Radical Feminism

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby yurell » Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:48 am UTC

netcrusher88 wrote:RadFem 2012 couldn't find a venue because after their original venue terminated their contract because of legal fears over the fact that they exclude trans women ...


You have no idea how satisfying I find that.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby K-R » Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:28 pm UTC

The bit I don't get is where we have gender as a social construct that ought be got rid of, and advocating that male-to-female transsexuals count as women just as much as people who were born female. How do those two arguments coexist?

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:33 pm UTC

In the simplest case, they exist in different individuals who identify as feminist, since it turns out not all of them have exactly the same beliefs.

What is likely more common, though, is the coexistence within a single person of both the desire to get rid of, change, or at least weaken gender norms, and also the understanding that for the time being such norms and expectations nonetheless still exist. Given that they still exist, people will still generally choose one or the other to identify with, and their choice should be respected.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby doogly » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:17 pm UTC

Yeah, the friendlier rad fem position is that in some distant future, if the social constructs have finally gotten all the smashing they need, there wouldn't be any transgender folks because saying "I'm a woman" would have as much a meaning as "I'm a conquistador." The conquistadors and women have not existed for a while. This is still not maximally friendly and probably rubs most trans folks the wrong way. Might be a liiiiiiil naive about what people's genders actually mean to them. But, it's a far cry from the less friendly rad fems, who harsh on the right for trans folks to determine their own identities in the present world.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:23 pm UTC

The point is to try and create a context where people can be satisfied with who they are. If we take gender out of the equation, creating that context becomes much easier; but gender's still here, and so long as it is, we have to address it.

There was this debate over a videogame a while back--I think it was Dragon Age 2? Anyway, rather than segment the romance subplots into neat groups--'heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual'--they just decided all romance subplots were automatically bisexual (you could achieve them regardless of your character's chosen sex) and left it at that. In response, there was a bit of surprising resistance from (assumedly) heterosexual gamers who described how by creating a context for non-heterosexual relationships with those same characters, the game-creators had 'excluded' them, because they were only interested in relationships that were exclusively heterosexual.

One of the makers (wish I could find the quote) had a very simple, eloquent response. In essence: Good. Because if your sexual identity cannot be satisfied until we exclude everyone else's, then we want no part in it.

That's pretty much how I feel toward the 'womyn born womyn' bullshit.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Spambot5546 » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:42 pm UTC

I'm also about 80% sure I read some posts on this forum of people who were angry at DA2's "everyone is bi" approach because they wanted characters who were legitimately gay, as a gay character in a video game is rare and when you find them they're usually a ridiculous flamboyant stereotype.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:56 pm UTC

Spambot5546 wrote:I'm also about 80% sure I read some posts on this forum of people who were angry at DA2's "everyone is bi" approach because they wanted characters who were legitimately gay, as a gay character in a video game is rare and when you find them they're usually a ridiculous flamboyant stereotype.
While intuitively, I find that less strikingly absurd (contrast between your choices in regards to heterosexuality, and your choices in regards to homosexuality--which are greater and more likely to be of higher 'quality'?), I still parse it as an absurdity--because again, it states that your experience is legitimately reduced by the ability of others to have a similar experience. While I don't think people are lying when they make this claim, I also don't care--if excluding people from having similar experiences (an in-game romance, for example) is required to increase the quality of your experience, then I'm not helping you increase the quality of your experience.

If the argument was more 'We want you to make homosexual characters so your game makes a better statement about the legitimacy of homosexuality', that might be a little different, but that's off-topic.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby K-R » Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:22 pm UTC

doogly wrote:Yeah, the friendlier rad fem position is that in some distant future, if the social constructs have finally gotten all the smashing they need, there wouldn't be any transgender folks because saying "I'm a woman" would have as much a meaning as "I'm a conquistador."

You're suggesting that people feel the need to have SRS simply because their personality doesn't happen to fit what society says it should given their sex? Were I a doctor, I doubt I'd be chopping people up and re-assembling them on that weak a basis.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:31 pm UTC

koberulz wrote:You're suggesting that people feel the need to have SRS simply because their personality doesn't happen to fit what society says it should given their sex? Were I a doctor, I doubt I'd be chopping people up and re-assembling them on that weak a basis.
They don't. As I understand it, in the US, there are barriers you need to get through before doctors will perform SRS (is that the technical term?). I don't know a lot about this, but I imagine that, in some cases, barriers might be a good idea--because surgery is a huge decision, and we should do what we can to make sure that the people going through with it are well-informed about what that decision means. An effective barrier should filter out those who would eventually become unhappy with this decision while never blocking those who would be unhappy without this decision.

Keep in mind, however--not everyone who feels this way wants to be 'corrected' by surgery. Gender identity is complex; it isn't something as simple as the particular shape of your genitals or secondary sex characteristics. Changing these things is not always the prerogative of those who define their gender outside the cultural norms we're familiar with. Some of them might just want to wear different clothes; some people might just want to be referred to as a different set of pronouns.

As reasonable, moral human beings, we have an obligation to make room for those desires, and to treat people as they wish to be treated in regards to their sexual and gender-based identity.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby K-R » Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:56 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:They don't. As I understand it, in the US, there are barriers you need to get through before doctors will perform SRS (is that the technical term?).

That's essentially my point. If people are passing these barriers, I find it hard to believe that there's not something biological going on. Which is also true of the case(s?) of the botched-circumcision-turned-SRS patients who revert to their original gender.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:07 pm UTC

koberulz wrote:That's essentially my point. If people are passing these barriers, I find it hard to believe that there's not something biological going on. Which is also true of the case(s?) of the botched-circumcision-turned-SRS patients who revert to their original gender.
Whether it's biological or not, what's the relevance? The important bit here is that there are people who are unhappy with the gender assigned to them, and wish to be treated based on a gender they are self-assigning.

