Back from the blogosphere dead to say something about binders

What.

Is.

Up?

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts of a person, with breasts

Amazing.

glosswatch

Breasts are curious things. They sprout on you, unbidden, transforming you from child – generic, self-contained, human – to woman, that cartoonish parody of a person.

The way in which they develop will influence the way in which the world receives you. Small-breasted women are bookish, intellectual, perhaps slightly repressed; large-breasted women are cheap, available, maybe a little dumb. Either way, growing breasts makes you fresh meat. It puts you on the market, regardless of whether that’s where you want to be.

I am a small-breasted virgin in the body of a large-breasted whore. A flat-chested non-binary in the body of a matronly ciswife. I have never quite been able to get the right personality in place to match my tits. God knows, I’ve tried.

For almost ten years I starved myself into almost-flatness, rolling back the first-girl-at-school-to-get-breasts humiliations of my final year at junior school. Then when I lost…

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Milwaukee Pride Parade strips Veteran Lesbian Activist Miriam Ben-Shalom of Grand Marshall Honors

GenderTrender

benshalom1

The nameless members of the Milwaukee Pride Parade Board of Directors stripped legendary rights activist Miriam Ben-Shalom of her honored spot as Grand Marshall of the June 12, 2016 “Heroes of Pride” event after men monitoring her Facebook page noticed women had made posts there that were critical of the idea of heterosexual “male lesbians”.

Miriam Ben-Shalom will be a familiar name to Lesbian and Gay Rights activists and historians. She was the first openly homosexual individual to be reinstated into military service after serving as plaintiff in multiple lawsuits and refusing a cash settlement.

benshalom-wl01-12-p

After serving in the Israeli Army as an Armored Personnel Carrier driver, she enlisted as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army from 1974-1976, when she was dismissed on the basis of homosexuality, and served again from 1987- 1990 following her reinstatement after a decade of trials. She was then discharged, yet again, on…

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Shrinking to survive: A former trans man reports on life inside queer youth culture

4thWaveNow

Max Robinson is a 20-year-old lesbian who recently detransitioned after 4 years of hormone replacement therapy. She underwent a double mastectomy at age 17, performed by plastic surgeon Curtis Crane in San Francisco. Max reports that her gender therapist at the time, Dr Shawn V. Giammatei, wrote letters verifying the immediate medical necessity of these treatments.

Max currently works to provide direct support to developmentally disabled adults living in group homes; she detransitioned on the job in December 2015. Her novel Laika, which tells the story of the little stray dog who was sent outside Earth’s atmosphere in a Soviet satellite, is available digitally or in print here. In addition, Max and her partner collaborate on many graphic art and creative writing projects.

 Max, like many young lesbians of her generation, was led down the path to FTM “transition” as a teen, effectively short circuiting her…

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You should be ashamed

 

Last night, like many other Americans, I watched the Democratic Debate. I watched it with, more or less, the same low expectations I have when I watch the Republican Debates (which, for whatever reason, I do).

But what stood out to me, last night, was not necessarily the theater of the debate (and let’s face it, most debates are little more than performance art), but that a question, delivered by Andrea Mitchell to Bernie Sanders, seemed designed to humiliate Hillary Clinton.

Here’s the question, posed to Senator Sanders, Let me ask you a question. You called Bill Clinton’s past transgressions, quote, “totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable.” Senator, do you regret saying that?

This was not a policy question. This was not a question in re: Hillary Clinton’s past actions. This wasn’t even a question for Senator Sanders. Rather, this was a question posed entirely to embarrass Clinton, to shame her, to remind us all of the time her husband (not she) engaged in some quintessentially male, utterly reprehensible behavior. And what we are, as the viewers, to infer is that she (and not her husband) is responsible for that “transgression.”

Politicians’ lives are laid bare. That’s part of the deal. Part of the political game has become to amass dirt on your opponents and use it for your own gain. That’s the way it works. (One has to be something of a masochist to even want to enter politics – I mean, none of us are fucking saints. There’s always something to be had.) But I was struck by how truly fucked up, how deliberately humiliating, the question was. And while Sanders responded to the question perfectly, Clinton had to stand there, a tight, seemingly indifferent smile on her face, while this man commented on her husband’s inability to keep his dick in his pants. I saw this, too, during a Republican Debate, when Trump told Fiorina he thought she was a “beautiful woman” – she, too, had to stand there, pretending not to be humiliated, while some belligerent, repulsive mogul “evaluated” her on her looks.

And while these women, knowingly vulnerable to public scrutiny, have practiced their poker faces, questions about their spouses’ unfaithfulness to a marriage, comments on their physical appearance are not part and parcel of “politics as usual,” but an active, deliberate effort to annihilate a woman’s credibility vis-à-vis shaming them into obscurity.

