Author: channellightvesselautomatic

On a Specious Reply

This isn’t a general essay, more the upshot of the ongoing intra-philosophical spats, so it might not be of interest to all of you..

So, anyway, someone calling themselves Dr Specious (ho ho), possibly one of our philosophical colleagues in disguise, turned up and pass-agg pointed me and Kathleen and Holly at this paper, which I haven’t yet read fully, but makes the prima facie sketchy claim that we should assign gender (do you means sex?) not on the basis of ‘facts’ but on the basis of political calculations related to oppression (there’s a lot to say about this in itself, some of which I point towards in what follows, but, yeah, you want us to utterly conflate judgements of fact and value and then rearrange reality so it’s determined by nothing but power – or the alleged critique of power – do you??? What could possibly go wrong????) Anyway, we got into a bit of a back and forth, in which my take was ‘if you wanna run around aggressively calling people bigots you should probably demonstrate that you have decently engaged with their arguments beforehand.’ I sent them a link to this, and was promptly told I didn’t deserve engagement. However, this morning this turned up, along with the proclamation that it was “mostly incoherent and hypocritical drivel.” Well now…

specious

I started typing up a response, which, in the immemorial words of the ever lovely Arthur Chu, got ‘obnoxiously long.’ (Whyyyyy must people insist on thinking in long sequences of joined up ideas?? WE WANT BAD ANALOGIES AND SLOGANS AND WE WANT THEM NOW). Anyway, it got long, so I decided to stick it here. Take and/or make of it what you will 🙂

Numbers refer to the points above.

4. What it means is that second person pronouns are extended to you by another person. The phrase ‘my personal pronouns’ is an ontological contradiction. You do not ‘own’ the pronouns other people use to recognise you, because they are a speech act which marks another person’s recognition of you. When you claim that another person’s recognition of you is something you ‘own,’ you are making a claim to have something akin to a property right over another person’s recognition, that is, you are claiming you have the right to dispose of someone else’s recognition as you see fit, and you are further attempting to give leverage to the claim that is they who have done something wrong if they challenge this right. Other people’s recognition is not the kind of thing over which one can, or should, attempt to claim property rights. Because other people’s perceptions and judgements about what they perceive are fundamental to their own freedom of belief, and are integral to their own right to understand reality as it presents itself to them. Attempting to appropriate them, make specious property claims over them, and enforce those specious property claims through more or less explicit social sanction, up to and including shouting at strangers in public space, is a form of domination. It is also an attempt to exert pressure to undermine their own perceptions – that is, it is, precisely, gaslighting.

(If you’re interested, here is a position on this laid out by our trans allies with which I broadly agree).

9 and 13. I will deal with the nonsense name analogy in a moment. So, to deal with the other issue, yes, social pressure is how we enforce norms, correct.

Two observations:

a) I find it pretty interesting that a political movement framed in significant respect by a critique of supposed anti-normativity, and a clear exploration of the disciplinary nature of norms, and how they function to construct and enforce identity, is suddenly so very interested to defend itself in terms of ‘but social pressure is just how we enforce norms *shrug*’ To wit: radical queer and trans activism is, like, the least queer thing I have ever seen.

b) I’m not actually one of those people who thinks norms are necessarily bad (and I’m pretty suspicious of an intellectual movement that so readily tells us norms are bad when they interfere with men’s sexual gratification (Mr Foucault), but is more than happy to wheel them out to make people conform to queer normativity). Anyway, the point is, I think it’s kind of important not to either accept or reject norms on the basis of the fact that they are norms, but rather, to interrogate them carefully, in each instance, and examine what they are for, what harms they are protecting us against, or what goods they are trying to enact. That is, we don’t just get to say, ‘pronouns are a norm and there is no issue when we use social opprobrium to try and enforce them,’ without interrogating that norm.

Here there are two issues, one of which is to do with the issue of possible conflicts over the harms and goods that issue from the enforcement of that norm, and the other to do with the nature of the norm – and these are both actually interlinked.

i) As your example of the n-slur indicates, one of the issues here is a thorough conflation of judgements of value and judgements of fact. The n-slur is entirely a judgement of value, it is a word that serves no function other than derogation, and derogation that is placed evidently within a historical structure of power. It is the conceit of your political ideology that people’s judgements about the sex of another person is an analogous example, but this relies on the claim that the only reason we might want to insist that someone is the sex that we perceive them to be, rather than the gender their pronouns assert they are, is for the purposes of derogation – and this is actually the basis of the entire tottering pile of normative coercion that you have constructed to enforce your ideology. You seem to be unable to comprehend that some people care about reality because they care about reality, because we think that coercively enforcing norms that do not correspond to our perceptions of reality is the ontological heart of totalitarianism – like, Orwellian is overused, but really, this is Orwellian, to the letter. If you destroy the reality base of norms, or of any shared aspect of social life, you are saying that the only thing that should determine what we all agree to be true, is power. Maybe you want to live in that world? If you do, I can only conclude that you’re either an authoritarian, or an idiot. It is not, y’know, the case, that ‘alternative facts’ are really bad when Trump uses them and totes fine when ‘progressives’ use them,

ii) This conflict over fact and value is also related to the fact that this is basically a conflict over harms. What you will not acknowledge is that we are resisting this because we consider the erasure of sex to be a harm to women. I appreciate that people experience it as a harm when their identity is not validated through social recognition. That is why the vast vast majority of us are happy to extend that recognition on the basis of human decency, and kindness. What has happened, however, is that the trans rights movement has refused to accept the adequacy of freely offered recognition as politeness and turned ‘my pronouns’ into an enforced mandate – including people getting fired from their employment for not complying. (“You won’t be imprisoned” “You won’t be physically forced.” No, you’ll just be called a bigot, socially ostracised, no platformed, the police might be sent around to check your thoughts, and you might lose your livelihood. None of this is in any way coercive, but we are doing it to enforce norms mind.)

At the point at which people started telling us that there was no such thing as male and female biology, and that the being of a man or a woman was determined only by gender identity, you converted a norm that was functioning on the basis of politeness into an ontological judgement that many people do not accept, and then you attempted to use that as the basis by which to demand access to services etc. That is, you took something extended in kindness, turned it illegitimately into a statement of fact, and then used that to try and make rights claims to services already being used by female people, who have reasons to be concerned about the presence of male-bodied people that you are only ever capable of handwaving and dismissing (ps – if you want to talk about norms and harms, you don’t get to pretend that the harms to one group must be given unilateral precedence over those to another group). Which is all to say, you guys have seriously taken the piss. And you’ll find that people cease wanting to be polite and respectful to people who have taken that recognition and used it to try and take their rights away. Strangely.

18. ‘Some feminists believe that the performance of gender doesn’t change someone’s sex…what’s the point here?’ Are you fucking kidding me? The point is that you are trying to mandate that we all agree with an ideology that is committed to the political erasure of sex. We think that sex matters, politically, and that legally abolishing sex is very bad for women. That’s the point.

19. Your ideological movement circles insistently around the claim that all our analysis and objections are illegitimate, and that everything can just be handwaved as an expression of our hatred or phobia. What I mean by ‘this is not a pretext’ is that we want our objections and arguments to be dealt with and not consistently dismissed, and we’d like it recognised that we exist, in our own right, have our own interests, our own analysis of the world, and that it’s not ALL ABOUT YOU. (On this, and re: both the stuff on narcissism we’ll get onto in a bit, and Christa Peterson’s response to our Daily Nous piece, can you, for a second, think about the absolute narcissism of reducing a whole slew of different feminist objections to the acronym ‘TERF.’ Female people will be defined only in terms of what they will not give to male people. How very novel.)

20 a) Indeed we might. And let us also note, that you cannot get through any form of intellectual engagement, even with something as sober as the text I gave you here, without being snarky. I said this to you yesterday, and I will say it again. The aggression coming from you people is staggering, and you’re so high on your piety you are completely impervious to what a bunch of bullies you look like to many of the observers of this conflict. I do not want to be part of any form of progressivism that has pickled its brains in this much Zizek-vibe. To return to the point about ‘feminism,’ it looks like a load of cock-waving Red-Terror-romanticising masculinist bullshit to me.

b) I’ve missed some steps? Or you are just being disingenuous? One of the main justifications for controlling our speech is that we are ‘making people unsafe’ and this claim of ‘unsafety’ is frequently leveraged by the additional claim that the kind of violence that trans people are subject to is in some way produced by feminists. Where are my stats? The stats that prove that patriarchal men don’t commit violence against trans people because they have read too much feminism (or are influenced by feminism)? I think if you want to make that claim, the onus to demonstrate that it’s not the obvious bullshit it looks like is on you. I’ve explored this is detail here.

21. The name analogy. Proper names are not analogous to words referring to people’s sex. Proper names have no semantic content other than denoting the person to which they are attached (not quite true, to be more precise, they don’t have any denotive content other than picking out a particular person, proper names do of course have historical, class-based, ethnic and racialised connotations and they are sexed (clearly not before 1492, when sex was invented)). However, they do not name any specific material feature of that person’s being (other than denoting also, their sex). I cannot perceive a person’s name by looking at them. I do not walk down the street and more or less consciously perceive the names of everyone that passes me by. If someone tells me their name, there is no basis, prima facie, on which I might dispute that name, because I have no perception of my own of some material facet of their being which may contradict it. And there is no political power structure which is attached to ‘the class of people of x proper name,’ and which has led me to have a certain number of bad experiences which correlates with ‘the class of people of x proper name.’ That is, they don’t function in anything resembling the same way. Apples and oranges as we say in the trade. One more for the ‘big bag of shit analogies.’

22. ‘Conceptually identical’ means, in this context, ‘the same idea as.’ It’s incredibly opaque I know. *Flat stare*

As I’ve said, your analogy is rubbish, but even were it not, calling someone by the wrong name would be an act of impoliteness, and not an act of structural violence or oppression, unless you could demonstrate that there was an entire power structure which qualified for the description of oppression which hinged on illegitimately calling people ‘Becky’ when it was not their name. (We might wonder here whether that this choice of name is entirely accidental. It’s actually interesting right? Because no one is going to argue, given the nature of power, that calling white women ‘Becky’ is a form of oppression. Derision, maybe. Justified derision containing important political critique? In part. A more-or-less conscious way for you to slip in that endlessly-recycled imputation that only oppressive white women believe in sex? Maybe that too).

And while we’re here, what you guys really need to do, is actually work out a coherent account of why people believing something as manifestly true as the fact that mammals are sexually dimorphic is actually the basis of a historical act of structural oppression. And it needs to be an account that actually bears some relation to the historical record, doesn’t rely on ahistorical appropriative racist bullshit like ‘colonialism invented the gender binary,’ and gives a convincing explanation of why the recognition of sexual dimorphism functions in itself (i.e. that doesn’t conflate sex with its social construction through patriarchal gender) as a form of oppression, and is not merely the recognition of a material fact. I have outlined several times, that I fully accept that trans people experience discrimination as an adjunct of patriarchal gender. I have not, however, ever heard an account that convinced me that trans people are oppressed qua trans people as a class by a system that is specifically motivated by the benefit conferred to the class of non-trans people, and I have never heard a convincing account of how that mechanism might hinge specifically on the recognition of sexual dimorphism in itself.  And on that, I don’t know if you’ve clocked it, but your ideology might be uniquely distinguished by being based on dereification rather than reification. You’ve taken the normal functioning of ideology – ‘passing the constructed off as the natural’ – and flipped it, so we get ‘passing the natural off as socially constructed.’ It seems rather apt for the spirit of the age, don’t you think? We like to call it ‘the unconcealment of patriarchal ideality.’

