Archive | February, 2011

Living ‘Woman’

28 Feb

Several months ago, I went on an online forum for trans folks (one that I didn’t have to sign up for to view). I did this back when I was wishy-washy with trans theory and wanted to hear from individuals themselves and understand their situations from a first-hand point of view. I found some stuff about gender being crappy, but going along with things because it’s easier. While understandable (been there!), it’s not exactly radical. Fair enough though. What I saw a lot of? Trans women claiming that they knew they were “really women” because their desires to present themselves and act matched up with stereotypical images of femininity. [Also, given that the absolute height of femininity also coincides with whiteness, the racial assimilationist aspects of transitioning from (non-white) man to woman (striving for white femininity) cannot be ignored. I’ll get to that more in another post some other time.]

One of the most obvious examples I saw of “I’m-a-woman-because-of-xyz-female-stereotypes” had to do with covering up one’s chest. This particular trans woman said that she always knew that she was a woman because, when getting out of the shower, she felt the need to wrap the towel up around her armpits rather than at her waist. Also, when in bed, she would pull the covers up over her chest. Dang if this isn’t just the spitting image of female characters in all romantic comedies from the beginning of time, right? Gotta keep the movie PG-13, so have the main female character show some skin but not too much skin. Female chests are vulgar, so cover those things up.

What this example shows is how false the idea of ‘innate gender’ or ‘brain gender’ is. This is so clearly a case of a male repeatedly viewing media images of women covering up their breasts in film, television, fuckin’ everywhere for his whole life, and then, because he feels like doing this too, interprets it to mean that he must be a woman. While this isn’t the only reason this person “feels like a woman” (and I don’t want to be unfair and claim that it is), what is this “feeling like a woman” save for a collection of images that a male “identifies” with in some way? How can he know what it is to be a woman, let alone a female-bodied person, if no one had ever treated him like that? Had legislatures vote on whether he can be forced to give birth in the result of a pregnancy? Had males yell at him on the street, commenting on his appearance and ‘fuckability’? Had other little boys act out pornographic scenes on him? Had his opinions downplayed or dismissed because he has a vagina? And on and on forever.

He doesn’t know anything of it. He can be sympathetic, he can try to understand. But when he’s so focused on becoming some-thing, he might forget that he’s not becoming some-THING, he’s trying to become a person, trying to achieve a status of less-than, of fuck object, of fetus incubator, of woman. The THINGS that make up being a woman, the THINGS that she wears, the THINGS that she has between her legs or on her chest. . . that is not what she is. A basic tenant of any feminism: females aren’t things. When you are trying to BE another person — especially a member of an oppressed group — what do you know except the THINGS that make that up? The THINGS that you see from the outside? Nothing. What you see is not what they are, and you only know who “they” are if you are them.

I didn’t used to think men transitioning to women was a “big deal” of any sort. I didn’t understand why some of my fellow radical feminist bloggers spent so much time on it. “Just leave trans folks alone.” But this isn’t about whether or not trans people are human (of course they are), and this isn’t about picking on other groups who, like females, are also harmed by males. It’s about male people defining what female people are. And that’s what males have done for-friggen-ever. And that’s a big deal.

“Welcome to Our World”

26 Feb

Yes, trans women are beaten, killed, and raped. So are female women. Everyday, everywhere. As other radical feminist bloggers have said, “Welcome to our world.” This stuff isn’t surprising to us. So welcome to what it means to have your body read as ‘woman’: open season for male violence.

I want it to be , “Welcome to our world. It’s awful. Let’s change it together,” but that’s difficult when trans women demand focus be solely on them and the harms of “trans misogyny” and how it is so different from what FAAB women go through*. But it really isn’t.

This should be a touch point – yes, for radical feminists and trans women – rather than a divergence. But folks need to examine their years of accumulated male privilege before something like that can happen. A good first step? Actually listening to what FAAB women have to say about their experiences of being treated like women. Blogroll is on the right.

