Interracial Solidarity in the Feminist Movement – #FiLiA2017

A brief foreword: this is the transcript of the keynotes address I delivered at FiLiA 2017, on Saturday the 14th of October. I was initially hesitant to share this speech, as I can no longer think of interracial solidarity between women of colour and white women as a viable project. However, out of commitment to feminist documentation and the women who requested it be made public, I have decided to post the transcript.

Writers and theorists who remain immobile, closed to any shift in perspective, ultimately have little to offer. Perhaps in the future I will return to advocating interracial movement building. Perhaps not. Either way, this transcript is an outline of the thoughts I held on the matter.


It is an honour to be here with you all today, and a privilege to share the stage with Kate, Sophie, and Cordelia. Thank you for inviting me to be part of this year’s FiLiA conference. As someone who is passionate about movement building, it is a pleasure to be here speaking about the radical potential within feminist sisterhood. As Adrienne Rich once said, “The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.” Given their revolutionary potential, I think that as feminists it’s worth exploring the possibilities contained within the connections between women – some of which remain largely unrealised or underexplored. For this reason, I’m here to talk to you about interracial solidarity within the feminist movement – a mine of untapped potential within our politics and many women’s lives.

Before we get going, it’s important to say that the burden of self-reflection and action required to improve the dynamic of race within the feminist movement lies with white women. This is at points a tough conversation, but it’s also a necessary one, and for the white women hesitant about engaging fully with it I’d like to point out that racism is consistently undermining the efforts made by feminist women – the benefits to fully unpicking racism from feminist spaces and communities are legion. To the women of colour in the audience, I have decided to focus on this specific issue because it is vital that all the Black and Brown girls coming into this movement experience better from it than what has gone on before in mixed feminist spaces. Every last one of them deserves more.

Feminism is a social movement devoted to the liberation of women and girls from oppression. The oppressions we experience are the result of white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy – quite a mouthful, but it is vital to acknowledge that these hierarchies are all interconnected. Systems of oppression cannot be neatly divided into separate entities when they constantly overlap in our everyday lives. Since you’re engaging in a feminist space that’s all about trying to develop ideas on how to improve our movement and make this world a better place to live in, I’m working in the belief that most of you will be receptive. We are all here at FiLiA as feminists who understand the value of movement building. I’ll try to be gentle, but not at the expense of the radical honesty this conversation demands.

The reality is that race politics are where a lot of white women fall down in their feminist practice. Not all white women – but enough that women of colour are reasonably wary of those interactions. White liberal feminists have a habit of failing to consider racism in terms of structural power. White radical feminists can be quite unwilling to apply the same scrutiny or structural analysis to the hierarchy of race as they do to the hierarchy of gender. Both liberal and radical white feminists often carry the expectation that women of colour should prioritise challenging misogyny over resisting racism, as though the two issues are mutually exclusive and not woven together in the fabric of our everyday lives.

For years amazing women such as Stella Dadzie, who will be speaking to you tomorrow morning, have been documenting and challenging the racism and misogyny that Black women experience in Britain. I’m not here to prove that racism exists or has negative consequences for women of colour in Britain: it does. I am here to talk about how we – as feminists, as women who share a social movement – can unpick racism from feminist communities. I’m going to talk about movement building, the dynamic of race in the feminist movement, and practical steps towards building interracial solidarity between women.

As we participate more in feminist spaces and conversations, women build a deep understanding of patriarchy – how it works, and where we are positioned by the hierarchy of gender. Feminism has enabled women to connect the personal with the political in our analysis of patriarchy. Nothing about feminist politics or theory is abstract – it all connects back to some element of women’s lives. The movement also gives us space to think about how structural inequalities have impacted upon our experiences, shaped our realities. And once you start to join the dots between the personal and the political, the extent to which women are marginalised around the world becomes clear.

White women rightly consider themselves to belong to the oppressed sex class. And I think that it’s because white feminist women fully understand the implications of belonging to the dominant class that exploring what it means to be part of the dominant racial class can be so challenging. This awareness punctures the fundamentally misguided belief that all women are positioned the same within structures of power.

That knowledge does not fit alongside the claim that a unilateral, one-size-fits-all approach to feminism is going to work – that really gender is the main problem women have to contend with, and everything else can wait. So in order to side-step any difficult conversations about race and power within feminism, we’re fed this idea that talking about race divides women. In addition to protecting white women from the having to confront their own racism, this argument suggests that the energies of all feminist women would be best concentrated on challenging sex-based oppression – if we follow this logic, it leads to the expectation that women of colour work towards an agenda that sees a great many white women liberated while we are left within exploitative hierarchies.

Focussing on misogyny alone isn’t going to solve all of the problems created by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, let alone dismantle that system of power. Being selective about the forms of exploitation and dominance that we analyse is not only ineffective, but a contradiction of core feminist principles. Every feminist knows that revolution isn’t brought about by half-assed politics. We have to live those politics and let them diffuse throughout every aspect of our lives. There’s no way that we can drive a cultural shift towards women’s liberation if we don’t make sure that feminism recognises and prioritises the needs of all women – of colour, working class, disabled, migrant, lesbian, bi. All women.

It isn’t talking about race that divides women – it’s racism that divides us. To be specific, women as a political class are divided by the racism white women direct towards women of colour, the racism that white women observe and fail to challenge because, ultimately, they benefit from it. Whether intentional or casually delivered, that racism has the same result: it completely undermines the possibility of solidarity between women of colour and white women. White women’s unwillingness to explore the subject of race, to acknowledge the ways in which they benefit from white supremacy, acts as a barrier between mutual trust.

So It’s not really a secret that certain strands of feminism have an ongoing problem with race. The feminist movement didn’t form inside of some sort of social vacuum, separate from white supremacist values or beliefs. Everyone in this society absorbs racism. People of colour internalise it. White people weaponise it against us. Even within the movement. Here are some examples of how.

Less so now that intersectionality has become so fashionable, but some white women have a tendency to position racism and sexism as totally distinct and separate problems, issues that do not overlap and do not therefore need to be analysed together. This perspective completely disregards the lived realities of women of colour. While a significant amount of early radical feminist writing and activism was what we would now describe as being intersectional in nature, white womanhood was too often treated as the normative standard of womanhood within the second wave of feminism. As a result, women of colour were and continue to be further marginalised in a context that is supposed to be about the liberation of all women.

Another issue is the response when we try to address racism in the feminist movement. When white women disregard and speak over those women of colour who do voice concerns over racism, that’s not sisterhood. If anything, that pattern of behaviour undermines sisterhood by exploiting the hierarchy of race. Telling us that we’re angry, scary, imagining things, being overly sensitive, or playing on any other racial stereotype to shut down the conversation and assert the innocence of white womanhood is racism, plain and simple. Yet it happens so routinely.

And then there are the hierarchies that manifest within feminist organising, hierarchies that only replicate the system of value created by white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy. The balance of authority tipping towards white women in mixed feminist spaces is not neutral. Women of colour ending up on the fringes of a feminist group or campaign, brought to the centre of the team only when there’s a camera about, is not neutral.

Looking over patterns that unfold within feminist spaces, there are three main areas which I invite white women to consider for future collective projects within the movement. This is by no means an exhaustive list of every single issue that stems from racism within the movement, and neither is it a definitive guide. The politics of engagements between white women and women of colour are contextual, relational, and shifting – nothing is set in stone, and truly organic connections can’t be pre-scripted. That being said, perhaps some of these points will prove helpful in shaping approaches to those interactions.

The first point is white women acting as gatekeepers of the feminist movement, positioning themselves as authorities of feminism above other women. Of course white women have developed a rich body of knowledge throughout their participation in feminism, but feminism is a global movement containing multitudes of women – however worthwhile it may be, white women’s theorising cannot reasonably be assumed to hold universal or absolute feminist truths applicable to all women. This tension manifests in a lack of understanding towards the perspectives held by Black and Asian feminists – there can be a tacit assumption that our ideas aren’t worth meeting or building upon within mainstream feminism. Or, if we approach an issue from a different angle to white women, there’s often an implication that if our ideas were a little more developed or nuanced, the disagreement wouldn’t exist. And that makes it very difficult to enter a feminist conversation on an equal footing.

Feminist organising is another area worth drawing attention to. It takes such energy and commitment to sustain a group or campaign. I fully appreciate that, and commend all the women who are part of creating that magic. All the same, it’s important to keep working towards best feminist practice – and improving the dynamic of race within mixed feminist spaces is very much an achievable goal. If there are no women of colour in your group, team, or collection, ask why not. Please don’t fall into the trap of complacency and think that no women of colour are interested in working collaboratively. If there are none, there’s a reason for our absence. Reflect on what it might be about the project that’s off putting and try to work out steps to change it. Give women of colour reason to trust you. Think about it this way: how much time would you realistically spend in an optional activity where being on the receiving end of misogyny was a distinct possibility?

And when there are women of colour within the feminist space, think about your approach to us. Do you give us the same support, encouragement, and understanding that you would another white woman? When we speak, do you listen to our voices and engage with the layers of what we have to say? Do you think of us as full members of the collective, necessary to the work done by the feminist movement, or as tokens and boxes to be ticked on a diversity form? How you answer those questions make a profound difference. Those are deciding factors in whether sisterhood can exist.

The most direct step is to reconfigure how you think about women of colour. I don’t really like the word ally, because allyship tends to devolve into something hollow and performative. It also doesn’t really offer the scope for a mutual connection, which is what interracial solidarity between women is. But unpicking racism has a steep learning curve. How could it not when white supremacist values are at the foundation of this society? During the course of that learning process, especially during the early stages, try and keep in mind that most feminist women of colour have had these conversations about race dozens and dozens of times. And those conversations cost us more than they cost you. There are plenty of quality books and resources on the subject, so make use of them.

And now I have some points for women of colour who are pursuing any kind of solidarity with white women – less advice than reminders. Look after yourself. Don’t forget to prioritise self-care. Your needs are important, and it’s okay to take whatever space and time you need. I think because of the superwoman quality that gets projected onto Black women especially, we are not always positioned as in need of gentleness or empathy – so it is crucial that we take care of ourselves and each other.

Remember that you can say no. It is a complete sentence, short and sweet. And you don’t owe anybody an explanation as to why.

You’re not a learning resource, and you’re not the Morgan Freeman type character in a white woman’s story – you’re a human being with her own story. So don’t be afraid to set boundaries, assert needs, and follow your own instincts.

There is something fundamentally freeing about spaces that are built by and for women of colour. Those spaces have a joy and easiness to them, and there is this indescribable feeling of connection – it’s very nourishing to experience. Women come out of our shells and share so much of ourselves that it is impossible to be unmoved by a women of colour space. Last weekend I was in Amsterdam for the second annual Women of Colour in Europe conference, and inhabiting a space like that is sustaining. That feeling is what I think of when I picture sisterhood. And I think we’ll have achieved a greater degree of interracial solidarity when there is greater scope for women of colour to access that feeling of ease and belonging in mixed feminist spaces.

If I am willing to remain an optimist, it is because I believe in a feminist movement built upon true solidarity – one in which “all women” means “all women”, not an insistence that white women are prioritised. And I can’t think of a better place to start building it than FiLiA. Although our movement struggles with the dynamic of race, it can improve here and now. To be a feminist is to be an optimist – to retain the belief that structural inequalities can be dismantled, the belief that better is possible.

When women of colour address the racism demonstrated by white women, we are seeking to overcome the ultimate barrier between women. I don’t think many women waste their breathe on a critique if they don’t think it can bring about positive results. I’ll finish with this quote by Chandra Mohanty, which sums it up beautifully: “…sisterhood cannot be assumed on the basis of gender; it must be forged in concrete, historical and political practice and analysis.”

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Qu’on le voie comme binaire ou comme un spectre, le genre demeure une hiérarchie

The Vanishing Point: A Reflection Upon Lesbian Erasure is now available in French! Many thanks to TradFem for the translation.


« Il est impossible de nommer l’oppression et d’agir contre elle si aucun oppresseur ne peut être nommé. » (Mary Daly)

Qu’est-ce que le genre?

Le genre est une fiction créée par le patriarcat, une hiérarchie imposée par les hommes pour assurer leur domination sur les femmes. L’idée d’une structure binaire de genre a été créée dans le but de justifier la subordination des femmes en décrivant notre oppression par les hommes comme un état naturel, résultant de la façon dont se manifestent des caractéristiques innées prêtées aux hommes et aux femmes. La présentation du genre comme naturel ne sert pas seulement à dépolitiser la hiérarchie, elle recourt à l’idéologie essentialiste pour convaincre les femmes de la futilité de toute résistance radicale au genre comme mécanisme de notre oppression. Le désespoir engendre l’apathie, laquelle entrave le changement social plus efficacement que toute répression manifeste. Si l’abolition du genre (et donc le démantèlement du patriarcat) est un objectif non réalisable, nous les femmes n’avons d’autre choix que d’accepter notre statut de citoyennes de deuxième classe dans le monde. Traiter le genre comme inhérent à la nature humaine équivaut à accepter un modèle patriarcal comme conception de la société.

GENDER IS LESS

Le genre est moins comme ceci que comme cela…

Le genre est une hiérarchie qui permet aux hommes d’être dominants et conditionne les femmes à l’état de servitude. Comme le genre est un élément fondamental du patriarcat capitaliste de la suprématie blanche (hooks, 1984), je trouve particulièrement déconcertant de voir des éléments du discours queer soutenir que le genre n’est pas seulement inné mais sacro-saint. Loin d’être une alternative radicale au statu quo, le projet de « queerer » le genre, avec son caractère essentialiste, n’a pour effet que de reproduire les normes établies par le patriarcat. Une interprétation queer ne défie pas le patriarcat de manière significative : plutôt que d’encourager les gens à résister aux normes établies par le patriarcat, il leur offre un moyen de s’y rallier. La politique queer a moins contesté les rôles traditionnels de genre qu’elle ne leur a insufflé une nouvelle vie, et c’est là que se trouve le danger.

Soutenir que le genre pourrait ou devrait être « queeré » équivaut à perdre de vue la façon dont le genre fonctionne comme système d’oppression. Les hiérarchies ne peuvent, par définition, être assimilées à une démarche de libération. Les déséquilibres de 1600-Genderbread-Personpouvoir structurels ne peuvent être abolis par une simple subversion : réduire le genre à un enjeu de performativité ou d’identification personnelle nie sa fonction pratique en tant que hiérarchie. Toute idéologie qui ferme grossièrement les yeux sur le rôle du genre comme méthode d’oppression des femmes ne peut pas être qualifiée de féministe. En fait, comme l’idéologie queer reste largement acritique de la disparité de pouvoir qui sous-tend la politique sexuelle, elle est foncièrement anti-femme.

La logique de l’identité de genre est fondamentalement déficiente, puisqu’elle repose sur le principe qui fait du genre une caractéristique innée. Comme les féministes le font valoir depuis des décennies, le genre est socialement construit – il l’est de toutes pièces pour accorder aux hommes la domination sur les femmes. L’éducation des enfants, genrés avant même leur naissance, sert à diviser les sexes en une classe dominante et une classe dominée. Le féminisme reconnaît l’existence du sexe biologique, mais il s’oppose à l’essentialisme, soit l’idée que le sexe dicte qui nous sommes et qui nous pouvons être en tant qu’êtres humains. Le féminisme affirme que notre caractère, nos qualités et notre personnalité ne sont pas définies par le fait d’être hommes ou femmes. À l’inverse, la théorie queer soutient qu’il existe un ensemble de traits intrinsèquement masculin et un autre ensemble de traits intrinsèquement féminin, et que notre identité dépend de la façon dont nous alignons notre vie sur ces caractéristiques.

Au lieu de reconnaître qu’il existe plusieurs façons d’être un homme ou une femme, la théorie queer enferme les gens dans une gamme toujours croissante de catégories organisées selon des stéréotypes. Il n’existe aucune preuve scientifique pour soutenir l’existence d’un « genre du cerveau »; les prétentions quant à l’existence de cerveaux masculin et féminin reflètent une idéologie neurosexiste (Fine, 2010). Pourtant, l’idéologie queer positionne le genre comme une identité innée, en affirmant que le genre est « ce que vous ressentez ».

« Je trouve très difficile de me défaire des menottes d’une vie de conditionnement culturel qui a tenté de me convaincre que le genre est un fait biologique plutôt qu’un construit social. » Louise O’Neill, I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty

Le problème avec l’identité de genre

Malgré son essentialisme, la lecture queer du genre est de plus en plus répandue dans les milieux progressistes et féministes. Il n’est pas difficile de comprendre pourquoi. L’idéologie du genre reconnaît qu’une distribution binaire des rôles de genre masculin et féminin est restrictive pour les individus. Mais au lieu de préconiser le travail important à abattre pour démanteler la hiérarchie du genre, cette idéologie offre une solution beaucoup plus facile : une clause d’auto-exclusion individuelle qui permet aux gens de faire la paix avec le patriarcat. Adopter l’idéologie du genre équivaut à embrasser un récit d’exceptionnalisme. Adopter l’idéologie du genre est accepter qu’il existe une classe de personnes naturellement adaptées à leur position dans la hiérarchie du genre (soit comme opprimé ou comme oppresseur) en regard d’une autre classe de personnes qui seraient des exceptions aux règles traditionnelles du genre.

Un problème fondamental grève l’idéologie queer du genre. Comme je l’ai expliqué dans un essai précédent, ce problème est la misogynie. Prétendre que certains groupes sont naturellement adaptés au rôle de genre imposé à leur catégorie sexuelle – les personnes qualifiées de « cis » – revient à soutenir la misogynie. Les femmes classées comme « cis », selon la logique de l’identité de genre, seraient intrinsèquement adaptées à être opprimées par les hommes. Tout le système patriarcal se voit ainsi disculpé par l’idéologie du genre, présenté comme un événement naturel plutôt que comme un système d’oppression bâti pour accorder aux hommes la domination sur les femmes.

