Womanhood: On Sex, Gender Roles, and Self-Identification, by @ClaireShrugged

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 09.02.18

A (not so) brief foreword: this essay was originally commissioned by an independent publisher looking to release an anthology on gender. In 2017 they asked if I’d be interested in writing an essay on womanhood. I was a little surprised, the publisher being explicitly queer and me being a radical feminist, but ultimately pleased: their goal was to publish a collection with plural perspectives on gender, and I believe wholeheartedly that having the space for plural perspectives on any issue is essential for healthy, open public discourse. I knew that my lesbian feminist essay would probably be in a minority standpoint, and felt comfortable with it being published alongside contradictory perspectives. Given the extreme polarity of gender discourse, which results in a painful stalemate between queer activists and radical feminists, it was encouraging to think we had reached a point where multiple views could be held and explored together.

So I wrote the essay, made the requested edits, and produced a final draft with which the publisher and I were both delighted. Their words: “We’re really happy with the edits you’ve done and the areas you’ve developed on upon our request. You did a splendid job refining the essay.” However, certain people objected to the inclusion of my essay before having read it. Some early readers gave the feedback that they were unhappy to find a perspective that they were not expecting, and alarmed that I had connected my personal experience of gender as a woman to the wider sociopolitical context we inhabit. Backlash escalated to the point that the publishing house faced the risk of having their business undermined and their debut collection jeopardised.

They gave me the option of writing another essay for the gender anthology, or having this essay published in a future collection. I declined both choices, as neither felt right – fortunately, there are more projects on my horizon. That being said I have great sympathy for the publisher’s position, and find it regrettable that their bold and brilliant venture should be compromised by the very people it was designed to support. Furthermore, I wish the publisher every success with this project, and all future endeavours. As for the essay, controversial even before being read, I have instead decided to publish it here as the seventh part of the series on sex, gender, and sexuality. It is, in my opinion, a good essay and deserves to see the light of day. 
Read more Womanhood: On Sex, Gender Roles, and Self-Identification, by @ClaireShrugged

Top Ten Most Read Articles of 2017

How do they know who to kill?, by @marstrina  

“However. Here’s what I think anyone pushing the “sex is a social construct and therefore it is up to me to decide if my reproductive organs are male or female” has an absolute moral duty to account for: if sex is not a “real” and meaningful political or economic category, on what basis did the parents of the hundreds of millions of women and girls lost to femicide know who to kill? This is not state mandated, low-resolution social engineering: each individual family, each individual father, and sometimes mother, has made a decision to abort this baby, but not that baby. Each individual village midwife or grandmother or mother in law in a village somewhere has decided to take this child and leave them by the side of the road to die, but not that child. These people are not scientists and they are certainly not feminists. They didn’t get their decisions out of a Janice Raymond book, so give me a fucking break, use your educated-beyond-its-capability brain for a second and think about it: if sex doesn’t really exist, how do they know who to kill?”

 

The Thing about Toilets, at Not the News in Brief 

“The thing about toilets is that it’s not just about toilets. It’s about ALL the public spaces which could present a risk to women and/or children because of factors such as confined space, being locked in, restricted escape routes and being either explicitly or potentially in a state of partial/complete undress. These spaces include public toilets (no, not your private one at home, stupid), changing rooms in shops, gymns, leisure centres etc, prisons, rape crisis centres, dormitories, shelters and more.”

 

The Problem That Has No Name because “Woman” is too Essentialist.  by @ClaireShrugged

Screenshot_20170315-144208“…what’s a shorter non-essentialist way to refer to ‘people who have a uterus and all that stuff’?” In many ways, Laurie Penny’s quest to find a term describing biologically female people without ever actually using the word woman typifies the greatest challenge within ongoing feminist discourse. The tension between women acknowledging and erasing the role of biology in structural analysis of our oppression has developed into a fault line (MacKay, 2015) within the feminist movement. Contradictions arise when feminists simultaneously attempt to address how women’s biology shapes our oppression under patriarchal society whilst denying that our oppression is material in basis. At points, rigorous structural analysis and inclusivity make uneasy bedfellows.”

