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.

A post on abortion, by special request

This is a post on abortion as requested by a reader. The reader who requested this is a conservative woman who reached out to me after my blog was linked to by the Federalist. We had a little chat about politics, and the assumptions made about what “liberals” and “conservatives” believe, which are much more nuanced than they are often presented. Then she asked me what I thought of sex-selective abortion in India.

It will not surprise anyone to find out that I am firmly pro-choice. I never write about abortion on this blog because I consider the matter settled. Years ago, when I first started talking about politics online, I got into lots of heated abortion debates, and this solidified what my beliefs are. Here is a summary of my position.

Feminists are not pro-choice because we like “killing babies,” as some of the weirder parts of the Right like to claim. We actually are pro-choice because we want reproductive decisions to be made by women and we want women in control over our own bodies and our lives. We recognize that in a patriarchy, women don’t always have control over when we have sex and when we reproduce, because women are often either subtly coerced or outright forced into sex by men. We also recognize that women are the primary caregivers of children and that when a woman gets pregnant she is often solely responsible for raising the child, since men often take off as soon as they’ve impregnated her. Feminists want women to be able to decide when and how to have sex and to reproduce, and that includes having the option not to give birth, so that we can be fully in control over what we do with our lives. Without the ability to control our fertility, women can be easily made dependent on the men who get us pregnant, something that puts us at risk.

The majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester when the fetus is less than two inches long. Although a small fetus is human and is alive, I don’t believe that at such an early stage of development it should have rights that take precedence over the rights of the fully-formed adult woman who is carrying it. The appropriate time to confer full personhood rights on a human being is at birth, when it is no longer dependent on another person’s body for survival.

Third trimester abortions are very different because the fetus is almost fully-formed, and thankfully these procedures are rare and usually only performed because of a major medical problem. Women aren’t just waiting until their third trimester and casually deciding they’d rather not be pregnant anymore. In the case of a serious medical problem during the third trimester, it should still be her choice whether she wants to terminate, and not the choice of politicians or doctors who believe they have moral authority over her.

People who are against abortion are being disingenuous about what their real motivations are. If people actually want to save babies, then their activism should focus on ending poverty, ending war, making sure everyone has access to food, housing, and health care, and making sure single mothers have access to welfare. People who call themselves “pro-life” are generally against anything that would actually save a person’s life. They are focused entirely on legally forcing pregnant women to give birth, even though they may not be in a position to care for the child once it’s born, and punishing women who attempt to control their own fertility.

The following text was written by a friend of mine who gave her permission to share it. This reflects my views exactly:

“A fetus/zygote/etc is the only situation where you have one living being trapped inside the body of another living being. The fetus is completely dependent on the mother’s body for everything. I mean, a born baby is also dependent on a caregiver (since they can’t take care of themselves), but at least they can breathe, remove waste from their body (pee, etc) without it directly affecting the mother’s body [and anyone can care for the baby, not just the mother].

A fetus is dependent on the mother in a very unique way. If a decision is made to keep/give birth to the fetus, the mother has to go through all of the life- and body-changing aspects of pregnancy – and pregnancy and childbirth are potentially life-threatening, even in developed countries with excellent healthcare. So the question becomes: does a woman have the right to bodily autonomy? Or can/should she be forced to carry and give birth to a child against her will? That is what is at stake in this debate; and not some silly issue about “choice.” The whole “choice” rhetoric is both liberal and actually inadequate for expressing what is really at stake here (women’s bodily autonomy and lives).

If someone is against abortion, they are pro-forced childbirth. Most anti-abortion people will deny this, because “no one forced the woman to have sex in the first place.” (sic) Which brings us to the issue of rape. Most anti-abortion people claim to make an exception for rape, which brings up (at least) 2 problems:

1) If you believe abortion is murder, exception in cases of rape, then you don’t believe abortion is murder in the first place. If killing a fetus is just as bad as killing a born human, then why would the circumstances of conception change that? Killing is killing, murder is murder. Either it’s always murder, or you’re being inconsistent.