Comme la politique d’identité queer s’en tient à un récit reflétant une idéologie exceptionnaliste, la dynamique de la politique sexuelle se trouve entièrement passée sous silence. L’artifice linguistique du mot « cis » permet de redéfinir l’oppression des femmes comme un privilège, de sorte que toute libération des femmes « cis » face à l’oppression patriarcale cesse d’être une priorité. La politique sexuelle est mise de côté au profit d’une démarche d’auto-identification, qui rend politiquement invisible l’appartenance de classe sexuelle.

 

Screenshot_20170904-124333

« Tant de genres et pourtant, nous savons encore, magiquement, quelle moitié de la race humaine est censée torcher les derrières et brosser les planchers. » (Victoria Smith, @glosswitch)

Le genre est une prison, et j’ai de la compassion pour toutes les personnes qui s’y trouvent contraintes. Il est odieux que les hommes soient découragés des valeurs d’empathie, de gentillesse et d’expression personnelle créative. Il existe une cruauté réelle dans la socialisation des garçons à la masculinité. Cela étant dit, il faut tout de même examiner le lien entre l’idéologie du genre et l’occultation du privilège masculin.

 

Ce problème est bien illustré par l’exemple de Ben Hopkins, un des membres du duo punk britannique PWR BTTM. Hopkins est biologiquement masculin et, en tant que tel, a été socialisé à la masculinité. Comme beaucoup de personnes célèbres de son sexe, Hopkins a exploité sa renommée et son pouvoir pour violenter sexuellement des fans de sexe féminin. Selon une de ses victimes, Hopkins est un « prédateur sexuel reconnu qui a perpétré de multiples agressions, a intimidé d’autres personnes dans la communauté queer et a fait des avances non désirées à des personnes mineures ». Ce qui est censé différencier Hopkins d’une longue tradition d’agresseurs masculins ayant du pouvoir est qu’il s’identifie comme « genderqueer ».  En tant que tel, une perspective queer soutiendrait que les gestes de Hopkins ne peuvent être considérés comme des violences masculines exercées contre des femmes. L’exceptionnalisme queer manifesté dans la logique de l’identité de genre rend impossible de nommer ou de contester la violence masculine en tant que telle.

pwr-bttm-sexual-abuse-screenshot.jpg

Déclaration d’une survivante affichée sur des médias sociaux: « Hé, avertissement général : Ben de PWR BTTM est un prédateur sexuel reconnu, auteur de plusieurs agressions, etc., et vous devriez éviter d’assister à leurs concerts/boycotter leur musique/ne pas leur donner accès à des espaces sécuritaires. J’ai personnellement vu Ben amorcer des contacts sexuels inappropriés avec des gens malgré plusieurs « Non » et sans avertissement ou consentement, et j’ai entendu au cours des derniers mois plusieurs comptes rendus de Ben disant du mal d’autres artistes queer pour son bénéfice personnel, faisant des avances non désirées à des mineur.e.s même en sachant leur âge et se livrant à des violences psychologiques dans des relations intimes. Presque toutes les victimes de Ben sont queer. »

Les hommes apprennent dès leur naissance qu’ils ont droit au temps des femmes, à l’attention des femmes, à l’amour des femmes, à l’énergie des femmes et aux corps féminins. Pourtant, conformément à la logique de l’idéologie du genre, cette situation est perçue comme malheureuse mais aléatoire, plutôt que comme conséquence normale de la socialisation genrée que reçoivent les hommes dans la société patriarcale. Malgré son identification comme « genderqueer », la violence sexuelle infligée par Hopkins à des femmes ayant beaucoup moins de pouvoir social que lui est parfaitement en phase avec la logique de la masculinité. En quel sens un homme qui exerce le comportement le plus toxique enraciné dans la masculinité peut-il prétendre queerer le genre ou y résister?

Comme ses actions en témoignent manifestement, Hopkins n’a pas consciemment désappris sa socialisation masculine ou son droit d’accès aux corps féminins. La façon dont il choisit de s’identifier a peu d’incidence sur la sombre réalité de la situation. Pourtant, en revendiquant le label de « genderqueer », Hopkins a tenté d’effacer le privilège masculin dont il a continué à bénéficier. Dans un texte rédigé pour le blog Feminist Current, Jen Izaakson énonce clairement le paradoxe de sa prétention de queerer le genre :

« … Hopkins s’est servi de glitter, d’eye-liner et de robes vintage pour démontrer sa compréhension et son adhésion aux idéaux queer, pour illustrer un rejet de la « masculinité toxique » et des normes de genre socialement prescrites aux hommes. Mais porter des robes à fleurs et du lip gloss ne mène pas nécessairement à un rejet réel du privilège et de la prédominance dont disposent les hommes en régime patriarcal. En mettant l’accent sur des identités auto-définies, sur l’expression individuelle et sur la performativité, au lieu d’examiner la violence masculine et les systèmes de pouvoir inégaux, le discours queer a ouvert tout grand la porte à la misogynie. »

De façon semblable, la trans-activiste Cherno Biko (née homme) a ouvertement confessé avoir violé un transhomme (né femme) avec le fantasme et l’intention de l’engrosser contre son gré. Malgré son aveu public de cette agression sexuelle, Biko a pu prendre la parole sur la tribune de la Marche des femmes à Washington et a co-présidé le Conseil consultatif des jeunes femmes pour la ville de New York. Cela soulève des questions, non seulement sur l’apparente absence de prise en compte des agressions sexuelles dans les espaces féministes, mais aussi sur la mesure dans laquelle les mouvements politiques progressifs sont prêts à fermer les yeux sur des cas de violence envers des femmes si l’agresseur s’identifie comme transgenre ou « genderqueer ».

Les actes de violence commis contre les femmes sont à la fois une cause et une conséquence du patriarcat, et ils sont normalisés par la logique du genre. L’idéologie du genre ne tient pas compte de la disparité de pouvoir de la politique sexuelle – une hiérarchie instituée par le genre lui-même – et considère le genre comme une simple question d’auto-identification. La perspective queer s’en tient délibérément à un traitement individuel de l’enjeu identitaire afin de dépolitiser le genre, évitant ainsi des questions ardues sur le pouvoir et le patriarcat.

On nous dit que le genre est une question profondément personnelle et qui donc, comme tous les bons libéraux le savent, ne doit pas être scrutée. Pourtant, la recherche démontre que les transfemmes « conservent un modèle masculin en matière de criminalité après une chirurgie de réaffectation sexuelle » et que « la même chose est vraie en ce qui concerne les crimes avec violence ». Étant donné qu’une femme sur trois subira de la violence masculine au cours de sa vie, cette question n’est pas anodine : 96 % des auteurs de violences sexuelles sont de sexe biologique masculin. La sécurité des femmes et des filles n’est jamais un prix acceptable à payer, même pas au nom de l’inclusion. La socialisation masculine joue un rôle démontrable dans le façonnement des attitudes et des comportements – si nous les femmes ne pouvons pas nommer la violence que nous vivons ou identifier le système qui la permet, nous ne pouvons pas les défier.

« Quand Simone de Beauvoir a écrit qu’une fille ne naît pas femme mais le devient, elle ne voulait pas dire qu’un individu né dans le sexe masculin, socialisé dans les attentes propres au genre masculin, pouvait simplement décider de prendre des hormones et peut-être de subir une chirurgie et de « devenir femme ». » Dame Jenni Murray

Dans l’optique de l’identité de genre, l’oppresseur peut se défaire de son privilège masculin et revendiquer le statut d’opprimé. Dans l’optique de l’identité de genre, les opprimées peuvent également rejeter les bases de leur oppression au moyen d’une auto-identification. L’idéologie du genre vise à réorienter une hiérarchie en termes d’identité. Malheureusement, on ne peut pas échapper par simple choix à une oppression de nature structurelle et systématique – même si le discours queer présente cela comme une voie légitime pour les femmes. L’homme constitue la norme par défaut de l’humanité, la femme étant reléguée au statut d’ « Autre » – uniquement définie par rapport aux hommes (Beauvoir, 1949). Pas étonnant qu’un nombre croissant de femmes, insatisfaites des limitations imposées par le rôle de genre féminin et conscientes que s’autoactualiser permet de dépasser le stéréotype creux de la féminité, cessent de s’identifier en tant que femmes.

Mais au lieu d’identifier le rôle de genre féminin comme le problème et de travailler à démanteler la hiérarchie du genre, les femmes sont encouragées à cesser de s’identifier en tant que telles si elles se comportent ou se sentent comme de véritables êtres humains. En présentant une pleine humanité et la féminité comme mutuellement exclusives, l’idéologie du genre invite les femmes à participer à un jeu traditionnel : Je-Ne-Suis-Pas-Comme-Les-Autres-Filles-Version-queer .

Il est compréhensible que les femmes soient impatientes d’échapper au rôle de genre féminin féminin; en fait, la libération des femmes face à la hiérarchie du genre est un objectif de base du féminisme. Mais le mouvement féministe préconise la libération de toutes les femmes de toutes les formes d’oppression, et pas simplement la libération de celles qui critiquent leur oppression individuelle par le genre – celles qui « n’aspirent à aucun type de féminité ».

Queerer le genre nourrit l’homophobie

gay-liberation Malgré tout ce qui se dit sur une « communauté queer », alliance prétendue entre les personnes LGBT +, l’homophobie a toujours été centrale à la politique queer. En effet, l’idéologie queer a émergé comme mouvement de ressac opposé aux principes féministes lesbiens, qui préconisaient un changement social radical par la transformation des vies individuelles (Jeffreys, 2003). Les intérêts politiques des femmes lesbiennes et des hommes gais marginalisés, à commencer par l’abolition des rôles de genre, ont été rejetés dans les milieux queer. L’individualisme interdisait tout accent particulier sur les politiques de libération féministe et gay, que le discours queer commença à décrire comme démodées, ternes ou anti-sexe.

Ces dernières années, cette dérision s’est accélérée pour devenir un sentiment ouvertement anti-gay. Les tentatives d’effacement des femmes lesbiennes et homosexuelles sont aujourd’hui pratique courante dans les milieux queer. Dans un billet d’opinion posant la question à savoir si l’identité lesbienne peut « survivre à la révolution du genre », Shannon Keating affirme que les sexualités lesbiennes et gays sont obsolètes :

« En regard du contexte de plus en plus coloré de la diversité de genre, un label binaire comme ‘gay’ ou ‘lesbien’ commence à sembler plutôt dépassé et lourd. Quand il y a autant de genres sur la carte, est-ce être fermé d’esprit – ou, pire, oppressif et exclusionnaire – de s’identifier à une étiquette qui implique que seul un genre vous attire? »

Il existe une souche persistante d’homophobie dans l’idéologie du genre. Elle se manifeste aussi régulièrement parce que cette homophobie est intégrée à la politique queer du genre. L’attraction aux personnes de même sexe est constamment présentée comme problématique du fait de reconnaître à la fois l’existence du sexe biologique et sa signification dans la détermination du potentiel d’attraction – ce qui contredit la prétention selon laquelle c’est le genre, et non le sexe, qui constitue l’étalon identitaire déterminant.

Plus tôt cette année, Juno Dawson, qui a signé le livre The Gender Games, a affirmé que l’homosexualité masculine n’était qu’un « prix de consolation » pour les hommes qui ne sont pas prêts à opter pour une vie de transféminité. Avant sa propre transition, Dawson a vécu et aimé en tant qu’homme gay; il est donc particulièrement troublant de le voir proclamer que l’homosexualité est moins digne de respect et de reconnaissance comme orientation légitime. Il a dépeint la vie en tant qu’homme homosexuel comme une alternative inférieure, un substitut déficient à une transféminité réprimée. Lorsque des gays et des lesbiennes ont protesté contre cette homophobie, Dawson a présenté une non-excuse qui a rappelé une vérité cruciale en matière d’identité de genre et de sexualité : « Beaucoup d’hommes et de femmes trans ont vécu auparavant comme gays ou lesbiennes avant leur transition, a-t-il dit, alors je pense que c’est un enjeu vraiment important à discuter … »

Il est tout à fait réactionnaire de soutenir que les gays sont, au fond, des femmes insatisfaites. Selon cette logique, seule la masculinité la plus straight et la plus toxique est authentiquement masculine. Et si les gays sont réellement des transfemmes straight, alors il n’existe pas d’hommes homosexuels. L’homosexualité se trouve ainsi « guérie » – un programme politique qui a longtemps appartenu aux conservateurs sociaux, mais que l’on peut maintenant retrouver dans l’idéologie queer. Et ce n’est pas un hasard si beaucoup de ceux qui choisissent de subir une transition chirurgicale ou médicale sont des gays ou des lesbiennes qui, au début de leur processus de transition, vivent en hétérosexuels. En Iran, où les relations homosexuelles sont punissables de mort, les clercs intégristes sont les premiers à « accepter l’idée qu’une personne puisse être piégée dans un corps qui est du mauvais sexe ».

L’idéologie du genre est fondamentalement conservatrice. Elle repose sur l’hypothèse voulant que les rôles de genre soient absolus et que les personnes qui s’écartent du rôle de genre attribué à leur sexe doivent appartenir à une autre catégorie. Les lesbiennes et les gays défient les rôles de genre simplement en aimant quelqu’un du même sexe, en s’écartant des schémas de domination hétéro-patriarcale pour créer une politique sexuelle d’égalité. Si une transition nous conduit à l’hétérosexualité, en conformité avec les rôles de genre, on nous amène en fait à nous conformer aux rôles de genre tracés par le patriarcat.

Personne ne naît dans le mauvais corps. Un corps ne peut, par définition, être le mauvais. Le système de genre, par contre, est mauvais d’une foule de manières. Le fait de problématiser les corps comme contraires à une hiérarchie qui les limite ne fait que reproduire l’idéologie destructive qui est au cœur du patriarcat. C’est une approche contradictoire à une politique de libération, et elle est, au mieux, malavisée et, au pire, complice avec le patriarcat.

Conclusion

La critique de l’idéologie du genre est fortement déconseillée. Je soupçonne que c’est parce que plus on explore la perspective queer du genre, plus sa misogynie et son homophobie deviennent apparentes. Une fois que le vernis progressiste commence à se fissurer – quand il devient évident que l’idéologie du genre est au mieux complaisante au sujet du patriarcat et des torts que celui-ci inflige aux femmes – la politique queer devient beaucoup plus difficile à vendre à la population en général.

fuck gender roles

MERDE AUX RÔLES DE GENRE

Ainsi, les féministes qui osent remettre en question l’idéologie du genre sont qualifiées de bigotes et ces critiques, et les femmes assez courageuses pour les faire, sont jugées illégitimes. Les femmes qui contestent l’idéologie du genre sont ridiculisées en tant que « TERF » – on nous répète constamment que leur seul motif de critiquer le genre est une malveillance, plutôt qu’une préoccupation réelle pour le bien-être des femmes et des filles. Ce à quoi je réponds par les mots de Mary Shelley : « Attention; car je suis intrépide, et donc puissante. » Toute tentative de décourager les femmes de s’en prendre à notre oppression devient profondément suspecte à mes yeux.

L’idéologie du genre crée une fausse dichotomie entre d’une part des personnes liées de façon innée aux rôles de genre traditionnels et, d’autre part, quelques rares exceptions qui ne le sont pas. La politique de genre est l’exemple le plus élaboré et le plus dangereux d’utiliser les outils du maître pour démanteler la maison du maître. Pourquoi queerer le genre lorsque nous pouvons l’abolir? Pourquoi gaspiller de l’énergie en essayant de subvertir une pratique oppressive lorsque nous pourrions l’éliminer complètement?

La femme est une classe de sexe – rien de plus, rien de moins. L’homme est une classe de sexe – rien de plus, rien de moins. Prétendre que l’ampleur de notre identité est fixée par le rôle de genre imposé à notre classe de sexe équivaut à légitimer le projet de patriarcat. En tant que féministe, en tant que femme, je rejette la politique queer et l’idéologie de genre qu’elle préconise. Au lieu de cela, je prétends que les femmes et les hommes qui vivent en dehors du scénario établi par le genre – que ce soit en versions queer ou patriarcale – devraient faire figure de révolutionnaires. Ce n’est que par l’abolition du genre que nous pourrons réaliser une véritable libération.


Bibliographie

Simone de Beauvoir. (1949). Le Deuxième sexe.

Cordelia Fine. (2010). Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference.

Lynne Harne & Elaine Miller (eds.). (1996). All the Rage: Reasserting Radical Lesbian Feminism.

bell hooks. (1984). De la marge au centre: Théorie féministe.

Sheila Jeffreys. (2003). Unpacking Queer Politics.

Audre Lorde. (1984). Sister Outsider: Essais et propos d’Audre Lorde.

Cherríe Moraga & Gloria E. Anzaldúa (eds.). (1981). This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.

Bonnie J. Morris. (2016). The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture.

Victoria Pepe (ed.). (2015). I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty.

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper. More Radical with Age.


Translation originally posted here.

Original text initially posted here.

‘Punch a TERF’ Rhetoric Encourages Violence Against Women

A brief foreword. This is the sixth of my essays on sex, gender, and sexuality. (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 available here.) I suspect it’s also the least polished, as I was shaken by the assault of Maria MacLachlan and wrote this to work through my thoughts, but it was written from a place of truth.


My grandmother is a brilliant woman. She is clever, compassionate, and unfailingly kind. She is selfless, generous with her time, and loyal to those she loves. I have lived with my grandmother since birth – during childhood she read me Swallows and Amazons at night, sat by the pool during my swimming lessons, and took me to the cinema to see Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the film which opened my eyes to the magic of cinema as a child. Nana also sat through Shrek and, with thinly-veiled disgust, Shrek 2. If that’s not love, what is? My grandmother and I have always been close. Since my grandfather died last year, and it has been just the two of us in the house, we have grown closer still – we live like what I’d describe as an infinitely more interesting version of the Gilmour Girls.

