A brief history of ‘gender’ by @wordspinster

Cross-posted from: Language: a feminist guide
Originally published: 15.12.16

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In New York City in 1999, I heard a talk in which Riki Anne Wilchins (self-styled ‘transexual menace’, and described in the Gender Variance Who’s Who as ‘one of the iconic transgender persons of the 1990s’) declared that feminists had no theory of gender. I thought: ‘what is she talking about? Surely feminists invented the concept of gender!’

Fast forward ten years to 2009, when I went to a bookfair in Edinburgh to speak about The Trouble & Strife Reader, a collection of writing from a feminist magazine I’d been involved with since the 1980s. Afterwards, two young women came up to chat. Interesting book, they said, but why is there nothing in it about gender?

From my perspective the book was all about gender—by which I meant, to use Gayle Rubin’s 1975 formulation, ‘the socially-imposed division of the sexes’. Feminists of my generation understood gender as part of the apparatus of patriarchy: a social system, built on the biological foundation of human sexual dimorphism, which allocated different roles, rights and responsibilities to male and female humans. But by 2009 I knew this was no longer what ‘gender’ meant to everyone. To the young women at the bookfair, ‘gender’ meant a form of identity, located in and asserted by individuals rather than imposed on them from outside. It wasn’t just distinct from sex, it had no necessary connection to sex. And it wasn’t a binary division: there were many genders, not just two.
Read more A brief history of ‘gender’ by @wordspinster

What makes a word a slur?

Cross-posted from: language: a feminist guide
Originally published: 06.11.16

Content note: this post contains examples of offensive slur-terms. 

Last week, the British edition of Glamour magazine published a column in which Juno Dawson used the term ‘TERF’ to describe feminists (the example she named was Germaine Greer) who ‘steadfastly believe that me—and other trans women—are not women’.  When some readers complained about the use of derogatory language, a spokeswoman for the magazine replied on Twitter that TERF is not derogatory:

Trans-exclusionary radical feminist is a description, and not a misogynistic slur.

Arguments about whether TERF is a neutral descriptive term or a derogatory slur have been rumbling on ever since. They raise a question which linguists and philosophers have found quite tricky to answer (and which they haven’t reached a consensus on): what makes a word a slur?

Before I consider that general question, let’s take a closer look at the meaning and history of TERF. As the Glamour spokeswoman said, it’s an abbreviated form of the phrase ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’; more specifically it’s an acronym, constructed from the initial letters of the words that make up the phrase. Some people have suggested this means it can’t be a slur. I find that argument puzzling, since numerous terms which everyone agrees are slurs are abbreviated forms (examples include ‘Paki’, ‘Jap’, ‘paedo’ and ‘tranny’). But in any case, there’s a question about the status of TERF as an acronym. Clearly it started out as one, but is it still behaving like one now? 
Read more What makes a word a slur?

The Science Museum and the Brain Sex game

Cross-posted from: Young Crone

Like many feminists, I was appalled to learn recently that the Science Museum has a long-term, permanent exhibition about gender aimed at children entitled Who Am I? Photos and reports from women who have visited recently paint a very alarming picture of an exhibition not only full of supposed statements of fact that are, in fact, pure junk science, conjecture, and illogicality, but inappropriate displays, including items presented at child’s eye level that in any other context would constitute a crime, such as a ‘packer’ (a fake penis which looks like a sex toy and which is worn in the underwear of females who wish to be/believe they are male, and increasingly bought for children as young as 3 by parents for whom the term ‘misguided’ is woefully inadequate). The newspapers have had a field day at the ridiculous ‘What colour is your brain?’ game, yet this is possibly one of the least troubling aspects of the exhibition, and none of the papers cared, dared, or had the brain power sufficient to also discuss the rest of the exhibition and make the link between this stupid, outdated game and how the trans ideology being presented in the rest of the exhibition relies utterly on exactly that kind of absurd belief, and that children are being transed by parents and (un)professionals on similar flimsy and silly ideas. 
Read more The Science Museum and the Brain Sex game

