Small Post

There are no long essays this weekend, and it’s not because I’m on blog vacation, it’s because I don’t have any new pieces on the go. I’ve been saving lots of interesting articles on Facebook lately but when I go back to read about them, I just think “ugh, this is not worth my time.”

For example, here is a “non-binary” woman who knew she was non-binary because she wanted to play a male character in a play. From what little I know about her watching this video, she appears to be a conventionally feminine straight woman who just has short hair. What silliness! Even feminine women can rock the short haircuts, and anyone can want to play any character in a play and it doesn’t mean a thing. Last time I was in a play I was a male character. This woman also admits that “female is a sex” so presumably she knows she is female. Why female pronouns wouldn’t be appropriate for her is a mystery to me. Of course she has a unique relationship to masculinity and femininity—all of us do. If that’s all it takes to be non-binary, then everyone is non-binary, which renders the concept pretty meaningless.

Another article I saved this week is a BDSM article from Autostraddle in which a submissive woman who doesn’t use female pronouns for herself writes about how she loves being used for sex, in a way that precisely mirrors the way that men abuse women and girls. She says:

“…sometimes, sex is not for me. Sometimes, sex is me being used — warm, open, and at the whim of someone else’s pleasure. I like being used. Within the confines of a well-negotiated BDSM scene, I like when my opinions are ignored, when it doesn’t matter what I want, when my body is present for whatever my dominant decides to use it for.”

This whole article is about her sexualizing the way that men objectify and dehumanize women and it should actually be given a trigger warning. What she describes is exactly the way porn presents women—as nothing but warm holes for men to use, with no feelings or desires of our own, who only exist as a sex toy for an abusive man. Sometimes women learn to sexualize this because it’s the type of sexuality we see from the media we consume—especially porn itself, but also other pornified media such as music videos and magazines. Women learn that what makes her worthy and desirable is when men want to abuse us, and then we learn to crave that abuse as a form of validation. What we should do is work to identify this and unlearn it, not promote it to other people as a fun thing to try in bed. Abuse should not be viewed as sexy. One of the steps we all need to take toward ending abuse is identifying when abuse is being sexualized and speak out against it. Autostraddle is purportedly a magazine for ‘queer women,’ but these days ‘queer’ has nothing to do with being lesbian or bisexual and everything to do with the abusive, commodified sexuality that sex-pozzitive types promote. There is no reason to think that the average lesbian or bisexual woman wants to bring porn-style abuse into her sex life.

In queer theory, any kind of sexuality that goes against the status quo is considered “queer,” except queer theorists ignore the existence of sex-based oppression and instead of identifying patriarchy as the status quo they regard imaginary “anti-sex prudes” as the status quo. This means their idea of “queer” sexuality is any sexuality that goes against the wishes of the “anti-sex prudes,”  which is why, when you deliberately recreate the type of sexuality you’ve been taught by the dominant culture, it is considered “subversive” by queer/sex-pozz types.

On a similar note, here’s a unicorn horn dildo.

A dildo should be shaped in a way that it fits comfortably in a vagina, but this is pointy. Presumably, since it’s being sold as a dildo, I’m guessing it’s intended to go in a vagina. So what is this for, exactly? It’s not intended for her pleasure, or it would be shaped smoothly and with a rounded end. It looks to me like it’s for people with a unicorn fetish and who like the idea of putting a sharp object inside a woman. I’d run away really fast from anyone who wanted to use this on me. Thanks to the sex-pozzitive movement, sexual activity is a weird, commodified performance designed to titillate an abuser or a third party who is watching, and it’s not safe for women.

Here’s my feminist and anti-capitalist sex advice: sex is free. It doesn’t cost any money for “services” nor for “products.” It’s not something you “spice up” by buying weird shit or doing weird shit, it’s something you do with your body and a partner who is as excited about you as you are about her/him. If sex is somehow boring for you when you are not doing weird shit, then don’t have sex.

Damn, I’m on a role with the kink-shaming today!

So the next project I’m working on is reading a novel sent to me by a reader. This one is a lesbian novel and it’s not yet published. Hopefully she will publish it this spring because so far it’s really good! In the near future I also hope to read some more books by Leslie Feinberg and some introductory books on Marxism. I’m going to look for anything approximating a “Marxism for Dummies” book because I am starting pretty much at the beginning. I understand some leftist concepts just from interacting with people online but I need a solid foundation. I’m getting so sick of people saying that transgenderism is “the far left” because I know this is not true but I cannot prove why, beyond saying that choosing an identity for yourself is not at all compatible with nor related to eliminating class-based oppression or seizing the means of production. I had a look at Marx’s book on Capital in a bookstore recently, and it was huge, written in tiny print, and way beyond my mental capacity. I’m gonna need something for beginners before I can ever tackle that, if I ever tackle that.

I’m guessing it’ll be a few weeks before you get another long essay from me, because I have lots of reading to do before I actually have another long essay to write. I’m not exactly on “blog vacation,” just need some time. Maybe I’ll post something short occasionally though.

Hating feminists as virtue-signaling

After the Vancouver Women’s Library was attacked by “queer” anti-feminists, even more anti-feminists started jumping on the bandwagon and writing social media commentary condemning the library. I read several comments by people calling for feminist books to be banned who did not seem likely to have ever actually read the books in question. I believe the reason why these people are calling for feminist books to be banned without ever having read them is because they are virtue-signaling.

There is a distinct culture that has formed out of the toxic soup of neoliberal “queer” culture and anti-feminism that has taken over what is supposed to be the political left. (I do not believe these people are actually on the left, but they are considered to be the left, unfortunately.) For the purposes of this blog post, I will call them radiqueers, short for radical queers. One of the things radiqueers delight in doing is hating feminists. They claim to be feminists themselves, but their views align perfectly with patriarchy, and they fail to recognize this because they refuse to listen to actual feminists or apply any critical thinking to their political positions. Because shutting down feminists is one of the goals of radiqueer culture, anytime they tweet or comment about wanting feminists shut down it serves as a way for them to show their group membership and virtue-signal to their fellow group members. It is not an intellectual disagreement with the information that feminists present, it is a performance to demonstrate their group membership. It’s a bit like making sure to sit with the cool kids in the cafeteria instead of the geeks.

Here I will show you what I mean by discussing one of the books that the radiqueers want removed from the Vancouver Women’s Library, Female Sexual Slavery by Kathleen Barry, a book which I have actually taken the time to read, unlike the radiqueers.

Kathleen Barry did extensive research into the sex trade in order to write this book. She interviewed survivors of prostitution and checked the facts of their stories as well as she could by also interviewing lawyers, reporters, police, district attorneys, and anti-slavery organizations. (p. 7) She traveled and visited brothels, and she researched historical abolitionist movements. From her research she was able to form a definition of female sexual slavery, name the methods used by pimps and recruiters, and name the reasons why the problem of female sexual slavery has not been sufficiently exposed or fought against.