*Focusing solely female issues also can get you labeled transphobic, cissexist, or even a ‘cis supremacist’. Quick tip from a female person: talking about my uterus is not oppressing trans women.

Links: February 24, 2011

24 Feb

I recently joined Tumblr. Woohoo.

Some good news this morning: “Julian Assange Ordered by Court to Be Extradited to Sweden”:

Judge Howard Riddle, in his ruling, said that allegations brought by two women qualified as extraditable offenses and that the warrant seeking Mr. Assange’s return to Sweden for questioning was valid.

Womanist Musings: “Bill Maher Pronounces Sexism in the Middle East Worse Than in America” . . . because Maher is still an asshole. Here’s a handy image to help him understand why he is wrong: (via)

Noanodyne: a great roundup of rad fem blog links on ‘cis privilege’ and the likes. . . “Come on in, have a seat at the table”. Generally, just go read all of Noanodyne’s recent posts.

Scum-o-Rama: “The ‘Gendered’ Intersex Brain”

Here’s a good compilation of links to stories on how Republicans are trying to take away abortion rights across the country.

And the most upsetting for last. . .

TruthvsCompliance: “Pornography isn’t abusive???? Trigger Warning!” . . . a very detailed review of the film “Hardcore” [really, really strong TW for descriptions of sexual assault and pornography].

A Female Who Doesn’t “Feel Like” a Gender? Privilege!

20 Feb

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.

Bzzzzz. Wrong.

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.

Radical Feminist Dictionary: Harm Reduction

20 Feb

Harm reduction: measures taken to lessen harm done by inherently harmful practices, institutions, and systems.

Example: [TW] “Guess that’s right, not much else you’re good for, there, sister. We’ll work on getting you more condoms and bitty alcohol swabs so you can get fucked but keep clean. Here ya go, here’s a coffee and a sandwich and a clean needle. Enjoy your choice.” (via Easilyriled)

[Previous entries: Strip Clubs, Gender, Anti-Prostitution, Alphabet Soup]

Male Muscians You Didn’t Know Were Radical Feminists

18 Feb

In which I retroactively attribute feminist intent to lyrics.

“Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted”

— The Doors on men’s rights activists

“You got the power to let power go?”

— Kanye West asking a rhetorical question on the ethics of BDSM

“Are you just selfish, or do you wanna be free?”

— Chromeo imploring libertarian feminists to drop their individualistic ways and focus on class politics as a path to true liberation

The Non-Radical History of a Radical Feminist

18 Feb

I’ve been thinking lately about how much I have changed in the last few years… and the last few months… and, hell, the last few weeks. The more I read, talk, and know, the more radical I become. I cannot wait until I’m in my 50s!

Opposition to prostitution and pornography was my intro into radical feminism. Learning more about what radical feminism was, it was all downhill after that, as you can see with this blog o’ mine.

But here’s a bit of how I used to be. Your little Lishra, several years ago (keep in mind that I’m in my early twenties now, with many of these things happening when I was like 15)…

*I bought several “strip-aerobics” videos, which helped with facilitating my eating disorder and general self-hatred I had at the time. Oh, Carmen Electra. So succinct in your ability to make a teenage girl feel like shit so that you may profit from the male gaze. (Still, I blame the patriarchy, though, not Carmen.)

*I’ve seen every episode of “Sex and the City” at least twice. Although… burgeoning radicalism: I stole every one of the DVDs from a particular big-box store. I was a crafty one. Also? Such a Carrie.

*[TW] In playing Grand Theft Auto (bad enough!), I sometimes had my character have sex with prostitutes and then killed them afterward, recouping my money. (What the hell was wrong with me? That’s really disturbing, and seems totally unreal to me now. This was about eight years ago, but still.) [/TW]

*I had a “burlesque is totes awesome” phase. This included buying Dita Von Teese’s book, watching several videos of old-timey burlesque skits, and thinking of unique acts that I could do one day when I was old enough to be in bars that local troupes perform in. I even made black sequin pasties at one point.