 

‘Men, shut up for your rights!’, by @wordspinster

“If you haven’t spent the last decade living on another planet, I’m sure you will recognise the following sequence of events:

A powerful man says something egregiously sexist, either in a public forum or in a private conversation which is subsequently leaked.

There is an outpouring of indignation on social media.

The mainstream media take up the story and the criticism gets amplified.

The powerful man announces that he is stepping down.

His critics claim this as a victory and the media move on—until another powerful man says another egregiously sexist thing, at which point the cycle begins again.

The most recent high-profile target for this ritual shaming was David Bonderman, a billionaire venture capitalist and member of Uber’s board of directors. It’s no secret that Uber has a serious sexism problem. Following a number of discrimination and harassment claims from former employees, the company commissioned what turned out to be a damning report on its corporate culture. At a meeting called to discuss the report, Arianna Huffington (who at the time was Uber’s only female director) cited research which suggested that putting one woman on a board increased the likelihood that more women would join. At which point Bonderman interjected: ‘actually what it shows is that it’s likely to be more talking’.

 

Include me out. How ‘inclusion’ is killing feminism, by Sister Hex 

“The problem with this modern obsession for ‘inclusion’, especially for university societies, is that it’s not only killing the soul of feminism or lesbian/gay rights but it’s basically devoid of any common sense.

The reason we’ve always had separation in activism has never been particularly about exclusion specifically, but for reasons of focus, empowerment, allowing an oppressed voice space to speak and sharing experience. This, in turn, lead to clear analysis and particular campaigning. Separation in activism is both common and successful and has been used in anything from civil to gay rights.”

The Misogyny Of Modern Feminism, by @GappyTales ‏ 

… At the root of women’s oppression lies an unassailable biological reality. Women are denied reproductive rights, paid less than men for doing the same job, and carry out the vast bulk of unpaid labour in the home, for no other reason than we are biologically female. As a woman I don’t get to opt out of this reality. I don’t, for instance, get to say to my employer that today I’m identifying as male so will be expecting a pay rise commensurate with that fact. Gender on the other hand is imposed and performative, so I can present as feminine in make up and heels, or I can choose to shave my head and wear masculine clothing. Either way my biology and the discrimination I suffer as a result of it remains a fact, not a privilege. …”

The Sex Delusion by @GappyTales 

“We live in an age of alternative facts.

And so this article will begin with the premise that there are knowable truths, separate from our personal perspectives and belief systems. Water is wet, for example. Whether on the left or right of the political spectrum, water is never dry. With this in mind, here are some long agreed upon and universally recognised word definitions: 

1. Woman: An adult human female.

2. Female: Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilised by male gametes.

3. Gender: The state of being male or female, especially as differentiated by social and cultural roles and behaviour.

So a knowable truth gleaned from these definitions would be that sex is a biological reality, and gender a more malleable social construct. Let’s consider then, the medical condition of gender dysphoria, experienced by individuals as a distressing mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. Let’s imagine it on a spectrum. How many people do we know with no mismatch at all between their biological sex and the stereotypically gendered traits and behaviours associated with it? The truth is very few humans fit perfectly into pink and blue boxes meaning, surely, that we can dispense with any ideas of an existing gender binary. ”

 

Dress Rules for Women over 40 by @JumpMag   

“Another summer, another list of rules for women on what they should and shouldn’t wear. From the ‘how to get a bikini body’ articles (top tip – buy a bikini, put it on your body, done!) to this incredibly stupid list of rules for women over 40 years.

Here are my dress rules for women over 40.”

Colonialism and Housewifization – Patriarchy and Capitalism at Mairi Voice 

Maria Mies:   Patriarchy and the Accumulation on a World Scale

This book provides a most important analysis of the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism. Maria Mies’ thesis is that patriarchy is at the core of capitalism, and in fact, capitalism would not have had its success in its accumulation of capital without patriarchal ideals and practices.

