Monday, February 29, 2016

White-centrism, Profeminism, and Transgender Politics

image, of a white hand holding the world, is from here
[T]hose of us who are transsexual feminists, and especially those of us who transition as adults (I was age 22), are likewise in certain ways "younger sisters or nieces" of women who have lived their whole lives as female. The "cis/trans" binary idea is very harmful because it seeks to reverse this natural order of respect and status where newcomers honor our more experienced elder sisters. And this kind of AFAB-phobia can, in effect, recreate aspects of the patriarchy. For a women to have many years of experience in a given position, and then be asked to train a new man who gets the promotion she deserves, is a pattern women who are AFAB may feel is at least approximated when a new transsexual woman in a group who has only recently transitioned becomes an instant "expert" on the feminist movement. 
                               -- Margo Schulter

What follows is an exchange between white transsexual Lesbian and feminist, Margo Schulter, and my white self. I'll put my text in italics. It picks up from a longer exchange in the comments section of this post, "Is John Wrong? On Andrea Dworkin, Sex Difference, and Gender Dominance".


Margo begins her responses to comments in the prior post with this quote:
"Within the lesbian community I am Black, and within the Black community I am a lesbian. Any attack against Black people is a lesbian and gay issue, because I and thousands of other Black women are part of the lesbian community. Any attack against lesbians and gays is a Black issue, because thousands of lesbians and gay men are Black. There is no hierarchy of oppression." --Audre Lorde
In continuing this dialogue, I would like warmly to accept your invitation to focus more on Women on Color, intersectionality, the ethics and methodology of a woman such as Patricia Hill Collins or bell hooks, and also the need to avoid misleading racial analogies applied in either direction to the Turf Wars. There are some very powerful Indigenous and other non-European models that can be applied to the relationship between women who have lived their whole lives as females (including some intersex women), and women who for some part of their lives have experienced both a measure of male privilege and trans oppression. I'm not saying that there's any exact precedent on this that I know, although I have heard some stories about one Indigenous Nation which, if true, would much fit my sense of sisterhood and justice.

As a first step, I think that we need to follow Audre Lorde's advice on not scoring "oppression points," as you call them, in any direction. Let's not verticalize the Turf Wars, which involve horizontal hostility between sisters, into a conflict where one side has the equivalent of white privilege, and the other is in the position of Women of Color. Such an analogy, whether it's the "cis/trans" binary and "cis privilege" misconception all too popular in the trans community, or the "any transsexual woman should be suspected of expressing male privilege the rest of her life" misconception that has harmed feminism for over four decades, divides sisters and interferes with recognition of mutual vulnerability and the need for mutual aid.

So, to follow Audre Lorde, within the Lesbian community I am a transsexual, and within the trans community I am a radical Lesbian feminist. Any attack against transsexuals is a Lesbian feminist issue, because I and many other transsexuals are part of the Lesbian feminist community. Any attack on Lesbian feminists is a transsexual issue, because many Lesbian feminists are transsexual.

Let's now focus a bit on race; then on special vulnerabilities of women who are AFAB or trans; and then on feminist process and some uplifting models from Women of Color.


Hi Margo,

Thank you for your openness to engaging on these issues, Margo. :) I'll respond comment by comment, rather than posting all your comments together, to keep my responses in closer proximity to what I'm responding to.

I can't take credit for "oppression points"; it is not a term I use to point out problems with ranking oppression. But I know what you're referring to in this context.

For me, a more useful way to understand ourselves intersectionally is in terms of our structural locations and our political positions, which necessarily include what forms of institutional power we have access to and which privileges we benefit from and enjoy. See for example, this post, which informs how I understand various methods for addressing sexual slavery, trafficking, brothel-keeping, what you term sexage work, and pimping and procuring: The Life without Privilege: the Inhumane Consequences of Pro-Prostitution Politics, part 1.

When in my early twenties, a (wo)mentor, a white feminist and lesbian, pointed out that in something I wrote, I made references to two groups: "people" and also to "Black people". Her point, brought to my attention in a way that was very impactful without being shaming, was that identifying people in this way simultaneously falsely universalises and problematically invisibilises whiteness. It was one of those paradigm-shifting moments where the privilege of my whiteness to not name my race was brought suddenly to my consciousness. I have thought about that a great deal since then. The problem my mentor named has continued to exist in white writing and theory-making. Let us consider the following book titles: Sexual Politics (Kate Millett) and Black Sexual Politics (Patricia Hill Collins); Feminist Thought (Rosemary Putnam Tong) and Black Feminist Thought (Collins).

To what extent is Millett's book "White Sexual Politics", and Tong's book "White Feminist Thought"? The question is easy to answer: both books only deal with or strongly center white writers, theorists, and worldviews. Except one chapter in Feminist Thought titled "Women of Color Feminisms".