Here is her definition of female sexual slavery:

“Female sexual slavery is present in all situations where women or girls cannot change the immediate conditions of their existence; where regardless of how they got into those conditions they cannot get out; and where they are subject to sexual violence and exploitation. (p 40)”

She explains further:

“Female sexual slavery is not an illusive condition; the word “slavery” is not merely rhetorical. This is not some condition in which a woman’s or child’s need for love allows her to fall into psychological patterns that make it possible for her to accept abuse with love or to feel joy in pain. Slavery is an objective social condition of sexual exploitation and violence. The experiences of sexual slavery documented in this book reveal that it is not a practice that is limited to international traffic but it is pervasive throughout patriarchal societies.”

Barry found that when she spoke to police and described situations where women were being sexually exploited and were unable to leave, the police still didn’t see the problem. They believed so firmly in prostitution as acceptable and inevitable that it didn’t occur to them that it was a human rights violation. They seemed to think there was a class of women whose role was to be prostitutes and that it wasn’t a problem. This problem persists today; people still think that the sexual exploitation of women and girls isn’t a problem, and radiqueers are perpetuating this belief by rebranding sexual exploitation as women’s choice and agency. They are working to hide the reality of male violence, just as misogynists have always done.

The definition of sexual slavery Barry wrote can allow people to see the objective conditions of slavery even if the victim has become convinced that she chose her situation or if the people controlling her are insisting that she chose her situation. Some women and girls brought into the sex trade were initially willing because they thought they were going to be in control of the situation, make money, and have a glamorous life. Instead, they found themselves controlled by a pimp, unable to choose their clients or to choose what sex acts they perform, and, due to both the violence of their pimps and the stigma against women in the sex trade, they find themselves unable to escape and begin another life. If a woman is being subject to sexual exploitation and she cannot change the conditions of her existence, she is objectively enslaved. This situation occurs in human trafficking, street-based prostitution, and forced marriages, all around the world. Historically, many wives have been in situations of sexual slavery, because divorce was illegal, marital rape was allowed, and wives were completely dependent upon their husbands and unable to say ‘no’ to sex.

She describes the role of pimps and procurers and the methods they use to bring women and girls into the sex trade and then keep them there. To summarize:

  • Befriending or love: Procurers find teenage girls who are naïve and seeking love and attention from men and they act as a boyfriend toward these girls. They particularly use this method on girls who are runaways or who are bored and looking for excitement. They make the girl feel like she is in a romantic relationship even though it is really just a business strategy for him.
  • Actions of gangs, syndicates, and organized crime: these organizations will often procure girls and women into prostitution as a part of their gang activities.
  • Recruiting women under false pretenses by offering them a job such as dancing or modelling, or by offering them marriage, and turning them to prostitution when they arrive.
  • Purchasing women and girls from other male “owners”
  • Outright kidnapping

“Together, pimping and procuring are perhaps the most ruthless displays of male power and sexual dominance. As practices they go far beyond the merchandising of women’s bodies for the market that demands them. Pimping and procuring are the crystallization of misogyny; they rank among the most complete expressions of male hatred for femaleness. Procuring is a strategy, a tactic for acquiring women and turning them into prostitution; pimping keeps them there.” Barry, p.73.

She described the abolitionist work of Josephine Butler, who campaigned against human trafficking in the late nineteenth century. She also described the backlash against Butler’s work:

“Mob violence began to accompany her speeches. During one campaign against a liberal who would not support repeal of the Acts, mobs of men and young boys scuffling and throwing rocks forced her to hide in a hotel attic. The next day she was forced by the management to leave the hotel. Wearing a disguise, she sought refuge at another hotel, but the mob located her there also. Despite the threats, she insisted on addressing the women’s rally as she had planned. A number of bodyguards, brought up from London by her supporters, enabled her to address the meeting, but afterwards she had to run through streets and alleys to escape the mob. She eventually made it safely to the home of a supporter where she was taken in and looked after.” (p17–18)

This book is excellent from start to finish due to its clarity in exposing male violence against women and its thoroughness in exposing how male violence operates. Wikipedia says that this book “prompted international awareness of human sex trafficking.” Radiqueers want this valuable and groundbreaking book on female oppression banned from a women’s library, on the grounds that it makes a group of people they call “sex workers” unsafe.

The term “sex workers” is misleading in a couple of ways. Firstly, “sex workers” can include anyone in the sex trade, including both exploited persons and their exploiters. Therefore the term hides the power relations between pimp and prostitute by branding both of them with the same name. The term “sex workers” is also designed to hide the coercion involved in the sex trade. Although most women in the sex trade are there due to a lack of better options and want to get out, the term “sex worker” seeks to rebrand exploited women as empowered women who are there because that is their true desire. When radiqueers claim that “sex workers” are harmed by books written about human trafficking, they are being misleading. It is certainly not harmful to exploited persons to describe the terms of their exploitation. It is, however, harmful to the men who are doing the exploiting.

I’m tempted to say that radiqueers are calling for this book to be banned because they don’t want people to know the definition of sexual slavery for the purposes of naming it when it happens, or that they don’t want people to know the methods that procurers use to bring women into the sex trade, or that they don’t want people to know the history of the abolitionist movement. But I can’t even give them that much credit. They haven’t even read the book. They don’t know or care what it says. They aren’t interested in countering the points being made in the book, by, for example, offering different procurement methods that they have found in their own research, or in offering a different definition of sexual slavery, or in adding to the historical documentation of the abolitionist movement. No, they aren’t interested in countering the points made in the book or even in explaining what points they disagree with. They only want it banned on the grounds that it names prostitution as violence against women, and they prefer to think that prostitution is a woman’s choice. Anything that challenges the idea that women “choose” their own exploitation is labelled “unsafe.” They would have a difficult time explaining how naming male violence against women is “unsafe” for women. In truth, it’s only “unsafe” for male abusers, because it threatens their ability to continue their abuse.

Ironically, the radiqueers who imagine themselves to be “feminists” are doing exactly what the mobs of men did to Josephine Butler. They are doing the 21st century equivalent to throwing rocks at her for daring to name male violence against women. Throwing rocks and threatening her in order to attempt to silence her. If radiqueers were actually concerned about women, they would have absolutely no problem with books that expose the problem of human trafficking, and they wouldn’t be threatening women for providing this information.

What would actually make women safer is knowing the information provided in Kathleen Barry’s book. Women and girls should know the strategies used by procurers for the sex trade so that we can identify them when we see them. We should all be aware that when a man starts flattering a young woman and saying he has a modelling job or a dancing job for her, that is a red flag. Law enforcement professionals need to understand the conditions of female sexual slavery in order to identify women who need their help. Far from being “unsafe” for women, the information in this banned book is crucial for keeping women safe.