She builds on Federici’s analysis of the witch hunts, which were instrumental in the early developments of capitalism and argues, convincingly and in-depth, that the exploitation and oppression of women allowed for its successful domination of the world.  …

A brief history of ‘gender’ by @wordspinster 

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 11.48.11

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? …

 

Radical Feminism Today by Denise Thompson – a review at Mairi Voice

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 03.08.17

denise thompson

I have just had the pleasure of reading Denise Thompson’s book. It is my part of my personal on-going exploration of feminist theory and thought.

Although I have worked for many years as a feminist activist, particularly in the field of male violence against women and children, and have thus read and discussed feminism, I hold some trepidation in writing this blog.

I claim no expertise in feminist theory – but am in the process of learning and developing my knowledge and want to share my journey with you. I can only hope that I can do justice to Denise Thompson’s book which I highly recommend.

This blog is not going to cover all the range of issues that are discussed in the book. Rather I will attempt to focus on her understanding of radical feminism.


Read more Radical Feminism Today by Denise Thompson – a review at Mairi Voice

Language and talking at cross purposes

Cross-posted from: MOG Plus
Originally published: 19.07.17

Language is a funny beast. It’s fascinating, but also rarely straightforward. Online conversation can make for some interesting clashes in language: for example, I used to be a member of a forum that talked primarily about vintage fashion. Occasionally there’d be a thread where a member would say they wanted to find somewhere they could buy a vintage “jumper”. The rest of the thread would then become confusing, as the UK members recommended places that sold knitwear and US members hunted for a pinafore dress.

The nature of the internet means you often end up talking to people from places where words don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Even different regions can have massive variations – I’ve seen a fair few jovial arguments over what to call a bread roll. Different age groups can see similar differences in language; different social groups, too.

Now these are minor disagreements with no major consequences. But not all language differences can be so amusing: some can cause massive arguments, with high emotions and a lot of anger.

 


Read more Language and talking at cross purposes

MichFest: One Year Ago, by @smashesthep

Cross-posted from: Smash the P: Women's Liberationist
Originally published: 02.08.16

One year ago, I arrived at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for the first time after hearing about it for years. It was an amazing experience and it changed me forever.

At the time, I wrote about my experiences, but since they were so personal I shared them in bite sized pieces on tumblr, feeling that I wasn’t ready for them to be exposed to a wider audience and all together.

On this important anniversary, and the first year without a MichFest, I have decided to share them here. Many women are grieving this loss for what it is. But there is hope. Womyn are creative, innovative, and powerful. Amazons get shit done. This is not the last time we will gather.

Here are my words from last year, interspersed with some photos for you all.

Arriving at MichFest: Challenges and Gratitude

outside michfest

 


Read more MichFest: One Year Ago, by @smashesthep

The Problem That Has No Name because “Woman” is too Essentialist by @ClaireShrugged

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 15.03.17

This is the third in my series of essays on sex and gender (see parts 1 & 2). Inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s comments on gender identity and the subsequent response, I have written about language within feminist discourse and the significance of the word woman.

Update (17/03.17): this essay is now available in French.


 

Screenshot_20170315-144208“…what’s a shorter non-essentialist way to refer to ‘people who have a uterus and all that stuff’?” In many ways, Laurie Penny’s quest to find a term describing biologically female people without ever actually using the word woman typifies the greatest challenge within ongoing feminist discourse. The tension between women acknowledging and erasing the role of biology in structural analysis of our oppression has developed into a fault line (MacKay, 2015) within the feminist movement. Contradictions arise when feminists simultaneously attempt to address how women’s biology shapes our oppression under patriarchal society whilst denying that our oppression is material in basis. At points, rigorous structural analysis and inclusivity make uneasy bedfellows.