This is a critique, Margo. You wrote:
"So, to follow Audre Lorde, within the Lesbian community I am a transsexual, and within the trans community I am a radical Lesbian feminist. Any attack against transsexuals is a Lesbian feminist issue, because I and many other transsexuals are part of the Lesbian feminist community. Any attack on Lesbian feminists is a transsexual issue, because many Lesbian feminists are transsexual."
I understand and respect the point with two caveats. 

1. I'm arguing that to follow Audre Lorde you and I must not invisibilise our race when we write about ourselves. So, within Lesbian community, you are a race-privileged transsexual, and within the trans community, you are a radical white Lesbian feminist. I have thought many times about whether I should retitle my blog, "A Radical White Profeminist".

2. I want us to come to consensus about what constitutes "an attack", because we know, online, it is used to describe both shaming and derisive verbal assaults, doxxing, criminal threatening, and reasoned critique. I don't welcome the first things on that list, but militantly want to protect spaces that welcome reasoned critique, even if it 'threatens' core values and worldviews by those in the conversation. I mention this because in most white trans-friendly spaces, what is not considered friendly is digging deeply into some issues, such as the presence (or not) of male (or white) privilege and male (or white) supremacist power. As a radical, I reject making some subjects verboten, as a condition of acceptance. I agree that there are more and less appropriate spaces for some conversations, and I hope to respect those if the boundaries are set by those I structurally oppress. I hope not to respect them if set by those who structurally oppress me, or women of any color. Specifically, I see the avoidance of challenging white and male privilege as one structural form of violence against women of color. So desiring to be inclusive, if that means including women of color, must demonstrate a commitment by people with either white or male privilege, to naming and confronting each.


Margo continues:
At this point, I'd like to get into race, and explain why I often call myself a Second Wave Feminist, even while recognizing that the term does have a certain white bias. The fact that I recognize Frances M. Beale, who wrote in the late 1960's on the "double jeopardy" of being Black and female, the peerless Flo Kennedy whom you recently honored here and I once got to hear speak in San Francisco in the mid-1970's, Pauli Murray of the Harlem Renaissance tradition, Angela Davis, and the Combahee River Collective as all at the center of the Second Wave doesn't mean that it's not a white-oriented way of viewing hirstory.

The question arises: "If the First Wave ended with the gaining of the vote in the U.S.A. in 1920, what about Bessie Smith or Eleanor Roosevelt or Frances Perkins or Rosa Parks or Ella Baker? What about the Black Lesbian culture that thrived through `race records' and the like long before Olivia? Is it really fair to see the whole era of 1920-1963, if we take Betty Friedan's _The Feminine Mystique_ as the start of the Second Wave, as a vast wasteland or blank slate of patriarchy unresisted? Even from a Euro-American view, Ruth Herschberger published the radical feminist _Adam's Rib_ in 1948, and Simone de Beauvoir _The Second Sex_ in 1949."

The reason I identity as Second Wave, as parochial as it is, is to affirm that there were and are radical Lesbian feminists of this era, transsexual and also AFAB, who believe in equal sisterhood, and reject both transphobia and also what I might call AFAB-phobia (with the term "cisphobia" in air quotes tempting, because AFAB-phobia is based on the misconception of "cis privilege"). Make no mistake: either AFAB-phobia or transphobia is destructive, unsisterly, and antifeminist. So is for someone inside or outside the women's community to propose that this or that sister be "decentered" because of her birth assignment.

Many trans people, AFAB as well as AMAB, assume that the 1970's, at least among white feminists, were an era of universal transphobia. I'm delighted when I can change some minds. And the erasure of transsexual Lesbian feminists from some Lesbian feminist accounts of those years by women who rightly resist AFAB-phobia but not the other side of the equation, is something I want to do my part to correct in fighting AFAB-phobia.

But let's get into Women of Color and better ethics and models for feminism.


I continue:
I'll admit this right off, although many who have engaged with me at length already know this: I'm annoyingly, compulsively picky about how language is used. So "let's get into Women of Color" is, for me, a very problematic way to introduce a discussion of the meaning--the reality--of our whiteness and how to center the experiences of Women of Color.

I prefer to identify myself in terms of my politics, rather than when I came into the movement for women's liberation. So, I'm anti-colonialist, pro-Indigenist, and I believe in challenging and eradicating all expressions of male and white supremacy and privilege, including my own. Identifying how and in what ways white and male supremacy are structurally, behaviorally, or philosophically 'active' in a social or interpersonal space is very important to me. 

To respond further to your comment, I think the terms "AFAB" and "AMAB" are problematic and participate in a liberal, post-modern, pro-colonialist, patriarchal discourse. How?

One of the themes of liberalism and post-modernism, in white male supremacist societies, is to reduce matters of structural power and violence to matters of discourse, terminology, and identity. So, the issue of being treated as male, targeted as female, or stigmatised as intersex is replaced with the matter of being identified or assigned male, female, or intersex. This is, for me, linguistic slight of hand, not the Radical Feminist kind.