Gender is not a spectrum by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

Cross-posted from: Rebecca Reilly-Cooper
Originally published: 28.06.16

What is gender? This is a question that cuts to the very heart of feminist theory and practice, and is pivotal to current debates in social justice activism about class, identity and privilege. In everyday conversation, the word ‘gender’ is a synonym for what would more accurately be referred to as ‘sex’. Perhaps due to a vague squeamishness about uttering a word that also describes sexual intercourse, the word ‘gender’ is now euphemistically used to refer to the biological fact of whether a person is female or male, saving us all the mild embarrassment of having to invoke, however indirectly, the bodily organs and processes that this bifurcation entails.

The word ‘gender’ originally had a purely grammatical meaning in languages that classify their nouns as masculine, feminine or neuter. But since at least the 1960s, the word has taken on another meaning, allowing us to make a distinction between sex and gender. For feminists, this distinction has been important, because it enables us to acknowledge that some of the differences between women and men are traceable to biology, while others have their roots in environment, culture, upbringing and education – what feminists call ‘gendered socialisation’.

At least, that is the role that the word gender traditionally performed in feminist theory. It used to be a basic, fundamental feminist idea that while sex referred to what is biological, and so perhaps in some sense ‘natural’, gender referred to what is socially constructed. On this view, which for simplicity we can call the radical feminist view, gender refers to the externally imposed set of norms that prescribe and proscribe desirable behaviour to individuals in accordance with morally arbitrary characteristics.  …


Read more Gender is not a spectrum by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

Being Told You Have Gender Dysphoria as a Lesbian at Nymeses

It has been about 2 years since I’ve posted anything on here.  A lot has changed for me.  I’m still a detransitioned woman, but even that is fading and becoming more of a memory as time goes on.  Each day that memory of being “detransitioned” or a “detransitioner” fades, and each day me being the actual female I was born as gets stronger and stronger.  Honestly, I don’t want to be known as a “detransitioner” for the rest of my life.  I would like this to become a part of my history.  Just like you wouldn’t call me a “former cutter” anymore. You would say that I have mental health issues with a history of cutting over 5 years ago.  I do not want this detransitioner business to be a defining characteristic of who I am as a person.  I let my identity as a man go on for too long, been there, done that, and it just doesn’t consume me the way it used to do. 
Read more Being Told You Have Gender Dysphoria as a Lesbian at Nymeses

Familiarity and contempt by @wordspinster

Cross-posted from: Language: A Feminist Guide
Originally published: 22.08.16

Earlier this month, in an English court, a man who had just been sentenced to 18 months told the judge she was ‘a bit of a cunt’. To which she replied: ‘You’re a bit of a cunt yourself’. Complaints about her language are now being considered by the Judicial Standards Investigation Office. But plenty of people applauded her, calling her a ‘hero’, a ‘role model’ and a ‘legend’.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the New York Times reported that sexist endearment terms like ‘honey’ and ‘sweetie’ were no longer acceptable when addressing women in court. The American Bar Association had adopted Resolution 109, which makes it a breach of lawyers’ professional standards to engage in ‘harmful verbal or physical conduct that manifests prejudice and bias’.
Read more Familiarity and contempt by @wordspinster

“You throw like a girl” A brief guide to gender policing by @WomanAsSubject

Cross-posted from: Woman as Subject
Originally published: 27.08.16

This morning I changed a wheel on my car for the first time in my life. I felt ridiculously proud of myself for completing such a simple task. Then I climbed out of our bathroom window onto a roof and cleared up some broken glass that’s been there since the storm smashed one of our windows last week. Meanwhile, my husband looked after the kids and did the hoovering in an attempt to win the war against fleas that he is currently waging. Things seem to work out this way in our household. I am drawn to practical tasks that are usually considered a traditionally male activity, and my husband often finds himself looking after the kids. This is partly why I felt so proud of myself for changing the tyre, not only because I had the sense of a task well done, but also because I know that I am stepping outside of my traditional gender role and proving that women can do anything they want. This might seem like a big jump to lots of people -it’s just a tyre after all, but I think it’s significant.
Read more “You throw like a girl” A brief guide to gender policing by @WomanAsSubject

‘Rethinking Feminism’ by @Finn_Mackay

Cross-posted from: Finn Mackay
Originally published: 13.04.16

Institute of Arts & Ideas ‘Rethinking Feminism’ debate, Kings College London, in association with Unilever. 25th April, 2016.