That same week Dame Jeni Murray, who has BBC Woman’s Hour for forty years, faced criticism for asking “Can someone who has lived as a man, with all the privilege that entails, really lay claim to womanhood?” Writing for the Sunday Times, Murray reflected upon the role of gendered socialisation received during formative years in shaping subsequent behaviour, challenging the notion that it is possible to divorce the physical self from socio-political context. Similarly, the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie came under fire for her comments on gender identity. 
Read more The Problem That Has No Name because “Woman” is too Essentialist by @ClaireShrugged

What we’re reading: on women’s health, radical feminism, and Wonder Woman

Women in Labor Stop Pushing, See Amazing Results by Kama Lee Jackson

… If you’ve ever seen a woman delivering a baby in a movie or a television show, you have heard the rallying cry: “Push!” If you’ve had a baby yourself, you’ve likely heard it too.

The staff at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent initiated a project to stop telling women to push. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives put out a call for action after seeing a sharp rise in severe perineal tearing affecting nearly 14,000 women in 2013 to 2014.

Over a 12-month period after the program was implemented, the incidence of women with severe tearing went down from 7% to 1%. How have they gotten such amazing results? Largely, simply by not asking women to push when they are in labor. …

Grasping Things at the Root: On Young Women & Radical Feminism  via @ClaireShrugged

Radical feminism isn’t popular. That’s not exactly a secret – Pat Robertson’s infamous Holy Cow! Too Funny!!!!!!claim that the feminist agenda “…encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians” has set the tone for mainstream discussions of radical feminism. While Robertson’s perspective on radical feminism verges upon parody, his misogyny served with a side of blatant lesbophobia, it has also served to frame radical feminism as suspect.

If radical feminism can be written off as something sinister or dismissed as the butt of a joke, none of the difficult questions about the patriarchal structuring of society need to be answered – subsequently, power need not be redistributed, and members of the oppressor classes are saved from any challenging self-reflection. Rendering radical feminism monstrous is a highly effective way of shutting down meaningful political change, of maintaining the status quo. It is, therefore, predictable that the socially conservative right are opposed to radical feminism. …

French translation here. 

Women Are Dying Because Doctors Treat Us Like Men by 

The best day of Starr Mirza’s life was the day she went into cardiac arrest. To understand why a then 23-year-old would be overjoyed at a life-threatening condition, one that would require a device to be implanted permanently in her chest, we have to start at the beginning of her medical history.

As a teenager growing up in Lake Los Angeles, a small town an hour outside of L.A., Mirza loved softball, even though she wasn’t any good. The running joke among her teammates was that she couldn’t make it from first base to second base without falling. “I don’t know why they kept me on the team,” she says. “I think it was more my spirit than my skill.” She didn’t know what was wrong with her body, only that she would frequently see stars, hear a ringing sound, feel tingly, and then pass out. When she was a preteen, she went to see a doctor. “I remember it like it was yesterday—I walked in, and right away, I got the eye-rolling,” Mirza recalls. “They asked me what I had eaten, if I had issues with my weight, if I had a problem with my brother getting better grades in school than I did. They were trying to say, ‘Look, she’s doing this for attention.'” …

You aren’t imagining it, #WonderWoman really isn’t being well promoted by Donna Dickens  via @UPROXX

Did you know Wonder Woman arrives in theaters a little over a month from now? On June 2, 2017, Princess Diana of Themyscira will get her first live action movie. Wonder Woman will be the first superheroine to have her own solo film since DC and Marvel reinvigorated the genre and started their own Cola Wars™ for audience eyeballs and wallets. This is a big deal. Wonder Woman has been around for over three-quarters of a century. Yet, unlike the other two pillars of the DC Trinity (Superman and Batman), she’s been relegated to animated films, television, and a minifig appearance in The LEGO Movie franchise. Even folks who have never picked up a comic book in their life know who Wonder Woman is and that she stands for feminism. Or, if the F-word freaks you out because you bought into a toxic idea of what feminism is, she stands for equality.

But if you didn’t know Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot was coming out in 36 days as of today, no one could blame you. Warner Bros. has been weirdly reticent about the marketing campaign for one of the most iconic superheroes in the world. The hype should be off the charts. But, as Shana O’Neil points out over at SyfyWire, it isn’t. When Suicide Squad came out, you couldn’t escape the world’s worst heroes. They were everywhere, despite the average audience-goer knowing only who Harley Quinn and the Joker were due to pop culture osmosis. Everyone knows who Wonder Woman is. Yet a quick look at the playlist for Suicide Squad vs. Wonder Woman on the official Warner Bros. YouTube page is as different as night and day.

