Tag Archives: feminism

Does Feminism Need a Rebrand?

Straight off the bat, fist in the air and hollering like a macaque, I am a feminist. Of course I am a feminist. Gender equality is something we should be ashamed that we haven’t reached. As a species we have put twelve men on the moon, observed distant galaxies, cured diseases that were once thought fatal, and created ABBA, yet equal pay, equal corporate and political representation, and even not hacking a girl’s lady bits to pieces in some parts of the world STILL prove elusive.

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

That is what people are conditioned to hear whenever issues of equality and prejudice are brought up. The words “I am a Feminist” to many people is just giving them permission to tune you out, talk over you or repeat some ‘witty banter’ about women not knowing their place.

Indeed it is seemingly acceptable to sneer and ridicule, as if holding said beliefs are an open and aggressive challenge to the sneering party. There are three groups of people who it is deemed totally okay to heap scorn upon with no ‘legitimate’ objections.

Feminists – Environmentalists – Vegans

Yup, even we much scorned and oft mocked Transfolk are starting to get ‘normal’ people fighting our corner (keep it up guys, you’re stars!).

Now, I could bang on about how those big three labels are consciously and constantly discredited by a patriarchal, fossil fuel loving, steak chomping cabal of wealthy (mostly) men, who use their assets to influence media and politicians, but all people are conditioned to hear is:

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Since when were universal human equality, environmental preservation or just not eating animal products considered to be bizarre, far out political extremism?

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Okay, okay I’ve lost a lot of the readership by this point, so I won’t labour it.

The actual core message of Feminism in particular, is one that even most naysayers would agree with, but the word has been toxified. A grotesque stereotype has been carefully crafted and bandied about as if it were cold, hard fact. When a negative portrayal of something is so crafted for so long, it begins to self-perpetuate and those who spun it can sit back in their gentleman’s clubs, joke about all the women they have groped and then run for President.

We live in a world of brands, slogans and logos. If something cannot be summed up by a simple image or a brief tagline, it fails.

Conditioned Public: “Why do we have this problem?”

Brand A: “There are numerous causes for our current situation, not least of all is…

Conditioned Public: “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

Conditioned Public: “Why do we have this problem?”

Brand B: *Shrugs* Brown people.

Conditioned Public “YAAAAAY!”

Ye get me bro?

Now, Feminists can be massive pricks. Believing in women’s equality does not automatically prevent you from being rude, aggressive, divisive, cruel or elitist. In the Venn diagram of “Pricks and Feminists” there is a little bit of a crossover.

feminist pricks

Yes, there are several high profile Feminists that seem to get an awful lot of media time because they outright despise Trans people (so much for your genitals not dictating your destiny eh?). There are those who would rather fight against the women that don’t adhere to their own narrow views of what is, and is not acceptable for a Feminist to be.

But what of the rest of the Feminists who stand in solidarity with their Trans kin, who embrace a woman’s right to choose her own form of self-expression, set her own standards of beauty and fashion… those who argue that it is no less oppressive to ban an item of women’s clothing, than it is to enforce its wearing? Because that is most of us, isn’t it?

Of course that pesky old hyper-male governed media only give coverage the to the divisive and hypocritical…

BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Okay, so we can’t go in with the complex ideas off the bat. It also doesn’t help that the letters ‘F.E.M’ get a whole other heap of scorn all to themselves when placed in that order. They have been made to mean ‘weak’, ‘contradictory’, ‘stupid’, ‘less than’… The whole language of being female, or even feminine has been toxified. Men suffer as a result of this too. The pressure to be emotionally distant, repressed, stoic, insensitive and unaffectionate creates an ‘ideal’ that one would have to be a narcissistic sociopath to live up to… and yes guys, since you’ve always been told that everything is really about you when it isn’t, this actually is, at least in part. I am glad that so many guys nowadays actually get this and proudly label themselves as feminists, but the status quo as ever pushes back against challenges with increased vigour and severity. Let’s push forward together.

I am no marketing genius of course (I couldn’t sell shit to a Dung Beetle), and I never sought to offer a solution to the whole ‘rebranding’ option, but in a world where short answers trump correct ones, I feel it is inevitable that we must come up with some way of approaching our argument that cannot be toxified and filtered out of debate.

Or, in other words…

BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Oh, just a side note. I spent waaaaay too long looking for an easy to use Venn Diagram generator online that didn’t require some kind of coding or payment for use so I gave up and did it in MS-Paint like a techno-illiterate from the late eighties (which I am). I’m not sure the gag was worth it, except that I really REALLY can’t stand Germaine Greer.