23 and 26. I recognise trans people’ needs. That’s why I think this is a rights conflict, and I want to work out a solution which can meet trans people’s needs without violating women’s rights to comfort, dignity, safety, political representation etc. Quite what solution we could find is going to be a hard road. We won’t start walking it until we we start to recognise that both sides here are people, with needs and vulnerabilities, and start trying to thrash it out. Your move.

It may however be the case that I don’t think that someone else’s needs immediately give them license to something (didn’t we used to have some old idea about other people’s rights ending at my nose or something?). Because we don’t generally accept, say, that people have a right to sex from other people because they need or want it, do we? (Apart from the fact, of course, that your movement actually makes that argument all the time – and specifically in relation to lesbians’ self-determination, and to the question of sex by deception (apparently ‘sexual autonomy’ is not an absolute right when it interferes with trans people’s validation – are you joining the dots about why we think this might be some narcissistic rapey bullshit yet?)) In fact, in general, if we were using a consistent moral calculus, we’d recognise that the right to refuse someone something we don’t want to give generally trumps someone else’s needs. Because forcing someone to give you something when they don’t want to is, um, narcissistic domination (aka, ‘the psychic structure of rape, colonialism and material appropriation in general’.)

Anyway, it’s interesting you should bring up mirrors, because…

25. Wow. You really don’t understand the first thing about the feminist critique of psychoanalysis, object relations theory, French feminist philosophy, or the analysis of patriarchal narcissism, do you? True fact: We think primary narcissism is a retroactive patriarchal construction used by masculinist thinkers in order to obscure the mutually constitutive nature of human subjectivity. We further think that construction is used to reify narcissism as the normative model of human subjectivity, and functions to exculpate and reify the developmental, social, and ontological system which justifies male narcissism and the domination it creates. And we think that when many adults – often of the male variety – dominate other people, often in a modality of narcissistic rage, and refuse to recognise that they can’t always get what they want because other people have needs and have said no, that they actually are, indeed, having a big person’s tantrum.

If you understood this, you would understand how male narcissism connects male violence, the appropriation of women’s bodies, the domination of nature, capitalist appropriation, colonisation and the legacy of racialised violence. You would understand that the anti-sovereigntist critique you have reductively collapsed into the normative axiom of ‘inclusion’ (and then turned into another binary), is, at its root, about the critique of patriarchal narcissism, and that when you make of it another binary (WE GOOD. TERF BAAAAAD), use it to other your critics, and to attempt to coerce and appropriate, I’m inclined to think you haven’t learned a fucking thing from the Derridean strand of post-structuralism. Which is all to say, I am beyond bored of being piously lectured about being a bad feminist by people who don’t actually understand how patriarchy works. Go read some Irigaray. FFS.

28. I refer you to my previous point about your apparent non-familiarity with feminist philosophy’s elaboration of models of relational intersubjectivity, and the critique of patriarchy as fundamentally structured around the narcissistic inability to enact intersubjective recognition. The master-slave dialectic is a reifying masculinist lie, say all the witches and the mothers.

Shall we burn them for it?

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Judith Butler: How To Disappear Patriarchy In Three Easy Steps

judy

TRIGGER WARNING: Fucking Pissed Off

So, as many of you are aware, the high-priestess of genderology decided to momentarily descend from her exalted academic plinth and relay her ‘thoughts’ on the ongoing internecine shitshow that she, probably more than anyone else, has helped to create. Except of course that, with her usual intellectual integrity, the thoughts she decided to relay about said shitshow totally ignored what is really going on, in favour of pretending that this is a conflict between the wibbly-wobbly-gender-and-sex-is-fluid-rah-rah-liberation crowd, and, basically, um, the Pope. Despite being entirely predictable, this level of disingenuous erasure, is, nonetheless, pretty staggering. As Judy is actually more than well aware, this is a conflict which turns, fundamentally, on the fault-line in feminism that she, in fact, inaugurated – a fault-line between those of us who think patriarchy is a system of sex-based male dominance enacted through cultural mechanisms which we could call – if we can still stomach the word – ‘gender,’ and those who think that patriarchy is…like, seriously, what the fuck do they even think it is….some kind of free-floating cultural system that has nothing to do with actual bodies or their appropriation and domination, a randomly generated set of signs and signifying practices that shape our subjectivity, a thought which leads, in practice, to staking feminism’s whole liberation project on the epic transcendent power of some spectacularly superficial idea of gender-fucking.

promo colour

Look, I’m a feminist, and a Prince-fan. I like superficial gender-fucking as much as the next woman. (I actually think Prince’s gender-fucking wasn’t merely superficial, but that’s another story). BUT, and this in some sense points towards the heart of the problem here, superficial gender-fucking has fuck all effect on the fundamental patterns of male dominance. As someone said to me yesterday on Twitter, the wires are currently full of male people running around stanning for the absolute progressive power of gender fluidity, who seem to think they are the living breathing instantiation of ‘smash the patriarchy’ because they dare to pair some nail-varnish with their beards, all while acting like exactly the same entitled, narcissistic, dependency-denying, mind-over-matter, female-erasing assholes that they always were. If gender isn’t just a penchant for gold lamé pocketbooks and lace and is actually something to do with the psychic, material, ontological and economic structures which underpin male dominance, then, lo, it turns out you still need an analysis of male dominance if you’re going to actually do a bloody thing about it. And I’m sorry Judy, I know you were traumatized by Dworkin and MacKinnon trying to ban porn, but having an analysis of male dominance doesn’t actually make me, y’know, the fucking Pope.

Yesterday I spent the day studiously ignoring the misogynists over on Benjamin’s YouTube channel screaming all the things misogynists scream when women point – even calmly, while smiling – at male violence and say they really want it to stop. (If anyone wants to do a statistical analysis I’d be interested in the relative proportions of a) NAMALT b) You’re incapable of reason c) Stop emasculating us d) Unfuckable e) She was asking for it f) ‘We hunted the mammoth’). Meanwhile, Emily the Nazi Hunter was posing with semi-automatic machine guns and wheeling off a point-by-point plan for ‘God’s Own Avenging Angel’s TERF Apocalypse’ to a soundtrack of intersectionalibfems excitedly chanting ‘Big Dick Energy.’ (For ripping the thorough piss out of it, I salute you all). And, with the sound of men being emasculated by a razor ad still ringing in my ears, everywhere else I looked, that posturing smug Donkey Kong meme spilled like dick-waving poison out of that damn Twitch thread in which a bunch of glitter-spattered Gamergaters sat around screaming ‘FUCK YOU EAT SHIT’ at Graham in support of the great progressive cause of Suzie Green medicalising GNC kids with absolutely no oversight.

This week there’s a conference going on at Brighton University, in which a load of ‘critical thinkers’ will sit around and think very critically. Judith Butler is doing the star turn. I was supposed to go with a friend, and put on my polite academic face, and listen while she is lauded by room full of people, many of them male, who cannot get over how fucking psyched they are that ‘feminism’ no longer asks them to even acknowledge, let alone challenge, male dominance. I cannot and will not do it. At this moment the thought makes me rage. And so what I want to do, instead, is to sit here, and try and channel my rage into a (partial) excavation of how, and why, Judith Butler performed the magical and much-rewarded feat of making patriarchy – and the critique of patriarchy – vanish from feminism.

Step One: The Erasure of Sex

If Butler had a shred of honesty in her, she’d at least have the intellectual decency, while proclaiming that the current resistance to trans ideology must cease (we all know how much you abhor normative coercion Judy), to acknowledge that the root of this conflict is the effort by trans activism to ideologically mandate the political, social and legal erasure of sex. Trans ideology has thrown all manner of arguments at the task of making male and female people disappear, some of which stem directly from Butler, and most of which she alludes to in places.

  1. The instrumentalization of intersex conditions (that one turns up in Gender Trouble, and was trotted out again in the NS)
  2. The denial of the sex/gender distinction (also in Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter, and which I took apart here)…Which then leads to…
  3. The idea that because all concepts are human constructions (duh), then everything they name is likewise constructed. As we saw when I picked apart the NS piece, Butler is very fond of making some kind of claim that the determination of sex is historical or cultural, and then moving seamlessly to running sex and gender together as if they are exactly the same kind of cultural phenomenon, which they’re fucking not. ‘Mountains’ are not the same kind of thing as ‘justice,’ and not remotely the same kind of thing as ‘telling male people they mustn’t be a sissy.’ Sorry.
  4. ‘Colonialism invented the gender binary.’ Just fucking no. For all the reasons I rant about here and here.
  5. ‘Intersectionality means there’s not one experience of being a woman because different people’s experience of being a woman is differently affected by different axes of oppression, and feminism used to exclude Black women and that was bad and now it should include male people too because that’s just like including Black women.’ Where to fucking start?
  6. ‘Women can only exist if there is a magic essence of womanhood and women are all different so there is no magic essence of womanhood, and feminism has always been against essentialism so it’s feminist to think that women don’t exist even though you must also believe that trans women are women because they possess the magic essence of womanhood which is also what makes you a woman.’ FFS. Read some Heidegger. Existence precedes essence. Nothing exists because of essences, and the only thing that everyone wants to abolish because it doesn’t have an essence is fucking women.

I’ve written elsewhere, and will hopefully do so in more detail, about how a sexual difference reading of Western thought would posit, that, in fact, we live in a culture in which female people, as actually existing human beings, have, in representational terms, never existed. The whole cultural system is a hall of mirrors. An endless series of male projections onto women, in which women’s role is to reflect, to grant recognition, and to serve as an emotional, sexual and reproductive resource. I always used to read this claim of Irigaray’s as a metaphor of the structure of patriarchal male narcissism. Having now seen how easy it was to convince the whole world and his aunt that erasing female people is the path of true liberation, and the total inability of most people to even grasp what we’re screaming about – let alone consider whether we have a point – I think ‘metaphor’ is really underselling it. The point is this, gender, as a hierarchical system of male power, has always depended on refusing to recognise that there is class of human persons who have all the attributes of full human personhood and are female. To wit: “Feminism is the radical idea that women are people.” WE ARE STILL NOT REMOTELY CLOSE TO GETTING THIS.

Anyway, for all you friendly neighbourhood male-dominance-deniers out there, this is all remarkably helpful. If you don’t recognise that female people exist, and that male people exist, then you can’t, necessarily, recognise that there is a cultural power structure in which male people are the default humans, and female people are defined, appropriated, and erased by the cultural projections – and the acts of domination those projections impel and license – which flow from male people towards female people. If you can’t recognise that male and female people exist, then you can’t recognise that all these cultural tropes flying about that we call gender, have anything to do with a power relation between male and female people, with the prioritization of the needs of male people, and with the positing of women as a resource in a way that seriously fucks with their humanity. That is, if you don’t recognise that male and female people exist, there can be no male dominance, there can be no female oppression, there can, in short, be no fucking patriarchy. And there can’t be any female resistance to patriarchy either. Stunning work Judith. Let’s make you the boss of feminism. Back-slaps all round.

Step Two: Power Just Goes About Circulating

As if pretending male and female people don’t exist wasn’t enough to bang this patriarchy thing on the head, Butler has another trick up her sleeve. This comes in the form of the Foucauldian account of power, as I’ve discussed in more detail here. The basis of the feminist analysis of patriarchy is that power functions as a hierarchy, and that it functions, in my French feminist frame, through a simultaneous narcissistic gesture of refusing recognition and appropriation (because you can’t be accused of appropriating something if it isn’t even there can you???). However, for Foucault, and Butler following him, power is not a hierarchy, it doesn’t work in anyone’s particular interests, and it doesn’t have any underlying pattern or stable structure. Rather, power is something which is diffused throughout society, and which, as we will see soon, works to sculpt and structure subjectivity. Foucault himself famously wrote three volumes of the History of Sexuality without ever stopping to consider whether there might be something resembling a stable pattern about the way in which male desire (or entitlement) impacted men’s relations to other people’s bodies. Butler has never considered it (although she has denied it plenty).