Does acknowledging the reality of intersex experience mean we must give up a radical and profeminist analysis of Liberalism and Postmodernism (and Modernism)? I hope not. Can we acknowledge the experiences of intersex people and also center a critique of whiteness and male supremacy? I have yet to see that work done. So, that is before us (collectively).

As for white or male supremacy, some of its power comes from its [Modernist] reliance on the Objectivity of Western science to authenticate Truthful Reality. This is called "Essentialism" by Radical Feminists, and by Postmodernists, and by a small group of trans* activists. However, most trans* and queer activists, in my experience, rely heavily on 'essentialism' to even make their arguments. How is it not essentialist to state, "I am a man because I feel like a man"? A radical and profeminist view would interrogate this as follows:

To prioritise the state of being a man to a feeling or internal condition, to a seemingly asocial psychic subjectivity, is to do something radically different than locating manhood as a structured, institutionalised reality that is constructed through coercion and force, not feelings and choice. 

A radical and profeminist view would be, "We are men if we are empowered and encouraged to be sexually dominant and get social status from such dominance." So, if I oppress women and it is considered either natural or appropriate for me to do so (within male supremacist ideology and history), that is what makes me 'a man'. If I do not oppress women, I am not, behaviorally speaking, 'a man'. However, being 'a man' isn't only a matter of behavior. It is a matter also of social-structural meaning. If I am experienced as a man in a parking garage and am also following a woman, that woman will feel less safe than if I appear to be and am a woman.

So, does her subjective experience of me matter as much or less than mine? The Radical and Feminist answer ought to be: hers. And if I'm a transwoman who is still experienced as a man, that ought not disqualify her feelings for consideration. In the real world I live in, if a nontrans woman experiences the actions of a transwoman as male supremacist, that is considered transphobia or transmisogyny: end of consideration. I have *never* experienced a white transwoman, transsexual or not, own and name her male privileges or entitlements, to whatever extent each exist, from whatever portion of life they were obtained. And as refusing to own or name white privilege is one form of white supremacy, refusal to name male privilege is a male supremacist act.

There is a call by pro-trans activists to de-prioritise what nontrans girls and women experience (and why), and instead respond and engage based only on the trans person's subjective identity. This requires major dissociation from radical and feminist knowledge of patriarchy and how it works. This is what I see validated, among other things, in the quote of yours I open this post with.

To call on all profeminist activists to prioritise the eradication men's violence against girls and women, to disappear rape culture, is to make room for people to be male, female, or intersex without the abusive and terrifying overlay of male supremacy and female subordination. To call on radicals and profeminists to be silent about white or male supremacy's presence in trans*-inclusive spaces is to be anti-radical and anti-feminist. I'm wondering if you agree with that.


Margo continues:
There's a powerful story from the Haudenosaunee or Six Nations, literally the "Longhouse" with the different Nations as the "hearths" of that larger confederation joined under the Great Law of Peace. Women play a central role in the life and governance of the Haudenosaunee, and women coming from lives either of African slavery or oppressive sex servitude within the Euro-American community have found refuge in the Haudenosaunee. The Euro-American feminist Matilda Joslyn Gage was in the later 19th century adopted into the Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) Nation, in recognition of her faithful allyship.

Originally the Five Nations, the Haudenosaunee in 1722 accepted a new member: the Tuscarora Nation, which had suffered much harm because of the European invasions and Turtle Island genocide, and sought inclusion. In keeping with the Great Law of Peace, they indeed were accepted, but as the "younger nephews" (or should we say "younger nieces" also?) of the Haudenosaunee. The Great Law of Peace itself cautioned that those who had not grown up under this Constitution would not be fully familiar with it, and so should enjoy full acceptance and inclusion, but also a certain juniority, one might say.

In my view, those of us who are transsexual feminists, and especially those of us who transition as adults (I was age 22), are likewise in certain ways "younger sisters or nieces" of women who have lived their whole lives as female. The "cis/trans" binary idea is very harmful because it seeks to reverse this natural order of respect and status where newcomers honor our more experienced elder sisters. And this kind of AFAB-phobia can, in effect, recreate aspects of the patriarchy. For a women to have many years of experience in a given position, and then be asked to train a new man who gets the promotion she deserves, is a pattern women who are AFAB may feel is at least approximated when a new transsexual woman in a group who has only recently transitioned becomes an instant "expert" on the feminist movement.

Respect for seniority-juniority among sisters can often be implicit, and transsexual women can bear it in mind even if our trans history is not known in a given group. It can function as a kind of self-restraint, a desire to keep feminist process balanced (of which more a bit later).


I love the commitment to visibility and respect for historically subordinated and oppressed people implicitly and explicitly stated here.

I also want us--and whites generally--to engage in the effort necessary to understand how our whiteness and colonialist patriarchy impacts Indigenous people in and beyond our home regions, today. 