The radiqueers who want to ban a list of feminist books from a women’s library are doing the work of anti-feminism, whether they’re aware of it or not, and they are engaged in the practice of woman-hating, whether they are aware of it or not. They are being intellectually dishonest because they are attempting to suppress information that is clearly helpful to women on the grounds that they imagine it to be “unsafe” for women. Although I cannot prove that no radiqueers have read any of these banned books, I think it’s a reasonable assumption to make, based on their politics and their behavior, and I find it reprehensible and cowardly for people to regard a book as unsafe without having read it. If any radiqueers have read any of these books, feel free to tell me I’m wrong about that, and let’s discuss the book! But I’m not going to hold my breath.

I hope that I will get time throughout the year to quote from more of the banned books on their list, in order to discuss what information radiqueers want banned and why. There is a general theme though: any time feminists describe male violence against women in the form of sexual exploitation or gender identity nonsense, radiqueers get all up in arms. That’s because their politics are generally about promoting the sex trade and promoting people’s choice to choose genders, both of which are harmful to women as a class. They are men’s rights activists cloaked in rainbow disguise.

Despite this group of anti-feminists throwing rocks at us, we will persevere, just like we always have.

Agency, choice, oppression, & victimization

It’s time for another talk about the meaning of personal agency among oppressed people, because anti-feminists are still saying shit like:

  • You’re denying women’s agency
  • Take some personal responsibility for yourself
  • You just have a victim mentality

Anti-feminists say these things because they believe that, since feminists point out the structure of women’s oppression and feel pretty alarmed and upset about it, we must therefore be people who just want to choose to be victims because we like being victims. Apparently, if we didn’t want to be victims then we’d simply decide not to be victims, because we have free choice and agency. I’ve seen this exact line of reasoning argued a ton of times from various people, and it’s bullshit. This is a misrepresentation of what feminism is about.

The best paragraph ever written about “I Choose My Choice” politics is this old gem by Twisty Faster:

“Largely because of the success of the funfeminist movement, which argues that women do too have agency, dammit! (as long as their choiciness stays perfectly aligned with male interests), to view women as victims has become passé and unpopular. Women aren’t victims anymore now that we can own property, vote, and have the right to pole-dance in our boyfriends’ apartments. Furthermore, the argument goes, if we traipse about the countryside exaggerating the sorry plight of women (when in fact the plight of women, though admittedly not quite as awesome as men’s, is at least not as sorry as it was), we’re just buying into that unattractive, unempowerfulized, hysterical “victim mentality.” We freely choose to wear 6-inch heels, and if we author this choice, we cannot therefore be victims of it. If we don’t think we are victims, we won’t be victims. You know; only sick people take pills; therefore, if I don’t take pills, I won’t be sick. What this argument fails to consider, regardless of a few funfeminists’ purported choice to choose choices, is that, hourly, billions of women worldwide suffer everything from discrimination to murder exclusively because of their sex. Women cannot choose the “I’m-not-a-victim” choice. Not even the funfeminists can choose it, not really, because when stuff like “you cannot rape me” or “my appearance is meaningless” or “the state cannot interfere with the contents of my own personal uterus” is not on the menu of choices, no real agency exists. But apparently, claiming that patriarchy victimizes women is just whiney.”

I’m going to write about what feminists and socialists actually mean by using Twisty Faster’s “menu of choices” example.

Let’s say that we all have free choice and agency. Can we choose to do absolutely anything? No! We are limited by a lot of things. For a very obvious example, we are limited by the laws of physics and gravity. I can’t just decide to jump off a cliff and fly; I would fall to my death, because no matter how much “agency” I have, humans cannot fly. We can only make choices according to what choices are actually possible. There are a certain number of things on our “menu of choices,” and we cannot choose anything that’s not available.

When feminists talk about women’s oppression, and when socialists talk about class-based oppression, we are NOT saying that oppressed groups of people have zero choice or agency. We are saying that oppressed groups of people have fewer options on our menu of choices than we should have, due to the power structures that limit what we can do. We are saying that the privileged people have used their power to limit choices that should reasonably be available to us, and that those privileged people benefit from our options being limited. This can be demonstrated with many real-life examples.

Men benefit from women’s limited role in society. Women are paid less than men, giving us less material power than men have, and women with children are often dependent on male providers, again putting them in a disempowered position. Men benefit by using their relative power to control us and get us to do unpaid labor in the home.

People with massive amounts of wealth benefit from the oppression of the working class because they have the ability to own the means of production, to pay workers insufficient wages and not provide us with health benefits, and to keep us in a powerless position. They profit financially from the work we are forced to do for them.

The power differences between privileged and oppressed groups cause tons of everyday problems for oppressed groups.

There are things that are not on women’s menu of choices that should be there. Women should have the option to earn the same amount of money as men, we should have the option to go about our lives every day without fear of rape, and we should be able to control our own fertility without being jailed for it, for some examples. Women cannot just “choose” not to be rape victims as long as we are surrounded by rapists who go unpunished for their crimes. We cannot just “choose” not to go to jail when the laws of our country criminalize us for having a miscarriage. This doesn’t mean we can’t choose anything. We can choose a lot of things! But there are some things we should be able to choose that we can’t, and this is a problem and it’s the reason for the feminist movement.

Workers living under capitalist rule cannot choose to opt out of working for wages, unless you count being homeless or in jail as other options. We cannot choose to produce what we think is valuable, instead we have to produce what capitalists want us to, even if we disagree with it. We cannot control the economic system we live under (until the communist revolution) nor can we control how our countries use our resources. This doesn’t mean that workers have no agency whatsoever. We can have somewhat of a choice over where we work for wages, and we can have some choice over what we do in our free time.

It is not possible for feminists to “deny women’s agency” nor is it possible for workers to deny the agency of other workers. It is capitalist patriarchy that removes items off our menu of choices. Feminists do not have the power to remove any items off of anybody’s list of choices, because we are not the ones who hold systemic power and influence over society. The whole “denying women’s agency” argument is a garbage argument that anti-feminists use to turn the conversation around and deflect from the real issue. The real issue is that power structures in society remove options from women, and when feminists state this, anti-feminists claim that women have all the free choice in the world and it’s actually feminists limiting women’s choices by telling other women they can’t do things. That’s not what’s happening at all.

The whole “personal responsibility” and “victim mentality” arguments are very similar garbage arguments. To argue that women are responsible for our own destinies and we just have to choose the right choices for ourselves is a straw argument designed to take attention away from structural oppression. Feminists are not saying that women should lie around helplessly just crying. Of course we should do whatever is in our power to improve our lives. Duh! That’s why there is a feminist movement, because women are using our free choice and agency to make our lives better. We’re already taking personal responsibility for ourselves, thank you very much! To argue that feminists just have a “victim mentality” when in fact, we have been victimized is basically invalidating what actually happened to us. Anyone who has been victimized has the right to name the crime and the perpetrator. That doesn’t make us whiney or hysterical, it actually empowers us. Naming the crime and the perpetrator is the first step to demanding justice. When the feminist movement named patriarchal power structures as problems, it set to work getting women the right to vote, to work outside the home, to divorce, and to control our fertility, so that we could dismantle the power structures that were oppressing us. Radical feminists today are working on criminalizing pimps and johns and stopping the transgender community from taking away women’s rights. These are the current items on the agenda to continue to liberate women. Naming the problem and being outraged over it does not make us professional victims for fuck sake. We are brave, hardworking women and we’re not taking this shit lying down.