Step Three: Describing is Prescribing

The first two steps remove both the material basis for there being any particular relation between the sexes and denies that there could be any stable power hierarchy. Poof goes the patriarchy. Having cleaned up that irksome mess, the third step, which also stems from Foucault – and is repeated ad infinitum by Foucauldian and queer feminists – strikes at the very core of second wave feminist analysis. It follows from the half reasonable claim that social norms function to produce subjects, and morphs pretty seamlessly into the claim that descriptions of social phenomena become normative, and hence actually work to produce the things they describe. When coupled with the belief that there is no basis for an account of ‘the kind of things that are harmful to humans’ (and certainly not one that says anything as gauche as ‘domination is harmful to humans’), you basically end up with an alleged system of critique that has no moral calculus other than ‘norms are BAD.’ (Oh hai there Queer Theory, towering over the academy, not being normative in the slightest.)

What this leads to then, as I documented with respect to Butlerian accounts of rape, is that critiques of domination come to be seen as the sites which actually produce rather than critique harms. And then a funny thing happens to feminism. Instead of spending its time critiquing male power and the damage it does to women, it then spends almost all its time critiquing feminism for harming women by describing the structures that harm them. (Super handy guys, and I’m sure nothing to do with the irresistible rise of porn-bro feminists like Noah frickin Berlatsky). The Butlerian accounts of rape are all about how rape prosecutions are terrible because they ‘reinforce the gender binary,’ and consciousness-raising about rape is terrible because it ‘creates’ victims and describing acts of mass rape is terrible because it ‘undermines women’s agency.’ And this is also how we get to one of the greatest male-violence erasing ruses of them all – the idea that there is no inherent danger posed to prostitutes by men, that prostitution is in no way positioned within an matrix of male sexual entitlement and economic power, and that the entire effort of sex-work activism should be aimed squarely at calling feminists names for creating the ‘whorephobia’ which, allegedly, represents the sum total of what makes prostitution harmful.

This, as with all third wave feminism, is just so much male-pandering bullshit. For reasons I’ve yet to get to the bottom of, I spent a good deal of time trying to work out how the modern-day intersectional catechism was in any way coherent, until I realised that the only thing that held it all together was that it all benefited men. Pole dancing. Porn. Prostitution. Carceral feminism. Trans activism. Individual empowerfulment over class analysis. Denying the existence of female people. And so, what I want to think through here, by way of wending towards the ending of my venting, is what the fuck is going on here? Why are women so eager to buy this self-annihilating male-appeasing bullshit in liberation-drag, and what has any of that got to do with Judith Butler?

As trans activism is fond of reminding us, this is, to some extent, a ‘generational’ issue – the young people ‘get it’ and the old crones like us will be left, where we belong, languishing on the wrong side of history. (Irigaray was right as usual…female genealogy is crucial). If you say something like that to an old feminist hack like me, my response will be, ‘you just haven’t fallen off the patriarchy cliff yet, and when you do, we’ll be here to catch you.’ This, we get. The fall is terrifying, and had other women not been there to catch us, maybe none of us would ever make it. But for some women, it seems, the fear of the abyss is too great to ever face. They never find out that after the fall, you learn, remarkably, to float.

lesbian phallus

Last night, Sally Hines turned up on my Butler thread to snarkily ask why I was calling Judith Butler ‘Judy,’ (*flat stare* it’s irony, remember that?). By way of reply, I dug this out…the 1993 Judy!-fanzine, full of sub-dom eroticization, and a lovely riff on the ‘Lesbian Phallus’ detailing Butler’s awesome ability to make grad students cry (“Judy is the number one dominator…the Phallus masquerading as the Phallus”). I followed a quote about how alienating Butler found lesbian feminism – all that celebrating women’s music, UGH GROSS – to a 1992 ArtForum interview. Here, we get the usual verbiage justifying the necessity of subjection (Freud! Lacan! The Law of the Father says it must be so!) and distancing herself from “naïve” “liberationist forms of thinking.” (Reckon that must be us then). It’s a painful if predictable irony that someone who so doggedly removed the material planks of the analysis of male dominance, must also insist, through psychoanalysis (and her philosophical roots in Hegel), on the psychic necessity of dominance. (There’s a lot of stuff in there about the importance of cross-gender identification, for which read ‘It’s all good ladies! Everyone can have (or not have) the phallus now!’)

read judy

What we would say, what I would always say, is that this kind of phallic-identification, this explaining away the possibility of the otherwise, this refusal to imagine there could be anything other than these mechanisms – now unsexed! – of power and subjection and dominance and submission, is, in essence, Stockholm Syndrome. The fall is terrifying. Anyone who has experienced abuse or has worked with people who have experienced abuse knows this. The mind recoils. It is easier to erase and efface and reify and excuse and normalise and explain away than to look squarely at it and see what it is. There are signs of this recoiling throughout Butler’s work. They show up particularly around male violence and above all around rape. (She never directly acknowledges it, none of her work deals with it, her intellectual mentor – Foucault – was an apologist, her most significant contribution was editing an essay that said women need to ‘change the rape script’ (because if you just stop thinking of yourself as rapeable then you totally won’t get raped)).

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In the Artform interview, she flat out admits that “feminism” as “a position which asserts the systematic domination of women by men” is “very scary to me.” Let that just sink in. Then, having entirely recoiled from the recognition of patriarchy as male dominance, she goes on to outline that her opposition to ‘fixed gender positions’ is because that would mean “women’s psyches are nothing but scenes of violation.” (So, we’d better just cover that shit over then, hadn’t we?) I was also reminded here of another of her interviews, in which she says she’s “probably too frightened” to “engage” Irigaray’s texts “that closely” because they strike her as the product of “a certain heterosexual trauma.” (They strike me as the product of a woman who has an unfathomable grasp of the structure of narcissistic male dominance and is fucking done with women being erased, but hey ho). Which is all to say that, basically, the woman who has been elevated as the future of feminism – and welcomed with open arms by a bunch of men who never so much as opened as second-wave text – is a woman who is too scared to even think about rape, and has a deep visceral aversion to women who are not.

How this all relates to the current clusterfuck should be obvious. So much of what is going on in this debate – both at the level of specific concerns, and more importantly, in its core psychic structure – is about boundaries and violation. One of the reasons it is so damn hard for us to get men to listen to us – and one reason they’re all so eagerly jumping on the boundary-smashing bandwagon – is because, when we get down to it, this is about rape, and most men neither want to think about rape, or about the way their narcissism and refusal to recognise our humanity is implicated in its mechanisms. This is not a question of whether trans women are more or less likely than any other group of males to pose a threat to women. It is simply that they are male, that male people pose a threat to women, and that male people posing a threat to women is not a symptom of our hysteria. (Our hysteria was only ever produced by what we could not name, which now, under the banner of feminism, we are being told, once again, we must not name.) But more than all this, more even than the spaces, and who does or does not enter them, more than the fact that women’s boundaries are being piously derided as ‘gate-keeping,’ is the importance of the boundary set by our right to name ourselves, and our refusal to fulfil our historic role as the passive dumping ground of male projections.

I’ve been meaning to write, and will write soon, something on how the left’s current obsession with ‘inclusion’ and ‘openness’ and ‘smashing boundaries’ and ‘deterritorialization’ makes sense only as a critique of the psychic structure of dominance (like, go and tell it to Donald Trump and leave us the fuck alone). It is entirely, gratuitously, inappropriate, when turned against the boundaries of the violated, of those who are raised in a society which leads them to understand – when they are grabbed or catcalled or made to feel like meat – that that is where they are positioned. It is no wonder that a woman who cannot even bear to think about this fact, who prefers to deny the power that frames it, who prefers to think it could all be rewritten by playing games with superficial scripts, would, when addressing the mess that she has made, avert her eyes so resolutely from what this is actually about. Women’s psyches are far far more than ‘scenes of violation,’ but there can be no feminism which refuses its reality, which recoils from recognising that ‘smashing boundaries,’ when used against women as a class, is the absolute axiom of male power, and, at its core, everything happening here is as it ever was.

Disciplining Martina: Heretics and the Church of Trans Normativity

Two main things turned up in my timeline this morning. One was the fall-out of Rachel McKinnon’s egregious and unconcealed bullying of Martina Navratilova, and the other was a Call For Papers from Brighton University that Kathleen tweeted here.

gayness

I was already planning on doing this post on Martina when the CFP popped up – because Rachel’s behaviour last night was a pretty copper-bottomed rendition of what trans activist coercion looks like, and I thought it was worth taking a look at it blow by blow. The academic CFP might, at first glance, seem a little tangential to the issue of trans inclusion in sports, but it refracted with Rachel’s behaviour in an interesting way, so, happy or unhappy accident, this is what you get guys…

gayness 2

The CFP sketches out the familiar claim that ‘queerness’ is ‘inclusive’ and ‘fluid’ while ‘gayness’ or ‘homosexuality’ is ‘exclusive’ and ‘oppressive,’ a dichotomy that rests on the never-fully-interrogated assumption that ‘inclusion’ is an unequivocal ‘good,’ while ‘exclusion’ is an unequivocal ‘evil.’ The parallel here to the issue of trans inclusion in sports is evident – this is precisely the moral logic that makes McKinnon come over all God’s avenging angel to one of the greatest sportswomen – and lesbian icons – of all time. And it’s exactly the logic, to draw the examples closer, which also underpins Rachel’s consistent indictment of lesbians for asserting their same-sex ‘exclusiveness.’ But what strikes me as particularly interesting about the refraction of these two moments with each other, is that the CFP belies a critical contradiction. While the discourse of ‘exclusive’ homosexuality is ‘normative’ (in queer-theory speak this is synonymous with ‘disciplinary’ and ‘oppressive’ – i.e. ‘bad’), queer perspectives, they admit, have now assumed a ‘hegemonic status.’

FART

Quite how the people writing this thought they could parse ‘bad normativity’ from ‘good hegemony’ is anyone’s guess – if ‘normative’ or ‘hegemonic’ discourses are ‘disciplinary’ or ‘bad’ by virtue of being hegemonic, then there is no reason why ‘queer’ discourses should get a free pass. (There is a paradox in the centre of queer thought here – at the point at which queer theory becomes a form of academic normativity, it is no longer, by its own definitions, queer). Indeed, what I want to suggest here, is that Rachel’s behaviour to Martina is exactly a demonstration of the way in which the moral logic of queer ‘inclusivity’ has now become a hegemonic, punitive, and profoundly disciplinary discourse. As we have all been noting over the last months, trans and radical queer activism is animated by a deeply authoritarian and coercive political impulse which leads it to behave like the bastard child of Stalinism and the Medieval Catholic Church. It has produced a generation of aesthetically and discursively identikit activists who are utterly in thrall to their own moral righteousness, the categorical ‘evil’ of anyone who questions their sacred axioms, and their divine inquisitorial right to school and punish heretics. That is, the very fact that a mediocre philosopher and mediocre cyclist considers themselves in a position to discipline someone as widely and rightfully respected as Martina Navratilova for heresy, tells us everything we need to know about which discourse is dominant here, the hegemonic normativity of ‘queer’ inclusivity, and the fact that there is pretty much nothing ‘anti-disciplinary,’ ‘diverse,’ ‘fluid,’ ‘open,’ or strictly speaking, ‘queer,’ about trans activism. ‘In Queer Times’ we find ourselves. Indeed.