Another story involving the Haudenosaunee, and more specifically the Kanienkehaka Nation, may give a clue as to how Indigenous values may help to resolve the AFAB/trans question within radical feminism in groups which do wish to include both types of women.

A story I learned some 25 years ago tells how a European women served as a domestic servant in the colonies, sometime around the middle 18th century, and suffered much abuse. She managed to seek refuge with the Kanienkehaka Nation, and due course was made an adoptive member. There the idea of abusing a woman was unknown, with 19th-century feminists like Lydia Maria Child noting how rape was likewise unknown in many Indigenous Nations. This assimilated woman had the right to own her own property, in the context of a communal as opposed to predatory and capitalist society, and so found safety and happiness in her new community.

However, the Great Law of Peace suggests that as an acculturated rather than natal member of the Kanienkehaka, she may have been excluded from some constitutional responsibilities, since she had not grown up under this Constitution and had an opportunity to learn its different aspects through lifelong experience. For example, she may not have shared in the responsibility of women to choose and sometimes impeach male leaders or diplomats. However, she was embraced as a woman of her new people, and expected to follow the Great Law of Peace to which she had given her allegiance.

Is not this Indigenous wisdom a beautiful parable for how women who have lived their entire lives as women, and transsexual women who seek refuge with our elder sisters, should relate in sex-class solidarity? The relationship is one of mutual caring, of all for one and one for all, which at the same time recognizes that women who are AFAB have a perspective from which transsexual women should learn as younger sisters.


I am called to find out how such caring is impacted by colonialist white male supremacy: how does the trauma and terrorism faced by specific groups of women shape a capacity for mutual care? How much does economic advantage matter? Margo, what I hear is that the contempt and marginalisation that is enforced and maintained against Black women is fierce; how does white, pro-radical profeminism address this or take this into account? Where does misogynoir live in white radical profeminist movements? Are we able to identify it, or is it left to Black women to name it? Can we name our anti-Indigenism, or is that left to Indigenous people?

I am again drawn to wonder how that hirstory plays out today. And, rather than seeing Indigenist and Aboriginal societies as being good examples of how to do feminism, for whites, how can whites fight for an end to genocide of Indigenous People? How can whites centralise and actively support Indigenist, Black, and Brown women's agendas for their own liberation? And, which whites will choose this as a priority? Which white trans* women? As is the case with white gay men, will white trans* people also prioritise ignoring their whiteness and male privilege over naming and being responsible with it? 


Another aspect of feminist culture in the late 1960's and early 1970's which has had great influence in peace and other social movements since also has Indigenous roots, borrowed by mainly white feminists to deal with a problem that arose between women who were AFAB, although transsexual women are susceptible to this also. That is the problem of unequal participation, when one, two, or a few women (often with white, class, and academic privilege) can mostly dominate the conversations and decision-making process of a group.

This occurred in the early years of radical feminism, both in larger organizations and in the small consciousness-raising groups that were at the heart of the movement. Feminist process borrowed from the traditions of various Indigenous people, to encourage less privileged or articulate women to speak and be heard. An object might be passed from speaker to speaker, and a self-awareness cultivated of how many times one had spoken, as compared to others in the group (and especially the quieter ones!).

Feminist process can be an especially important self-discipline for those of us women, AFAB or trans, who have been fortunate enough to escape or overcome the usual "female disempowerment training" that anyone raised a girl is likely to endure in patriarchy. Jo Freeman or "Joreen," one of the founding members of Radical Women of New York, nicely draws a portrait in 1968 of what we may call an empowered woman that fit some AFAB feminists then and now, as well as many trans women who are spared AFAB disempowerment training:
https://www.uic.edu/orgs/cwluherstory/jofreeman/joreen/bitch.htm">

Around this same era, Martha Shelley of Radicalesbians wrote her "Confessions of a Pseudo-Male Chauvinist," and I recall that her description of her experience as a Butch Lesbian, and elements of internalized sexism, often fit my experience as a transsexual Femme Lesbian. So feminist process is a tool that keeps balance in a group where some women are by socialization, experience, white privilege, academic advantage, or temperament "empowered" in ways that might lead to imbalance or unequal participation. And, as Joreen suggests, women with this kind of style (whether we are AFAB or trans) might also form affinity groups where we can learn from each other.


I am uncomfortable with whites incorporating what we wish, what we need, or what we desire, from Indigenous societies, without that being mutual and reciprocal. Unless such 'borrowing' is both, it is colonialist and patriarchal: it is part of the genocide, not part of honoring Native people. Also, how does dominant [white, male supremacist, colonialist] trans* discourse and activism exploit and distort Indigenist understandings of gender for its own ends? This is an important question for me. I've seen whites post things in white-dominant groups about Indigenist people--for the use and alleged betterment of whites. Never as a way to draw attention to what we do that is problematic and racist; but only as white supremacist action to benefit whites by further exploiting Native ethnic groups.