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Trans-Mysoginy, Trans-critical Feminism, Gender Critical blah-blah-blah or Into the Shitstorm With a High Powered Leaf Blower and a Two-Foot double Dildo with Nails Through the End of it.

WARNING: VERY STRONG LANGUAGE AND POOR SPELLING AND GRAMMAR MAY FOLLOW

I have tried so hard to ignore this ridiculousness that has been plaguing the internet with regards to the Trans community these past months. This is down to several important things going on in my life that needed my attention far more than this bullshit that’s been flaring up. In most arguments, I can weigh up the pros and cons of every side and come to a common sense solution. What I have found, much to my absolute despair, is an argument that has degenerated into an almost theological debate. Both sides seem to be abandoning reason for Dogma and it is just so fucking stupid! The flashpoint appears to have a been a letter regarding the refusal of universities to allow anti-trans speakers to give presentations, due to pressure from the student bodies. This letter was signed by a number of people who carry a lot of weight in the academic and LGBT communities, leading to a sense of betrayal among many in the Trans community, and flaring up tensions between two sides in the social media war that continues to wage over it.

On the one side, we have those, mainly from the old-school feminist camp (although by no means a sizeable proportion of them) taking exception to the fact that Transwomen are recognised as women. Their weapons: Academic jargon and (according to Germaine Greer) stinky vaginas.

On the other side, we have militant Transwomen who try and deny certain biological factors exist within Transwomen. Their weapons: More academic Jargon and Tumblr.

Transmen are seemingly largely left out of the argument because we all know, acknowledging them is inconvenient for arguments on both sides.

The contest seems to be who can throw the most textbook quotes from Women’s Studies degrees at each other and it is making everyone look fucking ridiculous! At a time where the world is experiencing a backlash against the recent liberalisation in the west, the last thing we need are two groups who should be firm allies in the fight for equality, going to war with each other, essentially over the question over which of them is oppressing the other.

So here’s my two pence on the debate.

-Yes, Transwomen are born male. Of course we are. It may distress us beyond anything most people will every know to live with that fact, but it is true. It’s not like we’re xx chromosomed lifeforms that by some strange chance sprouted the wrong genitals in the womb. The disparity between one’s Gender Identity and the Gender role assigned at birth is not because of some freak mutation that turns a female body into a male one by accident. The issue is in the brain which develops to sense a disconnect between the body’s biological sex and the body the brain is expecting. Whether this is down to hormones or faulty neurological wiring or a combination of them both, the science isn’t clear, but we do not have to to bullshit the facts in order to try and seem more deserving of equal treatment and access to gender specific services.

-No, it is not acceptable to launch into scathing personal attacks upon people just because they disagree with you. Stand your ground, be firm, do not let them go unchallenged when they say hateful and abusive things, but for the love of cock stop acting like such utter fucking children when dealing with these people. I know it feels like a very personal attack on you for who you are, but be fucking better. Did Gandhi present himself as the epitomé of peacefulness and dignity in his resistance against the British Empire, or did he post angry notes everywhere about Winston Churchill’s mother? Did Rosa Parks lose her shit and start throwing stuff at white people? No she kept her dignity, and thus the dignity of those fighting for civil rights was enriched. There is a big difference between publicly criticising Mary Beard, for example, because she signed this letter, and sending her very personal, very hateful threats. Grow the fuck up! We’re not kids fighting for a later bedtime, we are adults trying to be taken seriously by a hostile establishment. Lives depend on this shit! Stop throwing away the legacy of those who came before and fought so hard to get us this far. I am ashamed to be associated with many of you over this.

-Yes, gender roles are ultimately bullshit, but to openly criticise those who switch gender roles and use the excuse that ‘Gender is a societal construct anyway’, is utterly negated by the fact that the target appears to be solely Transwomen, and not Cisgender (yes that IS a fucking word, deal with it) people who live in their assigned gender roles, thus enforcing the ‘societal construct’ far more than those of us who transcend it. In a world where adhering to a gender binary is absolutely essential to living a typical, safe(r) existence, to try and force those who identify as the opposite sex to how they were born to instead live as some kind of third gender that society isn’t designed to recognise is putting their lives, and the lives of those close to them, at severe risk. It is enormously hypocritical to deny the validity of our society’s engineered gender roles, and yet insist on imposing them upon people you don’t like!