Anyway, let’s look at what happened. This is the tweet that kicked it off (which Martina has since deleted, because Rachel):

martina original

Now, I’m not going to get into a thing here about whether Martina is right to claim that this standard (having or not having a penis) should be the standard by which trans women should or should not be included in women’s sports. What those standards should be is a whole conversation, it’s not my wheelhouse, and I’m just going to say, we need to have it. What interests me, rather, is that it’s not a conversation trans activism is willing to even countenance, because trans activism is committed to the proposition that ‘trans-women-are-women-in-all-and-every-respect-and-any-attempt-to-make-any-distinctions-based-on-sex-is-an-act-of-egregious-hatred-that-must-be-pounced-on-and-disciplined-immediately.’ Ergo:

transphobic

This is of course the classic form of the opening salvo, viz. ‘HERETIC’

Followed quickly by: ‘RECANT.’

recant

Then there are a couple of quote tweets to drive the point home:

quote tweet 1

quote tweet 2

The second one, ‘we’re not misrepresenting you’ is pretty entertaining. Seeing as it was in response to the tried and trusted imputation that anyone who thinks the difference between male and female people might matter is a literal Nazi.

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One imagines from this that Martina’s mentions were a shitshow at around this point, and she decides to engage directly with Rachel:

enough already

To which Rachel replies, ‘you messed up by doing a HERESY’:

penis 1penis2

There are multiple branching threads in this exchange, so I’ll try to put them together as best I can. In response to the ‘Third Reading of the Charge of Heresy’ we get this, a recanting:

take it back

world champ

Martina also replies to the original tweet telling her to recant with this:

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Bonus ‘maybe you don’t realize who you’re speaking to’ self-awareness fail. (ETA: Because I did not make anywhere like a big enough deal of this. Can you imagine, IMAGINE, for a fraction of a second, being a two-bit philosopher and shit cyclist who is almost entirely famous for calling women TERFS and nefariously winning medals, bowling up to a woman who has won eighteen – eighteen – Grand Slam titles, and saying, ‘DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM???’ Like, seriously, my brain cannot even start computing the quantity of narcissistic obliviousness that requires.)

clymer

And, as if that wasn’t enough, let’s follow up the grandiose peacocking with a patronising side of that old favourite, ‘educate yourself’ (aka, ‘Read the Good Book until you understand the WORD, heathen’)

educate

The final reply from Martina to the original tweet telling her to delete was this:

good deeds

This one is a doozy, and it points to something that drive me nuts about trans activism. That is, the sheer unadulterated narcissism of its moral system. There is only their moral code, and their moral code is ALL ABOUT THEM, and gives not one flying fuck about the needs of anyone else, or about anything in a person’s character or history if it’s not ALL ABOUT THEM. Martina Navratilova is an outstanding human being – along multiple axes (not something many of us would say about Rachel McKinnon) – but she has committed a sin against the Great Church of Trans Ideology and so she gets treated with blanket contempt. The punitive moralism dripping off Rachel’s reply here makes me want to scream. Yeah, right, very fucking queer.

Following the pronouncement on Martina’s sins – and despite the fact that she has already recanted – we then get instruction on the proper way to prostrate and atone (along with the conventional ‘we’re just trying to help you do better’…could you get more dead-eyed disciplinarian, bending over you with a belt, telling you it’s for your own good??? I mean come on now Martina, Rachel’s only trying to stop you getting sent to hell, you really should be grateful):

do better.png

We also get this, in which Martina tries to point out that hectoring people who are relatively sympathetic to you might not be the best way to go, and Rachel can’t hear a damn thing over the interminable drum beat of ‘ME ME ME ME ME ME ME.’ At this point, we might want to chip in with the fact that this argument is all about the possible harm – both in fairness-terms, and because of the elevated chance of injury – to women competing with trans women in sports. But as we know, only harms to trans women matter, and concerns about harms to women are a hate-crime.

good fight

Martina then goes back to the earlier tweet in which Rachel gave her some ‘educate yourself’ material, and it prompts more admonishment on correct atonement procedures (plus a nice side-swipe at an evident ally explaining why this might not be  productive):

not to behave

Then we get this, which carries over from the tweet yesterday telling Martina she has done something ‘very wrong’ to this morning:

attack

Rachel responds by informing Martina that her sin has only been exacerbated because she is being supported by a whole raft of other evil sinners:

other sinners

The last responses from Martina come in a thread that had developed about her coach, the trans tennis player Renee Richards. McKinnon is absolutely dismissive – because Richards doesn’t toe the trans ideological line – before heading straight back for more moralistic ‘I hope you see the error of your ways my child.’:

richards

Martina, quite rightly, counters by pointing out that Rachel’s ‘engagement’ bears all the hallmarks of bullying – or, to be more specific, all the hallmarks of trying a heretic. Rachel, of course, is having none of this. Evidently, only one person here is being victimized:

last night.png

And clearly the best way to demonstrate that is with a few more quote tweets about what a terrible creature Navratilova is, and how very dare she:

morning quote 1

morning quote 2

I don’t have much more to say here. It tells, I think, a pretty clear tale. I’m not doing this because I hope to make a mark on McKinnon’s narcissistic carapace. That’s an exercise in futility, as this final RT from this morning makes abundantly clear:

heretic.png

I guess my only hope is to appeal to my once colleagues – the people inside the academy who are still churning out this bollocks about queer fluidity and anti-normativity and inclusiveness. For the love of the goddess, open your fucking eyes. This is an unequivocally, irremediably identitarian discourse. Everything we learned about the dangers of totalization, and the inability to deal with difference, and the importance of openness. Every thing you allegedly believe about ‘bad’ normativity, and discursive discipline. Every thought that arose from the post-war ashes about how not to purify ourselves with flames. This discourse is everything you claim to oppose. It is everything that it claims that it isn’t.

FFS. LOOK.

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Ontological totalitarianism by numbers

1984 header-01

  1. Human beings have a right to freedom of conscience and belief.
  2. Human beings have a right to their own perceptions.
  3. Humans beings have a right to speak in a manner which expresses their own conscience, belief and perceptions – providing that speech is not an incitement to violence against another person (see 14).
  4. The only pronouns one can prescribe to oneself, ethically, are ‘I’ and ‘me.’
  5. Third person pronouns are granted to you by another person.
  6. Pronouns function as a ‘recognition procedure’ in order to instruct someone else how they are to recognise someone, often in the absence of, or in contradiction to, observable cues.
  7. Asking someone to use certain pronouns is a request that they perceive or recognise you in a certain way.
  8. Prescribing pronouns is a diktat that another person perceives or recognises you in a certain way.
  9. Prescribing pronouns and enforcing that prescription is an act of coercion which violates people’s freedom of conscience. This is ontological totalitarianism.
  10. Resisting coercion is not bullying.
  11. Ontological totalitarianism may well be bullying.
  12. Recognition must be freely given if it is to meaningfully function as validation.
  13. Coerced recognition is both a violation of people’s freedom of conscience and is functionally worthless as validation.
  14. Resisting coerced recognition is not an act of violence – literal or otherwise – nor an incitement to violence.
  15. Trans people who are visibly gender non-conforming are subject to violence as a result of the policing of patriarchal gender norms.
  16. Feminists do not police patriarchal gender norms.
  17. Violence directed at people who violate patriarchal gender norms is an artefact of patriarchy, not an artefact of feminism.
  18. Many feminists believe that sex and gender are analytically distinct, and do not believe that the performance or identification of a person’s gender changes their sex.
  19. This is a matter of our perception of reality and a matter of political conviction. It is not a pretext.
  20. Blaming feminists for patriarchal violence against gender non-conforming and trans identified people is empirically baseless political strategy which serves as an instrument of coercion.
  21. People refusing to validate your identity may be painful.
  22. Something being painful is not conceptually identical to it being a moral harm, structural violence, or an act of oppression.
  23. Not getting our needs met is sometimes painful.
  24. Sometimes our needs don’t get met because other people also have needs, beliefs, and interests.
  25. Thinking you must always have you needs met and refusing to understand why other people may not meet your needs, is narcissistic entitlement.
  26. Narcissistic entitlement is the refusal to recognise the needs and interests of other people.
  27. Narcissistic entitlement is the opposite of mutual recognition.
  28. Mutual recognition is the condition of possibility of justice.
  29. Ontological totalitarianism is a political manifestation of narcissistic entitlement.
  30. Ontological totalitarianism is antithetical to the conditions of possibility of justice.

On Patronage

So, sorry to disappoint, this isn’t a new piece. There’s plenty plugging up the pipeline, but I’ve been catching my breath this last week…

Anyway, following a conversation with some other women on twitter this morning, and various thinkings about how to sustain myself while I continue to do the work I’m doing, I’ve decided to set up a Patreon. If you’d like to support my writing, my battling on the twits, or any of the future projects I have in mind (which I point in the general direction of on the page over there), I’d be extremely grateful.

My page is here.

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‘Burble burble intersex burble social construct burble burble trans women are women!’ Sally Hines on Woman’s Hour

So, as promised, here is an annotated transcript of yesterday’s feminist death match between Sally Hines, Professor of Sociology and Gender Identities at the University of Leeds, and our very own Kathleen Stock, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex, very ably adjudicated by Jane Garvey.

I’ve done kind of what I do when I annotate most texts. Sarcasm, interrogation, incredulity, and analysis….welcome to my marginalia…

We all know how it went, but, enjoy the re-run…. 🙂

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JG: What are sex and gender and what explains the current argument around them? *Introduces Kathleen and Sally*

JG: Okay Sally, in simple terms, I’m starting this one with you, what are sex and gender?

SH: So, sex, I would argue, is a very complex mix of chromosomes, hormones, and genitals…

Shall we talk about gametes or reproductive function, Sally? No, best not eh?

So, we are talking about biological factors, but we’re not talking about anything at all which is straightforward…

It’s COMPLICATED peoples!

So, we’re talking about a complex mix of factors which especially in the West have often been seen in a binary framework…

JG: Hang on, sorry, *slight incredulity* binary framework?

SH: So, sex is believed to divide people into two categories of male and female.

Sally Hines, Professor of Sociology and Gender Identities – THAT IS NOT A FUCKING BINARY. I have sneaking suspicion I am going to spend the best part of the next five years screaming ‘That is not a binary’ at clever-stupid people. A binary is a conceptual hierarchy which is formed by taking a term with a dominant positive value and creating a subordinate value by negating the privileged qualities of the dominant term. Masculine/Feminine is a binary. In fact, it is the ur-binary, to the extent that ALL of the binary pairs which structure Western thought (mind/body, reason/emotion, thought/sensation, universal/particular, one/many etc.) are gendered, and without exception, the ‘positive’ pole of the binary is masculine. Male and female is not a binary, it is a natural difference. The problem arises because Western thought is so thoroughly gendered that it seems people are incapable of thinking the difference ‘male/female’ without thinking it’s cultural hierarchization, or, to return us to the point we keep making – our opponents don’t seem to be able to think sex without gender. (We might think here of another natural difference, say ‘light/dark,’ which is thoroughly saturated with hierarchical value. But let us all agree, despite the fact that this pairing has always been given within a system of binary value, we can all recognise that there is such a thing as ‘light’ and ‘dark,’ and that they exist outside of that system of value, as a natural difference). The fact that binary hierarchies are an axiomatic feature of Western thought is largely where this batshit idea that ‘male’ and ‘female’ are Western constructions is getting its traction from, I think. There are human societies in which the relation between pairs has been thought in a more horizontal and interpenetrating way that in the West – the Taoist image of the Yin/Yang would be an instance of that. But we should, however, note, that cultural systems that have been less hierarchical in their thinking of pairs have still thought those pairs on the basis of the ur-pairing ‘male principle/female principle,’ because the sexual difference between males and females is universally given, not culturally various, and is the fundamental structural distinction of all human society, evah. So please, for the love of the goddess, stop saying that Westerners or ‘colonialism’ invented male and female people. It’s ahistorical Western myopism, unfathomably stupid, and racist as fuck.