There is a good critique of the liberalism of Jo Freeman in the book, [Mostly White] Feminist Thought. Perhaps we can pursue that in a later exchange.


To move beyond aberrations such as the misconceived "cis/trans" binary, and also the idea that when women who are AFAB and trans harmoniously cooperate (as in the Olivia Collectives during the mid-1970's) the AFAB members of a group are somehow "caring for men" rather than for their transsexual sisters, Indigenous tradition can again help in moving us beyond an "Oppression Olympics" mentality in either direction.

An Indigenous woman in a discussion on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (Michfest or MWMF) pointed out that a tradition like those she knew would look at circumstance and need in a situation where newcomers desired to share a group's territory, for example as refugees from some natural disaster. Here I should emphasize that for me, attending Michfest (2000 miles away) was not Andrea Dworkin's "primary emergency," nor even a 100th-rate emergency, so to speak! But this woman explained how the Indigenous approach she knew would look compassionately at the needs and intentions of newcomers.

An important factor favoring the inclusion of transsexual women in the women's and Lesbian communities in general -- as opposed to every women's or Lesbian group! -- is that transsexual women make up less than 1% of women, and also face great oppression from patriarchal society while often sharing many of the same ongoing oppressions as other women, although not the special oppressions of AFAB socialization, and also the reproductive vulnerabilities of most AFAB women through much of their lives. If the number of women who are AFAB or trans were about equal, the political and ethical questions might be a bit different.

To say that transsexual women need feminism, and need to make our contribution to feminism in a way which takes advantage of the special perspectives we can bring but also our relationship of juniority to women who have lived their entire lives as female, does not mean that we or any other women need to be present in all women's and Lesbian spaces at all times! No woman can rightly make that demand. Rather, we can look to the wisdom of Lisa Vogel, founder of Michfest, in 2006, who reaffirmed Michfest as an AFAB-only space while affirming the value of "spaces that welcome all who define themselves as female." She declared that "we stand shoulder to shoulder as women," with women who are AFAB or trans being alike "part of the larger diversity of the womyn's community." That is the unity in diversity that can help end the Turf Wars.

It strikes me that if 1% of women are transsexual, the privileging and centering of their subjectivity over that of nontrans women could scarcely be called anything but male privilege or 'trans guilt'. I'm wondering what your response to that is.

Also, overall, a critique of some of the above is that we whites still see Indigenous women in terms of how they may be of benefit to us. Put another way, does that "Indigenous approach" necessitate that whites look compassionately at the needs and intentions of Indigenous people? In my experience, our colonialist entitlements and privileges are rarely examined and never decentered: this is our work. Also, to the varying extents they exist, our male privileges and power is rarely named as such, and so, in fact, is rarely named period. Not only that, but pro-trans* people argue it is transphobic to do so. I have experienced this so many times from white trans women and have found almost no exceptions to the rule, of whiteness.


Julian, you also raised a very important point that bell hooks addresses in _Ain't I A Woman: black women and feminism_ (1981). I agree that it's an open question just what "primary" means in Andrea Dworkin's "primary emergency." Michael Walzer writes of "supreme emergency," meaning a threat so extreme that it might justify violating the normal laws of war, for example; maybe this is a mark of Eurocentric discourse. And to me, "emergency" is quite enough, or, as bell hooks puts it elsewhere, "what is important at a given point in time."

But I agree with you and bell hooks that intersectionality applies in situations of great stress and danger, as she quotes Sojourner Truth, speaking in New York in 1867: "[T]here is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored woman; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before." (_Ain't I A Woman_, p. 4). Interestingly Truth, an activist for Black Liberation and Women's Liberation and the abolition of the death penalty, spoke a century before the founding of Radical Women of New York in 1967 which marked a landmark moment in the modern radical feminist movement.

One larger message of Sojourner Truth is that we can and must recognize each other's emergencies and needs, even while joining in solidarity. Thus if a women, AFAB or transsexual, is expressing patriarchal attitudes or exercising "power over" rather than "power with" in a women's group, feminist process should call this out. If a nonbinary person like Cerien is having their needs neglected, every radical feminist should consider this "our" issue and priority also. The current abortion situation in the State of Texas, USA, is likewise a rightful priority for every feminist woman, whether or not she has herself experienced menstruation or pregnancy.

It is possible to appreciate Andrea Dworkin's powerful insights while also applying the wisdom of Sojourner Truth, bell hooks, and also Audre Lorde: emergencies of different groups or subgroups, like oppressions, do not have any hierarchy. But cooperation, solidarity, and mindfulness of vulnerabilities and immunities can promote the feminist ideal of mutual aid, as opposed to the patriarchal pattern of privilege and servitude.

You have done a nice job of noting some significant contributions made by some women of color to euro-white feminist practice. What is needed here is the writings that call on those of us who are white to examine and check our whiteness. Audre Lorde and bell hooks have both written about this quite a bit. It is common for whites to quote Audre when it suits us, but rarely to do so when it makes us uncomfortable--when she is calling us out on our racism. What must end is the perception of ourselves as somehow unraced or unaffected (whether negatively or positively) by colonialist white supremacy.