I assume (best case scenario) that the barriers to SRS exist only to catch people who are mistaking a certain type of unhappiness (depression, for example) for another type of unhappiness (the unhappiness that results from incorrect gender assignment) and operate under the notion that undergoing SRS will 'correct' or at least mitigate their unhappiness.

Whether or not any of this has a biological component doesn't strike me as important; the important bit has always been making sure people are satisfied with the choices they make, and making sure we live in a context that doesn't punish them for those choices.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Shivahn » Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:16 pm UTC

It isn't really important in a "how should we treat them" way. It kind of is in an analysis of gender though - the existence of transgendered people is taken as a threat to radfem ideology because it implies that in a world with no social gender, there would still be people with gendered identities, which is often taken to mean that gender must exist as a concrete thing so it can't just be a social construct.

(This analysis is pretty much correct, incidentally - gender isn't just a social construct, it's a word with multiple meanings. There's a flaw in communication here. Gender identity isn't going away - one who confuses it with the social construct is never going to be able to destroy it.)

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby K-R » Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:29 pm UTC

Shivahn wrote:It isn't really important in a "how should we treat them" way. It kind of is in an analysis of gender though - the existence of transgendered people is taken as a threat to radfem ideology because it implies that in a world with no social gender, there would still be people with gendered identities, which is often taken to mean that gender must exist as a concrete thing so it can't just be a social construct.

(This analysis is pretty much correct, incidentally - gender isn't just a social construct, it's a word with multiple meanings. There's a flaw in communication here. Gender identity isn't going away - one who confuses it with the social construct is never going to be able to destroy it.)

This is essentially the point I'm trying to make.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:34 pm UTC

Is this something to the effect of 'If we remove all barriers--all conditions--to qualifying as a woman--then being a woman ceases to have any real meaning'?

Because I agree with that sentiment; more than that, I think that's a good thing. I also think it's parsed as a deep threat by (some) radical feminists, and may be the source of their antagonism toward making the definition of things like 'woman' more permeable.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:15 am UTC

The whole idea of "just a social construct" is flawed, in my opinion. Being a social construct doesn't mean something isn't real. Language is socially constructed, and yet English really is a real thing that exists and is different from the other real existing thing we call Spanish.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Shivahn » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:12 am UTC

That's true. I think the idea is that if it's purely a social construct, then it has no real power as a prescriptive system. If it's rooted in some way in a phsyical, concrete manner, rather than an abstract thing, though - well, then we are bound by it whether we like it or not. It's a brute fact*.

Well, the well constructed idea is that. The poorly constructed idea is pretty much what you implied - that a social construct does not exist, as it's intangible.

*Again, here is where the fact that words have different meanings causes the argument. There is a brute fact gendered identity, and then a separate but sometimes linked social construct of gender. There's also gender expression which can be separated, though it's much more closely linked to the social construct, and you could call sex "physical gender," though that's silly as we have the word sex for that. There are probably other things that people mean when they say "gender" too - it's an extremely complex word.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby doogly » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:45 am UTC

I'm confused. Do you think gender does (or ought) have prescriptive power?
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Sun Sep 16, 2012 2:30 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:The whole idea of "just a social construct" is flawed, in my opinion. Being a social construct doesn't mean something isn't real. Language is socially constructed, and yet English really is a real thing that exists and is different from the other real existing thing we call Spanish.
But its 'realness' is only a function of its utility. Language exists because it's useful. If we ceased to use it, it would cease to exist in any meaningful sense. It would be past-tense.

Which, to me, is the case of gender: Its realness is only a function of its utility. By reducing the necessity of its utility--by creating contexts where you gain the benefits of gender without having to meet the various 'requirements'--we render gender distinctions irrelevant. And if gender distinctions become irrelevant, gender itself ceases to carry any meaning.

If we manage to create a context where there's no social cost to be a member of a gender, but gender still decides to hang around--well, I guess I'm okay with that. I mean, it would be harmless. But without any sort of exclusionary property--without some 'cost' or 'requirement' to be considered a member of a gender--I can't imagine it surviving as a concept.

It would like being a member of a club with an initiation process that consists of merely asserting your membership. No membership card, no entrance fee, no standards you have to meet. You don't even get a funny hat (but you're free to wear your own). Who would care?

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Shivahn » Sun Sep 16, 2012 2:39 am UTC

doogly wrote:I'm confused. Do you think gender does (or ought) have prescriptive power?

No, I don't. I was pretty unclear in retrospect (I am not certain if anything has prescriptive power, really). When I was talking about being bound by reality, which includes humans as being with gender identities, I meant that we can't escape that as a present truth. That is entirely separate from all the related issues of gender though.

It's clearer to people, in general, that something that is purely a social construct has no prescriptive power. Thus, it's appealing to attack gender, in all its forms, as a social construct - we don't even have to consider the is/ought fallacy, as the social construct isn't a brute fact in the first place. It's sort of a shortcut to "we should deconstruct gender" that doesn't have to mess with details such as is/ought being hard to think about sometimes and such.

Does that make things clearer? I am rereading what I said and I totally came across entirely wrong by leaving out super important parts of what I'm saying. I guess I was very loudly considering the motives someone might have to assert that gender is a purely social construct rather than a complex mesh of words, some of which have tangible bases.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby doogly » Sun Sep 16, 2012 3:51 am UTC

Word, makes more sense now.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby guenther » Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:06 am UTC

To the people that want to see gender destroyed, do you feel the same about race? Do you hope for a future where not only are we tolerant of differing skin colors, but that race doesn't exist as a term anymore, for cultural identity, for self identity, for census, for whatever?