JG: Go on

SH: Okay, so, and gender, um, is the way in which a society understands or experiences these sex differences…

Hold onto that thought Sally. You can do it!

Again in the West, these have largely been understood until quite recent times in terms of a binary framework…

Hurrah, she said something correct. Well, except gender still is…again, not thinking the difference…

….so, male and female

DOH! THAT’S SEX DOOFUS. IT WAS GOING SO WELL FOR A MOMENT THERE.

JG: And these understanding are…less well understood, or more widely challenged, how would you define it?

SH: I think that when it comes to sex many scientists are arguing, um, have indeed argued, but but, more so are arguing…that that the binary framework…

Liking the stammering here, could it be because you’re about to talk total crap?

…the simple reading of male and female, is quite a simplistic and very reductive way of understanding a very *complex* procedure

It’s COMPLICATED people! Repeat to fade.

I wonder Sally, if it’s so complicated, how you might explain, how all human societies, for whom we have cultural records, seem to have been able to make this distinction, mmmm?

Um, similarly…

No, NOT similarly

The way gender has been understood in contemporary society has broadened out, and young people especially, are experiencing and understanding their gender as more diverse than a binary male female [DOH] framework allows for…

It’s like the 70s and 80s never happened.

Also, can you STOP with this constant appeal to the ‘young people’ to leverage your baseless idea that this crap must somehow be revolutionary and anti-status quo. Firstly, as suggested above, it’s ahistorical. These kids did not invent gender fucking. It’s been going on in cycles throughout history. Second, it ends up descending very quickly into patriarchal ageism, and is being deployed in concert with a thoroughgoing trashing of the legacy of second wave feminism, which is anything but revolutionary, and relies on the age-old fracturing of genealogy between younger and older women. Thirdly, these kids have been brainwashed Sally, and you are participating in that brainwashing.

JG: *no nonsense voice* When a baby is born, the first thing that happens…anyone who’s had a baby will know this…the first thing that happens, is…obviously you ascertain that it’s alright, and then, you find out, it’s biological sex.

SH: Yup

You sound a little aggrieved there Sally, or maybe I’m imagining it?

I mean, I think, using the term ‘assigned female or male at birth’ okay, rather than ‘male or female at birth’ is a really useful way…

You seem to be confusing ‘useful’ with ‘obfuscating for ideological purposes’ there Sally.

…of looking at the ways in which sex can be understood as something social…so what’s that’s doing then, is arguing, is kind of pointing to the ways in which someone, um, usually a doctor, in this instance, is making a decision, they’re making a presumption, about what sex, um, that baby is, um, and as we’ve seen, um, with intersex, that’s clearly not always the case.

This is a GREAT illustration of what work the intersex issue is doing here, and exactly why they have appropriated the ‘assigned’ linguistic structure. Because it is only in the very few instances that sex is not readily observable that this batshit idea that sex is not simply ‘observed’ but is in some sense ‘decided’ or ‘constructed,’ seems able to gain ANY traction.

JG: *exasperated exhale* Okay, I think a lot of people will take issue, including, I suspect, Kathleen, so, off you go Kathleen, tell us.

KS: Well, I agree, there is, we are increasingly good at understanding er, intersex variation, so, disorders of sexual development, um, and a very very small number, a subset of people with those disorders, are atypical chromosomally, or sometimes, for a very small number, of particular disorders, namely AIS [Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome] and CAH [Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia], you might get an XY male with a feminized genitalia, or you might get an XX female with a virilised genitalia, so, that’s not the 1.7% of people we are always being told are intersex…

For an excellent breakdown of Fausto-Sterling’s highly dubious 1.7% statistic, see this thread by @mrkhtake2.

JG: It’s tiny

KS: It’s a very very very small number, like, one in twenty thousand I think for CAH, and and, but I think it’s the wrong way to think of it that a doctor looks at a child, a neonate, and say, ‘okay, I’m going to assign a sex.’ What they do is they do genetic testing and blood testing and they work out which variety of disorder this child has, and then there’s a standard, um, y’know, for the vast majority of intersex children there’s an absolutely standard route to recording male or female sex…

JG: But as you say, this isn’t a common problem this, it happens, we know it does…

KS: But it’s also, sometimes, in the rhetoric of ‘sex is a spectrum,’ um, and the assigning of sex, as if it’s a social decision on the part of the doctor, it’s to gloss over the medical procedures, that are pretty well understood now, which result in predicable outcomes for whether this child is going to be counted as male or female.

*Pom poms* This is an EXCELLENT point, and one it’s worth underlining. The whole rhetoric of ‘assigning’ depends on a historic set of procedures for dealing with intersex children, which, as we know, were coercive, invasive, and traumatizing. My understanding from listening to the intersex advocates is, as Kathleen points to here, that these subjective and coercive determinations are no longer clinical practice, and that, far from developments in science showing us that ‘sex is a spectrum,’ increased scientific understanding has allowed us to more accurately determine the sex of children who are born with some degree of ambiguity in their sexed phenotype. It should also be noted, that the very existence of ambiguity in a tiny number of instances, and the fact that they occasion clinical procedures, is also evidence of the fact that in the vast vast majority of cases, no such ambiguity exists, and in such cases, the phrase ‘assigned sex/gender at birth’ is meaningless ideological garbage.

JG: Sally

SH: Okay, okay, yeah, I mean, um *awkward laugh* neither I nor Kathleen, um, are scientists…

Well don’t call on scientific ideas to buttress your ideology then lady.

…there are many scientists however that are pointing to the simplistic understanding of sex,

No, there isn’t. The majority of scientists and medical professionals are having no truck with this nonsense. You have a few ideologically motivated people in the sciences that are invested in troubling the male/female difference, and you endlessly regurgitate and appeal to this, for political reasons, against the preponderant weight of scientific thinking. It’s been said before and it will be said again – you are the climate change deniers of the left.

…um, in the way that that Kathleen’s just talked about…

You’re confused there champ. You said something vague and sweeping while constantly appealing to the term ‘complexity.’ Kathleen said something precise and detailed, and in the process, handed you your ass. And now you’re scrabbling to find it. Understand this: Your vague use of the word ‘simplistic’ carries as much logical force as your vague use of the word ‘complex.’ You don’t get to win an argument by arrogating complexity to yourself and simplicity to your opponents. ‘Show not tell’ Professor Hines.

…okay, and this has also been long recognised in many non-Western countries, um, who have understood that people are often not simply male of female…

TWO-SPIRIT KLAXON. Misrepresentative, appropriative, racist bullshit. HOW THE FUCK HAS THE UNIVERSITY GIVEN PEOPLE WITH TUMBLRISED-BRAINS CHAIRS??????? (Neoliberalism, customer service, ‘impact,’ student satisfaction burble burble)

…and just to say that it doesn’t kind of affect very many people, or it’s a minority problem, or disorder, um, I think is kind of, that’s ignoring the way that lots of young people now are experiencing their lives and their sense of gender, um, as something which is non-binary, which is neither male nor female…

JG: Okay, I can see that you’re struggling with that Kathleen, very briefly if you can.

KS: Well, we’ve moved there, Sally’s moved there, from talking about a medical issue to a social issue, and whether young people feel non-binary or not, that’s got absolutely nothing to do with intersex, those two things are completely distinct.

Well, QUITE. But hey Sally, look on the bright side, you have very usefully exhibited what is at stake in the attempt to undermine the existence of sexual dimorphism. You are invested in an ideology that wants to define the determination of the being of men and women on the basis of identity, and it follows from that that you must undermine the idea that that being depends on sex. (Can someone rustle me up a Guardian journalist or two to come and mansplain to me about how nobody is trying to undermine human sexual dimorphism?) To do that, you must try to unsettle the difference between male and female, and – accompanied by Judith Butler and stoopid notions of social construction that seem to think that because concepts are social constructions everything they name is a simple construction as well – the instrumentalization of intersex conditions is the main way you try and go about that (so yeah, it’s not an accident you came out with intersex burble, is it, really?) Ultimately, the aim is to be able to make people believe that male people can be female people (and female people male – although, if that was all this was about, none of this would be happening, because, y’know, sex and power and shit, we’ll get onto that shortly…). And so, you have to insist that the difference between male and female is one that we can move around at whim, according to our own desires. We can’t. And to believe we can is the very opposite of ‘progressive.’ It is a form of absolute idealism which arrogates to humans – and the power of human naming – the ability to bring the whole world into existence. It is, in short, a god-complex. And an age-old patriarchal one at that.

SH: I’m not talking particularly about intersex…

KS: Well you were originally

Indeed.

SH: But I used it as an example of how sex itself can be diverse…

And as we’ve demonstrated, it doesn’t do what you want it to do. So, Stop. Appropriating. Intersex. People. Already.

JG: I appreciate that you both feel very strongly about this, I worry, somewhat, on behalf of our audience, that we’re getting up a cul-de-sac, that very few people will actually travel down in their real lives. What we do know is that the lives of women, on the whole, can be rather challenging Sally, and sometimes more restricted, and frankly, women can often feel more vulnerable, than their born male counterparts, that is simple fact, isn’t it?

SH: *pause* It depends who you are including in the category of woman, okay?

OKAY!!!!!!

So, there you’re saying, are you saying that trans women are not women? Um, yeah, women, cis women, okay…

OKAY!!!!!

JG: Cis women, a lot of people don’t know what that means, what do you mean by that?

SH: Okay, so I’ll explain, so so, women who are assigned female at birth…? Okay?

OKAY!!! Love the rising intonation here. Yeah Sally…Jane, Kathleen, and the assembled women of the nation all think you’re talking shit…

Um, women who haven’t transitioned, okay? Yeah? Absolutely, have a lot of difficulties in society, but arguing for trans rights, and arguing that trans women are women, doesn’t take away, from recognising that we live in a patriarchal sexist society…

It doesn’t take anything away from that recognition, even though I am apparently unable to appear on the most important womens’ programme in the UK and straightforwardly affirm without hedging, introducing trans women, and calling women by a prefix that they have repeatedly and clearly rejected, that women are oppressed as women.

Also while we’re here, let’s note that for people who proclaim to be all about smashing binaries, you have yourselves created a new binary – the cis/trans binary. The cis/trans binary, unlike the female/male difference, is, actually, an axiomatic binary. It is axiomatic in that the category ‘cis’ is formed entirely by inversion from the category ‘trans.’ Thus, while trans people have a gender identity that ‘doesn’t match’ their sex, we have one that ‘matches.’ Trans ideology therefore imposes a gender identity on non-trans people, despite the fact that we keep telling them we don’t know what it means, have no experience of one, and reject it on theoretical and political grounds. And the nature of this attribution gives the lie to the claim about the hierarchy of power at work in the ‘cis/trans’ binary. Ostensibly, the cis/trans binary names the power cis people have over trans people, and it works in that sense to flip the hierarchy of oppression between male and female people, posit female people as the oppressors of trans women, and hence invalidate women’s political claims and resistances (it is this mechanism which allows the trans rights movement to analogise women with white supremacists, and to claim our exclusions are of the same type as segregationists). However, binaries always work by the ‘inferior’ term being formed by negation of the privileged term, and by the social group identified with the privileged term possessing the power of naming and constructing the binary. That trans rights has successfully created a binary which imposes a name on the ‘other’ term against their wishes, in a manner which they expressly consider to be a misrepresentation, and which functions to give social capital to the group associated with one term and to delegitimise the social group associated with the other term, tells us all we need to know about how power is actually operating in this instance…Or, to cut a long story short, people with penises get to name and define people without penises. AGAIN.

