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What does feminism mean for you?

April 21, 2010

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So I’ve been called a “troll” on one blog–named called “fabulous fab stuff” where the author Miska declares that feminism is only for women, not for “gay men, or black men, poor men, or disabled men.”

I disagree. I made a comment stating that:

I am totally for feminism having different definitions for each person, so I will disagree with you because our definitions are very different. I believe that feminism is not just about women, but equal rights for all. By excluding men and the like, you are making feminism exclusionary. Just my two cents.

And after that comment was made, shit hit the fan. I made another comment, addressing the author’s response to my comment, but won’t comment again because in addition to a personal attack, no matter what I say it doesn’t seem to add to the conversation or change anything.

I’m only linking to the article so you can get the full gist of the conversation and comments I made. As a warning: this blog is grotesque and trans-misogynistic.

I think that feminism has different meanings for everyone. But to say that feminism is not out for men is exclusionary, but that’s what I think. What are your thoughts about this? What does feminism mean for you? Should it include men, why? If not, why?

UPDATE: I’m so famous, FAB has written a post about ME! http://fabmatters.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/emily-gender-across-borders/

I don’t need to justify myself to Miska at FAB. My opinions are my opinions, and having a decent discussion with someone doesn’t “demand” answers. Heh, sigh. At least I gave her blog traffic…

50 Comments
  1. April 21, 2010 1:04 pm

    I’ve just read this quote from John Anderson in the Equality Illusion:

    ‘I think feminism offers men the opportunity to fulfil their potential and interests, not those imposed on them. In the starkest terms, I think feminism is the solution to countering the machismo culture which is so prevalent in young people today’

    The root of homophobia against gay men is that other men perceive them to be feminine. If the definition of masculinity can be altered so that ‘feminine’ is not a threat to it, gay men benefit – as do black men, bi men, transgender men, bois .. . etc etc.

  2. April 21, 2010 1:09 pm

    Emily,

    I agree with you 100%. Feminism and egalitarianism are very, very similar. While it may have developed due to the oppression of women, feminism is about equal rights for all. This is why we have offshoots such as eco-feminism, which broaches the topics of speciesism and the climate change. Every living thing is included within the realm of feminism, so labels are irrelevant when it comes to our cause. I can’t believe they attacked you over explaining that feminism is essentially about gender EQUITY. Some people just don’t get it… and obviously a lot of so-called “feminists” don’t really understand the movement.

    Cheers to you though, for sticking to your beliefs!

    Tiffany

  3. Carrie Polansky permalink
    April 21, 2010 1:19 pm

    I’m in agreement that the blog as a whole is despicable, and that the specific post you commented on is incredibly problematic. I do think Miska made one decent point, though:

    I’m saying that feminism does not exist to serve men. Just like how disability activism doesn’t exist to serve the able-bodied, or how the civil rights movement doesn’t exist to serve whites.

    I agree with that sentiment completely. Feminism is meant to serve women (which includes everyone who identifies as a woman, including trans women, which is where Miska and I begin to disagree). Its purpose is not to empower men, as they’re already in the position of privilege. However, I also think that if feminism is successful in serving women, men will ultimately get something out of it as well — gender roles will be more equal, societal expectations will be more equal, etc. What I’m trying to say is, while I believe that feminism is first and foremost about women (and other marginalized people — yay intersectionality!), the end result will help everyone, including men, which is a good thing. And, of course, men need to embrace and participate in feminism for the movement to be as successful as possible.

    • April 21, 2010 1:22 pm

      Hmm, feminism started off to serve only women, but it is in my opinion that it is there to serve other groups as well related to gender and sexuality. I think that men suffer from gender stereotypes as well; not to the degree as women do nor not in the same manner.

      • Carrie Polansky permalink
        April 21, 2010 2:16 pm

        I guess that’s what I meant by “the end result” of feminism helping everyone. Personally, the way I see it is that if (and when) feminism is successful in advancing the rights/status/needs of women, men also benefit, because the system as a whole will change. By advancing women’s causes, men’s gender stereotypes/problems will also lessen, because the whole system will be more equitable. So feminism does help men, just in a less direct way than it typically helps women. Does that make sense?

        And I agree that sexuality is a big part of it, too, as well as other identity facets. There are straight women, queer women, cis women, trans women, disabled women, able-bodied women, women of color, white women, young women, old women, etc. — and feminism should serve all of those groups, and more, because there is the common thread of gender, and all aspects of one’s identity interesect. The problem is that “The Feminist Movement” focuses heavily on the experiences of white, cis, straight, able-bodied women, leaving a whole lot of women out of the equation, and that’s something that needs to change.

