On ‘Transcendent Truths’ and Oh-Such-Intellectual Sophistication

So, last night this thread turned up, which Lorelei pointed to, because she was, quite rightly, objecting to what she saw as the erasure of the material basis of her disability. It kind of blew my mind and infuriated me in equal measure, and I was wondering if I should get out my virtual pens and scribble all over it. I decided to, partly because what blew my mind and infuriated me might be usefully illustrative, and also, in good part because one of the awesome Scottish women told me that Harry is becoming something of an intellectual star up their way, and so, there might be some service to them in thinking through why this is such a philosophical clusterfuck.

Harry 1

Let’s start by summarising Harry’s main argument. There are two main prongs. The first relies on Harry’s creation of the character of the ‘straw tran,’ who is, basically, the character we claim could abuse self-ID procedures and declare themselves trans for nefarious purposes. As suggested by the nomenclature, Harry’s assertion is that this person could not and does not exist (Wax. My. Balls), and moreover that it shows ‘complete ignorance’ to think this person could exist, because this person does not conform to what Harry understands to be ”actual trans lives.” There is a lot of half-reasonable stuff here (I’ll get on to why only half-reasonable in a mo), about ‘performative gender’ as a “whole set of ways of being in the world over time,” and social identities as “historical being in the world,” and how such identities are not just assumed and lived on the basis of singular speech acts. All of which indubitably conveys Harry’s experience of their own transness and maybe of many of their community, and all of which has absolutely no bearing on the fact that self-ID procedures would involve only a single declarative act and that checking people are involved in a process of meaningful lived transition is precisely why we have the current gatekeeping system embedded in the GRA. So basically Harry, you’ve just produced a really decent account of why the current system is a good idea, and the only thing you’ve got to ground your claim that it’s not is the baseless assertion that there are only good actors in this situation. Which is to say, the baseless assertion that creepy as fuck predatory males do not exist and will not manifestly abuse loopholes around the safeguarding of women and girls. To which I repeat: Wax. My. Balls.

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Why Feminists Are Not Nazis

So, in the light of the events in Toronto of the last few weeks, and especially the decision by Toronto City Council to review how the the library could possibly have let the evil. terven. speak, I got back into thinking about the work that analogies between gender critical feminism and Nazism are doing in this conflict.

We have to reflect on how incredible it is that a city council can vote almost unanimously to review library policies with the intent of ensuring that women speaking about their sexed-based rights  ‘doesn’t happen again,’ and that nobody even stops to interrogate the basis of why these women should be censured. And this unthinking willingness has a great deal to do with how effectively trans rights discourse has convinced many that it’s completely normal to aggressively besiege women talking about their rights in libraries on the basis that such talk is hateful, and represents a ‘literally violent’ harm to trans women. I have talked elsewhere about some of the – totally implausible – ways this claim of harm has been filled out by trans ideology. But I was today reminded that a lot of the intuitive appeal is also resting on the analogy with Nazism and other forms of far-right or nationalist thinking.

So, anyway, while the actions in Toronto raise a pretty terrifying spectre of actual democratic abnegation, I thought I’d post the text and visuals from the talk I gave in Reading earlier this year, on the subject of why accusing feminists of being Nazis is a load of propagandist, totalitarian bullshit….

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Alice Roberts

 

There is a man in your mentions medusa1

Congratulating you

And calling all the women

Who disagreed with you

(For reasons you will not hear)

A pitchfork mob, while he

Conjures up

A pit of

Snakes.

 

You should know this tale.

The mouth

Ringed about with teeth

(He imagines)

Gapes

In its defiance.medusa

We women who

Will

Not

Yield

To his demand that we

Are pliable and pretty

But still possess

The power of life,

Against his sovereign will,

 

He cannot stand it.

 

There, at the start,

Amidst the waves

Of chaostiamat__sea_goddess_by_mephmmb

The great mother Tiamat

Threatened to engulf him.

The first of the longest line,

Perseus, the hero,

Sent to slay the woman

Turned all to snakes

As punishment for

Her

Own

Violation,

Will unsheathe his sword

And slice her head clean off.

 

What could he do?

He must birth himself anew hellmouth

On solid ground,

Far from the living, beating waves

The teeming nest

And the chaos

Of a chasm

He can never conquer

Really,

 

He cannot stand it.

 

We have been here contra

Always

And will remain

Long after his

Dreaming towers

Come

Crashing to the ground

And he learns

For the first time

Some humility,

 

Perhaps.

 

And those women with their

Sunshine smiles

Full of eagerness

To side

With the men that call us witches?

 

We understand you Alice,

For once, in another life,

We too

Were

Traitors to our sex.

 

Harrop

The Radical Notion That Women Are People

reducing the first

So, after a summer recess of trying to forget that the world is manifoldly going to hell in a handcart, this week’s exciting ‘Back to Twitter’ experience has involved a good deal of feminists being berated for ‘reducing women to their genitals/biology/anatomy/whatever.’ This woke-approved soundbite has been around for an AGE, and my usual reaction to it is a long slow disbelieving blink. (It’s always slightly staggering when some wokebro comes along to pronounce on your ‘unstellar feminism’ based on his complete inability to grasp the relation between ‘biology’ and ‘destiny’). Anyway, I’m not about to write a thousand-odd words to clarify this for the benefit of the TRAs (it’s pretty clear the TRAs are not interested in anything being clarified) or even for their male accomplices (who evidently have no intention of relinquishing their shiny new ‘get out of misogyny free’ cards). I do, however, care about the many young women who are buying this bullshit, and I especially care about the degree to which they are buying this bullshit because of uninterrogated, internalised assumptions about the horror of being female. (Women? Being raised to devalue their femaleness? In a patriarchy? Nah mate).