I’ve also noticed that my grandmother has grown a bit more radical in that time. She has stopped trying to convince me that men have their uses, which she often did after I came out to her as lesbian. She now has faith in my ability to do what were once considered “man jobs”, like building furniture or running heavy things to the dump. She will readily call racism by its name is and receptive to having racism pointed out. She has identified an abusive relationship and asked me for the relevant details about shelters to pass on and how best to support the woman in question as she left the relationship – I’m very proud of her for that.

My grandmother is also pro-life. She does not believe that abortion is legitimate or morally acceptable. She’s a committed Catholic and gets letters from SPUC every so often. I once joked to her that with my advocacy of abortion and her opposition to it, the output from our household basically cancelled itself out. It’s quite strange to think that Nana is roughly the same age as Angela Davis. I used to reason that, being of a different generation, it was to be expected that she held those views. But then, especially as I grew familiar with feminists who were active during the Women’s Liberation Movement and read more feminist books from the ‘60s and ‘70s, it seemed ridiculous to reduce her politics to a matter of age. Either way, I don’t agree with Nana about abortion. She certainly doesn’t agree with me. But we love each other very much and that disagreement – the most fundamental disagreement in our relationship – doesn’t alter the fact we’re ride or die.

what_is_gender_flyerOn our way out this afternoon, she gently pointed out that I seemed a bit down. My depression has been severe this year, and I know Nana worries. At first I didn’t say much. But months of therapy have made it substantially easier to divine the root cause of a problem. I told her that a 60 year old woman was beaten yesterday in London – that Maria MacLachlan was punched and choked for going to a talk about the Gender Recognition Act. I explained that the original venue, New Cross Learning, had backed out after being harassed into cancelling – the intensity of protest had the library worried about safety of staff, volunteers, and those accessing the community space. I briefly outlined the schism between a queer and a radical feminist understanding of gender. Mostly, I told Nana that I felt heartsick that a woman had been beaten.

Nana didn’t ask if I knew the woman in question, and I loved her for that – for getting that a woman being assaulted, any woman being hurt, was painful to hear of. What she did ask is if the police caught those behind the attack, if feminist women were challenging it. The mechanics of digital media are as much a mystery to Nana as her daily Sudoku puzzles are to me, but she sees me glued to my phone all day long and understands enough to know that if women gather our energies to make a fuss over injustice then something will come of it. And I told her the truth, a truth that left me even more heartsick: not exactly. There are women who have rallied, and there are women who have looked the other way.


And my Nana said what dozens and dozens of seasoned feminists lack the courage to say: that the attackers were brutes. She asked what sort of horrible, small-minded person would deliberately hurt a woman in her sixties.

For a split-second I wondered what the response to describing those behind the attack as ‘horrible’ or ‘brutes’ would be on Twitter. TERF, obviously – that’s trans-exclusionary radical feminist, for the uninitiated. Maybe Nazi. (More and more, I’ve noticed radical feminists who are lesbian described as Nazi – without the slightest recognition that lesbian women were persecuted, rounded up as “asocials” for their refusal to produce blonde-haired blue-eyed babies, and killed by the Nazi regime.) And then I knew, as is so often the case, that my grandmother was right. They are horrible. They are brutes.

The footage is difficult to watch. A group of women gathered at the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, where they had arranged to meet before moving on to the venue – which had

IMG_20170915_114529

“NO TERFS ON OUR TURF!” Shared by Sisters Uncut

been kept secret owing to the risk involved. The protest – organised by Action for Trans Health London, Sisters Uncut, and Goldsmiths LGBTQ+ Society – is in full swing. There’s a lot of shouting. The atmosphere is febrile. Amidst the clusters of people, Maria MacLachlan holds a camera to document the proceedings. She is set upon by someone substantially bigger than her. Two more attackers join in after MacLachlan pulls down her assailant’s hood so that they may be identified, as though the beating of a sixty year old woman is too great an undertaking for one man alone. MacLachlan gave her account of her assault to Feminist Current:

[She] had been trying to film the protest when some of the trans activists began to shout, “When TERFs attack, we fight back.” She asked them, “Who’s attacking?” At this point, MacLachlan says a young man in a hoodie tried to grab her camera. “I think he knocked it out of my hand but it was looped to my wrist. He turned back and tried to grab it again. I hung onto it.” As the two struggled, MacLachlan pulled back the hood of the man holding her camera, so onlookers could photograph his face, and another man ran over and began punching MacLachlan. Wood and a third man pushed her to the ground, where she says she was kicked and punched.

The whole incident is disturbing. There is a long history of violence being used to discourage women from collectively organising, and the assault of Maria MacLachlan FB_IMG_1505469664006opens the latest chapter of a story called patriarchy. Both the violence and the context that enabled it to happen must be scrutinised.

How have we reached a point where beating a 60 year old woman can be credited to the politics of liberation? How have we reached a point where feminists can ignore that a 60 year old woman was beaten? How have we reached a point where some self-proclaimed feminists read about this assault and questioned whether a woman was lying about violence, if it really happened, or – if it did happen – she provoked the attack? The silence and disbelief of other women, women who call themselves feminist, is like salt in a wound. Our whole movement is built around the belief that no woman should be subject to violence, and that those women who do experience violence are fully deserving of our support.

The deeper we go into feminist politics and spaces – especially digital feminist spaces – the easier it becomes to forget about certain realities of feminist struggle. The gap between ideas and reality, between the theory being developed and the everyday unfolding of women’s lives, grows until something vital is lost through the cracks of that in-between space. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that queer politics and gender ideology have flourished in the internet age; when so much of our lives are lived online, it is easier to lose focus on the significance of material reality.

While it is certainly shocking that Maria MacLachlan was beaten by trans activists, it was not altogether unpredictable. Last year a transwoman called Dana Rivers murdered an interracial lesbian couple and their son. Not long before committing triple homicide, Rivers protested the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival on the grounds that it was trans-exclusionary. For the last few years, a steady flow of violent rhetoric has been levelled against women, in particular lesbians – much of it from self-identified feminists. Kill all TERFs. Punch all TERFs. Knife a TERF. Burn a TERF. Rivers shot and stabbed the Wright family before setting fire to their house, violence that is mirrored by the language directed towards the women denounced as TERFs. The violence trans activists and allies enacted when Vancouver Women’s Library launched was similarly normalised by misogynistic, abusive language. Given that “punch a TERF” has become something of a rallying cry for those invested in upholding gender ideology, women cannot afford to feign surprise when it actually happens.


Radical feminists have warned against the violent rhetoric attached to the term TERF for years, and been dismissed as bigots for our trouble. Jokes and threats involving violence against women, often indistinguishable, are now commonplace on queer corners of the internet. Etsy stock badges that conflate trans liberation with violence against women. We have reached a bizarre point at which violence against women is circulated as a bold message of resistance by people who claim to be feminists.

Painful disagreements and challenging ideas need not result in abuse. I can’t imagine a single woman campaigning for abortion rights and access to reproductive healthcare beating up my grandmother for her opposing views. Nor could I imagine any of the campaigners who have got in touch with my grandmother beating pro-choice women, even if they do think we’re heading for an afterlife of eternal damnation. The conversations I’ve had with Nana about abortion have been hard for both of us. Realistically, we’re never going to agree. But that doesn’t mean those conversations have to be destructive.

Screenshot_20170914-220321There must be a way to talk about the tensions between gender ideology and sexual politics without abusive language or acts of violence. The subject is fraught, uncomfortable, and certainly not abstract for anyone involved with gender discourse – which is all the more reason to bring empathy to the table. Dehumanising women to the point where we are considered legitimate targets of violence only upholds the values set by patriarchy. We do not approach the subject of gender from a position of power – gender has been used, for hundreds upon hundreds of years, to oppress women. That gender is fundamental to the oppression of women is too often overlooked in gender discourse.

No matter what your politics, we should all recognise that beating up a 60 year old woman doesn’t liberate. It’s violence against women. If your politics justify violence against women, they are shitty and misogynistic politics. It is not complicated. There is no justification. Women are not legitimate targets of violence. Not for having different views to you. Not for listening to or engaging with ideas you disagree with. Never. Plenty of the progressive left looked the other way at “punch a TERF” rhetoric normalising violence against women, and this is what it led to: a woman being beaten.

Violence against women has no place in the politics of liberation. If you ignore this Screenshot_20170915-132601assault to keep your ally cookies on queer identity politics, you’re complicit. If you give language that normalises violence against women, you’re complicit. Violence against women has no place in any context. That is what radical feminists consistently argue. Radical feminist women are depicted as violent simply for our ideas about gender – meanwhile, those who perpetrate physical acts of violence against women are framed as our victims.

When radical feminists critique gender, we are accused of debating trans-identified people’s right to live free from violence or even accused of exterminating trans-identified people. Aside from being falsehoods, these claims serve to discredit radical feminists’ explorations of gender. Writing for Trouble and Strife, Jane Clare Jones unpicks queer misrepresentations of radical feminism:

[Gender] debate is not academic for anyone involved. For both trans and non-trans women, what is at stake is the ability to understand themselves in a way that makes their lives livable. For feminist women, the axiom ‘trans women are women,’ when understood to mean ‘womanhood is gender identity and hence, trans women are women in exactly the same way as non-trans women are women’ is experienced as an extreme erasure of the way our being-as-women is marked by a system of patriarchal violence that aims to control our sexed bodies.
This system of patriarchal violence also marks the lives of trans women, who are indubitably victims of the kinds of male violence feminists have spent years attempting to resist. To cast certain feminists as the principal threat to trans existence, it is therefore necessary for trans-ideology to sideline the patriarchal violence that affects both women and trans people, and instead, position feminists at the apex of a structure of oppression.

Reframing women’s oppression as a form of privilege has enabled the disciples of gender ideology to target women as the oppressor and feel legitimate in doing so. But this perspective fails to consider the reality of the situation: women are an oppressed class, marginalised as a result of having been born female into a patriarchal society. Women do not hold a wealth of structural power over trans-identified people, and claiming that women challenging the means of our oppression are enacting anti-trans violence is ludicrous. Radical feminists are the staunchest and most consistent critics of male violence, which is the cause of transphobic attacks.

If you’re a feminist who has ever used the term TERF to describe a radical feminist, stop and think about the violent misogyny it’s used in conjunction with. Think about how “punch a TERF” led to Maria MacLachlan being assaulted. Think about whether you want to be complicit in violence against women, or play a part in challenging that violence – I suspect it’s the latter.

And if you’re going to keep branding women TERFs, remember: you cannot beat dissent out of women. Trying to do so only recreates patriarchal values, which started the pattern of using violence to render women compliant. It isn’t decent human behaviour, never mind feminist. Women are resilient – we have to be, to make it through life under patriarchy. And we will not fall silent.


 

Bibliography

Marilyn Frye. (1983). The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory.

Audre Lorde. (1983). The Master’s Toois Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.

Binary or Spectrum, Gender is a Hierarchy

A brief foreword: this is the fifth essay in my series on sex, gender, and sexuality. Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 are available here on Sister Outrider. With this essay, I challenge the notion that gender can be repurposed as anything other than a hierarchy. This one is dedicated to E, a stellar lesbian and feminist.


 

“It is impossible to name and act against oppression if there are no nameable oppressors.” – Mary Daly

What is Gender?

Gender is a fiction created by patriarchy, a hierarchy imposed by men to ensure their dominance over women. The idea of a gender binary was established in order to justify the subordination of women by positioning our oppression by men as a natural state of affairs, the result of how characteristics innately held by men and women manifest. Framing gender as natural not only serves to depoliticise the hierarchy, but uses essentialism in order to convince women that radical resistance to gender – the means of our oppression – is futile. Hopelessness breeds apathy, which undermines social change more effectively than any overt challenge. If abolishing gender (and therefore dismantling patriarchy) is an unobtainable goal, women have no choice but to accept our status as second-class citizens of the world. To treat gender as inherent is to accept a patriarchal blueprint for the design of society.

gender imageGender is a hierarchy that enables men to be dominant and conditions women into subservience. As gender is a fundamental element of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (hooks, 1984) it is particularly disconcerting to see elements of queer discourse argue that gender is not only innately held but sacrosanct. Far from being a radical alternative to the status quo, the project of “queering” gender only serves to replicate the standards set by patriarchy through its essentialism. A queer understanding of gender does not challenge patriarchy in any meaningful way – rather than encouraging people to resist the standards set by patriarchy, it offers them a way to embrace it. Queer politics have not challenged traditional gender roles so much as breathed fresh life into them – therein lies the danger.

To argue that gender could or should be “queered” is to lose sight of how gender functions as a system of oppression. Hierarchies cannot, by definition, be assimilated into the politics of liberation. Structural power imbalances cannot be subverted out of existence – reducing gender to a matter of performativity or personal identification denies its practical function as a hierarchy. Any ideology which flagrantly disregards gender as the method of women’s oppression cannot be described as feminist – indeed, as queer ideology remains largely uncritical of the power disparity behind sexual politics, it is anti-woman.

The logic of gender identity is fundamentally flawed, resting on the premise that gender is innately held. As feminists have argued for decades, gender is socially constructed – a fabrication designed to grant men dominion over women. The upbringing of children, 1600-Genderbread-Persongendered even before birth, serves to divide the sexes into a dominant and subservient class. Feminism recognises that biological sex exists while opposing essentialism, opposing the idea that sex dictate who or what we are capable of being as humans. Feminism asserts that our character, qualities, and personality are not defined by whether we are male or female. Conversely, queer theory argues that one set of traits is inherently masculine and another set of traits is inherently feminine, and our identity is dependent on how we align with those traits.

 

Instead of acknowledging that there are multitudes of ways to be a man or a woman, queer theory pigeonholes people into an ever-increasing range of categories organised by stereotype. There is no scientific evidence to support the existence of gendered brains, and claims of inherently gendered brains are the product of neurosexism (Fine, 2010). Yet queer ideology positions gender as an innately held identity, claiming that gender “is what you feel.”

“The manacles of a lifetime of cultural conditioning that has tried to convince me that gender is a biological fact rather than a social construct are more difficult to shake off than I would like.” – Louise O’Neill, I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty

The Trouble with Gender Identity

Despite its essentialism, the queer understanding of gender has grown increasingly mainstream within progressive and feminist spaces. It is not difficult to understand why. Gender ideology acknowledges that a binary of male and female gender roles are restrictive for individuals, but instead of advocating the extensive work required to dismantle the hierarchy of gender, it offers a far easier solution: an individual opt-out clause that enables people to make peace with patriarchy. To embrace gender ideology is to embrace a narrative of exceptionalism. To embrace gender ideology is to accept that there is a class of people naturally suited to their position within the hierarchy of gender (be it oppressed or oppressor), and a class of people who are exceptions to the traditional rules of gender.

There is a fundamental problem with queer gender ideology. As I have previously written, that problem is misogyny. To claim certain groups are naturally suited to the gender role imposed upon their sex category – “cis” people – is to endorse misogyny. The women categorised as cis, by the logic of gender identity, are inherently suited to being oppressed by men. The whole system of patriarchy is therefore whitewashed by gender ideology, presented as a natural occurrence as opposed to a system of oppression built to grant men dominion over women.

As queer identity politics are built around a narrative of exceptionalism, the power dynamics of sexual politics to be ignored altogether. Through the linguistic twist of “cis”, women’s oppression is reframed as a privilege and therefore the liberation of “cis” women from patriarchal oppression ceases to be a priority. Sexual politics are negated by self-identification, through which membership of a sex class is rendered politically invisible.

Screenshot_20170904-124333

“So many genders and yet we still know, magically, which half of the human race is expected to wipe arses and scrub floors.” – Victoria Smith, @glosswitch

 

Gender is a prison, and I have compassion for everyone constricted by it. It is abhorrent that men are discouraged from empathy, kindness, and creative self-expression.  There is real cruelty in socialising boys into masculinity. That being said, there is a connection between gender ideology and the laundering of male privilege that demands scrutiny.

This issue is exemplified by the case of Ben Hopkins, one half of the punk duo PWR BTTM. Hopkins is biologically male and, as such, was socialised into masculinity. Like a great many famous persons who are biologically male, Hopkins exploited his fame and power to sexually abuse female fans. According to one of his victims, Hopkins is a “known sexual predator who has perpetrated multiple assaults, bullied other people in the queer community, and has made unwanted advances towards underage minors.” What allegedly sets Hopkins apart from a longstanding tradition of powerful male abusers is that he identifies as genderqueer. As such, queer perspective would have it that Hopkins’ actions cannot be considered male violence against women. Queer exceptionalism as it manifests through the logic of gender identity makes it impossible to name or challenge male violence as such.

PWR-BTTM-sexual-abuse-screenshot

Statement from Survivor

Men are taught from birth that they are entitled to women’s time, women’s attention, women’s love, women’s energy, and women’s bodies. Yet, in accordance with the logic of gender ideology, unfortunate yet random as opposed to a likely consequence of the gendered socialisation men receive in patriarchal society. Despite identifying as genderqueer, the sexual violence Hopkins enacted against women with dramatically less social power than him follows perfectly the logic of masculinity. In what sense can a man who carries out the most toxic behaviour rooted in masculinity claim to be queering or resisting gender?

As his actions make clear, Hopkins has not consciously unlearned male socialisation or entitlement to women’s bodies. How Hopkins chooses to identify has little bearing upon the grim reality of the situation. Yet in claiming the label of genderqueer, Hopkins attempted to erase the male privilege from which he continued to benefit. Writing for Feminist Current, Jen Izaakson clearly articulates the paradox of Hopkins claiming to queer gender:

“…Hopkins used glitter, eyeliner, and vintage dresses to demonstrate an understanding of and adherence to queer ideals, to illustrate a rejection of “toxic masculinity” and the gender norms socially ascribed to males. But wearing flowery dresses and lip gloss does not necessarily lead to an actual rejection of the male entitlement and male dominance of men under patriarchy. By centering self-defined identities, individual expression, and performativity, instead of scrutinizing male violence and unequal systems of power, queer discourse has allowed misogyny easy access to the party.”