      • Kandela permalink
        April 22, 2010 4:52 pm

        @Carrie:

        “So feminism does help men, just in a less direct way than it typically helps women.”

        Expecting men to benefit from feminism only indirectly is methodologically less than optimal. Because definitions of femininity and masculinity are inextricably linked, challenging only one of them will produce much slower results than examining both simultaneously. If we burn the candle at both ends we’ll get to equality faster.

      • Carrie Polansky permalink
        April 22, 2010 7:27 pm

        @Kandela;

        I agree with you that femininity and masculinity are linked, and as such it does make sense to address both together.

        (Though, as a sidenote — I disagree with the assertion that women = “femininity” and men = “masculinity;” I view gender identity and presentation as more fluid than that.)

        That being said, when talking about gender equality, I think we do need to look at marginalized and oppressed groups vs. privileged groups. As a whole, men have more privilege than women. Of course, when you look at intersectionality and other aspects of identity (race, class, sexual orientation, etc.), such privilege may be negated, or at least lessened. My point is that those who, historically and currently, are less advantaged (women) should remain the core concern of the movement, and those who are more privileged (men) are also a part of the movement — a valuable part — but their needs may not always come first. I honestly do believe, though, that addressing sexism against women will consequently have a major effect on sexism against men, particularly since the majority of sexism against men (being perceived as “not masculine enough,” for instance) is directly tied to the belief that behaviors/presentations/attitudes traditionally associated with women are inferior, ergo women are inferior.

      • Kandela permalink
        April 30, 2010 2:31 am

        @Carrie: I agree with your points. The only thing I would say is that if we fight gender based inequality wherever we find it, rather than pausing to consider which group is helped in the first instance, we will get to the end result faster.

        If you are in a feminist organisation you are probably going to encounter more issues which have a greater impact on women in the first instance, and that’s fine. I just have a problem when people like Miska advocate ignoring any issue that might affect men in the first instance until everything else is done – I think that is counter-productive.

  4. John O'Dwyer permalink
    April 21, 2010 1:52 pm

    Sorry this is a long comment. As a pro-feminist man, I support feminism as a movement that fights all oppression,lead by women with the most marginalised women at the centre. I think the most important part of the discussion was that they don’t see trans women as women. This is not uncommon. These are the attitudes that lead to trans women being denied healthcare, and access to domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centres. It’s vital to read about the harmful legacy of Janice Raymond and Mary Daly to understand the situation today. The problem is that artificially separating oppression based on gender, from other forms of oppression can lead to priority being given to issues which are most relevant to white middle-class cis TAB U.S. women and seeing other forms of oppression as side issues and not women’s issues. The history of equality movements is that the most oppressed people are left behind by compromises that achieve better conditions for some. In my opinion, the only way to change this pattern is for those women to be at the centre of the movement.

  5. Erik permalink
    April 21, 2010 2:04 pm

    I believe that feminism is not just about women, but equal rights for all. By excluding men and the like, you are making feminism exclusionary. Just my two cents.

    That’s a refreshing and sound statement, Emily. I really don’t see how anyone could see it otherwise. There’s a sense in which Miska undermines the values of feminism by delimiting its definition in such a way, and thereby becomes guilty of the very prejudices she claims to decry.

    On an only slightly related note (and the real reason I came over here), here is an interesting flickr featuring photos of different folks answering the question, “what is feminism?”

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/case__face/

    • April 22, 2010 11:33 am

      Awesome flickr photos; makes light of the whole conversation!

  6. Roxanne Samer permalink*
    April 21, 2010 3:31 pm

    Emily, I agree with you wholeheartedly. While feminism definitely grew out of the recognition that women live disproportionately less free lives than men due to patriarchy’s universal reign, it has evolved and expanded extensively over the last half-century. For me–and many–it has come to mean a steadfast commitment to equality for all. It also means recognizing the constructedness of strict gender boundaries and a questioning of the dichotomous structuring of contemporary society. Feminism, for me, is about getting beyond that. Miska’s feminism, however, seems to say just the opposite, ignoring the oppression, repression and disparity prevalent in some people’s lives, while touting those of a supposedly loftier half of the population. Seems pretty closed-minded to me.

  7. April 21, 2010 3:31 pm

    If you offered your hand to a child and that child slapped it away and ran in the other direction crying, do you think “What a rude child!” or do you think “I wonder what happened to that child to make her react that way?” Because feminists, especially in the blogosphere, tend to get attacked so often, I’ve noticed a lot of feminist bloggers are frequently on the defensive and feel they need to scream just to get a space to sort out their own thoughts.