To people that are fine with the existence of gender (at least for the time being) but feel it should be a matter of self identity, do you feel the same about race? A lot of the arguments I hear for gender being based on self identity seems to be about grey area and no precise way to medically assign gender onto people (please correct me if I'm wrong). Well this grey area is even bigger with race. So should we accept it as purely self-identification? If someone of, say, pure Nordic ancestry who was assigned "white" at birth wanted to be referred to as black, should this be defended as strongly as someone assigned "man" at birth wanting to be referred to as female? Are people that reject this guilty of bigotry?
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:45 pm UTC

guenther wrote:To the people that want to see gender destroyed, do you feel the same about race? Do you hope for a future where not only are we tolerant of differing skin colors, but that race doesn't exist as a term anymore, for cultural identity, for self identity, for census, for whatever?
I don't know if the construct of race is ultimately as destructive as gender. I could see the argument being made, and it wouldn't bother me if race were to disappear as a concept along similar lines. I'm not as passionate about it because I don't see the same pain and anguish that occurs because we don't allow people to self-define racially. But maybe it exists; I don't know.
guenther wrote:So should we accept it as purely self-identification? If someone of, say, pure Nordic ancestry who was assigned "white" at birth wanted to be referred to as black, should this be defended as strongly as someone assigned "man" at birth wanting to be referred to as female? Are people that reject this guilty of bigotry?
'Guilty of bigotry'? Why is that important? If they reject what you need to be satisfied, they're certainly guilty of denying what you need to be satisfied. And if what you need to be satisfied is the violation of a taboo--are we seriously going to put taboos above people's happiness?

If someone wanted to be referred to as a certain race, and that was genuinely important to their happiness, I think we should respect that. I don't know if this is something we often see--I certainly don't--so I can imagine it would upset a lot of people (particularly those who already identify as the specific ethnicity), and cause a lot of frustration, confusion, anger, and lead to speculation about what this person was 'actually' up to. It would be a very similar landscape in regards to gender. And like gender, it would be hard to navigate this situation--but not impossible.

The frustration I feel toward radical feminists who reject the permeability of gender is based on the knowledge that for some people, the stakes are incredibly high--high enough for them to take dangerous risks just to conform to the requirements we've set for gender. The 'bigotry' I see from the radical feminists who reject this isn't just bigotry; it's a refusal to acknowledge that people are suffering because of how we handle gender--it's hateful and dismissive. When people make it clear that they are suffering, when they give us reasons to believe that suffering is real, we should believe them and we should seek to diminish that suffering where we can. This isn't failing to be 'bigoted'--this is just being a reasonable, moral human being. The impermeability of gender hurts people. And it's just a goddamn taboo.

So yeah, if there were people who were genuinely suffering because of their assigned race, and wanted to present themselves as another race, I wouldn't reject or deride them. Race is 'tricky', but supporting people isn't. People need the things they need. If they need me to parse them as a race other than what society has identified them as, I can do that, and if there's enough people who are unhappy with their assigned race that race itself is doing significant damage, I would consider moving toward its deconstruction--its absolute permeability, and therefore its ultimate disappearance--a good thing.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Nordic Einar » Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:42 pm UTC

I'm intensely uncomfortable with the idea of white people being able to "decide" they're People of Color. Especially given the historical and ongoing oppression of PoC by white people.

I'm also not super comfortable with the idea of white folks in academia being the ones to decide "Race doesn't matter anymore", because for the communities I work with race is - and probably always will be - a critical piece of cultural and communal identity.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:52 pm UTC

Nordic Einar wrote:I'm intensely uncomfortable with the idea of white people being able to "decide" they're People of Color. Especially given the historical and ongoing oppression of PoC by white people.

I'm also not super comfortable with the idea of white folks in academia being the ones to decide "Race doesn't matter anymore", because for the communities I work with race is - and probably always will be - a critical piece of cultural and communal identity.
No one is saying 'race doesn't matter anymore'. No one is saying 'gender doesn't matter anymore'. And keep in mind, part of your 'discomfort' with the idea of a white person being able to 'decide' they're a person of color may stem from the assumption that such a decision would be made frivolously, when very little is at stake1. You see that same discomfort reflected in the intolerance targeted at those who make the 'decision' that they're not the gender society has assigned them--people find it uncomfortable because they don't want these gender-exclusive spaces to be invaded 'frivolously'. But we're not talking about frivolous decisions here.

The point isn't that race and gender don't matter; of course they do. The point is that these are concepts which serve us--we don't serve them. And when they stop helping--when they start hurting--we should take some time to consider why we keep them around and whether or not deconstructing them--or, at least, modifying them--would be to our greater benefit.

Part of the reason I get angry when people deny the permeability of gender is because there are people out there for whom the stakes are very high--people who are beaten, abused, or left out in the cold because we've decided to make gender an exclusive club. The response to their concerns is 'Well tough cookies!', and I don't like that. If there's a significant portion of the population who face the same issues because of the impermeability of race, I would probably feel the same way. I've never heard of it; it would surprise me to find out it's actually an issue. But I'm not closed to the possibility. The things people need to prosper never ceases to surprise me--so I've stopped assuming I know.

In the end, the only guiding principle we need to navigate this social quagmire is a relatively simple one: Whenever possible, we should treat people as they wish to be treated.

1If I'm wrong, I beg pardon; it's just that nine times out of ten, this seems to be the source of people's discomfort.


EDIT: Something else I wanted to add, on the notion of community--communities built around the notion of a racial or gender-based identity. I think they're fine, but I instinctively dislike it when they contain exclusionary principles ("You can't be a part of this community unless you meet these requirements"). The more inclusive a community is--the more it welcomes those who share its values rather than physical or socioeconomical attributes--the more I like it, and the more prosperous I think it will be (I have no evidence of this last thing, though, so take it with a liberal dose of salt).

