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September 17, 2013

Supporting trans people
Posted by Patrick at 02:17 PM * 393 comments

I’m not really big on petitions or statements signed by hundreds of people, but I’ve also been seriously creeped out by recent upticks in hostility toward trans people:

There has been a noticeable increase in transphobic feminist activity this summer: the forthcoming book by Sheila Jeffreys from Routledge; the hostile and threatening anonymous letter sent to Dallas Denny after she and Dr. Jamison Green wrote to Routledge regarding their concerns about that book; and the recent widely circulated statement entitled “Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Critique of ‘Gender,’” signed by a number of prominent, and we regret to say, misguided, feminists have been particularly noticeable. And all this is taking place in the climate of virulent mainstream transphobia that has emerged following the coverage of Chelsea Manning’s trial and subsequent statement regarding her gender identity, and the recent murders of young trans women of color, including Islan Nettles and Domonique Newburn, the latest targets in a long history of violence against trans women of color. Given these events, it is important that we speak out in support of feminism and womanism that supports trans* people.
That’s from the introduction to A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism, a document to which a wide variety of writers and activists have appended their names. They’re still adding names; I emailed them earlier today to ask that they add mine. Some of the initial set of signers will be familiar to people in science-fiction or leftish-blogging circles. A couple of them, like Avedon Carol and Roz Kaveney, are old personal friends of ours. Anyway, I support this statement and I urge others to consider doing so as well.

Comments on Supporting trans people:
#1 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 03:42 PM:

Amen to this. I've always felt people should be treated as humans first. In the long run, gender isn't as important as our human-ness is.

#2 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 03:51 PM:

I support treating people as people. I also think it can be useful to throw some people out of any space if they're interfering with the process of that space -- but that's hard to manage without giving some people too much power to determine what the process of a given space is. The primary issue of the Breendoggle, for example, seems not to have been whether Breen was a pederast or not, but whether the group had the right to exclude him even if he was. Things were very different 50 years ago, but there are similar exclusionary issues being discussed these days.

It's a serious recipe for All X is Plunged into War. And yet, it seems a necessary fight, each time.

#3 ::: Joe Clark ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:10 PM:

The critiques of transgenders you link to do not amount to “hostility towards trans people,” who are in fact the ones who tend to fly off the handle when biological reality is pointed out to them.

Rather, what is actually going on here is resistance to men who decide one day they are women and attempt to infiltrate single-sex environments where women have an expectation of privacy – certainly not chiefly “bathrooms” but definitely environments like changing rooms and locker rooms.

The statement “An MTF is a transsexual, not a woman” does not constitute hostility but fact. “A penis is not a female organ” is another statement of fact. All the foregoing you should describe as feminism, not “hostility.”

It is straightforwardly possible to object to male bodies in female-only environments while still supporting basic prohibitions against discrimination in such areas as education, public accommodation, and employment. Were you to ask any of the people you describe as hostile, you might find wide agreement with gender-related antidiscrimination laws. But there are limits, and allowing male penises in women’s environments is one of them.

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:23 PM:

It's been observed that all (to an approximate value of "all") comment threads to posts on feminist issues demonstrate the need for feminism.

I think we may be seeing a similar principle in action here, although I didn't actually expect it to kick in as early as the third comment. "Fly off the handle," oy. Sure, no prejudicial language or unwarranted generalizations going on here.

#5 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:27 PM:

I’ve never met any transwomen whose situation could be described as “just decided one day they wanted to be women.”

I figure if someone’s willing to walk the walk (especially given she risks she faces in doing so) her claim to femininity is, if anything better than mine.

#6 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:35 PM:

How about women who, for whatever reason, are born with penes?

How about men who are born with vaginae?

#7 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:35 PM:

Ah, joy: three comments in and the TERFs and their apologists show up.

(The eliminationist rhetoric directed at trans-folk is extremely scary; some people just can't cope with anything that undermines their gender-essentialist worldview.)

#8 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:36 PM:

Yeah, this is like the right-wingers who argue that if you give people free health care, they'll just waste public resources getting lots of extra colonoscopies.

#9 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:40 PM:

I have far too many trans friends to get het up about what bits someone happens to have been born with, or what their chromosomes look like. That doesn't define who people are. (I'd like to think that I'd feel the same way even if I didn't have several trans friends; but the fact remains that it's a lot easier to get past cultural bigotry when there are people I know proving it wrong.) And someone else has said more eloquently than I'm able to recall and quote, feminism that isn't intersectional isn't worth a damn.

I haven't any actual platform or position of influence to speak from, so as I read it, that statement of support isn't intended for folks like me to sign. But I am damn glad that others are putting their names on it.

#10 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:41 PM:

A transman is a man, and a transwoman is a woman. Genetalia are not the definition of gender.

#11 ::: jenphalian ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:47 PM:

Pretty much everything Fade said. I support trans-inclusive feminism & womanism.

#12 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:48 PM:

I followed your links and followed the links within them and read the chilling letter. I can't say it necessarily reads like a threat against the recipient. The authors of the letter claim that physical threats have been made against them, and the letter threatens to carry on with the kind of analysis they've been carrying on. Some threat! This is what they're saying they will do: " By the time we are done the transgender movement and those names attached will be more accurately seen as like carnival hucksters and boss man thugs and Sheila Jeffreys will drop a note on personal stationary thanking you for the spike in sales."

They're threatening to argue.

And of course, the proper response to a threat to argue is to argue back.

I have my own concerns about gender essentialism and some of the ideas being put forward by some trans* supportive writers, but I'm not really ready to lay them out, as I want to tease out the things that seem wrong to me from the things that seem right to me: I want to be able to add a voice that is against gender essentialism and still supportive of trans people, and that's going to take careful thinking and speaking.

#13 ::: Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:48 PM:

I do think this is one of those issues that once mainstream awareness gets to a certain point will go away.

The first trans-woman in our office got a huge amount of flack wrt to bathrooms. So much so that when a second woman decided to transition, the managers held a required attendance meeting with the female staff to try and head off any complaints.

This time, the primary complaint was 'why are we having this meeting? I have actual stuff to do.' After actually meeting a trans-woman, it's hard to flip out a la comment 3.

Sucks to be those first few pioneers, though.

#14 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer is apparently developing a habit of hanging out with the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:49 PM:

A word of power, perhaps? Infelicitious punctuation?

[Accidental fragment match. Filter changed/corrected. -- Doous Bilit, Duty Gnome]

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:50 PM:

Joe @3:

Here's a surefire linguistic marker: "transgenders". It's as dismissive of the entire person as those men who talk about "females", like we're some kind of alien species.

Speaking of hostility.

men who decide one day they are women and attempt to infiltrate single-sex environments where women have an expectation of privacy

Speaking of flying off the handle.

The reality is that transitioning genders is not something one does on a whim. It's not easy. It's not fun. Gender-policing charmers like our Joe up there are part of the reason, but the societal pressures that transgender people face are pretty insanely tough.

All of which means that the flappy-armed assumption that fellas are going to shave down and don frocks to go ogle women at the Y is absolutely ludicrous.

Joe, sunshine, you don't get to tell me what I allow in women's environments. Your penis is quite clearly male, and it means that what goes on in the ladies room is none of your beeswax.

Meanwhile, my MTF transgender colleague, who may or may not have a penis (I can't even imagine asking. Honestly. Please.) is welcome in any environment. She's much kinder, more interesting, and more pleasant to be around.

#16 ::: Lisa L. Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:50 PM:

Mr. Clark:

1. Sex is not the same as gender.
2. Co-ed bathrooms are common all over the world, and go back at least 30 years on U.S. college campuses.
3. Absence or presence of a penis or a vagina doesn't really have much to do with rape.
4. There's a certain irony in a man telling women whether or not they're women, and who we may allow in our space.
5. There's an argument to be made that XY pairs are merely a mutation; that is, all XYs are XXs gone horribly horribly wrong, so the "biology is destiny argument" fails.

#17 ::: Will Cooper ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:53 PM:

The arguments exemplified by post 3 are deeply reminiscent, in tone and content, to the familiar arguments made against gay marriage. Insistence on rigid gender essentialism, disregard for people's lives and wellbeing, assertion of the so-called basic facts.

It's disconcerting to hear them coming from what I identify as my tribe.

@Fade Manley: you quite possibly would hold the same opinion without the personal friendships. I do.

#18 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 04:58 PM:

(@3, although perhaps also applicable generally...)

Transwomen are frequently given to understand, in unambiguous terms, that they are not welcome or safe on the men's side of the changing room, or in the men's bathrooms. Practically speaking, what do you suggest they do instead?

Since my hair fell out, I've occasionally found myself subject to attempts at gender policing in bathrooms and changing rooms - now and then, someone with no information about me will size up the way I look and complain that I am on the wrong side and they do not feel safe. I don't think the answer to this problem is to tell people born with male genitals that they must never set foot in the ladies' loo, because that sure hasn't solved the problem for me, or the people who somehow find me alarming when I'm minding my own hygienic business.

A "reasonable expectation of privacy" is the belief that when you draw the curtain or bolt the door, no one will be peeking at you, and the understanding that pictures will not be taken and anecdotes will not be relayed. "No one who does not completely conform to my expectations for the gender of people who use this space" is not reasonable, and has nothing to do with privacy.

#19 ::: canisfelicis ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:04 PM:

That Statement is nauseating. And Mr. Clark seems rather irritable.

#20 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:05 PM:

Anyone who doesn't think cismen in the ladies' room don't get the stink-eye has never taken a daughter into one.

#21 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:05 PM:

Could I highlight two words from the above post, please: "recent murders". I can't recall the exact statistics for murders of transgender people, nor for non-fatal violence against them, but it is extremely high; if you are transgender, you are several times more likely to be attacked or murdered than if you are not. And that's on top of the risk of being disowned by those around you. The idea that it's all some kind of a game should be blown out of the water simply by that kind of information.

Individuals attach different degrees of importance to their own gender. That's fine. The fact that I don't think my own gender matters a damn (and therefore I don't identify as even having one) doesn't impact on the fact that some people feel strongly that they are male or female, irrespective of what sort of chromosomes they were issued with. But there's also the fact that society seems to attach a huge amount of importance to gender, even though it's really only relevant in a very few contexts. As Ginger says in 1, I think we need to move away from that. It's clearly not helpful.

#22 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:06 PM:

RiceVermicelli @18:
Transwomen are frequently given to understand, in unambiguous terms, that they are not welcome or safe on the men's side of the changing room, or in the men's bathrooms. Practically speaking, what do you suggest they do instead?

Point.

Hey Joe, if someone looking, dressed and acting feminine came into the men's room, what would you do? What about the men's changing room at the gym? And can you guarantee that that person would be safe from sexual and physical assault from all of the men in that changing room? To the same degree that someone presenting as a man is?

You don't want transwomen in women's spaces. If you tell me they're safe in men's spaces, I will laugh. So where do they go? How do they live?

Here's a challenge: stop using any "male" spaces outside of your own house for a month. No men's toilets anywhere, not even at work. No changing room at the gym. No fitting rooms at stores. Nothing. Live it for a while.

#23 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:11 PM:

Butch lesbians are also often unwelcome in the ladies' room. I've gotten some exceedingly hostile "This is the GIRLS room" responses from random women over the years. (Less so since I've put on some weight - I've always been busty, but now an inhalation is actively threatening to bystanders. People generally get the, er, point.) Gender policing is bullshit wherever it occurs.

But even more bullshit is the bathroom derail in general. It's such a minor fucking issue in the larger scheme of things - it's totally based on false premises, there are a variety of solutions and a ton of data about those solutions, and it's far from the biggest issue trans people, or cis people interacting with trans people, face, that it drives me up the freaking wall to see it be the first goddamn thing trotted out every time the subject comes up.

#24 ::: Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:19 PM:

I do think frequently the bathroom argument is a derail, but I will say my workplace is a Patriarchy with a capital P and I'd had several terrifying moments working second shift before this meeting happened.

I think the women in my office who had complained the first time were genuinely afraid of a relatively safe place becoming unsafe.

Happily, any time at all spent with trans-people tends to show how silly the argument is.

#25 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:20 PM:

During the Prop-8 frenzy in California, my mother noted that she'd considered the matter and had decided that her own marriage to my late father, and the marriages of her children and grandchildren really wouldn't be affected if gay couples could marry. So she couldn't see a good reason for saying they couldn't. No one lost any real thing that they had, and more people got a chance to be happy, and wasn't that good? She admits "No harm done, more people happy" isn't a sophisticated philosophy, rhetorically speaking, but it works.

If I apply the same line of thought to transpeople, I have to say, what does it take from me? If the arguments against allowing transpeople to strive for greater happiness, which doesn't seem to be likely to harm me or take anything from me, are "XYZ the Patriarchy!" or "Because Biology!", in the first case I don't see how tormenting your fellow humans to make them suit your worldview does anything but sustain the patriarchal structures you say you hate, and in the latter case, boy, are you confused if you think biology is simple and cut and dried.

I really do want to know how I will be harmed by allowing transpeople to sort out and live their lives in peace and safety. Because every argument I have seen seems to boil down to "It freaks me out, and I think it's gross and icky!", which is not the way to approach other people's right to have their lives.

#26 ::: ricevermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:22 PM:

"A penis is not a female organ," but neither is a hand or an ear. We shouldn't be defining anyone by their component parts.

#27 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:25 PM:

3:
I recommend, very strongly, that you find a copy of She's Not There and read it.

#28 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:33 PM:

By the way -- it is important, when we're in this headspace, to be mindful of transmen as well. We have at least one in this community, and I don't want him -- or anyone else -- to feel excluded or erased by the fact that this discussion so far (and the original post) focus very much on transwomen.

Just a thought.

#29 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:35 PM:

Wow, well @3 sure persuaded me I ought to sign up to the petition - just as, you know, a decent person, whatever sex or gender I might be or not be.

#30 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:38 PM:

abi @ 28: and other transpeople, too. Not everyone who identifies as trans ends up at one of the extreme ends of the gender spectrum. I know at least one who's pretty squarely in the middle, this being CN, whom I've linked in a previous thread.

#31 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:40 PM:

Mongoose @30:

Yes. Apologies.

#32 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:41 PM:

Joe Clark @ 3: 'Infiltrate' is the word that got me here. Ah yes, the tinfoil hat notion that transwomen are some sort of fifth column of the patriarchy. Also as a way of trivialising and dismissing the struggles and life-experience of others the suggestion that transwomen "decide one day they are women" is beyond despicable. Because deciding you're going to voluntarily surrender your male privilege and make yourself a target for ridicule from cretins and for violence and even death at the hands of bigots is something people are always doing on a whim.

Avedon Carol and Roz Kaveney are mentioned above as signatories to this petition. I'm married to one of these women and the other has been a friend for more than thirty years. I'll take them over a hundred Joe Clarks and others like him.

#33 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:51 PM:

abi @ 28:

I suspect the Transphobic radical feminists focused on m-to-f transitions because they can dismiss f-to-m transitioning in one sentence as a traitor to the gender (Not that I agree in any way, only that it's an easy to grasp argument), but it requires some convoluted reasoning and backbending explanations to say how it's bad to have those women who were born men deciding they'd rather be female even with all the baggage that entails in our society.

So of course the responses to them end up focusing on the people they directly attacked, but you and mongoose are right -- those trans people that they *Erase* are not being treated any better.

#34 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:51 PM:

On one hand, (and I'm shortening the argument considerably) Women Only Space evolved out of the fact that some women have been terribly abused by men. Such women don't feel comfortable around anyone with (for example) facial hair or a penis. Such women can't open up and be honest about their issues or problems around someone with facial hair or a penis.

Women who have experienced this level of abuse from men are naturally very concerned about the motives of any man who dresses in woman’s clothing and shows up at an event. Such women have experienced Patriarchy as an actual, planned-out conspiracy wherein they can successfully and very sanely identify various people around them as actors playing roles which are intended to deprive them of life, health, and liberty.

The presence of someone who potentially has facial hair or a penis means that a woman who may have spent thousands of dollars for airfare, accommodations, etc. to attend an event they expect to be healing and relaxing cannot be healed and cannot relax because of the penile/facial haired presence.

On the other hand, trans people have frequently suffered very badly due to actions taken by those with penises and facial hair. (Read the three paragraphs above making appropriate substitutions of "woman" with "trans.") Trans people also need a penis and facial-hair free zone where they can heal and decompress and unwind just as badly as an abused woman might need such a space.

As interpersonal problems go, this one can be safely classed as "hellishly difficult." Furthermore, it rates as a hellishly difficult problem before anyone brings ideology or religion (for example, some Dianic Wiccans believe that men do not have souls) into the issue.

This is not a problem which can be cured by a petition. I have no idea how to cure it, but I doubt a petition will help.

#35 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 05:55 PM:

Jeremy Preacher @ #23: I've always been busty, but now an inhalation is actively threatening to bystanders.

I do thank you, classmate, for the giggle.

#36 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 06:14 PM:

I don't know, Alex R - I think I understand what you're getting at, but I am a cis-gendered female with a set of unfortunate endocrinological issues that cause me to grow male-pattern facial hair. Your comment makes me wonder whether my presence at a Female-At-Birth only gathering would be as (un)welcome as at a trendy nightclub that permits only young, nubile ultra-femme women.

Shorter Nerdycellist: you can't tell what genitals someone has - let alone what gender they are - based on superficial characteristics.

#37 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 06:21 PM:

nerdycellist @ 36

I've got a female friend with the same issues. I don't know if she'd be welcome either. It's a really tough problem.

#38 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 06:22 PM:

Alex R. @ 34, I've definitely met women who were transphobic out of genuine fear, and I have some sympathy for that. But only some, because it's not a fear backed by evidence and usually comes hand-in-hand with a dogged unwillingness to listen to any sort of reason. I've known people who were genuinely terrified by anyone of Middle Eastern descent, too, and that doesn't stop being racist just because it's not disingenuous.

Michael Weholt @ #35, now you will be prepared to duck!

#39 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 06:43 PM:

We need to be careful about classifying "Joe". Presenting with a traditionally-male name doesn't mean "he" is. See Alex's post above for at least one other possibility.

#40 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 06:45 PM:

Clarification: I was also horrified by post #3. That person must have sustained serious damage to be so angry. Not that that excuses passing it along.

#41 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 07:39 PM:

One of the largest sexual assault support services in my city is radical feminist in bent, and known for unceremoniously turning trans women and lesbians away at the door. They will only assist women-born-women who need protection from men.

And then they say that trans people make gender into too big of a deal and hurting the people they disagree with? Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

When everything's all academic debate, it's easy for me to get lost in tiny semantic nuances of what constitutes gender. I have to remind myself of what things like that tremendously wordy letter truly mean when they're said to someone who is frightened and seeking refuge: "You don't deserve our help, solidarity, or protection. Go away.

#42 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 07:50 PM:

Yeah. I think the proper response to people who are driven by fear into unjust acts is to be compassionate about the fear, but not to support the injustices they say they need to commit.

To Alex R.'s #34, I don't think anyone has claimed that this is "a problem which can be cured by a petition," so obviously that's a red herring. As to your statement that you "doubt a petition will help": well, as I said in the first line of the original post, I don't tend to be enthusiastic about petitions. But in the current circumstances, it seems pretty clear there's a non-trivial number of trans people saying that public expressions of support like this, from people of all genders and presentations, make them feel less isolated and more like part of the human race. Speaking as an incrementalist, that's close enough to "help" for me. Setting an absurdly high bar and then noting that the effort fails to clear that bar is just a form of sneering. The petition won't solve the problems of death, sin, or the heat death of the universe, either, so we might as way stay home and do nothing.

#43 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 07:52 PM:

#41, staranise: Yes. This.

#44 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 08:07 PM:

@ Alex R @ 34:

Some points:

Patriarchy is an an actual, planned-out conspiracy wherein many women can successfully and very sanely identify various people around them as actors playing roles which are intended to deprive women of life, health, and liberty. The damage caused by this cannot possibly be "healed" by a week at a music festival, even in the unlikely event that the music festival can be rendered free of facial hair (a feat I guarantee you has not been accomplished), let alone penises. No one should think that the limited availability of militantly policed, ciswomen-only spaces has any mitigating effect on the impact of the patriarchy. At best, it's a temporary, respite for those people who fit the mold the enforcers have chosen, and are able to avoid all contact with the enforcement themselves.

It's not crazy to want a break from people who have oppressed you, but you need to recognize who those people are - patriarchy is much rougher on transsexual people of all kinds then it is on people who conform to patriarchally-prescribed gender roles. Making room for them in "women-only" spaces is like making room by the fire for someone who's colder then you are.

#45 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 08:07 PM:

PNH: A point so pertinent, I wish I hadn't mucked up my proofreading.

#46 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 08:13 PM:

#45, staranise: It doesn't matter; a good point survives imperfect proofreading. (It had better, or we're all doomed.)

#47 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 08:40 PM:

Mongoose@21: The statistic that I was told by a transgendered friend of mine was that about 1 in 12 transgendered people are murdered.

I could ask for citations if it really mattered, but one certainly-true point is that that's what a reasonable person who is well-connected in the transgender movement believes the statistics to be, and so that is what the discourse is based on.

#48 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 08:50 PM:

Reading the "Forbidden Discourse" letter, two quotes really stand out as *headdesk* wrong:

"How did we slide back to the point where radical feminists have to fight for the right to hold women-only conferences and criticize conventional “gender roles”?

How can you write "women-only" and "conventional gender roles" so rapidly in succession without noticing the function of the second in defining the first? If you're really about criticizing gender roles, then isn't rigidly defining "woman" a bit problematic?

"Transitioning is a deeply personal issue associated with a lot of pain for many people but it is not a feminist strategy or even individual feminist stance."

Isn't "the personal is political" one of the core principles of feminism? I don't really like to police people's self-descriptions, so if they say they are feminists, then okay, I grant them that. But they are certainly not living up to their creed.

There's also an interesting class positioning happening in this letter: note how the authors claim the mantle of "1960s radical feminism," juxtaposing their own "grassroots women's liberation analysis" against "heavily influenced by post-modernism" Gender Studies. It's very activist versus academic, working class versus elite language. It's very reminiscent of this: same "real working class woman" versus the "academic transgenders" vibe, but with the anger better concealed.

#49 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 09:32 PM:

RiceVermicelli @ 44

It's not crazy to want a break from people who have oppressed you, but you need to recognize who those people are - patriarchy is much rougher on transsexual people of all kinds then it is on people who conform to patriarchally-prescribed gender roles. Making room for them in "women-only" spaces is like making room by the fire for someone who's colder then you are.

This is exactly the point I am making.

The problem does not lie in saying, (perhaps with a certain patronizing tone) "Oh yes, they're both damaged by patriarchy, they should help each other." The problem lies in getting people who in some cases are very badly damaged to feel it as an imperative.

And then there are the implementation details...

When should the Scary Looking Biker Dude who's just starting ("his" moving towards "her") journey as a trans person be allowed in the women-only space, where maybe Scary Looking Biker will be sitting next to some cisgender female they terrify into incoherence, and who's progress they might impede, this comfort and welcome being helpful (we hope) to Scary Looking Biker Dude's emotional progress?

When should Scary Looking Biker be kept away from woman-only space, so that the cisgender female who's progress Scary Looking Biker might impede can make progress of her own?

How do you do it so it's fair? Appropriate? So everyone knows what's going on?

The damage caused by this cannot possibly be "healed" by a week at a music festival, even in the unlikely event that the music festival can be rendered free of facial hair (a feat I guarantee you has not been accomplished), let alone penises. No one should think that the limited availability of militantly policed, ciswomen-only spaces has any mitigating effect on the impact of the patriarchy.

Healing is slow. Progress is slow. But it does happen in bits and drabs over a lifetime and the _____-only spaces do help, if only by making life more bearable for a little while.

#50 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 09:44 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @ 42

Setting an absurdly high bar and then noting that the effort fails to clear that bar is just a form of sneering. The petition won't solve the problems of death, sin, or the heat death of the universe, either, so we might as way stay home and do nothing.

The last thing I wish to do is sneer. I have gay/trans/etc friends and relatives, and I don't under any circumstances wish to deny them any comfort to which they should be entitled. But IMHO the two sides should be talking not hurling petitions at each other.

I'd love to broker and moderate such as discussion, but Charisma is unfortunately my dump stat so I don't get involved in political or social brawls - the best I could possibly do for the side I support would be to fight on behalf of the side I oppose - and that would be too much irony for me to live with.

#51 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 09:51 PM:

I would like to have lived my life so that the worse thing I could be accused of is participating in "hurling petitions at each other." Which is to say, good grief, if "hurling petitions" is your grievance, you have had it pretty easy.

#52 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 09:56 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @ 50

I would like to have lived my life so that the worse thing I could be accused of is participating in "hurling petitions at each other."

Yeah. *looks down at feet*

#53 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 09:57 PM:

And, AlexR, exactly how do you justify your assertion that "IMHO the two sides should be talking not hurling petitions at each other"? Please explain to me how, for instance, Roz Kaveney has not been making every effort to talk, to people who respond to her every entreaty with contempt and hostility.

You are engaged in one of the more odious varieties of online performance--portraying yourself as the Reasonable Middle, without vouchsafing any actual logical argument that you should be granted that status. Here's a tip: This is a tougher room than you're evidently used to.

#54 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 09:58 PM:

Alex R. @ #48: The problem lies in getting people who in some cases are very badly damaged to feel it as an imperative.

If I am so terrified of masculine-presenting people that existing in their physical presence is detrimental to my health, then I need a lot more than a music festival is going to give me. I have a real problem with the New Age woo-woo claims of some of these women-only spaces (specifically the music festivals and similar social events; rape crisis centers are a different and even more horrifying problem) as magical healing spaces. They're not, and it's irresponsible and hyperbolic to turn it into a question of prioritizing mental health.

Besides, when I was much younger and less politically aware, I not only went to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, I worked security for it. We were explicitly instructed never to question anyone's stated gender. There were plenty of non-traditionally-feminine women there - women with facial hair, women with no visible breasts, people who I was introduced to as women only because they couldn't, due to festival policy, be out as trans men. (Trans men don't have their gender respected any more by TERFs than trans women, but it comes out as amused condescension as often as not.) It ends up being hypocritical - we can't police gender because traditional femininity is a tool of the patriarchy, but the only way we have to claim a women-only space is to rigidly and ruthlessly police gender.

The us-against-them mentality in that space, I will argue, was actively harmful to women who had trauma around men. It reinforces the fear; it doesn't mitigate it. Certainly it feels better in the moment, but it's not sustainable, and it's a lot healthier in the long run to deal with the world from a wider lens.

#55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 10:01 PM:

Joe Clark #3: Every bathroom in my house is coed. Get over yourself.

#56 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 10:11 PM:

Hurling petitions at each other is part of talking, I think.

But I'm not sure that any discussion where one side insists that a person's gender is necessarily defined by what a doctor recognizes at the moment of birth is ready to be resolved.

(aside to the gnomes -- you going to get me for something this time too?)

#57 ::: Rose Fox ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 10:14 PM:

This being Making Light, I offer a trans* spelling reference:

Trans man. Trans woman. Trans person. Transgender (adj.). Trans* (shorthand that includes transsexual, transgender, transvestite, transgressive, transcendent, etc.). Male. Female. Binary. Non-binary. Genderqueer. Agender (adj.). Neutrois. Cis. Cisgender (adj.). Sex assigned at birth. He/him/his. She/her/her(s). They/them/their(s). Zie/zim/zir(s).

Deprecated unless specifically requested by a specific person: transman, transwoman, transgender (n.), identifies as (use "is"), preferred pronoun (use "pronoun" or "correct pronoun"), female/male name (use "former name" or "dead name"), sex reassignment surgery/SRS (use "gender confirmation surgery" or refer specifically to top surgery or bottom/genital surgery), male/female body (refer to specific anatomy or physical attributes, e.g. "all people who can get pregnant need access to safe, legal abortion").

A lot of trans* folks don't like "transman" and "transwoman" because it moves away from the very important point that trans men are men and trans women are women. Some folks personally adopt "transman" or "transwoman" because they strongly identify with being trans, but in the general case, "trans man" and "trans woman"--that is, adjective plus noun--are preferred.

"Trans" is often seen as referring to binary trans folks. If you want to be explicitly inclusive of anyone whose identity doesn't match the sex they were assigned at birth, use "trans*". Note that some trans people are non-binary; I know one who was assigned male at birth (AMAB), transitioned to female, and is now genderqueer. They'd rather be called "they" than "she"--and would MUCH rather be called "she" than "he".

#58 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 10:21 PM:

Alex R's "Scary Looking Biker Dude" scenario is based on a supposition a lot of radical feminists have that I just can't agree with. It is: that women are never dangerous or threatening. There's this supposition that you have women's spaces, which are safe; and then men enter, bringing the threat of violence, rape, and assault.

It doesn't work that way.

We don't actually just live in a patriarchy, we live in a kyriarchy; the axes along which someone can be oppressed are numerous and intersect in complex ways. It's not a simple Marxist dialectic of oppressor/oppressed. Women can absolutely oppress, terrorize, assault, and rape people of any gender. And a woman who is convinced that she is always powerless is a woman who is never vigilant to when she is misusing her power, so she has never learned to take responsibility when she abuses it.

If you could kick all the men out and create a magically safe space where no one ever got hurt... you wouldn't be living in reality as we know it.

#59 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 10:24 PM:

Yeah, to be clear, one of the things I had to do during my stint as security at Michfest was help a woman clear her stuff out of her tent and move it to a friend's tent because her girlfriend had assaulted her and she was terrified she'd come back and get violent. Again.

#60 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 10:31 PM:

Joe 3: Wow, insta-TERF boilerplate. Hmm. You've posted here before, but not since 2009. Do you lurk, or did you just have an alert set?

Everything else I was going to say has already been said by others. Hear, hear, you all.

#61 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 10:41 PM:

Thank you all for being my community.

#62 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 10:52 PM:

... which on rereading sounds pretty self-centered. Sorry.

What I was trying to express is that I am just so very glad to know and hang out among a group of people who so deeply, automatically, support people. To my mind, that's what this is about at the core - trans people are people, and of course I support them, and I am grateful to know so many people who feel it's that simple and obvious. (I've had trans friends but I sure hope I'd feel the same way even if I hadn't.)

#63 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 10:52 PM:

#57, Rose Fox: Thank you for that! I nearly deleted the asterisk from "trans*" in the quote I ran from the original post, and then I realized they had used it with every instance of "trans". Your explanation is illuminating.