    I understand the point, which is basically that there are primary goals of feminism and secondary goals or nice side effects to the primary goal that others can easily co-opt or use to dilate the primary goal. It doesn’t have to be stated in such an in-your-face way. But when you feel that others are drowning you out or if you feel life has beaten you down or taken away your voice, sometimes you have to scream a bit to feel heard.

    I fully agree with them that the main purpose of feminism is to address and eliminate sexism against women. It isn’t primarily about men, although men also suffer from sexism against women. It isn’t primarily about battling racism, homophobia, or class struggles, although sexism is linked to all of those and more.

    There is a tendency with the drive to re-label feminism to humanism to lose sight of the ways in which sexism is against women and not men (though men also are harmed by its side effects). At the same time, I don’t see any feminist movements as productive which actively seek to alienate non-women allies.

  8. vexing permalink
    April 21, 2010 8:09 pm

    I’m just utterly baffled at why a feminist would say I’m not a woman, simply because I’m trans.
    I suffer the same oppression Miska does, plus a whole fuckton more oppression that she wouldn’t have a damn clue about.

    I’d love to see her reasoning as to why I’m not a woman and why I don’t deserve to be part of the feminist movement.
    If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, fucks like a duck and is oppressed like a duck, THEN IT’S A FUCKING DUCK, PEOPLE!!!

    • G. Kay Bishop permalink
      April 22, 2010 12:50 am

      Ducking the Issue

      No, Vexing all you can logically say about the hypothetical duck of your construct is that it appears to be a duck, or behaves like a duck. The essence of duckness is not in how the entity smells, moves, looks, mates, or is oppressed (What’s for dinner? Oppressed duck flambe.) However, if it lays an egg, and the egg hatches and inside is a baby duck, then odds are it really is a duck.

      The issue for the blogsite owner with whom the poster has a disagreement is not about appearances but about essences.

      A classic example of how sexism operates is the experience of a noted scientist who transgendered from male to female. A conference participant who did not know about the transgender process remarked that Dr XY’s work was not as good as her brother’s Dr. YY–without understanding that Drs. XY and YY were the same, the very same brain in the very same body–differing only in gender.

      To transgender into womanhood is to assume, voluntarily, the whole burden of those incessant, shrill patently false accusations of female inferiority. But it is asuumed as an adult, after character has been formed and careers have been built.

      It is not the same as being under that burden from birth. That burden stunts financial, mental, and emotional growth as surely as scanting a female child’s food to privilege the boys in the family stunts her brain and bone growth.

      To become a transgendered woman does not confer the bodily experience of the menstrual cycles and the complexes of culture and feelings that go with them.
      You may make ducks and drakes of apparent differences but the essence of a bornwoman’s life experience cannot be imitated by look. Being born a duck is not the same as being born a drake.

      Susan B. Anthony once went against her own beliefs when she agreed to allow Southern women to exclude women of color from their organizations. She did so to get the Southern women’s support for the right to vote. It was a hard compromise, a betrayal of her principles, in the service of a single goal. It was not about the rights of all women. It was about power–getting power for some because it was too hard to get power for all.

      So long as the nature of power is embodied by the sword, and by the dichotomizing word, we will continue to have these divisions and dividings and conquerings.

      What is the essence of womanhood? What is the truest, deepest, most most universal experience of being a woman? It is to bleed. 30,000 years ago women marked moonsticks with red ochre. What else can we say that is as true today as for those ancestral women?

      That a transwoman bleeds by choice does not make her better or worse than women who bleed by nature. But it does place her under an obligation to remember that she had a choice. And she, the transwoman, has another choice: to join the sisterhood of all women or to be about herself alone.

      To go to a site where people have a narrowly defined sense of membership and to insist on one’s right to belong to that group is not about sisterhood. It is about power.

      Because if feminism is about anything, it is about sisterhood–the sisterhood of common cause. Go ahead and insist on your rights if you choose. But be aware that you are doing this for yourself. Lots and lots of women have put up with much worse abrogations of their rights for the sake of their children and for basic survival. One of the essences of a woman’s life experience is to repeatedly give way to the needs (and the greeds) of others. So if the blogsite owner needs exclusivity why not let her have it? Mothers do this all the time.

      Power-seeking happens in every group. Power-seeking within groups divides and weakens the capacity of that group to resist powerful opposing forces from outside the group. Solidarity among women would seem to dictate that one does not associate with others in order to rob them of energy but strive FOR them, rather than with them. To contribute to their welfare and uplift the generality of women by working together on important issues, either by putting aside self or by joyously expressing self, or by not insisting on self.