But I'm not demanding all communities open their doors to everyone everywhere immediately. Things like race, gender, socioeconomic status--to me, these are signifiers. They hint at certain values. But you can be a black dude and still be unwelcome in a black community because you don't share their values. You can be a woman and still be unwelcome in a woman's community because you don't share their values. And I think it's good when these communities open their doors to those who share their creed but not necessarily their attributes. Simultaneously, I don't blame these communities for being wary when someone who doesn't share these attributes wants to join--they often have very good reasons for their skepticism! But when someone makes it very clear to you that they want to be part of your world--when they make it clear to you that they share your values, and want to contribute to promoting and expressing them--what reason is left to reject them?

And with that in mind, I can understand radical feminists being wary of those who reject the gender assigned to them. But I can't understand or tolerate dismissing them merely because they failed to have the right shape of genitalia, or the wrong type of chromosome, or whatever other nonsensical standard they're using. If you're not going to let someone who shares your values into your club, have the gumption to tell them the actual reason: Because they make you uncomfortable.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby CorruptUser » Sun Sep 16, 2012 8:02 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Something else I wanted to add, on the notion of community--communities built around the notion of a racial or gender-based identity. I think they're fine, but I instinctively dislike it when they contain exclusionary principles ("You can't be a part of this community unless you meet these requirements"). The more inclusive a community is--the more it welcomes those who share its values rather than physical or socioeconomical attributes--the more I like it, and the more prosperous I think it will be (I have no evidence of this last thing, though, so take it with a liberal dose of salt).

But I'm not demanding all communities open their doors to everyone everywhere immediately. Things like race, gender, socioeconomic status--to me, these are signifiers. They hint at certain values. But you can be a black dude and still be unwelcome in a black community because you don't share their values. You can be a woman and still be unwelcome in a woman's community because you don't share their values. And I think it's good when these communities open their doors to those who share their creed but not necessarily their attributes. Simultaneously, I don't blame these communities for being wary when someone who doesn't share these attributes wants to join--they often have very good reasons for their skepticism! But when someone makes it very clear to you that they want to be part of your world--when they make it clear to you that they share your values, and want to contribute to promoting and expressing them--what reason is left to reject them?


^This.

I especially am disgusted by communities that practice the same type of exclusion they claim to have been a victim of, in any form.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Lucrece » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:33 am UTC

I can understand to a point segregated communities. When you are, say, 5% of the population, finding other people who share your attribute can be hard enough, and adding majority members who already have most spaces catering and centered on them. I get it when lesbians want their own communities so that they can have a dedicated space to network relationships, given that so few women they meet in average spaces will not be interested. there are controversial gender exclusion policies in, say, gay male bars because, though supportive straight women and the occasional straight men might come in, the purpose of that bar is to introduce the guarantee of meeting gay people, and regardless of intentions the presence of majority members in minority spaces can dilute the subculture. There are exclusive benefits to having gay male friends as a gay man, for example; you can relate sexual experience and conversation that you can't otherwise share with the same depth when it comes to straight friends -- they most likely do not have the wealth of experiences, and in most social situations where in some circles men will bond with sexual banter (women as well, as far as I can see with some lesbian friends who value having these conversations with others who understand them) and as a result sexual minorities feel left out.

Some people see radical lesbian feminists as manhating and needlessly exclusive, but in a way I can understand why they would want to inhabit a social sphere where the dynamics are not influenced by the predominant male-female relational code. Many men and women still behave differently when in mixed company today, so they wish to hold to that sense of kinship and shared experience -- similarly, some black people would want to maintain spaces where socialization, cuisine, music, etc. are upheld as opposed to suddenly seeing an influx of white people that bring with them distinct cultural norms that once again make them feel as outsiders adapting to somebody else's norms.

This does not excuse cisgendered women condescending to women who are transgendered about their own self-identification, but I have to respect their want for dictating what issues will be central to their communities. Just like it is the prerogative of transwomen to exclude cisgendered women in communities where they want the central issue that people relate with to be life as a transgendered person. Or the Latin American people who self segregate to speak in their preferred native tongues (humor, tone, and cultural quirks such as idiom variety make a huge difference in how one feels when relating to others -- try translating your sarcasm, for example, to a language that is not in your native tongue -- it's not an easy transition) wanting to preserve spaces in which their cultural norms are predominant, so as to feel a sense of belonging. Sure, cultural intermingling is healthy for societal development, but let's not pretend that ultimately what will be uniting that intermingling is a shared set of cultural norms -- say, American youth make it a custom to hang out in malls; youth from other countries, on the other hand, may not have the same culture of consumerism and may be more accustomed to plazas and natural environments being their social spaces. They may participate and to some extent enjoy the American version, but they will still feel out of place, where their enjoyments and social conduct are not understood by the people they now have to befriend. In that case, an enclave of Latin American immigrants offers these youth a space in which THEY can feel safe in being the norm, without the threat of being in a majority community that will crowd out their Latin cuisine local restaurants and where their grandmothers and parents can more comfortably and naturally interact with neighbors without the barriers of mangled English and nonexistent Spanish keeping those involved isolated from meaningful social experience.

I think intent behind forming these cultural ghettos matters. It is different to segregate for the purpose of shared experience, instead of separating people based on a dislike for who they are. If you exclude white people from a club meant for black people because you wish to maintain a member spread that shares a set of community norms, I feel it is different from excluding white people because you dislike or look down upon white people. There are extant clubs whose membership is nationality based, such as Italians, or Irish descent, or clubs whose membership is exclusive to religious groups (Jewish or Catholic).
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby Nordic Einar » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:50 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:No one is saying 'race doesn't matter anymore'. No one is saying 'gender doesn't matter anymore'. And keep in mind, part of your 'discomfort' with the idea of a white person being able to 'decide' they're a person of color may stem from the assumption that such a decision would be made frivolously, when very little is at stake1.


