Archive | April, 2011

Links: April 18, 2011

18 Apr

Rad Fem Crafts: “Don’t Piss on My Head and Call It Privilege”. . . not only does this post win the Post Title of the Year award, but it also succinctly describes what’s wrong with big tent politics.

Scum-o-Rama: “Tasty Privilege”. . . on the crap that is ‘vanilla privilege’.

We Won’t Submit: A guest post by Bev Jo, “Would A Vulva By Any Other Name Smell  As Sweet?”. . . on male language for ‘female parts’.

Gender Trender has a simple graphic, providing a RadFem 101 lesson: “MOAR Simplr”.

Undercover Punk: “Trans childrens”

Ball Buster: “Imagine”. . . [TW for violence]

Imagine, if you will: If every time a female porn star got beat up, that it would make national news.

FAB Matters: “the problem with fun feminism”:

What the malestream and funfeminism offer women is the same, only the funfem version is more nervous and complicated.

If she chooses to roll with the malestream, in return she will get male approval. If she chooses to roll with funfeminism she will get some (more limited and highly conditional) male approval, quite a bit of male ridicule, and … ?

Not much else.

The Nation: “Will the Justice Department Stand Up for Women Raped in Prison?” [TW for sexual assault]:

[F]or women, one consequence of sexual violence is pregnancy, especially for those who are forced to endure repeated rapes. More than 200,000 women are imprisoned right now, and many more pass through prisons and jails over the course of a year—each one vulnerable to sexual assault, and to pregnancy resulting from it. Despite the years of hearings, testimony and research, the Justice Department’s PREA rules still fail to protect the reproductive rights and health of women in this situation.

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Corporations: Helping You Hate Every Last Body Part

18 Apr

Do you think your armpits are disgusting? If you didn’t before, you’ll have Dove to thank for your new-found underarm-specific body hatred!

As usual with such ads, Sociological Images has a write-up on the new campaign.

On Yahoo Shine (the division of Yahoo that’s for the chicks), this little article had some pretty sad comments. What’s notable in many of the comments is evidence of a total shift in what ‘normal’ should mean. Even while expressing disinterest in the idea of ‘unattractive pits’ that can supposedly be solved by this deodorant, what they’re saying still upholds an idea of what an ‘attractive’ armpit looks like. Some examples:

Going on the record here as saying I could care less about my pits. As long as they are shaved and don’t stink, then I’m good.

[. . .] I never really think about them. They stay shaved and deodorized and that’s what matters.

I shave my underarms regularly, wash them, and use deodorant. Despite that, and being 44 years old, I have never, not once, wondered, “how do my pits LOOK?”

Sure I have worried once in a while that my armpits weren’t as cleanly shaven as I’d like…but hate them?? Meh, who cares?!

I totally don’t care about my armpits! I just spend a bunch of money on shaving supplies and deodorizing products every year because I just don’t care!

Although they recognize a corporate overstep, these commenters still have a clear idea of what appropriate female armpits are to look and smell like. Shaving regularly and using all manners of chemical cocktails to ‘freshen up’ one’s pits is absolutely the norm in the U.S., as seen in these discussions.

In reality, your hairy pits are actually just fine and your body odor probably isn’t a public health hazard. Look at all these women who are doin’ just fine with their lovely non-shaved pits! And that is what the body’s norm looks like.

Can’t We All Just Get Along? Not Really.

11 Apr

Here’s a partial list of some reasons why radical feminist activism/theory and trans activism/theory frequently do not go well together. Radical feminists don’t hate trans women, we just have very different goals.

Trans activism fights for trans women’s “right” to access feminine accouterments. Radical feminist activism fights for females’ right to not have femininity forced upon us from birth.

— Trans activism supports use of plastic surgery and medical industries as a means for accomplishing a highly gendered physical appearance. Radical feminist activism is against the use of such measures as they reinforce the idea that women “should” look certain ways or have certain body parts; radical feminism critiques reliance on patriarchal medical establishments. (Also, trans politics is at odds with the fat acceptance movement for similar reasons.)