      Why insist on one’s rights in a place where one is not welcome, unless it is to gain power? What loss is it to a transwoman to avoid a website? Do not women all over the world have to avoid danger and discrimination in public places and private spaces? Are transwomen quite sure that their insistance on being accepted and acknowledged is not a way to serve their own egos? When there are so many fronts on which work needs to be done is it gracious or good hearted or spiritually advanced to insist on one’s place in status and rank?

      What good does it do for all women when a transwoman brings her highly charged and status-quo challenging self to the forefront of the movement? Does it help or does it hinder? Or does it simply show that nothing is perfect which will be no news to anybody. Would women have the vote today if black women had forced the issue with Southern whites? Maybe–but maybe not. Power always has a high price and a low rate of return.

      The suffering of one subset of human beings does not invalidate or top the suffering of another set. Rape survivors are no more and no less important than domestic abuse survivors. Slavery of black women versus genocide of Native American women, vs. bride burning of India–it’s all equally evil. So it is with cis and trans: that one suffers lifelong systematic discrimination and the other acquired discrimination only means that both suffer. It is not a contest over who is the most miserable, but an occasion for mutual empathy. If it were possible to force people to have empathy–like administering oxytocin via nasal spray–then a whole lot of laws would not need to be written or enforced.

      There is a measuring device called a lesbian rule. Unlike a rigid straight-edge, it is made of soft lead and is used to conform to the exact curves of a molding. By metaphorical usage it came to mean a flexible rule of law adapted to the special or local circumstances of a case. I think this is a case where the lesbian rule should be applied on both sides of the gendered line.

      • vexing permalink
        April 22, 2010 1:56 am

        Yes, I’ve seen this (rather pathetic) argument before.
        You’ve stated quite plainly that any woman who does not bleed, who is incapable of bearing children or who has a reproductive system that doesn’t work properly is…

        Not a woman.

        That’s pretty much the entirety of your argument.
        The rest of your post is hypothetical musing and offensive cis privilege waffle (especially the part about ‘choice’ – if it was a ‘choice’ I wouldn’t be trans, I’d ‘choose’ to be a happy cisgender boy with all the male privilege that entails).
        I don’t seek power. I seek acceptance.
        And when some bigoted ass tells me that I’m not a woman, I’m going to bloody well stand up for myself!

        I know you’d be much happier if I shut up, played with my dollies, clothes and makeup and let the ‘real’ women do the fighting, but fuckitall, I’m a woman too and I have a right to be heard!

      • vexing permalink
        April 22, 2010 2:03 am

        Oh, and this statement is incredibly problematic:
        “To transgender into womanhood”
        The word is ‘transition’. People do not ‘transgender’. Transgender is an adjective, not a verb.

      • Roxanne Samer permalink*
        April 22, 2010 8:49 am

        G. Kay, I don’t think one has to be a transgender woman to be incredibly offend by your claims made here. The idea that bleeding and reproducing is what defines womanhood and thus who should be allowed into the feminist camp is incredibly biologically essentialist and narrow-minded. I cannot begin to relate to the women 30,00 years ago marking moonsticks with red ochre–who were they? what did they look like? what were their interests? their goals? their passions?–but I can feel a connection, be it virtual or face to face, with the transgender women of today, who feel excluded and hurt by the same patriarchal system that makes me a second class citizen and them a third or fourth. As for historical models where compromises were made, I think your abundant qualifications speak clearly to the unfairness that was at play. To claim that women may never have earned the right to vote had the white woman included the black woman in the cause is absolutely ridiculous. I have no issue saying that you or Susan B. Anthony or anyone else who puts themselves before their sisters of other color or creed is racist/homophobic/transphobic and needs to get over it. Furthermore, feminism is about generating productive conversations in order to create progressive change and segregating ourselves, per your suggestion for Vexing and others, seems philistine to say the least. Insisting on our right to take part in the conversation is not about ego or power; it’s about equal rights, tolerance and free speech.

      • G.Kay Bishop permalink
        April 22, 2010 9:24 am

        No, Vexing I did not state quite plainly what a woman is. I asked a question. I pointed out profound differences in hormonal conditioning. I asked for mutual tolerance and self-questioning. I asked for solidarity in a common cause.

        The best mothers, the most effective activists are less concerned about their own status and more interested in helping others. They channeltheir rage into creating opportunities for others. Motherhood often means yielding self-interest to achieve an other-serving goal.