Aren’t you ashamed to be seen in public because you’re over fifty?
Aren’t you ashamed to stand on this stage when your husband is a known philanderer?

 Never mind your professional, political, academic accomplishments. You, as a woman, should be ashamed: for aging, for the decisions made by men in your life, for the thoughts and feelings you have had that don’t align neatly with what the male majority is telling you to think and feel and be.

And I think it matters that Andrea Mitchell, a woman, asked this grossly irrelevant question. I don’t know if Mitchell herself formulated the question, but it matters that she had to ask it and not the male moderator. Because I think it matters that we look at how women participate in these cheap “shaming” tactics, how women have internalized misogyny and, in turn, unleash that on other women.

There’s a lot of discussion in popular culture around the notion of “shaming” – “slut shaming,” “body shaming,” etc. Most of this talk, however, exists to encourage women to remain consumers and active participants in systems and industries that benefit men, but ultimately do women harm: make porn, keep prostitution legal and thriving, keep busy buying shit you don’t need, and buying into ideologies that work against your best interests . . . oh, and don’t stoooop believin’ that female is a feelin’ — in a man’s head!

Thanks to the gains made by liberal feminism, I can . . . uh . . . feel empowered by porn or my holiday weight gain (seriously, I got super friendly with the couch and went to town on some cookies and ham in the month of December) or I can empower myself by saying I’m “genderqueer” or something . . . And no one can SHAME ME for any of this because right now, all this shit is super cool.

Here are some things that women, according to the zeitgeist, CAN AND SHOULD be shamed for:

  • Knowing penis is male
  • Knowing gender is a construct
  • Being a lesbian who doesn’t want to date men
  • Having feelings that are “not feminist enough.”

I want to talk about the fourth variety of shaming for a moment, because it’s just as pernicious as the myriad other ways women are actually shamed, but almost never discussed. We reserve this fourth type of shaming for women who call “bullshit,” who feel their own feelings, who understand that their stories won’t always fit cleanly within the rigid parameters we’ve set up for “Feminist narratives,” but decide to tell those stories anyway.

As I’ve written, to the point of mental exhaustion, on this blog, feminism has come to mean “Whatever anyone says it means” – ergo, in popular discourse, feminism means absolutely nothing whatsoever. I mean, based on the current “meaning” of feminism, making this cup of tea I’m drinking was a feminist act because I, a female person, made the fucking tea.

And, as readers of this blog well know, I do not ascribe to 1) feminism means whatever anyone says it means (actually, it’s rooted in some solid theory and that theory requires meaningful praxis) and 2) feminism is for everyone. Because at its root, it’s not “for everyone” – it’s for female human beings.

I don’t even really believe in “types” of feminism: there is one feminism – the kind that prioritizes women and girls and tries to disentangle us from the toxic fucking mess patriarchal behaviors and norms (this includes gender) have ensnared us in: mind, body, and (ahem) ladysoul. This involves class analysis. This involves working with other women. This involves some knowledge of history, of theory, of root causes, of issues. This involves paying attention, and critical thinking. This involves being able to parse reality from delusion, even when the delusion feels better. This involves being able to call bullshit on dogma that, however trendy, will hurt women and girls in the long run. This involves empathy, and listening to women, and not shaming other women who have ideas that are different from my own. Shaming is a paternalistic tactic, and as a feminist, I don’t “do” paternalism.

I’m not interested in “equality.” I’m not interested in individuals and identities. I’m not interested in telling women what they can and cannot do, and I’m certainly not interested in telling women what they can or cannot feel. See, part of what I want for women is that they can feel however the fuck they want to feel, and NOT be ashamed for that, and NOT be libeled and slandered and run out of town for that. I want women to feel all their feelings, and to know they own those feelings.

Because here’s the funny thing about “feelings,” they stem from emotion and emotion doesn’t always line up with theory, with political inclinations, with principles. Women are human beings, and human beings have instincts and inclinations and desires and drives that – for better or worse – don’t always neatly align with sterile philosophy, much less intellect. Our feelings, also, don’t always reflect reality. That’s the tricky part about feelings: they’re valid, they have meaning, but they don’t always “make sense.” This is why we can’t (or rather shouldn’t) legislate feelings, why we can’t let feelings alone guide social movements, why we sometimes (as sane, rational people) have to examine our feelings, weigh them against a larger whole. We couple our feelings with our intellect; we try to strike a balance, and for most human beings, this is an ongoing struggle.

I had some feelings last week that didn’t line up neatly with my feminist convictions. I felt sad that David Bowie died. Like, really fucking sad. Like, water came out of my eyes, and I listened to Low on repeat pretty much all day. And as many of my feminist “friends” were quick to point out: David Bowie was a rapist, so feeling sad is wrong.