— Trans activism supports male people having surgery to construct genitals resembling a vagina and vulva. Radical feminists point out how surgically creating a cavity in a male and calling it a vagina is insulting for the following reasons: it poses vaginas solely as penetration objects (neovaginas don’t give a person the risk of pregnancy, cervical cancer, etc… neovaginas must be penetrated in order to sustain them); vaginas cannot be constructed (they are an organ of their own, not an inversion of a penis).

— Trans politics treats gender as an essential characteristic which every human has; gender is an “identity”. Radical feminism wants to abolish gender; gender is a role (not an identity), constructed through notions of ‘feminine’ characteristics and ‘masculine’ characteristics; gender is a system of violence, not ‘expression’. [Bonus de-colonial feminist framework!: gender is a violent, colonial concept thoroughly involved in the racial dehumanization of non-white peoples.]

At it’s most basic:

Trans woman Jos Truitt: “I fucking love gender.”

Radical feminists: Gender is killing us.

Why I Can’t Talk About Trans Politics as ‘Sense-making’

11 Apr

In the last several days preceding the narrowly-avoided U.S. government shutdown over defunding family planning clinics, I started noticing many Twitter folks talking about how ‘abortion isn’t a women’s issue’. Today, Feministing posted “Why I won’t be talking about abortion as a ‘women’s issue’ anymore”.

Ok, fair enough. I’ll play your little gender game for a bit and act like gender is something an individual feels in their mind rather than a role that is socially imposed (WEE! Gender Fantasyland is fun!). In this world, men have babies because ‘man’ is a gender, not a biological reality like reproductive organs. Got it.

However, in this world where trans men are ‘real men’ (whatever the hell that means), they often claim to be male as well. Supposedly, becoming a male is just a matter of injecting yourself with testosterone, having your breasts removed, and (albeit infrequently) having a neo-phallus constructed. (Maybe you don’t even have to do that – just will yourself into being another sex. . . it’s all just a postmodern thought exercise after all, isn’t it?)

Stepping out of this world. . . let’s look at what we’re actually talking about when it comes to who can and cannot get pregnant, who can and cannot therefore receive abortions. We’re talking about females. Female things like uteruses, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervixes, vaginas, oh my! Most trans men still have these organs, hence they still have the possibility of becoming pregnant.

Why is all this so nonsensical? Because trans activists refuse to acknowledge that one is not actually able to change their sex. Transsexuals do not exist. Unless you can change all the chromosomes in your body and compel new organs made of your own tissue to spontaneously generate, no, you cannot change your sex. There’s really such a bizarre inability for them to admit that biological realities can be named through sex and, hey, that doesn’t take away from your Gender Fantasyland fun of clinging to “I’m a man/woman”. However, if you are trying to assimilate into that system of sex-gender matching (which trans activists critique superficially but don’t follow through on in practice), then you might find it necessary to insist everyone also join you in Biological Fantasyland as well.

It’s So Basic

11 Apr

Trans/Queer activists want radical feminists to know that sex and gender do not always match up (as if we have no knowledge of the topic). They assume that, because many of us are against transition (medical, surgical, etc), we are ‘essentialists’ which are reinforcing sex-gender roles. We are not the ones promoting matching one’s gendered presentation with their chromosomes and genitals. They are.

They pose ‘cis’ (as in cis-gendered, cis-sexual) as the opposite of trans (awesome! more binaries!). As they define it, cis means having one’s sex ‘match’ with their individualized sense of gender, i.e. ‘gender identity’. In order for trans folks to deal with their ‘mixed’ sense of sex-gender, trans activists largely advocate for the means to transition into ‘the other’ sex/gender. While the act of transition is portrayed as a revolutionary thing to do, it is actually inherently conservative and assimilationist in its results.

By transitioning, most trans individuals are attempting to come as close as possible to resembling what the ‘cis’ person of their transitioning-into sex/gender looks like (in genital appearance and secondary sex characteristics, and – on the socially-constructed gender side – comportment, mannerisms, clothes, etc). What they are trying to do is – to the best of their ability – become a facsimile of a cis person.

So who’s more essentialist? Who are the ones saying that the expression of stereotypical, Western “feminine” traits by someone who is male-bodied means that they are actually a woman and that a female-bodied person who wants to wear non-femmey clothing is actually a man? It’s not the radical feminists.