        You insist on rigid categories for words (it’s not a VERB!) and flexible categories for gender. Language is not a steel tool box, and bodies are not mechanical plumbing systems. Those are masculine ideas, fixed abstract concepts that negate millenia of wordless, experiential knowledge. Shouting instead of listening and thrusting self to the fore instead of fading into the background are also classically male behaviors. If one is a woman, why not act like one? Just for a change.

        Welcome to the sisterhood of women: the condition of being invisible, disregarded, unheard, unconsidered, targeted for violence, unwanted, unpaid, underpaid, despised, negated, and profoundly hated for no reason except a hormonal urge to dominate and control in one’s fellow creatures. Now that you are here, try to be kind. Help your sisters. That is what it means to be feminist. Even men can do it if they really try.

      • Roxanne Samer permalink*
        April 22, 2010 9:42 am

        G. Kay, nothing about your first post rang out as asking for tolerance or calling for solidarity. Instead, you ostracized a specific demographic, implying that it hurts the cause rather than helps, and applauded similar acts throughout history, claiming for the necessity of sacrifice to achieve goals. You also seem to be doing a pretty poor job of dismantling the master’s house with the master’s tools. You critique Vexing’s request for using the correct terms, while utilizing a highly intellectual, theory-based language yourself. Then you demand she “act like a woman”?!? Pray, do tell what “acting like a woman” consists of? Your implication that the world and its inhabitant’s behaviors can be categorized into either one of two boxes brings us back to the whole issue that this post started with: closed-minded categorizations of human beings within strict hierarchical structures. Men are not bad and women good; men mean and women kind; men cold and women nurturing; men loud and women quiet. If you and others believe in such dichotomies, then feminism has a longer way to go than I thought.

      • G.Kay Bishop permalink
        April 22, 2010 10:31 am

        Roxanne, taking a stand often does offend people. I apologize for hurting people’s feelings by speaking what I consider to be a necessary truth. I say that hormonal conditioning cannot be ignored in the shaping of law, policy and economics. I think it is futile to ignore the role of biology in the way money, power, and resources are distributed. It cannot be set aside by wishful thinking and idealistic conceptual inclusivity. I say a very hard look at how the world actually runs is in order. This is not a game. This is not a drill. This is the real thing: a genuine emergency concerning the health of the planet.

        The way men allocate resources is to foster sports, wars, and the enslavement of women to sexual and menial services. The way men get rich is by underpaying women and generating pornography. These are hormonally-driven behaviors.

        Sex workers are the most exploited and endangered people outside of a war zone. They are also the most socially taboo people other than actual lepers. Who is supporting them as a needed diversion of men’s sex drives away from overpopulating the planet and away from the more seductive pleasures of violence?

        Women are not succeeding in changing the world’s power structure. They consistently set aside their own needs in favor of the Other. They are biologically programmed to do this. This is why men have succeeded in keeping women out of the enclaves of real power: because women serve others before themselves.

        Racism has not been defeated by law. Sexism has not been defeated by law. No ism can ever be defeated by law. These things can only be truly defeated by love.

        Love also has a biological, hormonal basis, at least in part. When women live together their hormonal cycles come into synchronization. A similar thing happens for men in groups. Read the literature of men at war–they describe a brotherly love that is beyond the love of women. This is the effect of vasopressin on the male brain. It is a desirable, exalting condition–a kind of natural heroin. It is very, very addicting. It shapes policy and determines where money will be spent. It is the foundation of men’s worldly power.

        I think the most effective way to create real change is to enlist women’s energies not for themselves but for their children’s futures. A future in which there are trees, animals, grains, and knowledge enough to survive. Because if men are left to go on in the way they are going, all the trees and animals and grains will be obliterated in an orgy of violent conflict and overbreeding. War and mating are men’s hormonal drives. They are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.

        Working FOR children and FOR other women and not FOR oneself is–in my opinion–the best political strategy to stop this runaway train to oblivion. And I think anything that takes energy away from this centrally important common goal is counterproductive to the point of suicidal danger. But of course, that is only my opinion.

        Observe how black people deal with racism. They know that it is not a sometime thing. They know that it runs deeper than reason and has its roots in tribal bonding brain chemicals.

        As for those ancestral women, I can tell you what their concerns hopes, dreams and desires were. They were concerned about food, hoped for shelter, dreamed about joys, worried for their children and desired song, music, and ecstatic sexual pleasure. Like us.