2) If we banned abortion except for cases of rape, how would a woman prove that she was raped in order to be allowed to get an abortion? Even if our justice system was fair to sexual assault victims, trials still often take months to years. By the time a woman could prove in court that she was raped, it would be too late for an abortion anyway.

And there’s still the potential health problem(s) of pregnancy, which are always possible, even in a healthy woman. If you’re against abortion on demand, you necessarily believe that women should be (potentially) forced to risk their lives because their contraception failed or some such thing.

To sum up, the “pro-life” pseudo-concerns that people pretend to have only make sense if you see fetuses as independent beings and women as empty incubators for babies. Which really is how some people see things, but they should at least be honest about it.

As for the India thing – yes, I’m against selective abortion of female fetuses, but even then I wouldn’t ban or restrict abortion because there are many women who legitimately need it. If I were in a position of power in India, I might try to ban doctors from telling pregnant women the sex of their baby (that info isn’t medically necessary) and I would otherwise work to raise the status of women and girls so that hopefully people would be less inclined to abort female fetuses. But I wouldn’t touch abortion, for the reasons explained above.”

End quote. I will repeat in my own words essentially what my friend wrote here. Sex selective abortion happens because of the low status of women. The way to combat this is to raise the status of women. When women are in control of our bodies and fertility, we only have sex when we want to, we only have babies when the timing is appropriate and we know we can care for them, and if we have to abort, we usually do it in the first trimester, not after finding out the sex. The fact of abortion being legal doesn’t cause doctors or husbands to abort female fetuses, the fact that they hate women does. It should be women, and only women, in charge of deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, because we are the ones carrying it. And for heaven’s sake, men need to stop hating women.

Women kicked out of women’s shelter for objecting to the presence of a man

From Global News, Concerns over transgender client at Okanagan shelter by Klaudia Van Emmerik.

“Two women are raising concerns about the latest person to move into a Kelowna homeless shelter for women.“He wants to become a woman, I mean that is his choice but when a man comes into a women’s shelter who still has a penis and genitals he has more rights than we do.” Tracey said. Tracey is upset that she was made to share a room with a transgender individual, a man transitioning to become a woman. “They told me, sorry if a person identifies themselves with female, then we have to go with that.” Tracey said. Another client named Blaine was also staying at the shelter. She recently fled from an abusive relationship and says she’s uncomfortable with a transgender person staying at women’s only facility. “Some women have had bad experiences with men so they are fleeing men and now we have a man living there,” Blaine said.

The shelter is run by the NOW Canada Society. While the organization declined an interview on the matter, it did issue the following statement to Global News. “NOW Canada cannot speak to specific cases. It is against the law to discriminate against transgender individuals. NOW Canada and other shelters in Kelowna welcome people without regard to age, race, religion and gender identity.”

On Thursday morning, both Blaine and Tracey were asked to leave the shelter for good after speaking to the media and breaking the confidentiality agreement designed to protect the safety of all the clients. But now they say their safety has been compromised after being tossed out on the street. “Hopefully we will stay safe,” Blaine said. Despite being kicked out of the shelter, they don’t regret speaking out and fighting for their rights. But they say more needs to be done to help the transgender population too. “We need to make a fine line between the distinction of male, female and transgender. I think it’s all three different groups,” Blaine said. “I feel bad for this person, they are transitioning but they need to be in a place where they can associate with other people like them.” While everyone is just looking for a safe place to stay, it’s not as easy as it sounds. NOW Canada says its shelters don’t have enough space to allow transgender clients to have their own room and there are no shelters in the Okanagan designated specifically for transgender people. It all means there are no quick or easy solutions in sight.”