THINK OF ME AS LOVING YOU STILL by @_ssml

Cross-posted from: Fish Without a Bicycle
Originally published: 15.10.15

My second to last day on the land I threw away the black leather jacket that I had been wearing to shoot the Night Stage in for the last five years. A very persistent mother mouse had established a nest in an inside pocket and in the process destroyed the lining of my beloved (and iconic, to me) jacket. That jacket was one of the last personal items I let go of on the Land this year, but it was far from being the only. In fact, this year on the Land I ended up losing many things that I knew I would never see again.  I lost the labrys that I wore in the lapel of my jacket on Saturday night, my brand new Michfest hoodie, a one-of-a-kind hand crafted metal earring, a beautiful bouquet of feathers that a Sister presented me with as a gift of gratitude for my work, at least two lens caps, some brand new socks and finally the tent a friend had gifted to me seven years ago – the year my daughter came to the Land as a four month old infant. My tent was badly damaged by the aforementioned persistent mother mouse and a tree that fell on top of the tent, resulting in a ripped rainfly. The mouse came through the bottom of my tent and the tree came through the top. No, the tent was not tarped, I know, I know, I know. My point is,  there were few days that some part of my mind was not occupied by my relationship to the things I had to let go of. I was given plenty of opportunity to remind myself that the most magical, comforting and even practical of “my” things have the potential to pass right through my hands and that both possession and permanence are illusions of my heart and mind. Everything changes. Every single thing reaches a moment of completion. In big ways and small ways we are always moving through and toward and away from the things, the places and the people we have loved, cherished and tried to hold on to in our lifetimes. 
Read more THINK OF ME AS LOVING YOU STILL by @_ssml

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

Gaslighting Culture by @smashesthep

Cross-posted from: Smashes the P
Originally published: 05.11.15

gaslight-anthem_00289562

Lately I am really coming to terms with the fact that patriarchy is a gaslighting culture, and for the most part, messages do not need to be true in order to be consistently believed by a large number of people, or to be actively disseminated by the media. In fact, I’d go far enough to say that truth is often considered irrelevant in the media. I used to get angry when these messages veered so far off course from the truth, but I’m starting to see that as a feature and not a bug. That is, they never were meant to convey truths or reality- they were meant as wide spread propaganda.

For example, neo-liberal culture frames personal individual negative impacts in terms of “choice” and “consent” rather than systems of power that constrain groups of people, even though choice has very little to do with whether, say, impoverished inner city kids succeed in school. The same is true with the hidden-in-plain-sight fact about the toxic nature of masculinity and male pattern violence. The fear of taking sides or being too radical by *naming the problem* shapes the thinking patterns of almost the entire world.
Read more Gaslighting Culture by @smashesthep

Florynce “Flo” Kennedy – A Black Radical Feminist

Cross-posted from: Carolyn Gage
Originally published: 28.04.16

Florynce Kennedy… The first and only time I ever saw her on camera was in the cameo role of “Zella Wylie” in the Lizzie Borden film, Born in Flames. A kind of women’s liberation “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Zella mentors the young female militants who are engaged in overthrowing the patriarchy and taking over the world in this feminist, science fiction classic.  Here’s “Zella,” addressing an age-old feminist concern:

“All oppressed people have a right to violence. It’s like the right to pee: you’ve gotta have the right place, you’ve gotta have the right time, you’ve gotta have the appropriate situation. And believe me, this is the appropriate situation.”

And Florynce would know. She had organized a “pee-in” at Harvard University to protest the lack of women’s bathrooms.  …

 

You can read the full post here. 

 

How is a lack of feminist analysis within domestic violence and contemporary services contributing to a reproduction of women’s and children’s homelessness and continued risk of domestic violence victimisation?

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 24.02.16

This is an article that WEAVE  wrote for Parity in 2013. Still very pertinent for today.