-Yes, Male privilege is a thing. Any first year women’s studies major will explain it at great length, but you know what else is a thing? Cis-privilege! That Male privilege that we are so rubbing in your faces, evaporates faster than ethanol in the sahara as soon as we start to transition. If people don’t read us as Trans, then we face the same stigmas and burdens that all women face from the rest of society. If we are read as Trans, it’s hard sometimes to even get people to look upon us as a human being. I’m sorry, Trans-critical feminists of the world, I am well aware that women have been treated like shit for most of recorded history by their male oppressors, we experience that same prejudice as you do on a good day. On a bad one, we face something akin to a cornered mouse facing down a hyperactive cat. I know you once had the monopoly on claiming persecution, but I don’t want to burst any bubbles here… fuck, who am I kidding… YOU AREN’T THE ONLY PEOPLE BEING OPPRESSED! We are stronger together than apart. Lose the chip on your shoulder about Y-chromosomes.

-Yes, freedom of speech is important. Perhaps it is not right to ‘no-platform’ someone who wishes to visit your university and state that Transwomen do not deserve equal rights, and do not deserve what few rights we have managed to attain. But then those who protest that women should not be treated equal to men, along with white supremacists and holocaust deniers, are also ‘no-platformed’ by universities at the request of the student body to much less protest. To stand up and debate the rights of certain people to be treated and recognised equally should be seen as no different if it is based on physical sex, gender identity, sexuality, race, religion, cultural background. Don’t bitch and moan about one group getting to veto someone hostile to them, and not another. By all means stand up for free speech, but the love of pretend Jesus, be consistent and stand up for the Misogynists, the Anti-Semites, the Gay haters too… and also, isn’t it actually impossible to ‘No-Platform’ someone in this age of social media and online shenanigans? We live in an age where there is an outlet for every voice? Not letting someone speak in one place means they just pop up in another. It’s like a right-wing version of whack-a-mole for fuckssake!

-No, we are not oppressing anybody. You seem, as a group, incapable of separating the Y chromosome from a history laid down by billions of men who are mostly not alive today. Just because I have a Y chromosome, it doesn’t mean I am oppressing you. Because I use women’s toilet facilities and changing rooms, it does not mean that I am trying to strip away your rights, objectify you, sexually assault you or undermine your own identity as a woman. Having a piss or trying on an outfit isn’t a political statement, so stop trying to make it into one.

-No, I will not use male facilities for many reasons, gender identity not-withstanding. I also believe it is insulting to insist we use disabled facilities… an insult both to Transpeople and to the disabled, as able bodied Transpeople don’t require special facilities, just ones that aren’t full of genital obsessed small-minded old shitsacks. But let me break this down very simply so there is no misunderstanding. Throughout history, certain types of people have been banned from certain facilities and services because they have be viewed as less than people, or undesirable. Those things changed because those people refused to stand back and let themselves be denied equal treatment. So like it or not, I do not care, I will use the facilities that I feel most appropriate for me, and I shall use them for the purpose they are intended, and the law stands on my side because the government is advised on this matter by people who are far more knowledgable about Trans issues than you are.

Here is the problem. This old school wave of feminism began by fighting a patriarchal establishment. Now, decades later, those early feminists are part of the establishment. Women’s rights may still not be equal to men’s, but when your movement is a popular subject of university courses and you find it lauded in mainstream education and media then you can no longer consider yourself an outsider. It seems that some of the old guard want to keep the fight going and Transpeople are a very easy target, but you have to be on some seriously fucking trippy HRT to think that we are somehow looming over you from our position of great privilege with our genitals out, pissing on your human rights.

I don’t know a single Transwoman who would not wish to stand beside you and fly the flag for equality, diversity and tolerance. Instead you decide to fashion us into some enemy so you can cry ‘male oppression’ once more. You spend more time obsessing over our genitals than we do, and treat them like they are yours to judge and categorise. You feel that our value and our worth is not down to us, but to you. You feel that how we can and cannot express ourselves, where are and are not allowed to go, and what we may or may not call ourselves is not our right to decide, but yours. This small group of radical feminists seem unable to spot the irony that they are treating Transwomen in the ways that they criticise men for having having treated women in the past.

There is no way to combat so entrenched a hatred and prejudice within someone, only to limit its noxious effect by challenging it to prevent it spreading, and to use the laws that are on our side to prosecute hateful behaviour when we encounter it.

I am a feminist. I count many feminists among my friends. I will not tar them all with the same brush as a few who would do me harm just for not fitting into their parochial view of the world, I will not personally abuse or attack them. I will maintain the dignity of the cause of equality for everyone as much as I can. I hope that people don’t use that same brush to tar all Trans activists due to the behaviour of a very vocal band of gobby little Twatbags on the internet.

Right, that’s my piece said and both sides of the argument well and truly alienated. Now I’m going to fuck off and do something useful.