Gender and presentation are complicated, and most of us haven't remotely thought this stuff through enough. That's what I get. I'll probably continue to screw up the terminology for a while. Hope to be forgiven.

#64 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 11:17 PM:

Comment #3 reminds me of someone I ran into once who simply could not wrap his brain around the idea of a use-name. I told him I went by either Lee or Celine and would answer to either, and we had a long thrash about "but which one is your REAL name?"* The insistence that gender is both immutable and defined by genitalia strikes me as very similar. This is somebody who has to put people into little boxes in order to deal with them.

Jeremy, #23: The bathroom argument is absolutely a derail, in any context. Remember, it was deployed (successfully) in the 1970s to kill the Equal Rights Amendment. "UNISEX BATHROOMS OMG!!!" There are so many other things more important than that to worry about!


* "REAL" is one of those terms that automatically makes me side-eye. Whether it's "REAL parents" for adoptees, "REAL women" in discussions of cultural pressures about women's appearance, or the topics being discussed here, it's always some One True Way control-freak insisting that THEY get to define a concept for everybody else, whether it fits or not.

#65 ::: Lee, be-gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 11:18 PM:

At a guess, multiple exclamation points. Would Their Lownesses care for some freshly-made sate chicken?

#66 ::: Jillian ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 11:37 PM:

I want to thank you all (with the exception of Joe @3). I have just begun to transition and it is wonderful to feel/see the support from this group.

This is *never* an easy decision. It is *not* a choice. Believe me when I say I would have never chosen this path voluntarily. It is who I am.

#67 ::: Rose Fox ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 11:42 PM:

PNH #63: No problem! It's all changing, of course, and different people have different ways of using various terms. Where I said "identity doesn't match the sex assigned at birth" another person might say "assigned the wrong sex at birth". Some say "coercively assigned male/female at birth" (CAMAB/CAFAB) to emphasizes that sex assignments are inflicted on infants by the cissexist binarist medical establishment, while others stick with the slightly less in-your-face AMAB/AFAB or MAAB/FAAB. I didn't even get into the nuances of "transsexual" vs. "transgender" because I frankly don't understand them and wouldn't want to get them wrong.

The best guidance I can give anyone is:

1) If a person says "These are the correct words for me", use those words for them, without arguing, complaining, or expressing astonishment. If you hear someone else use the wrong words, correct them in a matter-of-fact way ("Rose's pronoun is 'they', not 'she'"). If you accidentally use the wrong words, apologize briefly and work harder on using the right ones, without making an issue of how hard it is for you to learn new pronouns, names, terms, etc. If you ask for another person's pronoun or other words, offer your own--"Hi, I'm Dave, my pronoun is 'he', it's nice to meet you"--as a way of indicating "This is a thing people do" rather than "Hey, you weirdo, you have to tell me how to refer to you because I can't figure it out".

2) In general discussions, follow the terminological lead of the nearest trans* person. If you're having discussions of trans* issues without any trans* people present, point cis folks to resources created by trans* people.

3) Use "they"[*] and "person" and "folks" and other gender-neutral words when in any doubt whatsoever about a person's sex/gender or preferred terminology.

[*] Some very strongly binary-identified trans people dislike this suggestion because they have fought hard to be "he" or "she", and they see "they" as explicitly misgendering rather than as a neutral term to be used in the absence of other information. But in my experience, most trans* folks will appreciate that you're making an effort not to get it wrong.

#68 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 11:43 PM:

Wow, this discussion is giving me flashbacks to the early 1980's. Then, "women-only space" (Or more like wimmen-only or wymen-only) made a certain amount of sense to me. Some of us truly believed it was necessary. I thought everyone had learned more about gender and moved on. Guess not.

#69 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 11:48 PM:

In the community I lived a few years ago, there was a controversy where the local rape relief org turfed a transgender woman, who was in training as a volunteer counsellor. I thought at the time that the org was wrong, and also very foolish: don't transgender people get raped? And isn't it kind of a plus in a predominantly LGBT community for everyone in that alphabet to be actively working for the good of all?

There's some value for members of an oppressed group to self-define, to develop and articulate their shared identity. If in doing so, though, you find that you are actively contributing to others' oppression, that's not actually a signal to double down and look for even more people you can say aren't welcome in the treehouse. Much better to use everyone's energy to make the treehouse bigger, and better, with maybe a wraparound porch and comfy chairs.

#70 ::: Rose Fox ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 11:49 PM:

Jillian at #66: Congratulations on finding the path that's right for you! I hope your transition proceeds smoothly.

I differ from you on one point: I feel that being trans* can be a choice for some people. I revel in my trans*ness and choose to deliberately explore and expand my sense of my own sex/gender. If I had the choice to be trans* or cis, I'd MUCH rather be trans*. I feel the same way about being queer. Obviously many people feel these characteristics are innate for them, and I'm not at all trying to argue with that--just saying that experiences differ.

Often the "it's a choice" rhetoric comes from people trying to deny queer and trans* people rights and protections, so I completely understand wanting to fight back against that. For those of us for whom it is a choice, it should be a valid and protected choice, just like choice of religion, political affiliation, place of residence, and mode of dress.

#71 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2013, 11:52 PM:

I think I just don't get the whole OMG bathroom deal. I'm a ciswoman who uses public bathrooms without ever worrying that there might be a MTF trans woman in there with me. Actually, I'd be willing to bet a million dollars I haven't got that, at some point in the past, I already have done and never knew it.

#72 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:02 AM:

staranise @58:
Alex R's "Scary Looking Biker Dude" scenario is based on a supposition a lot of radical feminists have that I just can't agree with. It is: that women are never dangerous or threatening. There's this supposition that you have women's spaces, which are safe; and then men enter, bringing the threat of violence, rape, and assault.

It doesn't work that way.

Thank you for stating this, because it's incredibly important.

I was once at a conference where there was scheduled, in between various other bits of programming, a support circle for people who were survivors of rape and sexual abuse. I was qualified to attend, but I was nervous for various reasons of personal history. When the room filled up and it was time to start, in the group were a bunch of women and one man, and me -- and you may, for the purposes of this story, figure that I was in the "woman" category there. The other members of that category were aghast when I would not join them in throwing out the man.

All of the arguments about fear and safety that you might expect were brought out.

The man was qualified to be in the group. I won't break his confidentiality by saying how exactly, but trust me, he was entirely qualified to be in that group.

When it came around to me to speak, I told them that since the personal history that qualified me to be in the group was primarily at the hands of women, I was often nervous in all-women's groups. I looked at the man across the circle and said, "You being here makes me feel safer, actually." When the rest of the group threw him out, I went out too.

Some of the women from that group followed me later to tell me how horrible I was for implying that they might be rapists, and how my having any fear or nervousness around women because of my history was so completely unfeminist and not OK, and that I was terrible for feeling that way, and actively harming the sisterhood.

I doubt they'd take the revelation of my intricate not-exactly-fitting-the-gender-binary self much better.

So thank you for saying that, staranise. A lot.

RoseFox, thank you for "trans*" and the glossary.

Patrick, thank you for leaving the * in trans*.

#73 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:02 AM:

I do not now and have never gotten the big deal about women's bathrooms. That's what stalls are for, and lurking outside peering through the crack between door and wall is creepy no matter what you've got in your pants.

I'm pretty sure that this is where I again wish that English had a native singular third person epicene pronoun. Before someone pipes up and tells me that it does and it's "they", allow me to point out that I don't approve of using "you" rather than "thee" either.

#74 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:10 AM:

When I was writing my reply to Alex R. there was some word I wanted to use, but just couldn't bring to the front of my mind.

In the middle of an unrelated household activity an hour or two later, I froze and exclaimed, "Concern trolling!"

There is so much concern trolling around this topic.

"Hm, this group experiences violence and disenfranchisement at astronomical rates. What should we discuss when this topic comes up? Maybe the spectre of somebody I dislike using my bathroom is what's really important here."

#75 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:14 AM:

Heresiach @48:
There's also an interesting class positioning happening in this letter: note how the authors claim the mantle of "1960s radical feminism," juxtaposing their own "grassroots women's liberation analysis" against "heavily influenced by post-modernism" Gender Studies. It's very activist versus academic, working class versus elite language. It's very reminiscent of this: same "real working class woman" versus the "academic transgenders" vibe, but with the anger better concealed.

VERY good point. And as a third generation factory worker, I resent the hell out of their pretending that all working class people are anti-trans* -- and pretending that there are no trans* working class people. Talk about erasure. Sheesh. Grrr.

#76 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:20 AM:

elise@72: Wow, what a story. Just how is actively policing whose rape "counts" or not creating a safe space? Not that I believe in safe spaces as a thing; but if someone says they want to make one, I don't see how interrogating the survivor of a sexual assault about their rape with a decidedly judgmental air contributes to that goal. Instead I've got to wonder who else in that room was thinking, "Jeez, how long before I 'betray the sisterhood' and get kicked out too?"

#77 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:29 AM:

Carrie @73

I don't get the deal about bathrooms either, but it occurs to me that I've almost always heard the "but what about the bathrooms" thing from men. And I've been in approximately no men's bathrooms. (There was that one time in grade school when I accidentally went into the wrong one, realized it, and left when I saw all the funny "sinks".)

So I have a sincere question: do men's restrooms not have stalls? I know that urinals cannot meet all elimination needs, after all, but if men are expected to defecate in public, that might explain it somewhat.

For you men: Exactly once in my life I was in a womans' restroom that didn't have doors on the stalls. Nobody looked. (And I made sure I never had to use that restroom again.)

#78 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:44 AM:

Men's restrooms do indeed have stalls. Probably somewhat fewer than women's do, because men can use urinals where women can't, but they're definitely present.

#79 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:47 AM:

When it was "trans women grew up men, and therefore have the conditioning of men, and therefore don't fit in womyn's spaces," I kind of got that, even if it didn't feel quite right to me.

I really don't understand the idea that the current explorations of gender going on are "reinforcing the culture and institutions of gender that are oppressing women."

Maybe, possibly, the mostly-former rules surrounding gender confirmation surgery, the ones that caused people to have to 'live as a man' (or woman), by the therapist's definitions of woman/manhood, could be argued to be doing that... but that was the establishment itself. 40 years ago.

I'm not sure asking for someone who does grasp it to explain would be a good idea, so I'll just sit here radiating bafflement. (And sadness, because I respect Piercy and Atkinson.)

#80 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:52 AM:

I signed the petition. Thanks, Patrick.

Reading the posted material was eye-opening. I've been out of academia for decades, so I was unfamiliar with the term TERF. No longer. Feh.

#81 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:54 AM:

The anti-trans* furor over having the Right People in the Appropriate Restrooms reminds me - as others have mentioned in this thread - that it's not that cisgender people but cisgender people who "correctly" perform and conform to mainstream gender expectations who are privileged in our society.

I recall hearing the entire restroom of little girls scream when I walked in. Despite being cisgender, I was a pre-teen, prepubescently lacking in secondary characteristics, such that my choice of wearing jeans rather than skirts combined with my chemo-bald head made me ping as "male" on everyone's radar - not just all the other kids but also all the camp counselors, who'd assigned me a space in the boy's sleeping area before the mix-up was cleared up.

Not too long ago, on a train, a woman with impaired vision addressed me as "sir". I gently corrected her--"It isn't a big deal to me at all, but, just so you know, I'm a woman"--mainly on the Golden Rule principle: I dislike it when others allow me to continue in a mistaken impression. But she made such a big deal out of how sorry she was and how it was only because she couldn't see my hair, honest (because only men have short hair and only women have long hair, right?)... that I really, really wished by the end of it that I'd just let her continue mistakenly calling me "sir".

And one of my current friends is a very much cisgender man who nevertheless gets mispronouned by just about every new acquaintance. His facial characteristics, for reasons difficult to define, ping a lot of people as "female." He mostly finds it funny.

So, yeah, the political statement "Use your appropriate restroom!" (and it IS political - every time we are faced with the choice of two restrooms, we are asked--no, demanded--to publicly declare our gender) ... doesn't just hit trans* people, but also the rest of us if we aren't playing strictly within the gender-policing norms society sets out for us: dress, body language, grooming, hair style, make-up choices...

...speaking as a short, small-breasted woman with long hair who plays a contact team sport and refuses to wear make-up or shave her body hair.

#82 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:57 AM:

(Continuing in a second post, because Moveable Type kept hurking at me when I tried to do it all in one long tl;dr)

Speaking of contact team sports: I am very pleased with women's flat track roller derby in Colorado for being so accepting of trans women. Here is the international organization's gender policy. It is not perfect; many leagues side-eye the whole "provided that, upon request, the athlete can produce a signed original statement, on office letterhead, from the athlete’s attending healthcare provider" thing, and opt for a league policy that's more inclusive/less intrusive. For example, our league's handbook specifically states that we 1. accept and support the WFTDA policy for purposes of inclusion, but 2. will not require such gender identification disclosure unless the skater is on our WFTDA roster (i.e. the skaters in our league eligible to skate in WFTDA-sanctioned bouts) and thus becomes subject to WFTDA's requirement.

And but so anyway, I have met and skated with a goodly number of trans women in the Colorado roller derby community, and it makes me very happy that our sport, or our local corner of it, seems on the whole accepting and inclusive and supportive of letting the woman in question define her gender for herself. It generally goes as an entirely unremarked fact, expect when there's something remarkable about it - i.e. "I'm proud to be the first trans woman on this league," or "She's recently transitioned, so expect her to hit more like the guys we've skated with: hard, from the shoulder, with dude-like muscle mass, etc."

#83 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 01:11 AM:

Last one from me for now - sorry for multiply posting.

In a life that comprises about as much mistake-making as most lives, I know I've mispronouned at least one Making Light regular; from this I speculate I've unknowingly mispronouned more than one in more than one instance.

For this, my apologies.

Rose Fox: Thank you for the advice on how to ask after someone's correct pronoun tactfully and without othering.

#84 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 01:22 AM:

Alex R @ 34: Does this mean I'm likely to be chucked out of wimmen/wymen/womyn-only (women--born-women-only) spaces if I show up having not shaved (thus acting in feminist defiance of the overarching patriarchal beauty norm which states women may not have visible facial hair) or not wearing a bra (my tits sag down to close to my waist if I don't - no bra and a heavy jumper, and aside from my relatively narrow shoulders, I'd have a decent chance of passing as a bloke)?

I'll make my point in the above paragraph a bit clearer, since I realise it's a tad obscure: the main things which physically identify me as female are things which in a large degree depend on my compliance with a patriarchal standard of "beauty". This patriarchal standard identifies women as the ones who can't grow beards, and women as the ones who have prominent breasts (the appearance of which is enhanced by the wearing of special undergarments). If I don't shave on a regular basis, I can grow a better neck beard than some of the younger guys in my computer science classes, due to various hormonal mishaps over the years (plus the neat combination of dark hair tone and pale skin tone). Due to the effects of gravity over the past thirty years, my breasts now have a downward tendency - they weigh about 1kg each, so they droop. Give me another decade, and without a bra I'll probably be able to tuck them into my waistband. If I want my tits to point forward as per patriarchal beauty standard requirements, I need a good supportive bra.

I tend to wear jeans or trousers, rather than skirts (call me weird, I like having clothes with pockets). I can fit into small sized men's boots, and I'll tend to buy those if I can - men's shoes tend to be built for people with five toes and broader feet than the average women's shoe. I generally don't wear makeup, to the point where I currently don't own any. I'm not sure, but I suspect my presentation comes across as rather butch most days, mainly because I dress for personal comfort (which, oddly enough, is actually more of a measure of my rejection of the sizeist elements of the beauty myth than anything else) rather than for compliance with traditional gender role performance norms.

I should point out: as far as I'm aware, my karotype is most likely XX. I wouldn't know for sure; I haven't seen any need to have it checked. Most people who meet me tend to accept me as female. I menstruate on a monthly basis, I appear to have all the relevant reproductive bits in the right spots (or at least, no remarks have been passed by GPs when I get my pap smears done) and quite frankly, that is more information about my personal life than the majority of people need.

I can get away with my "butch"-ish presentation because I'm a cis woman, who has never been questioned regarding her entitlement to the label of "woman". A trans woman is generally required to hew closer to the gender norms as one of the requirements of transition (from what I understand - this may have altered over the years; I certainly hope so).

I have never been happy with the radical "feminist" fringe who appear to basically subscribe to a view of the patriarchy which completely ignores any progress made since its utmost height in the Victorian era, and who appear to believe the fundamental assumptions of Victorian-era patriarchy (that women are forever lesser; mentally and physically feeble; unable to cope with the public sphere; are biologically better suited to the domestic sphere; and will always need special assistance in order to be able to even exist in the wider world) are, at base, correct. I find their trans-phobia to be both repulsive and insulting (repulsive, because they're effectively being just as gender-essentialist as the most hidebound masculine-chauvinist; insulting, because they apparently believe I'm going to agree with them based purely on the detail that I sit to pee) and I don't wish to be associated with them. Every movement has at least one group which makes people within it want to say "stop being on my side; you're making my side look stupid": well, I think the radical trans-phobes are this group within the feminist movement. Admittedly, I'm just one voice in a wide movement; I don't expect everyone to agree with me.

So I try to stick with treating everyone as I would prefer to be treated myself, and regarding an individual's gender identity as effectively "none of my business".

#85 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 01:33 AM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @ 53

I am reasonable. I can claim this because I've followed every link in your post, plus the links those links take me to, and I've read everything. What I've discovered is very simple:

There is a minority of radical feminists who behave badly towards trans people. We know this from your top post.

There is a minority of trans people who behave badly toward a radical feminists. We don't know this from reading your top post. I had to follow secondary links and do some critical reading to make sure that the Radfem and DGR claims of being treated badly had at least some substance.

There is a third group of people who appear to be sane and decent. They've started a petition. We know this from your top post.

The first two groups appear to be incredibly obnoxious. They berate each other, threaten each other, make nasty claims about each other, use questionable intellectual tactics to fuel those claims, etc. In short, these appear to be very small groups which are composed of flaming assholes. As individuals and as groups both sides lack the empathy and intelligence to see that their opponents suffer from a set of problems which is similar to theirs and that they have the same real enemies. (That is, patriarchy rather than each other.)

Your petition comes from the third group of people which includes both trans and feminist folk. They appear to be sane and decent. This group of people have hit upon the idea (which would be obvious were it not for the rabid jerks at the far edges of the debate) that everyone involved can present a united front against patriarchy. I approve of their position wholeheartedly, but I don't think their petition will have much effect on the assholes on both sides.

So how do you fight the assholes on both sides? How do you keep them from starting fights that draw in people who would otherwise take a reasonable view of the necessary alliance between women and trans-folk. Hmmm... You might start by...

Dear God! Has it come to this? One might start by being reasonable and arguing that some kind of detente needs to be reached. That the concerns of both parties might need to be addressed. That maybe an imperfect but undivided feminism/trans activism is better than some ideological paradise that leaves out the edge cases (and all of us are edge cases in some sense, as the longer CounterPunch article makes abundantly clear.)

But what do I know? I'm just a guy who did the reading.

#86 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 01:57 AM:

elise, #72: Some of the women from that group followed me later to tell me how horrible I was for implying that they might be rapists, and how my having any fear or nervousness around women because of my history was so completely unfeminist and not OK, and that I was terrible for feeling that way

The irony, it burnssss! Had none of them ever gotten exactly that patronizing lecture from some rape apologist about their ongoing discomfort with men?

Carrie, #73: I have, on occasion, needed to check for an empty stall when all the doors were closed by default. I have Issues about pushing on a door to see if it's locked, because of the number of times I've been walked in on in a bathroom where the stall (all of these were one-holers) (except for the restroom in an elementary school where NONE of the stalls could be locked) didn't lock. But also yes, peering thru the crack is creepy. So my preferred mode of checking is to look under the door for feet.

Nicole, #81: And then there are people like my partner. Some of you who have seen us at cons, or seen my con pictures, know that he sometimes dresses either androgynously (and has the build to make it work) or out-and-out in drag. He is not trans* in the sense of feeling that he's in the wrong body or wanting to change his physical gender assignment -- but he does like the way he looks in a more feminine style of clothing.

Boy, does this cause Bathroom Issues. There have been times when I've scouted the ladies' room to make sure no one else was in it, and then stood guard while he was in there -- because that was less problematical than for him to try to use the men's room while dressed like that.

I wonder if some of the people who get obsessed about people being in the Right Bathroom secretly think that all trans* people are like my partner.

#87 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:04 AM:

... and I also thank you, Rose Fox, for the list and careful explanation of preferred usage. I'll have to work on remembering "trans*". (It's a wildcard - what's not to like?)

#88 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:11 AM:

There is even less reason now to believe in a rigid concept of gender than ever. Some of us may be both XX and XY.

#89 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:34 AM:

Rose Fox @57:

Thank you for the reference.

I apologize to anyone whom I offended or hurt by using the incorrect terms.

#90 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:37 AM:

It's less that we don't agree that getting people to actually talk to each other would be nice, Alex, it's just that... Well... This sort of discourse has been going on since the late 60s, you know? It's like rushing up to the Hatfields and the McCoys and saying, "I know! If you just had a beer together, we could solve all this!"

#91 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:57 AM:

Is there a difference between someone objecting to the presence of a trans* person in a bathroom because of the possibility that they might cause others to be afraid, and someone defending discrimination or violence against queers because they might cause those people to be afraid (the "gay fear" defense)? If so, what is that difference? I don't see it.

I've arrived at three principles I try to apply in all my dealings with other people:

1. Everyone has the right to do whatever they want with their own bodies, and with whomever wants to do it with them*.

2. Everyone has the right to ask others to treat them as they represent themselves**.

3. Any person's actions that fall under 1. and 2. are their own business, and none of mine unless they inform me otherwise.

Every time I hear of an argument that advocates breaking one of those principles, it's in order to deny the benefits to someone else; no one advocates taking what they want to do from themselves. And I don't know of any good justification for denying these principles to some people and not others.

I don't have any right to speak for trans* people: I'm cis, male, and straight. I do have a right, and, I think, a duty to speak with them, as a friend and ally, and a duty to speak against others who would deny them those three principles.

* Subject to the ability of all parties involved to consent, of course. ***

** As long as that representation does not harm others. ***

*** Of course the details contain devils, but that's a fundamental problem with applying all ethical principles.

#92 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 03:03 AM:

In principle 2. in my previous comment I should have said "expect others to treat them" instead of "ask".

#93 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 03:32 AM:

Alex R @85:

Your comment conflates two things that don't even corrolate: the rightness of a cause and the number of assholes adhering to it.

Yes, there are assholes on both sides of the fence. (any fence. Ask me about adhesives discussions on bookbinding listservs sometime.) But if there weren't, would that mean that the balance between competing interests would be different? Would the side with the assholes be more or less deserving of concessions?

Corollary to this, the pursuit of justice is not, in point of fact, about balancing the interests of the assholes in the hopes that they shut up. Indeed, the fact that being an asshole gets concessions is a great incentive to be one. So a subset of them will never shut up, not even if you gave them everything they wanted. And casting compromise as a way to stop the assholes is a great way to tell the considerate, politic and empathic majority that consideration and empathy are not useful tools in the community toolset, but liabilities that should be ditched.

The plain fact of the matter is that even people not generally involved in trans* activism (like me) have noticed an increase in TERF traffic in the media, both in the wider world and in communities such as fandom. I haven't seen the flipside in my datastreams. So in the community I'm in, one set of assholes is a problem right now. They're trying to influence the discourse (and set norms) in a way that the other group is not. I think it's perfectly fair to call that out without having to list all of the other forms of asshollery I'm also against.

In many ways, the statistical balance of incidents reminds me of the current issues around voter ID and vote fraud. One group cites very rare things (vote fraud, men pretending to be trans* for ulterior motives); the other cites much commoner problems (being turned away from the ballot box, being turned away from needed services). Finding a balance between those two is not best done by comparing asshole volume or volumes.

(Also, one thing a petition like this does is start conversations, where interesting and mind-changing things can be said. Another thing it does is tell trans* people that they are not without friends and supporters. It's a tough row to hoe, and knowing that some of the people on the street and in the ladies room are thinking, "Welcome" or "Nice dress" rather than "Freak!" may help.)

#94 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 04:29 AM:

John @20: Local (UK) convention is that you use the changing room appropriate for the parent, so father with young daughter uses male changing room and mother with young son uses female room; if the child is old enough to be bothered by this, they are generally old enough to change by themselves.

There are exceptions - a female relative of mine recently took a male relative swimming. He is physically 16, but has learning difficulties and autism. He is able to undress and dress himself, but wasn't prepared to do so in the open plan changing (he wasn't used to open plan changing rooms - he's American, which might be relevant to that bit). When she explained the situation to an attendant, they opened up a private changing area.

Which relates to @18 - not all changing rooms have individual booths with curtains. Is "when a woman is in the woman's changing room, she shouldn't have to expect to see naked penises" a reasonable expectation? In an ideal world, no-one would care, segregated changing rooms would be pointless, and intersex and hermaphrodite people wouldn't have to worry about which binary division to be forced into any more than transitioning people. But this isn't that world.

#95 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 04:57 AM:

Alan @94:

not all changing rooms have individual booths with curtains

Back in high school, when we had to change for gym, a couple of the more body-conscious women would go into a toilet stall to change clothes.

Given the thoroughly unpleasant ways that gender policing manifests, it's a safe bet that trans* people will be trying to hide their non-conformity rather than flashing it all over the changing room. I suspect the vast majority, confronted with an open-plan changing room, would pop to the loo and come back changed.

It's not, as you say, an ideal solution—it won't work in shops, for instance—but it's the kind of near-universally available real-world workaround that makes the "changing room" problem much smaller than it's often made out to be.

#96 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 05:27 AM:

abi @ 95: in my experience, shops in the UK generally have curtained booths in fitting rooms. (I've heard of the existence of open-plan ones, but never actually had to use one.)

This seems to be an opportune moment to praise Marks & Spencer, or at any rate my local one. I am equipped with a body which is basically Gender A, but because I have both an androgynous build and androgynous preferences, I wear a lot of Gender B clothes. M&S are totally cool with this. If I want to try on a Gender B type item, they just pack me off to the Gender A fitting room with it without batting an eyelid, and nobody is going to notice if I'm wearing somewhat non-Gender-A-ish underclothing, because there's a curtain.

Other shops, please take note!

#97 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 06:13 AM:

Carol Kimball @ #39: We need to be careful about classifying "Joe". Presenting with a traditionally-male name doesn't mean "he" is.

That hadn't occurred to me, because I recognise Joe Clark's name (and, since it's not an uncommon name, also I recognise the web page he linked to his name). He's been active on the web for years, and his pronouns are a matter of public record.

It's a good general principle to be mindful of, though, and I thank you for the reminder.

#98 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 06:26 AM:

abi @ 93... Ask me about adhesives discussions on bookbinding listservs

So, abi, what about adhesives discussions on bookbinding listservs?

#99 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 07:12 AM:

Alan Braggins @ 20: Different kids grow at different rates.

I should say I wasn't making a complaint (except at having gotten the stink-eye), but was expressing my agreement that *men don't spend a lot of time in women's restrooms and that the restroom thing is a red herring.

To all: I spent a lot of my formative political years around radical feminist and lesbian separatist women*. I found them easy to be around and to work with**. I saw exactly why they needed the separate space they went to some effort to build*** and saw good things**** happen in the larger community as a result of it. Having spent a fair amount of time, political and social, with queer people of all sorts, I've got strong sympathies all around.

That's not something I want to argue about. My experience is what it is.

I'm not going to pile on when trans* folk are being killed, either. But it's trans* women getting killed, so far as I can tell. That's a slight twist to an old story: *women get killed.

Which kind of brings us back to radical feminism*****.

*Mostly wimmin and some womyn, actually. In my area, both spellings were used and I never saw a pattern in how.

**There was one minor exception, which I found funny even at the time, and I was kind of asking for it. There were times I could tell I was getting a brush-off, but it's not all about me, and so what. On the other hand, being one of the three men cast in the first play where the feminist theater group cast men to play men was one of the best, and most transformative, experiences of my life. So there's that.

***One of the benefits of privilege is you get to hear what other privileged people say in private.

****And I have one horror story, too. I try not to think about it too often. It makes me sad.

*****Oh John Ringo Yes No Maybe?

#100 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 07:21 AM:

Two observations ...

1. I can't help thinking that Altemeyer's work on the psychology of authoritarian followers is relevant here. (Wellspring here.)

Shorter version: some people are socialized in such a way that they can't cope with ambiguities -- they need rules to organize their lives. They tend to be fearful and compliant; compliance with the rules reinforces their sense of self. Transgressing these unwritten rules is disorienting and unpleasant to the authoritarian personality because it invalidates their sense of self. A strong gender binary dichotomy is one of their bedrock rules because it determines the "correct" social behavior towards other people. Violating the gender binary not only forces them to operate in the absence of rules: to the authoritarian mind-set it implicitly requires them to question their own gender identity. (And being coerced into questioning one's own gender identity by external force is something that I think pretty much everyone finds unpleasant.)

It seems to me that the gender-essentialism of the trans-exclusive radical feminists is a very good fit for this sort of authoritarian outlook because it's rules-driven (all men want to oppress women, all women are good, to escape male oppression women must form their own society and enforce boundaries to exclude male oppression) and gender-essentialist. (Other strains of feminist thought -- notably intersectionality, queer theory, etc -- can cope with complexity, but old-school radical feminism, not so much.) And one of the common characteristics of Altemeyer-described authoritarian personalities is aggression directed towards the Other.

((Long term solution: normalization of trans* gender options in society will give the authoritarian personality types a new set of rules to follow, familiarity with actual real trans* people will reduce their fear-driven aggression, and they can be happy again. We're gradually seeing this happen with the normalization of homosexuality as a respectable social option. The authoritarians are slow to adapt, but they'll follow the new rules once those rules are established. Hence the vital importance of gay marriage: marriage is one of the "normal" social signals that define roles and make it easy for authoritarians to figure out what to do.))