How is a lack of feminist analysis within domestic violence and contemporary services contributing to a reproduction of women’s and children’s homelessness and continued risk of domestic violence victimisation?

By Marie Hume, Dr. Elspeth McInnes, Kathryn Rendell, and Betty Green (Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination Inc.)

 

It is well established that a significant percentage of homeless people in Australia are women and children escaping male violence. According to Homelessness Australia, just over two in every five of the estimated homeless population are women. More women than men seek assistance from the homeless service system each year. Two-thirds of the children who accompanied an adult to a homeless service last year were in the care of a woman, usually their mother, escaping domestic violence. Domestic violence is the most often cited reason given by women presenting to specialist homelessness services for seeking assistance.

The majority of people turned away from specialist homelessness services are women and their children. One in two people who request immediate accommodation are turned away each night due to high demand and under-resourcing.
Read more How is a lack of feminist analysis within domestic violence and contemporary services contributing to a reproduction of women’s and children’s homelessness and continued risk of domestic violence victimisation?

Your Silence Will Not Protect You: Racism in the Feminist Movement by @ClaireShrugged

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 18.04.16

A brief foreword: This is the first in a series of blog posts on race and racism in the feminist movement. It is not a feel-good piece. Equally, it is not a reprimand. It is a wake-up call – one which I hope will be answered. Part two of the series The Outsider Within: Racism in the Feminist Movement is available here


 

Solidarity between women is vital for liberation. If the feminist movement is to succeed, feminist principles must be applied in deed as well as in word. Although intersectionality is used as a buzzword in contemporary activism, in many ways we have deviated from Crenshaw’s intended purpose: bringing marginalised voices from the periphery to the centre of the feminist movement by highlighting the coexistence of oppressions. White women with liberal politics routinely describe themselves as being intersectional feminists before proceeding to speak over and disregard those women negotiating marginalised identities of race, class, and sexuality in addition to sex. Intersectionality as virtue-signalling is diametrically opposed to intersectional praxis. The theory did not emerge in order to aid white women in their search for cookies – it was developed predominantly by Black feminists with a view to giving women of colour voice.

White feminists of all stripes are falling down at the intersection of race. Liberal feminists frequently fail to consider racism in terms of structural power. Radical feminists are often unwilling to apply the same principles of structural analysis to oppression rooted in race as in sex.
Read more Your Silence Will Not Protect You: Racism in the Feminist Movement by @ClaireShrugged

Ruled Over by a Male Figure (RObaMF) by @SmashesTheP

Cross-posted from: Smashes The P: Women's Liberationist
Originally published: 26.12.12

I cooked the holiday meal yesterday. It was a lot of work, but it was fun.

This was my first time hosting Xmas. For various reasons, Mom was invited to the festivities this year, but dad was not.

As we sat down to enjoy the meal I had just made, Mom addressed my partner.

“[smash’s nigel], why don’t you come over here and sit at the head of the table.”

Whoa.

Mom knows I’m a feminist, but this came so naturally to her that she said it anyway.

I informed her that we don’t do “head of the table” at my house, and that she herself might as well sit where she had been indicating, since there is nothing special in my house about plopping oneself in one part of the rectangular table versus another.

But, even if we did do “head of the table” bullsh*t at my house, one might think that the person who had cooked the meal should sit at the “head”—not the dude who is dating the person who cooked the entire meal. 
Read more Ruled Over by a Male Figure (RObaMF) by @SmashesTheP

On the question of radical feminism and women as an underclass by @saramsalem

Cross-posted from: Neocolonial thoughts and it's discontents
Originally published: 29.07.15