Tamz

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Who gets to define our identity?

Every time sour-faced bint Julie Burchill plops out another scathing article, the attached comments section comes alive with vigorous debate. Julie’s stance on Gender Identity is well known… she believes that Trans people shouldn’t have the right to live fully as their own perception of their identity would dictate… and on the attached forums and comment threads there are many responses both for and against her assertions.

Now my views on Burchill are on record and I will save any further criticism of her until the next time she gets sand in her vagina over Trans people having rights and pinches out another opinion piece in order to desperately seem ‘cutting edge’ and relevant. But it leaves me wondering about the identity of everyone, and who it is that gets to define us.

Of course we get to define a lot about ourselves. We can express ourselves through fashion or creative outlets. Being an old-skool Goth with a thing for black lace, satin, heavy eyeliner and masses of hair (and that’s just pre-transition) was never questioned, and I took the rough with the smooth. For all the times I walked down the street in a long leather coat and had barely polysyllabic simpletons shouting ‘Matrix’, ‘Goth’ and the imaginative ‘Fuckin… fuckin… goth! Fuckin… matrix… fuckin…’ not one of them felt the need to go ‘Pfft, you’re not fooling anyone!’ That was left to other Goths.

So my identity as a Goth wasn’t questioned by the masses, only by a select few who felt my identity as a Goth detracted from their own. Why is it then, that Trans people are so often challenged on their identity? Why is it that someone presenting as a Goth is accepted as such without question, when someone presenting as the opposite gender to their birth sex creates divided opinions? I wonder, were subcultures, music tastes or football teams assigned at birth like Gender, if there would be a lot more hostility towards people who don’t conform to these labels.

There is a struggle between how we define ourselves, and the labels that are assigned to us to make us more easily identifiable. I have sadly known many people that assign their own prejudices and preconceptions to the identity of someone because of their race, religion, gender or sexuality. Trayvon Martin, for example. The assertion of someone else’s opinion of his identity led to his being murdered, and the perceptions of others regarding race, led to Trayvon’s murderer walking free.

What about when prejudice over identity is enshrined in law? What about where it is illegal to be gay, such as Nigeria, Uganda, Iran, Saudi Arabia or any of the other grotty little piss-hole nations out there? Even though any reputable scientist will attest to the role of Nature in determining one’s sexuality, these nations impose the added aspect of ‘criminal’ to the identity of anyone who happens to be born a certain way.

Ultimately the issues over Gender Identity and sexuality are caused by good old fashioned sexism. Think about it, if we weren’t raised to assign different values to people based on their gender, then there wouldn’t be such a clash of belief structures when one person failed to conform to gender roles. With same sex people, it is those who appear to adopt the roles or characteristics of the opposite sex who face the most ridicule. ‘Butch’ Lesbians with their stereotypically more masculine appearance, or effeminate, overly camp men who give a lot of attention to their hair and speak with a softer voice are given a harder time than those who have a more typical, conventional appearance or behaviour. People take comfort in an established order and so are reluctant to challenge it, even when they are in the perceived inferior camp (i.e. Women). Better to be bottom of a stable pile than the top of a shakey one right?

If there were a universal sense of equality between men and women, Gender roles would be irrelevant and so anyone who identified differently would not be seen as either degrading themselves or trying to elevate themselves above their station. There is a massive correlation, I find, in those who have a very strong sense of Gender roles, and who express homophobic and transphobic opinions, while conversely those who are more accepting of LGBT persons are also very critical of any gender divide.

So for my initial thoughts about identity, the very concept of identity is changing. Time was that, at birth, you were assigned your Sex, Race and Social Class with all the accompanying expectations. They were immutable, set in stone and enshrined in scripture. Even radical feminists like Burchill, who espouse the artificiality of gender roles, still cling to that ‘olde worlde’ view that some aspects of identity are pre-ordained.

This leads me to ask. Who has the RIGHT to define our identity?

My answer: We do, and the only other people who get a say are those who love us, and those we hurt. If I were to callously break someone’s heart, then I would deserve the title of ‘bitch’. If I murdered someone, I would deserve to be labelled a murderer, but I do not see how one’s relationship to traditional gender roles is causing harm to others, and surely if those who love us truly do so, then they will accept us no matter where I am on the spectrum.

So basically, in the grand scheme of things, blowhards and hate preachers can bang on about gender roles all they like, but that will not change who I am, nor how I see myself. It helps to have a slew of scientists, psychiatrists and the British legal system on my side.

All this is coming from someone who can legally have an ‘F’ on her passport.

Boo-yar!!!!

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