I’m going to provide some examples from my own life in regards to the intersection of agency and oppression. I am a white woman in a rich country who could be described as “lower middle class.” I graduated from university but I am in a lot of debt and will probably never own my own house. I am a worker living under capitalist rule and therefore am obligated to work for wages. I consider this oppression because I have no choice, and having to work for wages severely limits my personal freedom. However as a university-educated citizen of a rich country I have it better than most of the world’s workers. I have a clean, safe environment to work in, I have reasonable hours per week to work, I have a decent salary and health benefits. On a global scale, this is very lucky. (And by the way, thanks to the labor movement!) Many of the world’s workers are forced to work long hours in unsafe environments for very little pay, and the fruits of their labor comes to rich countries where I am one of the people to benefit from it. I can see where I am oppressed and where I am privileged, and I don’t spend all my time being angry about oppression, I also spend some of my time being grateful for the areas in life where I am lucky.

I’m in a country where women can vote, own property, drive, work outside the home, control our fertility, wear whatever we want, and choose who we marry. In these ways, we are lucky. However, there is still a flourishing sex trade, women and underage girls are being bought and sold for rape; sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape are still happening because men are still getting away with it, and there is still a pay gap. I use what “free choice” and “agency” that I do have to do whatever I can to help women, which sometimes means donating money to survivors of prostitution who are campaigning for abolition, sometimes it means bringing radical feminists together to support each other and learn from each other, and it also means blogging so that I can get the word out there to whoever is reading. I don’t have much power but I do what I can.

I have had bad things happen to me in life, and I always overcome them in any way I can. When I’m being treated like shit at a job I get a new job, and when I’m depressed I go to therapy. I don’t spend all my time thinking about women’s oppression because that would indeed be depressing. I have hobbies that make me happy and I spend plenty of time hanging out at home enjoying time with my partner. When someone claims I have a “victim mentality” or that I’m making myself sick by focusing on the negative all the time, they are entirely full of shit. I do have depression and anxiety, but thanks to my free choice and agency and my consistent habit of taking responsibility for myself, I have arrived at a place in my life where I can live without antidepressants and manage my mental health with non-medical means. I know how to balance social-justice activism with self-care so that I don’t burn out.

There is a new-age idea floating around that you can “choose how you react to things” and that you essentially create your own reality by thinking the right way (i.e., if you think positively, you’re reality will be positive.) This sounds good on the surface but it’s totally unrealistic for people who have material disadvantages in life. A worker forced to work in a sweatshop due to having no other options can’t just “think positively” and suddenly have better working conditions. A woman being trafficked by pimps can’t just “think positively” and all of a sudden her pimp will set her free. A child being abused by an adult can’t just “think positively” and that will end the abuse. A black man in America can’t just “think positively” and expect not to be shot by racist whites. A gay person in a country that criminalizes homosexuality can’t just “think positively” and expect to stay safe. In fact, to imply that any of these people’s misery is a result of their own faulty behavior or thinking is victim blaming. It’s removing responsibility from the actual perpetrator and placing it on the victim. It’s highly offensive and disgusting to blame victims for what perpetrators do to them.

There is only one situation in which “thinking positively” is a reasonable way to improve your situation, and that is a situation in which you have no material disadvantages in life and your only misery is in repeated thoughts that are truly more negative than your real situation warrants. Then, yes, think more positively. But “thinking positively” does not change anything in material reality and it doesn’t overturn systems of oppression.

I think the real reason so many people have taken to believing that we create our reality with our thoughts is because it allows them to feel they have some control in a world that is completely out of control. It’s a drug-free sedative, where you use your own beliefs to calm yourself down and tell yourself that everything is okay. But material reality continues to exist, regardless of what we think about it. For oppressed people, oppression doesn’t go away no matter how we decide to frame it.

Radical feminists are strong enough to face the reality of male violence against women, without using any defense mechanisms to pretend it’s not really there. We are strong enough to use what free choice and agency we have to fight back in any way we can. We are not identifying with victimhood; rather, we are refusing to be victimized any longer. In all my years as a radical feminist I’ve never witnessed any feminist just claiming victimhood for no reason or wallowing unnecessarily in misery. I’ve definitely witnessed a lot of men claiming victimhood where there truly is none, for example, when they claim to be oppressed by cupcakes and other such nonsense. There are a few female “special snowflakes” who claim victimhood for silly reasons too, but they can’t be described as feminists. I do not think it’s okay for anyone to claim victimhood just for the sake of being seen as a victim, and I’ve called people out on this before. That’s not what feminism is at all—that’s just special snowflakery and it’s not radical politics.

Book Review: Renegade Nuns

Renegade Nuns by Lisa Jones is a novel about a woman who seeks answers after her sister’s death, and whose quest brings her into contact with a group of powerful nuns. The novel is both murder mystery and fantasy, and there is a third genre I will assign to it as well—it’s a radical feminist novel. That is, it’s a novel that describes male violence against women and the power of sisterhood in a way that only a radical feminist can.

The story of the death of fictional Riva Pine and her sister Becky’s journey to find out what happened to her is based on a true story. Jones’s real-life sister died the way Riva Pine did—from an apparent fall while doing yoga. As preposterous as it may seem, the police and the coroner declared it factual that she died from falling over while doing a yoga pose, as her husband claimed. Jones wrote this book around the more plausible explanation—that her husband killed her, and got away with murder. The novel is a work of fiction, and certainly the supernatural aspects of it are not at all real, but I can’t help thinking that there may be more truth in this novel than in the explanation that a woman died from a cracked skull from doing yoga. How many times has a man’s fiction been recorded as fact by other men while the truth, spoken by a woman, is considered fictional?

Jones describes the relationship between fictional Riva Pine and her husband Mack with expert level feminist awareness. Mack is a manipulative parasite, living off his wife’s earnings and taking everything he can from her, all the while knowing how to fake being a loving husband. Although there are no obvious signs of abuse, due to Mack’s expert façade, he slowly consumes his wife by taking all her energy, love, and money. There is nothing about her that he does not take for himself. Riva’s sister Becky sees him for what he is, doesn’t fall for his manipulations, and does everything she can to find out what really happened the day Riva died.