No, my discomfort stems from the historic and ongoing appropriation by white/western society of cultures of color. My discomfort stems from the historic punishment of people of color from celebrating their culture while simultaneously stealing whatever piece of it seems interesting to the dominant social classes. It comes from the constant whitewashing of PoC cultures to benefit the aforementioned dominant social classes/structures. It comes from the laughable idea that a white person in western society can possibly understand what it means to be black, and the inherent ludicrous amount of privilege required to be white but "want" to be black. Because a white person demanding they be referred as black? Yeah, besides being an oddity, they don't have to deal with any of the consequences of being black in our culture. That's the very fucking definition of privilege.

The Great Hippo wrote:The point isn't that race and gender don't matter; of course they do. The point is that these are concepts which serve us--we don't serve them. And when they stop helping--when they start hurting--we should take some time to consider why we keep them around and whether or not deconstructing them--or, at least, modifying them--would be to our greater benefit.


That's the thing - the concept of race does serve us, in a variety of ways. Very specifically, it demonstrably serves whites. I benefit greatly by dint of my whiteness, from the way it allows me to interact with institutions of power to the economic advantages allotted to me and mine over generations. I am thus highly skeptical of any "movement" which roughly allows whites to re-appropriate the lived experience of PoC in such a way that they still benefit from their whiteness. It is both dishonest and insulting to the struggle of the communities they're appropriating.

The Great Hippo wrote:Part of the reason I get angry when people deny the permeability of gender is because there are people out there for whom the stakes are very high--people who are beaten, abused, or left out in the cold because we've decided to make gender an exclusive club. The response to their concerns is 'Well tough cookies!', and I don't like that. If there's a significant portion of the population who face the same issues because of the impermeability of race, I would probably feel the same way. I've never heard of it; it would surprise me to find out it's actually an issue. But I'm not closed to the possibility. The things people need to prosper never ceases to surprise me--so I've stopped assuming I know.

In the end, the only guiding principle we need to navigate this social quagmire is a relatively simple one: Whenever possible, we should treat people as they wish to be treated.


Here's the thing - folks who step outside the rigidity of gender? They suffer for it. MAAB folks who know, intrinsically, that they are women and transition (or don't!) do not continue to live in privilege. They aren't "appropriating" the experiences of women, and they often play a deadly price to live as themselves. (Particularly if they're PoC - go figure!) I very highly doubt this would be the same for folks who feel as if they're another race, if folks like that even truly exist.

The Great Hippo wrote:Something else I wanted to add, on the notion of community--communities built around the notion of a racial or gender-based identity. I think they're fine, but I instinctively dislike it when they contain exclusionary principles ("You can't be a part of this community unless you meet these requirements"). The more inclusive a community is--the more it welcomes those who share its values rather than physical or socioeconomical attributes--the more I like it, and the more prosperous I think it will be (I have no evidence of this last thing, though, so take it with a liberal dose of salt).

But I'm not demanding all communities open their doors to everyone everywhere immediately. Things like race, gender, socioeconomic status--to me, these are signifiers. They hint at certain values. But you can be a black dude and still be unwelcome in a black community because you don't share their values. You can be a woman and still be unwelcome in a woman's community because you don't share their values. And I think it's good when these communities open their doors to those who share their creed but not necessarily their attributes. Simultaneously, I don't blame these communities for being wary when someone who doesn't share these attributes wants to join--they often have very good reasons for their skepticism! But when someone makes it very clear to you that they want to be part of your world--when they make it clear to you that they share your values, and want to contribute to promoting and expressing them--what reason is left to reject them?


The italics are the crux of it, I think: because community is about more than values. Communities are also built upon shared cultural experience and lived experience. No matter how "into" the rights of gay folks my straight friends are they are not gay. No matter how many values* I share with my trans friends or even partners, I am not and never will be trans. My friends can work tirelessly for my right to self-expression, and I can work tirelessly for my trans partner's rights to not be murdered in the streets, but I will always be cis. My straight friends will always be straight. Unless their sexual orientations shift (as they sometimes do!) or my gender identity and expression shift, we will always be only "Allies" to those respective communities. And that's okay.

But the moment I begin to claim the personal struggles of the trans community as my own, solely because I share their values? That's the moment I become an appropriative, privileged douche who shouldn't be doing trans advocacy.

CorruptUser wrote:^This.

I especially am disgusted by communities that practice the same type of exclusion they claim to have been a victim of, in any form.


This reeks of "you pointing out that I'm oppressing you is oppressive!', or "Why can't white folks say the n-word." Or the "You're as bad as they are!"

This may not be what you intended, and if I'm wholly off base I apologize. But yeah, without further context or additional commentary that's roughly what it feels like to me.

*Also, what "values" does the trans* community hold? What "values" does the black, or hispanic, or undocumented worker community hold? How can someone possibly have "all the values" of an entire community? Racial, economic, ethnic, regional, gender, or sexual oriented communities very rarely hold the same internal values. They're communities largely based on shared identity and lived experience - they're incredibly fucking diverse. Especially when intersectionality begins to show its effects. The "values" of the low-income black gay male sex worker community is probably a lot fucking different from the values of the upper middle class HRC white gay male community. And there's intense "value" differences inter-community as well.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:57 am UTC

Fair; I'm just glossing over how communities do more than merely share and express values--they serve simple purposes of practicality, and exclusionary principles may be in place to facilitate that practicality. It's harder to form a romantic relationship in a gay space if you include non-gays (and therefore have to deal with non-gay issues, or figure out if the person in this space is actually gay). I mean, I think safe spaces are a good idea; I think creating spaces where everyone's on the same page is fine and well. And even if we share the same values, I might be at greater risk of expressing things that make you feel bad or unsafe, and my presence in a given space may actually reduce your ability to use that space for its intended purpose. I can see and understand why someone would want to therefore create a filter to prevent this from happening. If you tell me that this is a space for gay people to hook up, I'm not going to insist I should be allowed in there. That's just stupid. The same goes for spaces defined as a place for people to feel safe, when that safety is challenged by some attribute I possess--be it my identified gender, my perceived gender, or my race.