Gender identity legislation means that any male who declares himself a woman will be able to access women-only facilities such as washrooms, locker rooms, and shelters, without even having transgender surgery. This effectively means that fully-intact males can now enter spaces that are supposed to be designated women-only. Women are not comfortable sharing bedrooms, showers, and washrooms with strange men and we shouldn’t have to be. Women fleeing male violence should not be subjected to being forced to share intimate spaces with men. It is pure misogyny to attempt to force women to disregard their own boundaries and their sense of safety in order to accommodate men who mistakenly call themselves women. Men are not women, and we all know this. All women have good reason not to support transgender ideology—it’s not because we’re “bigots,” it’s because we are allowed to recognize our own needs and fight for our own rights as women.

Personal Update

So my blog vacation lasted three weeks! This is not the first time I’ve gone on “blog vacation” only to come back in less than a month, which is actually a normal amount of time to spend between blog posts anyway! I guess I just declare “blog vacation” as a way to tell myself to spend three weeks not writing long essays, because this is what one has to do when one has a blog addiction.

I did do some spring cleaning around here, and it’s not done yet, but I’ve spent the last two weekends going through old stuff and throwing out things I no longer need, and now I need a vacation from that job. It’s actually pretty horrifying. I have made some trips down memory lane and remembered some just awful stuff while going through my old things. Luckily, it’s all thrown out now! And I finally let go of my cassette tapes from the 1990s. Damn! I loved those.

I made some notes for my novel. My next step is to do some actual research, and that will take some time. I figure it will be several months before I have an outline written and can start fleshing out each chapter.

I have been reading a novel written by a radical feminist reader who sent me some free copies. When it’s done I will review it, and then I am going to start reading another novel sent to me by a reader! My readers are awesome!

I have to come back to blogging this weekend, because all sorts of things are pissing me off and I need to write about them! Time to spend endless hours staring at my computer screen again. Dear computer screen, how I love thee!

Must-watch film: Gender Troubles—The Butches

I finally got to see Gender Troubles: The Butches after a whole year of waiting! This film has been made available for the next two weeks for free as an International Women’s Day present! It can be accessed here.

Gender Troubles: The Butches is a documentary that interviews five butch lesbians on a variety of issues affecting butch lesbians. Here is the filmmaker’s statement:

“I felt a need to make this film because as a butch lesbian myself I have experienced so much isolation. I often felt that I was the only one like this. Growing up in a rural area I had no role models. I could not find a future for myself in the women in my life. Not in my family. Not among friends or at school. Not in the adults in my world. Not in newspapers, magazines, television or the movies. I was left to figure it all out by myself. I don’t want other butches, especially younger ones, to feel like they have to go through it all alone too.

When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when I was in my 20s after college I discovered others similar to myself there. I was relieved. But 30 years later I still find that many of the myths and stereotypes about butches like us persist. We are still battling for our right to exist and to be ourselves. Insults, insinuated or shouted, still occur. I continue to find degrading caricatures of people like me. Realistic and positive images of butches are still lacking in the media.

My butch friends had gone through many similar situations but we had rarely shared our stories, often out of shame. As a result we didn’t know how common our experiences were. And we had been under the erroneous impression that we each had to bear these burdens alone. My butch friends inspired me to do something for us and to acknowledge and appreciate our own lives.

So with the help of my friends, we made this film to validate other butches, most whom we would never meet, and to let them know that we know what it is like. They aren’t the only ones. We have been there too and they are fine just the way they are.

With this film I feel we are like the citizens of Dr. Seuss’s Whoville who shout all together
​“We are here! We are here! We are here!” so we can be heard and claim our space.”

I am so happy to see positive, authentic representation of a group of butch lesbians who are proud and happy with who they are. What a treat!

Video: How do we manage dysphoria in other ways?

Lesbian detransitioner Hailey (Re-sister) talks about how detransitioners are managing dysphoria in other ways. There is no easy checklist to make for what to do, because it depends on the person, but she suggests dealing with your internal prejudices such as internalized misogyny, internalized homophobia, etc, seeking appropriate therapy for your other mental health issues, and asking yourself the really hard questions about where your dysphoria came from.

(I’m still technically on blog vacation, meaning I’m not writing any new essays at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I can’t post a video!)