Observation 2:

The gender policing of bathrooms -- I suspect it goes back to the pre-Stonewall, pre-gay liberation era. On the one hand you've got womens' fear of male sexual predators invading secluded spaces (fear of being raped in a cubicle). On the other hand, you've got homophobic authoritarian male fears of what "they" get up to in toilets -- public urinals having traditionally been a common venue for casual homosexual male encounters because they offered a combination of anonymity, genital exposure, and speed. So the experience of going to the public toilet is fraught with low-level fear on both sides of the orthodox gender divide, and again, those authoritarian thinkers think the problem can be solved if we'd all just Follow Their Rules.

#101 ::: Charlie Stross has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 07:22 AM:

Would the gnomes care for a cheese scone, or a piece of caramel-infested commercial-grade chocolate? I'm all out of peanut M&M's.

#102 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 07:40 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @99:
But it's trans* women getting killed, so far as I can tell. That's a slight twist to an old story: *women get killed.

It is and it isn't and it is again.

There's clearly some part of it that's "here are women we can do All The Bad Things to, and law and society will turn a blind eye." See also, sex workers (and there is a non-trivial overlap between the two groups, for many complex reasons, most of them wretched in one way or another)

BUT it's also clear that many of the perpetrators of such violence do not regard trans women as women, not really. The trope of "I thought she was a woman, but she's got a penis" as an excuse for violence is old but still going strong.

HOWEVER, there's also the point that maltreatment of people perceived as men but not "real" men—extreme gender policing, if you will—is part of the same structure that also brings us violence against women.

In any case, having a population of people that can be abused like women traditionally have been, but don't have the same protections that we have so painfully built up for cis women, strikes me as a failure of feminism. Or, perhaps, work yet to do.

#103 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 08:02 AM:

abi @ 101: In any case, having a population of people that can be abused like women traditionally have been, but don't have the same protections that we have so painfully built up for cis women, strikes me as a failure of feminism.. Or, perhaps, work yet to do.

It's a failure. Whether it's a failure of feminism isn't clear to me. I'm sure I wouldn't call it the fault of feminism (not that you did). Work left to do? That sounds right. I'm not sure exactly what the work or who's responsible for doing it it is but I'm sure it's there.

I think we're in the post-postmodern era, where the limits of the postmodern critique--an amazingly powerful critique--are being tested on and by peoples' bodies. I'm not sure how it's going to end up, but I'm hopeful, mostly.

*Yes, we're all responsible. Aside from that.

#104 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 08:20 AM:

AlexR, #85: Abi's #93 pretty much sums up any response I might write, and adds several further points I wouldn't have thought of but completely agree with. So I refer you to what she said.

#105 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 08:52 AM:

One of the things I notice more and more, as I age, is how much Serious Discourse turns out to be about rejecting things you can experience in favor of ones you can't.

I don't have X-ray vision, and therefore can't directly experience anyone else's genome. (Even without the fascinating news about chimerism.) Nor do I have the power to go around compelling everyone to get a genetic profile and make it available to me. Nor do I ever see most of the people around me undressed enough to make their genitalia clearly identifiable. All this stuff is irrelevant to the overwhelming majority of my real-life encounters with people.

What I see of others, what they see of me, is our presentation: how we dress, how we groom, how we present ourselves, how we talk, and all that stuff. And this stuff is real. Our actual lived identities are built up out of what we can choose to do, along with what life hands us to deal with as best we may. We are, all of us, making an ongoing effort at presenting ourselves to the world. Some of us have more luck and advantages than others, but it's all the same enterprise.

#106 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 08:59 AM:

One brief addendum to the above. I wrote "Nor do I ever see most of the people around me undressed enough to make their genitalia clear." Anyone's confident that they're reading a lot of people's genital arrangements via tight clothes and such should probably think again. There are lots of ways to secure and draw attention away from things that are there but perhaps unwanted, and there are lots of ways to suggest things that aren't there but desired, for whatever reason. It's very smart not to feel a great deal of confidence in your guesses, because you don't know by looking who has the motivation to try controlling genital impressions, and who's succeeding at it.

#107 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 09:16 AM:

Nicole @81-83: I was also a very androgynous teen, and during that time I had kids reacting when I entered the girls' locker room. There was also the bully who thought I was a girlish boy and harassed me intermittently for years.

I often code as "male", particularly for non-female, non-American people; I'm tall, and have the "wrong" (or "right") body language -- hair length has not made any difference at all. I was called "sir" with long hair, and I'm still called "sir" with short hair, but being menopausal has softened something, because more often I am not a "sir".

When I was younger, it irritated me. Now, I don't care whether I am a "ma'am" or a "sir" -- and some of this is privilege, which I fully understand; the rest is based on accepting respect no matter how it's coded.

I've stopped trying to figure out whether people are male or female, in those cases when it's not immediately apparent, and remind myself that they're humans. My son has several friends who are clearly genderqueer; he's comfortable with them, and that makes me very happy to see.

#108 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 09:19 AM:

Staranise #58: *Applause*

#109 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 09:39 AM:

Bruce Baugh, #105: Didn't you once observe that the internet is phenomenological--i.e., if you pretend to be an asshole often enough, you are one? Your point here seems structurally related to that. Not that it's not a good point.

#110 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 10:17 AM:

Bruce @105, may I steal your remarks (with or without attribution as you prefer) for use on another online forum? There's an ongoing generally well-meaning but cis-privileged and rather clueless discussion going on about some California legislation, and I think your post might make a decent clue-bat.

#111 ::: Cassy B. has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 10:18 AM:

I'm at work. I have... um... I think there are some stale bagels in the break-room...

#112 ::: makomk ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 10:31 AM:

abi @102: perpetrators of violence against trans women certainly claim not to regard them as women in order to justify that violence, but it's not clear that we should believe them. There's evidence that at least some of them were lying through their teeth...

#113 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 10:45 AM:

Something in the news that seems relevant (in a way that has me mildly seesawing between "Um, kinda cool, I guess," and "Ohshit I hope they don't screw it up plz plz plz"), the CW is going to air a teen drama whose protagonist is a FAAB trans man who comes out and transitions on screen. Amidst a teen drama. And whose family is (for non-gender-related reasons) self-destructing. The creators of the show intend to depict the main character as basically the sanest, most even-keeled member of his family even while Stuff Society Things Is Weird is going on with him.

This could be really good, though the demographic that mostly watches CW teen dramas (teens and early-twenties Millenials in the bulk) are already generally speaking Tumblr-aware and more in touch with sensitivity on gender issues than, well, squares and adults, if I can put it that way.

#114 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 10:49 AM:

Also, Chicago now has what may be the wealthiest out transsexual in the world -- Colonel (ret.) Jennifer Natalya Pritzker, one of the Pritzker heirs (to Braniff Air, Hyatt Hotels, etc), and founder of the Pritzker Military Library. Amusingly, on the day of the annnouncement I went to Wikipedia, and she was not considered significant enough to have her own entry (she was listed in the 'Pritzker heirs' list and mentioned on the page for the library), but was corrected to proper pronouns and name; within a week she had her own personal page. :->

#115 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 10:55 AM:

93/98
It's like the holy wars over text editors?

#116 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 11:03 AM:

110
Is that the one about kids being allowed to use the euphemism for the gender they prefer being identified as? (There seem to be a lot of people who don't think kids have gender identity. And a lot who think that physical equipment defines gender forever and ever, amen, everything else notwithstanding.)

#117 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 11:23 AM:

staranise @58:
And a woman who is convinced that she is always powerless is a woman who is never vigilant to when she is misusing her power, so she has never learned to take responsibility when she abuses it.

This. So very this. So very very VERY this, and it applies to all sorts of people, really.

Charlie @100:
Altemeyer's work on the psychology of authoritarian followers looks quite pertinent indeed.

#118 ::: elise has been briefly gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 11:26 AM:

While the gnomes have the comment, I commend to them the work Charlie linked to, in case anyone ever tries to lure them over to one of the authoritarian camps. Also, here's some toasted nori with sea salt.

#119 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 11:56 AM:

PJ Evans @116, my mistake; it wasn't specifically a California law (at least initially; I think that was brought in later), but rather this AP story that sparked the conversation.

PORTLAND — A Portland bar owner has been ordered to pay about $400,000 to a group of transgendered people he banned from his establishment last year.

I should mention that it didn't take more than a post or two before a (presumably) cis male posted about the horrors (horrors!) of trans* people using the ladies' room...

#120 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:05 PM:

Elise #72: Fukkit. The hostility directed at a male victim of rape because his maleness, outnumbered as it was, made a group of women feel unsafe is insane. The hostility directed at you because you were the victim of female predation, and you dared to, as they say, tell the truth and shame the devil is also fucking nuts. You did the decent thing. The people who condemned you for letting down the side, on the other hand, picked the wrong side.

It makes no moral sense to say that men as an abstraction are guilty of unspeakable crimes against women, when actually it is particular men and particular women who are. And equally, it is particular men and particular women who are victims of that crime or class of crimes.

Decency is becoming too rare in the world, I am so very glad that you stood up for it.

#121 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:25 PM:

abi @ 93

Your comment conflates two things that don't even corrolate: the rightness of a cause and the number of assholes adhering to it.

Agreed. They do not correlate. Just to be clear, in this case my sympathies lie mainly with the trans people, as even an elementary feminist analysis should reveal that someone who identifies as a woman and is a victim of patriarchy should be an ally.


And casting compromise as a way to stop the assholes is a great way to tell the considerate, politic and empathic majority that consideration and empathy are not useful tools in the community toolset, but liabilities that should be ditched.

I think I'm being misunderstood here. I don't advocate compromise as a method of asshole-calming. I advocate compromise as a method of giving the people on each side who are still calm and sane a method for fixing their community. In this particular case, and after reading each side's literature, it would appear that both sides have at least some legitimate needs that are amenable to compromise.

If the assholes calm down that's nice - maybe some of them will learn something - if not they should be thrown off each side's respective bus.

Just for the record, let me say that some things should not be compromised upon. For example, it is appalling to deny trans people who've been raped access to community social services, as has been happening in some places. It is appalling to teach trans-phobia in a college classroom, particularly as a means of retaliating for a letter which expressed a critique of someone's book.

On the other hand, tearing up someone's display materials or making death threats is also appalling.


In many ways, the statistical balance of incidents reminds me of the current issues around voter ID and vote fraud. One group cites very rare things (vote fraud, men pretending to be trans* for ulterior motives); the other cites much commoner problems (being turned away from the ballot box, being turned away from needed services). Finding a balance between those two is not best done by comparing asshole volume or volumes.

I suspect that you have a point about relative volumes, though I wouldn't go as far as to compare it to voter-fraud claims. After reading the claims of the TERF-types it's obvious that some unpleasant things have happened to them, but I suspect that some of their claims are exaggerated. On the other hand, the abuse of trans people is probably under-reported.

The issue of "men pretending to be trans* for ulterior motives" would strike me as complety paranoid nonsense were it not for a very strange incident in which I was peripherally involved which points in that direction. I won't be discussing it on anyone's blog, but if you click on my name above and put in some minor effort should be obvious how to get ahold of me and I will be happy to discuss the issue over email.

#122 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:27 PM:

Patrick: I did.

Cassy B: I'd be delighted and pleased.

#123 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:33 PM:

P J Evans @ 115

It's like the holy wars over text editors?

I pine away for the days when people didn't vi with each other over this stuff.

#124 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:35 PM:

Cassy B, I hadn't heard about that one. But I am, somehow, not surprised that it happened. (Just disappointed. I expect better from someone who owns a bar.)

#125 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:54 PM:

Ginger @107: Your son and his friends have been an inspiration to me, and a source of my hope in future generations, since you first mentioned them. Keep up the good work, ALL of you!

#126 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little's been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 12:58 PM:

Presumably for clumsy use of the exclamation mark such that the comment sounded like those sorts of comments.

I haven't had breakfast yet, so the gnomes will just have to wait. Rrrr.

#127 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:00 PM:

@77 Cally Soukup

For you men: Exactly once in my life I was in a womans' restroom that didn't have doors on the stalls. Nobody looked. (And I made sure I never had to use that restroom again.)

In Jo Walton's Among Others, it's mentioned that the school restrooms have no doors on the stalls, a concept which so horrified me that I stopped reading and just stared at the page for a good couple of minutes before continuing on.

Is (or was) this a normal British school thing?

#128 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:01 PM:

Alex R.@123

Yes, it's disappointing to the emacs to have that level of dispute.

#129 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:09 PM:

Cheryl @ 127: It's not unheard of in the U.S., either.

#130 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:19 PM:

Not having encountered the term TERF before (at least not to have it stick), I went looking for a definition. The first one I found was in Queer Dictionary, and contains a truly impressive level of snark:

Acronym for Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminism. That group of feminists that claims that trans women aren’t really women, as biological determinism is only a fallacy when used against them, not when they use it against others.

However, given that I've also seen a fair number of men defending the concept -- and by and large, they tend not to be men I would think of as feminists -- we may need a more inclusive term for this variety of assholism.

On a slightly lighter note, I'd like to recommend Bobbi with an I by Phil Vassar. While it's not precisely about being trans* (and the official music video has a few issues), the fact that someone was able to have a hit with this as a country-western song almost made me drop my teeth!

#131 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:19 PM:

I went to a British school.

I don't recall anything as bad as Jo Walton described, but changing for sports was something that seriously attacked my sense of personal space.

#132 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:30 PM:

Lee @ #130: However, given that I've also seen a fair number of men defending the concept -- and by and large, they tend not to be men I would think of as feminists -- we may need a more inclusive term for this variety of assholism.

There are lots of people who hold various transphobic and/or gender-essentialist views - TERF refers to a specific group/philosophy/movement that tries to justify them on the basis of feminism. It's not intended to be a blanket moniker.

#133 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 02:45 PM:

Some of the recent foofooraw over letting a trans* girl use the girl's locker room for gym, etc, led the majority of responding commenters on The Toast to point out that in THEIR high school gyms, 90% of the people present were changing inside their clothes, hidden in a locker, etc -- no danglies or even undies on display AT ALL because everyone in the locker room was so against such a display in any circumstances. Half the members of any given high school gym class at MY school could have been secret lizards, much less trans*, and nobody would have noticed. This may be different in boys' locker rooms, especially the boys' locker rooms occupied by a majority of our Supreme Court Justices at the times and places that they attended high school, but here and now (at least, since the 80s) it is the overwhelmingly common case in girl's change rooms in high schools NOW.

I should note that taking a shower after gym was by far a minority participation issue, partly because nobody wanted to go in there and be naked in a mass shower room and partly because THERE WAS NO TIME. There was barely time to throw off your gym clothes, throw on your day's apparel, make sure your locker was locked, and dash up five flights of stairs (minimum).

Women's public bathrooms are a much more collegial space than men's, in that people engage strangers in conversation (outside the stalls, at the sinks, etc), and even when in a stall in one's dishabille, if one discovers one's toilet paper holder to be empty and there are feet adjacent, it is utterly commonplace to ask one's neighbor to pass you a wad of theirs.

The (cis) men I have described this custom to have goggled at me as if I said we engaged in naked can-can.

Men's rooms are much more of a set of roving I DO NOT SEE YOU fields. It helps that I haven't yet developed the skills or chutzpah to try to belly up to a urinal yet, I suppose; I just zip into a stall, do my stuff, come out, wash hands, leave.

#134 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 03:00 PM:

"Bathroom rules" have a long history of being used against women. In the 1950s, my mother was told she couldn't major in Civil Engineering, because CE majors had to attend summer surveying camp, and the camp "didn't have facilities for women".

In the early 1980s, I attended a college that had gone coed almost 2 decades earlier, with dorms that had been built in the all-male era. So almost all the dorm bathrooms had urinals, even though some had been re-labeled as women's restrooms. Because the student population was still about 80% male, allocating restrooms based on proportions of the population would cause women to have to travel to the far end of the building to find a suitable restroom. As a result, quite a few restrooms had a dial made from an old LP record nailed to the door, with quadrants marked as empty, male, female, and "both, knock first" (mostly a joke).

I've been seeing articles about the new California laws establishing gender-choice rights in schools, but I don't know the details. I suspect any problems with guys thinking "hey, let's say we're trans so we can go in the girl's locker room!" are easily addressed by limiting the number of times an individual can change their preference during the course of a school year. While I'm sure there are lots of obnoxious guys who'd get a kick out of exploiting a loophole to visit the girl's locker room, I doubt they'd want to get stuck there every day for the rest of the term.

Also, Elliott Mason, my experience of boy's gym classes were pretty similar to what you describe. At back-to-school nights for the past 3 years, my son's middle-school PE teachers openly laughed about the existence of shower facilities in their locker rooms, because they know there is no way they could ever convince the kids to use them.

#135 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 03:25 PM:

Elliott: Men's rooms are much more of a set of roving I DO NOT SEE YOU fields.

This is critically important to know when using men's facilities, in the US at least, and it goes double for locker rooms or other public changing rooms (at the beach, for example.) It almost never gets discussed because most men are socialized to the point they are not even conscious of it.

IMO that comes from a lifetime worth of tacit conditioning to the silent message: "Being seen staring at the wrong guy's genitals could get you beaten up or killed." Ostentatiously seeing nothing makes it clear you're staying on the right side of that; it's a critical safety rule to help you avoid being misread and beaten up or murdered during an activity you have to do every day. Almost no het men-raised-as-men would ever take a chance with that.

Some guys do have a more extroverted way of doing social interactions in the men's room which simultaneously makes it clear they are not checking anybody out; I never quite worked out how that marker works. I also don't know whether/how gay men find a way to make exceptions work for them; maybe somebody else can comment on that.

#136 ::: Clifton is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 03:28 PM:

... for comments about the significance of men's room etiquette.

I suppose I can reluctantly share this banana bread with the friendly gnomes.

#137 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 04:40 PM:

134
I suspect that all the potential problems with guys wanting to find out what's in girls' locker rooms belong to guys who are not in school any more (IOW: wanna-be voyeurs). Given that girls' locker rooms only get to skin if there's swimming involved, they'd be severely disappointed.

#138 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 05:14 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @103:
It's a failure. Whether it's a failure of feminism isn't clear to me. I'm sure I wouldn't call it the fault of feminism (not that you did). Work left to do? That sounds right. I'm not sure exactly what the work or who's responsible for doing it it is but I'm sure it's there.

It's certainly a failure of the feminism I signed up for. This may be a Wave Thing, but the thing I believe in that causes me to use the word "feminist" is pretty explicitly against what you yourself called *women getting killed, whether they're trans or cis. As I said in 102, however you slice the problem, you find yourself back at gendered violence. Which puts it on my plate, as a feminist.


Alex R @121:
Just for the record, let me say that some things should not be compromised upon.

The first and foremost of them, from what I can see, is the fundamental sticking point: are trans women women? Real women, sisters, welcome community members, equal inheritors of the fruits of feminism thus far? Are they welcome beside us in the struggle to build a better society?

I say yes. But there's a not inconsiderable proportion of quite vocal feminists who say no, or who make it clear through their words and actions that trans women are not "real" women in their eyes.

As with MRA's, the non-negotiable baseline is the right to be an equal partner in the conversation. Any "reasonable middle" that doesn't start with that is not reasonable, wherever it lies between the two extremes.

(I'm not saying you disagree. But the way you phrased things leaves a door open that should be closed, locked, and bricked up.)

Bruce Baugh @122:
It was a brilliant observation. It's formed the basis for a tremendous amount of my subsequent thinking about conversations, particularly online ones. Your comment @105 is another such: good, chewy, with depth. Thank you.

#139 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 05:38 PM:

Abi #138: The first and foremost of them, from what I can see, is the fundamental sticking point: are trans women women? Real women, sisters, welcome community members, equal inheritors of the fruits of feminism thus far? Are they welcome beside us in the struggle to build a better society?"

It's been a long time since I read The Female Eunuch, but as far as I can recall, Greer dealt with precisely these questions way back then. Her answer, as far as I can remember, and I welcome correction from anyone with a copy (or a better memory than mine) was yes.

#140 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 05:39 PM:

Cheryl @127, I believe the argument in favor of removing doors from rest-room cubicles is that some kids may cut class by hiding in a cubicle with their feet drawn up. Just part of the educational-penal system that exists in many places.

#141 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 05:57 PM:

Older @140: The argument at the park dept fieldhouses I used to frequent as a kid was that A Certain Segment would latch the door and do illicit things (some of which damaged the building; some of which damaged themselves). When we went to the toilet in groups from summer camp, tumbling class, etc, we would pair off with one partner standing spreadeagled in the door opening while the other peed, then switch off, being doors for each other.

#142 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 05:57 PM:

Abi, that means a tremendous deal to me. Thanks.

#143 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 06:18 PM:

@129 John A Arkansawyer & @140 Older

Jeez. I would have ended up with the worst gastrointestinal issues.

#144 ::: individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 06:19 PM:

Fragano @139: nah, Greer's a TERF. Not as loud lately as some of the principal attackers in the most recent round of this, but she's always written about trans women as men in disguise. And she has a really horrible history of trying to drive trans women out of their jobs on the grounds of their birth-assigned sex. Particularly academics at Cambridge women's colleges, but it's an ongoing pattern.

She also repeatedly refers to trans women as "pantomime dames" and "castrated men". I have a feeling she only started really addressing the subject in later books than The female eunuch, but she most certainly doesn't regard trans women as women, let alone as sisters or community members.

#145 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 06:29 PM:

I think of the women's restroom as a safe space because people have enforced `you can't go in there' against guys committing hands-on gropy assault in the hall. (Different events with different solitary guys.)

Now, (a) a trans woman needs that safety too (b) clearly we all deserve to be safe in the hall! (c) wouldn't have helped if I'd been assaulted by someone taken as a woman but (d) I can really easily imagine having been followed into -- cornered in -- the bathroom by whiny gropy guy who would defend himself with an endless bad-faith stink about his right to be anywhere because exploring his gender etc etc etc. (*Such* rules-lawyerers. Is that a authoritarian follower trait? )

So the, I donno, procedural liberal approach of redefining who can go into which bathrooms is necessary but not sufficient. As usual. Fixing (b) is bewilderingly slow.

#146 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 07:06 PM:

Individ-ewe-al #144: That is a huge disappointment.

#147 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 07:06 PM:

Individ-ewe-al #144: That is a huge disappointment.

#148 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 07:06 PM:

Nicole 81: Right. Fucking. On!

As someone who was repeatedly roughed up in junior high and high school for inadequately conforming gender presentation, hear hear. One of my tormentors, when asked by a teacher why he kept bothering me, shouted "cuz he's a WOMAN." He was incredulous that my failings weren't obvious and that his response wasn't considered appropriate. OF COURSE you have to rough up boys who aren't up to butch standards. Later I butched up—some. I'm still not the world's most masculine man, but I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man and so is Lola.

Um, that is, I'm as cis as they come and not at all shy about befriending trans* people.

I just realized that, much as people's hatred of Justin Bieber may be justified by his behavior,* most of the jokes I've heard are based on calling him a girl, saying he looks like a girl, etc. The misogyny of this is obvious, and so is the gender policing, and both offend my sense of right and justice. But the reason it makes my blood boil is that I suspect many of the people who hate him hate him just for that. And I remember how that felt.

Megpie71 84: Does this mean I'm likely to be chucked out of wimmen/wymen/womyn-only (women--born-women-only) spaces if I show up having not shaved (thus acting in feminist defiance of the overarching patriarchal beauty norm which states women may not have visible facial hair) or not wearing a bra (my tits sag down to close to my waist if I don't - no bra and a heavy jumper, and aside from my relatively narrow shoulders, I'd have a decent chance of passing as a bloke)?

Yes, absolutlely. TERFs enforce patriarchal gender norms, as you say later in this comment. I don't know how they can call themselves feminists, except by not really thinking that much. But it's certainly not for ME to say who is and is not a feminist.

They're also seriously agist. I have several AAB female friends who are entering menopause, and they're discovering that they're starting to grow facial hair. If people with facial hair are banned, lots of post-menopausal women will be excluded...unless they shave to conform with the TERF/Patriarchal image of what women are supposed to look like.

Yeah, TERF/Patriarchal. From where I'm sitting they sure look like they're on the same side.

Jeremy 132: [TERF is] not intended to be a blanket moniker.

For a blanket moniker, how about we call them GEARs (Gender-Essentialist Asshole Reactionaries)?

abi 138: Bruce Baugh @122: It was a brilliant observation.

Hear, hear. I had occasion some years ago to tell someone who said "I'm actually a really nice person" that no, he was NOT a nice person, regardless of how he behaved in meatspace, because he was cruel and malicious online. (He was really bad; he's the only non-famous person on my "rejoice when they die" list.) I quoted "if you act like an asshole, you are one" at him. It's not the only time I've had occasion to use that.

* And now that I think of it I wonder how much of his sexual acting-out may be a reaction to his being misgendered by so-called "comedians." Impossible to sort from the corruption of celebrity and whatever flaws of character he may have had going in, of course. But it's sad.

#149 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 08:10 PM:

I think it's worth noting that so far as I can tell, the people experiencing the most violence in public restrooms are trans people.

The bathroom issue is basically the ur-example of making another underprivileged group pay for what the patriarchy does. "We need this situation that makes trans people unsafe because men are aggressing in women in public." Using gendered bathrooms to keep people safe from sexual predators is the stopgap measure to end all stopgap measures.

I think that if we're speaking on the level of community or social policy, one should try to find different ways to deal with aggressive or predatory behaviour ahead of throwing trans people under the bus. It means change and a different allocation of resources, yes; but this comment thread is littered with examples of why the current system of facilities that we have now does not work. Bathrooms and change rooms are already threats to peoples' privacy and safety; preserving what of those we have relies heavily on voluntary adherence to unwritten and unenforceable social codes. The system is already broken. We've all just been stepping over the missing stair for so long we think it's normal.

#150 ::: john, who is incognito ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 09:05 PM:

My town passed an ordinance protecting gender expression a couple of years ago, and even some of the cops bought into the fearmongering about how it would mean that [cisgender] men could use the women's restrooms. I know because I called the cops to come trespass* a man who went into the women's restroom and exposed himself; when the cops arrived, one of them wanted to argue that the man couldn't be trespassed because of the ordinance. I can't remember if I printed it out for him--it's about a page and a half long and the policeman admitted he hadn't read it**, but had gotten all his information about it from the radio***--but after about five minutes of argument he decided that they could trespass him after all, so they did.

*The woman he exposed himself to didn't want to press charges, so trespassing was the best we could do.

**It's particularly frustrating to argue about what the law says with someone who's supposed to be enforcing the law but can't be bothered to read it.

***Which is a second level of WTH, because it was a controversial ordinance and you'd think the police department would train everyone on what it actually meant.

#151 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 09:52 PM:

staranise @#58: What Elise said @#72. This "blindness" about powerlessness describes several of my patients who frequent detox, and has given me a new tool to help explain the generational cycle of abuse. Thank you.

Elise @#72: What Fragano said @#120 {{{hug!}}}.

Bruce Cohen @#91/92: Nicely put. I'm going to ask my boss if I can put up a version of this in the common room at Detox.

Bruce Baugh @#105: Spot fucking on. Even in an environment where I kind of have X-ray vision (medical records), and get to see FAR more clearly identifiable genitalia than I would like, what you said holds true in spades.

=============================

As an aside, it doesn't matter if it's words, petitions or chairs being thrown, as long as the issue stays on the radar. Besides murder, the trans* population (at least at the street level where I intersect with them) is experiencing higher rates of non-fatal violence (robbery, rape, etc), higher rates of alcoholism and higher instances of homelessness, all at a time when budget cuts are limiting targeted-population programs and resources.

This is the first thread I've read completely through for a while. Thanks for posting it, Patrick!

#152 ::: edward oleander is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 09:55 PM:

Hmph. All you get from me is leftover mac 'n' cheese, although it was homemade.

#153 ::: tariqata ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 10:01 PM:

clew@145: (d) I can really easily imagine having been followed into -- cornered in -- the bathroom by whiny gropy guy who would defend himself with an endless bad-faith stink about his right to be anywhere because exploring his gender etc etc etc. (*Such* rules-lawyerers. Is that a authoritarian follower trait? )

Regardless of gender, isn't a person who corners a person and/or follows another person into a public washroom committing sexual harassment or assault? A right to pee in the appropriate washroom != a right to grope, and I'm absolutely positive that nobody is arguing that an assault could possibly be justified on the grounds of "gender exploration". Also, since gender-designation signs on washrooms don't actually function as an impermeable barrier to determined harassers of any gender, it seems fairly straightforward to respect the rights of trans* people while also applying existing legal remedies to people who commit sexual harassment or assault in public washrooms.

#154 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 10:43 PM:

abi @ 138

The first and foremost of them, from what I can see, is the fundamental sticking point: are trans women women? Real women, sisters, welcome community members, equal inheritors of the fruits of feminism thus far? Are they welcome beside us in the struggle to build a better society?

Generally I would say "yes." The minor specifics of where/why I disagree would best be discussed by email as they relate to a particular incident which should not be discussed on an open forum. (The "tell you about it by email" invitation is for everyone who's name I recognize/trust. Clicking on my name above will give you the opportunity to shoot me an email. I will not be replying to people whose names I don't recognize - this is a NOT matter I will broadcast to J. Random Lurker.)

Another issue I'm interested in might be summed up by the question, "What the fuck happened to feminism?" I grew up having a great deal of respect for the movement and its ideals, but it seems that lately feminism is a fractured, dysfunctional family where instead of fighting patriarchy, various ugly factions beat on each other over issues of gender, ideology, and sexual preference/behavior.

#155 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2013, 10:44 PM:

Alex got gnomed. There's still Indian Food available and I'll be happy to make a gnome-sized plate.

#156 ::: Yarrow ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 01:11 AM:

Alex @ 154: Another issue I'm interested in might be summed up by the question, "What the fuck happened to feminism?" I grew up having a great deal of respect for the movement and its ideals, but it seems that lately feminism is a fractured, dysfunctional family where instead of fighting patriarchy, various ugly factions beat on each other over issues of gender, ideology, and sexual preference/behavior.

Alex, in another thread you describe yourself as a "straight, white male". Me too. (And cisgender, something I assume from this thread is true of you too.) We don't get to express ourselves as you have and call ourselves allies. Well, let me soften that a bit. I don't have the book to hand, but Joanna Russ in What Are We Fighting For?, in the context of being a white ally to people of color, says something along the lines of: yes, sometimes we all have to vent -- privately, to trusted friends.