      • Roxanne Samer permalink*
        April 22, 2010 10:54 am

        I’m sorry, G. Kay, I share your same hopes for the future, but I cannot get behind your biologically determinist argument. If men are inherently programmed to think about themselves before others, to fight wars and destroy all else and women programmed to subsists to others’ desire, then pardon my french, but we are all f*%&^cked. Nevermind, women are not innocent but–especially as of late–complicit in global bloodshed and strife. For me, gender is an extremely constructed entity. While we may share the same body parts and similar experiences in a male-oriented society, I cannot believe that all women in all countries and at all times wanted the same things, had the same thoughts and felt the same way about all issues. This discussion is an example that proves just that. I may also want a peaceful healthy world, just like you, but I want one where men, as well as women as well as trangender people and people of all races and sexualities, have an opportunity to live freely and act without societal constraints telling them how they are supposed to act or who they are supposed to be just because of their biological sex. I know men who are meek and calm and women that are argumentative and abrasive. I have men in my life who care so much about children as well as women who honestly don’t think too much about them. As long as we are working together for a better future for ALL, that, in my opinion, is just fine.

    • G.Kay Bishop permalink
      April 22, 2010 11:21 am

      I agree that biology is not the only determinant of outcome, and that is my only hope. My fear is that your “french” is entirely justified. Time is running short for all of us, animals included. And if men fail to rise above their animal nature, if women fail to take charge of their children’s futures, the loss of life, of acquired stores of knowledge, is terrible to contemplate.

      What I hope for from a forum of this sort is the emergence of concrete, actualizable goals that feminists of every stripe can choose to work toward. Not a mythical lockstep unity but a wildly various diverity of practical goals that have one tendency in common: they help others.

      As I said, it is only a strategy and it may not work. But it is the best I can do at this time, based on 40 years observation of what does not work. I offer it as a possible way forward. I do not insist on it being the one and only way.

      • vexing permalink
        April 22, 2010 4:09 pm

        Tell me this, G.Kay Bishop:
        Whenever you make a statement or try to participate in a conversation, are you accused of acting like a man? Do people accuse you of displaying typical male behaviours and none of the typical female behaviours? Is your gender constantly questioned whenever you say something?
        No?
        Didn’t think so.

        So why are you doing it to me?
        Oh, I know.
        It’s because you KNOW that I’m trans, because I deliberately outed myself for the purpose of this discussion. Remember your example of Drs. XY and YY? You’ve just done exactly the same thing to me.
        If I were a cis woman and put forward exactly the same arguments (and cis women on here have), you would not accuse me of male behaviour and of acting like a shouting, overbearing man.

        Trans women are held to ridiculous and unattainable standards.
        If I act meek and humble and demure, I’m accused of being a disgusting stereotypical parody.
        If I’m strong and assertive and strident, I’m accused of being a man.
        If I occupy a middle ground, I’m accused of not being meek enough or of not being assertive enough to be a ‘real’ woman.
        Again, you never do this to any other woman, so why do you do it to me?
        If I drink a beer in a restaurant, you’ll accuse me of acting like a male.
        If I order a midori and lemonade, you’ll accuse me of being a stereotypical parody of a woman (and therefore a man pretending to be a woman).

        I want to help. I want to be part of the movement that liberates the gender that I belong to. But when you say “You’re not a woman”, you exclude me from that.

        For my own sanity and to avoid transbigots like you, I think from now on that I’ll stealth my way under the radar. You’ll never know I’m not cisgender. I’ll be there at rallies, I’ll be there at festivals, I’ll be there at planning meetings and I’ll be there in the women’s cells at the police station with you after we’ve been arrested for protesting.
        And you’ll never know that I’m trans.

        Pretty cool, huh? 😀

      • eilish permalink
        April 23, 2010 2:10 am

        All of those things are said about women all the time. To be a woman is to exist in a permanent Catch-22. There’s always someone telling you UR DOIN IT RONG. Be strong. It’s hard.
        Eventually, you’ll feel secure enough in your self and skin to do whatever the hell you feel like, and you’ll be able to be the woman you want to be, however you want to: lipstick or no, high heels or no, bleeding or no.

        When you lump G K Bishop in with the bigots, you sound like Mishka calling Emily a troll. I know you are feeling hurt and angry and sensitive. I hope you can find a strong and peaceful place inside you, where what other people do can’t shake you.

  9. April 21, 2010 10:30 pm

    A troll? Well, that’s pretty amusing. Um, does the blog owner know that being a troll isn’t just someone who disagrees with you?

    • vexing permalink
      April 21, 2010 11:27 pm

      No, a troll is someone who says “trans women are not women”.
      Better?

    • April 22, 2010 11:22 am

      I know, right? I was just giving my opinion, did not attack the author at all. And now I see that I’m getting attacked left and right for my comments. Heh, can’t win them all.