When Becky goes on a quest for information, she uncovers a group of nuns with supernatural powers. Soon she finds herself involved in their plans, and learning about them and their work as she goes along. These are not regular Catholic nuns, of course, they are renegade nuns. They are free-thinkers, healers, and rebels, using their powers to solve the problems with the Y chromosome and create opportunities for the planet as a whole to find peace. Their powers come from their own selves, and from their interactions with each other. Some of the nuns are lesbians and they use physical touch with each other in their healing. They remind me of radical feminist spirituality—the idea that women are powerful and magical and that we become even more so when we work together in sisterhood.

I found the nun characters delightful to read about. They prompted me to talk to Lisa Jones about her own beliefs. She says she became a radical feminist around 2010 or 2011 after decades of being a Buddhist. She read Mary Daly and felt that she was “turning on the lights.” That led to her reading more radical feminist books. She also has taken an interest in Christian mysticism. She says:

I met several women who claimed to channel Mary Magdalene or to be her reincarnation. Instead of reacting with knee-jerk derision, I tried to listen to how they were responding to patriarchy. I also met a group of women whom I call the “angel whisperers” — lightworkers, shamanists, herbalists — women who work to heal the world but don’t necessarily think in terms of feminist analysis. Later, a friend suggested that I read Sonia Johnson’s book “The SisterWitch Conspiracy,” which I found outrageous and profoundly heartening. I felt that the book merged feminist analysis with angel whispering. It gave me hope for a better future on this planet.

This is very much what comes through in her renegade nun characters. It’s an optimistic view of the world—that magical women are working on healing the planet already, like a group of feminist angels.

Here is another article about the book that may interest you. Also, here is the book’s website where you can find out how to purchase a copy and read the first chapter online.

I’d like to thank Lisa Jones for writing this book and for providing me with a box of free copies. If you are someone who knows me, just ask and I’ll give you one!

What do I consider to be sexism?

This post is a continuation of this conversation.

Some definitions of sexism:

  • Discrimination based on sex, especially discrimination against women.
  • Attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on sex.
  • The belief that people of one sex are inherently superior to people of the other sex.
  • Disadvantage or unequal opportunity arising from the cultural dominance of one sex over the other.
  • Promotion or expectation or assumption of people to behave in accordance with a gender role.

There is a long history of discrimination against women as a result of our lower status in patriarchy; this has been documented and fought against by feminists for more than a hundred years. Men have invented reasons to discriminate against women based on our reproductive sex. Because we are the sex that can give birth to children, men have traditionally believed that women are necessarily and universally nurturing and emotional and must be kept in the home as wives and mothers. They have believed that because of our nature as women, we are not fit to do things like vote, own property, drive, make household decisions, work outside the home, play sports, get an education, work in the professions, and self-direct our own lives.

In some locations, sexism as noted in the above examples still exists; in other locations, women can at least vote, own property, drive, and earn our own money, thanks to the feminist movement, although we still don’t earn quite as much money as men—there is still a wage gap. Women are still expected to perform the socially constructed social role of femininity whether it personally suits us or not, and it often doesn’t. We are expected to look “pretty”, be “nice,” do a lot of unpaid care work, and accommodate men’s needs in every area. It is still socially acceptable for men to sexually harass, sexually abuse, and rape women, since the men who do these things are rarely ever punished by law or even by social disapproval. In fact, an extremely sexist man can still be elected President of the United States even in this day and age.

I was asked why I consider some things sexism and not others. For example, why is it sexist when women are denied job opportunities but not when women are denied the right to use the men’s washroom? Why is it sexist to say that “blue is for boys” but not sexist to say that “he/him pronouns are for boys”?

There are two parts to my answer. The first part is that discrimination against a person on the basis of her sex occurs when something that a person reasonably needs or should have access to is withheld for no reason other than subjective and unfounded bias against people of her sex. The second part is that it’s sexism to withhold something with the intention or effect of enforcing sex stereotypes. However, it’s not sexism when someone reasonably withholds something that a person doesn’t need or can’t reasonable have.

Let’s look at some examples using children’s toys, since the “blue balloon” example has already come up. When you tell a girl child that she cannot have a blue balloon because blue is “for boys”, that is sexism because it’s reinforcing sex stereotypes. Obviously she can live without a balloon, but this is teaching her that certain things are “for boys” and other things are “for girls,” which is a harmful message. This sex-stereotyping is rooted in the social roles that are enforced on girls and boys, femininity and masculinity, and these social roles are coming from a system of discrimination against women. The reason certain toys, games, activities, mannerisms, speech patterns, behaviours, and appearances are “for girls” is because they work together to enforce the fact that girls are supposed to be quiet, pleasant, nice, nurturing, soft, emotional, and frivolous, and the reason patriarchy wants us this way is because it keeps us subservient to men. Teaching kids that only boys are good at certain things/can be interested in certain things and only girls are good at certain things/are interested in certain things is intended to lead to them becoming adults who discriminate on the basis of sex. On a systemic level, that sex discrimination favors men and disadvantages women.

However, if a girl wants 100 new toys for her birthday, and a parent says no, that’s not sexism, because it’s not related to sex stereotypes or discrimination in any way, it’s just setting a reasonable limit. The parent would presumably do the same thing for a child of either sex. If a boy says he wants to jump off a cliff to see if he can fly, and a parent says no, that’s not sexism, because it’s not related to sex stereotypes or sex discrimination, it’s just setting a reasonable limit that would be necessary for any child.
Sexism isn’t just any instance of telling a person “no” for any reason, sexism is when someone is being unreasonably limited in their life opportunities because of their sex or when an arbitrary rule is set just to enforce harmful sex stereotypes on people in order to enforce sex inequality.

I have been asked “isn’t it sexism to tell girls/women they cannot use he/him pronouns just because they’re women?”

For heaven’s sake, no! In order to prove that it’s sexist to tell women they can’t call themselves he/him, you’d have to first prove that calling oneself he/him is a life opportunity that women should reasonably have, or that calling a woman she/her enforces sex stereotypes on women. Neither of these premises is true. The reason girls/women are referred to by female pronouns is not to enforce standards of femininity on women and limit their role in society, it’s to communicate clearly. The use of grammatically correct, coherent language when speaking is not an issue of sex stereotyping or sex discrimination. There is no harm to anyone in clear communication. Girls and women do not need an opportunity to describe themselves inaccurately; this is not some sort of life experience we are being denied. Girls and women are called girls and women because that’s what we are, and we don’t need opportunities to call ourselves boys or men any more than we need opportunities to call ourselves giraffes or toasters.