Similarly, trans activist Cherno Biko (born male) openly confessed to raping a transman (born female) with the fantasy and intention of impregnating them against their will.  Despite having publicly acknowledged committing sexual abuse, Biko was invited to speak on stage at the Women’s March in Washington and served as Co-Chair of the Young Women’s Advisory Council for New York City. This raises questions not only about the apparent lack of accountability for sexual abuse within feminist spaces, but also the extent to which progressive political movements are prepared to overlook instances of violence against women if the perpetrator identifies as transgender or genderqueer.

Acts of violence against women are both cause and consequence of patriarchy, and they are normalised by the logic of gender. Gender ideology disregards the power disparity of sexual politics – a hierarchy instituted through gender itself – and instead considers gender purely as a matter of self-identification. The queer perspective deliberately individualises the issue of identity in order to depoliticise gender, thereby avoiding difficult questions about power and patriarchy.

We are told that gender is a deeply personal matter and therefore, as all good liberals know, not to be scrutinised. Yet research demonstrates that transwomen retained a male pattern regarding criminality following sex reassignment surgery, and that the same was true regarding violent crime.” Given that one in three women will experience male violence in her lifetime, this is no small matter: 96% of people who commit acts of sexual violence are biologically male. The safety of women and girls is never an acceptable price to pay, not even in the name of inclusion. Masculine socialisation plays a demonstrable role in shaping attitude and behaviour – if women cannot name the violence we experience or identify the system that makes it possible, we cannot challenge it.

“When Simone de Beauvoir wrote that a girl is not born a woman but rather becomes one, she did not mean that an individual born into the male sex, socialised into the expectation of the masculine gender, can simply decide to take hormones and maybe have surgery and ‘become a woman’.”Dame Jenni Murray

Through the lens of gender identity, the oppressor may shed his male privilege and claim the status of oppressed. Through the lens of gender identity, the oppressed may also reject the grounds of their oppression by means of self-identification. Gender ideology aims to repurpose a hierarchy as an identity. Unfortunately, one cannot simply opt out of an oppression that is structural and systematic in nature – although queer discourse presents this as a legitimate route to women. Man is the default standard of humanity, with woman relegated to “Other” – defined purely in relation to men (Beauvoir, 1949). Is it no wonder that a growing number of women, dissatisfied by the limitations imposed by the feminine gender role and conscious that self-actualised human beings are more than the hollow stereotype of femininity, cease to identify as women.

Instead of identifying the feminine gender role as the problem, and working to dismantle the hierarchy of gender, women are encouraged to stop identifying as such if they behave or feel as human beings do. Instead of giving women the tools to unlearn internalised misogyny, gender ideology encourages them to disown womanhood and claim to be individual exceptions to the rule of gender. Through positioning full humanity and womanhood as being mutually exclusive, gender ideology invites women to participate in I’m-Not-Like-Other-Girls: Queer Edition.

It is understandable that women are eager to escape the feminine gender role – indeed, women’s liberation from the hierarchy of gender is a core feminist objective. But the feminist movement advocates the liberation of all women from all forms of oppression, not simply the liberation of those who believe their individual oppression through gender is wrong – those who “don’t aspire to any kind of womanhood.”

The Homophobia of Queering Gender

gay liberationDespite talk of queer community, an alliance between members of the LGBT+ alphabet soup, homophobia has always been at the root of queer politics. Queer ideology emerged as backlash to lesbian feminist principles, which advocated radical social change through the transformation of personal lives (Jeffreys, 2003). The political interests of lesbian women and marginalised gay men – primarily the abolition of gender roles – were dismissed within queer spheres. Individualism precluding any concentrated focus on feminist and gay liberation politics, which queer discourse began to describe as old-fashioned, dull, or anti-sex.

In recent years, this derision has escalated into openly anti-gay sentiment. Attempts to erase lesbian women and gay men are now standard practice within a queer setting. In an opinion piece that questions whether lesbian identity can “survive the gender revolution”, Shannon Keating claims that lesbian and gay sexualities are obsolete:

“Against the increasingly colorful backdrop of gender diversity, a binary label like ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ starts to feel somewhat stale and stodgy. When there are so many genders out there, is it closed-minded — or worse, harmful and exclusionary — if you identify with a label that implies you’re only attracted to one?”

There is a persistent strain of homophobia within gender ideology. It manifests so regularly because that homophobia is woven into queer gender politics. Same-sex attraction is relentlessly problematised because it acknowledges both the existence of biological sex and its significance in determining the potential for attraction – a contradiction of the claim that gender, not sex, is the defining unit of identity.

Earlier this year Juno Dawson, author of The Gender Games, claimed that being a gay man was merely a “consolation prize” for those unprepared to opt into a life of transwomanhood. Prior to transition, Dawson lived and loved as a gay man – therefore, it is particularly troubling that Dawson proclaimed homosexuality to be anything less than worthy of respect and recognition as legitimate. Dawson positioned life as a gay man as an inferior alternative, a poor substitute, for repressed transwomanhood. When gay men and lesbian women objected to this homophobia, Dawson delivered a non-apology which hit upon a fundamental truth about the politics of gender identity and sexuality: “Lots of trans men and women previously lived as gay men or lesbians prior to transition so I think it’s a really important thing to discuss…”

It is wildly regressive to argue that gay men are really unfulfilled women on the inside. By that logic, only the most straight and toxic of masculinities is authentically male. And if gay men are really straight transwomen, there is no such thing as gay men. Homosexuality has been ‘cured’ – an agenda that traditionally belonged to social conservatives, but can now be found within queer ideology. And it is not coincidence that so many of those who choose to undergo surgical or medical transition are gay men or lesbian women who, upon undertaking transition, live as heterosexuals. In Iran, where same-sex relationships are punishable by death, clerics are prepared to “accept the idea that a person may be trapped in a body of the wrong sex.”

Gender ideology is fundamentally conservative. It is based on the premise that gender roles are absolute, that those who stray from the gender role ascribed to their sex must belong to another category. Lesbian women and gay men defy the gender roles simply by loving someone of the same sex, by deviating from the heteropatriarchal patterns of dominance to create a sexual politics of equality. If we are transitioned into heterosexuality, into compliance with gender roles, we are made to conform to the gender roles mapped out by patriarchy.

Nobody is born in the wrong body. A body cannot, by definition, be wrong. The system of gender, on the other hand, is wrong in every way. Problematising bodies as opposed to the hierarchy which confines them only replicates the destructive ideology at the heart of patriarchy. It is an upside-down approach to the politics of liberation, misguided at best and complicit with patriarchy at worst.

Conclusion

Critiquing gender ideology is strongly discouraged – I suspect this is because the more one explores the queer perspective of gender, the more apparent its misogyny and homophobia become. Once the progressive veneer begins to crack – once it grows clear that gender ideology is at best complacent about patriarchy and the harms patriarchy visits upon women – queer politics become much harder to sell to the general populace.

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And so those feminists who do question gender ideology are branded bigots, the criticisms and those women brave enough to make them rendered illegitimate. Women who question gender ideology are derided as TERFs – we are told time and time again that their only motive in critiquing gender is malice, as opposed to meaningful concern for the well-being of women and girls. To that, I echo the words of Mary Shelley: “Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” Any attempt to discourage women from addressing our oppression is deeply suspect.

Gender ideology creates a false dichotomy of people who are innately bound to traditional gender roles and those exceptional few who are not. Gender politics are the most elaborate and harmful example of using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. Why queer gender when we can abolish it? Why waste energy trying to subvert oppressive practice when we can do away with it altogether?

Woman is a sex class – nothing more, nothing less. Man is a sex class – nothing more, nothing less. To claim the scope of our identity is defined by the gender role pressed onto our sex class is to legitimise the project of patriarchy. As a feminist, as a woman, I reject queer politics and the gender ideology it advocates. Instead, I argue that women and men living outside of the script set by gender – be it the queer or patriarchal classifications – should be embraced as revolutionaries. Only through the abolition of gender can we achieve true liberation.


Bibliography

Simone de Beauvoir. (1949). The Second Sex.

Cordelia Fine. (2010). Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference.

Lynne Harne & Elaine Miller (eds.). (1996). All the Rage: Reasserting Radical Lesbian Feminism.

bell hooks. (1984). Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center.

Sheila Jeffreys. (2003). Unpacking Queer Politics.

Audre Lorde. (1984). Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.

Cherríe Moraga & Gloria E. Anzaldúa (eds.). (1981). This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.

Bonnie J. Morris. (2016). The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture.

Victoria Pepe (ed.). (2015). I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty.

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper. More Radical with Age.

 

 

A Questão do Desaparecimento – Uma Reflexão Sobre o Apagamento da Lesbianidade

The Vanishing Point: A Reflection Upon Lesbian Erasure is now available in Portuguese! Thanks to Ação Antisexista for the translation.


Estes são tempos estranhos para ser uma jovem mulher lésbica. Ou melhor, jovial. No tempo que me levou para evoluir de uma inexperiente sapatão caçula em uma completa e formada lésbica, a tensão entre as políticas de identidade do queer e a libertação das mulheres se tornou realmente insuportável. O facebook adicionou reações da bandeira do orgulho gay no mesmo mês que eles começaram a banir mulheres lésbicas por nos descrevermos como butch (algo como sapatão ou caminhão em português). Enquanto a legislação de casamento e o direito de adoção para casais do mesmo sexo se tornam cada vez mais parte da sociedade dominante, o direito de mulheres lésbicas de se auto definirem e declararem seus limites sexuais é comprometido dentro da comunidade LGBT+. Tais contradições são características desta era, mas isso não torna elas mais fáceis de suportar dia após dia.

Amor é amor, a não ser que aconteça de você ser uma mulher lésbica – neste caso sua love is lovesexualidade será incansavelmente desconstruída sob suspeita de você estar sendo excludente. Como já escrevi anteriormente, cada sexualidade é por definição excludente. Sexualidade é um conjunto de parâmetros que governa as características que potencialmente nos atraem nas outras pessoas. Para lésbicas, é a presença das características sexuais primárias e secundárias das mulheres que geram (mas não garantem) a possibilidade de atração. O sexo, e não o gênero (nem mesmo a identidade de gênero), é o fator chave. Mas no ponto de vista queer, assim como no da sociedade patriarcal dominante), lésbica é uma designação contestável.

Mulheres lésbicas são encorajadas a se descreverem como queer, um termo tão abrangente e vago que parece ser desprovido de significado específico, pelos motivos de que ninguém que possuí um pênis é tido como inteiramente fora dos nossos limites sexuais. Jocelyn MacDonald coloca muito bem:

“Lésbicas são mulheres, e mulheres são ensinadas que devemos estar disponíveis sexualmente como objetos de consumo público. Então nós despendemos muito tempo dizendo “Não”. Não, nós não vamos transar ou nos relacionar com homens; não, nós não vamos mudar de ideia quanto a isso; não, este corpo não é território masculino. Lésbicas, hetero ou bissexuais, nós mulheres somos punidas sempre que tentamos demarcar limites. O queer sendo um termo genérico torna realmente difícil para lésbicas assegurarem e manterem estes limites, porque se torna impossível nomear estes limites.”

Em tempos em que o reconhecimento do sexo biológico é tratado como um ato de intolerância, a homossexualidade é automaticamente problematizada – as consequências não previstas das políticas identitárias de gênero são enormes e de largo alcance. Ou ainda, seria mais correto dizer, que a sexualidade lésbica virou um problema: a ideia de que nós mulheres direcionemos nossos desejos e energias de uma para outra continua suspeita. De alguma forma, o padrão de homens centrarem homens nas vidas deles nunca recebe o mesmo backlash (reação negativa, resposta em forma de ataque). As lésbicas são uma ameaça ao status quo, seja no heteropatriarcado ou na cultura queer. Quando nós lésbicas rejeitamos a ideia de nos relacionarmos com alguém com pênis, nós somos taxadas de “fetichistas de vaginas” e ginefílicas – Levando em conta que a sexualidade de lésbicas é rotineiramente patologizada no discurso queer, assim como a sexualidade lésbica é patologizada pelo conservadorismo social, não é surpresa para mim que tantas mulheres jovens sucumbam a pressão social e abandonem o termo lésbica em favor do termo queer. O auto apagamento é o preço da aceitação.

“Não é nenhum segredo que o medo e o ódio a homossexuais permeiam nossa sociedade. Mas o desprezo por lésbicas é distinto. É diretamente arraigado no repúdio à autodefinição da mulher, à autodeterminação da mulher, às mulheres que não são controladas pela necessidade, pelo comando ou pela manipulação masculina. O desprezo por lésbicas é mais comumente um repúdio político às mulheres que se organizam em seu próprio benefício em busca de estarem presentes no espaço público, de que sua força seja validada, que sua integridade seja visibilizada.

Os inimigos das mulheres, aqueles que estão determinados a nos negar a liberdade e a dignidade, usam a palavra lésbica para provocar o ódio às mulheres que não se conformam. Este ódio ecoa em toda parte. Este ódio é sustentado e expressado por praticamente todas as instituições. Quando o poder masculino é desafiado, este ódio se intensifica e se inflama de forma a ser volátil, palpável. A ameaça é de que esse ódio pode explodir em violência. A ameaça é onipresente porque a violência contra a mulher é culturalmente aplaudida. E assim a palavra lésbica, gritada ou sussurrada em tom de acusação, é usada para direcionar a hostilidade dos homens contra as mulheres que ousam se rebelar, e é também usada para assustar e intimidar as mulheres que ainda não se rebelaram.” – Andrea Dworkin

A política de identidade queer tende a pensar que mulheres nascidas mulheres se interessarem exclusivamente por outras mulheres é um sinal de intolerância. Não vamos desperdiçar parágrafos com equívocos. Este mundo já tem silenciamentos acerca de gênero mais do que o suficiente, e é invariavelmente as mulheres que pagam o maior preço por estes silenciamentos – neste caso, mulheres que amam outras mulheres. Então eu digo o seguinte: lésbicas negarem categoricamente a possibilidade de se relacionarem com alguém com pênis é tido como transfóbico pela política queer porque não inclui mulheres trans na esfera dos desejos de lésbicas. A lesbofobia inerente na redução da sexualidade lésbica à fonte de validação, obviamente recebe passe livre.

Ainda assim, a sexualidade lésbica não necessariamente exclui pessoas que se identificam como trans. A sexualidade lésbica pode se estender a pessoas que nasceram mulheres que se identificam como não binárias ou queergênero. A sexualidade lésbica pode se estender a pessoas que nasceram mulheres que se identificam como homens trans. Comparando a alta proporção de que homens trans auto identificados viviam como lésbicas butch antes de transicionarem, não é incomum que homens trans façam parte de relacionamentos lésbicos.

Aonde está o limite entre uma lésbica butch e um homem trans? Durante suas reflexões sobre a vida das lésbicas, Roey Thorpe considera que “…invariavelmente alguém pergunta: Aonde todas as butches foram parar? A resposta curta é masculinidade trans (e a resposta longa requer um artigo próprio). Em qual parte dentro do espectro de identidade termina o butch e o trans começa?

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O limite é amorfo, embora de forma imaginativa Maggie Nelson tenta traçar em The Argonauts. O parceiro dela, o artista Harry Dodge, é descrito por Nelson como um “butch charmoso em T.” segundo Nelson “qualquer semelhança que eu observe nos meus relacionamentos com mulheres não é a semelhança como Mulher, e certamente não é a semelhança das partes envolvidas. Ao invés disso é a esmagadora compreensão compartilhada do que significa viver no patriarcado.” Dodge é gênero fluido e de aparência masculina. A testosterona e a cirurgia de remoção dos seios não removem a compreensão do seu local neste mundo como mulher. Estas verdades coexistem.

A ideia de que lésbicas são transfóbicas porque os limites da nossa sexualidade não se estendem em acomodar o pênis é uma falácia falocêntrica. E a pressão nas lésbicas para redefinirem esses limites é francamente assustadora – se baseia numa atitude do direito de propriedade sobre os corpos das mulheres, uma atitude que é parte do patriarcado e agora tem sido reproduzida na esfera queer. As mulheres lésbicas não existem para que sejam objetos sexuais ou fontes de validação, mas como seres humanos autodefinidos com desejos e limites próprios.

Conversar sobre a política queer com amigos homens gays da mesma idade que eu é algo revelador. Eu sou lembrada de duas coisas: para os homens, ‘não’ é uma palavra aceita como assunto encerrado. Com mulheres, o não é tratado como uma abertura à negociação. A maioria dos homens gays fica horrorizada ou então surpresa com a noção de que os parâmetros de suas sexualidades possam ou devam mudar de acordo com as imposições da política queer. Alguns (os mais sortudos – a ignorância é uma benção) não estão familiarizados com a fantasiosa teoria queer. Outros (os recentemente inciados) estão, como era de se esperar, resistentes a problematização da homossexualidade do ponto de vista queer. Teve um que chegou a sugerir que gays, lésbicas e bissexuais rompessem com a sopa de letrinhas do alfabeto da política queer e se auto organizassem especificamente em torno das suas sexualidades – dado que as lésbicas estão sendo sujeitas a caça às bruxas TERF (feministas radicais trans excludentes em português) por terem feito a mesma sugestão, foi ao mesmo tempo encorajador e lamentável ouvir de um homem que está fora do feminismo radical dizer a mesma coisa sem medo de ser censurado.

Fico feliz em dizer que nenhum dos homens gays que eu chamo de amigos optaram pelo que pode ser descrito como a lógica de Owen Jones: rejeitar as preocupações das mulheres lésbicas e as tratar como atos de intolerância, numa tentativa de conseguir biscoitos-de-arco-íris da aprovação como aliado trans. A onda de homens de esquerda em lucrarem com a misoginia para consolidar sua reputação é um conto tão antigo quanto o patriarcado. Não é uma grande surpresa que isso aconteça dentro da comunidade queer, já que a cultura queer é dominada por homens.