      And yes, vexing, I totally agree with you transgender women = women. FAB blog is….I can’t even describe into words, but incredibly trans-misogynistic. And has a strange definition of what the feminist movement fights for (they say “sex” equality; not “gender” equality)….hmmm.

  10. April 22, 2010 7:09 am

    It strikes me that feminism fails when it refuses to celebrate difference. I don’t think lumping sexuate identities into binary categories established by patriarchy is helpful for feminism. Remember that patriarchy defines men as ‘not-women’ and women as ‘not-men’. When feminist get wrapped up in defining sex as a binary, they ascribe to patriarchal notions of sexual hierarchy. In so doing, someone always ‘wins’ and someone always ‘loses’.

    Self-identification and self-representation should always be the basis of feminist definitions of gender, not biology. Trusting the word of a someone who is transgender is much more important than checking out their plumbing.

  11. April 22, 2010 11:55 am

    Just as an update (which I edited in this post): I’m so famous, FAB has written a post about ME! http://fabmatters.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/emily-gender-across-borders/

    I don’t need to justify myself to Miska at FAB. My opinions are my opinions, and having a critical discussion with someone doesn’t mean “demanding” answers. Heh, sigh. At least I gave her blog traffic…

    • vexing permalink
      April 22, 2010 6:18 pm

      Yet when I demand answers of Miska, she disembles, evades and attempts to lump minority groups into majority groups.
      Fucking hilarious.
      I *heart* hypocrites.

      • April 22, 2010 6:42 pm

        It’s kind of sad, really, but unfortunately we can’t change Miska. Or Polly. Sigh.

      • vexing permalink
        April 22, 2010 10:05 pm

        Of course, it’s entirely possible that Miska, Factcheckme and Polly are trans women themselves.
        After transition, it’s not unusual for trans women to stealth themselves as completely as possible in order to hide from discrimination. Many of them, having conservative Christian backgrounds, return to the values taught to them in their youth and may become intolerant, right-wing, anti-trans fundamentalists.
        In fact, they become the WORST of the intolerant, right-wing, anti-trans fundamentalists (much like the anti-gay fundies, i.e. Ted Haggard).
        It’s entirely possible that our radfem friends over at FAB are stealthed trans women seeking to bury their ‘transness’ behind a smokescreen of rabid trans misogyny.

        Wouldn’t that be deliciously ironic? 😀

  12. April 22, 2010 1:58 pm

    Feminism does not have one universal meaning to all. Feminism in developing countries is way different from feminism in the western world. As such feminism to every individual is different based on once’s identity and experience with oppression. Feminism in my opinion cannot take only a gender approach to oppression. People facing oppression often times find themselves oppressed based on many different intersecting identities for example, Queer woman of colour, Queer man of colour, Queer man of colour ‘with a disability’ and more. Oppression does not work like a hierarchy of privilege rather it is bi-directional– discrimination is bi-directional; meaning that it allocates both as burden and a benefit. We need to be able to understand that although one may be burdened by oppression they also have privilege that comes from the subordination of others. For example a heterosexual woman’s act of homophobia is oppressive towards All Queer people including that of gay men. However, he has privilege as a man that plays out in a different situation for example sexism, racism, biphobia, and transphobia is very common within the ‘Queer community’?

    ‘But the true feminist deals out of a lesbian consciousness whether or not she ever sleeps with women.’——Audre Lorde

  13. Erik permalink
    April 23, 2010 1:31 pm

    Sad that so many folks ostensibly working toward the same goal can get so snippy toward one another. This entire debate has been about definitions, theory and the philosophical underpinnings of sex and gender meta-narratives. The personal rifts have gotten in the way of the empathy needed to reach the end we want, which should be equality for everyone. It is often the labels we want to use to liberate ourselves that ultimately restrict our individual and collective freedom. You can’t try to strike down political, social and cultural barriers while linguistically reinforcing them. You’d be working against yourself.

    Look, Rawls had this great idea he called the ‘original position.’ It’s like the you cut, I’ll choose method. You have to decide the rules and values of a society for another person whom you know absolutely nothing about – and then you yourself are subject to those same values and rules. All of the identifiers we waste so much of our time on are stripped down and we are left simply with trying to create a scenario that achieves the maximum equity for all, sans affiliations or definitions or labels or any sort of collective interests. This debate could benefit from a little of this sort of thinking, I believe (as well as some hugs all around).

