I just read more commentary about the midwife controversy over who gives birth and breastfeeds babies, while having to look at the arrogant mug of the breastfeeding transman who has attacked women for wanting to use the word “woman.” It reminded me of Elizabeth Hungerford’s brilliant three points about “if transwomen are women” and I decided to adapt it.
The maxim “trans men are men” is either a false equivalency or we’re going to have to re-write every dictionary and encyclopedia and medical textbook and pretty much all of recorded human history, science, and language.
I maintain that the maxim is false, for at least these three reasons.
This post is based on a comment to another post, but because the commenter didn’t even bother to make it about sexual orientation (which is the topic of the post where it came in as a comment), I’m not addressing it there. I am addressing it because this person demands that we “stop conflating transsexuals with transgenderism.” While that is a divergence from the very common, “trans women are women, so just get over it” variety of counter-argument, the support for that demand is no less full of lazy reliance on tropes and common, but discredited beliefs:
TransSEXuals do not transition to gender roles. They transition their SEX.
Here is the real-world, scientific definition of “sex” when applied to humans:
“The sum of the characteristics that distinguish organisms on the basis of their reproductive function and either of the two categories, male or female, into which organisms are placed on this basis.”
, Gender Critical
, Lesbian Community
, Lesbian Feminism
, Liberation Collective
In a recent anti-radical feminist screed, published prominently on several leftist blogs, a trans* activist attempted to equate gender critical analysis with homophobia. This is the latest twist on the conflation of the lesbian and gay rights political movement with the trans* political movement. And it’s the latest indication that it will be lesbians, other women, and girls who are most harmed by that conflation.
Though there are claims that our groups have reason to have a strong political alliance, it’s arguable that Gay, Inc. – the large, well-funded and influential political groups – created this conflation simply to increase funding and reach. There doesn’t seem to have been a period of time where lesbians and gay men were allowed any discussion or input about this decision. But there are obvious reasons to question the unholy alliance.
I was coercively assigned a sex role at birth. As soon as medical personnel saw that I didn’t have a penis, the process of putting me and keeping me in a very narrowly-defined box began. From then on I was coercively stopped from doing or being things associated with boys and coerced into doing and being things associated with girls. I fought many bitter, painful battles over years of being forced into that box. A handful of those battles I won; most I lost, because the full power of adults was brought to bear to keep me in my proper sex role.
It’s intensely frustrating that in the intervening years experiences like this have continued for girls and boys. But worse, rather than meaningful progress toward simply allowing children to live their lives outside of any box, there is now a very powerful movement that claims that forcing children into the other restrictive sex role box is the solution. The problem, these people claim, is not that the person was coercively assigned a sex role at all, it’s that they were coercively assigned the incorrect sex role, and that (of course!) can be fixed by adopting the other sex role.
Salon continues their tradition of having a male write on a subject he is less qualified to write about than any of the many women who are experts on the subject that they could have gotten to write the article. Michael Barthel takes on the subject of women in the film industry and does a predictably ridiculous job of it. But don’t take my word for it, here is what he said in this article at Salon: “The Oscars’ woman problem.”
The title and his opening give an immediate glimpse of what’s to come. Using the trope “woman problem” gives his perspective away immediately. As Simone de Beauvoir said in The Second Sex:
“[T]he whole of feminine history has been man-made. Just as in America there is no Negro problem, but rather a white problem; just as anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem, it is our problem; so the woman problem has always been a man problem.”
I don’t mean that they love to be “sexist,” although they do. Men love “sexism” because the very concept is a cover for and a distraction from what men really do to women. And some women want very badly for men to be part of feminism because they don’t understand that. It’s not that women who want men in the movement don’t understand that women are treated badly by men, they do get it, that’s the reason they’re feminists at all.
But to be a feminist and continue to believe that men will reform themselves is to believe that the problem really is “sexism” and that it can be defeated; that in turn requires that one not see what goes on behind the cover of “sexism.” Hand-in-hand with this is the hopeful idea that — of course! — once “sexism” is pointed out, the light will dawn for men and the lion will lie down with the lamb in a purely respectful way.
Or not. Read More
Radical feminist analysis can seem complicated and obtuse, the subject matter and the language opaque, and the point nearly impossible to grasp. Many women have had the experience of wading into writings by Andrea Dworkin or Catharine MacKinnon or Mary Daly for the first time and feeling like they’re reading a different language. It can be frustrating and maddening without someone to guide us through the concepts, language, and references. Read More