First, I’d like to start by pointing out that there are probably as many definitions of feminism as there are people who identify as feminist.

For me, I understand feminism to be a global, political movement for the liberation of women and society, based on equality for all people.

However we may define it, what is clear is that feminism is in resurgence today. This is a resurgence that has been unfolding here in the UK since the early 2000s. Sometimes it is called a third, or even fourth wave. Feminist activism is visible once again, online and on the streets. Feminist commentary and political theory is also seen in the mainstream in ways that it was not before. Young women are often to be found leading this resurgence, finding a home in one of the oldest and most powerful social justice movements the world has ever known.

Alongside this rise it is not surprising that the anti-feminist backlash has also mobilised and grown, rightly sensing this latest threat to the fragile and defensive status-quo.

This backlash manifests in the base harassment of women that we see online and in public space also. The threats, stalking and intimidation of women who dare to be women and achieve; who dare to be women and speak their mind; who dare to take up space.

There are also the more insidious elements of this backlash, powerful as they are, hidden often in plain sight. This is the co-option of our movement, the gender mainstreaming, the steady dripping dilution of the radical and revolutionary political theory which forms the basis of the Women’s Liberation Movement.

Feminism has become nothing more than a marketing ploy, advertising gimmick or soundbite. We are told that feminism is about buzzwords such as ‘choice’ and ‘empowerment’ and ‘having it all’. It is not these things. The act of choosing for example is a daily fact of life, it is not a feminist act. We may as well say feminism is about breathing.

In fact, that these sort of buzzwords are chosen to simplify and demean feminism in the first place actually show just how far we have to go and how much a real feminist movement is needed. What kind of world do we live in where a woman having a job, earning money and also having a family or caring for dependents including children, is seen as some sort of impossible dream and labelled as ‘having it all’? Many men have jobs, families and children and earn money without this being seen as some sort of incredible step for their sex class. Choosing where we work or how much we work, choosing whether or not to have children, choosing what space we take up, choosing which way we walk home, choosing whether we speak or not….these things are not some sort of privilege. They are fundamental necessities of life in a community and society; fundamentals that we know are so often denied to women around the world, including here in the UK. The fact that we cannot guarantee such basic rights is the very reason feminism exists.

The backlash against feminism can be seen in every sphere, in all elements of the media, advertising and the beauty industry for example.

What has happened is that our language of liberation has been stolen, bastardised, turned on its head and sold back to us under the guise of ‘empowerment’. This is an empowerment that funnily enough can be found in some new consumer good, a diet or new make-up or new fashion magazine. An empowerment that can be found for example in products like ‘Fair & Lovely’ the leading skin lightening cream, marketed in Asia and Africa and produced by Unilever. Proving that through the prism of capitalism, racism is just another bargain basement.

Another way the backlash shows itself is in the way we are now expected to laugh at our own oppression. Where old fashioned sexism has become some sort of nouveau retro-banter and harmless fun. As seen in adverts for products marketed at men, such as that teen-boy staple, Lynx, also produced by Unilever. As if we have supposedly come so far now as to achieve some sort of silent equality where all our struggles have been won, while yet miraculously the world has stayed just as it was and where feminists are the moaning prudes for pointing this out.

Feminism has not been won and is not over because feminism is a revolutionary movement for change, not just a changing of the guard. We certainly don’t want equality with unequal men and we understand that ultimately we cannot have equality in an unequal world. A world where wealth flows upstream, a world of gross and growing inequality that has brought us to the brink of a planet crisis.

