I just published my first post over at the Hub! It’s on Beyonce’s new video for “Run the World (Girls)” and the faux-empowerment messages. Have a looksee!
I do not feel like a woman. Further, I don’t know what in the world that would feel like. I never feel like one when I’m by myself, but I do feel like one when I am interacted with by other people (such as the imposition of “miss” upon me). Interesting, that. It’s almost like gender is a social construct or something.
Now, this little bit about being a female who (more or less) passes as a woman gets labeled as ‘privilege’ in the realm of trans politics. Further, when I say how I don’t feel like a woman, this is interpreted as evidence that I do not see my privilege.
Not seeing one’s privilege and not reifying sex-gender roles are different things.
Unexamined privilege is sometimes explained with the analogy of a fish not understanding what water is; the person with unexamined privilege takes for granted that their life, treatment by others, experiences, etc are the norm.
A person not seeing their white privilege, for example, may look like this: “It’s not fair that some black students at my high school started a club only for black students. I’m going to start a white student union club!”
Let’s take for granted that there is such a thing called “cis privilege” that female-assigned-at-birth (FAAB) women have. What does it look like for a non-trans woman to have unexamined privilege? Hint: It’s not her lack of “feeling like a woman”.
Let’s apply this marker of “not feeling like a woman as evidence of privilege” to the previous white privilege example. This would mean that “not feeling white” is evidence of privilege. See how that doesn’t make any sense?
Not understanding that one’s whiteness is socially considered a positive trait and not “feeling” white are different things. Yes? Yes.
So, for the last time. It is not unexamined privilege to lack the belief that you are a gender (or a race, for that matter). It is acknowledgment that gender is meaningless without the cultural systems that enforce it and treat it as a real entity.
[Trigger warning for descriptions of BDSM.]
I found an interview on Feministing with “feminist” pornographer and sex-pozzie educator Tristan Taormino recently. I don’t visit Feministing anymore, so I found it linked from another site. That site? Adult Video News, the pornography industry’s trade mag. Just how I like my feminism. . . pornography-industry approved and promoted.
I’m not really going to get into the interview too much, but you can read it here if you’d like. There were just a couple bits I wanted to draw attention to since they relate to my later analysis.
1. Taormino says that, in college, she lived in a place called Womanist House. Later, when discussing young women not identifying as feminists, she expresses her confusion at this. She mentions how it’s a slap in the face to all the feminist work of the past, which I’m assuming means USian, white suffragists. While I get the train of thought she’s going with, there are other reasons that women – even young women – don’t call themselves feminists. Uh, hello… Womanist House?
2. “And I was raised by a gay man, so I love musicals.” And I was raised by straight, blue-collar parents, so I love NASCAR.
Now, onto something that was not in the interview.
On Taormino’s website, she answers messages from people asking advice about their sex lives. This one question stuck out to me. The following bold emphasis is mine.
Dear Anal Advisor:
My boyfriend is ultra submissive in just one area: his ass. He doesn’t go for the Mistress thing, lick-my-boot mentality, but when it comes to his ass (which is the focus of his fantasies and always how he’s able to come) he’s full sub. I know exactly what he needs that way, pain and humiliation. Directed at his ass. Insulting HIM gets us nowhere, but insulting HIS ASS does. My snag is this: there are only so many ways to insult an ass. Degrading his ass, calling it a cunt or pussy gets him off in a snap. Is there any way to get good ideas to boost my imagination so play is not monotonous for either of us?
Mistress of His Ass
Can you guess what is not addressed whatsoever in the response? What is just glided over as a-okay and totally unproblematic? Get out your sex-poz bingo cards!
Dear Mistress of His Ass:
Plenty of people get off on pain, humiliation, degradation, and overall submission. Clearly your boyfriend’s submissiveness is tied directly to his ass and anal play. There are many ways to combine submission and anal pleasure. You’ve already insulted his ass, but have you also tried to insult and humiliate *him* for wanting his ass penetrated, for being a naughty butt boy? Take all the cultural baggage that comes with anal pleasure, and use it to your advantage, as a psychological tool: it’s dirty, taboo, dangerous, and will make him gay. Of course those aren’t true, but these myths can make for great mindfuck material. If he likes extreme submission, you may also want to explore forced anal penetration or anal rape scenes; that’s tricky territory, so tread lightly. It also sounds like there is an element of gender play in your man’s fantasies, since he enjoys having his ass be called his pussy. Try to explore that part of his desire further. Does he want to crossdress, to be girl? Does he want to be forced to do it? Forced feminization is quite popular and may be part of what he’s try to express in the anal play you’re currently having. See if he will open up about and be specific about his submissive anal desires, and use what he gives you to take things to the next level.