I can already hear the question being asked, “But what about dysphoria? Don’t you think people should be able to manage their dysphoria the way they think is best?” The simple answer is yes, people can do whatever the hell they want. This is where I have to bring up again the difference between neoliberal politics and radical politics. Neoliberals believe in the agency and free choice of the individual, and their analysis basically stops there. Radicals believe in class analysis and material changes to benefit large groups of oppressed people. While there may be some women who feel they benefit from pretending to be men, that’s not a “right” that women as a class need access to, it’s just a coping mechanism that a few people engage in. Radical feminists are not a cheerleading section to validate every choice every woman makes, we are a group of women dedicated to liberating the entire female sex class from oppression, and we consider what is best for women as a group, not for specific individuals in specific situations. There are plenty of coping mechanisms women engage in that they probably feel are helpful to them that I would not support. I wouldn’t support an anorexic woman’s choice to starve herself, or a traumatized woman’s choice to cut herself, or a small-breasted woman’s choice to get breast implants. I reserve the right to disagree with individual people’s choices if they appear unhealthy to me, and that includes cutting off healthy body parts, injecting artificial hormones for a lifetime, and incorrectly calling herself a man. I am not going to stop anyone from getting cosmetic surgery and calling themselves anything they want, because I am not about policing people’s choices, but I have a right to disagree and to state the reasons for my disagreement. I also have a point to make about the way it affects women as a class when gender nonconforming women call themselves something other than women. This reinforces the harmful construct of femininity on women because it implies that women who aren’t feminine aren’t women. This harms women as a class, even if a few individuals may find it to be a helpful coping mechanism.

Then there’s the issue of sex segregation in certain spaces, such as washrooms, locker rooms, and Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts. Is it sex discrimination to deny a person access to a facility meant for one sex?

In order to decide whether it’s discrimination, you have to look at what the facility is for and why the sexes are being segregated. Traditionally women have been denied entry to institutions such as colleges, sports teams, and certain fields of employment, by men who hold discriminatory ideas about women, and we still face some discrimination such as this in some places. Men’s rights activists like to complain about the rare women-only institutions that exist and that this is unfair to them, because they deliberately ignore the fact that these spaces were set up to correct an imbalance due to the historical discrimination against women by men. When women are denied entry to entire professions such as law or medicine on the basis that men believe women are “unfit” for roles other than mother/housewife, that is sex discrimination.

However, sex-segregated washrooms are there in order to allow women’s participation in public life, not to prevent it. In order to use public facilities such as gyms for example, women need a space where there are no men in order to change, shower and pee. This is because we do not feel safe or comfortable undressing in the presence of men, who have a tendency to see us as sexual prey and to harass and assault us.

Similarly, if kids are going to a sleep-away camp or staying in cabins or bunks, sex-segregated facilities are required for activities that involve undressing. Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts could do lots of the same camp activities, and could intermingle in many situations, but they require separate sleeping and bathing facilities for safety and privacy.

I don’t believe that men and boys are particularly keen on having women and girls in their washrooms or locker rooms either. Although they generally aren’t in physical danger from women, they may not feel comfortable undressing in front of them, and that’s okay, they don’t have to. Men and boys also have the right to privacy when undressing.

The reason there are separate facilities for men and women for activities that involve undressing is to allow both sexes to comfortably and safely use facilities, therefore this is the opposite of sex discrimination.

People who are masculine women or feminine men may fear public washrooms due to people’s negative, discriminatory, or violent behavior toward them; this is a legitimate problem that should be taken seriously. One remedy is to increase the use of gender neutral facilities alongside men’s and women’s facilities, or to construct singer-user, fully-enclosed unisex toilets. It would also be helpful to eliminate sex stereotypes and homophobia, because usually when someone is harassed in a washroom it’s because they are perceived as not looking the way a man or woman “should” look or because they appear to be homosexual. It is not acceptable, however, to completely desegregate shared facilities so that there is no safety and privacy for women anywhere; this is in fact discrimination against women, because it effectively prevents us from accessing facilities. I would support trans activists in the fight for gender neutral facilities if they were going about their activism in a way that recognizes women’s needs as well as their own, but sadly, they don’t give a shit about women.

If I were in charge, I’d create municipal laws saying that any new public building being built and any existing public building doing renovations must ensure there are three separate washroom/changeroom facilities for both men, women, and gender neutral, so that we can move toward accommodating everyone. This three-washroom setup is designed so that only biological women may use the women’s facility and men who identify as women must use the gender neutral facility. This allows everyone safety and privacy in the washroom. Transwomen need to understand that, while they have the right to access public facilities, they do not have the right to impose upon biological women in women-only spaces or have their identities validated by same.

Getting back to what I said above, it’s not sexism when someone reasonably withholds something that a person doesn’t need or can’t reasonably have. Men don’t need access to women’s washrooms, nor do women need access to men’s washrooms. As long as both sexes are provided with washrooms, neither sex is being deprived of anything. Neither men nor women need opportunities to lie about themselves and pretend they are the opposite sex either. This is something people do because they have an illness,(or in some cases a sexual fetish or a desire to be special), and I disagree that denying reality and depriving women of safety and privacy is the correct way to deal with an illness or indulge in a fetish.

Since transgenderists reinforce traditional sex stereotypes about women and men, (liking pink and sparkly things makes you a girl!) and attempt to deprive women of participation in public life by eliminating our safe use of facilities, they are in fact sexist. Although I am in favor of reasonable, reality-based accommodations for people with gender dysphoria, I am going to push back against the sexism that is being directed at women by the trans community, because as a feminist, I primarily care about women.

The conversation continues about the “gender quest”

This post continues the conversation about a “Gender Quest Workbook” that I criticized here. You’ll need to read that post in order to understand this one.

Skepto said: “I read the definitions of gender you quoted somewhat differently.
Their explicit definitions, which you agreed with, didn’t say that masculinity and femininity were genders, but that gender was “how your identity, or sense of self, relates to masculinity and femininity”, and that’s not a binary concept. For example, if we measure “relating” on a single 10-point scale (from 1 = “don’t relate at all”, to 10 = “relate completely”), it’s possible to relate to masculinity at 4 and femininity at 9, to masculinity at 3 and femininity at 2, to masculinity at 8 and femininity at 7, and so on. A 10-point-scale alone would yield a hundred different gender identities.
And the reality gets much more complicated, because we don’t have single 10-point-scale for relating: it’s e.g. possible to relate to one element of femininity very strongly and to another not at all, and it’s possible to have ambivalent feelings about various elements, and those feelings are likely to shift over time, and everyone’s conceptualization of femininity and masculinity are somewhat different (depending on culture, subculture, individual experiences, role models, etc.), and the relations might shift over time in recognizable patterns (they’re likely to shift overall, along with the concepts of femininity and masculinity, but not necessarily in patterns).
So saying that there are as many genders as people doesn’t contradict the notion of gender as how one relates to (the binary concepts) femininity and masculinity – it just means there are as many different ways to relate to them as there are people. It’s not necessary to make a separate concept of -inity for every gender to recognize there are more genders than we have concepts for. (As an analogy: we also don’t have names for every possible wavelength of light, but that doesn’t mean there are only as many wavelengths as we have color names for.)”