We have ever more sophisticated technology and yet we use these skills to invest in the tools of killing, such as the planned £100billion renewal of Trident missiles, 1000 times more deadly that the bombs that decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Our science can put humans on the moon, but it can’t seem to find a way to save the planet the rest of us are still on. It is surely vital that we focus technology on the preservation of life, instead of the eradication of life; lessons explored in schools of feminism such as Eco-Feminism, making the links between patriarchy and capitalism.

We are here today debating ethics and universal goals, and we must be able to talk about ethics that apply to all, otherwise these ethics mean nothing. It is dangerous for example when ethics stop at borders, borders of nationality, race, religion, sex or indeed species. Ethics are not something to be bestowed only upon certain peoples or certain species and yet denied to others who are ‘othered’.

Yesterday, the 24th April, marked the World Day for Laboratory Animals and the abuse and exploitation of animals in vivisection conducted by companies, such as Unilever, can never be ethical. There can be no human liberation without animal liberation.

All of these are feminist concerns because feminism is about building a better future for all life, indeed it is about whether we can even have a future at all. Feminism is indeed global, because justice is not.

 

Finn Mackay: Feminist activist and researcher.

On gender and hierarchies by @saramsalem

Cross-posted from: NeoColonialism & It's Discontents
Originally published: 02.06.16

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I think one of the first things I learned about feminism was an inherent contradiction that didn’t strike me as such when I first heard it: on the one hand, there are universal solutions to gender inequality, such as education, employment, sexual rights, and so on – these are not necessarily context-specific (the details can be) but need to happen everywhere in order for gender equality to become a reality. And yet on the other hand, there are very different levels of gender inequality across the world. This very difference  in the level of inequality could point to the need for different kinds of solutions, but this did not seem to be the case. Instead this difference functioned to create a very clear – even if rarely labelled such openly – hierarchy in terms of gender equality. At the top of this hierarchy we have the role model countries: Scandinavia, Western and Northern Europe, and sometimes Australia, the US and the UK. And then underneath we have a series of levels with different countries. Typically Egypt and other Arab and African countries come somewhere at the bottom. 
Read more On gender and hierarchies by @saramsalem

Tomboy by @HeadinBook

Cross-posted from: Head in Books
Originally published: 02.06.16

Do people still ask children what they want to be when they grow up? It’s not a question I’m aware of hearing these days; perhaps because the answer: “heavily in debt and renting till I retire at 94” is too guilt-engendering for the adult in question to cope with.

Shopping for children’s clothes last week, though, I saw that Next have grasped the nettle…sort of. Among the varicoloured bits of jersey were two T-shirts which flirted with the idea of one’s destiny in life:

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 11.29.49                Spot the difference?


Read more Tomboy by @HeadinBook

On repetition and power

Cross-posted from: Neocolonial Thoughts
Originally published: 06.03.16

I just finished an article on intersectionality and its critiques by Vivian May. Among other points, she addresses the critique that intersectionality didn’t bring anything new to the table and that it is just Black feminism recycled. Aside from the point that this is arguably false, she points to the important question of whycertain things have to be repeated again and again. Should we be focusing on repetition as necessarily bad, or should we be asking why certain things, in certain fields, need to be repeated over and over?

Of course the field of gender studies and feminism are the quintessential example here. Debates about universal sisterhood, about structure versus agency, about the biological versus the constructed, and so on have been happening for decades upon decades. But the point here is that certain points – which should by now have been accepted – must be constantly made and defended. The most prominent example is the idea of multiple structural intersections that de-center gender as the most important axis of oppression or identity. In other words: race, sexuality, nation and a whole range of other social categories matter just as much as gender. Significantly, they can’t really be neatly separated from one another – I am racialized and gendered, and I can’t exactly separate my racialization from my gendering. Intersectionality is the most recent reiteration of this basic point, but it has been made before, by Black feminists, by Third World feminists, and by feminists during the era of decolonization. Hence the idea of repetition.
Read more On repetition and power

Making Contact on the Metro and the Politics of Train Etiquette

Cross-posted from: Postive & Promise: Musings of a Neurotic Bookworm
Originally published: 18.05.14

The other day, as I rode the metro to school, I found myself in the unfortunate position of third wheel.

