Accurate portrayals of marginalized people can help promote positive social change for said groups. Women know this. Women artists and writers know this. Female intellectuals have written extensively on this very topic. Visibility is important.
I remember, in the early nineties, how starved I was to see representation of lesbians in films and books. I suffered through the hellishly boring pages of Well of Loneliness (sorry, it’s boring) just so I could see someone “kind of like me” in text. When I saw Go Fish! in the theaters, as a teen, I had to drive ALL THE WAY INTO THE SCARY CITY to see it, and I sat there in the dark with tears streaming down my face, not because I was moved but because I thought, “I hate these people. I don’t want my life to be like this.” So I know what it feels like to want to be seen, represented in the media. I know how it feels to be misrepresented, and I know what it feels like to be invisible.
So when I read an article where a straight woman throws around some bullshit term like “homonormativity” and bemoans the fact that we don’t see enough demisexual agender adult babies on CBS, I roll my eyes really, really hard:
From the television shows Modern Family and The New Normal to TV personalities Anderson Cooper and Neil Patrick Harris, the voices that are given space and visibility tend to be those of a particular class, of a particular gender expression, and of a particular race.
She does not mention that they all also happen to be men.
While I was openly ranting about this piece, my wife wryly observed, “I see Laverne Cox and Janet Mock more than I see my own mother.”
And she’s correct. We see these woman-identifying men incessantly, yet where am I represented? Where are women who look like me and who aren’t “transitioning”? Where are my elder lesbian sisters being represented? Where are we being seen? Where are our voices being heard? I mean, outside of these anonymous blogs? The assertion that dykes – females who form romantic attachments to other females — actually exist, that female reality exists and not as some hypothetical notion, not as some accumulation of “feminine” ephemera, not some hunch – all of these assertions have been rendered hate speech. We now live in a society where it is hateful for women at a “women’s college” (quotes now warranted) to put on a play about vaginas. Think about that for a minute. And think about who benefits from that form of censorship. (Hint: not women.)
The writer then goes on, as so many queer/trans “activists” do, to deride the gay movements focus on marriage equality, and I have a few thoughts on this.
I know there are many people – many friends of mine, in fact – who feel that marriage equality is pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of gay liberation. Many people whose opinions matter to me (unlike the opinions of straight people who write for Everydayfeminism.com) feel the push for marriage equality was a superficial attempt at “normalizing” homosexuality/enabling gay and lesbian people to conform to heteronormative standards.
Frankly, I didn’t give a flying fuck about marriage equality – I mean, I had lots of dear friends who desperately wanted to get married, and I wanted that for them, but as far as I, as a woman and lesbian, was concerned, the issue wasn’t all that important. Marriage has, historically, been a pretty atrocious institution for women.
While it’s nice that gays and lesbians can get married, I’m not naïve enough to believe that right is in any way progressive. And I do not believe it does anything to advance women’s liberation (it doesn’t).
Ultimately, though, on an individual level, marriage has some tremendous benefits. There’s the financial/tax-breaky stuff (which, admittedly, I don’t fully understand because that shit bores me to death), and then there’s the – to me, at least – more important benefits like if I lapse into a coma, my partner, the person who knows me best, is able to make decisions about my life instead of, say, my dad who, though well intentioned, probably couldn’t tell you with any degree of certainty, what I do for a living.
And though marriage itself, as an institution, is tremendously flawed, before marriage equality there were a lot of truly heartbreaking situations faced by lesbian and gay couples whose relationships were not legally recognized.
Think of marriage what you will, but I resent it when straight people (even if they’re straight men who call themselves lesbians) try to tell me how I should frame this “victory.” I resent when a heterosexual – regardless of how he or she “identifies” – tries to lecture me on privilege, tries to tell me or my lesbian sisters that we are “cis” and therefore “advantaged” over men who wish their dicks were vaginas, or advantaged over twenty-year-old navel gazers who are mistakenly outraged that their every quirk is not ubiquitously manifest in popular culture.
[Marriage Equality] also describes the assumption that queer people want to be a part of the dominant, mainstream, heterosexual culture, and the way in which our society rewards those who do so, identifying them as most worthy and deserving of visibility and rights.
Then DON’T GET FUCKING MARRIED. If getting married threatens your sense of “specialness,” don’t do it. If you are polyamorous and are not comfortable with the monogamy that seems implicit in marriage, don’t’ get married. Some things aren’t about your precious gender expression, or the particulars of your sex life — in the same way some plays about vaginas are not meant to be about penises.
