I really did not want to write about the Bruce Jenner thing . . . or transition, or second coming, or miracle . . . whatever you want to call it. Frankly, after I caught an eyeful of Jenner gussied and corseted, I just wanted to forget all about it for a whole host of reasons. Also, Bruce Jenner is a pig. Bruce Jenner is a wealthy, white Republican who has no doubt contributed money to political causes that harmed women and gays. I saw the Diane Sawyer interview – Bruce Jenner is a condescending asshole, and a fetishist, and I’m sorry if that hurts anyone’s feels. Also, Bruce Jenner recently killed someone with his car, but no one wants to talk about that because Bruce Jenner is a hero for buying tits, or something, I’m not sure . . .
I grew up in Illinois, a state where virtually all of our governors go to prison. (The joke is, Illinois: Where the Governor Makes Your License Plate.) When Governor George Ryan went to prison for selling truck driving licenses that resulted in the gruesome death of an entire family – mother, father, kids – many people moaned, “But he’s an old man. That’s so mean to send him to jail for the REST OF HIS LIFE. What about his wife? He’s old!” As if old people can’t be horrible people. Old people can be horrible, hateful humans. So can cancer patients. So can homos. So can trans women. Being elderly or sick or part of a marginalized group does (should) not absolve one of scrutiny. We like to forget this, because it makes it easier for us to then lack culpability for our own actions, because it allows us, as a culture, to cultivate cheap heroes – CAITLYN JENNER! SO HEROIC BECAUSE . . . he’s had everything handed to him, because he’s benefited an awful lot from that brave male privilege, that super courageous reality show where he pimped out his kids. And when our heroes are heroes for doing absolutely nothing, well then, by golly! We can be heroes, too! Shit. I’m a dyke and I got out of bed this morning: HERO! BRAVE! BADGE OF COURAGE WORTHY!
So, whatever. Fuck Bruce Jenner. This post isn’t even really about him. It’s about the New York Times.
I was shocked and delighted to see Elinor Burkett’s article in The Times. Like, you could have knocked me over with a genderqueer feather. I mean it. My jaw dropped. Because here, prominently, on this highly regarded site, was a woman being critical of the trans agenda, a woman saying fuck you to the idea that female is a feeling, is whatever men say it is, is chipped nail polish. I agreed with virtually every point Ms. Burkett made, and I felt relieved that here, in this mainstream publication, was reflected what so many women have been discussing in the shadows.
And I also worried about Ms. Burkett. I worried about the backlash she would receive, which for those who are openly critical of transgenderism includes slurs, no-platforming, and death threats. Asserting that female is more than a feeling can be a career destroyer, and worse.
Have you all read The Handmaid’s Tale? (If you haven’t, you should; if you have, you probably know where I’m heading.) I know it may seem like an easy correlative, but one thing that always strikes me when I think about that piece of speculative fiction, as it relates to the trans agenda, is how in Atwood’s imagined world, others (men) dictated how women could talk about themselves, moreover, others (men) dictated how women might remember their pasts. In Atwood’s dystopia, it was a manner of thought crime to remember that you had friends, had a husband, a lover, kids, a house, an education, that you KNEW things, because the only “reality” that should be real to a woman was the one that had been manufactured for her by men.
Women have penises. They always have.
Men can menstruate.
Bruce Jenner was never a man.
And if you don’t buy this? If you push back? If you so much as raise your lady eyebrows? You, sister, are fucked. You’ll be called a bigot. You’ll be threatened. You’ll be silenced. There’s a reason there’s a whole network of anonymous blogs, like mine, on this topic: women who dare speak their truth, who dare call bullshit on what male driven media, male driven gay orgs, male driven academia, male driven legislation is trying to force down our collective throats will be shunned, will be destroyed – and not because we’re “wrong,” but because we’re sinning against the gender God, we’re committing thought crimes, we’re not being “nice feminists,” we are refusing to make our philosophy, our worldview, all about what men need, what men want, what men make believe.
There’s a line the Trans Lobby likes to tow about women like me: we are a “fringe” group, a small, hateful minority. But you hear that deafening silence from lots of other women? You hear the nothing coming out of the mouths of so, so many other women? That’s not approval, brother. That’s fear. Women are, largely, silent on this issue not because they are in agreement, but because they are afraid – afraid of seeming “mean” or of being called bigots or of receiving death threats. Women, especially, have been bullied into silence on this issue. It’s not that women are buying what men are selling, it’s that they’re – rightfully – afraid to say they disagree.
Men are really fucking good, though, at deluding themselves into believing that omissions, silences, are affirmations. I think about a documentary my wife and I recently watched about men who buy wives from Russia. Most of these men could confidently say, “Oh, yeah. She loves me. She came all the way from another country to be with me.” They were able to ignore the fact that they fucking PAID for her airfare, and that she had no appealing options left as a woman in her home country (bride-trafficking is prostitution, and the women who sell themselves in this manner do so for the same reasons women sell themselves on highway off ramps), oh, and the men gave zero fucks that she didn’t speak a lick of English because who wants a broad that’s gonna run her mouth all the time, am I right, fellas? And these men could convince themselves that the women they purchased were there, in their shitty houses and apartments, out of love. It didn’t matter if it was true, they had become convinced because, “Well, she never said she DIDN’T love me.” Men are really fucking good at delusion.
Women are really good at discussing issues in the shadows. We’ve always had to do this, as a means of survival. I cannot tell you how many women sent me the Burkett article and said, “I wish I could share this more widely, but I don’t feel like being called a transphobe/bigot.” And the thing is, there was nothing violent or hateful about the article. The point of contention, according to the mainstream, to the sanctimonious liberal left, was that Burkett asserted that female was more than a feeling, that makeup did not a woman make, that female human beings have experiences that males will never know. That is all. And for that, Burkett has been roundly condemned. The observations in her article were rather innocuous, moreover they were once the very cornerstones of feminist thought and theory and praxis, and now they must be whispered in the dark, away from the ears of men and men who “feel like” women.