But I think there's a subtle distinction here, and it warrants some thought: My problem is less with spaces with clearly defined purposes that my presence would run counter to. Spaces like 'womyn born womyn' are anything but clear--why are we excluding women from these spaces? Is there a specific, obvious reason? Or just a bunch of wishy-washy attempts to justify it with bullshit gender essentialism? I'm comfortable being excluded from spaces where my presence runs counter to the goal of that space; hell, I'll exclude myself. But I don't like the smell of bullshit, and 'womyn born womyn' stinks worse than a cow farm.

EDIT: Ninja'd. I'll read the above post in a second, and respond to it after someone else posts.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:40 am UTC

Nordic Einar wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:I especially am disgusted by communities that practice the same type of exclusion they claim to have been a victim of, in any form.


This reeks of "you pointing out that I'm oppressing you is oppressive!', or "Why can't white folks say the n-word." Or the "You're as bad as they are!"

This may not be what you intended, and if I'm wholly off base I apologize. But yeah, without further context or additional commentary that's roughly what it feels like to me.


I'm thinking more of the lines of the Puritans fleeing Britain for religious persecution, then setting up a theocracy in the Colonies with even more religious persecution; the only difference being who is on top. My mother told me that in middle/high school during the 70s, the black students set up "black halls" where only black people were allowed to go through. It's things like homosexual men referring to heterosexuals with the pejorative 'breeders', to try and make being straight the new 'queer'. The case here is a fringe group of feminists (with the stench of straw) that think they should set up a system where they merely want to redirect the oppression, not end it.

Basically, don't complain about the system being unfair when it's obvious that it's not the inherent unfairness that bothers you.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:00 am UTC

Nordic Einar wrote:No, my discomfort stems from the historic and ongoing appropriation by white/western society of cultures of color. My discomfort stems from the historic punishment of people of color from celebrating their culture while simultaneously stealing whatever piece of it seems interesting to the dominant social classes. It comes from the constant whitewashing of PoC cultures to benefit the aforementioned dominant social classes/structures. It comes from the laughable idea that a white person in western society can possibly understand what it means to be black, and the inherent ludicrous amount of privilege required to be white but "want" to be black. Because a white person demanding they be referred as black? Yeah, besides being an oddity, they don't have to deal with any of the consequences of being black in our culture. That's the very fucking definition of privilege.
How is this argument fundamentally different from one that points out the privilege of someone assigned as 'male', but who wishes to be perceived as female? Can't I deny them this wish on the exact same grounds? What steps must they take before I've decided they've sufficiently 'reduced' their privilege enough for me to accept them as a woman?

I'm not denying that it's an expression of privilege--I'm just not sure if it matters. Not in the case we're discussing (one where identifying as a certain race is critical to your emotional well-being). The goal isn't to minimize privilege; it's to maximize benefit. Understanding privilege is a tool toward that end, but I see no reason that its existence should bar people from pursuing the things they need to make them happy.

Let's reverse the scenario: How would you feel about a person who was assigned 'black' as their race, but felt a genuine need to be identified as 'white'? I'm not pulling the 'reverse racism' card here, by the way--rather, I'm asking--is it okay to tell one person "Yes, I'll treat you as race X", then tell another person "No, I won't treat you as race Y", just because one of those races correlate to a higher level of socioeconomic power?

I mean, context matters, sure--maybe treating you as race X really, really hurts members of race X. Maybe we should think about that. But the expression of privilege alone isn't enough to convince me not to support someone's identity.
Nordic Einar wrote:That's the thing - the concept of race does serve us, in a variety of ways. Very specifically, it demonstrably serves whites. I benefit greatly by dint of my whiteness, from the way it allows me to interact with institutions of power to the economic advantages allotted to me and mine over generations. I am thus highly skeptical of any "movement" which roughly allows whites to re-appropriate the lived experience of PoC in such a way that they still benefit from their whiteness. It is both dishonest and insulting to the struggle of the communities they're appropriating.
Isn't this a convincing argument for deconstructing race? I realize that such an argument should be met with well-earned skepticism--the idea of a newer, 'friendlier' sort of racism is so often sold to us in the guise of a society that's 'colorblind'. But putting that aside for a moment. If I take what you're saying at face value--and if it were possible to destroy the notion of race--genuinely destroy it--wouldn't it be to our benefit?

There are probably a lot of reasons subcultures exist, but one obvious reason is their usefulness in responding to a deeply entrenched culture that's hostile toward their ends. As these subcultures are incorporated into the 'dominant' culture, one interpretation is to see it as the 'dominant' culture appropriating the subculture to their own benefit--but another interpretation is that the need for insularity is disappearing--the 'dominant' culture is becoming less hostile, and so as the reasons for those boundaries evaporate, those boundaries become more permeable.

Both these interpretations strike me as reasonable. The latter, if true, implies that the notion of 'race' is being eroded in a similar way that gender is.
Nordic Einar wrote:Here's the thing - folks who step outside the rigidity of gender? They suffer for it. MAAB folks who know, intrinsically, that they are women and transition (or don't!) do not continue to live in privilege. They aren't "appropriating" the experiences of women, and they often play a deadly price to live as themselves. (Particularly if they're PoC - go figure!) I very highly doubt this would be the same for folks who feel as if they're another race, if folks like that even truly exist.
But how much do I have to suffer before I'm 'allowed' to be a woman without appropriating the experience of women? How much privilege do I have to lose before that loss of privilege equals the privilege I lose for being born a woman? How much hardship do I have to experience before I have permission to identify as who I am?

I don't think this is a useful approach to the notion of privilege. Privileges can change, and they're certainly different from person to person--but you can't compare them. Someone doesn't have 'more' privilege or 'less' privilege or 'equivalent' privilege. A black man's privilege isn't more/less/equal to a white woman's privilege. So I don't see the privileges that a person loses for stepping out of the rigidity of gender as comparable to the privileges one loses for being born as a woman. They're just different.