*This is a more recent one… a couple years ago, there was a period of two months in which I really, really wanted a corset. Not just any corset, but one that would let me “waist train”. Yes, the kind that you wear for 23+ hours a day, every day. Thank goodness for my partner being like, “No. That’s a really awful idea. What the hell? You do not need to do that. That’s so impractical. It will hurt you. Don’t do that!” It also helped that I never could scrape together the $90 for one.

*Also a more recent one: I thought I was super cool because I “got” Judith Butler. True facts: no one gets Judith Butler.

*I used to define my feminism almost solely on opposition to shitty media representations of women. That’s probably a common entry point to feminism for a lot of folks, but, damn, aren’t you glad I moved beyond that? Bonus: I had another blog before this one that was basically dedicated to “Gosh, this ad is awful! Look at how awful this ad is! OMG PHOTOSHOP!”

*I read Jezebel daily from about three months after it started until spring of last year. (The final nail in the coffin was last summer in which the site did a post on Maia’s week of guest blogging over at Feministe about child-free spaces and the shit.hit.the fan. as Jezebel folks rushed over there to make asses of themselves. Whooda guessed that Jezebel’s commentariate consists of a lot of USian white women with zero ability to understand that Other People Aren’t Always Like You?)

*I had a subscription to BUST magazine. ‘Nuff said.

So, as you can see, there is hope for our less enlightened sisters. In time, they too may be fighting the good (radical) fight with us. It’d be nice if they could hurry up though.

Final note to my former self: WTF was that?

Final note to my future self: I can’t wait to be you.

Searchterms: Wow. Specific.

6 Feb

“big white women looking to have fun in miamisburg ohio”

Okay then. Alright.

Links: February 6, 2011

6 Feb

Radical Profeminist: “‘A Political Hierarchy in Gender Binary Drag’, or When is a binary not a binary? When we’re talking about a gendered, raced, sexed, classed HIERARCHY”

“Questioning Science at Questioning Transphobia: an engaging discussion”

Questioning Transsexuality: “That Pesky Orwellian Queer Umbrella”

Boner Killer: “The Importance of Women-Only Spaces”

Echidne of the Snakes: “Wikipedia’s Absent Women”. . . on Wikipedia being very male-dominated, the implications, including the example of ‘gendercide’ and the bullshit surrounding that Wikipedia entry.

“RIP, Maria Schneider”. . . Suzie on the death of actress Maria Schneider and her role in “Last Tango in Paris”. [TW for sexual violence and the minimization of rape.] The post begins with this quote from Schneider:

Never take your clothes off for a middle-aged man who claims that it’s art.

Mother Jones: “Is Providing Abortions Creating a ‘Nuisance’?”. . . (article found via Maddow Blog):

The first doctor to try to offer abortion services in Wichita, Kansas, since Dr. George Tiller was gunned down in a church in May 2009 has been blocked from doing so—by her landlord, who has claimed this would create a “nuisance.” [. . .]

The nuisance, however, would stem from protests the landlord anticipates—not from anything that Means would do.

Media Matters: “Foxy News: The Cable News Home for Sexism, Scantily Clad Women” [TW for reference to BDSM]

New York Times: check out all of Nicholas Kristof’s recent columns on the revolution in Egypt: Feb. 2 (Wednesday), Feb. 4 (Friday), and Feb. 6 (today, Sunday).

“Record Level of Stress Found in College Freshman”. . . some notable info on differences in female and male students’ emotional health (i.e. the effects of patriarchy and educational institutions):

Continue reading

Radical Feminist Dictionary: Alphabet Soup

5 Feb

Alphabet soup: 1.) the mish-mash of letters forming acronyms for, usually, ‘queer’-related identity categories; 2.) an acronym used to lump all “non-hetero plus miscellany” people into a category while simultaneously presenting itself as a way of not treating all non-hetero plus miscellany folks as one category.

Example: “GLBTLOLWTFBBQ” (via Lesbian + Women’s Liberationist)

[Previous entries: Strip Clubs, Gender, Anti-Prostitution]