A comunidade queer definitivamente pode afastar as mulheres lésbicas. Embora eu tenha participado de espaços queer quando eu estava me assumindo, acabei me retirando cada vez mais daquele contexto com o tempo. Eu não sou de forma alguma a única – muitas mulheres lésbicas da minha faixa etária se sentem excluídas e deslocadas nos ambientes queer, lugares que nos dizem que deveríamos pertencer. Não são apenas lésbicas mais velhas que são resistentes a política queer, apesar de que deus sabe o quanto elas nos avisaram sobre a misoginia nela. Meu único arrependimento é não ter ouvido antes – que eu tenha perdido meu tempo e energia tentando conciliar divergências ideológicas entre o queer e o feminismo radical.

O discurso queer se utiliza de uma abordagem coerciva para forçar lésbicas a se conformarem – ou nós acatamos o queer e pertencemos ao grupo, ou nós seremos apenas figuras irrelevantes que estão “por fora” como “as velhas lésbicas chatas”. Esta abordagem, na misógina discriminação pela idade, foi equivocada: eu não consigo imaginar nada que eu quisesse ser mais do que uma lésbica mais velha, e é maravilhoso saber que este é o meu futuro. A influência que tem em mim a profundidade do pensamento das mulheres mais velhas, a forma como elas me desafiam e me guiam no processo de consciência feminista, tem um papel central em formarem tanto a minha noção sobre o mundo como compreender meu lugar nele. Se eu for realmente sortuda, um dia eu terei aquelas conversas elevadas (e as vezes, intelectualmente extenuantes) com as futuras gerações de jovens lésbicas.

Embora eu aprecie o apoio e a sororidade das lésbicas mais velhas (de longe meus seres humanos favoritos), em certos aspectos eu também as invejo pela relativa simplicidade da existência lésbica nos anos 70 e 80. A razão para esta inveja: elas viveram vidas lésbicas num tempo anterior a política queer se tornar dominante. Eu não estou dizendo isso desconsiderando ou implicando que o passado foi uma utopia para os direitos de gays e lésbicas. Não foi. A(s) geração(ões) deles tiveram a cláusula 28 (“section 28”), cláusula que bania que a homossexualidade fosse considerada nas escolas como relacionamento familiar normal) e a minha tem o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo. Os avanços que beneficiam minha geração são resultado direto da luta deles. Ainda assim as lésbicas podiam viver pelo menos parte de suas vidas numa época em que de todas as razões pelas quais a palavra lésbica foi encarada com desgosto, ser considerada “demasiado excludente” não era uma delas. Não houve um ímpeto, dentro de um contexto feminista ou gay, tornar a sexualidade lésbica esquisita (“queer” em inglês, a autora aqui faz um trocadilho).

Algumas coisas não mudaram muito. A sexualidade lésbica é comumente degradada. As mulheres lésbicas ainda estão nas campanhas lésbicas do “Não se preocupe, eu não sou aquele tipo de feminista.” Só que agora, quando eu checo as minhas notificações no Twitter, realmente levo um tempo para descobrir se minha lesbianidade ofendeu a “alt-right” (nova denominação da extrema direita) ou da esquerda queer. Isso faz alguma diferença? A lesbofobia tem o mesmo formato. O ódio às mulheres é o mesmo.

women's libDurante a Parada Gay, uma foto de uma mulher trans sorridente vestindo uma camiseta manchada de sangue dizendo “eu soco as TERFs” circulou nas redes sociais. A imagem tinha a seguinte legenda “isso é como a libertação gay se parece”. Aquelas de nós que vivem na intersecção entre a identidade gay e a mulheridade – lésbicas- são frequentemente taxadas de TERFs puramente pelo fato de que nossa sexualidade torna esta reivindicação dúbia. Considerando que vivemos num mundo onde uma a cada três mulheres sofre violência física ou sexual durante sua vida, eu não me surpreendo– não tem nada de revolucionário ou contracultural em fazer uma piada sobre bater em mulheres. A violência contra as mulheres foi glorificada sem pensar duas vezes, colocada como um objetivo de políticas libertárias. E nós todos sabemos que TERFs são mulheres, já que homens que definem limites são raramente sujeitos a tais ataques. Apontar a misoginia obviamente resulta numa nova enxurrada de misoginia.

Existe uma réplica preferida reservada para as feministas que criticam as políticas sexuais da identidade de gênero, uma resposta certamente associada mais com adolescentes meninos do que qualquer política de resistência: “chupe meu pau de garota”. Ou, se a maldade se junta com uma tentativa de originalidade, “engasgue com meu pau de garota”. Ouvir “engasgue com meu pau de garota” não parece nada diferente de ouvir te dizerem que engasgue num pau de qualquer tipo, mesmo assim isso se tornou já quase uma parte da rotina do discurso de gênero que se abriu no Twitter. O ato permanece o mesmo. A misoginia permanece a mesma. E isso está dizendo que neste cenário a gratificação sexual é derivada de um ato que muito literalmente silencia as mulheres.

Uma frase icônica de Shakespeare em Romeu e Julieta proclama que “uma rosa com qualquer outro nome teria um aroma igualmente doce.” Com isso em mente (por existir muito mais tragédia do que romance sobre esta situação), eu diria que independente do nome um pênis iria repelir sexualmente as lésbicas. E isso é ok. O desinteresse sexual não é a mesma coisa que a discriminação, a opressão ou a marginalização. Porém, sentir que a sexualidade é um direito que se tem sobre alguém é : ele é parte fundamental da opressão das mulheres, e se manifesta claramente na cultura do estupro. Dentro da concepção queer não há espaço dedicado para discussões sobre a misoginia que possibilita o se sentir no direito de ter acesso sexual aos corpos de mulheres. Simplesmente reconhecer que o assunto existe é considerado inaceitável, e como resultado, temos a misoginia protegida por camadas e camadas de silêncio.

Esta não é uma época radiante para se ser uma lésbica. A falta de vontade das políticas queer para simplesmente aceitar a sexualidade lésbica como válida por direito é profundamente desamparadora, ao ponto de se privilegiar o desejo de ter sexo sobre o direito de recusa ao sexo. E mesmo assim a conexão lésbica persiste, como sempre persistiu. Os relacionamentos lésbicos seguem florescendo enquanto oferecem uma alternativa radical ao heteropatriarcado – só porque não é particularmente visível agora, apenas por não ter o apelo dominante (isto é, patriarcal) que tem a cultura queer, não significa que não esteja acontecendo. As lésbicas estão em toda a parte – isso não vai mudar.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.


Translation originally posted here.

Original text initially posted here.

Dear Roxane – An Open Letter on Queer Feminism & Lesbophobia

A brief foreword: this letter was written as an invitation for queer, bisexual, and straight women who call themselves feminist to reflect upon their lesbophobia.


 

Dear Roxane,

As every woman active in the modern day feminist movement knows, there is a growing schism between queer ideology and sexual politics. The conversation has grown fraught, with those on either position growing heartsick from the conflict. It’s difficult, because points of connection are missed, especially on social media – where everything becomes somehow more polar, more about point-scoring than moments of political connection. And it was my aim to connect with you in raising the issue of lesbophobia, to share a meaningful engagement from which we could both develop, because otherwise nothing ever changes and the same mistakes are repeated ad infinitum – and a feminist movement that replicates the hierarchies of mainstream society is in no way equipped to dismantle them.

I am not writing with the intention of ridiculing you, nor do I claim to be some paragon of feminist virtue. The reality of the situation is that I’m just about as bougie as a Black girl can be, and held onto some shitty class politics until turning twenty two, politics which I will spend the rest of my life unlearning and resisting. While it is embarrassing to get things wrong, devastating to realise you have been complicit in the oppression of others, the real shame would be in turning your back on the women who try to address behaviour born of politics that are damaging to them. With this in mind, I hold compassion for you as I address the lesbophobia you displayed on Twitter.

In response to Kat Blaque’s Tweets about a confrontation with Arielle Scarcella, you said the following: “Oh my god. I am on the edge of my seat. Slap her.”

Roxane 1 beta

From the context I gather this remark was intended with humour, a pass-the-popcorn type jibe about the drama, but the joke falls flat when we consider just how vulnerable lesbian women are in heteropatriarchy. Just this week it was announced that Aderonke Apata, a Nigerian lesbian rights activist, won her claim for asylum in Britain after a 13-year struggle to have the state recognise that as a lesbian she was at extreme risk of violence if forcibly repatriated. Lesbian women are treated with revulsion simply for loving women. We are disparaged and degraded for experiencing same-sex attraction, and abused – often brutally – for living woman-centric lives. By all means, criqitue Arielle Scarcella’s videos – I’m not stopping you. But please do not suggest that violence against a lesbian woman becomes legitimate simply because she subscribes to a set of politics that are not aligned with your own. Not even in jest.

Blaque is a well-known trans blogger. Scarcella is a well-known lesbian blogger. Blaque has made numerous videos denouncing Scarcella, and the beef between them is well known in the sphere of LGBT+ online community.  In many ways, this issue goes beyond the drama that happens between them, stretching to encompass all the tensions of gender discourse.

Gender discourse isn’t abstract. How the politics of gender manifest in our lives has very real consequences for everyone involved. You know this, and have written about it with great eloquence. The tensions within gender discourse have grown particularly explosive where lesbian sexuality is involved. What is sometimes referred to as the cotton ceiling issue – whether lesbian women ought to consider those identifying as transwomen as potential sexual partners – has become hugely controversial in the last few years.

For me, it is obvious: lesbians are women who exclusively experience same-sex attraction. As transwomen are biologically male, lesbian sexuality does not extend to include them. That is not to say lesbian women would not consider taking trans-identified lovers – as I have previously written, the boundary between a butch lesbian and a transman is often blurred, and many non-binary identified people are biologically female too – but rather that our interest is reserved for those who are physically, biologically female. It is also worth pointing out that approximately two thirds of transgender people have reported undergoing some form of gender-confirming surgery, meaning that the majority of transwomen are in possession of a penis – a definite no insofar as lesbian sexuality is concerned.

From what I have seen of her videos, Arielle Scarcella is of a similar view – she defends lesbian women’s right to assert sexual boundaries and the validity of same-sex attraction. No matter your opinion on Scarcella’s work, one question arises when considering the accusations of transphobia levelled against her: why, in 2017, is it contentious for a lesbian to categorically reject sex involving a penis? The short answer is homophobia and misogyny, both of which can be found in abundance in queer attitudes towards lesbian women.

Roxane 3 betaWhen I pointed out that your words were lesbophobic, you claimed this could not be because you are “queer as the day is long.” Since you are queer as opposed to lesbian, it is not for you to decide what is lesbophobic or not. Being queer does not inoculate you against homophobia or, indeed, lesbophobia. Queer is an umbrella term, a catch-all which may encompass all but the most rigid practice of heterosexuality. It is not a stable category or coherent political ideology, as anything considered even slightly transgressive may be labelled queer. Queer is a deliberately amorphous expression, avoiding specific definitions and fixed meanings. It need not relate to the politics of resistance, and indeed cannot relate to the politics of resistance because queer lacks the vocabulary to positively identify oppressed and oppressor classes. Queer seeks to subvert the dominant values of society through performativity and playfulness as opposed to deconstructing those values by presenting a radical alternative to white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy. Queer is the master’s tools trying to dismantle the master’s house, and – inevitably – failing. Predictably, queer replicates the misogyny of mainstream society. As lesbophobia is essentially misogyny squared, identifying as queer in no way indicates a politics that values lesbian women.

Being a lesbian woman is not the same as being a queer woman. That observation is not rooted in purism, but fact: lesbian and queer are two different realities. Devoid of concrete definitions, to be queer is to be sexually fluid – meaning the term queer is male-inclusive. Within the possibilities implied by queer, there remains scope for men to gain sexual access to women. As queer women’s sexualities do not explicitly – or even implicitly – reject men, queer womanhood is accepted in a way that lesbian womanhood will never be. The lesbian woman represents a threat to the status quo, to male dominion over women, in a way that the queer woman by definition (or lack of) never could. As a result, lesbians have been consistently pathologised and abused since the 1800s. I do not dispute that there are difficulties in the lives of queer women, but a degree of social acceptance may be purchased through vocally disparaging lesbian women in the way that you disparaged Arielle Scarcella.

To publicly shame and ridicule lesbians in an effort to alter our sexual boundaries is to follow the blueprint created by compulsory heterosexuality. And make no mistake – it is Arielle Scarcella’s adherence to lesbian sexual boundaries that Kat Blaque takes issue with, the outspoken self-definition of a lesbian woman, that have resulted in allegations of transphobia. The problematising of gay and lesbian sexuality is an unfortunate product of queer politics. If biological sex is unspeakable, so too is same-sex attraction; if same-sex attraction is unspeakable, so too is lesbian sexuality – the logic of queer forces us back into the closet by insisting that lesbian women and gay men abandon self-definition. And self-definition is fundamental to the liberation of any oppressed group. Sooner or later, those embracing the label of queer must reckon with that homophobia.

Arielle Scarcella sought to address the tensions between queer people and lesbian women in her videos – which, regardless of whether or not one agrees with her content, is a brave thing to have done. Few feminists want to speak publicly in a candid, heartfelt way about the relationship between gender and sexual politics because, irrespective of whether or not one speaks in good faith, a witch hunt is all too likely to ensue. Without having exhaustive knowledge of her work, I can at least say that I’m grateful Scarcella is speaking up for herself and her lesbian sisters. Even and especially within LGBT+ community, this is a particularly unpleasant time to be a lesbian.

The long answer as to why it is newly acceptable to pressure lesbians into altering our sexual boundaries reflects upon the history of anti-lesbian sentiment within feminism, from Betty Friedan branding us the “lavender menace” to Buzzfeed’s Shannon Keating dismissing us as “stale and stodgy.” Lesbians are routinely used as a foil to reassure the wider world that ‘normal’ women can engage in feminism without ending up ugly, angry, and bitter like the dykes. We are caricatured with great cruelty, presented as a malevolent extreme or reduced to a joke. The comparatively mainstream branches of feminism, be they liberal or radical, actively engage in the devaluation of lesbian womanhood.

The only reason your ‘joke’ about slapping Arielle happened is because she is a lesbian who categorically rejects dick. Queer politics have created a strange, painful context where lesbian women are acceptable hate figures in feminism for simply maintaining our sexual boundaries. But lesbians are not the whipping girls of other women, queer or bisexual or straight, nor do we exist as your symbol for all that is wrong within the feminist movement. Using lesbian women as such builds upon a long history of lesbophobia.

If lesbian women are suggesting to you (as many of us did) that your words contain lesbophobia, it is time to listen. Lesbians are not the oppressor class, and we certainly don’t hold the lion’s share of the power in an LGBT+ or feminist setting. Brushing us off as malicious TERFs is a whole lot easier than engaging with anything we have to say about the relationship between gender and sexual politics, a slick manoeuvre that enables queer discourse to delegitimise our words and the women with the courage to speak them. Lesbian women are lesbian precisely because we love women – not because we feel hatred towards any other demographic, although a respectable case has been made for misandry. Lesbian women do not exist to provide validation. The sole purpose of our sexuality is certainly not to provide affirmation. Lesbian sexuality is not a litmus test for transwomanhood.

When it comes to queer politics, lesbians are made into some sort of bogeyman – a spectre that haunts the progressive left. “Cis lesbian” and “TERF” are used almost interchangeably in queer discourse, used as shorthand to convey how utterly contemptible we supposedly are. If our concerns about coercion within queer culture are “TERF nonsense”, our sexual boundaries can be challenged without compunction. There is an Othering, a monstering of lesbian women, that is fundamental to this process. Demonising lesbians for being lesbian means that we are not worthy of compassion or basic human decency, that jokes about slapping, punching, raping, and otherwise abusing us are fair game in feminism.

Demonising lesbians for our sexual orientation is lesbophobia, no matter how you look at it. And I hope that you do look at it, Roxane, that you – and other women, be they queer or bisexual or straight – have some honest, critical self-reflection about why bits of your feminism come at the expense of lesbian women, about why you think that is an acceptable trade to make. This conversation is long overdue.

Yours Sincerely,

Claire

Seamos Honestas Sobre Cómo Las Políticas Queer Excluyen a las Mujeres Lesbianas

Lezbehonest about Queer Politics Erasing Lesbian Women is now available in Spanish! Many thanks to SOMOS LA MITAD for the translation.


Este post es el segundo de una serie de ensayos sobre sexo, género y sexualidad. El primero está disponible aquí. Escribo sobre la exclusión de las lesbianas porque me niego a que se me invisibilice. Alzando mi voz en disidencia, pretendo ofrecer tanto un reconocimiento a otras mujeres lesbianas como una resistencia activa a cualquier marco político —hetero o queer— que insista en que las lesbianas son una especie en peligro de extinción. Si que una serie de mujeres ame y de prioridad a otras mujeres es una amenaza para tus políticas, te puedo garantizar que eres parte del problema y no de la solución. Dedico estas letras a SJ, que me hace estar orgullosa de ser lesbiana. Tu amabilidad ilumina mi mundo.


El lesbianismo es, una vez más, una categoría disputada. La definición más literal de lesbian_feminist_liberation‘lesbiana’ —mujer homosexual— es sujeto de reciente controversia. Esta lesbofobia no nace del conservadurismo social sino que se manifiesta en el seno de la comunidad LGTB+, en la que las mujeres lesbianas somos frecuentemente demonizadas como intolerantes y retrógradas o rechazadas por ser consideradas un chiste anticuado, todo a consecuencia de nuestra sexualidad.

