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This article is interesting and the reactions/ratings on the comments, as to which are positively scored and which not - well that is encouraging. Some of the comments themselves are well reasoned and the whole got me thinking. This was a good thing at the time, given I was in a bit of a funk ... or sliding toward one.

So here I'll add a few of my own thoughts on the matter, given it's an issue that has always interested me and one that seems to be constantly revisited.


The issue, at one core, is how some flavours of feminism argue for women-only spaces, essentially as a means toward fighting the fundamental patriarchy still prevalent in our societies. Some counter-argue that this is in and of itself discriminatory - just as segregation was in the US and other places in the past. This is, in my view, not a good argument. The UN definition of discrimination requires the party being so acted against to be, in relative terms, repressed or experiencing a socially embedded status that is diminished in contrast to those discriminating. I think that definition is important, since an act of discrimination only gathers significance when viewed within the underlying power relationship.

So, contextually, the power-relations of our patriarchal society are important and will be until true equality of opportunity exists, regardless of gender. In this, a women-only space is fine ideationally, since it comes from the disenfranchised, repressed aspect of a patriarchal system. Likewise, for men to argue for men-only spaces runs with the dominant aspect and is, therefore, discriminatory.

With me so far? Good.

Now my issue - and any who have read that article, and many of the comments, may have seen this coming - is how this particular facet of feminism often falls, unwittingly or with purpose, into transmisogyny. The tragedy of that, is they are, in doing so, supporting the patriarchal power they claim to be fighting. I can only assume they fail to see this. Either that or they are hypocrites of high order. 

How are they supporting the patriarchy they purport to oppose? - quite simply by following the 'rules of gender value' implicit in the system they oppose. They do this in a fundamental sense.

This support is an inversion, one that that agrees with patriarchal definitions : in a patriarchy, male-privilege is seen as admirable so when a FAAB tries to ascend into it, or a MAAB tries to exit - the opposition is fundamental. Any attempt to gather or renounce a privilege so valued by the system is fought. Any transgendered person knows this well. Essentially, we are defined by our original value, the one we gathered at birth. The one we never asked for or claimed. The one bestowed upon us by the mere happenstance of our apparent gender when we emerged. We are defined by others and denied any role in that decision.

Which is where the tragedy rises, when some women-only spaces continue that valuation. The case in that article highlights this well. They are placing their own definition onto others and, by extension, agreeing with the patriarchy that we can wear little more than the definition of someone else. They fail to note that a MAAB with an identity contrary to that state, has chosen to renounce their privilege. More than that, we often never had such privilege, or did but not to the same degree. A certain amount of privilege is granted by birth gender but it is much more complex - in that a larger portion is only kept if you follow the rules of patriarchy. As a transgendered person, we can often pretend to but ... we rarely understand the nuances. Then, in the moment we come out ... well, those privileges vanish quickly enough. So to argue that we do not understand the value of privilege and the difference granted by gender - and therefore cannot be counted as 'real' women, since we never experienced the weight of that difference ... it not only misses the point, it runs contrary to the reality.

Likewise, for a FAAB with a variant gender identity, the same realisation, the same exists. But, it is not ONLY because, as many women-space proponents contend, they grew up embedded in the female side of that system. To begin, they often spent that youth not understanding or relating to any of their 'socialisation' - indeed, often fighting it. Then, again, the very act of moving counter to their assigned position, coming out and claiming male-privilege - and whether they intend to or not, they implicitly do from the perspective of the patriarchy - that very act gives them a wider view of it.

So, some women-only spaces argue that the only way one can truly be aware, of how embedded patriarchy is, is to have suffered it when young and forming, when being were socialised into a gender role during that time. Rubbish.

This assumes that every person, of a given birth gender, magically experiences the same socialisation - that it is a one-way process, placed upon us all, in which we have no free will to act or oppose or concur. It fails to notice that how any such experience shapes us, is itself shaped by us. Experience varies to the degree that their are some FAAB who accept the system, often without being aware of the implications of such, and then again, there are those tomboys, who never quite 'got it' or never wanted to. To place every experience under the same umbrella is patently lazy.

Sure, a transgendered person can never share every experience that a cisgendered person, of similar identity, has; we do not have the gradual, accumulative weight of it all - or, at least, never to the same degree. No ... instead we get a stark, sharply defined, crash course - one that leaves little doubt as to how things are. By refusing to acknowledge that, those women-only spaces merely continue the patriarchal myth, that out value is defined at birth, by birth and then reinforced in youth ... and to try to defy that is wrong.

So really - what are they fighting again?


MAAB = Male Assigned At Birth
FAAB =  Female Assigned At Birth

Kate Out

Date: 2009-07-20 02:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ashlayne.livejournal.com
Some people just don't realize the contradictions they themselves put out there. They say one thing, then turn around and do another all the while purporting the first. "Women born women" is a very silly section of the populace to be serving, IMO, as women born men have a lot of the same needs as far as health concerns.

It all goes back to your basic discrimination. People (and here, I use the term in the most general sense) are afraid of what's different. They're afraid of change. So when someone or something comes along that threatens their idealized point of view, they feel immediately threatened by it. Therefore, they act out against it. It has happened all across time, to people of alternate ways of thinking, alternate religions, alternate whatevers. It is, I think, sadly one thing that will not change for many years/decades to come in human nature. The best we can do is teach our children tolerance and love for all people, not just a select group (no matter how broad or narrow that group may be).


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