Saturday, February 27, 2016

Military Perpetrators of Sexual Slavery, Rape, and Murder Found Guilty in Guatemala

There were jubilant scenes in court when the verdict was announced
[this AP image is from here]
Mientras exista justicia para el más débil, para el desfavorecido, hay esperanza en un futuro digno para todos.  [translation at the bottom of this post]


"This is historic, it is a great step for women and above all for the victims" -- Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Prize winner who attended the hearing


From the BBC, 27 February 2016:

Guatemala: Rape sentences in landmark military trial

A Guatemala court has sentenced two former members of the military to 360 years in jail for the murder, rape and sexual enslavement of indigenous women.

Francisco Reyes Giron and Heriberto Valdez Asij were found guilty of crimes against humanity.

The historic ruling is the first successful prosecution for sexual violence committed during Guatemala's military conflict in the 1980s.

There were jubilant scenes in court as the judge read out the sentence.

"This is historic, it is a great step for women and above all for the victims," said Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, who attended the hearing.

Francisco Reyes Giron, who was the commander of the Sepur Zarco military base, was found guilty of holding 15 women in sexual and domestic slavery and for killing one woman and her two daughters.

Heriberto Valdez Asij, a paramilitary who carried out commissions for the army, was convicted for the same enslavement, as well as the forced disappearance of seven men.

The victims have been demanding accountability for the crimes at Sepur Zarco for decades.

For the rest of that story, please go to *this BBC site*. But for more, please also go to Global Voices or Intercontinental Cry for *this report*. From that article, this excerpt:

While international observers praised the efforts of the national courts, a deep reflection came from the national organisation comprising all universities — the CEUG (in Spanish, Coordinadora Estudiantil Universitaria de Guatemala), which has played a crucial role recently in the battle against corruption, summarised in one line why the ruling is vital for the future of the nation:

Mientras exista justicia para el más débil, para el desfavorecido, hay esperanza en un futuro digno para todos. 

[As long as there is justice for the underdog, for the vulnerable, there is hope for a dignifying future for all of us #SepurZarco]




Sunday, February 21, 2016

"Andrea Dworkin's Woman Hating and the Priority of Sisterhood" -- a new guest post by Margo Schulter

image is from here

What follows was submitted as a comment to a recent post. It concerns a predominantly white-centered battle between some people identified as radical feminist, and some identified as transgender. But as its length would have required breaking it up into several sections, I decided I would post it here as a separate entry, with permission. Margo is white and has been directly involved in Radical and Lesbian Feminist community. -- Julian


Andrea Dworkin's Woman Hating And 
The Priority Of Sisterhood

by Margo Schulter

As a transsexual Lesbian feminist who has been seeking to help build inclusive women's and Lesbian communities based on radical feminist values for 42 years, I can hardly consider the meaning of Andrea Dworkin's writings on intersex and transsexual people in _Woman Hating_ (1974), and on "multisexuality" both there and in _The Root Cause_ (1975), as a mere academic question. As a Second Waver myself, I will here try to offer a bit of perspective both on the current context in which these issues arise, and on why Andrea Dworkin might later have mixed feelings about some of what she said in _Woman Hating_.

Indeed, anyone acquainted with the achievements of Dr. Helen O'Connell, for example, would know that some of what Dworkin presented in 1974 is now outdated science; while other portions might be strongly dependent on the specific backdrop of 1960's counterculture, or open to dangerous misunderstandings that Dworkin might have preferred not to highlight when choosing the best passages for an online library of her writings. I'll address some of these points below, and argue that her views on intersex and trans people very likely do not fall in these categories, a conclusion I share with her close colleague and uncompromising radical feminist Catharine MacKinnon, as well as her partner John Stoltenberg.

This dialogue about _Woman Hating_ grows in good part out of a courageous act of John Stoltenberg in 2013: analyzing and defending the ethics of Chelsea Manning in exposing war crimes of the colonialist patriarchy. <http://thefeministwire.com/2013/10/the-postconventional-ethics-of-chelsea-manning/>. In the process, because he correctly gendered Chelsea Manning, he attracted considerable negative attention from feminists who hold the view that trans women either are men and should be gendered accordingly, or at least are "males" or "nonfemales" with no place in the women's and Lesbian communities.