    On another note – the problem with blogs is that they tend to be echo chambers. People with similar opinions come together online and try to out-agree with each other. It’s true of this blog as it’s true of FAB as it’s true of most blogs. Someone enters with a dissenting opinion and the vitriol and malicious pile-on begins. It isn’t a good thing. It ends productive discourse. Let’s not forget that we all want largely the same thing – peace and equality. I don’t care whether a trans person can claim they’re a feminist or not. What I care about is that that person can call themselves whatever they like and live like the like without being punished for it, economically, socially, physically or whatever.

    Note: everyone needs a hug. No really.

  14. PrettyAmiable permalink
    April 25, 2010 9:04 pm

    I have mixed feelings about this issue. I don’t really like going into someone’s space and telling them their conceptions are wrong, especially when at the most basic level, she seems to be pushing that feminism needs to be about women which I pretty much agree with me (i.e. if a guy walks in and whines, “What about ME?” I want to punch him in the face). However, as someone with an iota of common sense and with thousands of dollars sunk into biology and psychology courses (I have cis-privilege and consequently feel I should at least try to learn about what it means to be transgendered since understandably individuals who are trans don’t want to out themselves), the idea that trans women shouldn’t be an integral part of the movement seems like abhorrent bullshit that makes me want to claw my eyes out for having visited that blog (or, for that matter, read the above comments).

    I guess the extension I’d like to see is what constitutes trolling and what is really our moral imperative as cis women to end the oppression against trans women that we’re apart of by virtue of our privilege.

    • April 25, 2010 10:05 pm

      Very well said re: trans women.

      As for the trolling, I guess it depends on what point of view you take. I wasn’t telling Miska that she was wrong, but since she has a public blog, thought I’d give my two cents. Apparently I wasn’t supposed to do that.

      As I’ve mentioned a ton of times before, I think that feminism has a dynamic definition. It’s quite a “gray area” word that because people can have different perspectives, they have different ideas as to what it means.

      • PrettyAmiable permalink
        April 25, 2010 11:10 pm

        Yeah, I just realized a) that there was a copious number of grammatical and spelling errors (thanks for ignoring that) and b) that it sounded like you were somehow at fault for voicing your opinion, especially when it looked to me that she was asking for opinions. Just so we’re clear, that’s what comment moderation is for. If she didn’t want to be exposed to your opinion, she easily could have deleted it.

        I’m pretty much team you, haha. I don’t like that radical feminism (or her definition of it) means I have to hate men and trans women. That’s just not for me.

      • Kandela permalink
        May 3, 2010 11:47 pm

        I have to say Emily, my favourite definition of feminism comes from the Feminism 101 blog. In answer to the question ‘What do feminists want?’ it answers:

        “To end the perpetuation of gender expectations that, on balance, harm women.”

        You’d think we could all agree on that. It’s so simple. I try to use it as my golden rule.

        As for trolling, I think a troll is someone who posts to disrupt discussion. A person who seeks to engage in debate, who actively tries to change someone’s mind about something, and is open to accepting the opinions of others in return can’t be a troll (so long as they are posting on topic).

  15. Kirsten permalink
    April 27, 2010 12:55 pm

    A note on the importance of the variety of feminism, originally composed as a retort, but after reading the FAB ‘about’ page, I realized that there is no room for dissenting voices there. And I get the impression that my feelings largely echo the comments I’ve read here. And my answer to The Question? I haven’t made up my mind but I rather like how Tiffany describes feminism.

    Being a feminist isn’t as easy as being a tree.

    The language of the FAB post seems to be a world of black and white, of me vs. you. And in my mind this seems to do a great disservice to feminism, which is a world of vivid colour, painted in stories of sanguine violence and verdant triumph, just to begin.

    Maybe I can explain by analogy how I feel. You can ask: what, in the strictest terms, is a woman? You can also ask: what does it mean to be a woman? For the first, you’ll probably get a small spectrum of similar answers, if you asked several different women. For the second, I imagine you’ll get an enormous variety of answers, each coloured by the answerer’s own experiences as a woman.

    I think it is evident that the same is true of ‘what is a feminist?’ and ‘what does it mean to be a feminist?’.

    I strongly suggest that both are important in defining what a feminist really is and that yes, that definition is flexible. Hell, since the advent of taxonomy, being a tree really isn’t that easy either (but I digress).

    I find myself surprised that the language of the post and the posters who support the FAB post and viewpoint appear to be not just divisive of gender, but even of feminists. The polarization of radfems and ‘fun fems’ sounds a lot like ‘right feminism’ and ‘wrong feminism’. If we can’t muster a sense of egalitarianism within feminism (which must be a field as diverse as womandom/femaleness/etc), how can we begin to tackle the problem of disparity between the sexes?

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