En el contexto postmoderno de las políticas queer, las mujeres que nos sentimos atraídas de manera exclusiva por personas de nuestro mismo sexo, somos consideradas arcaicas. No sorprende que los deseos de los hombres gays no sean analizados con el mismo rigor: en el marco queer, se anima a los hombres a que den prioridad a su propio placer, mientras se sigue esperando de las mujeres que consideremos el de los demás. Lejos de subvertir las expectativas patriarcales, las políticas queer reproducen esos estándares mediante la perpetuación de los roles  normativos de género. No es ninguna coincidencia que las mujeres lesbianas sean el blanco sobre el que recae toda la hostilidad queer.

Además de la proliferación del fascismo y de la normalización de la supremacía blanca, los últimos años han visto surgir una avalancha de anti-lesbianismo. El contenido en los medios, hipotéticamente dirigido a/y escrito por mujeres lesbianas, nos dice que somos una especie en peligro de extinción: Fuentes feministas que cuestionan si necesitamos siquiera la palabra lesbiana, páginas de opinión que afirman que la cultura lésbica está extinta, artículos arrogantes que aseguran que ‘lesbiana’ “suena como a enfermedad rara”, e incluso comentarios que afirman que la sexualidad lésbica es una reliquia del pasado en este nuevo mundo tan valiente y sexualmente fluido. Estos textos definen deliberadamente la sexualidad de las mujeres lesbianas como anticuada y pasada de moda. Incitan activamente al rechazo de la identidad lésbica mediante el convencimiento de la lectora de que será una mujer moderna y progresista sólo si está preparada para deshacerse de la etiqueta de lesbiana. Exactamente de la misma manera que el patriarcado premia a la ‘chica guay’ que se distancia de los ideales feministas, las políticas queer premian a las lesbianas que adoptan cualquier otra etiqueta.

Desanimar a las lesbianas para que no nos identifiquemos como tales y para que no reclamemos la cultura y las políticas de oposición que se nos han legado es una estrategia efectiva. Heather Hogan, editora de la publicación Autostraddle, supuestamente dirigida a las mujeres lesbianas; recientemente comparó en Twitter la resistencia de las lesbianas a la lesbofobia con los neo-nazis. La misma Hogan se define como lesbiana y sin embargo afirma que las posturas del feminismo lésbico son inherentemente intolerantes y retrógradas.

Guerreros queer, armados con sus teclados, lideraron y promovieron una campaña contra la Biblioteca del Movimiento de la Clase Trabajadora (Working Class Movement Library), en Salford, Inglaterra; por invitar a la feminista lesbiana Julie Bindel para que diera una charla durante el Mes de la Historia LGBT, y llenaron el evento de Facebook de mensajes abusivos, llegando el acoso a las amenazas de muerte. El hecho de que Bindel considere el género como una jerarquía en su análisis feminista es suficiente para tildarla de “peligrosa”. A su vez, la recién abierta Biblioteca de Mujeres de Vancouver (VWL) fue sometida a una campaña de intimidación por parte de activistas queer. VWL fue presionada para sacar algunos textos feministas de sus estanterías alegando que “eran dañinos” —la mayoría de los libros considerados objetables habían sido escritos por lesbianas feministas como Adrienne Rich, Ti-Grace Atkinson y Sheila Jeffreys.

Una no tiene que estar de acuerdo con todos los argumentos de las teóricas feministas lesbianas, para darse cuenta de que la eliminación deliberada de las perspectivas teóricas del feminismo lésbico, es un acto de cobardía intelectual con raíces misóginas.

La sexualidad, la cultura y el feminismo lésbicos están sometidos a la oposición concentrada de las políticas queer. La invisibilización de las lesbianas —una táctica típica del patriarcado— es justificada por los activistas queer bajo el alegato de que la sexualidad y la práctica lésbica son excluyentes, y de que esta exclusión es retrógrada (particularmente con las mujeres y los hombres transgénero).

¿Es el lesbianismo excluyente?

Sí. Toda sexualidad es, por definición, excluyente —está formada por una serie de características que establecen los parámetros que capacitan a cada individuo para experimentar atracción física y mental. Esto no es en sí mismo inherentemente intolerante ni retrógrado. La atracción es física y se basa en una realidad material. El deseo se manifiesta o no. La sexualidad lésbica es y siempre ha sido una fuente de polémica porque las mujeres que viven vidas lésbicas no le proporcionan a los hombres ninguna labor emocional, sexual o reproductiva; todas ellas exigidas por las normas patriarcales.

Una lesbiana es una mujer a la que le interesan y le atraen otras mujeres, lo que implica la exclusión de los hombres. El hecho de que los límites sexuales de las lesbianas sean lesbiancuestionados con tal fiereza es el resultado de una misoginia concentrada y reforzada por la homofobia. Mujeres que deseamos a otras mujeres, excluyendo a los hombres; mujeres que dedicamos nuestro tiempo y energía a otras mujeres, excluyendo a los hombres; mujeres que construimos nuestras vidas en torno a otras mujeres, excluyendo a los hombres; así es como el amor lésbico presenta un desafío al status quo. Nuestra misma existencia contradice el esencialismo tradicional usado para justificar la jerarquía de género: “es natural”, el propósito en la vida de toda mujer es servir al hombre. La vida lésbica se opone a esto de forma inherente. Crea espacios para posibilidades radicales, a las que se resisten tanto conservadores como liberales.

La sexualidad lésbica es disputada desde el discurso queer porque supone un reconocimiento directo y positivo de la biología de la mujer. Arielle Scarcella, una importante vlogger, se vio envuelta en una gran polémica por afirmar que, como mujer lesbiana, a ella le gustan “las tetas y las vaginas y no los penes”. La atracción de Scarcella por el cuerpo de la mujer fue tildada de transfobia. El hecho de que el deseo lésbico nazca de la atracción al cuerpo de la mujer (hembra) es criticado como esencialista porque sólo se produce ante la existencia de características sexuales femeninas (de hembra) primarias y secundarias. Como el deseo lésbico no incluye a las mujeres trans (transmujeres), es ‘problemático’ para el entendimiento queer de la relación entre sexo, género y sexualidad.

En lugar de aceptar las fronteras sexuales de las mujeres lesbianas, la ideología queer entiende esas fronteras como un problema que debe ser subsanado. La editora LGBT de Buzzfeed, Shannon Keating, aboga por la deconstrucción de la sexualidad lésbica como una posible ‘solución’:

“… tal vez podamos simplemente seguir desafiando la definición tradicional del lesbianismo, que asume que hay sólo dos géneros binarios, y que las lesbianas sólo deberían ser mujeres cis atraídas por mujeres cis. Algunas lesbianas que no se reconocen como TERFs, aún así dicen abiertamente que nunca saldrían con personas trans debido a ‘preferencias genitales’, lo que significa que tienen ideas increíblemente rígidas sobre el género y los cuerpos.”

La sexualidad lésbica no puede ser deconstruida hasta el punto de eliminarla por completo. Además, problematizar la sexualidad lésbica es en sí mismo problemático: una forma de lesbofobia. El lesbianismo ha sido ‘desafiado’ por el patriarcado desde tiempos inmemoriales. A lo largo de la historia los hombres han encarcelado, matado e institucionalizado a las mujeres lesbianas, las han sometido a violaciones correctivas —todo como vía para forzarlas a la heterosexualidad. La lesbofobia más clásica opera con políticas “no preguntar ni decir” (don’t ask, don’t tell). El precio de la aceptación social (léase: mera tolerancia) que asumimos, es permitir que se nos considere heterosexuales hasta que se demuestre lo contrario. Pero esto no supone ninguna amenaza.

La lesbofobia ‘progresista’, sin embargo, es mucho más insidiosa porque se da en los espacios LGBT+ de los que en teoría formamos parte. Pretende que tiremos por la borda la palabra lesbiana para sustituirla por algo más suave y dulce, como ‘Mujeres que Aman Mujeres’, o algo lo suficientemente vago como para eludir el ceñirse a una serie de fronteras sexuales estrictas, como queer. Pretende que abandonemos las especificidades de nuestra sexualidad para pacificar a otros.

El Techo de Algodón 

El debate del Techo de Algodón es zanjado muy a menudo como “retórica TERF”, y sin embargo el término fue creado originalmente por la activista trans Drew DeVeaux. De acuerdo con la blogger feminista queer Avory Faucette, “la teoría del Techo de Algodón trata de desafiar la tendencia de las lesbianas cis de… dibujar la línea en acostarse con mujeres trans o en incluir a las lesbianas trans en sus comunidades sexuales”.

Planned Parenthood ofreció un ahora notorio workshop sobre este tema: Traspasando el Techo de Cristal: Desmontando Barreras Sexuales para Mujeres Trans Queer.

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Las fronteras sexuales de las mujeres lesbianas se presentan como “barreras” que “traspasar”. Esto legitima la formulación de estrategias para animar a las mujeres a involucrarse en determinados actos sexuales, o lo que es lo mismo, la coacción sexual blanqueada por el lenguaje de la inclusión. Esta narrativa se sustenta en la objetificación de las mujeres lesbianas, colocándonos en la posición de sujetos de conquista sexual. La teoría del Techo de Algodón se basa en una mentalidad que defiende los derechos sexuales de terceros sobre los cuerpos de las mujeres, y es incentivada por un clima de clara misoginia.

La sexualidad lésbica no existe para validar ni ser validada. Los límites sexuales de las mujeres no son negociables. Muchos de los argumentos del discurso queer recrean la cultura de la violación creada por el heteropatriarcado. La obtención de acceso sexual a los cuerpos de las mujeres lesbianas es una suerte de ‘test’ para la validación de las mujeres transgénero (transmujeres) y es deshumanizador para las mujeres lesbianas. Asegurar que la sexualidad lésbica es motivada por la intolerancia retrógrada crea un contexto de coacción o chantaje en el que las mujeres se ven presionadas para reconsiderar sus límites sexuales por miedo a ser etiquetadas como TERFs.

Negar el acceso sexual al propio cuerpo no es lo mismo que discriminar a la parte rechazada. No considerar a alguien como un potencial compañero sexual no es una forma de ejercer opresión. Como clase demográfica, las mujeres lesbianas no tienen más poder estructural que las mujeres transexuales (transmujeres) —apropiarse del lenguaje de la opresión en el debate del Techo de Algodón es, en el mejor de los casos, hipócrita.

Sin rodeos: ninguna mujer está obligada a follarse a nadie, jamás.

Conclusión

La sexualidad lésbica se ha convertido en el lugar en el que explotan las tensiones que rodean al sexo y al género. Esto se debe a que, bajo el patriarcado, recae sobre las mujeres la firme obligación de proporcionar validación al prójimo. Los hombres gays no son llamados retrógrados e intolerantes por rehuir el sexo vaginal como consecuencia de su homosexualidad. Amar a los hombres y desear el cuerpo masculino, resulta en cierta manera lógico, en un marco queer, en un contexto cultural construido alrededor de la centralidad de la masculinidad. Por el contrario, como el cuerpo femenino es constantemente degradado bajo el patriarcado, que las mujeres deseen a otras mujeres resulta sospechoso.

“Si yo no me definiera por y para mí misma, acabaría siendo triturada y devorada viva en las fantasías de otras personas.” – Audre Lorde

Las lesbianas hemos encarado la misma vieja combinación de misoginia y homofobia desde la derecha y ahora estamos siendo incansablemente escrutadas por la izquierda queer liberal: que seamos mujeres que no tienen ningún interés en el pene es aparentemente polémico a lo largo de todo el espectro político. Los conservadores nos dicen que tenemos taras, que somos anormales. La familia LGBT+, a la que se supone que pertenecemos, nos dice que somos irremediablemente anticuadas en nuestros deseos. Ambos intentan de manera activa deconstruir el lesbianismo hasta el punto de la desaparición. Ambos intentan invisibilizar a las mujeres lesbianas. Ambos sugieren que simplemente no hemos probado una buena polla todavía. Los paralelismos entre las políticas queer y el patriarcado no pueden seguir siendo ignorados.


Translation originally posted here.

Original text initially posted here.

El Problema que No Tiene Nombre porque “Mujer” es Demasiado Esencialista

Este es el tercero de una serie de ensayos sobre sexo y género (ver partes 1 & 2). Inspirada por los comentarios de Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sobre identidad de género y por la consiguiente respuesta social, he escrito sobre el lenguaje en el discurso feminista y el significado de la palabra mujer.


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“¿Alguien me puede decir alguna manera más corta y no esencialista para referirse a las ‘personas que tienen útero y esas cosas’?” – Laurie Penny

La pregunta de Laurie Penny, que trata de encontrar un término que describa a las mujeres biológicamente hembras sin usar la palabra mujer, ejemplifica muy bien el mayor reto que tiene el discurso feminista en estos momentos. La tensión entre las mujeres que reconocen y las que borran el papel de la biología en el análisis estructural de nuestra opresión, ha abierto una gran brecha (MacKay, 2015) en el seno del movimiento feminista. Las contradicciones surgen cuando las feministas tratan de defender cómo la biología de las mujeres conforma nuestra opresión en una sociedad patriarcal, a la vez que deniegan que nuestra opresión sea fundamentalmente material. En algunos puntos, el análisis estructural riguroso y la inclusividad no son buenos compañeros de cama.

Esa misma semana, Dame Jeni Murray, que ha conducido durante cuarenta años el programa de la BBC Woman’s Hour (La Hora de la Mujer), fue criticada por preguntarse “¿Puede alguien que ha vivido como hombre, con todo el privilegio que ello conlleva, reclamar su condición de mujer?”. En su artículo para el Sunday Times, Murray reflexionaba sobre el papel de la socialización de género recibida durante los años formativos en la configuración de nuestro comportamiento, desafiando la idea de que es posible divorciar el Yo físico del contexto sociopolítico. De la misma manera, la novelista Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie casi fue llevada a la hoguera por sus comentarios acerca de la identidad de género.

Cuando le preguntaron “¿Importa de alguna manera la forma en la que se llega a ser mujer?” Adichie hizo lo que muy pocas feministas se atreven a hacer en estos momentos, debido a lo extremo del debate en torno al género, y dio una respuesta pública sincera:

“Cuando la gente habla sobre si las mujeres trans* son mujeres, lo que yo pienso es que las mujeres trans* son mujeres trans*. Creo que si has vivido en el mundo como hombre, con los privilegios que el mundo concede a los hombres, y después cambias de género —es difícil para mí aceptar que se puedan entonces equiparar tus experiencias con las de una mujer que ha vivido desde que nació como mujer, a la que no se le han otorgado esos privilegios que se les otorga a los hombres. No creo que sea algo bueno combinar las dos cosas en una sola. No creo que sea bueno hablar de los problemas de las mujeres como si fueran los mismos problemas que tienen las mujeres trans*. Lo que quiero decir es que el género no es biología, el género es sociología”. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Para el tribunal de la opinión queer, el crimen que cometió Adichie fue diferenciar entre aquellas que son biológicamente hembras y criadas como mujeres, y aquellas que transitan de hombre a mujer (y que fueron, a todos los efectos, tratadas como hombres antes de empezar su transición), en su descripción de la condición de mujer. En el discurso queer, los prefijos ‘cis’ y ‘trans’ han sido diseñados para señalar precisamente esa distinción, y sin embargo es sólo cuando las feministas intentan expresar y explorar esas diferencias, que esta diferenciación resulta una fuente de ira.

Las declaraciones de Adichie son perfectamente lógicas: es absurdo imaginar que aquellas socializadas como mujeres durante sus años formativos tienen las mismas Chimamanda-Ngozi-Adichie_photo1experiencias vitales que aquellas socializadas y leídas como hombres. La sociedad patriarcal depende de la imposición de género como vía para subordinar a las mujeres y garantizar el dominio de los hombres. Combinar las experiencias de las mujeres y de las mujeres trans*, borra el privilegio masculino que las mujeres trans* tuvieron antes de la transición, y niega el legado del comportamiento masculino aprendido. Además niega el verdadero significado del cómo se llega a ser mujer y de las implicaciones que tiene en la condición de mujer. En definitiva, niega ambas realidades.

‘Everyday Feminism’ publicó un artículo resaltando siete puntos que prueban que las mujeres trans* nunca tuvieron privilegio masculino. Un artículo que tal vez habría sido más efectivo en su propósito de abogar por la solidaridad feminista, si no hubiera dirigido semejante misoginia etarista hacia las feministas de la segunda ola en la línea que abre el texto. Con este artículo, Kai Cheng Thom sostiene que “…si [las mujeres trans*] son mujeres, eso implica que no pueden recibir ningún tipo de privilegio masculino —porque el privilegio masculino es algo que, por definición, sólo hombres y personas que se identifican como hombres pueden experimentar.”

Y aquí está el punto crucial del asunto —la tensión que existe entre la realidad material y la auto-identificación, en cómo se construye la definición de la condición de mujer. Si la condición de mujer trans* es sinónimo de la condición de mujer, las caraterísticas distintivas de la opresión de la mujer dejan de ser reconocibles como experiencias propias de las mujeres. El género no puede ser categorizado como un instrumento de opresión socialmente construido, si además tiene que ser considerado como una identidad innata. La conexión entre el sexo biológico y la función primaria del género —oprimir a las mujeres en beneficio de los hombres— queda borrada. Como declaró Adichie, esta combinación, en el mejor de los casos, no ayuda nada. Si no podemos reconocer los privilegios que reciben aquellos que son reconocidos y tratados como hombres, en detrimento de sus homólogas femeninas, no podemos reconocer la existencia del patriarcado.

La biología no es el destino. Sin embargo, en la sociedad patriarcal, determina los roles asignados a las niñas y los niños al nacer. Y hay una diferencia fundamental en la posición en la que las estructuras de poder colocan a aquellos biológicamente varones y a aquellas biológicamente mujeres, independientemente de su identidad de género.