In response, Stoltenberg in 2014 wrote a piece for the _Feminist Times_ theme of #GenderWeek, "Andrea was not transphobic." <http://www.feministtimes.com/%E2%80%AA%E2%80%8Egenderweek-andrea-was-not-transphobic/>. This was a powerful act of allyship with trans women in general and transsexual radical Lesbian feminists coming from Andrea's Second Wave roots in particular. And for some "true believers" that it is possible to be a zealous follower of the feminism of Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon and at the same time seek the systematic exclusion of transsexual women from feminist and Lesbian communities, Stoltenberg's arguments pointed to an anomaly. Given Dworkin's position that all transsexual people are in "primary emergency" (a condition she had earlier defined as applying, for example, to Africans and African-Americans in the Maafa, Indigenous people in the Turtle Island Holocaust starting soon after 1492, and Jews in the Shoah), how could a follower of Dworkin seek the general exclusion or marginalization of transsexual women as a subgroup of the sex class female?

What I would emphasize is that accepting what Dworkin said in 1974 and 1975 about intersex and transsexual people and "multisexuality" leaves open a vast range of questions about how feminists in 2016 should approach real differences in experiences and vulnerabilities among women at many intersections of oppression. Thus private groups and spaces for either women who are Assigned Female At Birth (AFAB) or women who are trans may sometimes serve valuable purposes. But I do see Dworkin's views as incompatible not only with a general rejection or exclusion of transsexual women from the women's and Lesbian communities, but equally with the attitude of some trans women who distrust or devalue all women who are AFAB, often based on a supposed "cis/trans" binary, which I find as misleading as the sex and gender binaries that Dworkin challenged. If I ask for inclusion and solidarity as a Lesbian woman who enjoyed some male privilege until I transitioned at age 22, as well as a survivor of trans oppression, I surely must stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with women who have never enjoyed male privilege and are survivors of AFAB socialization. As Audre Lorde and other Women of Color have especially shown, sisterhood is a multidimensional reality: but surely it must be a two-way street on the elementary level that I acknowledge the 99% and more of my sisters in the female sex class who have indeed survived AFAB socialization, and have experienced things I cannot imagine. They are my older sisters, not my "cis oppressors"; rather, the patriarchy is our common oppressor.

Here I should also point to something that dyadic (nonintersex) people like Andrea Dworkin and Janice Raymond, and also on a humbler level myself, got wrong at least by omission in the 1970's: the vital intersex issue of childhood medical abuse. The practice of Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM), optional surgery performed on nonconsenting infants and children to bring them into conformity with the patriarchal sex binary and its heteronormative obsession with the penetrative sexual act that Andrea Dworkin would address in _Intercourse_ (1987), should have attracted the passionate condemnation of all feminists for a number of reasons. In reality, however, it only happened when intersex people themselves very visibly spoke out, starting in the mid-1990's. Yet _Woman Hating_ beautifully expresses some of the feminist values fulfilled by the militant intersex movement starting some two decades later, with IGM still very much an issue in many parts of the world.

As you note, Julian, Andrea Dworkin later indicated her own misgivings with some portions of _Woman Hating_. Should we take this to include the passages on intersex and transsexual people? Here I would suggest a reasoned approach in weighing the probabilities of what she may have intended.

First, as I mentioned, there are statements she made or cited in 1974 that we now know to be wrong in ways very, very, important for Lesbian feminists and feminists in general, as with this: "the clitoris is a vestigial penis."

In fact, as Dr. Helen O'Connell of Australia has shown in paradigm-changing research, the clitoris is far larger and more complex than the external and visible portion homologous to the glans penis: that is only, as the African-American feminist Sophia Wallace puts it, "the tip of the iceberg" of the internal clitoris, including the shaft, the crura or legs, and the bulbs (formerly called "vestibular bulbs"). In short, the clitoris overall is about the same size as the penis, except that it is mostly internalized -- and yet more richly innervated (supplied with nerves) and intricate! Thus the human phalloclitoris (as it is often termed in the intersex community) or virga (a medieval Latin term that can apply to clitoris or penis, and I would propose also the range of intermediate forms), differs along the female-male continuum not so much in size as in the degree of internalization or externalization. Here _Woman Hating_ needs an update which I am sure that Dworkin would support, whether or not she was aware of this issue when she chose for other portions of her work to have priority in an online archive.

She might have yet more serious concerns about portions of her chapter on "multisexuality" that addressed the incest taboo, for example, or "bestiality." Here I agree with at least one other commentator that from a truly radical perspective that values human empathy and respectful touch, the "erotic" may embrace many forms of affection that the patriarchal mindset simply cannot comprehend. But such words, in the context of a culture where physical and sexual child abuse are rife, may have later struck her as, to say the least, inapposite. She may have realized that she had looked too far ahead of her times in a way which might endanger those she most wanted to protect: abused women and children. And I will add my conviction that her concern in this regard embraces not only the vast majority of women and girls who are AFAB, but also trans women subject to rape and other crimes of violence.

In contrast, her words about intersex and transsexual people do not pose a similar risk. As long as transsexual Lesbian feminists and other transsexual women who participate in feminist groups behave as sisters, understand that women who have survived AFAB socialization are in this sense our seniors, and respect the basic rule of enthusiastic consent and noncoercion that no Lesbian owes sex to any other Lesbian, regardless of birth assignment, there should be no insoluble problems. And members of feminist communities who do not meet these expectations, regardless of birth assignment, can and should be asked to leave.