After reading this, it looks to me like you are defining gender as personality. I don’t think you’re saying gender and personality are exactly the same thing, but that gender is one part of the personality—the part that relates to masculinity and femininity. I agree that all people relate to masculinity and femininity in individual ways, and we either identify with or feel uncomfortable with different aspects of each. I also agree that the way we relate to masculinity and femininity can be an inborn personality trait that one cannot change. I have a couple of points to make about that:

  1. If every person identifies with or feels uncomfortable with different aspects of masculinity and femininity, then why is this a significant thing? Like, if every person experiences this, then it’s just a part of human nature, so it doesn’t warrant being specially recognized. Why do some people need to go around saying they have a “gender” if “gender” is just an element of personality that we all have? It looks to me like this is just people going around unnecessarily announcing their personalities to people. I could go around asking people to identify me as an introvert and bookworm but why would I do that? If people get to know me they’ll recognize my personality. If they don’t know me, then it doesn’t concern them what my personality type is. If gender is an element of personality then I don’t see why it’s more important than any other aspect of personality or why it needs to be made into a big huge deal. I can identify the ways that I relate to masculinity and femininity too, and I could label it with a gender label, but why? Anyone who interacts with me will be able to tell how I like to present myself, what sorts of things I’m interested in, what colours I like, what mannerisms I have, etc, and this will be obvious even in the absence of a “gender” label that I may attach to it. I suppose you are going to say that we need to know people’s gender so that we can know their pronouns, or something? But we refer to people based on their sex, not their gender, and people of either sex can have any relationship to masculinity and femininity and that doesn’t affect their biological sex.
  2. If every person has their own unique relationship to masculinity and femininity, then I don’t think there can possibly be a dichotomy between “cis” and “trans.” If everyone has their own unique gender, then these categories are pretty useless.
  3. If gender is an aspect of personality, then why does anyone need to modify their body in order to express it? Can’t anyone express their personality in the body they already have? The whole point of transgenderism is to align the body with the “gender.” As long as people are defining gender as personality, then it’s clear to me that transgenderists believe that certain personalities go with certain bodies, and that bodies that don’t match the personality must be changed. I find this outrageous and also sexist. Anyone, male or female, can have any personality, and to suggest otherwise is to limit what people can do on the basis of their sex. Usually the reason someone perceives that their body doesn’t match their personality is because they are female-bodied and masculine or male-bodied and feminine. The fact that this is viewed as a problem that needs to be fixed means they hold the sexist belief that women must be feminine and men must be masculine. The social roles of masculinity and femininity exist to keep men and women in a hierarchy and uphold patriarchy.
  4. I don’t think you usually define gender as personality. I think you normally define gender as something along the lines of a person’s lived role as man or woman, or perhaps the “social category” they live in. The reason I think so is that you consider your gender to be “man” although you are not biologically male, so the gender “man” is the social category or lived role that you experience. So do you think that gender is both a social category and the way we relate to masculinity/femininity? Some interesting questions emerge when we consider that “gender” could mean both the “social category of man or woman” and “the way we relate to masculinity and femininity.” It seems to me that if the way we relate to masculinity and femininity is the same thing as our social role, then our social role is in fact determined by the way we relate to masc/fem. I think what this boils down to is that someone who identifies with masculinity is necessarily in the social category of “man” regardless of their biology and that someone who identifies with femininity is in the social category of “woman,” regardless of their biology. It seems really fishy to me that there would be any connection at all between someone’s identification with masc/fem and someone’s lived social category as man/woman. If there is any connection between these two things, then what this is all about is enforcing masculinity on men and femininity on women by asserting that anyone masculine must live in the social category “man” and vice versa. If this isn’t about making sure everyone in the category “man” is masculine and everyone in the category “woman” is feminine, then why are people being encouraged to identify how they relate to masc/fem and then change their bodies to match? And if you don’t think that gender is both a social category and the way we relate to masculinity/femininity, then you must either disagree with the definition offered by this book or with the definition often in use by transgenderists.
  5. From what I understand, you didn’t decide you were a trans man because you felt you were masculine, but because you felt you were male. You were born with a brain that clicks with maleness, and this isn’t about identifying with the social construct of masculinity. You can correct me if I’m wrong. If this is the way you understand transsexualism, then why would masculinity and femininity have anything to do with it at all? If an FtM transsexual is born with a brain that identifies with maleness, rather than masculinity, then why would it be useful at all to explore how you relate to masculinity and femininity when determining your “gender” (lived social category as man or woman). Why didn’t this book, (and trans people in general,) talk about identifying how you relate to maleness or femaleness rather than how you relate to masculinity and femininity? No matter which way it’s explained, it seems to me that transgenderists are equating masculinity with maleness and femininity with femaleness. If transsexualism was just about the brain “clicking with” the biological aspects of male and female and NOT about the brain clicking with the social constructs of masculinity and femininity then the way this gender book was written, and the way trans people often talk, would be completely different. I maintain that it’s okay for men to be feminine and for women to be masculine, and this is not a problem and doesn’t need to be fixed. When feminine men and masculine women experience discomfort it’s due to sexism coming from society, and the correct way to go about fixing this is to eradicate sexism.

Skepto said: “And I’m continually fascinated/confused by what you do and don’t consider sexism. Why do you count being forbidden from participating in the Boy Scouts as sexism, but wouldn’t count being forbidden from other sex-/gender-specific settings (from sports to bathrooms to certain events, e.g. a lesbian party)? I mean, sure, those are just for women, but the Boy Scouts are for boys (like the name says) – why wouldn’t that argument count for you? When is sex segregation justified in your eyes and when isn’t it? (I imagine the answer might be protection, but surely you’re aware that the same argument has been and is still being made to prohibit women from lots of activities and spaces – just think of women in combat, and segregation in Saudi Arabia.)”

I’m working on a post regarding ‘what I consider to be sexism.’ Because it’s another 2000 word essay I’m going to publish it separately, hopefully tomorrow. [Update: sexism post here.]

Skepto said: “I have the same question about pronouns and clothing. You’ve said pronouns are there to communicate etc., but can’t clothing and balloon colors and toys also communicate one’s sex? Especially children do typically get read based on those factors, since there are hardly any physical differences in (pre-pubescent) children.
(Incidentally, one of the earliest stories about me relating to gender is one in which I was upset at being addressed with female-gendered language, specifically, being referred to as [female astronaut] rather than [male astronaut]. I don’t get why “blue balloons are for boys” is sexist, but “this word is just for boys and you can’t use it for yourself” is not.)”

I’m partially responding to this here (below) and partially in my other post about sexism.

Skepto said: “It might also be worth noting that playing around with one’s gender expression and exploring one’s gender identity certainly doesn’t have to involve hormones or body modifications of any kind. Thinking about gendered physical aspects (that is, aspects considered masculine or feminine) and what attributes one would like to have can be valuable in getting a clearer idea of how one relates to femininity and masculinity, but no gender identity requires making changes.”