 In fact, all over the internets feminists of all stripes – radical, liberal, genderfancy – were coming out of the woodwork to brow beat other women who felt sad that David Bowie was dead because he raped girls. Didn’t matter if you, like me, condemned Bowie’s actions, if you FELT SAD you were wrong. You were doing feminism wrong. And when a philosophy, even one I ascribe to, starts to mandate how one “feels,” we’re no longer merely in political territory: we’ve slipped into fanaticism, fundamentalism. And if history has shown us anything, it’s that fanaticism doesn’t bode well – especially not for women.

As someone who loves music and poetry and fiction and photography, I’ve long grappled with the fact that some of the art I admire was produced by horrible human beings: rapists, anti-semites, thieves, frauds, liars, men who battered women, women who abused their children . . . The question “how do we/should we separate the art from the artist?” is one of great interest to me.

And in a sense, I suppose I envy people who can simply say, “Now that I know that beloved piece of music was made by an asshole, I no longer feel an emotional connection to that music.” Or people who say, “Those two lines of poetry that gave me chills were written by a rabid anti-semite? Well! I am no longer moved!” But I can’t do that. And I don’t know if I’d want to do that. And while the question “should we/can we separate the art from the artist?” is a fascinating one indeed, it’s not a question whose answer – if it could be answered – has all that much meaning in the grand scheme of things.

I mean, yeah, you can stop watching re-runs of The Cosby Show now that we all know Bill Cosby is a monster (and he absolutely is), and I can stop listening to Ziggy Stardust because I know Bowie was a rapist (and he was), but as a “political act” where’s the value?

The music exists. My memories exist. My fondness for the music exists. Should I re-imagine my memories, reconfigure my feelings to fit my political ideologies? Am I committing a thought crime for having these feelings? Is this where we want to be? Where we’re accusing other women of “feeling crimes”? Is that our feminism?

Fuck that.

I’m not interested in feelings. I’m interested in facts. I’m interested in actions and ideas. I don’t want to be in anyone’s head that way. I don’t want to dictate how women may or may not feel about their lived realities – hell, the “LGBT” orgs have cornered the market on that shit. I don’t want to manipulate women into conforming to what I believe by way of “shaming” them. I don’t want to be part of a society, much less a movement, that only values “certain feelings” and makes “one feeling” compulsory. The whole impetus for this blog was being sick to the back teeth of dudes “who feel like women” telling me how I should feel about them, how I should feel about myself. And it’s still happening. And it’s fucking painful, and I’m not going to heap more of that bullshit upon my sisters.

The fact is, you can attempt to set rigid parameters on people’s feelings, but it’s a pointless, futile endeavor. And shaming – whether it’s happening on a campaign stage, or on Twitter – is a cheap and easy, albeit deeply malicious, technique used to diminish the worth of women’s perspectives.

The trans lot will keep shaming women for knowing dick is male, and the LGBT orgs will keep shaming lesbians for not wanting dick, religious organizations will shame women for wanting birth control, journalists will shame Hillary Clinton for being married to a cheater, feminists will shame other feminists for having feelings that aren’t feminist enough, and me, I’ll be drinking my tea in peace, not worried about your feelings, and enjoying some beautiful music made by a shitty person.

The Great Fishing Expedition 2016

Yep.

Mancheeze

Men are always thinking up new ways to intimidate and harm women. 2016 will be no different. We’ve come to expect this from the men’s rightsers but it also comes from transactivists, who are aligning themselves closer to MRA’s than ever before. The TransAdvocate has started a new 2016 feature called Conversations. Two men, John Stoltenberg and Cristan Williams, editor of the Transadvocate, are attempting to rewrite radical feminism, to make it more palatable for men. *yawn*

I found out about this new development on Twitter, when I came across Lucyfire’s tweet.

Cristan Williams: a man bent on rewriting radical feminism to suit himself

I find even the name of this new feature hilarious because women aren’t part of the conversation and with all the transactivists no…

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“Transparent”: Spitting on Michfest’s grave

Another great post from Phonaesthetica

phonaesthetica

Jill Soloway’s “Transparent” is a truly great TV show, primarily because its characters, the Pfeffermans, are unlikeable – selfish, lying, navel-gazing cheaters – yet totally engaging in a way I haven’t seen since “Six Feet Under.”

“Transparent” shines with clever dialogue, intricately layered story lines and an overarching awareness of the primacy and inexorability of truth, whether individual or epigenetic: The truth is patient and will find you, however long it takes.

Plus, “Transparent” portrays older female sexuality in laser-sharp focus. Not gonna lie, I didn’t enjoy watching Judith Light get diddled in the bathtub by Jeffrey Tambor, but I appreciate the message: Old women are human beings with human needs and you, the vaguely-nauseated viewer peeking through your fingers and dying for this scene to be over, need to call yourself out on your ageism.  And yes, Gaby Hoffman is strange-looking in the extreme, but it’s only because she refuses to adhere to Hollywood femininity requirements such…

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