41ggc7o4IFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Radical feminism has always been a strand of feminism that I have been uncomfortable around. Part of this is because of my own internalized sexism that makes me shy away from very radical demands, especially in the realm of personal relationships, beauty standards, and so on. But a bigger issue I have had with it is its blatant Euro/US-centrism that makes it almost useless in contexts such as Egypt. I finally had a chance to read one of radical feminism’s most famous texts, “A Dialectic of Sex” by Shulamith Firestone. I have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised, even as the text confirmed many of my problems with radical feminists. On the one hand, I see clear benefits in these kinds of texts – they are very clear in terms of identifying who is responsible for patriarchy and because of this they are able to make clear demands that movements can organize around. They also touch on parts of gender relations that other feminist strands tend to leave under-theorized, notably questions of love, relationships, and psychology. On the other hand, it is clear that these texts use European and American societies as the norm, and when they do mention non-Western societies it is usually to say that they are “more primitive” or that they are headed in the same direction as Western forms of patriarchy once they develop a little more. Some of the key differences I see between radical feminism and postcolonial feminism, for example, are in the ways that men are conceptualised, and how the family and culture are conceptualised. Another difference is that in texts such as Firestone’s that use Freud so heavily, there is bound to be the question of whether we can generalize about the “female psyche” across space and time. These are some of the questions I want to think through in this post.

A major problem I found was her ethnocentrism, which becomes clear at specific moments in the text. One example is when she writes about how turning to “primitive matriarchies of the past” as examples of times where patriarchy did not exist was “too facile.” She then goes on to quote Simone de Beauvoir to make her point. Her discussion of Black Power as well as the sexism of Black men in America is another moment that made me pause. Her heavily Freudian analysis seems to somewhat hide the more clearly racialized political and economic aspects of the Black question in America. In her attempt to argue that “racism is a sexual phenomenon” she seems to emphasize the sexual at the expense of the racial. So while she raises important questions about the ways in which Black men relate to Black women, for example, her attempt to answer these using Freud is problematic.


Read more On the question of radical feminism and women as an underclass by @saramsalem

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

Free Choice Does Not Exist by @umlolidunno

Cross-posted from: Root Veg
Originally published: 14.03.14

What does Free Choice mean? If someone makes a Free Choice, what kind of choice have they made? Is it one free from coercion? One that is not impacted by external forces? One where the decision has not been weighted by anything? I suggest that this is a ridiculous concept.

I’m going to try and illustrate with a brief (and kinda weird) detour. I’d like you to imagine an animal. Any animal. It looks the way it does because it has evolved in a particular environment, it eats particular things, it moves competently across a particular terrain, and its body holds together according to whether it is on the land or in the water. Perhaps it has to contend with particular predators, and has features that allow it to protect itself. Perhaps it eats particular prey, and has features that allow it to hunt and kill. Perhaps it has vestigial features that only make sense at an earlier time in the animal’s evolutionary history. If the animal had emerged on a planet with a different gravitational pull to that of the Earth, features like its skeleton (if it has one) would look different. So far, so obvious. Now I’d like you to try and imagine an animal that Evolved Freely, without any input from those parameters. It doesn’t have a particular atmosphere to determine its respiratory system, it doesn’t have to contend with any particular gravitational force, the terrain it moves across doesn’t have a value, and neither does its food. What does this animal look like? It’s impossible to tell. It quickly becomes absurd to even try; without knowing these values, we can’t make any predictions about what this animal is like. It’s baffling to try and imagine that such an animal could exist at all.
Read more Free Choice Does Not Exist by @umlolidunno

I am Woman Hear Me Roar

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 29.10.15

feminist signHelen Reddy sang this song in the 1970’s and it became an anthem for Women’s Liberation.

I sang it loudly and proudly. I was a University student in the early ‘70’s and I was just beginning to learn about Women’s Liberation. I cannot say that I was part of the so-called ‘Second Wave’ of feminism. I was not actually involved in the movement. But I was inspired by it and benefited from it.

It enabled me to reject the notion of becoming a wife, mother and housewife and to recognise that I could have a career.

It wasn’t until I began working in the field of social work that I began to realise that women’s liberation meant more than achieving equality and individual choices. This was when I began to learn about the true extent of male violence against women and children – child sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape, and sexual harassment. I learnt this through talking to and working with women and children who had been traumatised and victimised by male violence – their lived experiences of surviving in a patriarchal world.
Read more I am Woman Hear Me Roar

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