The first thing to note about the way this apparently seductive soundbite works is that it relies on equivocations in the meanings of ‘defined by’ and ‘reduced to.’ And, moreover, these equivocations hinge, fundamentally, on an inability to think both the ‘female’ AND the ‘human’ bit contained in the proposition ‘women = adult human female.’

reducing a

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Women and Philosophy: A Reflection on Recent Events

women and philsopohy

This is a post occasioned by Justin Weinberg’s recent post at the Daily Nous, occasioned by this post on why a trans woman philosopher feels compelled to leave the profession (tl;dr – those transphobic witches).

Given that this is an intra-professional post, I’m going to do my utmost to abide by disciplinary convention and be less biting and sweary than usual (advance apologies to those of you who come for the jokes and the cussing). I’m also going to do my utmost to be measured and calm, despite the fact that I’m actually very very angry, and the fact that I’m addressing the profession, and hence feel the need to be measured and calm about something I’m enraged about is, in fact, central to what I’m about to say.

Let’s get to it:

The letter written by the anonymous ‘t philosopher’ is principally an emotional appeal to vulnerability, an intent to share the philosopher’s “pain and anger about being forced out of a career that I once loved.” The argument is, essentially, ‘allowing these women to express their views makes me feel so intolerably bad I have to leave, recast as ‘being forced to leave’ (a.k.a “you made me do it”?).

There are several things we can say about how this appeal might be received, and how that might relate to the sex of the speaker and listeners, and how our gender conventions are informing those interpretations.

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A Dialogue Between a Trans Woman and a Feminist Who Isn’t Just A Figment of The Trans Woman’s Mind

Painting by John William Waterhouse

Well now. Isn’t this nice. In the middle of a huge fight in which I spend a great deal of my time trying to persuade male people that we’re not just projections that exist in their heads, but are actually, y’know, whole real people in our own right, the trans philosopher Rachel Anne Williams has decided to resurrect an ancient philosophical device and treat us to some imaginings about us.

Let’s see what we say shall we?

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Twittered

Dearest dearest all,

This is just a brief note, to say thank you all for your notes and emails and outraged tweets… I wont lie, I feel a little sick, but I also thought it was a matter of when not if, so I’m in an odd state of very-shocked-not-really-shocked.

I’ve appealed. I wrote a damn essay in the form about the difference between directing hatred at a group and directing political critique at political behaviour. Who knows. As we know, twitter is at best a crap shoot, and the game is fucking rigged. I’ll write something more on the three times I was scalped and the bullshit involved each time shortly. In the meantime, the essay from late last summer when it first became clear that they were coming for us.

Twitter and Trans Rights Totalitarianism

Solidarity sisters!

ETA: The reason for the suspension is here

Here’s the essay-ette I wrote to twitter:

You have suspended my account. The tweet concerned was a political critique of the use of repetitive mantras in order to disseminate political ideas.  We appreciate your concern to make sure that vulnerable individuals are not targeted in a way that silences them, and to protect people from being attacked for being members of particular groups that have been historically marginalised. My tweet, however, was not addressed to an individual, but to a political organisation. I was not threatening them or attempting to incite violence against them, and I was not making any comment which was derogatory to them with respect to who they *are.* I was, rather, commenting on an aspect of their political behaviour, which, I would strongly argue, is within the purview of legitimate political critique within a democracy. As I mentioned above, the behaviour I was criticising was disseminating a political view through the use of repetitive slogans because it bears a resemblance to cult-like brain-washing techniques, and is therefore something about which we may have legitimate political concerns. I want our public discourse to consist of robust and open debate, and I am deeply worried about the way our political lives are becoming dominated by sound-bites and slogans that close down discussion and thinking. As twitter is a forum for political discussion, I hope also that the value of political critique is one you share with me. Indeed, in your guidelines you say that you are concerned to make sure that everyone can express their political ‘opinions and beliefs without barriers.’ I would hope, therefore, that you will reconsider in this case, and recognise that I was not directing hatred towards a group because of their identity, but was expressing a political opinion with respect to an aspect of a political organisation’s political behaviour.

ETA2:

OMG. I am flattered and that is FREAKY.

Glinner

ETA3: If you want to subscribe to the blog, please use the follow button on the side menu.

The Institute of Feminist Thought

Over the last few months I’ve received quite a few emails from people expressing their frustration about the lack of feminism they are receiving in their university studies, or asking me if I would be able to offer any teaching… and it got me thinking…

So, to mark International Women’s Day I’m announcing the first phase of The Institute of Feminist Thought, an online feminist school offering courses in feminist history and philosophy, which I hope will grow into a forum for all kinds of feminist thinking…

I hope as many of you as possible will join me on the journey.

Header display

Why British Feminists Are Such a Bunch of Evil Witches

dead terfs 2

The New York Times, happily peddling hate-speech.

So, before we look at this car-crash, I just want to note that someone came up to me on Twitter on Saturday morning and told me this was in the works, and knew the person writing it. I suggested she ask the author to get in touch and talk to us before she did, which seems not unreasonable by, y’know, normal journalistic standards… I mean, it’s clearly best practice to just make up a load of old cobblers about what people believe and not even bother talking to them first right? Anyway, I’m sure Sophie Lewis was just working in the interests of getting to the bottom of this whole mess and that there’s nothing remotely ideological going on here at all.

nyt.png

Anyway, are we sitting comfortably my lovely crones?

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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…

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