The alternative is that I need to somehow 'earn' the right to identify as a woman by shedding my non-woman-born privileges. Is that even possible?
Nordic Einar wrote:The italics are the crux of it, I think: because community is about more than values. Communities are also built upon shared cultural experience and lived experience. No matter how "into" the rights of gay folks my straight friends are they are not gay. No matter how many values* I share with my trans friends or even partners, I am not and never will be trans. My friends can work tirelessly for my right to self-expression, and I can work tirelessly for my trans partner's rights to not be murdered in the streets, but I will always be cis. My straight friends will always be straight. Unless their sexual orientations shift (as they sometimes do!) or my gender identity and expression shift, we will always be only "Allies" to those respective communities. And that's okay.

But the moment I begin to claim the personal struggles of the trans community as my own, solely because I share their values? That's the moment I become an appropriative, privileged douche who shouldn't be doing trans advocacy.
I actually agree, and I think my remarks about community were too hasty. I'm loathe to appropriate anyone's movement as my own. I want to support people who need support--nothing more.
Nordic Einar wrote:*Also, what "values" does the trans* community hold? What "values" does the black, or hispanic, or undocumented worker community hold? How can someone possibly have "all the values" of an entire community? Racial, economic, ethnic, regional, gender, or sexual oriented communities very rarely hold the same internal values. They're communities largely based on shared identity and lived experience - they're incredibly fucking diverse. Especially when intersectionality begins to show its effects. The "values" of the low-income black gay male sex worker community is probably a lot fucking different from the values of the upper middle class HRC white gay male community. And there's intense "value" differences inter-community as well.
Without any more information, I wouldn't ascribe any values to a gay community beyond 'being homosexual'. I certainly wouldn't demand entrance into a gay community on the basis that I support gay people.

I'm thinking of value-based-communities, though. Here's an easy (and probably not very objectionable!) one: Republicans vs gay Republicans. Being a Republican is a specific thing with a specific value set; for the most part, those value sets do not include 'we oppose homosexuality' (exceptions exist, of course). And yet gay Republicans are often excluded from Republican communities, even when they share similar values. Why? I suspect the reasoning is along the same lines as to why some radical feminists exclude radical feminists who have stepped outside the rigidity of gender.

I think we're mostly parallel on these points; I suspect the majority of our differences lie in a different set of definitions (particularly privilege).

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:52 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:How is this argument fundamentally different from one that points out the privilege of someone assigned as 'male', but who wishes to be perceived as female? Can't I deny them this wish on the exact same grounds? What steps must they take before I've decided they've sufficiently 'reduced' their privilege enough for me to accept them as a woman?
Indeed.

Nordic Einar's transphobic evil twin wrote:It comes from the laughable idea that a man in western society can possibly understand what it means to be female, and the inherent ludicrous amount of privilege required to be male but "want" to be female. Because a man demanding he be referred as "she"? Yeah, besides being an oddity, he doesn't have to deal with any of the consequences of being female in our culture. That's the very fucking definition of privilege.
I have heard pretty much exactly this argument in defense of "womyn born womyn" spaces like MWMF.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby setzer777 » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:52 am UTC

So if I understand correctly, some people are arguing against basing any identity/community on immutable characteristics. Since we can't see into someone's brain, doesn't that basically reduce the requirements for membership into any community to saying the right words?
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby guenther » Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:30 am UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:'I don't know if the construct of race is ultimately as destructive as gender.

I guess I don't know what yardstick you're using, but I find it surprising that someone would argue this. What with racism, genocide, slavery, apartheid, etc, the construct of race packs quite a bit of destructive power.

Anyway, the thrust of my point is that the argument for removing or blurring boundaries seems to be much stronger for race than for gender. That is unless we use an "as needed" approach as you suggest. That's seems to be a very practical viewpoint. And I don't know of any cases where a white person needs to be referred to as a black person to feel at home with themselves. However, the notion of how race is defined (culturally, anthropologically, purely self-defined, etc.) and how inclusive/exclusive it is seems to be pretty heavily debated, at least it was a couple of years ago when I heard it discussed in regards to the census.

But what really got me thinking on this topic was the notion that some people want to see the concept of gender destroyed. If there's a way of dealing with race that most people can accept (I haven't heard of anyone crusading to destroy the construct of race), why can't gender be similar? Men and women can bond with like-gendered people, they can promote positive qualities, they can help people define their identities. As long as we're not trying to confine people to straight-jackets and we accept and tolerate that individuals vary greatly, I think there's a lot of potential benefit. And I'm quite skeptical of a genderless society, both in terms of its feasibility and its benefits. And I probably will be until someone demonstrates this on a reasonable scale. And even then, it would have to have superlative performance on widely accepted metrics of goodness to be considered "better", rather than just another option.

Despite my skepticism, I certainly think a free society should give a group the latitude to try it out if that's their vision for a better future. In fact, I think it's essential that we make room for this sort of cultural innovation. Not to mention, I like freedom. But conversely, I don't want to be treated as a problem for not supporting this as a noble goal. Different groups can disagree and still respect each other (at least I've been told this is possible. :))

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I put this in there because I didn't want just a response of "Yup, it's fine with me". I wanted people to go beyond what they would personally be fine with; I wanted to know if they felt that we should morally enforce this in some way, or have some sort of moral reproach on people that don't do this. Bigotry is just the word I picked at the time, but it's not specifically important for what I was asking.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:59 pm UTC

guenther wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:'I don't know if the construct of race is ultimately as destructive as gender.
I guess I don't know what yardstick you're using, but I find it surprising that someone would argue this. What with racism, genocide, slavery, apartheid, etc, the construct of race packs quite a bit of destructive power.
Someone would argue this because we're not talking about racism vs. sexism, as forms of bigotry against another group. We're talking about race and gender as social constructs in themselves. Plus I think Hippo was talking about the harm each construct causes for the people within one of the assigned categories, rather than the harm committed across categories, though I suppose the latter could in part also be blamed on the existence of the constructs in the first place.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:37 pm UTC

guenther wrote:I guess I don't know what yardstick you're using, but I find it surprising that someone would argue this. What with racism, genocide, slavery, apartheid, etc, the construct of race packs quite a bit of destructive power.
What gmaviluk said; although I should have qualified this statement better. What I meant was that I don't see racism as destructive to its participants' sense of self as gender--because most people seem to be cool with identifying as their socially assigned race. Clearly, not everyone is cool with identifying as their socially assigned gender.