Russ also, at the end of a chapter full of difficult-to-follow advice, imagines the reader asking "But what's in it for me?" And her answer is that we (white allies following the leadership of people of color in specific, but the generalization is evident) get to relax a bit -- having been brought to believe we're in charge of everything, we can let go of that a little, breathe a sigh of relief, and let some of the weight go -- because it wasn't ours to begin with.

You and I are not in charge of deciding, for instance, whether the current controversies are the painful symptoms of healthy growth or "ugly factions beat[ing] on each other". Which doesn't relieve us of the duty to take stands -- after listening to those with whom we hope we're standing, and while being willing to listen to correction and feedback, if offered.

But what we need to listen for is "How shall I act?" Not "How should they act?"

#157 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 01:44 AM:

Yarrow: Your last sentence (But what we need to listen for is "How shall I act?" Not "How should they act?") is just precisely the right thing. I've noticed that giving up playing pundit is good for me pretty much all the time. I'm not going to be elected or appointed or rushed by acclaim to any position of great power and prestige, and I don't have to roleplay the part. I've got plenty to do leading my own life and doing my bit to advocate for ways of life that strike me as just, kind, good for human well-being, and like that.

The one thing I can be absolutely sure of, whenever I look at any tangled situation, is that there's very important realities that would very materially influence my judgment that I do not see, and may never see. And what good would it do anyone if I assayed some master judgment? Would it help me better support my friends, or anyone else who shows good will? The more I ask myself questions like that, the more I get the answer "no, no, not really, nope". It's distraction from the realities I actually do have access to and maybe some prospect of influencing.

#158 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 02:19 AM:

I'm getting frustrated with the term feminist getting narrowed down to refer to just people who grapple with the theoretic/academic end of things. I recall seeing somewhere someone said they'd overheard a mother and daughter on the bus. The daughter said that she wasn't a feminist. Her mother said "Do you want to be able to own property and decide who you have sex with?" The daughter looked started and said, "Yes". The mother replied, "Then you're a feminist."

I'm a feminist. I think we've made a lot of progress in my lifetime, but we still have a long way to go to fix* the patriarchy. I think people shouldn't be discriminated against on the basis of gender in jobs/housing/etc, and should be able to control their own bodies. And I sure as hell think that applies to people whatever their gender, cis or not. And I'm not yielding "feminist" to anybody. (And I may be getting cranky and need to go to bed now.)

This is a great thread. Thanks again to Patrick for posting it, to the petition that inspired it, and to the discussion from you all. Good night!

*On re-reading, I do believe I've made a rude pun. Quite unintentionally.

#159 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 02:20 AM:

edward @ 151: It's an observation I got from a Jungian clinical supervisor, who pointed out that when you cannot acknowledge your Shadow, you give it free rein to control you. Wholeness demands being in touch with both parts of yourself you love, and parts you hate. Which is not to say you should embrace and embody your darker aspects, but even enemies can acknowledge each other, and treat each other with respect.

Alex R @ 154: You just haven't been paying attention. Feminism has always been like this. Why? Because women aren't a monolith. I don't have enough knowledge about the history of transgender issues, but I can tell you some other things we've historically fought about: A white middle-class woman may see liberation as freedom to work instead of stay home with her kids, while a working-class woman of colour might want to stop working for once and actually be there for her kids instead of taking care of somebody else's. Women society wants to have children have to fight to get abortions; women with disabilities society declares 'unfit' have to fight for the right not to get hysterectomies and abortions forced on them.

So no, feminism isn't always pretty and perfectly made up. Sometimes it's angry and rude and confrontational and shrill, and sometimes it speaks the language of politics and academia instead of cooing kindly. But it's always been this way, whether it was educators in the Victorian era fighting over whether the Angel in the House was helpful or harmful, or Germaine Greer vs. Gloria Steinem.

This stuff is too important to be soft-spoken and self-effacing about. The shouting is because this is literally a life-or-death matter, even if it doesn't look like it to you. And may I suggest that it's the opposite of helping, to follow along and say, "Can't you women just be nicer?"

#160 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:08 AM:

Alex @154:

I'll email you when I have the bandwidth to reply, which is to say, this weekend.

Another issue I'm interested in might be summed up by the question, "What the fuck happened to feminism?" I grew up having a great deal of respect for the movement and its ideals, but it seems that lately feminism is a fractured, dysfunctional family where instead of fighting patriarchy, various ugly factions beat on each other over issues of gender, ideology, and sexual preference/behavior.

Nothing happened to feminism. You just got closer to it, or heard more about it.

Social change is hard. The stakes are high, everyone's in pain and angry, and there are genuine, long-running divisions within our society about how problems are solved. Civil rights movements are always fractious.

And as Bruce Baugh @157 says, there's very important realities that would very materially influence my judgment that I do not see, and may never see. I am morally certain that feminists whose actions are erasing trans* people are doing it for what seems to them to be very good reasons. I try to remember that everyone is the hero of their own narrative, and is trying to do right by their lights†.

It's just that sometimes, no matter how good the reasons, the outcomes are unacceptable. Then it's necessary to push back.


† Or, as Patrick once tweeted, The good news is that most people are generally doing the best they can. That’s also the bad news.

#161 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:27 AM:

The first time ever ran into the word 'lesbian' was when I was about 12 (this would be 1985), reading about the feminism of the late 60s (1969, to be exact), where Betty Friedan referred to the Lavender Menace threatening feminism. I was a tad bit baffled.

So yes. Feminism's always had its internecine wars. So has any activist movement. (Check out socialism sometime, if you have a few days to spare.) Doesn't mean the causes you throw yourself into aren't worth it.

#162 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:44 AM:

In all the discussions of locker rooms and such, I wanted to share this story that I recently came across. It's rather heartwarming, because this is how it should work.

#163 ::: Brooks Moses is begnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:46 AM:

A short post, with a link. I have oddly-fuzzy plums that may have been hybridized with apricots?

#164 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:48 AM:

Brooks, your link is irretrievably borked, which is why the gnomes grabbed it. Can you try again, paying careful attention to the HTML Tags section above the comment box? And maybe check that it works at preview.

#165 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 07:43 AM:

Thanks to all for several helpful answers to my question at 154. I don't spend much time on politics/social justice issues, so some of this is very new to me.


Starnise at 159

The shouting is because this is literally a life-or-death matter, even if it doesn't look like it to you.

I do get that it is a matter of life and death, which is why I asked the question even though I understood it might be offensive. Assuming that the TERF types follow through on their threats to teach anti-trans prejudice in their classes they are very likely to get someone killed. (I was very disappointed, BTW, to see that Marge Piercy had signed their "Forbidden Discourse" letter. Does anyone know whether this is, in fact, the famous author, or merely a namespace collision?)

#166 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 08:26 AM:

abi @ 138:
It's certainly a failure of the feminism I signed up for. This may be a Wave Thing, but the thing I believe in that causes me to use the word "feminist" is pretty explicitly against what you yourself called *women getting killed, whether they're trans or cis. As I said in 102, however you slice the problem, you find yourself back at gendered violence. Which puts it on my plate, as a feminist.

I don't disagree. However, I'm mindful that what janetl says at 158 can be seen in a different context:
I'm getting frustrated with the term feminist getting narrowed down to refer to just people who grapple with the theoretic/academic end of things.

To some of those offended women, transwomen are women in theory but not fact. I don't agree with them, but I understand why they feel that way.

This is, to some extent, two theories coming into sharp conflict. I'm mindful of the damage which happens to peoples' actual physical existences when that happens, but I'm not convinced either of the theories are completely correct, and so I'm glad (for some melancholy values of glad) to see them in conflict. And now, spooling further through the thread, I see you have a similar thought (to a different effect) at 160.

#167 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 08:58 AM:

Just for the record, I'm squarely with the trans* folks getting to declare their own gender. As noted above, the authoritarians will change as the new rules take hold, albeit slowly.

Here in C-ville, We also had a local disappearance of a trans* of color, (presumed murder), Dashad "Sage" Smith.

#168 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 11:21 AM:

Bruce Baugh @122: I'd also like to thank you for "the net is phenomenological". It's been useful to me over the years both as a personal reminder and as an occasional pointer to others. (At one point I remember trying to figure out how to cite it, which led to a merry chase through Google's Usenet archives for the earliest reference. A general Google search for "Bruce Baugh phenomenological" didn't narrow things down as much as I'd hoped.)

#169 ::: dotless ı has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 11:23 AM:

Gnomed on the first post with a new alias. It was a post of thanks, but I don't expect they were emphatic enough to bother the filters.

#170 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 12:31 PM:

Oh, wow, you're very welcome, dotless.

#171 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 12:59 PM:

128
It tecos all kinds.

#172 ::: Two Z ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 01:08 PM:

We had an incident here in Baltimore a few years ago, and it went viral. Young girl(s) - I hesitate to call them human - attacked and severely beat a transgender male. They even went so far as to attack an elderly lady who jumped in to protect the person being beaten.

I realize that people in our society are bothered by concepts that are "out of the norm", but I always am bowled over by their immediate resort to violence.

Do they act like this with other subjects they do not understand? Do they beat up the ice cream man when he decides that he is carrying a new brand of ice cream? (Please, don't think I'm being callous or trying to be humorous, just making a point.)

Why can't people let other people be/do/act like they want to - and get back to whatever it is they are doing?

#173 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 01:10 PM:

The discussion of the state of feminism reminds me of a bit (from Elaine Pagels, I think) about looking for Primitive Christianity, but no matter how far back she looked, all she found was people arguing.

#174 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 01:31 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @173: Oh, too true. :rueful laugh of recognition:

#175 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 01:33 PM:

Two Z @ 172: I don't know for certain and I can't prove it, but my theory is because they are not stopped from doing it at school. If you're not taught that it's unacceptable to bully people for being different when you're a child, you're not easily going to learn it as an adult.

#176 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 01:40 PM:

staranise @ 58: "And a woman who is convinced that she is always powerless is a woman who is never vigilant to when she is misusing her power, so she has never learned to take responsibility when she abuses it."

This is an incredibly vital point with implications for all kinds of dialogues. "I have been offended against" is so often understood to be a protection against causing offense, when it is nothing of the sort.

elise @ 75: "And as a third generation factory worker, I resent the hell out of their pretending that all working class people are anti-trans* -- and pretending that there are no trans* working class people. Talk about erasure. Sheesh. Grrr."

The more I think about it, the more parallels I see between TERFs and labor movements. "Sure, I see why we American, Protestant, white, Anglo, male workers ought to unite in solidarity to fight for our rights, but including brown, foreign, heathen or female workers? That's just ridiculous!" One of the rocks progressive movements have consistently foundered on is how to create solidarity across difference.

Xopher @ 148: "And now that I think of it I wonder how much of his sexual acting-out may be a reaction to his being misgendered by so-called "comedians." Impossible to sort from the corruption of celebrity and whatever flaws of character he may have had going in, of course. But it's sad."

That's an interesting question. I've been looking for, but have so far failed to find, an analysis of Miley Cyrus's VMA performance from a genderqueer perspective. There's been a huge amount of attention paid to her appropriation of black culture (as there should be!), but little talk about the many signifiers she's appropriated that are specifically black male, or just male, signifiers. The sexually aggressive stage strut and the tongue thrust, for example--those are stolen straight from Gene Simmons and Mick Jagger. I wonder how much of the anxiety she provoked, particularly that of the (rather reactionary) "Daughter, Don't be Like Miley" variety, is more about gender anxiety than anything else. I mean, it's a nice thought that mainstream culture is so in tune with critiques of white appropriation of black art that some minstrelsy at the VMAs would set the internet on fire, but it doesn't seem very plausible.

#177 ::: Anatoly ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 01:57 PM:

I've tried to better understand the issues behind the "the hostile and threatening anonymous letter" alluded to in the petition. The chain of events in that particular episode seems to start with Dallas Denny and Dr. Jamison Green sending a letter to Routledge asking for a book to be withdrawn before publication (and not merely "regarding their concerns about that book", as characterized in a somewhat whitewashing manner in the introduction to the petition). Remarkably, Dallas Denny writes about their letter:

We agreed that we were not censoring Jeffreys. She was free to write what she wanted. We were merely exercising our own freedom of speech in asking that it not be published.

Certainly this should be regarded as an attempt to censor the book and to silence its authors. Perhaps some think that such an attempt is justified considering the claimed transphobic nature of the book, but let's not try to pretend that it's anything other than that. In the light of that attempt, the petition's words "We also reject the notion that trans* activists’ critiques of transphobic bigotry “silence” anybody. Criticism is not the same as silencing" seem disingenuous.

Having carefully read and re-read the "chilling" anonymous letter sent to Denny, I would join Lucy @#12 in her puzzlement at the claim that it was threatening. The only thing its authors threaten is to continue teaching vigorously in classrooms ideas and theories they consider important, and Dallas Denny considers transphobic. At no point do they threaten to oppress anyone (despite the title to Denny's post, "Intent to Oppress"), silence anyone or censor anyone. They do not seem to be sending any letters to any publishers asking for any trans*-friendly books to be withdrawn.

That seems a dubious foundation to build a petition on.

#178 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 02:27 PM:

Anatoly @177:

Welcome to Making Light. I to see you've jumped right into the controversy with your first comment.

That seems a dubious foundation to build a petition on.

Indeed. Were it the only case where prominent feminists were saying damaging things about trans* people, and were they saying it in a culture that was not looking for justifications to abuse trans* people, it would be a weak petition indeed.

However, here in the real world, the petition also points out:

And all this is taking place in the climate of virulent mainstream transphobia that has emerged following the coverage of Chelsea Manning’s trial and subsequent statement regarding her gender identity, and the recent murders of young trans women of color, including Islan Nettles and Domonique Newburn, the latest targets in a long history of violence against trans women of color.

As I said above, I'm not involved in trans* activism. But even I've been seeing a marked uptick in prominent feminists using that prominence to denigrate trans* people and damage their attempts to be treated as equals. (Unlike the authors of the petition, I would say it started before Manning's statement, but much of what I noticed then was in British news sources.)

That's a somewhat stronger basis for this petition, and that's the basis on which we've had this conversation. Your concerns about the letter are noted, but I'd suggest that pursuing that issue to the exclusion of, or while ignoring, the heart of the matter, would be an unfortunate diversion into concern trolling.

Not an auspicious start to your relationship with this community.

#179 ::: Melody ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 02:28 PM:

Anatoly@177: Is it your contention that vigorous teaching of ideas and theories (most especially when alternative theories are not taught alongside) cannot equate to the intent to oppress, or be considered threatening?

#180 ::: Melody, be-gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 02:31 PM:

A WoP, perhaps? May I tempt with corn cakes and honey?

[We gnomes can resist anything except temptation. We're kinda wilde that way. And your message got held because of a phrase of power rather than a word of power. It's complicated.—Goldenrod Avemore, Duty Gnome]

#181 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 02:44 PM:

Bruce: seconding abi, I have quoted your "The Internet is phenomenological" observation repeatedly. It has a remarkable ability to clear up a variety of situations for a variety of people, and your observation @ 105 seems likely to do the same. Thanks for your recurring gifts of insight.

staranise: While I'm thanking people, I think at least 4 or 5 posts from you recently have had insights that made me stop and go "WOW"; several in this thread, and one on the "Song of the South" thread. I hope you keep posting here and keep opening up my world-view. kthxbye

#182 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 02:52 PM:

Anatoly @ 177

I would suggest reading the top post and the entire comment thread at Shakesville, and perhaps following some of the links. This argument goes back at least to 1976.

#183 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:07 PM:

#176 ::: heresiarch

I still have to fight the delusion that I'm intrinsically harmless-- I think the delusion is based on my being short.

Any ideas about why unionism hasn't spread? Was there an unusually favorable environment in the early to middle 1900s? I know there were violent efforts to stop unionization, but the point is that those efforts ultimately didn't work.

#184 ::: Two Z ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:28 PM:

Mongoose - interesting point, if a bully never is called on his/her actions, the behavior continues way into adulthood. The methods might change, but the results are the same.

I know bullying is on everyone's minds these days, I was the subject of bullying, and until I stood up to the guy, and subsequently fought him in a bloody, ugly schoolyard fight, he wouldn't leave me alone.

Is that the right way to proceed? Nope, but at the time it was the only way to solve the problem. I'm hoping this generation learns to stand up to bullies and call them on it.

#185 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:49 PM:

janetl, #158: "The daughter said that she wasn't a feminist. Her mother said 'Do you want to be able to own property and decide who you have sex with?' The daughter looked started and said, 'Yes'. The mother replied, 'Then you're a feminist.'"

Believing women should have these rights has long seemed to me a pretty functional ground-level definition of feminism, which is why I don't have any problem calling myself a feminist.

heresiarch, #176: "One of the rocks progressive movements have consistently foundered on is how to create solidarity across difference."

Yeah, this. The problem being that solidarity can't just be willed into existence. People have many excellent reasons to mistrust one another. Thus the tremendous mistrust many women of color have for white first-world feminists. They're not wrong to mistrust us. We've earned that.

#186 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:51 PM:

Mongoose, #175: That's a good point. And since this is certainly a problem with multiple causes, it's not possible to say that your hypothesis doesn't enter into it.

Tangential question: Those of us who were not so traumatized by school that we've been unwilling to go back to our reunions often note that people who were absolute bullying shits in school somehow transmute into civilized adults. And yet there's also a body of evidence to the effect that class bullies can turn into bullying bosses and/or abusive spouses and parents. What do you suppose makes the difference? For what reason or reasons do some people stop bullying after leaving the school environment while others don't?

Anatoly, #177: Do you also consider it "censorship" for people to write to companies that advertise on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, and stations that carry it, to ask that they stop doing so? This is a clarification question.

Two Z, #184: Based on what I've heard from my friends who were physically bullied in school, you were fortunate to escape being blamed and punished for fighting back.

#187 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:51 PM:

I started reading Making Light when I was a wee gawky teenager, and it's taught me a lot over the years. It's nice to be stepping in as a less-wee grad student and to meet with a warm reception. Thanks, everyone. :)

Two Z @ 184: My friend-and-colleague Siderea has recently written about a school program in Massachusetts that trains and supports students in the role of "Defenders" whose job is to interrupt bullying when they see it happening. She points out that traditional approaches to bullying emphasize apathy and non-interference ("Don't give them a reaction," "Don't get involved") instead of taking an active role in shaping a new status quo. The "Defender" system changes the whole "trying to stop a bully makes things worse and gets you in more trouble than being a bully does" dynamic, and gives bullies real, immediate social consequences. I hope it thrives and spreads.

#188 ::: staranise ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 03:58 PM:

Oh right, I also had two thoughts on Anatoly, which were: 1) "Threatening to teach TERF in academia" is a threat when prominent TERF academics have written about their desire to see physical harm come to trans feminist academics, like Mary Daly wrote about fantasizing about. 2) I am so excited to hear that my inalienable right to free speech includes the inalienable right to a publishing contract with Routledge! Normally those things only go to people whose ideas are considered really novel and worth wide dissemination. It's good to know that if I don't get a book deal with a prestigious academic publisher, I'm being silenced. I'll let my thesis committee know.

#189 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 04:04 PM:
Was there an unusually favorable environment in the early to middle 1900s? I know there were violent efforts to stop unionization, but the point is that those efforts ultimately didn't work.

My impression--formed entirely from my life as a right-wing stooge--was that they shifted gears from trying to destroy the unions to trying to use propaganda to convince people they didn't want to be in unions.

#190 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 04:10 PM:

janetl 158: I think we've made a lot of progress in my lifetime, but we still have a long way to go

I can't remember where I heard or saw this, but someone said "People say, effectively: feminism today has no shoes, and should remember when it had no feet. Yes, OK, but it still has no shoes."

to fix* the patriarchy. ... *On re-reading, I do believe I've made a rude pun. Quite unintentionally.

I think neutering the patriarchy has much to recommend it.

#191 ::: Anatoly ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 04:21 PM:

strongAbi @#178:

Fair enough. I realize, on rereading, that my comment may be taken as concern trolling, and don't have a good answer for that (that surprises me - on first reading your comment I was sure I would, but no). It so happens that I support the goals of the petition, abhor transphobia, and wish that radical feminism that denied that trans women are women didn't exist. But a concern troll might also say the same thing (lying about it).

I think the silencing aspect of the initial letter, or more precisely the way it's whitewashed in the petition while the "threatening" letter is misrepresented, is wrong. I really do think that this position, and a commitment to criticism over censorship, are compatible with strongly opposing transphobia and transphobic feminism. And I hope that pointing out this problem, which has not been discussed in the previous 170-plus comments in the thread, in one (now two) comments, should not be considered excluding the heart of the matter or opposing many important and inspiring things that have been said already in the thread. Anyway, having pointed to what I thought was an unduly ignored problem, I'm happy to pipe down on the issue.

Melody, @#179:

I think that promising to teach something in an academic classroom, and intending to oppress someone, are necessarily different things, yes. If I felt differently, I would be compelled to oppose academic freedom and support firing academics who teach theories I think are oppressive.

Such teaching can certainly feel threatening to someone, but I think it's misleading to characterize a letter communicating this intention to teach as a "threatening letter".

Alex R., @#182:

Thanks - I've followed your advice re: the post and comments and will follow some of the links.

#192 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 04:23 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @ 185

Thus the tremendous mistrust many women of color have for white first-world feminists. They're not wrong to mistrust us. We've earned that.

I was rather amused 2-3 months ago after the issue of gang rapes in India finally made the US papers. A group of Very Important American Feminists decided that Something Must Be Done and created a policy task force called "Beyond Gender Equality" which was apparently going to offer policy recommendations to the South Asian governments.

A group of Indian Feminists wrote a public letter in response, where it was noted in passing that the Indian Feminists were all college graduates who'd been fighting this particular battle for decades, and while they were thankful that their colleagues in the US had finally taken note of the problem, their help was not required. The letter is a masterpiece of sarcasm.

http://kafila.org/2013/02/20/dear-sisters-and-brothers-at-harvard/

While we're on the subject of trust I should note that my genderqueer child, who is in college, vacillates between proclaiming that she is a feminist and that she hates feminists. Apparently the Feminist Club at her college broke up after a bitter battle between the sex-positive and sex-negative feminists, and she was very upset.

#193 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 04:30 PM:

Sorry, the incident regarding the rapes in India took place in early 2013. My bad.

#194 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 06:32 PM:

The Girl Scouts of America prove themselves to be the radical organization they have always been: You're a Girl if you believe you're a Girl.

#195 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 07:02 PM:

Re unions: Ronald Reagan busted the air traffic controllers union, and made it clear that unions were The Enemy. Businesses were only too glad to follow suit. It's one reason the minimum wage hasn't kept place with inflation.

I thought I wrote an entry last night, but I may have imagined it, since it was just before bedtime. It seems that some of the controversies with trans* people are about certain kinds of public/private spaces like restrooms. Are there ways we can redesign these spaces to make them safer for everyone? I think we should have lots of one person uni-sex toilets, but I know that would be more expensive. (I'm tired the unfairness of the long lines in front of the "women's" and no line in front of the "mens".)

#196 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 07:22 PM:

Yesterday I was at two public places: An auto repair garage that had one uni-sex restroom, and a restaurant that had two uni-sex restrooms.

#197 ::: Yarrow ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 07:48 PM:

Bruce Baugh @ 157: very important realities that would very materially influence my judgment that I do not see, and may never see.

Ah! Thank you for this. There's a somewhat related point that I've tended to see more clearly: that as human beings, our opinions have a strong tendency to line up with what seems to be in our own best interests. And that's still true and still worth checking. But even if, per impossibile, we could perfectly compensate for that tendency, your point still holds.

Sometimes the point is literally true: I do not see curb cuts, or their lack, since my partner Marsha died some years ago. (She used a wheelchair.) Not (I believe!) because not seeing curb cuts is in my best interest, but because I'm not constantly scanning for them any more.

Here's an example that's less literal: Dave Hingsburger posted Monday about the fact that

...'inventiveness' is at the heart of living with a disability.

Everyone I know with a disability, no matter what the disability is, spends much of their time figuring out how something will get done.... Adaptation simply is part of disability culture, the disability experience.

I read that and said "Oh! Yes, of course." But even though I lived with someone with a disability for twenty-three years, and knew how inventive she was, and contributed to that inventiveness as I was able, I didn't take the step from "Marsha is inventive" to "Adaptation simply is part of disability culture".

I see that reality now, though not as clearly as Hingsberger. Some realities I'll hardly be able to see at all, even when someone does speak them. But the attempt to listen is still worth it, so I hope and believe.

#198 ::: Yarrow is begnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 07:51 PM:

Not sure why. Would a bowl of corn and broccoli and olive oil be of interest?

[The words "Thank you for this." Spammers are almost unfailingly polite. -- JDM]

#199 ::: Blaise Pascal ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 07:57 PM:

It is very common for restaurants here (in Ithaca, NY) to have two uni-sex restrooms. It's common enough that when I find a newer restaurant that doesn't have uni-sex restrooms it's surprising.

I have the hypothesis that code requires restaurants under a certain size to have two single-person restrooms, but doesn't actually say they have to have gents and ladies rooms. Since it's expensive to plumb in a urinal, and not needed for a single-person room, they don't bother, so they've got two nearly identical restrooms. Why not go uni-sex?

#200 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 08:00 PM:

The trouble arises when the restaurant becomes large enough that code requires, say, 2x 3 toilets (because code requires everything in assumed sex-differentiated pairs), because 6 unisex washrooms will take a lot more space to build than 2 washrooms that each have 1 sink counter (with maybe 2 sinks in it) and 3 toilets in stalls, possibly with a urinal or two in one of the bathrooms as well. Some men's room layouts actually get by with one stall and 3 urinals when the reflected ladies' room has 4 stalls.

#201 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 09:20 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 183: I know there were violent efforts to stop unionization, but the point is that those efforts ultimately didn't work.

They did in the American South. Or at least, something did.

#202 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2013, 11:05 PM:

Yarrow #197: Inventiveness as part of "disability culture" -- or at least, part of compensating for a disability. Very interesting... and it's a concrete example of "why diversity is good" that can be explained to a hiring manager in the elevator. And "... you didn't know about that, are you sure not having any female programmers doesn't make a difference?"

#203 ::: Krissy ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 12:27 AM:

I have friends. More of them may be trans than I know. It isn't my business, unless for some reason, they need me to know. Then, of course, it is very much my business to support them however seems best.

I have friends. By my lights, NO ONE of them is allowed to be bullied, assaulted, harassed; I take a dim and jaundiced view of such goings on. I am prepared to require civil behavior for friends, and for strangers alike, that is only proper.

I confess, that while I theoretically understood feminism, it never had resonance for me. It seemed to be an issue of and for white women. Certainly the feminists I met were all white, and the issues that seemed to concern them were likewise white.

Black people got killed simply because we were black; gender had nothing to do with it. We got raped because no one would care, or protest. This seems to me to be much like the situation Trans persons face, its an open hunting season, and they are it.

It's still a wrong.

Some women are afraid of men. I only belatedly understood this. I usually consider any situation with an eye to threat level, and whether I can solve it by hitting someone with a chair. I did not understand most women don't do this. I don't know why not; it is how I was raised.

And finally:

There is biology, there is gender (though not so much in English) and there is sexual attraction and identity) They are not all three the same, though in these discussions, the terms seem to have been used interchangeably.

Dana was born biologically male. This means her genetics are male, as are her body parts and her hormonal balance. Her gender identity is female however, and she is further only attracted to females. She has made a full transition.

Her physicians do need to know, probably, her body has (for a female) abnormally high male traits, and that she may be at risk for things a female would not ordinarily be concerned about.

Beyond that, people are being harassed, stalked and murdered because other people think they can get away with it. This has to stop. I don't care why they are being mistreated. It is wrong.

#204 ::: Krissy ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 12:27 AM:

I have friends. More of them may be trans than I know. It isn't my business, unless for some reason, they need me to know. Then, of course, it is very much my business to support them however seems best.

I have friends. By my lights, NO ONE of them is allowed to be bullied, assaulted, harassed; I take a dim and jaundiced view of such goings on. I am prepared to require civil behavior for friends, and for strangers alike, that is only proper.

I confess, that while I theoretically understood feminism, it never had resonance for me. It seemed to be an issue of and for white women. Certainly the feminists I met were all white, and the issues that seemed to concern them were likewise white.

Black people got killed simply because we were black; gender had nothing to do with it. We got raped because no one would care, or protest. This seems to me to be much like the situation Trans persons face, its an open hunting season, and they are it.

It's still a wrong.

Some women are afraid of men. I only belatedly understood this. I usually consider any situation with an eye to threat level, and whether I can solve it by hitting someone with a chair. I did not understand most women don't do this. I don't know why not; it is how I was raised.

And finally:

There is biology, there is gender (though not so much in English) and there is sexual attraction and identity) They are not all three the same, though in these discussions, the terms seem to have been used interchangeably.

Dana was born biologically male. This means her genetics are male, as are her body parts and her hormonal balance. Her gender identity is female however, and she is further only attracted to females. She has made a full transition.

Her physicians do need to know, probably, her body has (for a female) abnormally high male traits, and that she may be at risk for things a female would not ordinarily be concerned about.

Beyond that, people are being harassed, stalked and murdered because other people think they can get away with it. This has to stop. I don't care why they are being mistreated. It is wrong.

#205 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 12:36 AM:

I wonder how much it would add to the expense to have one large-ish women's bathroom, one large-ish men's bathroom, and one single stall unisex bathroom - for people who want the additional security of a one-person bathroom, people who prefer to use neither gendered bathroom because of their gender identity, parents going in with young opposite-sex children, and no doubt other situations that can make strictly gendered bathrooms problematic. Maybe not a great solution for restaurants, but for a place with enormous bathrooms like the Target I shop at, could be a useful alternative.

#206 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 12:58 AM:

abi@164: Repeating my comment, this time with correct tags. Thanks for letting me know it was broken!

In all the discussions of locker rooms and such, I wanted to share this story that I recently came across. It's rather heartwarming, because this is how it should work.

#207 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 01:09 AM:

Yarrow #197: my first job was as an attendant. I learned to be a better sailor (albeit still a beginner) by taking the sailing course with the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors (BAADS), and your comment made me do a mental facepalm. THAT ("Adaptation simply is part of disability culture, the disability experience") articulates one of the many things that made me feel comfortable with BAADS. Lovely to have words for one aspect of it.

And those words also make me think a bit harder about the main issue under discussion. But I'm not sure what I want to say other than support to those who need it, and that gender and sexual identity is like a bundle of sticks (yes, I just outed myself as a lawyer who took property law) and the individual sticks in any person's bundle get to vary. There are some frequently recurring configurations, but a list of the common ones would be pretty long and every person has a lot of different "sticks" of experience and identity. Childhood experience is one. Assigned at birth is another. Etc.

#208 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 02:02 AM:

Nancy Leibovitz @ 183: "Any ideas about why unionism hasn't spread?"

I'm not an expert on this, but my understanding from what I've read is that, essentially, the technology of repressing unionization outpaced the technology of organizing. I'd say that violence is still part of it, but when the violence is obvious it redounds to the union's advantage, and so it has become more subtle. There is an entire industry of union-busting, they will come and teach seminars for your managers; and an entire industry to ensure that union-busting stays legal. It's appalling how firmly rigged in management's favor unionization laws are.

PNH @ 185: "The problem being that solidarity can't just be willed into existence. People have many excellent reasons to mistrust one another. Thus the tremendous mistrust many women of color have for white first-world feminists. They're not wrong to mistrust us. We've earned that."

I don't see the failure of solidarity as coming primarily from the minority factions. It's the white first-world feminists failing to uphold solidarity across difference, not the women of color or third-world feminists. It's the affluent, white, cis leaders who are failing solidarity, not the poor trans* people of color:

And so there is a significant philosophical difference between existing LGBT movement priorities and what community activists like Miss Major prioritize. Mainstream movement priorities focus on removing the queer stigma from otherwise secure middle-class lives, which is why overt policy-based discrimination like marriage and hate crimes is the focus. Yet, the approach of Miss Major and other community activists like her is to say: How is discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation embedded in life’s hardships? How is it related to racism, classism, and sexism? Fighting for domestic partner benefits is important, but it means little to someone who can’t find a job. This argument not only means taking into account a broader range of issues that affect people’s lives than just sexuality or partnership status, but stands to infinitely strengthen the movement by prioritizing points of commonality with other struggles for justice and human rights.

(This may be too abstract, but I don't think the language of "solidarity" and the language of "earned" are compatible. Solidarity isn't about what has been earned. It's not what is owed, what is deserved, who is financially or morally liable for what. Solidarity is what comes after you have put that aside.)

#209 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 02:14 AM:

heresiarch @207:
Solidarity isn't about what has been earned. It's not what is owed, what is deserved, who is financially or morally liable for what.

True. But Patrick was talking about trust and mistrust, both of which must/can be earned.

#210 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 02:23 AM:

abi @ 209: True.

#211 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 02:24 AM:

Anatoly @191:

Thanks for the clarification. Given that, let me say welcome again, this time without the menacing undertones. You sound like our kind of people. Hope you stick around even after this conversation.

#212 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 02:37 AM:

Re unions, some good news: the AFL-CIO has just opened its doors to all workers -- whether or not they have an official union affiliation.

Yes, that means any Wal-Mart worker can now join the AFL-CIO directly, and if Wal-Mart tries to fire them for having done so, they'll find themselves facing off against someone their own size for a change.

#213 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 09:16 AM:

Dave Harmon said @202, re diversity-in-workplace subthread: it's a concrete example of "why diversity is good" that can be explained to a hiring manager in the elevator. And "... you didn't know about that, are you sure not having any female programmers doesn't make a difference?"

Vienna discovered that women use cities and transportation in a radically different way than men, on average. Specifically, they sat down large groups to fill out a survey on their transport usage in the course of an ordinary week and the men wrote a little and quit; the women wrote and wrote and wrote. They needed the extra time to describe trip-chaining, and the varying of their routine on different days due to their caregiving responsibilities. Apparently most of the Viennese men surveyed didn't bother trip-chaining, or at least not more than stopping at one place on their way home from work; also, most of them had relatively simple (what my husband calls one- or two-butt routes, for the number of times you sit down) commutes that were in the morning and evening rush hours. Women's travel was more complex, and not nearly so time-chunked. Women also rode public transport more than men, and walked more than men.

These are all things they wouldn't have known about how well or badly their system was serving a large, consistent population of citizens, if they hadn't chosen to break down the data that way. It's part of an ongoing effort in Vienna to make sure women's use of the city and men's use of the city is roughly equally easy and pleasant. There are, for example, housing complexes designed to make being a working mother pleasanter (with an on-site kindergarten and other amenities); and they've studied public park use and figured out ways to redress the previous tendency for girls to basically quit using them after they turned 9. The park changes also radically raised the amount EVERYONE was using them, which is a massive win from the city's point of view.

There are a lot of things that come up in the course of a socialized-female or living-in-a-female-role life that just are different in various cultures; and employees bring that to the table as part of their skill set. An all-male Supreme Court panel of judges saw nothing wrong in reserving the right to elementary school principals to strip-search any student at need, including checking inside their underwear for possible stashed drugs. It took the women on the panel to gasp in shock and point out WTF YOU WEIRDOS. More trivially, when I was working with an immigrant entrepreneur to open up a restaurant in downtown Chicago, I had to point out that the ladies' bathroom needed access, in each stall, to a tiny trash can of some description. He was utterly ignorant of this need, and I had some trouble explaining it to him in delicate terms. Then he blushed and ordered trash cans. I was the only non-cismale person involved in the startup of the restaurant.

#214 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 09:20 AM:

Oh, and laws that help trans* folks survive and thrive are also useful to all kinds of non-trans* folks.

The most obvious example I can think of is a heterosexual, cis woman working for a Major Law Firm as a high-powered trial lawyer (on the maybe-making-partner track) who successfully sued her mesozoic asshole of a senior partner over his insistence that 'appropriate trial attire' for female employees necessarily involved a just-below-the-knee pencil skirt, and pumps.

She preferred to argue in (very expensive suit) pants and flats, and finally was sick enough of putting up with it to use the just-passed "gender expression" protections to make her point.

#216 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 10:02 AM:

Elliott: "mesozoic asshole"

Going to be grinning all day at this...

#217 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 10:19 AM:

How about Cretaceous Cretin?

#218 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 10:19 AM:

Or Jurassic Jerk?

#219 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 10:20 AM:

Krissy @ 203

I confess, that while I theoretically understood feminism, it never had resonance for me. It seemed to be an issue of and for white women. Certainly the feminists I met were all white, and the issues that seemed to concern them were likewise white.

I suspect that my daughter's girlfriend falls into your camp, as she is non-white. I can imagine her saying, "Am I underpaid because of racism, or am I underpaid because of sexism? Does it matter?"

#220 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 10:44 AM:

Alex @219 "Am I underpaid because of racism, or am I underpaid because of sexism? Does it matter?"

I'm a white guy so I really hesitate to speak up here, but my understanding is that this (and related issues) are very important in modern strains of feminism. You might want to Google "intersectionality" and "intersectional feminism", and possibly take a look at the work of bell hooks.


#221 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 10:54 AM:

Sam Dodsworth @ 220

This thread has led me to take a serious interest in feminism again. I suspect that I'll get to your suggestions soon (assuming that the various family issues I'm coping with these days don't get in the way.)

And just for the record, I'm a white cis-male with a white genderqueer daughter and a brown Gay daughter-in-law. They aren't legally married yet, but emotionally is another matter. For all intents and purposes she's my kid.

#222 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 11:09 AM:

Restatement of Charlie Stross at 100, because it's a vital point. Go reread that.

Accomplishing goals is easier with the resources of a group. Getting a group together is easier if you can find emotionally-hooked areas of solidarity.

Unfortunately, this comes hard-wired with othering.

So, define the problem and gather the group, and keep an eagle eye out. Jump on othering hard with "hey, they're part of our group because of..."

"Having them with us would help us by [specific benefits]."

#223 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 11:39 AM:

Elliot Mason: I loved reading the Vienna stuff. Thanks!

Carol Kimbell: Great questions. It also sometimes helps to ask, "What would we gain by excluding them, by being the kind of people who exclude for reasons like that, and being known as the kind of people who do? Are those things we want to gain?"

#224 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 01:15 PM:

For the younger folks on the board who don't "get" feminism...

Once upon a time:

Women were not allowed to vote in any election.

A woman could not have her own bank account or credit card in her own name.

She could not sign a legal contract for a house or a car. It was expected that her husband or father would sign on her behalf.

A married woman could be raped by her husband, and have no legal recourse, and domestic violence was rarely prosecuted.

Once contraceptives OF ANY KIND were illegal. Giving advice on use of them was a felony offense.

In other words, a woman was "property" -- not a legal entity entitled to act on her own behalf.

We still don't have equal pay for equal work -- and I'm to the point of saying if a job is worth doing, then the employee should be able to earn a living doing it.

I'm a feminist, a New Deal Democrat, and the grandchild of union members...and if there's anything I can do to make this world more fair, for ANYONE, then I will do it.

#225 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 01:42 PM:

224
In some states, women couldn't get a bank account or a credit card without permission from husband as late as the 1970s.

I'm still astonished at seeing a property map of a county in Kansas, where one of the farms was marked with the name of a great-great-grandmother, instead of her husband. (There's a story there that I'm never going to learn.)

#226 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 02:41 PM:

#223 ::: Bruce Baugh

Yes. Other than waiting for the mesozoic assholes (!) to die off, ISTM that the best mechanism for social change is to build in monetary rewards for Doing Right. Stronger than penalizing for doing wrong, though that's sometimes needed.

Petitions, legislation, sure, as much as possible.

Boycotts impacting their bottom line have made patriarchal companies change policies (contrasted with throwing money to ad campaigns for damage control).

/cynicism

#227 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 03:46 PM:

Re 224/225: A couple of years ago, in response to someone elseNet saying something idiotic, I came up with this list.

Why do I consider myself better off now than the women of the 1950s and 1960s? Let me count the ways...

- I can own property in my own name.
Technically, this was true prior to the 1950s, but now nobody is going to give me an argument about it.

- I can have a credit card in my own name.
This was definitely NOT true prior to the 1970s; I remember that fight.

- I can make a living without having to have a husband.
It used to be that the only positions open to single women were low-paid secretarial/clerical work or traditionally-female jobs like teaching and nursing, which didn't pay all that well either.

- If I am not hired for a job for which I am qualified because I am female, or if I am paid less in that job than a man doing the same work, I have legal recourse.

- If I am told that I have to fuck my boss to keep my job, I have legal recourse.

- I can sign a contract without being told that my husband has to approve it first.
Still not true in some very rural regions, but overall yes.

- I can rent an apartment without having to have a husband.
This is related to the ability to sign a contract in my own name, but it's also true that for a long time, many landlords simply would not rent to a single woman because she was assumed to be a prostitute.

- I can retain my birth name after marrying and continue to vote under that name.
Hooboy, do I remember this one, since it played out in my hometown! A prominent female attorney got married, kept her name because of her professional reputation, and the next time she went to vote, was told that she couldn't because she had to have her REAL name on her voter registration card. Boy, you never saw a lawsuit progress so fast -- she was pissed.

- If my husband beats or rapes me, I have legal recourse.
This was definitely not true until the 1980s or thereabouts.

- If my marriage is failing, I can obtain a divorce without having to pretend to engage in an adulterous affair, and without being socially ostracized thereafter.

- I can legally buy birth control even if I am not married.
I remember that fight too. (For that matter, I can buy birth control AT ALL, although that fight predates me.)

- I can get health and life insurance as an individual.

- Unless I am unconscious or have been declared legally incompetent, I can make my own medical decisions.
And it takes a serious legal procedure, and real evidence, to have me declared incompetent -- it won't be done on my father's or husband's say-so. (Sadly, it can still be done by a couple of corrupt doctors in collusion.)

- I can run for political office and stand a reasonable chance of being elected, without my husband having had to hold the office first.
This was true on the local level a while back, but now it's also true on the state and Federal levels. It is also not considered a Big Deal if I am appointed to a political office.

- If I fall in love with another woman, there are places where we can live openly as a married couple, with all the legal benefits pursuant thereto.
And this is very new.

#228 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 08:18 PM:

Lee #227: "-I can sign a contract without being told that my husband has to approve it first.
Still not true in some very rural regions, but overall yes."

WTF??? Where is this still the case?

#229 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 08:26 PM:

Fragano, #228: Suzette Haden Elgin wrote in her LJ once or twice about having had some sort of minor maintenance emergency while her husband was out of town, and having had to call in a "city man" from 40 miles away because the local firm wouldn't undertake the repair without having talked to her husband first. She lived somewhere in the deep backwoods in the Ozarks, but I can imagine this also being true in other deep-rural areas. The local guy just wanted to be sure that someone who knew what they were talking about had approved the process first.

#230 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 08:47 PM:

Lee @ 229: I lived quite near where she did and I believe that story one hundred percent

#231 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 08:49 PM:

Lee @ 227:
- I can have a drink in a bar, or eat dinner in a restaurant, by myself. There was a time when some establishments assumed that any woman on her own was a prostitute, and they won't seat her.

- My husband cannot see my medical records unless I tell my doctor's office that they can share information with him. I boggled, watching Mad Men, when Betty's psychiatrist gave Dan detailed updates.

#232 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2013, 09:23 PM:

Lee #229: Good grief. That's just nuts.

#233 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 12:42 AM:

I wrote this here on Making Light two years ago, but it's pertinent, so I hope you'll forgive me copying it again here, with some editorial changes.

HERE's a link (realplayer) to an old time radio show called Family Theater. The episode is called "A Day to Remember". It was broadcast in 1958.

Family Theater was an extremely normative and very popular radio show. It opened and closed with an exhortation to pray together as a family, and was developed as a show by a Catholic priest.

The particular show I've linked to was about women having checking accounts. It was firmly against it. A direct quote of a conversation between husband and wife:

W: "Mrs. Bartlet down the street stopped in yesterday, and do you know what she told me? She said that Mr. Bartlett opened a [shocked tone] bank account for her!
H: "A bank account? For heaven's sake, what for? Is he sick?"
W: Oh no, no. He felt she should have her own money, to buy things and to pay the bills.
H: "Polly, I hope you don't approve of such an idea! A wife and mother has no business being involved in the sordid exchange of money. Dealing with collectors and tradesmen is not the duty of a self-respecting woman. And the hand that rocks the cradle shouldn't be" [interruption here].

"Against my better judgment" he gives her a bank account. (Notice that he has to open it for her. She's incapable of opening one for herself. All the money, after all, is his. And depending on what state she lived in, legally she might not have been able to open an account without his permission even WITH her own money. I know people of my mother's generation that had that problem.) He then has to teach her how to write a check.

Well, since she's absolutely unaware of how bank accounts work (and he hasn't bothered to tell her), she immediately goes out and (for the best possible reasons) buys a house at auction. Which is a bit of a problem, since the account only had $100 in it. Women are so foolish, you see, they don't understand checking accounts. Which makes sense, since she was NEVER TAUGHT ABOUT THEM. The story ends with her giving up the account, with a happy little giggle about how foolish she is, and the husband's (and narrating son's) clear approval. Women shouldn't have to bother their little heads about bank accounts.

She isn't allowed any financial identity of her own. And to back this up, when she IS given a financial identity of her own, as a gift from her husband, she immediately screws it up, thus proving that women should only stand in the shadow of their husband's legal and financial identity. The whole show is built around reinforcing this.

And it was broadcast only 55 years ago.

#234 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 01:57 AM:

Brooks Moses @ 206: I just got around to reading the wonderful story you linked to. That is, indeed, heartwarming and how things should work.

#235 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 10:46 AM:

233
My mother was writing the family checks several years before that show - she'd give my father a book with a few hundred in the register, and account for them as they were used. (She did that until he died.)
Seems my father once wrote a check that bounced because the bank couldn't read his signature.

#236 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 10:57 AM:

P J Evans:

Yes, but the show was all about how things SHOULD be. Your family was obviously aberrant and should be looked at askance. Because women should never have to deal with money or tradesmen. Unless her husband was sick.

How they were supposed to pay the butcher and the grocer was completely glossed over, of course. And it was certainly her job in this worldview to be in charge of ordering the food; how this doesn't equate to "dealing with tradesmen" is anybody's guess.

#237 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 11:22 AM:

236
Even in the 1950s, that was becoming unusual, although there were families, even in the 70s and 80s, where he ran the finances and she was handed the allowance for the week.

#238 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 11:33 AM:

All I can say is that, based on the material that Cheryl Morgan has reported on her blog over the years, if the press in the U.K. doesn't change the way they report and editorialize on transgender issues there are going to be lots and lots more injuries and deaths of transgendered folks there.

#239 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 12:20 PM:

Oh yeah: The just-crowned Homecoming Queen at one of the Orange County (CA) high schools is trans*.

#240 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 01:06 PM:

This just floated through my datastream, and is very relevant to the conversation: if trans women aren’t welcome, neither am I

#241 ::: Jeremy Preacher is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 01:07 PM:

Just a link! I have nothing to appease the gnomes with except Red Bull this morning, and it's mine, my precious...

#242 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 01:43 PM:

Jeremy Preacher @ 241

...nothing to appease the gnomes with except Red Bull this morning...

I hate it when there's too much blood in my caffeine system!

#243 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 10:15 PM:

Serge Broom @98: So, abi, what about adhesives discussions on bookbinding listservs?

Oh, Serge, you are being such a Serge. ::grin::

#244 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 10:29 PM:

Lee @ 227:
"- Unless I am unconscious or have been declared legally incompetent, I can make my own medical decisions.
And it takes a serious legal procedure, and real evidence, to have me declared incompetent -- it won't be done on my father's or husband's say-so.

This is not universal, but I have a friend who's bipolar, and has in the past been severe enough to need to be hospitalized by her family.

At times when she was almost certainly in control enough to make her own decisions, she has most definitely been hospitalized by her father or her husband of 17 years (And her father has held this as a threat over her head as recently as this year, for the shockingly mentally ill behaviour of supporting LGBTTQ* people).

Apparently, once it's in the system at all ever, it's not so hard as it should be... She has a number of things to say about doctors seeing what they're told to see, and some shockingly wrong treatment in those wards.

(And yes, this is in F***** CANADA.)

Sorry. This is a bit of a derail, since I doubt much sexism is involved (it being mainly prejudice against mental illness regardless of gender), and very little of it has to do with trans* acceptance, but I thought it worth noting that this particular fight may not be done.

Granted, still an improvement on the days a woman could be declared mentally unfit and put in a ward for marrying across racial lines....

#245 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 10:42 PM:

BTW, I just want to thank Alex R. for expressing some thoughts and concerns I've felt in a very articulate and level-headed way. I've kept mum, because I don't at the moment have the time to lay my thoughts out clearly, and also because I am actually afraid of getting in trouble with Patrick if I don't dot every i and cross every t, and I don't currently have the spoons to deal with that.

#246 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2013, 10:43 PM:

...for an orphaned, lowercase "i". Fresh hot tea coming on line in a few mintues.

#247 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 01:30 AM:

Jacque @ 245

Thanks Jacque. Your compliment really means a lot to me. I was very upset to see that being "reasonable" and suggesting that people talk and listen to each other and work things out were treated as some kind of sinfulness.

On one hand it's probably true that I didn't study the situation enough before commenting. On the other hand, I'm not sure I would have said anything much different. "Being reasonable;" that is, listening, using empathy, compromising and approaching someone else's problems with an open heart and some flexibility... these are the tools we use so that we don't kill each other. These are ultimately the best tools we have for not killing each other, and it's sad to see that some of the names I'd previously really respected in the community of woman's spirituality were/are so mean spirited and so hateful towards their peers, and apparently are completely unable to use these tools - grow up guys!

I got a lesson in listening to J. Random Person's real problems a couple years back and I'm trying really hard to both apply it and preach it... Anyway Jacque, I'm fighting the urge to go off on a major rant, so I'll close by thanking you again and cutting out all the stuff that would have followed the previous paragraph.

#248 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 03:09 PM:

Alex R. @247: It's not that it's a bad idea. It's that it's such an obviously good idea that it comes across as really condescending to suggest it, even if that's not at all how you meant to sound. (See Kate @90, who's already made this point.)

Given the number of intelligent, thoughtful people who have been trying to fix this machine for a long time, there's an excellent chance that someone has already checked to see whether it's plugged in.

#249 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 04:07 PM:

Q. Pheevr @ 248

I'm not sure what to write in reply. On one hand I agree with you completely. On the other hand I'm inclined to ask if you've ever done tech support or been a technician in the field. You'd be surprised how many times I go to a site and work with otherwise sophisticated users who didn't make sure the damn thing* was plugged in or otherwise neglected very simple troubleshooting that even a non-technical person can manage.

* "Damn thing" is a technical term.

#250 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 04:12 PM:

Alex R. @ #249, there's a huge difference between people who have explicitly come to you for advice and people having a conversation that you've voluntarily joined. (And even in the former case, dead-obvious suggestions need to be delivered with the utmost tact. Yes, I have done tech support.)

#251 ::: Yarrow ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 08:26 PM:

Alex R., here's another piece of the puzzle. James Baldwin famously said "To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage." Let's assume for the moment that this is true, and suppose I've just asked an African American activist to "be reasonable". Unless I've done the work of figuring out what "reasonable" means for someone black and conscious in America, this is going to sound an awful lot like "please stop being in a constant state of rage". Since our activist can't stop being black, that leaves shutting down their consciousness of what it means to be black in America.

And how could I do the work of figuring out what "reasonable" means for someone black and conscious in America? Certainly being black and conscious myself would be good preparation -- but that option isn't open to me. Being oppressed in some other way (or some additional way -- Baldwin was gay) might also be good preparation. Robin Morgan, quoting him, adds that "to be female and conscious anywhere on this planet is to be in a continual state of rage." And so forth. Those ways of preparing are also not open to me.

Maybe having been bullied and mocked through childhood, as I was, is a kind of preparation. And probably I'd have suggestions, if asked. But as Jeremy Preacher says, being asked for advice is a different thing from giving it without a request.

Earlier I asked us to assume for a moment that Baldwin's statement was true. What if it's not? Or maybe it's only partially true, true for folks (like Baldwin) who we'll stipulate are doing valuable anti-racist work, but not for others doing equally valuable anti-racist work? How would I know? What could I do about it if I did know?

Here my own history probably works against me. I did, in fact, figure out how not to be in a constant state of rage because of what other children did to me as a child. And because I'm a white, straight, cisgender man raised in the upper middle class, I can be fairly confident that the mocking and bullying really is in the past. And because I really don't like dealing with anger, my own or others', I need to watch my tendency to shut down others' necessary anger.

#252 ::: Yarrow gnomed again ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2013, 08:28 PM:

Would the gnomes enjoy some wild blueberries, perhaps? With blackberries and raspberries?

#253 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 12:12 AM:

Emily@205: The problem was solved quite elegantly at NASA when I was there; one of our co-workers was trans, and bolts were installed on the doors to *both* the men's and women's rooms so anyone could, as it was put to us, simply bolt the door if they felt uncomfortable.

I remember thinking at the time that, wow, this was really a great and compassionate thing to have done for our trans co-worker so she could feel secure; in hindsight, it was probably more for the cis* folks who were freaking about the bathroom thing.

I guess I was more starry-eyed than I thought I was back then.

#254 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 01:01 AM:

Elliott Mason @214: Oh, and laws that help trans* folks survive and thrive are also useful to all kinds of non-trans* folks.

Likewise disability accomodations. Trivial example: any improvement that makes life easier for wheelchair users also helps bicyclists. Frex Yarrow's curb cuts; I've (thank ghu) never been in a wheelchair, but I always keep track of them, because they make dealing with sidewalks much easier when I'm on a bike.

#255 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 01:15 AM:

Cally Soukup @223: Women shouldn't have to bother their little heads about bank accounts.

Wow. This adds a new dimension to my mother's insistance that I learn (in the '70s, when I was a teenager) how to write checks and balance a checkbook. Jeez. And here I thought she was just determined that I learn an important Life Skill. Hadn't crossed my mind that it would have a political dimension. (Hah! And she claimed she wasn't a feminist!)

#256 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 01:37 AM:

Jacque@254: I worked for two decades in a photocopy shop. A thing I had to do frequently was load up a hand truck with boxes full of paper and walk it somewhere. I liked the curb cuts too.

#257 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 07:15 AM:

Alex R. @247: I was very upset to see that being "reasonable" and suggesting that people talk and listen to each other

The particular note that struck a chord with me was the sense I got from you of "I can see both sides." It's been my observation that this attitude is often not welcome when the conflict is particularly fraught. (I'm thinking of a couple of quagmires I've seen Whoopi Goldberg wade into, for example.) It seems awfully easy for "I can see both sides" to be interpreted as "I endorse the behavior of both sides," which it is (for me at least) not at all the case.

I was kind of shocked, actually, by the response you got. On thinking carefully about Patrick's @53, I think what he was reacting to is that those who are being aggressed against are trying to engage, whereas those who are aggressing are having none of it. Telling the aggressees to try to try engage, I can see, could come off as patronizing and insensitive. Telling the aggressors to engage...is likely to be fruitless, at best.

I invite clarification if my understanding of Patrick's position is wrong.

Which segues to Q. Pheevr @248: Given the number of intelligent, thoughtful people who have been trying to fix this machine for a long time, there's an excellent chance that someone has already checked to see whether it's plugged in.

There are those of us who, for whatever reason, aren't steeped in the history and state of the art of the discussion. I don't know how greeting well-meaning if ignorant attempts to participate in the discusion with scorn and derision is supposed to encourage newcomers to hang in there and do better. In my particular case, it's far more likely to cause me to run away and hide from the hurt, which doesn't help anybody.

I am reminded painfully of an exchange I had with my brother when I was young. I'd said something about something, and my brother snorted and responded with, "Jacque, your ignorance is showing." Which was to say, nearly as I could figure out, that I should already know this, and that I wasn't supposed to ask questions, even implicitly. Which is a double-bind it took me well into my thirties to get out from under.

I am particularly impressed, Alex, with your willingness to hang in there, and continue to engage, and to do so in a measured, reasonable, and thoughtful manner.

kate's @90 was a more useful response, but even this contains a problematic premise: This sort of discourse has been going on since the late 60s, you know?

What if we don't know? Are we just supposed to shut up and not participate in the discussion at all? That's kind of the message I'm getting. Which, from this community, I find particularly appalling. (And as I write this, I find that I'm feeling really hurt and angry about this.) If not, how the hell are we supposed to learn anything?

Back to Alex: I'm fighting the urge to go off on a major rant

If you're of a mind to, I invite you to rant at me in private email, available at the bottom of the web page linked from my name (although looking at my current inbox, I see you've already got it).

#258 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 09:18 AM:

Jacque @255 Said: This adds a new dimension to my mother's insistance that I learn (in the '70s, when I was a teenager) how to write checks and balance a checkbook. Jeez. And here I thought she was just determined that I learn an important Life Skill. Hadn't crossed my mind that it would have a political dimension. (Hah! And she claimed she wasn't a feminist!)

Sandra Day O'Connor's mother insisted that Sandra should NEVER learn to type, because if she could type, her male co-workers would always make her be the secretary for their group, instead of letting her, y'know, do the job she was hired for.

#259 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 09:21 AM:

Sam Dodsworth @ 220:



Alex @219 "Am I underpaid because of racism, or am I underpaid because of sexism? Does it matter?"

I'm a white guy so I really hesitate to speak up here, but my understanding is that this (and related issues) are very important in modern strains of feminism. You might want to Google "intersectionality" and "intersectional feminism", and possibly take a look at the work of bell hooks.

I just want to reiterate this, and link to a chart, because the short answer to Alex's question (one that makes intersectionality really important) is actually racism and sexism stack.

Black women make less than black men, who make less than white women, who make less than white men. (and there's other categories in there that make it an even longer and more confusing sentence, so I hope that's clear)

You can see that in this chart.

Intersectionality; because any feminist movement that doesn't address racism is going to talk about a woman making 70 cents to the man's dollar, and that's wrong. White women make 80 cents on the white man's dollar, black women make 70 cents on the white man's dollar, and Hispanic women make 60 cents on the white man's dollar.

"My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit!" - Flavia Dzodan.

#260 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 09:42 AM:

Lee, #227: "- I can sign a contract without being told that my husband has to approve it first.
Still not true in some very rural regions, but overall yes."

Interestingly, this is still the case for some things here in Sweden (sale of real estate and, I believe, some other capital-intensive things), but it also goes the other way -- I had to co-sign contracts for the sale of some properties she'd inherited, but if they'd been mine, she would have to co-sign, presumably because one member of a married couple shouldn't be able to sell capital-itensive stuff behind the back of the other. Note that so far as I know my wife stood as sole owner for the properties.

#261 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 10:06 AM:

cd @260: that sort of thing varies from state to state in the US; California's laws about ownership of property are categorized as "community property", which means pretty much anything acquired by one partner during the marriage is automatically owned by both (not sure if it applies to property acquired by inheritance, though).

The point is that these days the law is symmetric; if the wife requires the husband's signature, then the reverse will be true as well. In the past, the law was much more asymmetric, so the husband typically never needed his wife's approval, but the wife had to have her husband be the one signing the contract. Pretty much the way parents have to sign in place of their minor children today (at least here in the US).

#262 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 12:57 PM:

261
I have run into examples, in the past (genealogy here), of property transactions where the court brought the woman in to ask about it - I think to find out if it had been her inheritance or if there was dower involved.

#263 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 01:27 PM:

Jaque@254: Trivial example: any improvement that makes life easier for wheelchair users also helps bicyclists

And others. I know that my own appreciation for accessibility increased by several orders of magnitude during the stage in my life when I was pushing a two-seater twin stroller from hither to yon.

#264 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 01:29 PM:

Oops. Jacque. Sorry about the misspelling, up there.

#265 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 03:08 PM:

Elliott, #258: That was standard advice for any woman who was interested in having a career back in the 70s -- "if you let them know you can type, you'll never get out of the secretarial pool". I remember reading a magazine article which suggested that if you were required to type up the minutes of a meeting or something, you tell them ONCE that you can't type, then agree -- but do such a terrible job that they would never ask you again.

I did not really learn to type until the job I took with a benefits consulting firm, which required me to type benefits-statement text into computer programs. And my typing speed is still fairly slow (~40 WPM, although that's more than twice as fast as I can write by hand), and I don't know things like the format for a business letter because I've never done secretarial work.

cd, #260: That's rather different from the sort of thing I was referencing; see my elaboration @229. Also, what Jeremy said.

#266 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 04:01 PM:

265
I only know about letter formats because I took typing in HS (instead of chemistry). I still wouldn't admit to being a competent typist, except that everyone now gets to use a keyboard.

#267 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 04:54 PM:

Wow. I did (basic) business-letter format in grade school, longhand, on lined paper with three holes in the left edge ...

#268 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 08:05 PM:

My wife remarks that in the later 60's her father absolutely refused to allow her to learn typing on those very grounds. She deplored the decision at the time, then from 1980 to 1995, endorsed it, then, when she learned to program, deplored it again.

#269 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 08:09 PM:

Jeremy Leader @ 261: Your mention of minor children jogged something in my mind.

I think the term we're fishing around here for women's (former) status might be "chattel" in common law. Women were formerly treated as living property of their husbands or parents, and even after they were no longer legally chattel, the law still treated them as such in all the ways we're discussing.

Children still have much the same status in the law, which is a discussion I remember having with my daughter sometime during her teens. At some point our society really needs to do something to fix that. The fact that it's usually OK to be a child if you have a nice "owner" (aka parent) means it's actually not OK.

#270 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 08:14 PM:

Jeremy Preacher @ 250

...there's a huge difference between people who have explicitly come to you for advice and people having a conversation that you've voluntarily joined.

Jeremy, I think you've stated things incorrectly, though not from deceitful intent. Patrick did, in fact, come to the readers/commenters of Making Light and request help in the matter of sociological trends which are disturbing to him. Essentially he's requesting that we act as citizens and attempt to influence our fellow citizens in the particular matter of how Trans People are treated by an ugly minority within the Feminist Movement.

As a citizen, I have the right to examine his statements, comment on his ideas, ask questions and propose alternatives. Patrick is kind enough to let me do this at his blog, even when he disagrees with me, which spares me the need to start my own blog to address the issue.

In the course of dealing with Patrick's proposal, I've learned things and altered my viewpoint of various people and ideas, and I've come to some conclusions, two of which are appropriate to this particular discussion:

FIRST: After a lengthy process of asking, "Is this thing turned on? Is it plugged in?" I've come to the conclusion that the Trans People and their supporters are turned on, plugged in, and ready to communicate appropriately. However, the TERF-types are neither turned on nor plugged in. They've managed to turn the router configuration into complete gibberish and they're still using DOS 4.0. In addition, they've managed to twit-file everyone who might talk them down from their tree. (Note that without asking questions and challenging various of the ideas which have been presented, I could not have come to this conclusion.)

On the basis of this, I don't think a petition* will have any positive effect beyond acting as a sort of popularity contest which makes clear to some small portion of the public what the relative numbers of Trans-Supporters vs. Trans-Excluders might be. It seems to be having this effect - the number of signers is up significantly as of today - and I've asked to be added to the petition in order to help magnify this positive effect.

Unfortunately, I'd expect either of two possible responses from the Trans-Excluders to this petition. The first possibility is that they will simply ignore the petition. The second is that they will use it as an excuse for some kind of disproportionate response. Given that I'd expect option two (the disproportionate response) my own inclination would be to find a way to do some real damage. Strategically speaking, it might be worthwhile to start an academic boycott of Routledge Press (the publisher of the textbook that everyone finds so offensive) or find a way to mount a massive lawsuit next time a Trans Person is denied care or training by a rape crisis center.

SECOND: I do still believe in the value, for some particularly needful people, of space which is set aside for biological women only, if it can be managed on a fair basis. (i.e. Run two healing circles, one is for bio-women only, assign the facilitators by lot.) This might take place with the understanding that space set aside for bio-women only is essentially "remedial" space which is to be used only until someone gets over the worst of their shit and can connect with everyone else regardless of what gender they started with. I'm aware that as a man my input may not be appropriate, but since we're discussing the subject...

I'm of the opinion that if the TERF-types could "put on their listening hats" and talk stuff out, shared space would be fairly easy to arrange, and the arguments over whether the entire idea of gender is bad for women could be restricted to the academic journals.

* I'm really not a fan of either petitions or demonstrations; I strongly question their effectiveness, but I also don't have any better ideas. Sigh.

#271 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 08:15 PM:

Alex has been gnomed. We're having pizza tonight if that pleases their lownesses.

#272 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 08:19 PM:

Clifton, 269: The difference, of course, is that children are not able to care for themselves effectively. Women can pay rent and hold jobs; children cannot. Teens can, but arguably shouldn't have to. Given the current war on everybody who isn't already rich, I strongly doubt that emancipating all minors would work out in their favor.

#273 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 09:59 PM:

Alex, #247, Jacque, #257, plus a few other comments:

Hrm.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to shut you guys down.

(I'm going to make this two comments because I hate going, “I'm sorry, but.” So, I leave the apology as its own thing.)

#274 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 10:01 PM:

Jacque and Alex – My intent when commenting was less to go, “Shut up and sit down,” and more to say, “There is more to it, and I think it's useful to know some of the more-to-it before wading in and offering solutions.” But obviously, intent is not magic, and what you get out of a comment is what you get out of it.

Part of it comes from the fact that I'm a white, upper-middle-class-in-origin-lower-class-currently, bisexual woman who identifies as a feminist, but who is painfully aware of the chasm between the ideals and the realities. So I'm tender, there, and sometimes get a little sarcastic, to the detriment of clear communication.

I don't really have anything otherwise useful to say, so I shan't. (And Alex, your #270, which you just posted, has some meaty things and some things I might dispute if I had the brainspace, but I don't, so: Hey, interesting comment.)

#275 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 10:37 PM:

kate @ 274

You have nothing to apologize for. There were two comments which upset me and your comment @ 90 was not one of them. Even upon re-reading it I don't see why I might be upset.

I love to argue and debate and I don't ever get pissed off at people who merely disagree with me, even if they do so in fairly strong language as you did. It's the name calling, whether direct ("concern troll") or indirect, ("one of the more odious varieties of online performance") that disturbed me.

You have nothing to apologize for, and I hope you will keep calling it the way you see it!

#276 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 10:38 PM:

TexAnne @ 272:

Hi! I said nothing about emancipated minors; I'm not quite sure how you got there. In addition, "Shouldn't have to support yourself" is to my mind pretty much orthogonal - i.e. a completely different line of question - from the rights one should have to make critical decisions for oneself and the rights one should have to have ones life etc. protected independently of (or even against the wishes of) ones parents.

However, I take your reaction as a sign that this topic could be a complete derail for this thread.

So, I now Jedi handwave that last paragraph of my post, thus:

"Nothing to see here. These are not the ethical value questions you are looking for."

If you or others have a mind to discuss it further, perhaps we could take it up on the current Open Thread? I don't currently have a lot to offer about it, other than my observation that our society still has a huge set of problems in this area. It doesn't present an easy set of questions, let alone answers.

#277 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 11:09 PM:

Yarrow @ 251

...here's another piece of the puzzle. James Baldwin famously said "To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage." Let's assume for the moment that this is true, and suppose I've just asked an African American activist to "be reasonable".

The word "reasonable" was thrust upon me by Patrick, and unless I've missed something while re-reading my own comments I've only used it while referencing his language.

My chosen phrasing has been that it would be nice to get the two sides to sit down and talk but that doing so would be very difficult. After our very long discussion on this subject plus the further reading I've done, I've concluded that it's impossible. If Abigail Adams descended from heaven accompanied by a choir of angels she might be able to broker a truce, but I don't think anyone else could.

#278 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 11:10 PM:

Gnome, gnome on the range...

#279 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2013, 11:23 PM:

Howard @ 259

I just want to reiterate this, and link to a chart, because the short answer to Alex's question (one that makes intersectionality really important) is actually racism and sexism stack.

Thanks for a very intelligent post. I should have suspected that the two factors stacked, but didn't. (Bad White liberal! No biscuit!)

What I found really interesting about the chart you provided was looking at how the numbers changed over time, with the wages for women of all races generally going up over time with the Black men's wages staying the same and the wages of Hispanic men actually dropping.

I was very interested to note the wages of Black men during the Reagan years. In fact, you can almost tell whether a Republican or Democrat was in office just be looking at the salaries of Black men. Scary!

#280 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 01:32 AM:

Alex R. @279: My first reaction to that table was "selection bias!" Anyone at the low end of the scale is very likely being paid under the table (especially undocumented immigrants), and so is not likely to show up in officially-reported statistics. So if there's been much change in the number of such unreported wage-earners, the changes visible in the table might be very different from the changes in reality.

#281 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 02:42 AM:

Jeremy @280

Is it reasonable to think that "under the table" payments to undocumented immigrants are going to be higher than recorded wages?

And how many undocumented immigrants would be classed as Black? If there is an effect, it would be from competition for a limited pool of jobs. and a plausible inference would be that a disproportionate number of Black men are at the bottom end of the labour market. Which raises the question as to why that it so. The conventional answers invoke such things as poor education, but why is it poor? There are other reasons that try to sidestep the heinous crime of living while Black, but that seems to be the common thread.

All too soon, I feel we are spiralling into the drain that leads into the sewer of racism.

#282 ::: King's Rook ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 05:47 AM:

It always strikes me as both pitiful and terrible that Mr. Clark, who is himself a gay man as well as a tireless advocate for accessibility in technology (he works on the issue of captioning video for the d/Deaf, as well as other issues of accessibility) -- in other words, he sure as hell OUGHT to be One of the Good Guys -- has such a deep streak of misogyny and anti-trans bigotry. It's just ... incongruous and sad.

#283 ::: individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 06:39 AM:

Alex R @270: I'm pretty certain the point of the petition is not about convincing the TERFs to change their views. I agree with you that they're basically beyond help. The point is that trans* people get to see that a substantial number of feminists, both influential Names and private individuals, regard them as people, and that trans women in particular see that many feminists absolutely do accept them as real women, sisters, welcome community members, equal inheritors of the fruits of feminism. You can dismiss that as a popularity contest, but I think it's actually important. It should be a given, but it's not.

The thing is, it's all very well to say, anyone who thinks women should have basic legal equality is a feminist. But if I say I'm a feminist and I mean that I vaguely think women should have the right to equal pay and the vote and the right to own property and choose their relationships, well. My feminist friends might understand that as a statement that I actually have their backs, that I'm actually going to put effort into promoting feminist causes, and find themselves disappointed. More seriously, though, my trans* friends might understand that I hate them, that at the very least I want them to be barred from using the toilet outside their homes, and quite possibly I actively support their being discriminated against in the job market and exposed to violence.

The word feminist means something beyond what it says in the dictionary definition, because words acquire their meanings and connotations through usage. So having a public petition with many signatories is playing an active part in changing the consensus definition of feminist from "person who hates trans* people and especially trans women" to "person who upholds the rights of women".

#284 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 07:31 AM:

Dave Bell #281: Is it reasonable to think that "under the table" payments to undocumented immigrants are going to be higher than recorded wages?

You've got the wrong end of that there... the effect of the low-end shifting toward undocumented pay would be to remove many of the lowest-valued data, thus raising the average.

Alex R. #270: While I'm a SWcisM, I can see problems with both of the actual suggestions you make.

Firstly, boycotting an academic publisher is very difficult, because they often have a monopoly in the field -- and the economics of the trade are bad enough to chase off competition.

Secondly, "have two separate spaces" is doubly problematic, -- on the one hand, that's splitting the space itself, making potential clients decide up front whether they're OK with transfolk -- and note that transfolk don't get two safe spaces, they get one friendly space and one hostile one. Also, that sends a definite message from "up top", that transwomen are not real women, because they don't get to go to a "women's" space, only the "women and transwomen" space. (mutatis mutandis for transmen and genderqueers).

The other hand here is that resources are scarce -- people to run the space, defensible rooms to hold it in, people and materials for publicity, even mindshare for "the women's space is over there". Saying "well, actually you'll need two women's spaces, separate from each other", can easily result in having no women's spaces.

#285 ::: Dave Harmon has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 07:33 AM:

Would the gnomes like coffee? I've got the usual decorations plus spices -- cardamom works nicely.

#286 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 10:16 AM:

Dave Bell @281: Absolutly! I wasn't arguing that the effect of the underground economy would alter the statistics in any particular direction, just cautioning that changes in the character of the underground economy might be a confounding factor when looking at changes in various groups' median wages.

#287 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 10:43 AM:

individ-ewe-al @ 282: I'm pretty certain the point of the petition is not about convincing the TERFs to change their views. I agree with you that they're basically beyond help.

Or maybe they're long-time feminists with serious skin in the game who have reasons for what they say and do. I agree they're wrong. I'm very uncomfortable with dismissing them as a) needing help as well as b) being beyond help.

#288 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 10:55 AM:

I think some of the TERFs may be suffering from the John Paul II problem (see also Heinlein, for a genre example): they were once fire-breathing radicals out on the bleeding edge of egalitarianism, but the world has moved past them and in some cases they're standing right where they started, which is now behind the wavefront of increasing happiness for all in some ways.

Change is hard. Continually examining yourself for unexpected ways you are accidentally harming others, is very very hard. If it has become part of one's self-image that one is a Fighter For Right Against The Patriarchy, and now one is well past middle age, it might in fact be a step that starts getting skipped, because clearly you know the answers and you have your battles and by Athena you're going to wage war against the oppressors you have clearly identified, who are still merrily oppressing.

Unfortunately, there may be more in heaven and on earth than is dreamt of in their philosophy ...

#289 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 11:10 AM:

Something else of note is that unless your internal gender compass (or other identity-orientation compass, there are many) points somewhere society says is incorrect for you, you may well never have any reason to know you HAVE one. You have an internal sense of selfness; society says you're a foobar. You feel like a foobar. Clearly, society is right and you are right and all is right and proper.

It may not be clear to firmly-cis people that gender can in fact be a deeply innately sensed aspect of self, especially when:
(a) they clearly see the kyriarchy's gynophobia saying girly things are always BAD and WEAK (and that all things are always either GIRLY or MANLY)
(b) they decided themselves early on that society was wrong so they will now hate girly things and be HUMAN and not GIRLY
(c) their entire academic career is based upon saying that society's gender norming is utter bullshit and created only to control half the human race in chains of lace, underwire, and pink glitter.

Earlier waves of fenimists have great trouble even with, say, millenial cis girls who are reclaiming girly pink sparkly fluffy stuff -- and building stuff/being awesome/smashing the patriarchy while wearing their Gothic Lolita cosplay. There's a whole genderqueer radfem movement coming up that enjoys exploring the gender-expression candy store, finding what fits them and feels good, and running with it.

To put it another way: I currently wear my hair very short, even though I'm good at braided, looped hairstyles and kind of enjoy working with other people's long hair. This is because, for me, MY hair length is a triggery thing (as well as something that feels like it encourages people to misgender me). Someday down the line when I have a decent set of facial hair I may start being one of those fannish guys at conventions in a Utilikilt with a beard AND long braided hair ... but not until I can get over it and let hair be just hair and not my entire internalized gender trauma odyssey.

I can easily see how a woman who has spent the past sixty years pushing back against a world that says she must be a secretery AND wear skirts AND makeup AND take care of her hair AND have sex only with men AND make less money WHILE doing all the housework ... might well conflate the trappings with the identity in a way that is not possible if you've grown up with a pulsing THIS WAY sensation in your head that everyone around you is saying is wrong.

#290 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 11:20 AM:

Elliott at 286, 287

Oh, well said.

#291 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 12:29 PM:

On the subject of reminiscence:

I recall my mother remarking - sotto voce - that the day she discarded her girdle was the happiest day of her life. (She would normally never have said such a thing, except that she was among friends - female, of course - and I was in the next room; but little pitchers, etc.)

Now I go to conventions and there are a variety of young women - well, a damn sight younger than me, but that accounts for most of creation, these days - getting around in corsets and bustiers and what-all, which they wear as outerwear, and which apparently give them difficulties in sitting down. Or breathing, if close (I trust not overly close) observation would suggest.

I am, no doubt, naive to wonder why they would do this.

#292 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 12:57 PM:

Dave Luckett @ 291: I am, no doubt, naive to wonder why they would do this.

In part, I'm sure it's because they don't have to.

#293 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 02:20 PM:

I recall one well-endowed woman of my acquaintance explaining that a corset/bustier was MUCH more comfortable than a bra...which in turn was more comfortable than going without either.

#294 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 02:42 PM:

A well-fitted corset is significantly more comfortable than a bra, in my experience; the problem is that the vast majority of them are not well-fitted. For one thing, if it's causing you to be unable to move or especially breathe easily, it's too tight.

#295 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 03:26 PM:

I can believe that a well-designed and fitted corset is very comfortable. However, I wince when I see high heels.

#296 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 03:28 PM:

individ-ewe-al @ 283

You can dismiss that as a popularity contest, but I think it's actually important.

"Popularity contest" was a poor choice of words on my part. I meant it more like you did. If I actually believed that it was a literal "popularity contest" I would not have asked them to put my name on the petition.

#297 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 04:13 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @295: I wince terribly at seeing high heels. And yet I have a friend who has feet such that high heels are actually more comfortable for her than flat shoes, a situation I never would have imagined could exist until I met someone for whom it was true.

The world is a strange and wonderful place, at times.

#298 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 04:23 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 284

Firstly, boycotting an academic publisher is very difficult, because they often have a monopoly in the field.

Maybe not my best idea ever. I think that the important thing to take away from what I wrote above is the idea that if you expect a disproportionate reaction from some group of people, hitting them as hard as possible might be good strategy. I'd expect the TERF-types to behave hatefully regardless.

Saying "well, actually you'll need two women's spaces, separate from each other", can easily result in having no women's spaces.

If the alternative is to have no women's space, I would default to putting the "women only" types together with everyone else. As I've said, the "women's only" sign should also be a sign that some kind of remedial activity is taking place. It should not be the default.

My suspicion, after discussing some of the issues with my college-aged, genderqueer daughter, is that the next generation of Feminists won't worry about the issue (assuming they can avoid driving people like my daughter away due to the civil wars within the movement, but maybe that's not a rant for this thread.)


John A Arkansawyer @ 287

I agree they're wrong. I'm very uncomfortable with dismissing them as a) needing help as well as b) being beyond help.

As I noted above, the behaviors and ideas that seem paranoid to us are deeply rooted in the way women who wanted equality were treated from the beginnings of Feminism to at least the 1960s; arrested, forced into psychiatric care, etc. To someone raised in that environment, the idea of someone disguising themselves as a woman to infiltrate their meetings must seem of a piece with everything else they had to endure.

The counter-argument to that idea, of course, is that if I wanted to infiltrate a woman-only space and I've got enough money for optional and expensive medical treatment, I can go to a high-level detective agency (i.e. Pinkerton's) and hire a woman to betray her sisters without having to take hormones myself.

The problem with my counter-argument is that a man who wants to infiltrate a woman's only meeting might not be sane. Unfortunately, I have experience that points at this.

Either way, I have my doubts that they are reachable. They've reached the stage in their lives where "Get Off My Lawn" seems like the height of enlightenment.


Elliott Mason @ 289

Earlier waves of fenimists have great trouble even with, say, millenial cis girls who are reclaiming girly pink sparkly fluffy stuff -- and building stuff/being awesome/smashing the patriarchy while wearing their Gothic Lolita cosplay.

I've seen some of that too. I think that kid's fashions will always be impenetrable to us old fogeys. My daughter went to school in male drag today, complete with bound breasts and one of my shirts. Yesterday she was wearing a hippie dress. I assume that she understands the signals that she's sending to her peers. I sure don't.

#299 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 06:10 PM:

John A, #292: Precisely. There is a HUGE difference between "suffering for beauty" occasionally, voluntarily, and having to do so all the time because Other People Say You Have To.

Also, if your corset/bustier is interfering with your breathing, you've got it laced too tight. A properly-laced corset can actually make you feel better by providing back support.

#300 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 06:11 PM:

I find (properly fitting, which is sometimes hard to come by) high heels incredibly conducive to the kind of social dancing often called 'ballroom' styles. Two people holding a frame and doing things in concert. Having the forward lift that heels provide makes me a more resonsive partner and generally facilitates all the motions necessary (which is why male professional ballroom dancers do a lot of their work while standing on tiptoe -- and their shoes have heels much larger than most male shoes do).

#301 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 06:16 PM:

Lee @299: See also people whose recreational, consensual practices would be deeply felonious if performed on a nonconsenting or unsuspecting individual. In the "your kink is not my kink but your kink is ok" department.

#302 ::: makomk ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 07:13 PM:

individ-ewe-al @283: This. It wasn't that long ago that I can remember politically-active, feminist trans women abandoning feminism en masse exactly because TERFs were yelling from every corner that trans women weren't women and labelling anyone who treated them as women as anti-feminist - and the nominally non-transphobic feminists weren't challenging this.

Not only that, but think about the message this sent to other would-be feminists. If you treated trans women with decency, you could expect to be loudly labelled as anti-feminist and a women hater by other, much more influential feminists with Guardian columns and huge audiences, who'd try and exclude you from feminist groups and stop anyone from publishing you. There was no cost to excluding and hating them at every turn, though; if you took that path, no-one with influence would tell you that you were unwelcome within feminism, or pressure publishers to not print you and feminist organisations to kick you out. Basically, if you wanted to be successful and effective within feminism, it was best to be transphobic.

(I think Roz Kaveney had a good piece about her older experiences of this over at Questioning Transphobia, which is sadly now offline.)

#303 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 10:08 PM:

Elliott Mason @ #289:

I hope you don't mind but there's been a kind of Trans* 101 thread going on in the LSG forums on Ravelry, and I've linked to this discussion as well as quoting your foobar explanation, as I thought it put things into perspective rather well.

#304 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2013, 10:31 PM:

Dave @ 281 and previous
There are probably a lot more people working under the table than "undocumented immigrants". People who are on various sorts of welfare who can't earn more than $X, or anything at all, without being disqualified, but who HAVE to have a few extra bucks to eat/pay rent/whatever. People are willing to pay babysitters, house cleaners, etc. etc. in cash, because it's just a few bucks and the paperwork is terrible if you do all the reporting you are supposed to. (I'm talking $10 to shovel the front walk, not 40 hours a week.)

I sometimes wonder if the people who object loudly to a minimum income do so because then they'd have to mow their own lawn.

#305 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 03:39 AM:

Elliot @301

Your "deeply felonious if performed on a nonconsenting or unsuspecting individual" covers everything from sex to professional boxing.

#306 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 07:10 AM:

Magenta Griffith #304: Oh yes -- the welfare system has a lot of tricks to deal with the conflict between "we're supposed to be helping the poor" and "but our budget just got cut, but there's more poor folks than even." without any change in who we're supposed to help".

One of the biggies, which they regularly try and occasionally get slapped for, is to knock people off the rolls on pretexts, such as saying the money they're earning from a half-job is enough that they don't need welfare anymore (never mind that the reason they work there is because the welfare isn't enough). Or "violations" such as "not reporting income".

#307 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 07:19 AM:

Bah, typos. 'even"->ever'.

#308 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 09:01 AM:

Sarah @303: Considering I'm a cockbadger* that's awesome. :->

Magenta Griffith @304: There are a surprising number of actual have-storefronts businesses that deal entirely in cash for their employees, presumably so they can massage their paperwork on the backend (or don't trust banks, or whatever). The ones I have encountered are often are (legal-)immigrant-owned.

Dave Bell @305: Boxing definitely falls into "your kink is not my kink but your kink is ok" for me. :->

* Members of the L(azy) S(tupid &) (Godless) forum on Ravelry refer to each other collectively, and with love, as twatweasels and cockbadgers. It's a thing. There might be a lot of swearing in general. From a place of love. :->

#309 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 09:27 AM:

Jacque @254:

Likewise disability accomodations. Trivial example: any improvement that makes life easier for wheelchair users also helps bicyclists.

And people with children in strollers! I hadn't noticed how poorly signed the elevators in the subway are (not all entrances have one, though all stations do, and there's no indication at elevator-less entrances where an elevator can be located) until we adopted our son.

(This may be even more true than for bicycles, since door width is unlikely to be a concern for cyclists, and both strollers and wheelchairs need to navigate the interiors of buildings more often than bicycles do.)

#310 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 10:34 AM:

I flew into Rhode Island a few weeks ago for a funeral, and we deplaned on the tarmac. We then had to climb some rather steep stairs to get into the airport. Among the passengers there was a very elderly lady, and a young woman with a cast on her leg. My husband and I had to ask around to find where the elevator was for the girl with the broken leg (the elderly lady had already gamely struggled up the stairs by the time we found someone who could tell us where it was.

Very poor customer service... but at least we knew there HAD to be an elevator (however hidden) because of the ADA, so we knew to ask for it.

#311 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 11:40 AM:

310
Burbank (California) airport has passenger ramps as well as stairs, that they can drive up to the planes. (It doesn't have jetways, and the gates are at tarmac level. Travel as it used to was.)

#312 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 12:54 PM:

Elliott Mason @#308:

Not a sparklepeen?

;)

#313 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 01:11 PM:

lorax @309: This may be even more true than for bicycles, since door width is unlikely to be a concern for cyclists, and both strollers and wheelchairs need to navigate the interiors of buildings more often than bicycles do.

I'd say they're about on a par. And this may largely be a function of living in a bikey place like Boulder, but I see a lot more bikes indoors and in elevators than I do strollers. The chief difference is that you can't pick up a stroller (with contents) and hook it over your shoulder for a quick dash up the steps!

#314 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 02:56 PM:

Sarah @ 312: Are we still talking about that damned new Charlie Stross story?

#315 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 03:48 PM:

Members of the L(azy) S(tupid &) (Godless) forum on Ravelry refer to each other collectively, and with love, as twatweasels and cockbadgers. It's a thing.

At Pennsic, I was working for a glassblower. He sells alchemy tools, including glass pestles. One of these was...well, about eight inches long, maybe an inch in diameter, with grooves around it--the thing looked suggestive. Us booth people got very good at saying "It's a muddler" as soon as someone picked it up with that "I'm NOT LAUGHING" look on their face.

So a lady does this, and I do the spiel, including saying, "Sadly, the glass is not tempered, so I wouldn't suggest getting creative, though as a bboard I'm on would say: Flange, safe." And she looked at me and said, "LSG!"

It was pretty funny.

#316 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 04:18 PM:

Sarah @312: My peen doesn't sparkle, but it IS lavender! Mainly because (rot13 because some may find this unwelcomely explicit) gur cnpxref va 'oebja', 'pnenzry' be 'juvgr thl' funqrf nyy ybbxrq xvaq bs, hz, pbecfrl, orpnhfr bs gur fyvtug juvgr funqbj gb gur fhesnpr bs gur fvyvpbar. Gur yniraqre ng yrnfg jnf pyrneyl abg vagraqrq gb or nal syrfu gbar naq vg qvqa'g obgure zr fb zhpu.

Now I really want a sparkly one.

#317 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 05:44 PM:

What with corsets, bustiers, and wheelchairs, I'm amused at how the thread has gradually modulated towards the literal support of trans* people. (And others, of course.)

#318 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 07:47 PM:

First, I have to make clear that I support trans* rights, believe they should be able to use facilities appropriate to their gender, and realize that trans people are often struggling with a culture that is actively hostile to them and that we must all work to change.

That said, abi noted earlier in the thread that she had "noticed an increase in TERF traffic in the media, both in the wider world and in communities such as fandom. I haven't seen the flipside in my datastreams." I'm here to talk about that flipside. As someone who might have different data than many people here, I feel that it's important for me to speak up. My datastream is comprised largely of millenials and artists.

The good news is that I've seen very little transphobia from the circles I most frequently follow. Some ignorance of the terminology comes up from time to time, but pretty much everybody in my datastream agrees that trans* people should be treated as whatever gender they prefer. I saw not a blip of transphobia after Chelsea Manning came out.

The bad news is that, in certain parts of my datastream, it is incredibly difficult to speak about one's own personal experience with gender without getting harassed by MRA groups or "militant" trans groups (I'm using militant because at least one person I've observed engaging in this behavior self-identified that way). I've seen both of those factions simultaneously dogpile on someone more than once - it almost overloaded my irony sensors the first time I saw it, but it does happen.

I've posted before about a vocal minority in the trans community who claim that any variant gender representation by a non-trans person is an act of cultural appropriation and "cis supremacy." See this article on the controversy created when a guy who did not expressly identify as trans made a music video about gender fluidity, and was harshly criticized for it. As someone who is somewhat genderfluid/gender variant myself, I found the video incredibly moving.

There's also a maelstrom around the concept of gender. Several people in this thread have said they don't understand how modern trans* culture could be seen as reinforcing oppressive gender structures. I see that conflict played out every day on my datastreams, with most of the harsher invective coming from the trans side. Bear in mind that this is a conversation that happens after everyone in the room has agreed that trans women are women and should be welcome in women's spaces.

Here's how the argument generally goes.

Feminist: "Let's make it so that fewer things are thought of as masculine or feminine! Like skirts vs pants, long hair vs. short, dolls vs. blocks. If these things aren't seen as gendered by society, they will be more accessible to everyone."
Trans advocate: "No, you can't do that. Those are the things we use to express our gender. If they are not strongly associated with masculinity or femininity, we will have no tools left to show who we are."
F: "We feel like having lots of behaviors strongly connected with masculinity and femininity is harmful, especially if these behaviors are based on a history of oppression."
TA: "Look, if you want to do masculine stuff, that's fine. Just declare yourself genderqueer. We made a category for everybody who doesn't fit with one of the main gender models."
F: "That's not the point. The point is that you are still implying that it's possible for a set of attributes or behaviors to 'match' with someone being a man or a woman, and we don't think that's true for everybody!"
TA: "If there's no such thing as inherently masculine or feminine actions or attributes, then you're erasing us!"
F: "We aren't. We're just saying that your identities don't have to be connected to behaviors society has typically considered gendered."

Once you weed out the extremists on both sides, this is where the argument is, and where I think it will go in future generations. Is it better to say "nail polish is feminine, and people can chose to be feminine when they want to" or "nail polish is nail polish. It's for everyone. Stop associating it with a gender"?

I'm hoping we eventually reach a place where we acknowledge there are many different ways to feel about sex and gender. It's possible to feel connected to your biological sex and not your gender. It's possible to feel connected to your gender, but not your biological sex. It's possible to feel no connection to either your biological sex or your gender. It's possible to feel strongly connected to both your biological sex and your gender. People of all orientations and identities can exist anywhere on that spectrum, and it's OK. The problem is, right now it is academically and culturally unpopular to say you identify with your biological sex, but not with the concept of gender.

One of the problems is that gender is so nebulously defined, and yet it is now supposed to be the only thing a person is allowed to consider when deciding if they are a man or a woman. In fact, calling yourself a man or woman now implies participation in the system of two-dimensional spectrum gender, which is not something everyone wants to do - even if they're participating by melding things from different parts of the spectrum.

That's the debate - are masculine and feminine the opposite poles of an inherent spectrum, or are they artificial cultural structures that will ideally erode over time? I'm hoping that we end up with the idea that gender is important and a defining part of being a man or a woman for some people, but gender is not important to everyone and it is not the only thing that determines if you are a man or a woman.

I hope this makes sense to people who wonder how someone might feel like the trans* agenda has some complicated implications when it comes to the classic agendas of moderate feminism. Still, most of the time, people who want to tear down the gender classification system just shrug and say "we can wait until after trans* people have equal rights to debate the fundamental value of gender and gender labels."

#319 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 10:19 PM:

Leah Miller: That reminds me of a conversation I had with an ex-partner of mine, who settled on a trans* identity not long after we stopped dating (we didn't break up over gender complications, we broke up because she was moving in with her other girlfriend & they decided they wanted to be monogamous). She was talking about having that sort of argument (the phrase "reifying the gender binary" came up) with an ambivalently-supportive feminist friend. My reaction was "Well, in a perfect world, people would be able to play with all sorts of presentation without it being a big deal about their gender, because why shouldn't anyone wear eyeliner or skirts if they like them, for example, and why should anyone have to if they don't? And that would take a lot of pressure to conform to gender expectations off of people. But even in that world, there would probably be people who were unhappy with their bodies and wanted to change them, and they ought to be able to do that, because why should people suffer?" Her response was, "Okay, how come you aren't in charge of the world?"

So yeah, I come down on the "Nail polish is nail polish, and is for everyone" side of the debate, but if the Accepted Terminology shakes out to "Nail polish is feminine and everyone can be feminine who wants to, when they want to," I won't be too fussed.

Actually, if you were to look at pictures of me and that particular ex gotten up to go dancing, this wouldn't be even slightly a surprise, given how similarly we were dressed. Fishnet shirts and stockings, check, short black skirts, check, stompy boots, check... in that particular photo, she's wearing a PVC waist cincher over the fishnet shirt where I've got a spiderweb-patterned laser-cut PVC bra (one of a very few in existence, it was a prototype & the maker discontinued it when he discovered that the PVC gummed up the laser)...yeah, matched pair. Another gender-nonconforming friend of mine feels that the best description of her gender is "Goth".

#320 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 10:28 PM:

Leah Miller @ 318: That's nicely said.

It's all going to be different in a hundred years. I wish I'd live to see it.

Along similar a line of thought on erasure, here's part of something I put on Facebook yesterday:

The most interesting (and hard to refute) critique of the use of "queer" is that it is an act of "lesbian erasure"--that it eliminates the specific lived experiences of women. Here's an example of how the pursuit of heterosexual marriage contributed to queer erasure:

Early in the article we learn that attorney Roberta Kaplan took Windsor’s case only on the condition that her client decline to speak publicly about sex. “All I needed was Antonin Scalia reading about Edie and Thea [Spyer]’s butch-femme escapades,” Kaplan tells Levy.

I wish the New Yorker profile was freely available, and I wonder what went into deciding it went behind the paywall when other things don't.

#321 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 10:47 PM:

The most interesting (and hard to refute) critique of the use of "queer" is that it is an act of "lesbian erasure"

I'm not sure I follow - does that refer to using it in place of "gay and lesbian"? (Because I use it in place of "gay" because it is does not default male, which is even more a lesbian erasure issue.)

#323 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 11:11 PM:

Jeremy Preacher @ 321:
I'm not sure I follow - does that refer to using it in place of "gay and lesbian"?

Yep. Especially lesbian. I can't really refute it. I just think the loss is worth it. (Easy for me to say, isn't it?)

#324 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 11:17 PM:

Ah. If that's the issue, QUILTBAG is the preferred terminology, I think. It does have the disadvantage of being very much jargon, though, and requires explanation.

I find I'm very seldom talking about *just* lesbians. I'm usually talking about people who identify as women who are attracted to other people who identify as women, and I have too many bi friends and people of various and complicated gender identities to find "lesbian" a particularly useful term. "Queer" is handy in that it covers all of those folks without privileging any of them, and "queer women" is a perfectly cromulent identifier.

#325 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 11:25 PM:

I have trouble using the word "queer." Where/when I grew up, it was most definitely a slur. What can I say instead?

#326 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 11:41 PM:

I think you're stuck with QUILTBAG then, or LGBT - the latter is still current, and somewhat less in-groupy. But they're both descriptors for groups of people. If you're talking about one specific person, find out what they identify as and use that. ("Gay," "lesbian," and "bi" are generally safe guesses for the sort of thing you'd probably use "queer" for, but really, guessing is kind of bad form.)

#327 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 11:42 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 289: "Something else of note is that unless your internal gender compass (or other identity-orientation compass, there are many) points somewhere society says is incorrect for you, you may well never have any reason to know you HAVE one."

Our Minister Emeritus at our church, who has been arguing for gay rights for a LONG time, has said before that he's generally small-c conservative, and that he thinks that if he weren't gay himself, he would probably be a homophobe. (There's some evidence of this, too, though I don't know his attitude on trans* politics.)

Just a point of agreement.

Jeremy @ 324: I have a similar feeling about the less-than-usefulness of 'lesbian'; I am a bisexual woman, and I know vastly more bisexual women/AFAB genderqueer/etc. than I do lesbians. So unless I am talking about an even smaller subset than usual, Queer women would be much more useful.

QUILTBAG isn't the only version of that acronym, and some people actively resist it, and others ask for more/different letters. (In Canada, or at least within my geographic areas therein, it tends to have two Ts, as well, Trans* and Two-spirited.) I usually stick to LGBTTQ and hope anyone else understands I'm not trying to exclude them.

One of the truths is that a great many people, on the street and face to face, give more points for making the effort to learn than for perfect recitation, because so many people don't have any background. I cling to that because, simply put, i know I will screw up and I am dependent on the leniency and kindness of my friends to both note that I make the effort, and tell me when I err.

#328 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 11:43 PM:

Jeremy Preacher @ 324:

If that's the issue, QUILTBAG is the preferred terminology, I think.

And I love QUILTBAG. (I sure wish T. Campbell hadn't abandoned it, but I get his reasons.) But I had someone point out to me that it's still a binary-centric term. I can't refute that, either.

This shit is hard complex. Possibly proof that P != NP.

#329 ::: Lenora Rose Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 11:44 PM:

Oops. I have macadamia nuts.

#330 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 11:48 PM:

But I had someone point out to me that it's still a binary-centric term.

Really? I can see how you could make that claim, I guess, if you object to anyone using gendered terms as self-descriptors, but people do and I think, for the purposes for which the term was created, it is appropriate to acknowledge people's self-descriptors. What does that person prefer, anyway?

#331 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2013, 11:51 PM:

Jeremy Preacher @ 330: You know, I forgot to ask.

#332 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 01:48 AM:

I love QUILTBAG, if only because it practically dictates a form for craft-based fundraising projects.

"Do you need a bag, sir?"

"No, I'll just tuck it in my quilted QUILTBAG bag."

"Nice bag, sir."

"Thank you. I'm sure yours is equally nice."

"Pardon, sir?"

"Never mind."

#333 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 02:31 AM:

My internal term for the wide variety of people who diverge in some way from our society’s heterosexual binary-gender model is gender dissenters, but I haven’t gone out of my way to bounce it off any people who might fit in that category (since it probably wouldn’t go over well for a het cis guy to go around telling non-het-and/or-non-cis people what they should call themselves), so it could be problematic in ways I’m blind to.

Anyone know how “trans*” is pronounced? I’m tempted to go all Victor Borge on it.

#334 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 05:03 AM:

@Avram

I like "gender rebels," which is cited in the lovely "gender candy store" article earlier in this thread. I think I've heard it before, too. I've also heard (and used) "gender agnostic."

Or there's always conscientious obgenders.

#335 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 05:18 AM:

Xopher @ 332: yes, indeed. I do actually have my very own QUILTBAG. And it's purple. Win!

At the risk of complicating things even further (sorry), I'd like to talk a little about the asexual community. I don't know, and would be very interested to find out, whether asexual people are really more diverse than sexual people, or whether we just appear to be because, once you start questioning the universal assumption that everyone is interested in sex and realise that you personally are not, it makes you a great deal more likely to question all the other assumptions surrounding sex and gender. (It certainly worked that way for me. Even though I'd been cheerfully pushing the boundaries of the genderbox all my life, I didn't fully realise I was genderqueer until I understood that I was asexual.)

Whatever the reason, asexual people are an incredibly diverse bunch. There's a high proportion of people who don't relate to the gender they were assigned at birth. There are people who are also aromantic, which means they also don't experience romantic attraction; of the ones who do experience romantic attraction, the balance among the genders that people are attracted to appears to be much more even than in the general population. (This makes biological sense, I suppose. If you're not going to have sex, then from the biological point of view it really doesn't matter who the special person is that you particularly choose not to have sex with.) There are also people who are generally asexual but can experience sexual attraction in certain very specific contexts, which is why you get asexual people with fetishes. (Please don't ask me to explain that one any further, because I'm not sure I've entirely got a handle on it myself. I'm just aware that it happens.)

Now, the reason I mention all this is that there's a lot of discussion going on at the moment about whether or not asexual people, as a group, fit under the QUILTBAG (or other set of initials of your choice) umbrella. A lot of us do individually because we're also queer in some other way: homoromantic/biromantic (if we're cisgendered), trans*, or genderqueer.

But the question is whether or not asexual people should be included simply because of asexuality, and it's not an easy one to answer. Some QUILTBAG organisations are inclusive of asexual people, some aren't. Even more to the point, some asexual people feel they belong under the rainbow umbrella, and others simply don't. I find that, in general, cisgendered heteroromantic or aromantic asexuals tend to identify more closely with straight people than with QUILTBAG people, and can be uncomfortable about the idea of being dragged under the umbrella because they don't feel they have a right to be there.

My personal feeling is that, as asexuality becomes better known as an orientation (or, as one ace friend delightfully put it, a "disorientation"), there's going to be more of a move towards the shelter of that umbrella. This article depressingly confirms something most asexual people have already experienced: that there is prejudice against asexuality, and, moreover, the people it is most likely to come from are the people who are already prejudiced against other minority sexual/gender orientations. (I've personally been fortunate, in that I've come up against very little of it, but even then it was from exactly who I thought it would come from. But then I'm almost 50 and have been single for years, so I don't think anyone was surprised when I told them. Younger people tend to face much worse hassle.)

I take refuge in imagining a more relaxed world. In my novel, the main characters, who come from Mars, are visiting Titan; one of them goes there regularly, the other is there for the first time. They see some uniformed police, and the character who's never visited the planet before notices that one of them is wearing a yellow scarf and asks what that's for. "Oh, that?" replies their companion. "That's to show he identifies as male." End of conversation on subject.

#336 ::: individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 06:05 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @287: I'm afraid I don't really care how long someone has been calling herself a feminist, if her feminism consists of harassing and hounding women she doesn't approve of. I mean, imagine if there was a prominent group of feminist spokespeople, with substantial influence in academia, print media and social media, who repeatedly argued that feminism means red-headed women should be burned at the stake. I wouldn't say, oh well, they have many years of activism promoting the rights of blonde and brunette women, so they're probably ok, just wrong on this minor point.

I'm not talking about the kind of nuanced philosophical debates about gender and society laid out by Leah Miller @318. As it happens I'm firmly on the side of the trans activists in this, even though the long, thoughtful comment I'm referencing here classifies them as militant and employing harsh invective. But I can see this is a reasonable debate which people can have in good faith. The petition isn't aimed at people who broadly support the rights of trans* folk to be the gender they are and to go through life unmolested, but who are uncomfortable with some aspects of trans* and genderqueer culture.

The TERFs are people who, under the banner of feminism, are actively arguing not only that trans women aren't real women, but they aren't really even entitled to basic human rights. Jeffreys comes from the academic lineage of people (Janice Raymond, Mary Daly etc) who literally publish fantasies of feminist mob violence against trans women.

When I say beyond help, I don't mean people who haven't thought much about trans* issues or aren't up on the latest in-group jargon or think gender dysphoria is caused by social sexism rather than, pace Elliott Mason @ 289: a deeply innately sensed aspect of self. I sympathize with Alex R and Jacque who want everybody to get along and see both sides of the argument. I mean the people makomk mentions at 302: influential feminists with Guardian columns and huge audiences, who'd try and exclude you from feminist groups and stop anyone from publishing [trans women].

Beyond. Help. And people haven't resorted to petitions without first trying to engage these TERFs in reasonable debate; they've been trying for decades, and all that happens is that the TERFs try to get their platforms shut down, get their books banned, get them removed from Twitter. It's not even possible to have a reasonable discussion with these people, if they are taking the point of view that a trans woman speaking or writing in public at all is inherently a threat to feminism and cis women.

#337 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 08:24 AM:

Leah, #318: One reason I have heard that some (but, of course, not all) trans* persons have internalised a strong gender binary is because it's required of them to get the assistance they need to transition. If the doctor they go to for assessment for some reason decides they don't present strongly enough as the gender they want to transition to, they can deny them things like HRT, or reconstructive surgery. This leads to some people beginning their transitioning hearing these horror stories (which they are, even if -- or especially as -- they're true!) and deciding to make sure the doctor can't fail them for being insufficiently committed to the transition, and then internalising this and maintaining it even post-transition, passing it on in turn (which can lead to some fairly reprehensible treatment of people who didn't need to go to the same lengths to transition, and thus are seen as either "setting a bad example" or just "wrong").

(Apologies in advance for probably not using entirely correct terminology: English isn't my first language, and I'm only an outside observer who know some people who've either transitioned, are in the process of transitioning, or intend to.)

#338 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 09:05 AM:

individ-ewe-al @ 336

I sympathize with Alex R and Jacque who want everybody to get along and see both sides of the argument.

I spent yesterday thinking about why I'm so bothered by this debate, and I came to a conclusion I'd like to share: It really bugs me that I have to choose between an environment which is healing* and an environment which is just. (Ideological correctness can just go fuck itself!)

In my version of a perfect society we can put anyone who wants it into a place which is BOTH healing and just. I understand this idea may be a little quixotic, but I want BOTH goddammit!

That being said, if I've gotta choose one or the other I'll pick justice - I'm not a moral idiot and I do get that justice will, in time, produce a group of people who need substantially less healing - and that's why I support the trans folk in this fight, but the mere fact that I've got to make the choice really pisses me off!


* Yes, I know, "Healing for whom?" and all that stuff. Can we simply accept that in this context healing is a pretty subjective term. (Personally, some of the techniques the Feminist Wiccans advocate have been incredibly helpful to me, but YMMV.)

#339 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 09:10 AM:

Supporting cd's point #337: The Clarke Center, in Toronto, is the only place in Ontario one can go and get one's transition paid for by the provincial universal health plan. It is your only "insurance-approved provider," in American terms.

The ... I'm going to try to be as polite as I can before I totally lose it, here, but I feel 'losing it' coming on. The eminent, powerful individuals who sit in the head offices at the Clarke Center are the kind of psychologists who are deeply in love with their theories, which they feel underpin all of reality. Patients who present themselves in ways not in accord with theory, are clearly fakers or just pathological.

Part of this theory ties into the (laughably wrong to trans* people) autogynephilia line of thought; indeed, Clarke Institute intellectuals helped to articulate and define autogynephilia as a definition to explain all transsexuals-born-with-penises (because I refuse to call them 'transsexual males,' as many Clarkies do or did) who are not exuberantly homosexual before seeking transition.

The Clarke Center will not (or would not a few years ago, the last time I had a detailed informant) allow you to transition if they find out you are attracted to women in any serious degree, or if in the considered glance of your medical gatekeeper, you wouldn't be pretty enough after your transition to pass easily as someone he could find bangable.

It's articulated a little differently in the versions written down on paper, but basically it comes down to that last adjective in reality. In the coffee-rooms for staff at the Clarke 'horse-faced drag queens' are spoken of (or once were; I hope it's different) with contempt and routinely refused treatment.

OHIP, Ontario's health plan, had 'bottom surgery' and its trimmings legislatively put onto the paid-for list some years ago, to the agog wittering of conservative legislators until they got the director of the Clarke up to testify. It would be so expensive! How can we sustain it?! they asked. Don't worry, he replied, we'll only be paying for 5-8 of them a year; that's all the 'real' transsexuals we get that truly qualify.

Meanwhile, just ONE surgeon (Broussard, in Quebec; she gets some American clients, enough that she maintains a license to practice in New York too so she qualifies on their insurance) is doing in excess of 800/yr. There are four or five very well-regarded 'bottom surgeons' for trans* surgeries practicing in the US and Canada, Broussard is only one. And yet, the Clarke thinks "5-8/yr" is a high-end estimate. :-(((((

So, yes, a really high proportion of clients of the Clarke lie through their teeth at every appointment just so they can get what they need. And if they are discovered, the Clarke decides that there's an enormous population of people fraudulently and pathologically seeking amputation of healthy tissue who need to be vigorously gatekeepered away from the 'real' transsexuals -- who will be pretty, bangable straight girls after transition and melt away into the population and never cause any trouble whatsoever.

Rereading over it, I think I kept it as polite as I can; I need to go off and shake and eat and stop grinding my teeth together. Did I mention that their theory underpinnings claim I don't exist? So they don't have to pay for any FtM procedures or hormones at the Clarke either.

#340 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 09:31 AM:

Leah Miller #318: As you describe it, it looks to me like another situation where "the feminists" (this subtype) are trying to throw the trans* folk off the bus (if not under it) in pursuit of their own goals. And bluntly the TERFs are demanding way more here, of way more people, than the trans* sorts.

Specifically: Getting people to at least stop abusing trans* folks, to accept them and full members of society, and let them wear what they damn please, is entirely practical and has more or less been done, in a number of societies and subcultures, historical and current.

Abandoning gender signifiers... not so much. It's like trying to suppress gang violence by banning the individual gang's colors -- an overcontrolling attempt to suppress and hide the conflicts, instead of actually dealing with the problem of people attacking each other. In a school, either might serve as a teaching exercise, but in society at large, they're both pissing against the wind.

Slipping into geekery for a moment: The gender spectrum really is one of the fundamental realities of human biology, psychology, and culture. This in in no way refuted by recognizing that gender isn't a strict Boolean, or even a strict real value. It's more like IEEE Floating Point, where there's a whole class of "special values" indicating "you're not on the number line anymore". (Unfortunately, there's also a whole class of programs that never check for those values, and will respond to them by running in circles screaming, lapsing into incoherence, and/or barfing bits all over your desk.) Even so, most of the time those floats do in fact represent real numbers.

#341 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 10:14 AM:

Me #340, addendum: And yes, I'm aware that even the normal gender range is multifactorial rather than a single value. But even those components are seen with reference to the M/F axis. Brief example: My BiL is a "househusband", taking care of the kids while Sis goes to work. While some folks might wonder if that "challenges his masculinity",¹ nobody would credibly wonder if it made him "not actually a guy".

¹ Brief answer: Nope. Also, I'm not the only one who's looked at him with his kids and said "I wish I'd had a father like that".

#342 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 12:20 PM:

339
Elliott, that makes me want to shut down the Clarke Center until they can find people to run it who are not straight-up bigots. (Their criteria are wrong-wrongity-wrong, just to start with.)

The box I fit in is physically/mentally female, but out beyond the two-sigma point on the low end of the interested-in-sexytimes curve. (It's not quite once every seven years, but it's definitely low.)

#343 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 04:15 PM:

Avram @333: My internal term for the wide variety of people who diverge in some way from our society’s heterosexual binary-gender model is gender dissenters

"Catalog order" as distinct from "bespoke"?

#344 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2013, 04:46 PM:

Leah Miller @334: I like "gender rebels," which is cited in the lovely "gender candy store" article earlier in this thread. I think I've heard it before, too. I've also heard (and used) "gender agnostic."

"Gender eclectic"?

#345 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 12:37 AM:

Dave Harmon @340 and 341

Thank you for providing an alternate viewpoint that I can debate against. Hopefully I can clarify my views.

You say "The gender spectrum really is one of the fundamental realities of human biology, psychology, and culture."

Let's set aside biology and psychology for now. It's interesting that you'd phrase your definition of gender that way, as most definitions focus on the cultural aspect. Nobody is arguing that biological differences don't exist, and nobody is arguing that psychological differences don't exist, often due to a bunch of different biological factors (though which psychological differences are innate rather than culturally programmed is up for debate). So we should focus on culture.

Do you think that the fact that society assigns certain behaviors a gender meaning is good or bad? Why?

I'm going to list some things that our culture currently considers gendered: makeup, pastel colors, STEM, comics, video games, blocks, cooking, dolls, mechanic work, mud, romance novels, frogs, glitter. Which items on that list do you think should continue to be considered masculine or feminine? Do you think society would benefit from trying to disassociate any of those things from sex or gender?

There is potential for great harm when society associates too many activities with gender. I lived near a nature center that did hands-on field-science programs for kids every summer. The 5-7 year-old class was about 40-50% girls. The 8-10 group was maybe 30% girls. When I got to the 11-13 group, girls had disappeared almost entirely. The programs ended at age 13, and by that point there was only one other girl left, in a group of 22-26 students... less than 10% of the class. Do you think the disappearing girls all went through some biological or psychological shift between the ages of seven and twelve that made them stop liking science and nature? I attribute the change to cultural pressure, pressure that mounts as girls grow older. "Frogs and mud are masculine things" society says. "It's OK to like them, but know that liking frogs makes you less feminine."

It's surprising how much personal experience influences what people perceive as fundamentally gendered. I learned to play Magic: the Gathering in drama club, with a pretty gender-balanced group of players. My little brother saw me play against other girls when my friends would come over. I brought home anime to watch, and one of my friends convinced me to start playing an MMO (online video game). My brother came to think of anime, magic, and MMOs as things that girls did. When he went to college, he joined the anime club - which had a mix of girls and guys, including a number of LGBTQ people. A few of the LGBTQ people invited him to join the LGBTQ Rights Alliance, and he did. Then a guy from anime club invited him to come to magic club, and he tried that out too. He called me the next day. "I took your old cards to magic club. It was fun, but weird... there weren't any girls there!"

If I was the first person he had seen pursue a given hobby, he assumed it was either girl-focused or gender nonspecific. Boys who hadn't been raised gender agnostic would roll their eyes at him and say "Of course girls don't play magic. Of course girls don't play video games. Of course girls don't read comic books." These were young, liberal, tolerant, millenial boys - many of whom were friends with a large group of LGBTQ people, including several trans* people. They wouldn't have said "no" to a girl who wanted to play, but they just assumed Magic wasn't a girl thing, so they never asked.

That "never being asked" thing is big. My brother wouldn't have gone to magic club if he hadn't been asked. As a gender-nonconforming person, it's usually assumed that I would not be interested in any strongly gendered event, so I'm rarely asked.

I'm fully aware that most trans people experience an infinitely more severe forms of exclusion, and I'm not trying to minimize that. But these are the conversations that are taking place in some communities that are already trans-inclusive. In my social circles, trans women (and gay men who tend towards culturally feminine interests) almost always get invited to girl's night. And the trans men I know in my industry (tech) have often said that their work lives got considerably easier once they decided to consistently use male names, pronouns, and dress - now they get invited to drink beer and watch football. Networking is easier. People stop acting surprised every time they display competence.

These stories come from the young, liberal tech industry, in blue cities, mostly on the coasts. The situations I describe are not typical of global culture. But it's an interesting "alternate universe" to look at: once binary-identified trans people are included and have rights (which we all agree is our first priority), what problems might remain?

The paucity of women in STEM fields perfectly illustrates the fundamental problem with artificial cultural gender assumptions. It's been shown that girls get called on less frequently in science class. They recieve less mentoring and less encouragement. If you give scientists otherwise identical CVs ask them to rate how willing to mentor or hire the person described, they will rate men as more worthy of hiring and mentoring than the women - even if the scientist being asked is female herself. If STEM work is culturally placed on one side of the gender spectrum, it changes how people think about science, how they talk to girls about science. It changes behavior in unconscious ways that girls respond to. It could be as simple as this: a girl wearing makeup goes into the counselor's office. She asks him to suggest an elective. He mentions the first thing that springs to mind, something compatible with her gender presentation - home economics. A boy wearing a T-shirt with Link on it walks into that same office. He asks the same question. The counselor mentions the first thing that comes to his mind given that gender presentation - computer programming.

Two more illustrative examples: the infamous man with gender ambiguous name gets job when he adds Mr. to his resume story, and then there's this classic piece about a trans man's experiences in the science community as both a man and a woman.

This is what happens when people view the gender spectrum as a fundamental reality of biology, psychology, and culture. They see people of one gender doing well in one field, they assign that field a place on the gender spectrum, and from then on they assume the other gender is less suited to that field for inherent biological, psychological, and cultural reasons... even in the absence of any evidence to support that premise.

"OK, OK!" you might be saying, "I never said I thought STEM should stay gendered!"

Well then... what activities and jobs should stay gendered, and why?

I propose we spend a few thousand years trying to tear down all culturally established gender norms. Anything that shows up in the data after that, we can all agree is an inherent part of masculinity or femininity.

#346 ::: rat4000 ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 06:24 AM:

Leah @ 345: What does "tearing down gender norms" mean? Should we try to make sure that a woman has equal chances in a STEM field as an equally-qualified man, or should we try to make sure that there are equally many women in STEM fields as men? If you mean the former, I don't see your disagreement with Dave. If you mean the latter, you run into the problem that there might not be as many women who want to be in STEM fields as there are men; it's not solvable, barring coercion.

Besides, assuming that there's no non-cultural difference between men and women concerning STEM fields, doing the first thing will eventually result in the second. There's no reason to try to force it. (Of course, we're a long way from having done the first thing; this deserves mention.) Or perhaps you mean that people naturally (and unconsciously) derive norms from facts? If the two are separable*, we can't know this until we've abolished norms, and even if they aren't there's no reason to start with the facts.

In social situations, things work largely on a case-by-case basis anyway. If someone likes, or is likely to like, Magic (e. g. because they like fantasy, or cards -- both things are fairly likely to come up in the process of getting to know someone), I'll probably offer to play with them. (Or I would, if I played myself.) If not, then not. Their gender doesn't actually enter my considerations at any point. And in this, I'm not particularly different from anyone else in my milieu.

I ought to mention that there might be some blindness on my side here; I'm a cisgendered man, and the couple of hobbies I have are associated either with men or with no gender in particular. Maybe I just haven't been in a situation where I'd notice.

*Using the phrase to mean "change in the one will not necessarily result in change in the other".

#347 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 06:36 AM:

rat4000 @ 346: I've been watching my daughter grow up, and seeing the gendering process take place with her. It's a form of very gentle coercion, lots of little tiny nudges, some not so tiny and some more pushy than nudgy.

So that's a gender norm--a persistent, pervasive process.

That sort of process is a lot harder to resist than one short sharp shock.

I don't think of it as a structure to be torn down, because that makes it much more tangible than it is. I think of it more as a wind that never stops blowing in the face, or a magnetic field always implacably pulling.

#348 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 11:14 AM:

Leah Miller #345: Ok, this kinda turned into a Wall-o-Text, sorry about that. This is mostly on the fly, so feel free to ask me to clarify any gaps or incoherencies that may be in here. (Or just argue with the points, you can do that too. ;-) )

Let's set aside biology and psychology for now. It's interesting that you'd phrase your definition of gender that way, as most definitions focus on the cultural aspect. Nobody is arguing that biological differences don't exist, and nobody is arguing that psychological differences don't exist, often due to a bunch of different biological factors (though which psychological differences are innate rather than culturally programmed is up for debate). So we should focus on culture.

I put it that way because each of those levels provides constraints and "attractors" for the next level. Though I've now realized I misordered them! This is going to look like a series of digressions, but I think they do come together.

Biology: Once you need to find a mate, you shortly need to recognize a suitable mate -- right species (e.g. not a mimic), correct gender, and so on. As the species elaborates, you need to identify the right subspecies... you get a pattern of testing for "is this 'person'¹ my sort". Then competition comes in, and the drive gets elaborated to "find a good mate" -- which opens the door for mating displays, Red Queen's races and arms races. The pattern gets extended to "Are they my sort, and are they good enough for me?" And that pattern gets translated to the higher levels of psychology and culture. (In particular, that's the base for the entirely of human courtship!) And then there's the complicating factor of kin selection, where by evolution's standards, the payoff may be better for helping your siblings, nephews/nieces, cousins, etc., than for having a kid yourself. As our behavior gets more flexible, we also start to develop varied (and competing) mating strategies, which also compete with each other: Notably, a female who's expecting fidelity and support wants to reject the "pump and dump" male who won't do that, while the female who's "auditioning" multiple mates doesn't want one who'll hang around and chase off his competition. Notice that the strategies date back to well before we're talking about "humans" or even hominins -- some of it goes back to the mammal level or further. The human difference shows up at the next level.

Cultures: Looking at modern primates, we can pretty well bet that even the bands our ancestors formed into had "cultures" -- unique knowledge and behaviors. As the bands collected into tribes, the cultures became part of our test for "is this my sort". The culture test is purposely leaky (because xenophilia does occasionally pay off) but it nevertheless has teeth, because groups that didn't mostly mate among themselves wouldn't survive as that group, they'd dissipate into the other groups. But then the tribes gathered into clans, cities and nations -- and culture became hierarchical, like the new social systems. You could have a common culture for a city, with sub-cultures for tradesmen, laborers, nobles, scholars, and so on. And overlapping cultures inherited from the parent structures. We also can have varied mating strategies in the same group, and those are used for subgroup ID as well. A mating strategy that doesn't match yours gets tagged as "bad" -- whatever names get used for it will have a negative freight.

Psychology: Our brains are an elaboration of our predecessors: We can abstract cases into principles, but we're still motivated by the basic biological drives -- so we abstract those.² Both "My sort" and "A good mate" become context dependent, and culture is a big part of those. Finding "my sort" may mean a temperamental or cultural match rather than the same tribe. And once we start abstracting things, it's hard to stop -- since our genders are pretty similar (compare, e.g. gorillas), we develop cultural conventions for differentiating the genders. Similarly, we develop markers and cultural freight for the various mating strategies. But these are still driven by the underlying biological purposes, so in both cases, failing all available tests amounts to "anomaly detected, someone or something may be trying to mess with us". That gets additional teeth from the gender dominance issue that I describe below.

Do you think that the fact that society assigns certain behaviors a gender meaning is good or bad? Why?

I think it's inevitable, because it's driven by our urge to interpret the world -- every time a child looks around and wonders what makes men and women different, they see answers all around them. Those answers may not be globally "true", but they're the first data available to a mind that's building itself on the spot -- and they color the beliefs and prejudices of the eventual adult.

I'm going to list some things that our culture currently considers gendered:

I'm not going to address most of them specifically, because most of them do vary by culture. In our culture, mud is "manly" because men have been doing a lot of fieldwork and other dirty jobs for some time. Where women work in the fields, mud will be feminine (see also: Earth Mother). Makeup, IIRC, has switched back and forth several times over the past few centuries. (This would apply to glitter too.) STEM... seriously cultural, and varying. AIUI, in Italian culture mathematics is considered "feminine" (and accordingly there are lots of female Italian mathematicians), and the first "computers" were women. These things accumulate by contingency and positive-feedback loops.

There's also another, uglier, aspect to male-female assignments, which is the dominance hierarchy -- low-status jobs, attributes, and roles tend to get coded feminine. My take on this issue is so: When maintaining a pecking order, the tough cases are the ones where there's a small difference in status - that's where you see the most fights, and the most efforts to maintain the ordering. Looking at the other primates, they vary widely -- some species have vastly larger males which are unquestionably in charge over females, others have roughly equal sizes and status, I think there may even be a couple which are female-dominant. Humans are smack in the middle of the first two choices -- small difference in size, and males have a weak advantage in dominance. But unlike the other primates, we don't just react individually to the challenge at hand, we tend to abstract our solution and share it with our peers. I think the "Patriarchy" essentially comes down to the accumulation of past men "making rules" to lock in their small advantages over women.

Now, dealing with the Patriarchy itself is a long slow slog, and I'm not sure it can completely be abolished. As implied above, I'm pretty sure that getting rid of gender roles altogether Isn't Gonna Happen. But for the trans* folks who were our original topic... they don't need the Patriarchy to be abolished, they just need a place in the system that isn't an omega³ slot. In more detail, they need two things: One is a "third sex" or "intersex" role. Many cultures have had those, and there's no reason why American/Western culture can't have one. The other is acceptance of transitions between the genders. That's starting to happen more, but I suspect part of the holdup is that we need a widely-known Rite Of Passage to recognize the change -- to cue society to reorder its ties to a person who has moved from one category to another (note that female to intersex to male is two passages).

¹ According to species.
² In fact, we can abstract evolution itself, by passing on our memetic heritage, instead or on top of our genetic heritage.
³ Omega is dead bottom of a pecking order, the butt-monkey.

#349 ::: Dave Harmon has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 11:23 AM:

Big reply to Leah, could have had any number of typographical irregularities.

#350 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 01:58 PM:

rat4000 @346: you run into the problem that there might not be as many women who want to be in STEM fields as there are men; it's not solvable, barring coercion.

I believe this is what they call a straw, um, person argument. From the article Leah Miller linked to: "women make up more than half of all graduate students but only 10 percent of tenured faculty"

Or perhaps you mean that people naturally (and unconsciously) derive norms from facts?

I believe that's what Leah just finished saying.

Dave Harmon @348: we develop cultural conventions for differentiating the genders ... these are still driven by the underlying biological purposes

As sex and gender get steadily dissociated from reproduction, the concept of "gender" loses currency, so those conventions start to look arbitrary, if not actively harmful. The problem is that sex-as-reproduction is long since baked into our culture, so it's going to take considerable time and effort to (sorry) decouple those. And, really, a concerted effort to do so is only in its second or third generation.

"Do you think that the fact that society assigns certain behaviors a gender meaning is good or bad? Why?" I think it's inevitable

I would disagree. I would agree that it's highly probably, but the countless counter examples (see Leah's list above) suggest strongly that the trend is already in the other direction.

#351 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 02:45 PM:

Jacque #350: For your first point, "the idea of sex-as-reproduction" isn't baked into our culture -- it's baked into our instincts. (You might say it's part of the pan that culture gets baked in.) Cultures can set up structures to control particular instincts (within limits), but they can not simply repeal or disregard them -- doing so will make the culture untenable. Likewise, sex and gender are still pretty thoroughly linked, even if they can diverge. Remember that even the GLB sorts are a minority in the population, and trans* even more so. Adolescent experimenters likewise, and for most of them that will be a transitional phase.

To the vast majority of humanity, sexuality rotates around the male/female axis. It is certainly possible to give them an extra category or two so that they can fit variants into their worldview. But trying to tell them that gender doesn't really matter in the first place, that's a non-starter.

For the second point, the list of what's currently marked as male or female is in flux, as it has been many times before. The next generation or two will likely have a different list of markers, but they will certainly have a list.

#352 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 03:25 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 351:
Remember that even the GLB sorts are a minority in the population, and trans* even more so. Adolescent experimenters likewise, and for most of them that will be a transitional phase.

Will it? I'm not so sure. Let's give it a few centuries and see how it goes. Let's see how much culture can change. Let's see if epigenetic phenomena kick in. Let's see if we manage to change our own evolution in ways we want.

What we have now, and what we had recently, are not good enough.

#353 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 04:34 PM:

Dave Harmon @351: For your first point, "the idea of sex-as-reproduction" isn't baked into our culture -- it's baked into our instincts.

Do you have some evidence to back this up? I try to be skeptical of claims that some dominant cultural value is hard-wired into our biology, just because such claims are so often made by people who support various forms of oppressions, and so often turn out to be baseless, or at least highly over-simplified.

In this case, the just-so-story I’ve often heard is that sex is pleasurable because there’s an evolutionary benefit to reproduction. If that’s true, though, then it’s not reproduction that’s “baked into our instincts”, but a desire for sex, regardless of reproduction. If a direct reproductive drive were instinctual, we wouldn’t need to derive pleasure from orgasm.

#354 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 05:12 PM:

Mongoose @#335: do asexuals belong under the rainbow umbrella?

If they need/want protection from the shitstorm everyone else who's not heteronormative seems to face, it seems only fair to offer.

I'm speaking as a total outsider here--much as I do when I express the opinion that if you're Jewish enough for Hitler to have tried to kill you, you're Jewish enough to become a citizen of Israel. IOW, I have zero standing on either issue.

#355 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 05:30 PM:

Dave H., #351: I'm pretty sure I remember reading about tribes that have no idea of the connection between sex and children.

I know I've seen it hypothesized that absent our incredibly strong cultural pressure toward heterosexuality, the majority of people would be, to one degree or another, bisexual -- and that makes perfect sense to me.

There are a lot of things that people like to argue are baked into our biology which, if you look at them without that preconception, are very clearly culturally derived. A surprising number of those things are tied in with sexuality and gender roles. Hell, even mothering is a learned behavior -- baby apes raised in isolation don't learn how to take care of infants, and if bred will then neglect their own.

These days I'm really suspicious of anything being labeled "biologically determined" outside of actual physical dimorphic characteristics and processes. And even those aren't as cut-and-dried as people like to think... as witness this entire thread.

#357 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 05:47 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 351

It is certainly possible to give them an extra category or two...

In the kindest possible way, because I know you mean well, I've got to call bullshit. You're overthinking the whole thing. Treat him/her/hir/it/that/etc., like you're both human beings and be done with it!

I don't run up and down a hierarchy of categories to determine that my genderqueer daughter is a human being. I raised her from infancy, sent her off to school, worried over her problems... that's enough.

#358 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 09:30 PM:

Alex R. #357: You had a bond with your kid that predated finding out anything about her sexuality. Even if you hadn't already been pretty accepting (which I'm pretty sure you were), that would have given you major incentive to become at least accepting enough to accept her.

The "third category" isn't targeted so much at parents and kids -- there, the immediate question is whether the parental bond overcomes the prejudice. It's more about people who don't (think they) know any transexuals, or just don't know how to deal with the ones they do know. And bluntly, "they're both human beings" only works for people who are already keyed into the idea of "everybody's human, and humans should all be able to coexist". To someone who's used to thinking in tribal terms, someone who does not fit the categories they're familiar with is automatically Not My Tribe Maybe Not Human, Presumed Dangerous. Adding an explicit "other" category for gender is what lets the tribalist manage a transition to "Human, Potential tribe member", by letting them complete the list of features that make up the CV of a "real person".

Lee #355, Avram #353: I've also heard the story about "tribes that have no idea of the connection between sex and children" -- and given what I've since learned about early anthropological methods and attitudes, I'm seriously dubious of the story. It's way too easy for one of those early fieldworkers to have said "oh, these folks are so primitive, they don't even know how babies are made", when the tribesfolks were actually thinking, "this putz comes out of nowhere, and he's asking about our sex lives? Let's mess with his head." It took a while for anthropology to combine proper respect with common sense -- as late as the 60's Margaret Mead was writing about the sexual life of (IIRC) the Samoans, based primarily on interviews with 12-year-old boys.

Also, I was using "instinct" as shorthand, but yes, for higher vertebrates, a fair bit of "instinct" is properly termed "prepared learning" -- and for humans, that's nearly all of it. The thing is though, prepared learning only gives a certain amount of flexibility, and once it's been "invoked", it settles into something that's not easily changed later on. It's certainly worthwhile teaching children that "humanity is one tribe", but you're not the only influence on them....

I may have more comments later, perhaps tomorrow.

#359 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 11:45 PM:

As with bonobos, the vast majority of sex in humans is non-reproductive. In fact, the majority of sex in humans is related to pair-bonding, emotional support, or expression of power dynamics.

And sometimes there are kids too.

#360 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 11:51 PM:

Addendum to my last: human sex in a culture where it is used primarily for reproduction looks a lot like The Handmaid's Tale. Which I think most of us would agree is not how sex works for most modern USians ...

#361 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2013, 11:54 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 351: "For your first point, "the idea of sex-as-reproduction" isn't baked into our culture -- it's baked into our instincts. (You might say it's part of the pan that culture gets baked in.)"

That is demonstrably false: unless you're making the "choice" argument homosexuality is a one step proof of the divergence, at the instinctual level, of sex and reproduction.* Moreover, even if you could prove that any given instinct truly did exist at the biological level it still wouldn't count as "the pan culture bakes in," an unalterable constraint on human culture. Humans have long since proven themselves capable of reaching back and modifying just about every biological imperative there is, from reproduction to the consumption of food. It does not matter by how many millennia or eons those instincts predate our self-aware minds, we make tools of them regardless, just as we take iron ore from the earth and forge it into shapes never before known.

This double error comes, I suspect, from an over-reliance on the explanatory power of the "tribal": a stage in history known primarily for the grand theories of the human condition which spread across its wide, grassy plains of conjecture rather than for any actual, empirical evidence of what it was like. Biology, at least, we can look at; pre-history is more "must have beens" than facts. To second Avram, unless you're referencing actual research, spare me explanations of human evolutionary psychology.

* And that's if you don't count the millenia-long search for reproduction-free sex on the part of heterosexual human beings.

#362 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 11:29 AM:

heresiarch @ 361

unless you're referencing actual research, spare me explanations of human evolutionary psychology.

Look everyone! The arguments over evolutionary psych are about to start. I think this is the Feminist version of Godwin's Law.

#363 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 01:44 PM:

Alex R. @362:
I think this is the Feminist version of Godwin's Law.

A-fucking-men.

Perhaps there are cases where evoluttionary psychology has yielded useful insights into the human condition. But in terms of gender, gender roles, and gender relations, the pool has been so thoroughly pissed in that I'd as soon honestly swim in the sewer of "because God made it that way" as pretend to be all scientifical about it.

There's far too much confirmation bias in the field as popularly quoted. From what I can see, it's generally the bias of men who want to figure out what box to put the scary threatening women in. My personal theory is that lots of them are desperate to find any excuse not to recognize sociology as a real science. Evolutionary explanations of behaviors are good for that.

There's probably good stuff in the field somewhere, but I'm certainly not equipped to find it in all the dross. So I'm afraid arguments based on it have no traction for me.

(Side note: this is why we no longer subscribe to the New Scientist. I grew allergic to the pervasive evo-psych, and once I pointed its prevalence out to Martin, so did he.)

#364 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 05:43 PM:

@rat4000 346

Short version: there is clear evidence to suggest that women in STEM fields are not given equal opportunities, and it's at least partially because of unconscious gender bias.

This whole "women aren't in science because they choose not to do it/aren't as good at it" assumption has been causing problems for a long time. There's tons of research that points to bias and social forces being the culprit. I touched on that briefly before, but let's dive in.

You know what I love? "name studies." I'm not sure if that's what they're officially called, but they are one of my favorite varieties of psych/soc research, with clearly quantifiable and easy-to-explain results. Here's the idea - you put together some dossiers, resumes, or CVs. You make a bunch of copies, changing only the name, then you mail them out blind to employers, hand them out to people with hiring potential, or just bring in some random people to ask their opinion of the people described in the CV. Then you tally the responses: resume callbacks, personal ratings of hireability, whatever. And pretty much every time, the result comes back: an african-american applicant with equal qualifications absolutely does not get the same opportunities. When hiring for a labratory manager, faculty rate identical female applicants as less hireable and competent.

Can we all look at those two studies and agree that both racism and sexism are alive and well? And that, due to internalized stereotypes, even people who do not mean to discriminate end up discriminating? It's a ton of fields, too, not just the ones you'd expect. Consider the famous long-running examination of how blind auditions where the gender of the applicant is not visible help women get orchestra jobs. I could google and post links to similar and related studies all day: classroom observation studies that show girls get called on less frequently, even if the professor is trying to be fair. Women who do get tenure are given smaller, less desirable offices than men with the same qualifications. There are a ton of these, and they all show the same thing: people think identically qualified and successful women are worse than men - less competent, less worthy of pay, and even less likeable.

Some of this is, as you said, people observing reality and deriving norms from the status quo - but they're drawing the wrong conclusions. Say you didn't believe racism existed, and you believed that actors in hollywood were cast based on their ability, and given the same opportunities. If you watched a ton of movies made before the 60s, you could draw the erroneous conclusion that people of color just don't have the aptitude for acting that would allow them to take on lead roles. If you know racism exists, you look at those movies and draw a different conclusion. If you know sexism exists, you look at the number of female science grad students compared to the number of professors, and you draw a different conclusion.

This is one of the problems: a lot of people assume sexism is over, and any resulting inequality is just based on women being worse at things. The only way to make sure that women have truly equal opportunity in STEM fields is to change our picture of gender, so that science is no longer associated with masculinity or femininity. And that's where modern gender theory gets controversial.

For a long time, feminist academics were doing pretty well with the whole "a lot of things we think of as gendered aren't, let's reduce the number of things we think of as gendered," line of argument/inquiry. As women slowly got limited traction in stereotypically masculine fields, it was submitted as evidence that maybe those things were stereotypically masculine for stupid reasons.

The problem is, modern gender theory changed the conversation, implying that the collection of assumptions and stereotypes surrounding femininity are a huge part of what defines the word "woman."And that's the conflict that we'll need to resolve moving forward. To fix that resume-rating kind of sexism, we are going to have to challenge deep cultural assumptions about womanhood and femininity.

Add to that the fact that gender roles, gender identity, and gender expression have been blurred together into a melange of conflicting definitions, and you've got an academic environment where it's getting harder and harder to try to decouple some harmful stereotypes from the idea of gender. The obvious solution is to de-couple gender identity from gender roles and reduce its perceived connection to gender expression - but modern gender theory is having none of that.

So the "background radiation" of assumptions about gender norms poisons the pond, and anyone who presents as female is assumed to be less competent in STEM fields. Which leads to fewer women in STEM fields. Which leads people to assume women are't good at STEM... repeat until we smash the current conceptions about gender.

#365 ::: Leah Miller has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 05:44 PM:

I shoulda known that third URL was flying too close to the sun. I have some whipping cream and bananas? I need to go to the grocery store.

#366 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 09:21 PM:

Leah Miller @364. You might enjoy this tumblr This is what a scientist looks like

I may have gotten this from Making Light originally, can't remember.

#367 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2013, 10:58 PM:

Leah, #364: Here's one article discussing everyday, unconscious sexism in the schoolroom (among many other things).
Teachers are often unaware of the gender distribution of talk in their classrooms. They usually consider that they give equal amounts of attention to girls and boys, and it is only when they make a tape recording that they realize that boys are dominating the interactions. Dale Spender, an Australian feminist who has been a strong advocate of female rights in this area, noted that teachers who tried to restore the balance by deliberately 'favouring' the girls were astounded to find that despite their efforts they continued to devote more time to the boys in their classrooms. Another study reported that a male science teacher who managed to create an atmosphere in which girls and boys contributed more equally to discussion felt that he was devoting 90 per cent of his attention to the girls. And so did his male pupils. They complained vociferously that the girls were getting too much talking time.

And about blind auditions -- you can't do blind auditions for the position of conductor, and well over 90% of symphony orchestra conductors are still male, despite the fact that women are well-represented in the study paths preparing for that position.

#368 ::: rat4000 ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 07:13 AM:

Leah @364: I think there's a misunderstanding somewhere. I am aware that sexism exists; my question was how best to fix it. Let me quote myself: "Should we try to make sure that a woman has equal chances in a STEM field as an equally-qualified man, or should we try to make sure that there are equally many women in STEM fields as men? If you mean the former, I don't see your disagreement with Dave." Dave wrote that we ought to make sure trans people are seen as people and allowed to do what they like. Similarly, women ought to be seen as people and allowed to do what they like (e. g. by having the same chance at any job as a similarly qualified man); so where's the disagreement? The one difference I'm seeing is that you seem to be for removing gender-based patterns.

This ties into the pressure that John A. Arkansawyer wrote about @352, and which you also mentioned. Is this something that has to go? It's part of the picture of gender, so it's something people identify with, so there's a cost for removing it. (Incidentally: how do you define "gender expression"? Actions in social situations? You don't seem to want to erase that, so why are norms here less bad than norms in hiring?)

Of course, you might say that as long as this cultural pressure exists -- as long as anyone, anywhere, associates anything with being male (even unconsciously, based on statistics), there will be gender discrimination. But, again, I'm not entirely sure. If all you get, as a man wishing to be a kindergarten teacher, is a "huh", I can't imagine this as sufficient to deter you. If we get to the point where a woman in a STEM lecture is seen not as an intruder but as a statistical anomaly, I think we'll have won. There's no need to make sure that no one's surprised to see her; only the need to make sure that no one's surprised when she's good.

Two further points. I might be underestimating how chilling that surprise is. Probably I am; I've rarely been a statistical anomaly. I'm entirely open to someone telling me that yes, this is too bad even by itself, and yes, it has to go. And there's the question if the situation I'm describing is at all possible -- but it's difficult to tell. We have gender patterns, and we have gender norms, and it's never been different, so it's hard to know if the latter necessarily follows from the former. (The converse is obviously true.) Maybe there's enough psychology to establish it (maybe that teacher in 367 establishes it); here I just know too little about the subject.

And a final addendum. My "there might be fewer women who..." was an entirely theoretical point. If we want equal representation in all fields, and if it's actually the case that fewer women would want to be in the field even if they had equal chances, a problem emerges. Granted, we're pretty far from the point where we can even notice it, practically. But it is a possibility.

#369 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 07:44 AM:

rat4000, 368, said: "There's no need to make sure that no one's surprised to see her."

Yes, there is. It's really exhausting to walk into a room and have some guy say, "A GIRL????" like he was the first person to ever think of something so hilarious. I think these days the kids call those "microaggressions."

And in your last paragraph, the way you repeatedly italicize "if" makes you look like a jerk. I don't think you are one, really, but you might want to reread with an eye for that next time.

#370 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 08:04 AM:

TexAnne @ 369, et al: I think the thing about microaggressions is that it's easy for people who are not the target of them to brush them aside when they see them happening, because, well, they're micro. On their own, in isolation, they're often not really worth getting upset about. The problem with them is that they happen so often, and if you're not the target, you may not be fully aware of that. It's death by a thousand cuts, but an observer may only see the one, very minor, cut.

At the moment I am on medication for anxiety, and therefore... fragile. Last night I had a massive, paralysing mood crash which was brought on by something a friend posted on Facebook. He had absolutely no intention of causing me any damage, and when I pulled my head together enough to alert him that he had done so, he not only apologised, but took the time and trouble to spend some time chatting with me to help get my mood straight.

This incident, taken on its own, was a microaggression against a group of which I'm a member, and it would never have had the effect it did but for two things. One was obviously my current mental state, but the other was that he habitually posts material of this nature. It is not intended to be aimed at me; nonetheless, I am still a member of the group he targets, and over time it is wearing.

In all other areas, I respect and like this person. I simply accept that he has a blind spot in his tolerance and leave it at that. Either he will eventually see, or he won't see.

#371 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 01:45 PM:

Mongoose, #370: Is there any chance that your friend could be made aware of the blind spot by having it pointed out, the way teachers can be made aware that they favor boys in their classrooms by listening to a recording? If this is something he does regularly, perhaps keeping a list of the occasions for a few months and presenting them to him all at once would be instructive.

#372 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2013, 03:28 PM:

Lee @ 371: that might not be a bad idea.

#373 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2013, 09:39 AM:

rat4000 @368:

If we get to the point where a woman in a STEM lecture is seen not as an intruder but as a statistical anomaly, I think we'll have won. There's no need to make sure that no one's surprised to see her; only the need to make sure that no one's surprised when she's good.

Two further points. I might be underestimating how chilling that surprise is. Probably I am; I've rarely been a statistical anomaly. I'm entirely open to someone telling me that yes, this is too bad even by itself, and yes, it has to go.

Yes. Yes, you are underestimating how chilling it is, and how common it is. I don't think people would be talking about it if the average woman in STEM was seen as an anomaly once or twice in her career, or even once or twice a year. Even if nobody outwardly expresses surprise, it is exhausting to know that your place in the class is "the woman". (Or "the black guy", or whatever the minority group you happen to be representing may be. See http://xkcd.com/385/ ) I enrolled in a course in college just so that a friend of mine wouldn't be the only woman taking it. I'm the only female developer out of 40+ at my current company, and I've gotten used to attending tech meetups with 100+ attendees where the number of women is in the single digits.
My response to this is relatively mild, based on other women I've talked to - it's tiring, and I kvetch about it when I get home, but I don't find it actively hostile. Many women do. But it shouldn't have to be an issue of personal temperament (or gender presentation - I'm fairly butch which I suspect helps) - any woman should be able to feel comfortable in tech fields, and that's not the case now, not when we know there's a decent chance we're going to be the only woman in the room.

#374 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 04:08 PM:

I don't think I would consider it a victory to be a statistical anomaly.

#375 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2013, 09:25 PM:

lorax: Ouch. But even having women be the "expected default" doesn't make things equitable.

My profession (physical therapy) is about 80% female (and was originally all-female); yet the leadership is a bit over 50% male.

I once attended a professional conference with the usual 8-women-to-2-men ratio, where EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO WENT UP TO THE MIKE FOR Q&A was male, until I broke the streak at the second-to-last session of the day.

(Yes, I was annoyed, but I did legitimately have a question.)

#376 ::: rat4000 ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2013, 03:30 AM:

Well, that settles that, I suppose.

And, partly because that short a post might make me sound snide*: I am often surprised by just how many experiences are alien to me. The most useful posts on feminist blogs -- practically useful, ones that help me decide how to behave -- are those where women just talk about what it's like to be one. The sort of persistent microaggression that people here described doesn't occur to me.

So I'm often oblivious.

*TexAnne, 369: I like italics... too much, apparently.

#377 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2013, 07:14 AM:

You know something... the responses to my evo-psych comments make it clear I'm wandering toward a minefield, and this week in particular I definitely do not have the spoons to negotiate that without pissing people off, arguendo that I could do so anyway. So I'm dropping that line of argument.

Going back to trans acceptance, I will reiterate that part of what our culture need is a proper social "place" (categories, transitions, even roles) for trans people. Other issues aside, for most people, dealing with someone they can't categorize is a big ol' lump of cognitive load, and even folk of goodwill can have trouble with that.

#378 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2013, 08:34 AM:

rat4000 @376: You might want to read through some of the hashtag 'EverydaySexism' on the site that sounds like bird-sounds and starts with 'twi' (the gnomes like it not).

Some people think it's a satire, or exaggerated. Those people probably grew up as guys, or not in the western world. :-/ Every single thing posted under it sounds familiar to me, though none of it happened to me all in one day (or even one week).

Bringing everyone's shitty-thing-that-happened-today together under one hashtag is a great way to lampshade microagressions, thoug.

#379 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2013, 01:03 PM:

Elliott, I'm told the gnomes are fine with mentioning it; they just don't like links to it.

That said, I (like you) enjoy coming up with alternative names for things, so the Site of Birdsong gets euphemized anyway.

#380 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2013, 01:54 PM:

Everyday Sexism has its own website, so you can avoid trawling through the Site of Birdsong if you wish.

#381 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 09:46 AM:

I expect the respondents on this thread will find this Guardian article about Heather Cassils interesting.

#382 ::: Russ has been Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 09:48 AM:

...presumably for linking out to a newspaper?

I have a nice cup of tea and the remains of yesterday's Irish Coddle on hand, should their lownesses prove peckish.

[No, for a completely munged link, which not even gnomish magic can restore. -- Moruys Cecalb, Duty Gnome]

#383 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 10:03 AM:

Russ @381, 382:

I suspect it wasn't that you linked so much as that your link is broken. Try again?

#384 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 10:08 AM:

Hmm. And actually even though I got the gnome message the post went straight through.

The link should be to http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/03/heather-cassils-transgender-bodybuilder-artist

#385 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 12:01 PM:

Dave Harmon: part of what our culture need is a proper social "place" (categories, transitions, even roles) for trans people


I suggest the category "people".

#386 ::: Raul Flugens, Duty Gnome ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 12:36 PM:

Russ #384

That's because the gnomes were in the process of reviewing the board at that very moment and saw it pop up in the moderation queue within seconds of its posting.

#387 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 12:40 PM:

Lila, I'm sure everyone here agrees with you, but "people" is too broad. The whole point of Dave's argument is that some folks need categories to slot other folks into in order to feel comfortable, and they get very upset when those categories are transgressed. If we can give them a way to have easy categories for trans* folks, the ones susceptible to rationality will eventually stop having conniptions every time the subject comes up.

Heck, I'm hardly immune to the effect myself; like many geeks/fen/etc, I'm just better at making my own categories than many people appear to be. What we need is categories that are broadly accepted by society.

#388 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 03:26 PM:

Carrie S:

If we can give them a way to have easy categories for trans* folks, the ones susceptible to rationality will eventually stop having conniptions every time the subject comes up.

At the cost of continuing to other trans* folk? I'd rather they continue to have conniptions.

The proper category for my friends John and Bob (not their real names) is "men". They weren't born as boys, but they're men now. Suggesting that create a special category for them - reminding them every day of their lives that they aren't considered "real" men because of the circumstances of their birth, just so that people with an obsessive need to categorize people can feel better about their categories and who goes in them - is very hurtful to them.

We do need a category for people who don't identify as either men or women - which is not all or most trans folk - and we do need to make it easier for people to move from the category that society has put them into into the one that they belong in. But we don't need to start saying "Here are the men-born-men, here are the post-op-trans-men, here are the non-op-trans-men, here are the pre-op-trans-men...". That's exactly what we need to stop doing.

#389 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 04:14 PM:

Lorax @388,

I had exactly this conversation with a well-meaning-but-ignorant person on Another Forum; he told me that he thought a "trans man" was someone who was born a man and was becoming a woman. I told him that, no, if one were to say "trans man", it would mean woman-to-man transition, just like I'd not call him a "not-a-girl". But that the proper term was simply "man", unless otherwise instructed by the person in question.

#390 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 05:30 PM:

At the cost of continuing to other trans* folk? I'd rather they continue to have conniptions.

I'm sorry, I was unclear; I meant "the people who need categories and are susceptible to rationality." (I assume the trans* people have the usual spread, but it's not their behavior that's the problem.) There are some people who really, really need to be able to assign labels in order to deal; their problem with trans* people is that they feel their labels are being flouted.

Some of them aren't going to cope with it no matter what, and all we can do is wait for attrition to handle the problem. But some of them can be reasoned with, and those are the ones to work on. It'll be easier if we can point to John and Bob and say, "They fit in the category of 'men who are currently transitioning to their proper gender'." Or whatever you want to call it. But to be able to do that, we have to convince society that 'people who are transitioning to their proper gender' is an "official" category.

It doesn't have much to do with the trans* people themselves; it's mostly about giving the categorizers something they can hang their model of the world on. Because people who are upset that their model of the world is being challenged are not generally open to new experiences. The part that sucks is that it imposes work on those who are not the problem.

#391 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 09:31 PM:

Carrie S @390, I understood you, or at least that's not where the misunderstanding lies.

I took you to be saying "Calling trans men men gives some people who need rigid labels conniption fits, so lets' create other rigid labels to use for trans men so that these label-requiring people are happier", which hurts trans folk and benefits labelers, and that's not a trade I am willing to make. If that isn't actually what you were saying, I'm still not clear on it, so please clarify?

Also, John and Bob aren't transitioning. They're done, they've been living as men for years and have new birth certificates and everything. They're still trans men, though.

#392 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2013, 11:01 PM:

Lorax, I think it's a sucky solution, but it could be a solution. In theory it wouldn't have to be done forever? It might be that the externalities are too great. I just don't know that it's a bad idea to make it easier for people who can be on one's side but currently aren't.

Also, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply that John and Bob were still transitioning. Now that they have, clearly their category is "men".

Anyway, I was just trying to make things clearer. I have no particular emotional attachment to the idea.

#393 ::: Jane Lambert ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2013, 07:14 PM:

Wow what a thread!
Lots of mature support for trans people here, but I think it's worth pointing out that fandom was not always this way. In particular, some in British fandom were once very hostile toward transpeople, reflecting the second wave attitudes of the time. Wiscon once had discussions on whether or not to accept transwomen into women's spaces. We don't automatically have enlightened attitudes just by being part of the sf community. Names could be named... (but I won't)

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