I’m surprised to see the phrase “no gender identity requires making changes.” Then why do so many trans people consider it imperative that they be given hormones and surgeries and make it sound like they will die if they don’t get it? Then why is the DSM-5 section on gender dysphoria specifically formulated to offer a diagnosis so that people can get transgender-related body modifications covered by their insurance? I would actually agree that no gender identity requires making changes—you can relate to masculinity and femininity any way you want without changing anything about yourself. But the point of trans activism seems to be to convince everyone that making physical changes is imperative.

I said, in the first gender quest post: “So I really gotta ask, if transgenderism is simply about correcting an inborn neurological disorder and is not about trying to fit into social ideas of masculinity/femininity, why have a group of three gender experts, at least one of whom is actually trans, written a book in which they guide young people to discover their gender by considering their degree of masculinity/femininity, their personality, and sexism, if transgenderism is not about these things? If transgenderism is about correcting a neurological disorder, why isn’t that what they talk about here?”

Skepto said: “I’m not sure how to parse this. I mean, I might differ from what you consider transgenderists in the extent to which I think being trans is innate. But a trait being innate and relating to social ideas is not mutually exclusive: there are certainly social ideas about e.g. being introverted vs. extroverted, but that doesn’t mean introversion and extroversion don’t have genetical/innate components. I believe it’s much the same with maleness/femaleness: there may be an innate component to how one’s brain relates to certain physical features that happen to be connected to social ideas of masculinity/femininity. (And there’s a feedback loop going on here as well, where being able to get closer to other things considered masculine/feminine helps with the disconnect from these physical features, hence the lessening of dysphoria with gender-appropriate pronouns.)”

Fair enough, but I have a chicken/egg question here: does the person identify with the social aspects of masculinity because their brain connects with maleness or does their brain connect with maleness because they identify with social aspects of masculinity? Transmasculine folks always say that they hated wearing a dress, would cry and scream when they were made to wear a dress, wanted to play with the boys, etc. Their parents (and everyone else for that matter) kept telling them “you can’t do that because you’re a girl” and so they grew up hating being a girl and had repeated thoughts about how everything would be better if they were male. Then over time, I believe what happens is the brain learns to keep going back to that feeling of wanting a male body until it feels like just an automatic/innate feeling rather than a conscious thought, and she believes she was just born inherently needing to be male.

From what I understand from this comment, and from your position in general, a person’s brain innately relates to physical features of being male or female, so for example, someone’s brain might innately relate to having either breasts or a flat chest. If transgenderism is about relating to maleness or femaleness, rather than relating to the social construct of masculinity and femininity, then wouldn’t a better prompt for getting people to think about this be a prompt where learners are guided to think about what body parts they identify with, rather than what cultural stereotypes (blue/pink balloons) they identify with?

Your example about the astronauts is really handy. I don’t know any more about the situation than what you said, but to illustrate a point, let’s say that you were told that both men and women could be astronauts, and you still felt that “male astronaut” felt like a better fit for you. This is at least closer to being an indication of an innate gender identity than the balloon example, because the balloon example is just straight-up stupid sexism. However, I still can’t rule out sexism from the astronaut example because maybe you had an underlying belief that male astronauts were better or more valid than female astronauts, because you had previously learned sexist ideas in other contexts? Sometimes these underlying attitudes are buried deep and you’re not even aware of them. So while there is no proof of sexism here, we also can’t rule it out.

This reminds me of a story I heard from a transwoman whose presentation I attended a few years ago. She talked about being in first grade and the boys and girls in her class had to line up in separate lines for the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms. She kept getting into the girls’ line and the teacher kept telling her to get back into the boys’ line. She said she felt confused because she assumed she belonged in the girls’ line and didn’t know why people kept telling her to get into the boys’ line. This is the sort of story where gender dysphoria is obvious, but sexism isn’t explicitly obvious. Since the boys and girls are being treated the same, both being allowed to line up for the bathroom at the same time, and both having access to a similar facility, there is nothing sexist going on, but the person still felt she should be in the girls’ line. However, even though there is no explicit sexism in this story, the question remains as to why this little boy felt so strongly he was a girl. A lot of transwomen say things like they liked pink and sparkly things and wanted to wear girls’ clothes. Did this little boy conclude he was a girl because he liked pink and sparkly things, and because he was taught that only girls like pink and sparkly things? Because if so, then what he has isn’t an innate female gender identity but a reaction to the sexism being directed at him.

So getting back to the examples in the gender book, why didn’t they use prompts such as your astronaut story or this lining up for the bathroom story that make gender dysphoria obvious but that don’t explicitly point to sexism? If I were trying to promote transgenderism as an innate gender identity that isn’t just a reaction to sexism, then I would make sure my examples, questions and prompts contained no obvious signs of sexism and that they only pointed to examples of dysphoria that could not be easily connected to sexism or any social factors. If I am to take them seriously as academics and as writers and activists, then I’m going to assume they deliberately chose these examples because they are good indicators of gender dysphoria. If being uncomfortable when you are told you can’t have a blue balloon because they are “for boys” is a good indicator of gender dysphoria, then gender dysphoria is when an individual responds with discomfort to the sexism people are directing at them. The cure for this is not to change the body, it’s to challenge sexism.

If gender dysphoria is an innate condition that has nothing to do with social causes such as sexism and homophobia, then the prompt to get someone thinking about their early experiences recognizing their gender dysphoria would look more like this:

“Can you remember the first time you strongly and inexplicably felt that the physical aspects of your body were the wrong ones and that you should have the physical aspects of the opposite sex?”

This sort of question would lead only people with gender dysphoria to think of an example and most people would not have one. (Well, they might if they have some sort of other body dysmorphic disorder.)

I’m not trying to imply that you do know or that you should know the thought process or motivations of the authors of this particular book, or that you are responsible for what they wrote. I’m only trying to point out that when trans people discuss why they believe they are trans or what a gender identity is, they often implicate sexism and homophobia in what they say. I’ve given many examples of this happening over the last few months, in various posts, and this is just one of them. I am always interested in hearing from people who believe they have an innate gender identity and who debate in good faith to see if they agree or disagree with comments of transgenderists who implicate sexism and homophobia in the reasons they are trans.

So far, the evidence I’m seeing is overwhelming that the reasons women (or people AFAB as you might call them) transition is due to being uncomfortable with being female because of the sexism and homophobia directed at them. I disagree with transition as a strategy because it leaves the system of patriarchy intact and what we should be doing instead is ending sexism, misogyny, and homophobia by ending patriarchal oppression of women.

I would expect that if there is anyone out there AFAB who merely has a neurological disorder or a brain that innately clicks with maleness and if this condition is clearly not rooted in social causes such as sexism or homophobia, then she would probably not agree with the majority of assertions made by the trans community—because they are implicating sexism and homophobia constantly as the reasons for being trans, and they are constantly perpetrating sexism and homophobia in their activism. I would expect that someone with such a neurological disorder, who is against sexism and homophobia, would probably be completely horrified with the current state of trans activism since it’s so harmful to women and her views would probably be very similar to mine.