So anyway yes, you were telling us about how cis women are oppressed but not really…. Or maybe we should give the mic to Kathleen instead?

KS: Well, I’m very happy to recognise that we live in a patriarchal sexist society…

THAT’S how you do it.

…I think we do, and since we do, I think we need to retain categories and subcategories that do important explanatory work, and one of those is ‘women,’ ‘natal females,’ you can call them cis if you like, but, if cis is taken to mean ‘happy with the socially imposed gender stereotypes that are put on them as soon as they’re born,’ then most women do not feel cis, if you mean some really strong feeling of being a woman, then most women do not feel like that, they don’t, they just are, they don’t feel…It’s really really difficult in these discussion to find some commonality that all trans women for instance, and all natal women, share, that could explain, how they were both simultaneously members of the same group… and, the even more radical claim that’s being made by you Sally, that there’s no underlying differences, between those two groups in terms of social treatment. And it’s my view that being female, um, being socially, um, perceived as a woman, imposes a significant causal predictor on you, to be the subject of all sorts of discrimination, we see this in the sexual violence statistics, we see this in the pay-gap…it’s not a gender pay-gap, it’s a sex pay-gap, it’s to do with reproduction, which is something that women bear…

SH: I fundamentally disagree

Of course you do. And this is the absolute screaming core of the problem. Because you are committed to an ideology that means you cannot recognise that there is any difference between trans women and women, and therefore, you cannot recognise that female people are oppressed qua female people – that is, on the basis of their sex. And that makes you, simply, an un-feminist. Because my dear Professor, like everything, being a feminist is not actually a matter of identification, it’s a matter of practice.

JG: Why do you disagree Sally?

SH: I think I think trans women um, also, um, if not sometimes more so suffer harassment, suffer violence, suffer sexual disadvantage, um, in society…

1. But not because they are female.

2. Stop it with your baseless hierarchy of suffering lady. You think playing people’s wounds off against each other is going to get us somewhere good, you dangerous idiot???

….and for me regulating the category of woman, arguing around, y’know, who can, and who can’t belong, um, to that category, based on an idea of gendered authenticity, or realness, is not the way forward…

Male people commit violence against gender non-conforming people, and especially against perceived femininity in male people, because of the structure of patriarchal gender. It has not now, and had never, had anything to do with feminist women believing that mammals are sexually dimorphic and that women are oppressed on the basis of their sex. Stop blaming women for men’s violence and stop blaming feminists for patriarchal gender.

Also, this thing about the hierarchy of real and fake. Again, this is a conflation of a cultural hierarchy with a given difference. Yes, there are instances in which we have distributed value by constructing some things as more authentic than other things, and then there is the fact that there just exists a difference between real things and imitations. Fake fur is not somehow real fur, and diamanté is not somehow real diamond, because you have decided to believe that all judgements about ‘realness’ and ‘fakeness’ are only cultural hierarchies of value. I actually agree with you that it is unhelpful, and unnecessarily derogatory, to frame the difference between trans women and women as that between ‘realness’ and ‘fakeness’ or ‘imitation.’ However, it is in your interests to insist that the difference must be framed in that way, and then to use that to claim that anyone insisting on a difference is being derogatory.  I would simply say that there are female people, that there are male people who identify as women, that male people are not female people, and that sex is politically important. These are not attributions of value. They are just empirical facts.

Lastly, you have absolutely no empirical proof that this derogatory system of value is the reason for male people’s violence against trans women. Why should we accept that this violence is created by the belief that trans women are ‘fake’ women (which then allows you to apparently blame feminists for male violence), rather than the belief that these are male people who are performing femininity in a way that violates the first rule of patriarchal masculinity? (which would mean that gender abolitionist feminism would actually ameliorate violence against trans women, a fact which could, and should, be the basis of our solidarity)

JG: Yeah, again, we’ve got to make this conversation relevant to everybody, and I’m particularly aware that many of our listeners have had tough lives for one reason or another, they may well be even now still facilitating the lives of others, possibly they’ve done nothing but that for the last fifty years, and, it’s hardly surprising that many of those women feel that their hard won rights are somewhat vulnerable at the moment Sally to the progress of some other, for example, trans women. What do you say to that?

Top marks to JG for all of this, especially for bringing the issue of the sexed distribution of care work into the conversation here. I am reminded of this quote from a feature on Martine Rothblatt, in which it was made pretty obvious that the woman with the vagina was still the one responsible for looking after everyone’s material (and probably emotional) needs.

SH: I completely disagree…

That female people do the majority of unpaid domestic and emotional labour in the world? That’s not a matter of opinion Professor.

I think, y’know, gender politics and progressive politics can’t, y’know, be kind of based on a hierarchy of difference in this way…

How many times do we need to tell you this??? Differences are not hierarchies. They’re differences. If you refuse to recognise difference you refuse to give recognition to the particularly of individual lives, and the way those lives are shaped by membership of social groups, and the needs and political interests of people who belong to those social groups. That is not progress and it is not justice. It is erasure and domination.

…y’know, and we’ve seen this before, it’s very very dangerous, we’ve seen this before in feminism, in relation to the position of Black women, and in relation to the position of working class women, y’know, I think we absolutely as feminists have got to move away from a politics which is based around perceptions of realness, and that white, cis women such as myself, such as Kathleen, have got to give up some privilege here…

Let’s unpack some intersectionality burble then shall we Sally? First, the imputation that Black women and working-class women are a subset of women whose womanhood is ‘less real’ that white women’s womanhood is bullshit, and politically motivated and offensive bullshit. There have always been and remain tensions within feminism along race and class lines, and there probably will always be, because these intersections are massively important political and social differences that cut though the body of women. We will, I hope, always continue to wrestle with these issues, to give them space, and to endeavour to work with them in order to best articulate our shared interests as women, and to allow for the expression of our differences. As I have said before, it is not easy, and it shouldn’t be. None of this translates into an idea that Black women or working-class women are somehow not women, and Crenshaw never intended intersectionality to be used to fracture the class of female people in order to include male people. The fact that Black females are female does not mean that male people are female, and you really need to stop and have a long hard look at yourself and what the fuck you’re saying. Frankly, this makes my blood boil. And I know from listening to many Black women that they find it enraging – both because their womanhood is being undermined, and they’re being used as a political prop in an argument, and maybe even more so, because it’s being done with a veneer of woke anti-racism, while being fucking racist, and the women doing it won’t listen to them when they call it out.

Secondly, can you imagine anything more white and middle class and privileged than thinking you can avoid sex-based oppression by identifying out of it? What kind of life have you lived, that you respond to a well-grounded observation about the distribution of care-work (let alone femicide, or poverty, or lack of education, or FGM, or forced marriage, or sexual slavery, or any other of the number of sex-based violences that disproportionately affect women with less economic and racial power, or from cultures with more rigid patriarchal practices than our own), and turn around, and say that you are fighting for the interests of working class and women of colour by denying the analysis of the basis of their exploitation????? This whole towering pile of bullshit is precisely an artefact of privilege. Walk into any Gender Studies class in the country if you have any doubts. Over to Kathleen…

KS: I am exactly here to fight on behalf of the interests of Black and working-class female women, it is them that bear the disproportionate brunt of inequality in our society, and if we lose the ability to name those people as such, and to talk about the causal factors that lead to their predicament, then we won’t be able to fight for them, so it’s precisely dangerous, the kind of rhetoric that’s coming out of the new gender identity doctrine…

JG: Sally, can I just, I mean, if it were a level playing field, why do we not hear as much from trans men as we do from trans women?

BOOM. Answer that question while avoiding granting recognition to the political importance of sex if you will Sally?

SH: *Sharp intake of breath through nose* I think, trans men are often ignored, okay

OKAY!!!!!???

JG: Well, we don’t ignore them…

I’m a little bit in love with JG by this point…

Well anyway, carry on…

SH: I think that trans men are not seen to be a threat…

Correct. Because they’re not. Because they’re female.

…by some sections of feminism…um, in the way that trans women are…y’know, there has been lots of critique of trans men from second wave feminists, such as Sheila Jeffreys, who argued that trans men are simply trying to get, y’know, they’re women who are trying to get male privilege, so, y’know, trans men have been critiqued and attacked by some sections of feminism, but, in the culture that we’re living in at the moment, in contemporary times, um, it is trans women, who’ve become the bodies of fear, um, for some feminists…

Yup. Because this whole situation has been created by feminists and has absolutely nothing to do with the politics of the trans rights movement, the nature of their demands, their attempts to erase women, or their persistent efforts to enforce their agenda by using the immemorial tactics of coercive control. And none of this has anything to do with the fact that many of the people directing this movement are late transitioning people who were born and socialised as males, or that we live in a culture that grants power to those people, precisely because they are male. None of this would be happening were it not being driven by male interests in changing the definition of woman in order to colonise it. Trans men do not have the social power to redefine and enforce that redefinition on men – as is amply demonstrated by the fact that the language around the naming of men remains implacably untouched by this whole situation.  This is precisely a demonstration of the very fact that it purports to deny – that is, the existence of sex, and its political importance. THAT’s the answer you were looking for Sally.

As for the ‘bodies of fear.’ Male people are a statistical danger to women. That is not a construction, and it is not a projection you can nattily analogize to xenophobia. It not an ungrounded fear of the ‘foreign,’ through which women create an illusory sense of safety or security by projecting their fears onto the ‘other’ outside. Nothing about the analysis of male violence serves to make us feel safe, so you can put your garbled post-structuralist misappropriation away right now. Rather, our fear of male people is based on the fact that our lives are blighted and controlled by the violence, and the threat of violence, visited on us by male people, and, as any feminist knows, that violence is not merely accidental or natural. It is structural, inculcated, and used as a form of social control. And if you want to dispute that, you can, any minute now, start arguing like an MRA, and we’ll take what remnants are left of your feminist card back lickity-split.

JG: Okay, last word to you Kathleen, if you can be brief, I’d be grateful…

KS: Well, trans women are not inherently dangerous, and no one on my side of the debate thinks that, but we recognise that they are male, biologically, and socialised as males, and that makes it more likely, statistically, that some of them will be violence, sexually violent, towards females…

SH: I completely disagree, and would say..

KS: Well I know you do but…the stats bear it out, so…let’s go to the evidence…

SH: Trans women are women

You have argument and I have MANTRAS! Take that!

KS: Well, you can keep saying that…

Indeed. And they will, and it won’t become any truer, or have any bearing on the statistics.

But the evidence…I’m not even talking about that, I’m talking about how this is practically, um… realized in society, and we have to make decisions about how to order spaces, how to…

SH: But who makes those decisions…?

Good question Sally! You are supporting a political movement that is insisting that those decisions be made on the basis of an unscientific, ideological mantra, and only in the interests of trans women, and that anyone who questions that, or who claims that this is a rights conflict, or that women should be a stakeholder in the making of those decision, is a bigot. So yeah, who does get to make those decisions? Shall we move on to talking about that?

KS: And to keep repeating ‘trans women are women’ won’t get us anywhere.