No, I was not accompanying a friend on an awkward date, nor playing wingwoman on Single’s Night.  I was merely slumped on the train, alone, contemplating my imminent cup of coffee. Yet I did not feel alone, because right in front of me, a couple was embroiled in a very vocal domestic dispute. And they knew that I was seated next to them.

I should be precise – the couple spoke just loud enough so that I could hear them; they were at least partially aware that they inhabited a public space. Still, it was the sort of argument that one imagines having in the privacy of one’s living room, where there are pillows and books to hurl and a couch for make-up coitus. And throughout this dispute, one member of the couple was seated so that he regularly made eye contact with me. In fact, avoiding mutual recognition was impossible unless I conspicuously a.) changed seats b.) shrouded my head with my cardigan or c.) hid under my seat (which, considering the detritus left there, seemed like a pretty lousy idea).
Read more Making Contact on the Metro and the Politics of Train Etiquette

A rabid feminist writes… by @wordspinster

Cross-posted from: Language: A Feminist Guide
Originally published: 26.01.16

Last week, the anthropologist Michael Oman-Reagan asked: 

Why does the Oxford Dictionary of English portray women as “rabid feminists” with mysterious “psyches” speaking in “shrill voices” who can’t do research or hold a PhD but can do “all the housework”?

The Oxford dictionary he was talking about was the one that comes with Apple devices (Macs, i-Pads, i-Phones), and his question was about the examples that follow the definition of a word and illustrate its use in practice. The ones he reproduced included the phrase ‘a rabid feminist’ illustrating the metaphorical usage of ‘rabid’; the sentence ‘I will never really fathom the female psyche’ exemplifying the use of the term ‘psyche’; and a series of examples featuring women and female voices in entries for ‘shrill’, ‘grating’ and ‘nagging’. He also reproduced entries for the words ‘doctor’ and ‘research’ where the examples referred to doctors/researchers as ‘he’.

The point of this intervention was not just to criticise a few specific entries, but rather to draw attention to a pattern of sexist stereotyping in the dictionary’s illustrative examples. But when Oman-Reagan tweeted to Oxford Dictionaries, citing the ‘rabid feminist’ example, whoever was running their Twitter account that day chose not to acknowledge the deeper point. Instead he was told that (a) the ‘rabid feminist’ example was authentic, and (b) that ‘rabid’ isn’t necessarily a negative term. In the ensuing arguments (first on Twitter and then in lengthier pieces like this and this) the main issue became whether Oxford was endorsing a view of feminists as mad fanatics, and then compounding the offence with its dismissive responses to criticism. 
Read more A rabid feminist writes… by @wordspinster

The Nagging Wife by @boudledidge

Cross-posted from: We Mixed our Drinks
Originally published: 15.01.15
The ‘nagging wife’ is a centuries-old stereotype that refuses to die. She’s the subject of eye-rolling banter between men, the warning from the pulpit and the marriage guidance book, the defence of countless men who have committed murder. In recent weeks, she has resurfaced as a truly 21st century reminder to women that there’s something else they’re probably not doing well enough at – in the form of a piece entitled ‘I wasn’t treating my husband fairly, and it wasn’t fair‘.
The post, which appears to have gone viral in the grand tradition of ‘pseudo-meaningful revelations about my relationship that easily translate into clickbait’ (247,000 shares on Facebook), details a wife’s realisation that her controlling and obsessive attitude to household matters was belittling her husband and buying into another hard-to-stamp-out stereotype – that of the ‘useless’ husband who can’t be trusted to do a thing around the house.
Thousands upon thousands of women have apparently recognised themselves in this tale and I don’t think she’s entirely wrong. I’ve heard her tale in conversations in the office or on nights out with friends. ‘Wife always knows best’ – ‘happy wife, happy life’ – I’ve heard people say it and I’ve most definitely seen them post it on Facebook (there is a theme here. Facebook has a lot to answer for). And I don’t buy into it because, really, what does it say when the only words that come out of your mouth regarding your partner, your husband, the father of your children – are about how ‘useless’ he is and how you won’t ‘let’ him do things?