Think about that for a minute. Really fucking think about that. If you are female, you should be shuddering.
And then there are women, like the one who wrote an article recently for the Huffington Post in response to Burkett’s piece, who argue that transwomen understand sexism, misogynist suffering, the perils of gender MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE. Who argue, blindly, that transwomen are at greater risk of violence THAN ANYONE ELSE (and oh, god, I am fascinated by how invested, how interested the dominant culture has become in gendered violence now that males are claiming to suffer from it. We didn’t give a flying fuck when it was just female human beings – adults and children — who were being brutalized, raped, murdered on a daily basis, but now that it seemingly impacts males who feel like ladies, man-oh-man is it IMPORTANT. It’s so important, in fact, that because some transwomen – mostly of color, mostly those involved in prostitution – are victims of violence at the hands of men, we are not allowed to EVER critique the insane gender-obsession that is slowly, but surely, creating a world in which women have been dizzied out of knowing their own reality. I mean, it’s still perfectly acceptable for people to claim women who get raped shouldn’t “drink so much” or to call a woman who desires access to birth control a slut – Limbaugh still has a job and a hefty income, no? – or to imprison a woman for miscarrying, but heaven forbid we should EVER ask a fucking question about the trans/gender politics that erase female reality. That, we mustn’t do, because some trans women experience violence. Oh, and by the bye, despite what the media and the men who drive it would have you think, it’s not as though trans women are being murdered whilst reclining on their couches with a good book, catching a bus, or renting a RedBox outside of Walgreens. The vast majority of trans women who are murdered are involved in the sex trade, which is incredibly dangerous for anyone whether male, female, or ladybrained. Oh, and also, the people who kills trans women? They’re MEN.)
Another reason, or so we’re told, that we’re not allowed to be critical of what transgenderism peddles is that trans people KILL THEMSELVES. And when they kill themselves, it is not a result of mental illness, but rather the result of women. Women who disagree with gender theory MAKE trans people kill themselves. Hmmm. What does this sound like? Oh, right. Manipulative manspeak. “If you break up with me, I’ll kill myself.” “If you don’t do ____, then I’ll kill myself.” “Do you want me to kill myself? Because that’s what I’m gonna do.”
This is emotional abuse practiced almost exclusively by men.
Lesbians, especially, can see this bullshit for what it is. As my wife keenly observed, as lesbians our dealings with men are quite limited, so we’re like goldfish who’ve grown legs. We can walk out of the bowl. And when we get back in the bowl? We notice the water is really fucking cold, but the other fish, those who haven’t grown legs? They’re so used to the water temperature that they don’t notice, and they definitely don’t want to hear about how cold it is.
From the HuffPo article criticizing Burkett: As feminists, it is our job to consider each individual situation, take the criticism we believe is worthwhile to heart and try to do better the next time.
Just let that sink in for a moment, ladies. Really. Basically, what this author is arguing (and what liberal, mainstream feminism argues) is that as women, it is OUR DUTY to consider everyone’s feelings – like, on a tedious, myopic individual level – accept that we are always wrong, and promise to do better. As feminists, according to the mainstream majority, it is our job to CONSTANTLY APOLOGIZE for having thoughts, feelings, an intellect, eyes.
She also argued that women like Burkett are simply “afraid” and that they shouldn’t be afraid “because we say so.” And that’s always the line, isn’t it? A male is a woman because he SAYS SO. Feminism must center trans women because WE say so. You must not talk about your female biology because WE say so.
If “because we say so” isn’t patriarchal, paternal rhetoric designed to infantilize women, to shut women up, then I don’t know what is.
The Huffington Post article ends, I kid you not, with this: What is a woman? Whatever we decide. Now isn’t that a damn revelation.
Who is the “we”? I’d hazard the “we” this woman is speaking of is men and heterosexual women. Because it sure as shit ain’t the women I’ve been talking to. The women I know can see this misogynist ideology for what it is.
And no, HuffingtonPostLady, it’s not a “damn revelation” to say a woman is whatever men say they are. Actually, that’s the WHOLE FUCKING PROBLEM. Actually, that’s been happening since the beginning of time. I mean, is it a “damn revelation” that the Earth revolves around the sun? That corn grows from the ground? That dogs are descended from wolves? Men have been defining women since FOREVER, and while that’s been just peachy for men, that has never been any good for women. Take a break from SirLadyBrain’s Twitter feed and read a fucking book: Lorde, Rich, Dworkin, Frye – there’s a few names you can start with (and yes, I know, so second wave – well, you know what? Second Wave feminists actually managed to accomplish shit beyond shoving a pampered male Olympian into lingerie for a photo shoot).
Anyway, thank you Elinor Burkett for having the guts to use your platform to say something worthwhile. It was a breath of fresh air for lots, and lots of women, even if they continue to remain quiet on the subject for fear of retribution. Women know despite what the media, what the groupthink would have us believe, that this conversation has never been about “hating” trans people (this is a convenient trope used to silence dissent), but about ensuring that female human beings have the language we desperately need to discuss our own lives, our own realities. This conversation has never been about denying anyone their right to exist in a way that feels authentic, but rather women pushing back against a male led movement that seeks to define for us who we are, who we will be. This is about women wanting to use their own words, which we have had to fucking fight for, to talk about our lives. This is about female human beings refusing to allow male delusions to eviscerate our truths as women. This is about being fed the fuck up.
We might not all have Burkett’s platform, but women are having these conversations. We’re speaking about this, as we have always done, where men can’t hear us. And we’re talking a lot.