Whether race is as destructive as gender in the sense you're talking is harder, because in things like slavery and apartheid, race is a significant component--perhaps the most significant component--but it isn't the only defining feature. In some of these cases, it might be easy to imagine the situation remaining the same even in the absence of race (apartheid or slavery enforced along socioeconomic lines, for example). In many of these cases, the toxic element of racism came about as a direct product of the situation, rather than race itself (slavery in the US may be to blame for the US's poor track record with race, rather than race itself--and it's possible to understand the initial enslavement of Africans through a dark practicality rather than merely an expression of racism--these things are deeply entwined, and reinforce one another on multiple levels). There's a lot more context to untangle, which makes tracing the source of discontent much harder.

In the case of gender identity, though, what's causing anguish is very clear: We're not accepting people's identities. Which makes the solution even clearer: Let's start accepting them.
guenther wrote:But what really got me thinking on this topic was the notion that some people want to see the concept of gender destroyed. If there's a way of dealing with race that most people can accept (I haven't heard of anyone crusading to destroy the construct of race), why can't gender be similar? Men and women can bond with like-gendered people, they can promote positive qualities, they can help people define their identities. As long as we're not trying to confine people to straight-jackets and we accept and tolerate that individuals vary greatly, I think there's a lot of potential benefit. And I'm quite skeptical of a genderless society, both in terms of its feasibility and its benefits. And I probably will be until someone demonstrates this on a reasonable scale. And even then, it would have to have superlative performance on widely accepted metrics of goodness to be considered "better", rather than just another option.
Something to keep in mind is that when I advocate the destruction of gender, what I'm really advocating is the complete and absolute permeability of gender. If gender is completely permeable, it will cease to have meaning; if it ceases to have meaning, it will (probably) be destroyed.

Saying that I'm for 'destroying' gender might be a little misleading, then, but it's easier to understand when I put it that way. It makes it clear in an instant that I oppose any and all non-permeable boundaries around gender. However, I can see how saying that I'm for the 'destruction of gender' may imply to others that I'm putting myself up as antagonistic toward their interests--when I really don't want to. I want everyone to be able to identify as the gender that suits them best, and I want everyone else to be perfectly okay with that. That's my ideal society (in regards to gender), and that's the goal my thoughts and words here serve. I want people to be treated as they wish--and need--to be treated, and I see the absolute permeability of gender as a means toward that end.
guenther wrote:But conversely, I don't want to be treated as a problem for not supporting this as a noble goal. Different groups can disagree and still respect each other (at least I've been told this is possible. :))
So long a the guiding principle a person follows is to treat people as they wish to be treated--so long as they want to try and make room for those who need it--so long as the goal is to get to a place where people can be satisfied with who they are and where they're going--so long as you don't dismiss, deride, or demean the things those people say they need to attain that satisfaction--we're only disagreeing over the means, not the ends. I have no problem disagreeing over someone on how to get to a destination. It's when someone clearly isn't interested in the destination that I get frustrated.

If you think deconstructing gender will hurt more people than it will help, that's fine, and I think that may be worth discussing. But if you think that the people whom rigid gender boundaries hurt need to 'get over it', or that their need to step out of those boundaries is not important, then I can not--and will not--respect that.

(But I don't think you think that.)

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby morriswalters » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:23 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:In the case of gender identity, though, what's causing anguish is very clear: We're not accepting people's identities. Which makes the solution even clearer: Let's start accepting them.
I'm not really competent to say much here, and I don't much care what people want to call themselves. None of the contexts that might cause me a problem exist for me today. But I'm not all that certain that what's causing the anguish is all a problem of external forces. And I would find it difficult to ever accept that until we learn how gender identity is formed in the first place.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:52 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I'm not really competent to say much here, and I don't much care what people want to call themselves. None of the contexts that might cause me a problem exist for me today. But I'm not all that certain that what's causing the anguish is all a problem of external forces. And I would find it difficult to ever accept that until we learn how gender identity is formed in the first place.
This is really, really easy. In terms of morality, it's incredibly low-hanging fruit.

Some people say "I'm a woman". Some people say "I'm a man". When you respond to any of them with "No, you aren't; because you don't have the right hair/genitals/body/clothes/whatever", it is probable that you are causing them pain. And yes, that's an external force.

The moral solution here is to stop saying "No, you aren't".

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby doogly » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:14 pm UTC

I think Morris was suggesting that you may also retain oodles of anguish when you tell yourself your gender is wrong. Like how when everyone you meet tells you that you are not fat but your anguish over size is deeply anguished. It's a thing.

But yes, Hippo's suggestion to accept everyone's self identification is certainly the right thing to do. There may just need to be more support beyond this.
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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby morriswalters » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:18 pm UTC

One more thing and I will shut up. I understand that people are cruel, I have sufficient experience to be certain of that. What I meant was I would believe part of the problem would consist of trying to match your gender identity in opposition to the physical makeup of your body. Surgery and hormone therapy and acceptance can only get you close.

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Re: Radical Feminism

Postby netcrusher88 » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:37 pm UTC

Thanks for the unnecessary vaguely cissexist reminder, but I don't get what purpose it serves in this conversation.
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