Way to NOT unpacked everything that goes into the idea of degradation being sexy.
The woman writing for advice says that her boyfriend enjoys being degraded. How? By calling a particular orifice of his a pussy or cunt. This is then misidentified by Taormino as a possible desire for “gender play”. Could it be that, since he equates having a vagina with being degraded, that he is actually just into that other popular practice of misogyny? Then, there’s “forced feminization” brought up in her response. That idea/practice is seriously woman-hating as folks raised as girls/women endure that exact thing – forced feminization. And this is what bunch of dudes get off on. Surprise, surprise.
The first line of Taormino’s response is simply a statement of fact, implying that if enough people like something, that makes it good/healthy/etc. “Plenty of people get off on pain, humiliation, degradation, and overall submission.” Yeah. Like rapists.
Taormino advises the advice-seeker to use “cultural baggage” as a way of turning her boyfriend on via degradation. Interesting term… “cultural baggage”. Using homophobia as incitement for your boyfriend to orgasm. . . FEMINISM.
And for all the talk about how “sex is a normal and natural thing”, “pornography can be a celebration of healthy sex”. . . why is it that sex is constantly referred to as dirty, women as dirty, etc in all porn, including feminist porn? Oh, but Taormino clarifies that sex as dirty and so on “aren’t true”. Just how far are we supposed to take this massive cognitive dissonance here? What if this boyfriend (who I’m assuming is white because BDSM is totally a Thing White People Like) really got off on, say, “fantasies” of being degraded as a black woman under U.S. slavery? Do we say, “Hey, well, what gets you off gets you off,” or do we offer even a modicum of analysis of just why the hell that may be? Hmm, could it have to do with misogynistic racism? I’m a little surprised Taormino doesn’t suggest something like that since, you know, what’s more degraded than having a vagina as well as brown skin? “But how else will he orgasm if not imagining himself in the position of an indentured woman?” Tough shit. Find something that isn’t overwhelmingly offensive even at first glance. Find something that doesn’t eroticize someone’s oppression.
Golly, I’m sure glad that feminist Tristan Taormino is doing justice to all the feminist work that came before her. Fight the good fight, Tristan. . . well, unless someone thinks it’s really hot.
(I know this post is quite long, but please do stay tuned for the end in which I make amusing conclusions! And hand out free candy!)
There’s a peculiar trend in my women’s studies class discussions this week. Primarily, it’s massive hypocrisy and double-speak among other students and even one of my professors. I suspect this has always occurred, but I’m just noticing it now due to my increased radicalization these days.
In a 300-level women’s studies course, we had a little refresher on what each ‘wave’ of feminism primarily worked against/for/etc. Notably, this was also the only class in which the ‘wave’ model has not been criticized, which I immediately found odd. Then came the real wackiness.
Question to class: “And what is the current, third wave of feminism about?”
I took notes on what students said so I could handily recall it all for you right now.
One woman who is notorious for her sex-pozzie, liberal feminist double-speak in other classes we’ve both taken: “Well, it’s about, like, more about individuality. Like, the individual woman, and what she does. . . and her individuality.” (Not an exact quote, but frighteningly close.)
Another woman who has shown in another class that she doesn’t seem to know what she’ll say until she’s saying it: “So, you know, like a woman can strip or whatever and it can be like a way for her to get by and make money. . . and get to the top.” (A more exact quote.)
While I understand that my fellow students, particularly these two, aren’t likely reading radical feminist books and blogs everyday like yours truly. . . have we not all been getting the same women’s studies curriculum for the last few years? While I may not have been as radical in the past, I have been anti-pornstitution and equipped with a highly-sensitive bullshit detector for quite a while. I don’t know where they are getting this from. As anti-radical-feminism as certain assigned readings have been in other classes, these kinds of mindless “feminist” talking points did not come from anything our instructors have said, nor the vast majority of what we have read. Are they all just repeating what Jezebel and Feministing have to say? (Hey, I’ve been there too.)
The professor for this class, well. . . I had high expectations. Then she got on that sisterhood/solidarity-shattering notion of “there’s no universal experience of all women”. Strangely, she then — right after saying that — said that the exceptions would be the threat of sexual violence “which is pretty universal” in women’s lives, and that women have diminished social and political power.
Sure, the 25+ percent of women who have been raped by men may not have been raped in the exact same way, and the other 75 percent hasn’t been kept in absolute fear in the exact same way, but isn’t that a BIG DAMN COMMONALITY in general?
