Back from the blogosphere dead to say something about binders




It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the blog because, to be perfectly honest, 1) I have a fulfilling life outside of contemplating these issues (shocking, I know) and 2) I was burnt the fuck out writing on these issues.

That said. Here I am. Again.

Honestly, if I continue to post, I don’t want to post anymore about all the men who have ladybrains. I honestly don’t care about men, and am more interested in what the dumpsterfire of queer/trans ideology is doing to girls and women – because I really care about girls and women.

So today, a local Pride group shared a Buzzfeed article celebrating the wonders of chest binding. (I’m not linking to the video, but you can give it a Google if you’re so inclined.)

Now, some of the subjects (all female) in the video claimed that chest binding made them feel better about their physical appearance. Okay. I can accept that. We all have different tastes in re: outward presentation. Like, I pretty exclusively wear old band t-shirts these days and am really digging this new pair of skater shoes I recently purchased: welcome to the 90s — again!

But I digress . . .

The whole video is set to very tender muzak while subjects wax nostalgic about their old college chest binders and swap stories about nearly dying of heat stroke from wearing them. It’s totes adorbs.

Except it’s not.

What troubled me was the number of female people – whether “genderqueer” or “trans” – in the video who said things like “binding makes me feel safer when I am outside.” Or the woman who says, “If I didn’t have my binder, I couldn’t function . . . Couldn’t go out. Couldn’t talk to family.” Or the woman who says that her binder minimizes her “Fear of getting assaulted.” And there is zero – surprise, surprise – analysis offered as to why perhaps a female human being, with breasts and all, might feel frightened to have her female body recognized in public. There’s no critique at all of the toxic sludge of misogyny that women wade through daily – the kind of sludge that makes women, you know, AFRAID TO GO OUTSIDE FOR COFFEE.

Instead, the solution to this mysterious problem (recognized by some of us as pervasive misogyny) is to “present as male.” And you can present as male by purchasing a device that is, actually, materially horribly bad for you and your body.

There is, of course, no discussion around the dangers of binding.

Yet how we love to mock the Victorians and their fainting couches used principally by women wearing the fashionable, oxygen depriving corsets of the day (gender). How we love to look back with scorn on the barbaric practices of Chinese footbinding (gender). And yet, how we fail so completely to acknowledge that binders, that elective double mastectomies (“top surgery”), and castration (“bottom surgery”) are essentially the same ludicrous form of cosmetic brutality as the practices relegated to the annals of not-quite-antiquity.

Might I say a few words, specifically, about breasts? Female human beings have them. They may be small, they may be large, they may be lopsided. Part of going through female puberty (I know, I know, this is all terribly triggering! Men with ladybrains may wish to retire to a fainting couch at this point in my post) is developing breasts. That process is painful on both the literal and figurative level – and it’s often terrifying simply because patriarchal norms make quick work of mystifying the female body to such a degree that many pubescent girls don’t have a solid understanding of WHAT THE FUCK IS EVEN HAPPENING. (Seriously, I was eleven, and I thought I had cancer – no one told me they HURT — and this was the 1980s.)

For most girls – damn near all, really – the appearance of breasts is the beginning of transforming from “child/human being” to “thing/object. “ Men start looking at you. Rather, they look at your breasts. And they’re allowed. It’s encouraged. Even if you’re just, you know, riding your bike to the corner store for a slushie, men will look at your body – even if it freaks you out, even if it terrifies you – and that is their birthright. You have boobs, so you are fair game.

Even the most heterosexual, cleavage-embracing, big breasted women I know did not, in their youth, delight supremely at the arrival of breasts – because they’re a fucking complicated thing: physically and psychologically.

And men – men feel entitled to look at them. Whenever they want.

I don’t wear clothes that emphasize my breasts, but even I – androgynous dyke that I am – have sat in meetings with male colleagues at well-respected institutions where the men are considered tremendously well educated and socially progressive and have had men STARE AT MY CHEST. (We’ve assured them it’s okay because “they can’t help it.”)

And you know what? It’s dysphoric as hell. It’s a fucked up feeling to have strange men or male friends or male co-workers fixed pointedly on a part of YOUR body. It’s a fucked up, scary feeling to be a twelve-year-old girl getting ogled by boys and men you don’t know and don’t like in a world where men rape with impunity. It’s a real fucked up, scary feeling to be seen as a sexual object before you, yourself have even had a chance to understand your own sexuality. And it’s super depressing and fucked up to feel alienated by a part of your own body, to feel that a part of you is actually there for men to covet and consume.

That’s some real cis-motherfuckin-privilege right there.

The fact that in transland, in queerspeak, these realities are never discussed is evidence of how anti-woman the trans/queer movement actually is. Instead of discussing what it’s like to be a girl in a patriarchy, we offer “fixes” to girls who are acutely aware of how fucked up it feels to be female. And it’s not our femaleness, our female bodies that really need to be fixed: it’s the culture, stupid.

A society that truly supports women and girls does not tell girls and women to “fix themselves” by “becoming men.” A society that is truly for girls and women does not encourage its rightfully freaked out daughters to suffocate themselves with binders lest their female body parts be recognized for what they are. A society that nurtures women and girls does not tell women and girls that if they long to exist outside the stereotypes, or don’t identify with gendered commodities, they are secretly men. A society that cares about women and girls does not pathologize and medicalize and capitalize on our fears about being female in a culture that wantonly, unapologetically hates us.

Binders are but one part of our misogynistic, patriarchal society’s way of diagnosing and “treating” the new hysteria.

Rather than encouraging girls and women to look outward AT the problems (men), we have told them to look inward, to scrutinize and navel gaze and obsess and figure out what the fuck is wrong with US – when, in fact, there is nothing wrong with US at all.

It’s you, we tell girls who are reticent to embrace gender stereotypes.

It’s you, we tell girls and women who are frightened by males in their space.

It’s you, we tell lesbians who are made to feel freakish about their sexuality.

It’s you, we tell adolescent girls who are troubled by the appearance of their healthy, natural, 100% normal breasts.

Fix yourself, we say. And we repackage it as “choice” (because capitalists love their fucking choice), and we repackage it as modernity, and we say it is liberating and edgy, but really it’s just conformity. It’s just a way of reifying the same old fucked up woman-hating systems that have always been, and always will be, in place to relegate female human beings to second-class status.

The message from the culture is this: Don’t like being a girl? (And really, under patriarchy, who the hell does?) Then be a fucking man. Or at least, present as one as much as possible so you don’t, you know, get raped or harassed when you’re out buying a bagel.

So progressive!












5 thoughts on “Back from the blogosphere dead to say something about binders

  1. This reminds me of breast ironing, which is done in certain African tribes to head off sexual assault. In fact, I would be willing to bet there are a lot of parallels.

  2. At Denver Pride 2019, we saw so many teen and 20 somethings running around with skin colored binders. No shirts, just the binders. There were very few real Dykes like us, sadly, we LOOKED for them. Plenty of “queer girls” hanging out with those with indeterminate gender, and tons of them draped with who knows what that striped flag means? Like Superman capes. When I went to dance it was obvious most of the women were faghags, and NOT into real live LESBIANS. Gay men LOVE straight female attention.

    So its a gay/bi/straight/ trans gathering, without the Lesbians..or they done transitioned like a couple sitting close to us arguing while we were peacefully eating, and the Butch then exclaimed somebody made off with her wallet.

    I may or may not be back. The Prides no longer accomodate Lesbians…

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