Read more The Nagging Wife by @boudledidge

Women only spaces and proposed changes to the Equality Act and Gender Recognition Act

Cross-posted from: Women Analysing Policy on Women
Originally published: 01.02.16

This briefing analyses proposals made by the Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee Transgender Equality Inquiry which would remove protections for women only spaces. It first sets out the need for women only spaces before going on to describe the current legal situation. It then details the proposals for changes to the law that have been made by the Committee and identifies the ways in which these would reduce the protection for women only spaces and in some cases risk women’s safety.

The importance of women only services and spaces

research report by the Women’s Resource Centre found that women only services and spaces provided women with physical and emotional safety which made them feel supported, comfortable and able to express themselves in a way they could not in mixed spaces.

In a survey of 1000 women carried out for the report the Women’s Resource Centre found that:

  • 97% of respondents stated that a woman should have the choice of accessing a women-only support service if they had been the victim of a sexual assault.
  • 56% of women would choose a women-only gym over a mixed gym, 28% of women would choose to go to a mixed gym (16% didn’t know).
  • The 560 women that would choose a women-only gym cited reasons such as feeling more comfortable, less self-conscious and less intimidated. Respondents stated that they didn’t want men watching them, looking at their bodies or sexually harassing them.
  • 90% of women polled believed it was important to have the right to report sexual or domestic violence to a woman (such as a woman Police officer);
  • 87% thought it was important to be able to see a female health professional about sexual or reproductive health matters;
  • 78% thought it was important to have the choice of a woman professional for counselling and personal support needs.


Read more Women only spaces and proposed changes to the Equality Act and Gender Recognition Act

Can gender equality be ‘exported’? at Femme Vision

Cross-posted from: Femme Vision
Originally published: 18.09.13

The empowerment of women and girls on a global scale is a topic of interest to governments and organisations in the global north. UN Women executive director Michelle Bachelet recently gave a statement on the subject of women’s empowerment in the Middle East and worldwide, in which she said that “women’s participation in politics and the economy reinforces women’s civil, political and economic rights”. This is clearly a progressive attitude and we can hope that it will lead to some positive changes for women in these countries. However, who is really gaining the most from these interventions?

This question was addressed in a talk I recently attended at the Women’s Library in east London that explored efforts to promote global gender equality by organisations such as the World Bank, the UN and the UK’s Department for International Development. I was intrigued by the title of the session, “‘Exporting’ Gender Equality: Postcolonial Feminist Reflections”. How can gender equality be ‘exported’ as if it were a finished product; perfected, tried and tested? I wanted to find out. The speakers at the session were all leading academics who have worked with women in Afghanistan, India and Iran and so, being a London-centric sort of feminist, I hoped I might learn something about the reality of women’s experiences in these countries, beyond what is presented in the media. The room in which the session was held was full, so clearly I was not the only one wanting more insight.


Read more Can gender equality be ‘exported’? at Femme Vision

Maria Miller’s Report Puts Feminists In An Impossible Position by @cwknews

Cross-posted from: Stephanie Davies-Arai
Originally published: 24.01.16

Maria Miller transgender reportMaria Miller has stated that she is ‘taken aback’ by the ”hostility’ towards the government’s recent transgender reportfrom ‘purported feminists.’ She says: “I think that all of us who are feminists know that equality for other groups of people, and a fairer deal for other groups of people, is good for us as well.”

Yes of course, as a society nobody wants to see any group suffering discrimination so why would anyone not give just a passing nod of approval to this new report, even those horrible feminists?

This time it’s not so simple; ‘transgender’ is not one of those ‘other groups’ defined by distinct boundaries, as all other minority groups are. By definition, ‘transgender’ stakes claim to membership of already existing groups; the mantra ‘transwomen are women’ accordingly puts them into two protected categories; both ‘transgender’ and ‘women’.

In the blurring of boundaries, ‘women’ as a distinct group ceases to exist; we have to say ‘women-born women’ now to make the sex-based distinction clear, and we are losing the right to do even that: any sex-based comparisons are seen as ‘transphobic.’