“Diminished social and political power” seems like shorthand for “women are an oppressed class”. . . that also sounds pretty universal and wide-reaching as it affects women’s lives, yeah?
The word “oppression” wasn’t spoken once by anyone, even in the discussion (for the newbies and non-majors) about “how women are disadvantaged”. There was one reference, by the instructor, of women as a “group” so I’ll give her a half point for that.
Otherwise? It was downhill from there. We got on the topic of difference between second-wave feminists and third-wave feminists. You can probably tell what’s coming. Someone mentioned Dworkin, said how feminists have been at odds about porn/prostitution, but less so now, and then the instructor said something kind of dismissive in an “Oh, that silly Andrea Dworkin – how quaint” kind of way.
The professor then added that some feminists’ interests can be at odds with the interests of other feminists, and — get this — “they can sometimes oppress one another”. NO. NO THEY CAN’T. Women are incapable of oppressing other women as women. To oppress you need both privilege and power. Women do not have structural power or privilege as women, so that ain’t happening.
Finally, the most hilaritragic claim about feminist “differences” was repeated by five students, all of whom were white women sitting in a university classroom. They all said that second-wave feminism was more focused on the needs of “middle-class white women” whereas third-wave feminism is not.
I’ll be right back. . . I need to fix a drink.
Ok. *deep breath* I’m sorry, fellow white lady students, but have you looked at your skin color lately? Or your privilege that lets you sit in this room and say all this? And going on about how feminism these days approves of things like porn, prostitution, and stripping. . . do you know who is in prostitution? Do you think the majority of them — worldwide or in the U.S. — look like you or have your economic background? Do you think your brand of feminism helps a poor, non-white 14-year-old girl in prostitution, or do you think that your “it’s her choice” bullshit only serves to prop up her pimp?
White, (presumably) middle-class young women claiming that their feminism is just so different from that old lady feminism that focused on white, middle-class women. . . are you kidding me?
But then things actually got better. In another women’s studies course on gender and colonialism, the professor (who is not white) did not mess around with wishy-washy definitions or let this “choice” rhetoric pass for actual feminism.
We started the class with clear definitions of things like racism, colonialism, and violence. Then our professor asked us to define feminism, say what it is “about”.
Then came the broken record. “Choice, gender equality” *skip* “choice, gender equality” . . . but scant mentions of women at all. If I wasn’t so anxiety-ridden and not sure which feminism definition she was seeking, I would have said what I had written down: “the elimination of (white, hetero,) male supremacy; the abolishment of gender”.
To the woman spouting, “It’s about choice,” our professor did a fabulous omg-you’re-being-serious face. Seriously. . . “choice” doesn’t stop men from raping women, “choice” doesn’t end male supremacy. And I’m sure the instructor was wondering how choice has anything to do with colonized women.
Later, I snickered about one student (the first one quoted) getting a total comeuppance. She said — somewhat relevantly — how, at a club, she used a nongendered bathroom “and it was really cool”. Full stop. Again, awesome professor looked quizzically at her and asked, “‘Cool’? In what way was it ‘cool’? What do you mean by that?” I’m such a radfem geek. . . in my head I was like OH YEAH, hells YES she finally got called out.
So, things are looking up for that class. We’re talking about “structural” things, not interpersonal “women oppressing other women” crap. . . you know: feminism.
- Third-wave, “choice” feminism leads to dangerously high levels of illogical thought, diminished capacity for political syllogism.
- Prior and current experience indicates that my women’s studies professors who are white tend to have a myopic view of what women’s liberation looks like while my non-white women’s studies professors diligently hammer home the point that systems of oppression – OMG! – actually exist.
- It is going to be a long, stressful term dealing with anti-radicals. My alcohol usage is likely to increase by 15%.
- My class discussion experiences this term might cause me to say something “inflammatory” during my graduation speech later this year, which may or may not include me shouting sarcastically about “choosing my choice”, then dropping the mic and flouncing off. Look forward to the Youtube video captured on someone’s cell phone titled “chick studies harpy loses her shit”.
In yesterday’s post, I quoted from Robin Morgan‘s 1970 essay “Goodbye to All That”, originally linked to in this post at Tiger Beatdown. The essay is still relevant as ever, unfortunately, and I want to make sure that feminists of “my generation” read it. Know your roots, my fellow youngins!
Morgan also did a second part to this essay in 2008 in support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, which was posted at Heart’s blog, Womensspace.
Here is the original essay below the fold, as well as the preface given from the website it was on.