BOOM.

prince mike

TOTAL DEMOLITION: That wins you a Prince, Professor Stock xx

The Annals of the TERF-Wars

So, yesterday this turned up in my feed, which struck me as something of an, um, mispresentation… and somehow, I ended up writing my own version of how this whole thing went down…

owl

 

Prologue: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Transsexual women: We just want some basic human rights.

Women: Okay.

Transsexual women: We have this condition called gender dysphoria and it’s really painful and we need to transition to live as the other sex because it’s the treatment for the dysphoria.

Women: Yeah, that sounds tough. Okay, if that’s what you need to do.

Transsexual women: We’d like you to treat us as women.

Most women: Um, okay. Sure, we can do that if that helps.

 

Prequel: A long time ago in a lesbian bar that no longer exists

Lesbians: We don’t have to treat you as women for sexual purposes, do we?

Many transsexual women: No, that’s cool

Nascent trans activists: Well, actually, if you don’t want to fuck us then it invalidates our womanhood and that is misgendering and it’s a human rights abuse and you should want to fuck us.

Lesbians: It’s a human rights abuse if we don’t want to fuck you? What the fuck?

Nascent trans activists: Yes, you should want to fuck us.

Lesbians: Even if you still have dicks?

Nascent trans activists: Even if we still have dicks.

Lesbians: Um yeah, sorry, we don’t do dicks. We’re LESBIANS.

Nascent trans activists: You are vagina fetishists with unconscious bias and are gatekeeping your vaginas. We are women and our dicks are women’s dicks. If you don’t want to fuck us, you’re bigots.

Lesbians: We’re not bigots, it’s just you’re male, and we fuck female people.

Nascent trans activists: LITERAL VIOLENCE. WE ARE WOMEN. YOU SHOULD WANT TO FUCK US.

Lesbians: Um yeah, we’re not really feeling that right now to be honest.

Nascent trans activists: TERF TERF TERF TERF TERF.

Lesbians: HEY PEOPLE! These people are pressuring our sexual boundaries because they say they’re women but the way they’re pressuring us doesn’t make us feel like they’re women…in fact, it makes us feel like they’re men and we don’t fuck men. We’re lesbians, we don’t fuck men. That’s the reason we did all the marching, so that was okay right? RIGHT????

(Nascent trans activists: TERF TERF TERF TERF TERF)

Lesbians: HEY PEOPLE!!! Could we get some fucking help here?

Rest of the LGB community and world: Did someone say something?

 

Episode 1: The First War Begins. Scene 1: Cyberspace – probably around 2013

Trans activists: So hey, when we said we’d like you to treat us like women that wasn’t right, because actually, we ARE women and we demand that you treat us exactly like women because we are women and that you to stop violently excluding us from all your women things.

Women: Um, we thought you were male people who had to transition to help with your dysphoria?

Trans activists: No, that is out-dated and pathologizing. Women are women because they have a gender identity which makes them women.

Women: Um, we thought we were woman because we’re female?

Trans activists: No, you are women because you have magic womanish essence that makes you women. We have the same magic womanish essence as you, it’s just that ours got stuck in the wrong body.

Feminists: That sounds kind of sexist. Can you tell us what this woman-essence is, and how it gets stuck in the wrong body, because that sounds like a weird metaphys…..

Trans activists: It’s SCIENCE.

Feminists: Science says there’s ‘magic woman essence’??? Are you sure? Because feminism would…

Trans activists: Shut up bigots.

Feminists: Sorry? What?

Trans activists: You are our oppressors, you don’t get to speak. When you speak you oppress us, and it literally kills us.

Feminists: WHAT?

Trans activists: You are cis women, cis people are our oppressors.

Feminists: We’re what?

Trans activists: It’s your new name, it comes from Latin, and means you have a magic gender essence that matches your body, and because your magic gender essence matches your body you are privileged…

Feminists: Hang on a minute, women are oppressed because they are women, we’re not really sure that’s a privilege…

Trans activists: YOU ARE PRIVILEGED BECAUSE YOUR GENDER IDENTITY MATCHES YOUR BODY. Nobody knows the pain of being trapped in the wrong body. It is the greatest pain of all the pains that has ever happened to all of human kind, and everyone who does not know this pain is privileged and is therefore our oppressor.

Feminists: Um, were not really sure we’re oppressing you, we don’t have much social power to oppress you, we’d just like to ask you some questions about this gender identity thing….

Trans activists: ARE YOU DEBATING OUR RIGHT TO EXIST???

Feminists: What? No, we just wanted to ask you…

Trans activists: YOU ARE DEBATING OUR RIGHT TO EXIST. THIS IS LITERAL VIOLENCE.

Feminists: No no no hold on, we’re just trying to ask you a question…

Trans activists: WE WILL NOT DEBATE OUR RIGHT TO EXIST. YOU ARE TRYING TO EXTERMINATE US. YOU ARE JUST LIKE GENOCIDAL RACISTS

Feminists: What??? We’re like genocidal what??? This is fucking crazy. Can we just try and calm down and talk about this?

Trans activists: NO. There is NO DEBATE. Debating is literal violence and makes us unsafe. Repeat after us – Trans women are women. Trans women are women because they have woman essence, just like cis women. You’re not women because of your bodies. Bodies have nothing to do with being a woman.

Feminists: Okay, this is sounding nuts now, because we really think our bodies have quite a lot to do with our being woman.

Trans activists: Bio-essentialism!

Feminists: What? Essentialism is bad we agree, but that means thinking people with certain kinds of bodies have to…

Trans activists: No, essentialism is thinking male and female people exist.

Feminists: But male and female people DO exist.

Trans activist: FUCK YOU TERF. DIE IN A FIRE.

Feminists: Woah.

Trans activists: How many fucking times do we need to tell you this cis-scum? Your body has nothing to do with your being a woman. There is no such thing as female biology.

Feminists: WHAT THE FUCK????

Trans activists: The gender binary was created by white heteropatriarchal colonialism.

Feminists: WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK???? WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?? WHICH ‘COLONIALISM’????

American trans activists who don’t know the rest of the world exists: Colonialism colonialism duh.

Feminists: How the hell is the colonization of North America responsible for the creation of male and female people? And while we’re here that sounds kinda racist…

Trans activists: Two-spirit people burble burble sex is a spectrum burble clown fish burble burble intersex people burble burble some women don’t have ovaries burble social construct burble Judith Butler

(Academics with cool-girl syndrome and assorted edgelords and wokebros: JUDITH BUTLER!!!!)

Trans activists: ….burble burble, there is no such thing as female biology and women are women because they have magic gender essence and therefore some women have penises!

Feminists: Okay, this is batshit. We REALLY need to talk about this.

Trans activists: WE WILL NOT DEBATE OUR RIGHT TO EXIST.

 

Episode 1: The First War Continues. Scene 2: Cyberspace – around 2013-14

*Enter Intersectional Feminists from top, bottom and side of screen….*

Intersectional feminists: THEY WILL NOT DEBATE THEIR RIGHT TO EXIST YOU FUCKING BIGOTS.

Feminists: Hang on, we thought you were feminists. We thought you cared about female people.

Intersectional feminists: Female people are so last century. Only White Feminists care about female people.

Feminists: White what?

Intersectional feminists: All the feminists before us were white middle-class women and they only cared about what white middle-class women care about and they were only interested in getting good jobs for white middle-class women and they didn’t care about Black women and were dried up whorephobic prudes who didn’t realize sex work was liberating and mostly they just wanted to kill trans people.

Feminists: That sounds like some mad-ass caricature.

Intersectional feminists: You would say that, you oppressive old crones. You’re just saying that to maintain your power.

Feminists: No we’re not, we don’t have much power. We’re saying it because it sounds like bullshit. *Starts trying to explain all the things second wave feminism did to help women*

Intersectional feminists: We’re not listening to you, you oppressive bitches. We’ve hidden all your books in the library to protect young minds from them. You are whorephobes and transphobes and racists. We are intersectional. Only we have learned from the Tumblr-oracle how all the different oppressions have different points on a scale that add up to who is the most oppressed and you are white (so are we mostly but we’re pointing at you because somehow that means something, maybe because we have asymmetric hair-cuts and our profile pics give great side-eye) and you are women and that means that you are the least oppressed and that means that your feminism is shit and that means that you have to centre all these other people in your feminism and if you refuse it’s because you’re the oppressors and the most oppressed people are trans women and they must be the centre of feminism from now on.

Feminists: You want us to centre male born people in our feminism?

Intersectional feminists: THAT’S RIGHT BITCHES. And there is no such thing as ‘male-born people.’ That is cissexism and is literal violence. You need to educate yourselves. We don’t have the spoons.

Feminists: Um yeah, we know quite a lot about the history and practice of feminism and we’ve thought quite hard about it and I think we’re going to carry on centring female people if you don’t mind.

Intersectional feminists: OPPRESSORS

Feminists: Female people are oppressed and our political movement…

Intersectional feminists: SWERF AND TERF. SWERF AND TERF. SWERF AND TERF.

(Ps – Would you like to try this sourdough bread I made with yeast from my vagina?)

Feminists: Okay. This is getting REALLY fucked up now.

Intersectional feminists: Run away and cry your ‘White Feminism TM’ tears you dried up old witches. And don’t fucking kink-shame us or we’ll shank you.

Feminists: Um, this feminism seems not very…

Intersectional feminists with new blue hair: BIG DICK ENERGY.

*TERF-blocker descends*

 

Episode 1: The End of the First War. Scene 3: Cyberspace and public sphere, 2014-5

Feminists: *Educate themselves* *Become increasingly horrified* *Start writing articles nobody fucking reads*

HEY PEOPLE! This shit is mental. There are these people saying being female has nothing to do with being a woman, and that they’re women because they have magic gender essence, and this sounds pretty sexist, and they also say that sex doesn’t exist and given we’ve always thought that that’s the reason we’re oppressed we’re pretty worried this is a bad idea for women and feminism, and now these other people who say they’re feminists are telling us we have to centre people who are not female in our feminism or we’re the oppressors and are going on and on about how we shouldn’t say anything because we’re whorephobic bigots and it’s kind of nuts and people are bullying lesbians to have sex with people with penises and they’re encouraging young people to take hormones that we don’t seem to understand the effects of and we think this is all sketchy as fuck to be honest. What the hell is going on?

Trans activists and intersectional feminists: That woman talking over there is making people unsafe because she is an evil bigot and trans people are the most vulnerable people in the world and she is the oppressor and she is oppressing us by speaking and if she speaks then it is literal violence and it will make people hurt us and we will also hurt ourselves and so you have to stop her speaking and if you don’t stop her speaking then you are also an evil bigot and we are going to tell everyone what evil fucking bigots you are and you wouldn’t want that now so you better stop her speaking right fucking now.

Civic institution: Um, what now?

Trans activists: *Pickets* *Inundates with letters and emails and phone calls* *Goes on twitter and gets a massive pile of people to bombard institution*

Civic institution’s PR people: This makes us look bad.

Civic institution: Okay, we won’t let the bigot speak. I mean, she’s just a feminist, right?

Trans activists: Hurray we are safe! Ding dong the witch is dead!

Feminists: What the fuck? HEY PEOPLE! I was just trying to say something because I think there are some questions here and I think we should really talk about it. I’m not sure people are women just because they have magic woman essence and I think there might be some not good consequences of thinking this.

Trans activists and civic institutions: SHUT UP BIGOTS.

Misogynist child with column in major left-wing newspaper: SHUT UP BIGOTS. YOU’RE THE KIND OF PEOPLE WHO THOUGHT GAY PEOPLE WERE ALL KIDDY FIDDLERS.

Feminists: Um, lots of us are lesbians actually and the rest of us were totally behind gay rights, like, we’ve always been allies, what the hell are you going on about?