This is the crux of the matter; if the recommendations in this report are passed into law as expected, it means that in important legal terms the distinction between men and women will become ‘gender’ instead of ‘sex’. This is an arbitrary move; when did we decide that ‘gender’ is a stronger marker than ‘sex’ if you need to differentiate between men and women? Gender, as a concept of masculinity and femininity, is based on subjective opinion; a means of dividing men and women along personality lines. ‘Correct’ gendered behaviour and presentation is already enforced and policed by society in a million different ways from birth, and the group it mostly harms is women. This report does not ask women to support transgender rights, it demands that we accept a definition of women which reinforces a limiting stereotype and at the same time deny the biological sex which is the basis of discrimination against women.
Read more Maria Miller’s Report Puts Feminists In An Impossible Position by @cwknews

You are killing me: On hate speech and feminist silencing by @strifejournal

Cross-posted from: Trouble & Strife
Originally published: 17.05.15

Radical feminists are regularly accused of denying trans people’s right to exist, or even of wanting them dead. Here Jane Clare Jones takes a closer look at these charges. Where do they come from and what do they mean? Is there a way to move towards a more constructive discussion?

The claim that certain forms of feminist speech should be silenced has recently become common currency. Notable instances include the ongoing NUS no-platforming of Julie Bindelthe cancellation of a performance by the comedian Kate Smurthwaite (which prompted a letter to the Observer), and, in the last month, the demand that a progressive Canadian website end its association with the feminist writer Meghan Murphy.

The basis of this claim is the assertion that a certain strand of feminist thought is hate speech. Versions of that assertion have circulated on social media for a number of years — complete with obligatory analogies between Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) and Nazis, the BNP or the Ku Klux Klan. But its effectiveness in excising speech from the public sphere was really brought home to me in August 2014, when the journalist and trans activist Paris Lees pulled out of a Newsnight debate with the gender-critical trans woman Miranda Yardley, saying she was ‘not prepared to enter into a fabricated debate about trans people’s right to exist.’


Read more You are killing me: On hate speech and feminist silencing by @strifejournal

White people critiquing “White Feminism” perpetuate white privilege

If you are involved in feminist discourse online, the chances are that you will have noticed a particular phrase becoming increasingly common: White Feminism. Sometimes, a trademark logo will even be added for emphasis. The term White Feminism has become shorthand for certain failings within the feminist movement; of women with a particular degree of privilege failing to listen to their more marginalised sisters; of women with a particular degree of privilege speaking over those sisters; of women with a particular degree of privilege centering the movement around issues falling within their own range of experience. Originally, the term White Feminism was used by Women of Colour to address racism within the feminist movement – a necessary and valid critique.


Read more White people critiquing “White Feminism” perpetuate white privilege

Gender Is Socially Constructed (Upon Material Reality) by @umlolidunno

Cross-posted from: RootVeg
Originally published: 15.01.14

Feminists talk a lot about social constructs. A while ago, I did a poll asking what people thought ‘social construct’ meant. The answers were interesting and varied: “it’s the stuff that isn’t ‘real’”; “social conventions”; “ideas that constitute your frame of reference for understanding the world”; and so on. This post is my attempt to share how I tend to think about social constructs, in the hopes that someone might find it interesting.
TRIGGER WARNING: LONG

I. Patriarchy Is Socially Constructed
Culture is not special to humans. Most social species have culture. One way to think of culture is: any information and behaviour that is transmitted and maintained in a population by social learning, as opposed to biological inheritance. A noticable feature of lots of culture is convergence: it makes sure that guppies all go the same route to the same feeding spot; that capuchins get the right kinds of rocks to bash nuts with; that meerkats learn how to kill scorpions and not get their asses handed to them; that migrating birds learn the right route; that songbirds don’t completely embarrass themselves with tone-deaf nonsense, and so on. It’s a set of information that members of a population all get access to, and it tends to coordinate the behaviour of the population. What makes human culture different from that of guppies is its sheer scale, richness and complexity.
Read more Gender Is Socially Constructed (Upon Material Reality) by @umlolidunno