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Guest post by Keely Emerine-Mix

Under no circumstances, ever, at any time, is it appropriate to compare the legitimate, factual, courageous, moral imperative that spurred the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s with the attempts by transwomen to access intimate female spaces. Ever.

Do not conflate Jim Crow and the segregation of public spaces by whites against Black people with attempts to open women’s bathrooms, shelters, prisons, locker rooms, and other female-only spaces to male-born people. Don’t cry that this is “the New Civil Rights frontier!” Don’t suggest that the injury to men correctly barred from women’s private spaces is anything even remotely like the humiliation, hatred, and hurt caused to people of color during the years of legal public segregation. And whatever you do, do not suggest that the preening belligerence displayed by men who demand entry into women’s spaces is really just the same bedrock courage, dignity, passion, and righteousness of those who occupied lunch counters and public toilets to win for others basic civil rights.

It’s not simply incorrect. It’s delusional; more than that, it’s ignorant in the extreme and criminally, obscenely, arrogant.

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The media was horrified when Christina Aguilera appeared on stage in 2012, with what appeared to be menstrual blood running down her leg during a performance at Etta James’ memorial service. The barrage of tweets that followed described the incident as gross, embarrassing or speculated that it was really fake tan. But whether the comments were negative or supportive, the uniform assumption was that any woman would be embarrassed to have menstrual blood running down her leg in public. And yet, this would not always have been the public view.

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IDENTITY VERSUS SOCIALIZATION

I want to explore what “woman” means when male-born persons can be “women” just the same as female-born persons.

Most significantly, the term “woman” must be disconnected from the socio-historic context that gives the term coherency in the first place. Without any material or experiential framework “woman’s” origin becomes irrelevant; she can be anything or nothing at all.

When male-born persons can be “women” just the same as female-born persons, the skin-deep veneer of social identity is being substituted for the complex, lifelong process of class-based socialization. This is neoliberal individualist choice-theory masquerading as the politics of liberation.

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Lister_anneIt is often said of independent, strong-willed women of the past who defied the social rules and norms that they are women “ahead of their time”. By this it is understood that should a woman behave in a similar way in contemporary society, they would be included and accepted within society, that less barriers would exist for contemporary women who wished to have a comparable lifestyle and equitable achievement. It is always within this context that we are invited to view the lives of women in the past.

I personally find that this creates a completely false divide between the struggles of women in the past and the struggles of women today. In some ways, yes, we as women walk an easier path because of the trails that were blazed by the defiant women who came before us… but in many ways I see our paths running together, fighting the same fights as so many women have fought in the past, with the same determination, passion and desire for freedom. Perhaps we are always women “ahead of our time”. When is it our time, I have to wonder, and will we ever get there? Read More

Guest Post by Susan Hawthorne

susan-hawthorne

The Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s led to all sorts of intellectual pursuits, one of which was to ask whether patriarchy had been around for ever. Was it universal and inevitable? We fairly quickly understood that it hadn’t been and lots of women became engaged in reading archeology, world mythology, comparative religion, linguistics and history. I was one of them and in 1979 I decided to enrol in a PhD in Philosophy which I described as a ‘study of belief systems in the ancient world’. At the same time I began studying Ancient Greek. The difficulty I faced was that instead of reading relevant material I was sent off to read Saussure (on semiotics – a foundational thinker for postmodernists which deals with the ‘science’ of symbols) and others. I first heard the word postmodern during this time and that was where I was being pushed. I did not know what destruction postmodernism would wreak on radical feminism. I read some of this material, felt frustrated, angry and more and didn’t quite know why. I ditched my PhD and kept going with Greek where eventually I wrote a short thesis on the Homeric Hymns to Demeter and Aphrodite (and in these you can see how the transition to patriarchy was effected). I was duly punished and pushed out of Classics too. Read More