And guess what, straight lady? When my wife and I go out in public, there’s no mistaking that we are not a part of the dominant, mainstream, heterosexual culture. And frankly, in 2015, as feminists and as dykes, neither she nor I have ever felt more marginalized, more alienated by popular culture, by the LGBTQ “movement.”
Straight Lady then goes on to say: Marriage as an issue sets up the requirement that all relationships should mimic this heteronormative standard of sexuality and family structure. It promotes the idea that all people want to emulate straight monogamous couples.
I suppose that, in theory, yes, Straight Lady is right on this. And I suppose that yes this is part of what friends of mine take issue with when it comes to the institution of marriage, but once more, no one is forcing this upon anyone. And if you want to get married, the degree to which you “mimic this heteronormative standard of sexuality and family structure” or “emulate straight monogamous couples” is ENTIRELY UP TO YOU. Did you know that you’re actually allowed to live your life as you want to live it without imposing your philosophies and behaviors upon other people? Did you know that as an adult person in the western world you are, generally speaking, allowed to make your own choices? Did you know that if a conservative baker doesn’t want to make your gay wedding cake there are other bakers that can make a cake for you? Did you know that it’s not the responsibility of everyone you meet to validate your every unique thought and feeling?
The fact of the matter is that the trans/queer movement is – just like the “Homonormative” article — nothing more than heterosexual people “schooling” gays and lesbians; it is a humorless “movement” steeped in narcissism and comprised of straight men and women that works to take language away from women and girls in order to render them silent. It is a movement founded by and for exhibitionists who derive great pleasure in exposing their every peculiar thought and fetish. It is a movement that, on its rhetorical surface, deplores conformity and convention, but in fact mandates conformity, and reinforces aggressively conservative, profoundly archaic male-centered sexual and political conventions – gender being one, albeit the most pronounced, of those conventions.
So, yes, perhaps there is nothing ironic about all the woman/lesbian hating that goes on at Everydayfeminism.com because everyday feminism, as it is now known, is about men and for men. There is nothing about everyday feminism – the kind that is touted on television, on Twitter, and on websites like Jezebel, et al — that challenges the patriarchy, or empowers women. Everyday feminism ensures that women are always available to men – whether as sexual partners or fanciful, fetishized identities. Everyday feminism ensures that female writers and artists never create anything that challenges males deeply held beliefs about what it means to be a woman, or if such things are created, everyday feminism will see to it that they never see the light of day. Everyday feminism blames females for male violence – arguing that our ability to know our own bodies, or to know the danger of male persons (much less name that danger) is a form of bigotry. Everyday feminism tells women and girls that the First and Second Wave Feminists were evil, prejudiced bitches (never mind the actual, tangible social change those women brought about). Everyday feminism tells gender non-conforming dykes that they might as well be men, and that those who don’t want to transition should definitely consider dick as an option – especially if the dick belongs to a dude who calls himself a woman. So yes, Everydayfeminism.com is an incredibly apt name for what that publication is – misogynist rhetoric wrapped up flimsily in a package labeled “feminism.”
“Herself” – Does anyone really listen to what a naked woman says?
Excellent and spot-on.
Language and the lie of “erasure”
I was thinking the other day about a class I taught some years ago, in which, as part of the curriculum, I was to cover Aristotle’s Nichomean Ethics. Part of Aristotle’s aim, in this text, is to provide a formula for how to “live the best life” (a rather arrogant endeavor, if you ask me), and so I started teaching the text by asking my students, freshmen, Millenials, what it meant to “live a good life”: What does a good life look like? What does a good life entail? How can we define this?
My students were, as so many of their generation, reticent to answer any of these questions, for to do so would be to take a position and possibly “invalidate” the perspective of another classmate. Each pupil had been raised in a culture of such impossible relativism that each believed to take a stance, to offer forth a perspective, a theory, was to ERASE the stances or theories or perspectives of classmates who might disagree.
In order to provoke them, to get them to say something, to say anything, I asked, “If someone chose to live their life in a dark basement, pissing in a bucket, eating Cheetos and watching pornography until the day they died, would that constitute a ‘good life’?”
Again, they were reluctant to answer, but finally a few brave souls chimed in with responses like, “If they enjoyed doing that, then I guess it’s a good life.” And, “I can’t judge. I wouldn’t want to live that way, but if they wanted to live like that, who am I to say?”
I pressed them further still, “But is that a good way to spend one’s brief tenure on the earth?”
Again, they could not answer. Everything is subjective, they argued.