“Las niñas son socializadas de maneras que son dañinas para su sentido del Yo —para que se reduzcan a sí mismas para satisfacer los egos de los hombres, para concebir sus cuerpos como contenedores de culpa y vergüenza. Muchas mujeres adultas tienen dificultades para superar y desaprender la mayoría de ese condicionamiento social. Una mujer trans* es una persona que ha nacido varón y una persona a la que, antes de su transición, el mundo trataba como varón. Esto significa que experimentó los privilegios que el mundo otorga a los hombres. Esto no niega el dolor de la confusión de género o las difíciles complejidades de cómo se siente al vivir en un cuerpo que no es el suyo. Porque la verdad sobre el privilegio social es que no tiene nada que ver con cómo te sientas. Tiene que ver con cómo te trata el mundo, con las sutiles y no tan sutiles cosas que internalizas y absorbes.” –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Si las mujeres no pueden seguir siendo identificadas con fines políticos como miembros de su casta social, la opresión de las mujeres no puede ser abordada o combatida. Por consiguiente, los objetivos feministas se ven socavados por las políticas queer.

La lingüista Deborah Cameron ha identificado esta tendencia como la de “la increíble mujer que desaparece”, resaltando el patrón de las realidades vividas por las mujeres y de la opresión invisivilizada por el lenguaje de género neutro. Mientras la condición de mujer es despiadadamente deconstruida en el discurso queer, la categoría de condición de hombre sigue pendiente de ser discutida.

SLM-NOWO-31

No es un accidente que la masculinidad permanezca incontestable incluso cuando la palabra mujer es considerada ofensiva y excluyente. ‘Hombre’ es el estándar normativo de humanidad, ‘mujer’ es el otrodel hombre. Al reducir a las mujeres a “no-hombres”, como trató de hacer el Green Party en Reino Unido; al reducir a las mujeres a “personas embarazadas”, como aconseja la Asociación Médica Británica (British Medical Association); el discurso queer perpetúa la clasificación de las mujeres como otro.

La ideología queer usa las convenciones patriarcales en su propia conclusión lógica, mediante la completa eliminación de las mujeres.

Definir a la clase oprimida en relación con el opresor, denegando a los oprimidos el uso del lenguaje para que hablen de cómo se les margina, sólo sirve para ratificar la jerarquía de género. Aunque estos cambios lingüísticos parecen inclusivos al principio, tienen la consecuencia imprevista de perpetuar la misoginia.

“Eliminar la palabra mujer y el lenguaje biológico de las discusiones relativas a la realidad corpórea de las mujeres nacidas hembras, es peligroso. Negarse a reconocer la anatomía femenina, las capacidades reproductivas y la sexualidad ha sido, desde hace mucho, trabajo del patriarcado. Parece como si hubiéramos tenido unas cuantas décadas doradas de reconocimiento,en las que hemos podido llevar nuestra experiencia vivida en nuestra condición corpórea de mujer —pero ahora tenemos que abandonar este lenguaje en favor del grupo. Incluso con la lógica en el asiento del conductor, es difícil no sentir que este aspecto de la condición de mujer está siendo borrado con incómodos ecos del patriarcado que dejamos atrás.” – Vonny Moyes

Hablar de los asuntos relativos al sexo biológico y de la socialización de género se ha vuelto cada vez más controvertido, con algunos sectores de la ideología queer clasificando automáticamente ambos temas en el ‘mito’ TERF. Sería muy fácil desear que la conexión entre la biología de las mujeres y nuestra opresión, así como las consecuencias de la socialización de género, fueran sólo mitos. En un escenario así, aquellas personas en posesión de un cuerpo femenino —mujeres— podríamos simplemente identificarnos de otra manera para evitar la opresión estructural, podríamos escoger ser de cualquier grupo que no fuera el de la casta oprimida. Sin embargo, la explotación de la biología femenina y la socialización de género, juegan ambas un papel central en el establecimiento y mantenimiento de la opresión de las mujeres por parte de los hombres.

Las políticas queer cambian el envoltorio de la opresión de la mujer para venderlo como una posición de inherente privilegio, mientras, simultáneamente, nos priva del lenguaje necesario para abordar y oponer esa misma opresión. El asunto de la identidad de género nos deja a las feministas en un dilema a dos bandas: o aceptamos que ser marginadas como consecuencia de nuestro sexo, es privilegio cis; o alzamos la voz para después ser etiquetadas como TERFs. No hay espacio para voces disidentes en esta conversación —no si esas voces pertenecen a mujeres. En este sentido, hay muy poca diferencia entre los estándares establecidos por el discurso queer y aquellos que gobiernan las normas patriarcales.

La palabra mujer es importante. Con el nombre viene el poder. Como Patricia Hill Collins observó (2000), la auto-definición es un componente clave de la resistencia política. Si la condición de mujer no puede ser descrita positivamente, si la condición de mujer se entiende sólo como el negativo de la condición de hombre, las mujeres quedan relegadas a la condición de objeto. Es sólo mediante la consideración de las mujeres como el sujeto —como seres humanos auto-realizados y con derecho a la auto-determinación— que la liberación se vuelve posible.

“La fuerza de la palabra ‘mujer’ es que puede ser usada para afirmar nuestra humanidad, dignigad y valía, sin negar nuestra feminidad corpórea y sin tratarla como una fuente de culpa y vergüenza. No nos reduce a úteros andantes ni nos desexualiza ni nos descorporiza. Por eso es tan importante que las feministas sigan usándola. Un movimiento cuyo propósito es liberar a la mujer no debería tratar la palabra ‘mujer’ como algo sucio.” – Deborah Cameron

F-31Si no usamos la palabra ‘mujer’ abiertamente y con orgullo, las políticas feministas carecerán del alcance necesario para organizar una resistencia real a la subordinación de la mujer. No se puede liberar una casta de gente que no debe ni siquiera ser nombrada. La condición de mujer es devaluada por estos traicioneros intentos de invisibilizarla. Si las mujeres no nos consideramos a nosotras mismas dignas de los inconvenientes que causa el nombrarnos directamente, específicamente; difícilmente podremos argumentar que valemos las dificultades que traerá la liberación.

Cualquier ofensa potencial, causada por referirse inequívocamente al cuerpo femenino, es menor comparada con el abuso y la explotación de nuestros cuerpos femeninos bajo el patriarcado. Como Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie dice, “‘Porque eres una chica’ nunca es una razón para nada. Jamás.”


Translation originally posted here.

Original text initially posted here.

Sexo, Género y el Nuevo Esencialismo

Sex, Gender, and the New Essentialism is now available in Spanish! Many thanks to SOMOS LA MITAD for the translation.


 

Breve prefacio: Este es el primero de una serie de ensayos sobre sexo, género y sexualidad. Si estás de acuerdo con lo escrito, fenomenal. Si no estás de acuerdo con nada de lo que leerás a continuación, también está perfectamente bien. De cualquier manera, tu vida no se verá afectada por nada de esto una vez que cierres esta pestaña independientemente de lo que pienses sobre este post.

Me niego a seguir callada por miedo a que se me etiquete como mala feminista. Me niego a seguir callada mientras otras mujeres son sometidas al acoso y derribo por sus opiniones en torno al género. En nombre de la sororidad, este texto está dedicado a Julie Bindel. Puede que nuestros puntos de vista no siempre coincidan, pero agradezco mucho su trabajo para acabar con la violencia machista contra las mujeres. En palabras de la gran Audre Lorde: “Soy intencionada y no le tengo miedo a nada”.

Cuando me matriculé para formarme en Estudios de Género, mi abuelo me apoyó —contento de que por fin hubiera encontrado la dirección para encaminar mi vida y de que hubiera desarrollado una ética de trabajo que nunca se llegó a materializar durante mis años de colegio— aunque le sorprendía el tema. “¿Para qué tienes que estudiar eso?” Me preguntó. “Yo te lo puedo enseñar gratis: si tienes partes masculinas*, eres un hombre. Si tienes partes femeninas*, eres una mujer. No tiene más misterio, no necesitas una carrera para saber eso”. (*Las convenciones sociales nos impedían a mi abuelo y a mí usar las palabras pene o vagina/vulva en esta conversación o en cualquier otra que mantuviéramos.)

Mi reacción inicial fue el shock: después de haber pasado demasiado tiempo en Twitter y habiendo sido testigo de la extrema polaridad del discurso en torno al género, era consciente de que expresar una opinión como esa en las redes sociales conllevaría el riesgo de convertirte en el sujeto de una campaña de abuso continuado. Sin embargo, siendo blanco y varón, deduje que —si mi septuagenario abuelo decidiera aventurarse a usar Twitter— probablemente estaría a salvo de tal abuso, que normalmente y casi en su totalidad se dirige a las mujeres.

Y además, el escuchar ese punto de vista expresado con esa naturalidad, el estar juntos, sentados en el jardín de casa; nos situaba a un mundo de distancia de las tensiones del espacio digital, del miedo de las mujeres a ser etiquetadas como ‘malas feministas’ y a convertirse en blanco del acoso público. Esta conversación con mi abuelo me llevó a considerar no sólo la realidad del género, sino también el contexto del discurso de género. La intimidación es una táctica silenciadora muy poderosa —un ambiente gobernado por el miedo no conduce al pensamiento crítico, al discurso público o al desarrollo de ideas.

Hasta el final de su vida, mi abuelo permaneció completamente ignorante ante el cisma que el género había creado en el movimiento feminista, una división conocida como la guerra de las TERF. Para las no iniciadas, TERF son las siglas en inglés de Feminista Radical Trans-Excluyente (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) —un acrónimo que se usa para describir a las mujeres cuyo feminismo es crítico con el género y que abogan por la abolición de la jerarquía. Lo que cada una entiende por género es sin duda la principal fuente de tensión entre las políticas feministas y las políticas queer.

La Jerarquía de Género 

El patriarcado depende de la jerarquía de género. Para desmantelar el patriarcado —objetivo central del movimiento feminista— el género debe ser abolido. En la sociedad patriarcal, el género es lo que hace que el hombre sea el estándar normativo de humanidad, y que la mujer sea lo Otro. El género es el causante de que la sexualidad femenina esté tan estrictamente controlada —las mujeres somos putas si permitimos a los hombres el acceso sexual a nuestros cuerpos y somos unas estrechas si no lo hacemos— y de que no se juzgue de la misma manera la sexualidad masculina. El género es la razón por la que las mujeres que son abusadas por hombres sean culpabilizadas y públicamente avergonzadas —’lo estaba pidiendo a gritos’ o ‘iba provocando’— mientras el comportamiento de los hombres abusadores se suele justificar con un “ya sabes cómo son los hombres” o “en realidad es un buen hombre”. El género es la razón por la que se premia a las niñas que son cuidadosas, pasivas y modestas, cualidades que no se fomentan en los niños. El género es la razón por la que los niños son premiados por ser competitivos, agresivos y ambiciosos, cualidades que no se fomentan en las niñas. El género es la razón por la que se considera a las mujeres como una propiedad, pasando de pertenecer a sus padres a pertenecer a sus maridos a través del matrimonio. El género es la razón por la que se espera de las mujeres que hagan el trabajo doméstico y emocional a la vez que la gran mayoría de los cuidados, y de que estos trabajos sean devaluados e invisibilizados por considerarse femeninos.

El género no es un problema abstracto. En Reino Unido, cada tres días hay una mujer asesinada por un hombre. Se estima que, cada año, 85.000 mujeres son violadas por hombres en Gales e Inglaterra. Una de cada cuatro mujeres británicas sufre violencia a manos de su pareja masculina, cifra que aumenta a una de cada tres a escala global. Más de 200 millones de mujeres y niñas, en vida a día de hoy, han visto mutilados sus genitales. La liberación de las mujeres y las niñas de la violencia de los hombres y de la violencia usada para mantener esta diferencia de poder, es un objetivo fundamental del feminismo —objetivo que es del todo incompatible con la aceptación de las limitaciones que impone el género como frontera de lo que es posible en nuestras vidas.

“El problema con el género es que prescribe cómo debemos ser en lugar de reconocer cómo somos. Imagina lo felices que seriamos todos, lo libres que seríamos de ser nosotros mismos, si no tuviéramos la carga de las expectativas de género… los niños y las niñas son innegablemente diferentes biológicamente, pero la socialización exagera las diferencias y da paso a un círculo vicioso.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All be Feminists

Los roles de género son una prisión. El género es una trampa construida socialmente y diseñada para oprimir a las mujeres como casta sexual en beneficio de los hombres como casta sexual. Y la importancia del sexo biológico en esta dinámica no puede ser ignorada, pese a los recientes esfuerzos por redefinir el género como una identidad en lugar de una jerarquía. La explotación sexual y reproductiva de los cuerpos femeninos son bases materiales de la opresión de las mujeres —nuestra biología es usada por nuestros opresores, los hombres, para dominarnos. Y aunque hay una pequeña minoría de personas que no encajan en el binarismo del sexo biológico —las personas intersexuales—, esto no altera la naturaleza estructural y sistemática de la opresión de las mujeres.

Las feministas han criticado la jerarquía de género durante cientos de años y por buenas razones. Cuando Sojourner Truth trató de deconstruir la feminidad, criticó cómo la misoginia y el racismo anti-negros conformaban la definición de la categoría de mujer. Usando su propia fuerza física como evidencia empírica, Truth demostró que ser mujer no dependía de las características asociadas a la feminidad y cuestionó la marginación de los cuerpos femeninos negros, tan necesaria para elevar la fragilidad de la feminidad blanca al ideal femenino. ‘¿No soy yo una mujer?’ (Ain’t I a Woman) es una de las primeras críticas feministas al esencialismo de género; el discurso de Truth era un reconocimiento de la interacción de las jerarquías de raza y género en el contexto de la sociedad patriarcal de la supremacia blanca (Hooks, 1981).

Simone de Beauvoir también deconstruyó la feminidad diciendo que ‘no se nace mujer, se llega a serlo’. En su ‘Segundo Sexo’, afirmaba que el género no es innato, sino que impone una serie de roles y que se nos socializa para adoptar unos u otros en función de nuestro sexo biológico. Resaltó las limitaciones de estos roles, particularmente las impuestas sobre las mujeres como consecuencia del esencialismo de género, de la idea de que el género es innato.

Como de Beauvoir defendió, el esencialismo de género ha sido usado contra las mujeres durante siglos con el objetivo de negarnos la entrada en la esfera pública, en la vida independiente de la dominación masculina. Afirmaciones como que la mujer tenía una capacidad intelectual inferior, una pasividad inherente y una irracionalidad innata, eran excusas que se utilizaban para relegar la vida de las mujeres al contexto doméstico, basándose en la idea de que ese es el estado natural de la mujer.

La Historia demuestra que la insistencia en que existe un “cerebro femenino” es una táctica del patriarcado que ha servido para que el sufragio, los derechos de propiedad, la autonomía del cuerpo propio y el acceso a la educación formal, fueran dominio exclusivo de los hombres.  Si miramos la larga historia de la misoginia, que se apoya en la idea de un cerebro femenino, no solamente comprobamos que es científicamente falso sino que además este neurosexismo (Fine, 2010) o neuromachismo es contradictorio con la perspectiva feminista.

Y aún así el concepto de cerebro femenino está siendo reivindicado no sólo por los conservadores sino también en el contexto de las políticas queer y de izquierdas, que generalmente se consideran progresistas. Explorar el género como una identidad en contraposición con una jerarquía, a menudo se basa en la presunción de que el género es innato —”en el cerebro”— y no construido socialmente. Así, el desarrollo de las políticas trans y los consecuentes desacuerdos acerca de la naturaleza de la opresión de la mujer —sus raíces y lo que define a la mujer— han abierto una gran grieta (MacKay, 2014) en el seno del movimiento feminista.

Feminismo e Identidad de Género

La palabra transgénero se usa para describir el estado de un individuo cuya concepción de su propio género no está alineada con su sexo biológico. Por ejemplo, a alguien que nace con cuerpo de mujer y se identifica como hombre se le denomina hombre trans (transhombre) y a alguien que nace con cuerpo de hombre y se identifica como mujer se le llama mujer trans (transmujer). Ser transgénero puede implicar cierto grado de intervención médica, que puede incluir terapias de reemplazo hormonal y cirugía de reasignación de sexo, un proceso de transición que se lleva a cabo para alinear el Yo material con la identidad interna de las personas transgénero. Sin embargo, de los 650.000 británicos que entran en el paraguas transgénero, se estima que sólo 30.000 han llevado a cabo algún tipo de transición médica o quirúrgica.

El término trans describía inicialmente a aquellos que nacen hombres y se identifican como mujeres, o viceversa, pero ahora se usa para denominar una gran variedad de identidades basadas en la no conformidad de género. Trans incluye identidades no binarias (cuando una persona no se identifica ni como hombre ni como mujer), la fluidez de género (cuando la identidad de un individuo va cambiando de hombre a mujer y viceversa), y el género queer (cuando un individuo se identifica con la masculinidad y la feminidad a la vez o con ninguna de las dos), por nombrar algunos ejemplos.

Lo contrario de transgénero es cisgénero, una palabra que se usa para aceptar la alineación del sexo biológico con el rol de género que le corresponde. Ser cisgénero se ha establecido como privilegio en el discurso queer, con las personas cis en la posición de clase opresora y las personas trans en la de oprimida. Aunque las personas trans son innegablemente un grupo marginado, no se hace ninguna distinción entre los hombres y las mujeres cis en relación a cómo se manifiesta esa marginación. La violencia machista es responsable de los asesinatos constantes de mujeres trans (transmujeres), un patrón trágico que Judith Butler achaca a “la necesidad de los hombres de cumplir con los estándares socialmente establecidos de masculinidad y poder”.

Desde una perspectiva queer, lo que dictamina si la sociedad patriarcal te margina o te beneficia, es el género con el que te identificas y no la casta sexual a la que perteneces. En este sentido, las políticas queer están fundamentalmente en desacuerdo con el análisis feminista.

