So, I promised a friend a while ago that I would do a take-down of Gia Milinovich’s latest post. However, I was beaten to it by someone who did a much better job than I probably would have done. Its well-thought-out, very detailed, includes solid sources, and it is a good read. There is also a great response here.
I have to admit that I was planning something a little more terse that included this video about The Heart and an allusion to the movie Kindergarten Cop where a young boy raises his hand in class, and creates a comical and awkward moment for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character when he blurts out, “Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina.”
From there, of course, I would comment on the irony of pedantically pining on about how the concept of LOVE being in the HEART is a social construct and then taking for gratis that the essence of SEX is in the JUNK. Maybe I’d do a little twirl and point out that there’s a REALLY long logical chasm between stating that “gender orientation has a neurological component” and parroting a hyper-traditionalist talking point about the “LAAADDDDYYY BRRRRRAAAAIN” (thoroughly debunked here) – y’know, just for completeness.
But since someone else did it better, instead of harping on that dead horse, my Plan B is to answer one of the comments on the thread.
Now, when I first read the comment rather quickly, I formed an incomplete concept of its meaning. So, in my mind (before I sat in front of my computer to type this) I was formulating a nice little happy post about how acknowledging the likelihood of the existence of gender orientation and respecting gender self-identification did not magically preclude feminist social commentary on gender roles and gender constructs; or fighting against the power dynamics of gendered social classes. Respecting individuality does not equate to respecting the confines and norms that dictate “what is feminine”, “what is masculine” or a person’s proper social caste within a society obsessed with gender; quite the opposite.
But then I reread it. I’ve copied it here in its entirety:
Rebecca R-C says:
February 13, 2014 at 1:48 pm
Excellent post. It’s unbelievable to think we’ve got to the stage where women are afraid to talk about female biology, but that’s where we are.
With respect to your final point – unfortunately, that is exactly where the conflict comes from, I think. There are some feminists who think that gender takes the form of pernicious and damaging social norms and rules of behaviour that constrain people’s potential, and need to be eradicated. And there are others, influenced by postmodern ways of thinking (albeit not always consciously), who think that gender is a matter of personal identity, of how you feel and define and understand yourself, of how you express your unique and transgressive characteristics.
Those latter people are never going to agree that we should try to eradicate gender, because their entire identity and political activism is bound up in maintaining it – albeit while shaving it down into ever more finegrained but apparently sacrosanct distinctions. I think it’s fundamentally narcissistic. Political action is reduced to playing with or “queering” gender, and adopting novel and apparently transgressive identities. Calls for justice are reduced to claims that people recognise and accept my vision of myself. There’s no room for any social or political change that goes beyond endorsing people’s self definitions. For all its radical pretensions, it’s fundamentally conservative.
One of the problems with this comment is that the person concludes that transgender people existing reinforces “gender”. Since radical feminists tend to define gender as oppression based on gender (and not, you know, gender), you hear this all the time from the TERF crew. They equate being a transgender person with being a cartoon of a “man” or a “woman” who performs stereotypical gender roles. They often use dehumanizing language such as “Frankenstein” or refer to “lopping” body parts off. If you don’t know, they are run of the mill bigots.
I’m not accusing Rebecca R-C of this, she takes a different route.
Now, in reality, not all transgender people express their gender the same way and their gender expression runs the gambit just like cis folks (go figure). Not to mention, not too long ago, the medical protocols were written up in such a way that transgender people were often required to act “like a man” or “like a woman” in order to attain transition-related medical care. This sometimes necessarily involved performing for their therapists, presenting in a gender normative way and lying about how they felt, to save their own lives.
I mean, it’s really pretty sick to accuse transgender people of reinforcing norms (as a group) that were once used to bar some of them from potentially life-saving medical care.
However, she goes a step further really. She’s not actually making that argument. She’s making the opposite argument. She takes issue with trans activists parsing the concepts of “sex” and “gender” to be more meaningful instead of using “sex” and “gender” as mutually exclusive dualist umbrella terms for stuff and things. She alludes to the fact that many trans folks use (as she puts it) “novel and apparently transgressive identities” to describe themselves. So, her argument is that since transgender people (in actually) are very individual and are NOT actually hyper-normative in their gender expression and some people use words to describe this: they are reinforcing gender.
Trans people are hypernormitive in their gender expression therefor they reinforce gender.
Trans people are not hypernormative in their gender expression therefor they reinforce gender.
Yeah – so – really any old argument will do for your average terfesque radfem as long as the last line of thinking is: transgender people reinforce gender, gender is bad, therefor trans people (particularly trans women) suck.
But of course, you can’t just say, “trans people suck” because that wouldn’t be socially acceptable and is devoid of a proper rationalization. I mean – bigotry can’t be naked! You have to dress it up in pseudointellectual bullshit or 7th grade science or casual condescension clothed in concern or penis-related political points about pissing in public. You know – whatever. You can’t just SAY that.
So, the last line might be restated as “therefor trans people are hurting themselves” or “therefor trans people are appropriating womyn” or “therefor trans women are socialized as men and are a threat” or “therefor, in a gender-less utopia, trans people would not exist”.
What route did she take? How does she frame her conclusion? How does she state her “therefor transgender people suck” in a reasonable sounding and civil way?
“I think it’s fundamentally narcissistic…There’s no room for any social or political change that goes beyond endorsing people’s self definitions.”
So, I really wish I could write a fuzzy post about how you can actually manage to respect people and still discuss “social and political change”. However, I’m not sure how far I’m going to get attempting to find common ground with an ideological argument that appears to contain the following stance:
Respecting individuality is incompatible with the social change I wish to see in the world.
This is similar to the arguments made by Julie Burchill in her recent transmisogynistic screed against the concept of intersectionality where she makes these statements:
“…the diversity movement has given us a rainbow coalition of cranks and charlatans. Which has, in turn, has given us intersectionality.”
“Because intersectionality is actually the opposite of socialism! Intersectionality believes that there is ‘no such thing as society’ — just various special interests.”
Because, I guess, there just wasn’t enough fascism in my feminism. Thanks! I know there might be some nation-specific context in there, that takes the edge off that, but she sounds like your average American neo-conservative, who sees themselves as the default, complaining about those homosexuals and Muslims and black people and other “special interests”.
Now, I want to be careful to be some-what fair and not conflate Gia Millinovich’s, Rebecca R-C’s, and Julie Burchill’s ideas. I suspect that Gia Millinovich might distance herself from some of the more vitriolic white-supremacist-light rantings of Julie Burchill.
Gia has gone yet another route.
Because nothing says ABOLISH GENDER like insisting that someone should be able to “live as a woman” (and that “living as a woman” means being feminine) – you know, doing what women do, wearing what women wear, and jumping into that nice little “woman box”.
I mean, does Gia really think that when someone who is AMAB (assigned male at birth) explains that she is a woman that what she likely really means is that she wants to wear pink socks, watch figure skating and gossip over ice-cream and that’s what makes her a woman?!
Holy fucking christ.