I was younger then, and my exposure to their generation had been limited. I left class that day feeling a bit sad. Sure, “live and let live” is a fine and noble adage. And okay, so they couldn’t form convictions around an unlikely hypothetical scenario, but what does it mean for us a society when we are afraid to hold a conviction, to take a position, because we have come to believe that to articulate an informed perspective is to ERASE the perspective of someone who might disagree?
Indeed, among the trans/queer lot, a common refrain when someone (usually a woman, usually a feminist) disagrees with gender-worship dogma, is that she is “erasing” the identity of trans/queer people, or that she is “denying the existence” of trans/queer people, or, at its most hyperbolic, “you don’t want trans/queer people to exist.” And so it follows that if we believe the imperative that language has the capacity to literally eradicate people then dissent, of course, will come to be seen as dangerous. And when we deem the language of dissent, rational critique and disagreement, as “life threatening” then we open the door for verbal opposition to be met with violent opposition; we invite barbarism.
To disagree with another human being is not an attempt at “erasure” nor is it denial of the other person’s existence. Nor is ideological, philosophical conflict – when manifest in language alone – violence. (And yes, I realize that when writ into law, language can have a sort of “erasing” impact on groups of people, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about public discourse in what is left – if anything – of the “marketplace of ideas.”)
Increasingly, we live in a world of “you may say” and “you may not say.” The arbiters of what may be said and what may not be said are always the same people — extremist men, whether they are extremist for religion or gender, it matters not. And whatever methods employed by the extremists, whether they take to doxxing lesbians on the internet or, tragically, senselessly, take guns to a satirical newspaper office in Paris, the motivation is always the same – control of society and its commodities: ideas, industry, land, language, women.
What I say on this blog is deeply unpopular. I know this because I am of the world. I know this because I see the comments people offer. Nevertheless, in expressing my perspective – however “off trend” it may be – I am not inflicting violence on anyone, nor am I invalidating individuals lived realities. My ability to exercise free speech, despite what males (even those who feel like women) will have you believe, does not ERASE anyone.
But if we’re going to talk about erasure, let’s talk for a moment about the lesbian community which has been positively decimated by gender-extremism, an ideology that insists female is merely a feeling, that women-only spaces are bigoted, and that gender non-conforming women are really “trans men.” Let’s talk about the disappearance of lesbian spaces – bars, bookstores, publications. Let’s talk about how formerly lesbian sites, like Autostraddle, have become forums for males to deride lesbians who wish to date other lesbians.
If we’re going to talk about the damage language alone can inflict, let’s talk about the crazy-making gender-speak that forbids women from recognizing that penis is male, that insists we not acknowledge shared female experience, that rebrands feminism as a porn-positive, men-centric movement that means “whatever anyone says it means.”
When we embrace absolute subjectivity – i.e. no one must hold a conviction for fear it will hurt feelings/”erase” someone, when we equate the language of dissent with violence, critical thinking becomes impossible as we defer, mutely, to the language authorities (males).
Last week, in the wake of the Ohio teenager’s death, exploited and shamefully glorified by so many on the left, I read a few Twitter feeds that touched upon the tragedy. One Tweet, from a trans activist accused of harassing the teen’s parents, read, “I don’t hate women. I am a woman.”
The reason this tweet stood out so singularly to me is that it illustrated a few things about where we are as a culture. 1) Male says he’s woman, so he’s a woman (language means what males say it means) 2) We believe that women are incapable of hating women because man who identifies as woman says so. (Zero critical thinking involved here.)
I want to speak, for a moment, to the latter observation, because I encounter this a lot in conversations about trans/queer politics – “how can gender theory be misogynist if so many women are on board with it?” The thing is, women can be misogynists. Women can hate women – indeed they often do. One of the most effective ways to uphold patriarchy is to see to it that women hate women, and that women hate themselves. Calling yourself a woman or actually being a woman does not free you from misogynist tendencies – whether you are female or a male who identifies as female, you have been steeped in woman-hating since birth, you can pretend you are free of it, but you cannot, simply by virtue of being woman or “feeling like a woman” absolve yourself of it. And trans/queer theory is not “pro-woman” simply because many women support it. Women have always embraced male-championed causes, male made theories, usually at our own expense. We often, as women, participate in our own erasure.