El marco queer posiciona el género en la mente, donde existe como una identidad autodefinida positivamente, no como una jerarquía. Desde una perspectiva feminista, el género se entiende cómo el vehículo para perpetuar el desequilibrio de poder estructural que el patriarcado ha establecido entre las castas sexuales.

“Si no se reconoce la realidad material del sexo biólogico o su significado como eje de la opresión, la teoría política no puede no puede incorporar ningún análisis del patriarcado. La subordinación continua e histórica de las mujeres no ha surgido porque algunos miembros de nuestra especie decidieran identificarse con un rol social inferior [y sería un acto de atroz culpabilización de la víctima (victim blaming) sugerir que así ha sido]. La opresión ha surgido como método por el cual los varones pueden dominar a esa mitad de la especie que puede gestar descendencia, y explotar su labor sexual y reproductiva. No podemos entender el desarrollo histórico del patriarcado, ni la continua discriminación machista, ni la misoginia cultural, si no reconocemos la realidad de la biología de la mujer ni la existencia de una casta de personas biológicamente hembras.” – Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, What I believe about sex and gender

Como la teoría queer se basa en pensamientos post-estructuralistas, por definición es incapaz de aportar un análisis estructural coherente de ninguna opresión sistemática. Después de todo, si el Yo material es arbitrario en la manera en que cada uno experimenta el mundo, no puede ser un factor en el entendimiento de ninguna casta política. Lo que la teoría queer no advierte es que la opresión estructural no tiene nada que ver con cómo se identifica cada individuo. El género como identidad no es un vector en la matriz de la dominación (Hill Collins, 2000) –si alguien se identifica o no con uno o varios roles de género determinados, no tiene ningún efecto en la posición que el patriarcado le otorga.

El Problema con la Etiqueta ‘Cis’

Ser cis significa “identificarse con el género asignado al nacer”. Pero la asignación de roles de género basada en las características sexuales es una herramienta del patriarcado que se usa para subordinar a las mujeres. La imposición de una serie de limitaciones en función del género asignado con el objetivo de definir la trayectoria de su desarrollo, es la más temprana manifestación del patriarcado en la vida de una persona, lo cual es especialmente dañino en el caso de las niñas.
El esencialismo que se esconde tras la asunción de que las mujeres se identifican con el vehículo de su opresión, se basa en la creencia de que las mujeres estamos inherente e idóneamente preparadas para que se ejerza poder sobre nosotras. En otras palabras, categorizar a las mujeres como ‘cis’ es misoginia.

A través de la lente postmoderna de la teoría queer, la opresión como casta sexual se ve como un privilegio. La violencia masculina, a nivel global, es una de las primeras causas de muerte prematura de las mujeres. En un mundo en el que el feminicidio es endémico, en el que una de cada tres mujeres sufren violencia machista… nacer mujer no es un privilegio. Que una mujer nacida hembra se identifique con un rol de género determinado o no, no influye en si se verá sometida a la mutilación genital femenina, o en si tendrá dificultades para acceder al cuidado médico de su salud reproductiva, o en si será discriminada por menstruar.

Es imposible escapar a la opresión material de base mediante la identificación personal como individuo del género opuesto. Por tanto, la etiqueta cisgénero tiene poca o ninguna influencia sobre la posición en la que el patriarcado coloca a las mujeres. Considerar que habitar un cuerpo de mujer es un privilegio, implica rechazar el contexto sociopolítico de la sociedad patriarcal.

La lucha por los derechos de las mujeres ha sido larga y difícil, cada avance conseguido a un muy alto precio por aquellas que resistieron al patriarcado. Y la lucha no ha terminado. Los significativos avances en el reconocimiento de los derechos de las mujeres conseguidos por la segunda ola de feministas, fueron deliberadamente rechazados con una reacción sociopolítica muy violenta (Faludi, 1991), un patrón que se está repitiendo en la actualidad hasta tal punto que el acceso de las mujeres al aborto legal y a otras formas de cuidado de su salud reproductiva está siendo puesta en riesgo por el fascismo conservador que prolifera en Europa y Estados Unidos. Intersecciones de raza, clase, capacidades y sexualidad, también juegan un papel importante en la definición de la manera en la que las estructuras de poder actúan sobre las mujeres.

Y aún así, en nombre de la inclusión, las mujeres estamos siendo despojadas del lenguaje requerido para identificar y posteriormente combatir nuestra propia opresión. Las mujeres embarazadas pasan a ser personas embarazadas. Amamantar pasa a ser dar el ‘pecho/torso’ (chestfeeding en lugar de breastfeeding). Citar la biología de las mujeres se convierte en una forma de intolerancia retrógrada que hace imposible el hablar de las políticas reproductivas, de parto y de maternidad sin transgredir la ‘norma’. Además, hacer que el lenguaje en referencia al sexo sea neutral, no previene o combate el que las mujeres sean oprimidas como casta sexual. Borrar el cuerpo de las mujeres no altera en manera alguna la forma que tiene el género de oprimir a las mujeres.

Desde el punto de vista queer, el discurso de género pertenece exclusivamente a aquellos que se identifican como trans. El resultado es que muchas feministas tratan de evitar el tema del género, a pesar de ser la jerarquía que desempeña el papel principal en la opresión de la mujer. Las invitaciones a beber lejía o a morir en un incendio son, nada sorprendentemente, una táctica silenciadora muy efectiva. Los chistes y las amenazas —muchas veces imposibles de distinguir unos de otros— en referencia a la violencia contra las mujeres se usan de manera habitual para callar voces disidentes. Este abuso no puede ser considerado como defensivo, como la frustración de los oprimidos volcada sobre el opresor. Es, en el mejor de los casos, hostilidad horizontal (Kennedy, 1970), y en el peor, la legitimación de la violencia masculina contra las mujeres.

Las políticas de identidad queer yerran al obviar, y a veces ignorar, las formas en las que las mujeres son oprimidas como casta sexual. Este abordaje selectivo de las políticas de liberación es defectuoso en su fundamento. Despolitizar el género y abordar de manera acrítica los desequilibrios de poder que crea, no beneficia a nadie y mucho menos a las mujeres. Sólo la abolición del género traerá consigo la liberación de las restricciones que el género impone. Los grilletes del género no pueden ser rediseñados como objetivo en la búsqueda de la libertad.


 

Translation originally posted here.

Original text initially posted here.

The Vanishing Point: A Reflection Upon Lesbian Erasure

No longer would these truths be contained inside me, and so it is time to send these words out into the world.

Part four in my series of essays on sex and gender – here are parts 1, 2, and 3. This one is dedicated to E for The Argonauts and the encouragement.


 

This is a strange time to be a young lesbian woman. Well, young-ish. In the time it has taken me to evolve from a fledgling baby dyke into a fully formed lesbian, the tension between queer identity politics and women’s liberation has become pretty much unbearable. Facebook added Pride flag reactions in the same month they started banning lesbian women for describing ourselves as dykes. As equal marriage legislation and same-sex adoption rights grow increasingly standard in mainstream society, the right of lesbian women to self-define and declare sexual boundaries is undermined within the LGBT+ community. Such contradictions are characteristic of this era, but that doesn’t make them any easier to live with from day to day.

Love is love, unless you happen to be a lesbian woman – in which case your sexuality will be relentlessly deconstructed under suspicion of being exclusionary. love is loveAs I have written before, every sexuality is by its very definition exclusionary. Sexuality is a set of parameters that govern the characteristics we are potentially attracted to in others. For lesbians, it’s the presence of female primary and secondary sex characteristics that create (but do not guarantee) the possibility of attraction. Sex, not gender (nor even gender identity), is the key factor. But in a queer setting, as in mainstream patriarchal society, lesbian is a contentious label.

Lesbian women are instead encouraged to describe ourselves as queer, a term so broad and nebulous as to be devoid of specific meaning, on the grounds that nobody in possession of a penis is read as being entirely outside of our sexual boundaries. Jocelyn MacDonald rounds it up nicely:

“Lesbians are women, and women are taught that we’re supposed to be sexually available objects of public consumption. So we spend a lot of time saying “No.” No, we won’t fuck or partner with men; no, we won’t change our minds about this; no, this body is a no-man’s land. Lesbian, straight or bi, women are punished whenever we try to assert a boundary. Queer as a catchall term makes it really hard for lesbians to assert and maintain this boundary, because it makes it impossible to name this boundary.”

In a time when acknowledging biological sex is treated as an act of bigotry, homosexuality is automatically problematised – the unforeseen consequences of queer identity politics are wide and far-reaching. Or rather, it would be more accurate to say, lesbian sexuality is made problematic: the idea of women exclusively directing our desires and energies towards one another remains suspect. Somehow, the pattern of men centring men in their lives never receives the same backlash. Lesbians are a threat to the status quo, whether it’s part of heteropatriarchy or queer culture. When lesbians dismiss the idea of taking on a partner with a penis, we are branded “vagina fetishists” and “gynephiles” – given that lesbian sexuality is routinely pathologised in queer discourse, just as lesbian sexuality is pathologised by social conservatism, it’s no surprise to me that so many young women succumb to social pressure and drop lesbian in favour of queer. Self-erasure is the price of acceptance.

“It is no secret that fear and hatred of homosexuals permeate our society. But the contempt for lesbians is distinct. It is directly rooted in the abhorrence of the self-defined woman, the self-determining woman, the woman who is not controlled by male need, imperative, or manipulation. Contempt for lesbians is most often a political repudiation of women who organize in their own behalf to achieve public presence, significant power, visible integrity.

 

Enemies of women, those who are determined to deny us freedom and dignity, use the word lesbian to provoke a hatred of women who do not conform. This hatred rumbles everywhere. This hatred is sustained and expressed by virtually every institution. When male power is challenged, this hatred can be intensified and inflamed so that it is volatile, palpable. The threat is that this hatred will explode into violence. The threat is omnipresent because violence against women is culturally applauded. And so the word lesbian, hurled or whispered as accusation, is used to focus male hostility on women who dare to rebel, and it is also used to frighten and bully women who have not yet rebelled.” – Andrea Dworkin

As queer identity politics would have it, biological women being exclusively interested in being with other women is a sign of bigotry. Let’s not waste paragraphs on equivocation. This world contains more than enough silences around the subject of gender, and it is invariably women who pay the highest price for those silences – in this case, women who love other women. And so I will say it: for lesbians to categorically deny the possibility of taking a partner with a penis is framed as transphobic by queer politics because it does not include transwomen in the sphere of lesbian desire. The inherent lesbophobia of reducing lesbian sexuality to a source of validation is, of course, given a free pass.

Yet, lesbian sexuality doesn’t necessarily exclude people who identify as trans. Lesbian sexuality can extend to biologically female people who identify as non-binary or genderqueer. Lesbian sexuality can extend to biologically female people who identify as transmen. As a comparatively high proportion of self-identified transmen lived as butch lesbians prior to transition, it is not unheard of for transmen to be part of lesbian relationships.

Where is the boundary between a butch lesbian and a transman? During her reflections on lesbian life, Roey Thorpe considers that “…invariably, someone asks: Where have all the butches gone?” The short answer is transmasculinity (and the long answer requires an essay of its own). At what point within the spectrum of identity does butch end and trans begin?

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The border is amorphous, though in an imaginative sort of way Maggie Nelson attempts to chart it within The Argonauts. Her lover, the artist Harry Dodge, Nelson describes as a “debonair butch on T.” To Nelson’s thinking, “whatever sameness I’ve noticed in my relationships with women is not the sameness of Woman, and certainly not the sameness of parts. Rather, it is the shared, crushing understanding of what it means to live in a patriarchy.” Dodge is fluidly gendered and masculine presenting. Testosterone and top surgery do not remove an understanding of what it is to be located, in this world, as female. Those truths coexist.

The idea that lesbians are transphobic because our sexual boundaries do not extend to accommodate penis is a phallocentric fallacy. And the pressure on lesbians to redefine those boundaries is frankly terrifying – it rests on an attitude of entitlement towards women’s bodies, an entitlement that is part of patriarchy and now being replicated within queer space. Lesbian women do not exist as sex objects or sources of validation, but self-actualised human beings with desires and boundaries of our own.

Talking about queer politics with gay male friends my age is something of an eye-opener. I am reminded of two things: With men, no is accepted as the closing word. With women, no is treated as the opening of a negotiation. Most gay men in my life are in turns horrified and amused by the notion that the parameters of their sexuality could or should be expected to move in accordance with the dictates of queer politics. Some (the fortunate ones – ignorance here is bliss) are unfamiliar with the rabbit hole of queer theory. Others (the newly initiated) are, unsurprisingly, resistant to the queer problematising of homosexuality. One went so far as to suggest gays, lesbians, and bisexuals break away from the alphabet soup of queer politics and self-organise specifically around the lines of sexuality – given that numerous dykes have been  subject to the TERF witch-hunt for making the same case, it was at once uplifting and depressing to hear a man outside of radical feminism voice the same views without fear of censure.

I am glad to say that none of the gay men I call friend have opted for what can be described as the Owen Jones route: dismissing the concerns lesbian women as bigotry in pursuit of those tasty, rainbow-sprinkled ally cookies. The trend of left-wing men cashing in on misogyny to bolster their own reputations is a tale as old as patriarchy. That it happens in the context of queer community comes as no great surprise, as queer culture is male-dominated.

Queer community can ultimately be an alienating for lesbian women. Although I participated in queer spaces around the time of coming out, I have grown steadily more withdrawn from that context over time. I am by no means alone in that – plenty of lesbian women within my age bracket feel conscious of being erased and displaced in queer settings, places we are told that we are meant to belong. It’s not purely older lesbians who are resistant to queer politics, although god knows they warned us about its misogyny. My only regret is not listening sooner – that I wasted time and energy trying to bridge the ideological gap between queer and radical feminisms.

Queer discourse uses something of a carrot and stick approach to shoehorn young lesbians into conforming – either we can embrace queer and belong, or we can be irrelevant outsiders just like boring older lesbians. This approach, reliant as it is on ageist misogyny, was misjudged: I can think of nothing I would like to be so much as an older lesbian, and it is pretty wonderful to know that’s the future in front of me. The depth of thought older lesbians extend towards me, the way they challenge and guide me through the process of feminist consciousness, plays a pivotal role in shaping both my sense of the world and how I understand my place in it. If I am really fortunate, one day I will have those soaring (and, at times, intellectually gruelling) conversations with future generations of baby dykes.

Although I appreciate the support and sisterhood of older lesbians (by far my favourite demographic of human beings), in certain respects I also envy them the relative simplicity of lesbian existence during the 1970s and ‘80s. The reason for that envy: they lived lesbian lives in the time before queer politics went mainstream. I do not say that lightly, or to imply that the past was some utopia for gay and lesbian rights. It wasn’t. Their generation(s) had Section 28 and mine has same-sex marriage. What gains my generation benefit from are the direct product of their struggle. Yet they were allowed to live at least part of their lives in a time when, of all the reasons the word lesbian was met with disgust, being deemed “too exclusionary” was not one of them. There was no impetus, within a feminist or gay context, to “queer” lesbian sexuality.

Some things haven’t changed a great deal. Lesbian sexuality is still routinely degraded. Lesbian women are still the posterdykes for “don’t worry, I’m not that type of feminist.” Only now, when I check my Twitter notifications, it genuinely takes a moment to work out whether my being a lesbian has offended the alt-right or the queer left. Does it particularly matter? The lesbophobia takes the same format. The hatred of women is identical.

women's libOver Pride, a picture of a smiling transwoman clad in a bloodstained t-shirt proclaiming “I punch TERFs” circulated on social media. The image was captioned “this is what gay liberation looks like.” That those of us living at the intersection of gay identity and womanhood – lesbians – are often branded TERFs purely by virtue of our sexuality makes this claim particularly dubious. Considering that we live in a world where one in three women experiences physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, I cannot share in the amusement – there’s nothing revolutionary or countercultural in making a joke about punching women. Violence against women was glorified without a second thought, positioned as an objective of liberation politics. And we all know that TERFs are women, as men who assert boundaries are rarely subject to such vitriol. Pointing out the misogyny of course results in a fresh deluge of misogyny.

There is one favourite rejoinder reserved for feminists critiquing the sexual politics of gender identity, a retort associated more with surly teenage boys than any politics of resistance: “suck my girldick.” Or, if malice couples with a stab at originality, “choke on my girldick.” Being told to choke on a girldick doesn’t feel any different from being told to choke on a garden variety dick, yet it has become almost a routine part of gender discourse unfolding on Twitter. The act remains the same. The misogyny remains the same. And it’s telling that in this scenario the sexual gratification is derived through an act that quite literally silences women.

An iconic line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet proclaims that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” With this in mind (for there is far more of tragedy than romance about this situation), I argue that a penis by any other name would sexually repel lesbians. And that’s fine. Sexual disinterest doesn’t equate to discrimination, oppression, or marginalisation. Sexual entitlement, however, does: it plays a fundamental part in the oppression of women, and manifests clearly through rape culture. Within a queer framing there is no space given over to discussions about the misogyny that enables entitlement towards sexual accessing lesbian women’s bodies. Simply acknowledging that the issue exists is considered beyond the pale and, as a result, that misogyny is protected by layers and layers of silence.

This is not such a brilliant time to be a lesbian. The unwillingness of queer politics to simply accept lesbian sexuality as valid in its own right is deeply isolating, at points privileging the desire to have sex over the right to refuse sex. And yet lesbian connection persists, as it always has done. Lesbian relationships continue to nourish whilst offering a radical alternative to heteropatriarchy – just because it’s not particularly visible right now, just because it doesn’t have the mainstream (i.e. patriarchal) appeal of queer culture, doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. Lesbians are everywhere  – that will not change.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.


Bibliography

Margaret Atwood. (1985). The Handmaid’s Tale

Andrea Dworkin. (1978). The Power of Words

Cherríe Moraga. (2009). Still Loving in the (Still) War Years: On Keeping Queer Queer

Maggie Nelson. (2015). The Argonauts

Adrienne Rich. (1976). Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution