Last week, Miranda published a barnstorming piece on the problems with the transgender movement, and offered ideas to fix those problems. In response, I offer 10 points of intellectual inconsistency I see from my own side, as a radical feminist. I have prepared these for the women who are rejecting male-centered feminism and looking for something different; they should be able to find (or build) something that is not just the other side of a totalist coin.
10 points of intellectual inconsistency in the response of some radical feminists to transgender identity politics:
(Note that the response of some radical feminists to one issue does not encompass all of radical feminism.)
1. Gender turns male people into monsters, and in some male people causes sex dysmorphia. But gender doesn’t harm male people.
2. Gender is a social construct; female people are not innately feminine. However male people are innately and inescapably masculine/evil.
3. Living in this world, women can come to feel like male people are evil, but there’s no way any male person could come to the same feeling and thus honestly and sincerely hate/reject their own maleness.
4. GNC (gender non-conforming) male people should just be GNC male people – we should abolish the norms that tie gender signifiers to reproductive function. But GNC male people who adopt traditionally feminine signifiers are appropriating womanhood.
5. It is important to note that many self-labeled transwomen experience no sex dysmorphia and are merely part-time crossdressers. But neither SRS nor years of social transition mean anything – a man is a man is a man.
6. Male people cannot be allies to female people because they were born into the oppressor class. But white women can be allies to black women because reasons.
7. It is wrong to try to control women’s language or analysis or to police their friendships or bully them online. Unless you are also a woman and deem your feminism superior to their feminism, in which case feel free to stalk, mock, and misrepresent them to your heart’s content.
8. It is important to focus on structural oppression and not small, individual matters. But if any individual woman calls any individual transwoman “she,” feel free to go ballistic.
9. Radical feminism should center women. However, heterosexual women are the enemy. [Related: compulsory heterosexuality is central to women’s oppression, but heterosexual women are privileged via their heterosexuality.]
10. Radical feminism is about the liberation of women. However, if any woman is not already 100% liberated from all her gendered socialization, she is the enemy. Radical feminism is only for women who already have a perfect radical analysis.
Thoughts on how to address these inconsistencies:
1. Accept that gender harms male people, even as it places them at the top of a sex-based hierarchy. This does not mean that male people are not responsible for their own actions, nor does it mean that it is the responsibility of female people to help them.
2. Accept that male people are not innately masculine/evil, but are rendered so by their socialization.
3. Accept that some male people will utterly reject that socialization, often at great personal cost. This does not trump the costs that women pay to reject our own gendered socialization, nor does it mean that women owe those male people anything.
4. Stop clinging to the signifiers of our oppression.
5. Recognize that the tiny number of transsexual male people are not the problem, and that to center them as enemies is to fall into the trap that the MRAs-in-dresses have laid, just as surely as liberal feminists fall into the trap of centering transwomen as martyrs/overlords.
6. Cultivate more perspective on oppression; stop framing everything as us vs. them.
7. Allow women who share most of your feminist analysis, but who wish to go about sharing that analysis differently than you do, to go their own way.
8. Learn to disagree with other women without monstering them.
9. Think about how purity politics can possibly affect change in a world where the great majority of women cannot exclude male people from their lives.
10. Think about how your language and actions affect the women who desperately need the analysis you hold dear.
[8 July 2015: Not only have the responses to this piece – none of which have come in the form of actual comments on the blog itself – proven every point I made, they’ve inspired me to add some more. 11. Males have no place in gender abolition. It is wrong to partner with them, and they should never tell women what to do. However, we can refer people to GCTW (gender critical transwomen) whenever it serves our purposes, pressure GCTW to denounce *unapproved* women, and expect GCTW to police women’s language on our behalf. 12. Dividing women is bad. Except when there is a woman I don’t like, and other women support her, then they should be piled on as traitors. 13. It’s OK for me to be angry, I’m a warrior after all. But if women I disagree with use “tone,” that excuses me from engaging their analysis in good faith. 14. To criticize the beliefs of some members of a group does not mean you are against that group – if that group is trans people. However to criticize the beliefs of some radical feminists means you are an anti-feminist. Keep ’em coming, maybe I’ll get up to 25.]