Tuesday, February 22, 2011

male voice/female voice

I just witnessed a remarkable, yet everyday, example of male privilege, that I thought was pertinent to the ongoing radfem arguments about the ways in which trans*women may or may not retain male privilege.

To paraphrase, a young (21-year-old) transwoman who recently came out as trans said she goes to a discussion group once a week, where she noticed that the boys dominated the discourse, and women were ignored. So, what was her solution? Switch back to what she called her "boy voice, the one [she] used before [she] came out as trans". Here, in a nutshell, is where the male privilege still resides with the transwoman: at this point in her life, she has the option to switch her gender presentation up and have her voice heard in a way that a born-woman does not. There is no milieu in which my voice will be heard as anything but a woman's voice. Eventually, if this young woman transitions fully, and moves into a community where no-one knew her as male, she'll lose that option, but for now, she just easily picked up the mantle of male privilege as it suited her.

And this is where the sticky wicket is for me and so many other radfems when it comes to residual male privilege. I don't wish to ignore the many, many ways in which trans*folk are discriminated against, and I suppose I can concede to the ways in which my born-female-ness comes with a degree of privilege over that of trans*women. Yet that little act of switching up in order to be heard is at the heart of the issue for me. Trans*women, for a time, and for as long as they choose, can opt to present as male and use that male privilege they were given at birth.

That for me is the very core of what makes born-women different from trans-women. Not better, not worse, but surely not the same. I am okay with a broad definition of gender and a broad definition of biological sex, but I'm simply not comfortable with or able to pretend that the life experiences of transwomen are the same as those of women born into femaleness.

To me, one of the primary goals of radical feminism is to do away with the gender binary altogether. Meaning all activities, all attires, all personality traits, all body shapes are simply *human*. Not female, not male; not masculine, not feminine. They just ARE, the way brown eyes are un-gendered. The way knees are un-gendered. And this is why I resist the idea that a person who wishes to have long hair and wear dresses should have to feel like they must be female if they have those desires. I, a born woman, am not that fired up about high heels and cosmetics and poufy hair. Does this make me less of a "woman"? Sadly, to some people, it does. To the Pentecostals around here, my pants-wearing and short hair make me pretty much the whore of babylon. My ongoing and futile resistance to the performance of femininity makes it very, very difficult for me to understand why anyone would fight for the right to perform femininity. To me, it's artificial, constructed, oppressive, patriarchal. I resent being judged as "less" because I don't pouf up my hair and wear makeup and pantyhose. Why on earth would ANYONE fight for that right? I honestly don't get it.

I don't have to, fortunately. I am totally down with people looking, dressing, acting however they want, as long as they're not assholes and they don't tell me what to do or how to dress, and if a person says "Hey, I'm not a boy any more, I'm a girl," then alright, that's fine. Name yourself, and I will respect that. Because we live with the gender binary and people, unfortunately, have to pick one or suffer negative consequences for their genderfuckery. I just wonder, without the gender binary, how many people would opt for hormones and cosmetic surgery and all of the intense body-modification that goes on in order to transition. I know a few transgendered folks who haven't opted for medical intervention. I wish it was easy for them to make that choice. I am not entirely convinced that body modification can turn a male body into a female body. It can make a body more comfortable for a person who feels "female" on the inside, but in the end, am I nothing more than a man with extra estrogen, boobs, and a hole instead of a pole?

The contradiction between desiring the end of gender and having grown up as a woman within the gender binary is kind of disorienting. I want to resist the idea that I am nothing more than a man with slightly different parts. I don't think it works the other way 'round, either: a female body doesn't become male through body modification. I guess what it comes down to is that I do believe you can change your gender identity, but I don't believe you can change your biological sex, and I don't believe you can entirely rid yourself of the gender identity you were given at birth.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

in which I complain about Valentine's Day

Why? It is a holiday designed to sell stuff to people in relationships, and to make people not in relationships feel like shit.

Furthermore: blood diamonds; roses picked by slave labor; chocolate picked by child labor; you see where I'm going with this, right? The "little luxuries" of the holiday are paid for in pain and suffering.

And, of course, the bullshit "give her a diamond and she'll fuck you" script; the "give her an ugly diamond pendant and she'll think you actually put some thought into this crappy holiday" script; the "buy her something at the last minute once a year and you're done being nice for a whole year" script.

Also: the commercial holiday is built on the Catholic holiday that was itself built on top of the Roman holiday of Lupercalia, which wasn't exactly fluffy kittens and sweethearts. More like blood and lust:

The festival was held every year, on the 15th of February,a in the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were said to have been nurtured by the she-wolf; the place contained an altar and a grove sacred to the god Lupercus (Aurel. Vict. de Orig. Gent. Rom. 22; Ovid. Fast. II.267). Here the Luperci assembled on the day of the Lupercalia, and sacrificed to the god goats and young dogs, which animals are remarkable for their strong sexual instinct, and thus were appropriate sacrifices to the god of fertility (Plut. Rom. 21; Servius ad Aen. VIII.343).b Two youths of noble birth were then led to the Luperci, and one of the latter touched their foreheads with a sword dipped in the blood of the victims; other Luperci immediately after wiped off the bloody spots with wool dipped in milk. Hereupon the two youths were obliged to break out into a shout of laughter. This ceremony was probably a symbolical purification of the shepherds. After the sacrifice was over, the Luperci partook of a meal, at which they were plentifully supplied with wine (Val. Max. II.2.9). They then cut the skins of the goats which they had sacrificed, into pieces; with some of which they covered parts of their body in imitation of the god Lupercus, who was represented half naked and half covered with goat-skin. The other pieces of the skins they cut into thongs, and holding them in their hands they ran through the streets of the city, touching or striking with them all persons whom they met in their way, and especially women, who even used to come forward voluntarily for the purpose, since they believed that this ceremony rendered them fruitful, and procured them an easy delivery in childbearing. This act of running about with thongs of goat-skin was a symbolic purification of the land, and that of touching persons a purification of men, for the words by which this act is designated are februare and lustrare (Ovid. Fast. II.31; Fest. s.v. Februarius). The goat-skin itself was called februum, the festive day dies februata, the month in which it occurred Februarius, and the god himself Februus.