For example, this week, Autostraddle published this really revoltingly patronizing piece about Gender Studies – to educate their lady readers, I guess. The article was the same shit we’ve seen ad nauseum from so-called “lesbian” publications: “we’re all special unicorns, blah, blah, blah, some men are ladies, blah, some ladies are men, blah.” Boring. Over it. But since this is a post about the notion of “erasure” and “thought policing,” I wanted to point out a couple of excerpts from the article – which was, in fact, written by a female:
Sex is based on the body, but biology is a branch of science and science is also a social construct and really what I’m saying is that your sex is essentially a label a very educated person slapped on you at birth using as many contextual clues as they could garner at the time about your DNA. Sex is not immutable or unchangeable or somehow “intrinsically” defined by our bodies; it’s more that science and medicine have put words in place to define sex and thrust it upon us – and that they’re often inadequate at capturing the full spectrum of diversity swimming around in the big ol’ sea . . .
This is the kind of bullshit, circuitous, narcissist-logic, swamp of nothingness fuckery being sold to women on behalf of males who would prefer we not acknowledge reality. The attempt to convince women – or anyone for that matter – that science is a “construct,” in the same way gender is a “construct,” in a world where most are bat-shit insane idiots because we are no longer allowed to express a rational thought, is dangerous. And how is this any different than the crazy people who run around denying evolution? Or climate change deniers? The incentive for Creationists to deny evolution, and for those who deny climate change is the same as the incentive for the trans/queer/gender worship lot who claim science is merely a construct: the scientific principles inconvenience them, hurt their feels.
“But if Jesus didn’t live with dinosaurs then . . . then . . . then FUCK YOU EVOLUTION ISN’T REAL!”
“But if my gas chugging SUV that I really, really like is bad for the environment then . . . then . . . then FUCK YOU CLIMATE CHANGE ISN’T REAL!”
“But if my penis isn’t part of female anatomy and I really, really would like to be a girl then . . . then . . . then FUCK YOU BIOLOGY IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT!”
Gender Studies is anti-intellectualism dressed up in academese for the benefit of males. Period.
And yes, science and medicine have put “words in place” to define things. Scientists and doctors use words particular to their disciplines, they have language that means specific things like “molecule” and “cancer” and “female” and thank fucking god for that. A doctor’s job is not to acknowledge every special nuance of your unicorn self. A scientist’s job is not to placate your fragile feelings.
Reflected in the Autostraddle is also the way in which trans/queer/gender-speak has reframed true feminism – now considered “radical” – to be “trans-exclusionary” (i.e. does not prioritize males/make religion of gender). Radical Feminists – referred to in the modern gestalt by the pejorative “TERF” – are those who are concerned with the welfare of women and girls, who are interested in the liberation of women, the end of gender, and the dismantling of patriarchy. Trans/queer/gender studies speak has appropriated the word so that it means, “don’t be mean to males”; trans/queer/gender studies has taken the tools of the oppressor – gender roles, pornography, prostitution and called them “empowering.” Trans/queer/gender studies folk work tirelessly to ensure women cannot speak truthfully about their lived realities, for fear it might alienate males.
From the Autostraddle article:
[Constructivism] has been used – or, should I say, misused – in order to invalidate trans experiences. TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) have wielded constructivism theory in order to say that all gender – and thus, the transgender experience – isn’t real.
This is laughable hyperbole.
Radical Feminists, according to this writer, according to most contemporary leftists, are villainous women who have made it their mission to drive a group of people into extinction. Radical Feminists, by virtue of their very existence, obliterate the lived reality of others. This is a silencing technique: if you disagree, then you are erasing me. If you disagree with me, then I no longer exist.
If you need an entire department in a university to assure you that you can dress however you want, be known by whatever name you prefer, fuck whomever you like then okay. Fine.
If you need new words to define how you “present,” or who you want to sleep with, great. Invent the words.
If, in order to be happy, you need to take synthetic hormones and have elective surgeries. Fine. Rock on with your bad self.
But let’s be honest – women knowing penis is male is not violence. Radical Feminists do not “erase” the lives of males. Female is a biological reality, and not a “hunch.” Gender is an invention. Rational debate and dissent is not “hate speech.” Because an opinion or perspective may inconvenience us, or hurt our feelings, as individuals, as groups of people, does not mean said opinion/perspective is inherently “evil.”
As women, especially, we need to speak up, unapologetically. We need to keep our critical thinking skills sharp, we must refuse to accept the mass belligerence of gender/queer/trans theory as gospel, we need to know our convictions, and to be comfortable with our right to dissent. If we become too complacent, if we allow males to continue to redefine language (and with it, our reality), if we allow people to tell us that sane, founded disagreement is “hate speech,” or if we allow ourselves to believe that our perspectives, rooted in lived experience, are forms of violence, then we are, in fact, at risk of erasure. And our erasure will not be caused by language itself, but by our own inability to recognize that the language is being used against us.