Misogynist child with column in major left-wing newspaper: *Blocks all the women objecting* WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY BITCHES.

Woke bros and assorted leftie-misogynists: *Jumping up and down with excitement* WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY UPPITY BITCHES.

Trans activists and civic institutions and leftie newspapers:  REPEAT AFTER US – Trans women are women. Because trans women are women then trans women should be given all the social resources given to other women and if you don’t accept this then you are exclusionary bigots and we’re going to make damn sure everyone knows what terrible terrible people you are and how you shouldn’t be allowed to live or work or speak or write in public. Have you fucking got that???

Feminists: You’re intimidating and silencing us.

Trans activists and leftie newspapers:  No, we’re not. You trigger people by existing and asking questions and having the wrong opinions. You need to shut the fuck up so that everyone is safe. RIGHT NOW.

 

Episode 2: Between the Wars. Scene 1: Public sphere, 2015-2017

Feminists: We’re feeling pretty demoralized here…

Trans activists: EXCELLENT. You just sit over there and keep your little lady-mouths shut.

*Organise some more* *Take over Stonewall and all the LGBT+ organizations* *Start sending people into school and institutions to explain that people have magic gender essence which sometimes gets trapped in the wrong body* *Bully, harass and no platform any woman who speaks up*

Hey, government. We’ve got this great idea. You know how people think you’re a bunch of assholes who has been driving the economy into the ground and lining rich people’s pockets while you let vulnerable people starve, we’ve got just the ticket for you.

Government: *Ears prick up* Tell us more.

Trans activists: Yeah, all you have to do is change this piece of legislation so we can get our sex changed more easily. The current legislation is really burdensome, and we’re really vulnerable, and it would really help us out, and would totally make you look like you care about marginalized people while costing you fuck all.

Government: Well, that does sound like a boon. Is there a catch?

Trans activists: No, not one. It’s just streamlining an administrative process really.

Government: Okay, come and tell us all about it. Is there anyone else we need to talk to?

Trans activists: No. It doesn’t have any effect on anyone, it’s just paperwork really. JUST MAKE SURE YOU DON’T TALK TO THOSE UPPITY WOMEN OVER THER THEY’RE ALL EVIL BIGOTS WHO WANT TO KILL US.

Government: Oh yes, they do sound like terrible people, how awful for you.

Trans activists: Yes, they’re really horrific. And while we’re at it, you might want to think about removing their rights to single-sex spaces from the Equalities Act because it discriminates against us.

Government: Interesting. Okay, when can you come in?

 

Episode 2: Between the Wars. Scene 2: The Take Over Continues, Labour Party, 2016-17

The left of the left: Austerity sucks! Neoliberalism sucks! WE. WANT. SOCIAL. DEMOCRACY. NOW.

Some of the feminists: Yeah, we want that too.

Other of the feminists: We think these people might be wankers.

Some of the feminists: Noted. Let’s see what they say….

Momentum: WE. WANT. SOCIAL. DEMOCRACY. NOW.

The new leader of the Labour Party: WE. WANT. SOCIAL. DEMOCRACY. NOW.

Some of the feminists: Okay, great….

Momentum: ANYONE WHO DOESN’T WANT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY NOW IS A CAPITALIST SHILL.

Some of the feminists: Well, we get what you’re saying, but….

Momentum: CAPITALIST SHILL. CAPITALIST SHILL. FUCK THE COLLABORATING CENTRIST BIGOTS…

Some of the feminists: This seems strangely fam….

Momentum: ….AND WHILE WE’RE AT IT, TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN!

The new leader of the Labour Party: TRANS WOMEN *ARE* WOMEN.

Momentum: TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN AND ANYONE WHO QUESTIONS IS A BIGOT.

Some of the feminists: Ohhhhhhhhh FUCK…..

Other of the feminists: We told you they were wankers.

Misogynist child with column in major left-wing newspaper: Trans women are women and the only people who disagree with me are those centrist collaborating shills over there…

Some of the feminists: Well THAT’S bullshit.

Momentum, Labour leadership, misogynist child and chorus of brocialists: TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN. TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN. CAPITALIST BIGOT SHILLS BIGOT SHILLS BURN THEM BURN THEM…

Bastardi: Fully automated luxury……

Some of the feminists: Yup. Wankers.

Other of the feminists: Told you.

Labour Party women: So, about this trans women are women thing, we just have a few….

Momentum, misogynist child and chorus of brocialists: SHUT UP YOU FUCKING TERF BIGOTS.

Labour Party women: TERF-what?

Momentum, misogynist child and chorus of brocialists: You are ‘Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists.’ That means you’re evil and witches and that people can punch you and it’s not violence against women because you’re witches.

Labour Party women: Um, we’re not sure we’re radical feminists, or that we’re excluding anyone, but we definitely don’t think anyone should be punching women and we just wanted to….

Momentum, misogynist child and chorus of brocialists: ZIP IT.

Labour Party women: *in a huddle in the wings, whispering quietly* What the fuck????

HEY PEOPLE! We’re Labour members and this a democratic political party and we think we should….

Momentum, misogynist child and chorus of brocialists: WE TOLD YOU TO ZIP IT.

Labour Party women: But…

Momentum, misogynist child and chorus of brocialists: TSZUP!!!!! *makes zipping motion*

Labour Party women: Well, we think we want to talk about this so we’re going to go over here and….

Momentum, misogynist child and chorus of brocialists: GREAT. FUCK OFF. WE DON’T NEED SHILLS LIKE YOU IN THE REVOLUTION ANYWAY…

Feminists: This is a fucking clusterfuck.

Momentum: We have this awesome young trans woman who we think would make an awesome Women’s Officer because she’s awesome and trans women are awesome and trans women are women and there is no difference in any of their life experience which means they might not understand women’s political interests and anyone who suggests that is a fucking bigot.

General public: Huh?

Young trans women’s officer with variable coloured hair: Hi, I’m Petal, and I’m very petally, and that means I know all about women and their petals and I can represent all the political interests of petals and when I get a womb-transplant I will be even more petally, and if you don’t like my petals…

Labour Party women: No no, your petals are fine, it’s just that you’re very young, and for most of the time you were alive you were….

Petal: I WAS WHAT? I have *always* been a woman…

Labour Party women: Yeah, we’re just not quite sure about that bit….

Petal: FUCK YOU, YOU TRANSPHOBIC BIGOTS.

Labour Party women: Um, we thought you were supposed to be representing us, and actually, it doesn’t seem like you’re really doing very much….

Petal: FUCK OFF TERFS.

General public: What the hell is going on…?

Feminists: Yeah, we kind of…..

Momentum, trans activists, misogynist child and chorus of brocialists: WE THOUGHT WE TOLD YOU WITCHES TO BE QUIET ALREADY.

 

Episode 3: The Second War Begins. Scene 1 – Somewhere in Whitehall, 2018

Government: We think we’re going to change the law. Just a little administrative clear up to make life less burdensome for the trans population who, as we know, are terribly vulnerable.

Feminists: You’re going to do what??? Why didn’t you ask us about this?

Government: Yes well, the trans people said it didn’t affect you.

Feminists: THEY SAID WHAT??? Hang on a motherfucking minute.

 

Episode 3:  The Witches Strike Back. Scene 2: Cyberspace and public sphere, 2018

Trans activists: REPEAT AFTER US: Trans women are women. Trans women should not be excluded from any spaces women have access to. Anyone who questions that is an exclusionary genocidal racist who is in league with the far right. And by the way, you’re not women anymore, you’re cis women, and we want you to stop talking about your bodies, and we’re going to change all the words in all the literature that has anything to do with you so that everyone understands that being female is not necessary to being a woman, and from now on you are ‘mentruators’ and ‘cervix havers’ and ‘pregnant people.’ Got that?

Women: WOAH. You fucking what? We’re cis-what? And we’re not women anymore, we’re menstruators. We don’t think we like this.

Trans activists: It’s inclusive.

Women: Well, it sounds dehumanising as all hell to us.

Trans activists: Shut up cis people, you are the oppressors. These are the new words for you.

Women: Don’t we get to decide which words we use for ourselves?

Trans activists: No, you are the oppressors, if you do not accept these new words you are oppressing us.

Women: We’re oppressing you by wanting to be called women??? What the hell is….

Trans activists: BIGOTS! These are your new words. You are cis women, and we are trans women. We are both just different types of women, except we’re more oppressed than you so you have to do what we say. Look, there’s nothing you can do about it, the government already agrees with us, see?

Women: The government already agrees with you? What?

Trans activists: Yes. REPEAT AFTER US: Trans women are women. The government believes this and is going to change the law so that we can be legally recognised as female if we sign a piece of paper that says we have magic woman essence…

Women: What??? This can’t be right. Surely someone would have said something about this? Where are the feminists? Feminists, is this right?

Feminists: U-huh. We were trying to….

Women: What are the implications of this???

Feminists: *montage of charts and essays* *three weeks later*

Women: Fuck this shit. We need to do something.

Feminists: YES. WE. DO.

Feminists and radicalized women and intersex people and transsexuals and concerned parents and gay men who are realizing something’s up and some straight male allies: EVERYONE HOLD HANDS AND PUUUUUUUUUUULLLLLLLLLLLL.

The press: The women seem to be making a shit-ton of noise about something? Why are there stickers of cocks everywhere??? What on earth is going on?

Trans activists and the left-wing press: NOTHING, THEY’RE BIGOTS.

Most of the press: Oh, okay.

A few journalists: *Digging around* What the actual fuck??????

Feminists and allies: EVERYONE KEEP PUUUUUUUUUUULLLLLLLLLLLLING. IT’S MOVING.

Trans activists: BURN THE WITCHES BURN THE WITCHES BURN THE WITCHES.

Feminists: Ha, yeah, we’re not so scared of you and your words now are we? There’s a ton of us here. And people are starting to listen. EVERYONE. C’MON. PUUUUUUUUUUUULLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.

Trans activists: BURN THE WITCHES BURN THE WITCHES BURN THE WITCHES.

Women and allies: PUUUUULLLLLLLLL.

Feminists watching from around the world: Hell yes! PUUUUULLLLLLLLL.

Women and allies: KEEP FUCKING PUUUUUUUUUUULLLLLLLLLLLLING.

Trans activists: BURN THE WITCHES BURN THE WITCHES BURN THE WITCHES.

Government: Lah-lah-lah.

A few journalists: Um actually, we had a little look at this thing, and we think the women might have a point.

Trans activists: NO THEY DON’T THEY’RE WITCHES BURN THEM BURN THEM.

A few journalists: Now, come on, there is a proposed change to law, and this is a democracy, and they have some arguments that seem quite compelling, and there have been some things that have happened recently that seem to suggest that maybe there’s some substance to their concerns, and it seems like we should think this through.

Trans activists: NO DEBATE. BURN THEM BURN THEM.

A few journalists: We’re not sure that’s really helping your case. We think we’re going to start covering this in more depth.

Trans activists: YOU CAN’T LISTEN TO THEM THEY’RE WITCHES. IF YOU DON’T GIVE US WHAT WE WANT WE’LL KILL OURSELVES.

Women and allies: PUUUUUUUUUULLLLLLLLL. IT’S MOVING IT’S MOVING!!!!!!!

Feminists watching from around the world: PUUUUULLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!

Major left-wing newspaper that has been steadfastly quiet: *ostentatiously clears throat* Um, actually we think the women might have a point.

Women and allies: *BACKFILPS*

Trans activists and allies at home and abroad: OMFG why is the British media so full of evil bigots??????

Women and allies: *Lying in a bundle panting* Whatfuckingever asshats.

<Fin>