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?

(more…)

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…

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

downloads_wordmark_white_on_coral@2x