Julian, you also raise a point where there has been a rather heated dialectic of conflict, as I might say, but a ready synthesis is available. You are absolutely right that it is implicit in Dworkin that the vast majority of women are AFAB, and are indeed oppressed under the brutal patriarchal hierarchy of gender because of their actual or perceived reproductive capabilities -- which, under patriarchy, become vulnerabilities.

Thus transsexual women who are good feminists recognize that in that sense, within the female sex class we are the exception rather than the rule, which makes it all the more important for us to show sex-class consciousness and solidarity by supporting women's reproductive rights as a women's issue and feminist issue. What hurts our sisters, hurts ourselves.

Although Andrea does not address the details of how transsexual women might interact with other women in the feminist movement, a discussion early in _Woman Hating_ about "primary emergency" indicates that women who have special oppressions -- and, for me, AFAB oppression as well as trans or intersex oppression amply qualifies here -- have a responsibility also to look to the general experience and interests of the female sex class. That means at once recognizing, for example, that negative menstrual stereotypes and insulting language demean all women, include those of us who never ourselves have periods, and that discussions of menstruation and allied health concerns should be welcome in inclusive women's groups; and also that women who share the experience of menstruation may sometimes want to have rituals of a kind led by Z Budapest for themselves only.

From this perspective of interpreting Andrea's views from 1974 in an inclusive and flexible way, John Stoltenberg's arguments for the spirit of inclusion are powerfully supported by Catharine MacKinnon, whose opposition to pornography and what she terms prostitution and I term sexage work (from the French _sexage_, a feminist concept meaning sex-based servitude or slavery) is well known. She speaks best for herself: <http://radfem.transadvocate.com/sex-gender-and-sexuality-an-interview-with-catharine-a-mackinnon_n_433>

As a Second Wave feminist, I would add that recognizing a continuum of physical sex (with intersex people representing natural variations rather than pathological cases) and of what we perceive under patriarchy as gender identities and styles of gender expression, in no way makes the gender hierarchy of patriarchy less real or oppressive! Andrea shows that we can use common sense and hirstorical experience to recognize both what is brutally "real" under patriarchy, and what is ultimately "true" about feminist possibilities, without any need for "postmodernism." Kate Millett and Andrea Dworkin had it right: while "gender identity" or "sex identity" develops in the first years of life in a given social context as a basic reality for an individual, transsexual or otherwise, the patriarchal system of gender is not just a "performance," or an even playing field with equally valid "choices." Being raped, or facing an unwanted pregnancy, is not just a theatrical scene; the playing field of gender roles and expressions under patriarchy is not level ground, but has a twisted topology of threatened and too often realized violence. This violence, as it affects women who are AFAB, transsexual, and/or intersex, is something that _Woman Hating_ calls on all women to oppose in common sisterhood.

The way I like to phrase an inclusive feminist approach is this: "The rule does not exclude the exceptions, and neither do the exceptions exclude the rule." Thus the vast majority of women are AFAB, and a large portion of this majority face the risk of unwanted pregnancy -- facts essential in understanding the origins and nature of patriarchy as enforced reproductive labor and slavery, and the need of all women, including intersex and transsexual women, to unite in order to liberate our sex class. The presence of a relatively few acculturated transsexual women in the feminist and Lesbian communities need in no way decenter the concerns of women who are AFAB, and good feminist process will maintain balance. Such process, of course, depends on the acknowledgment of privileges and immunities, including, for those of us who are transsexual women, past male privilege and also immunity from childhood AFAB socialization.

A Second Wave tradition which I strongly support is the principle that each affinity group within the greater feminist and Lesbian communities can set its own boundaries. Thus a group like the Women's Liberation Front (WoLF) has every right to define itself as AFAB only. In fact, I admire many of the declared rules and guidelines of this group on conduct both online and in the larger world, and would see an effort to build similar groups and communities including women regardless of birth assignment as a sisterly response. Thus WoLF is free to set its own boundaries, and other affinity groups are free to do the same. Radical feminism is large enough to have room for both types of groups and private spaces.

In short, as I hope to have suggested by this point, living by Andrea Dworkin's radical feminist values as expressed in _Woman Hating_ is a high challenge for transsexual women as well as women who are AFAB, including intersex women regardless of birth assignment. It means recognizing the material reality of women's reproductive slavery, and the psychological oppression of AFAB socialization, that we too need to center early and often. In short, if we identify _as_ women, we must identify _with_ women, so that sisterhood overcomes the illusory "cis/trans" binary. Sisterhood first and foremost! That seems to me implicit in everything that Andrea Dworkin has written.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Is John Wrong? On Andrea Dworkin, Sex Difference, and Gender Dominance


image of book cover is from here

What follows seeks a careful, thoughtful read of Andrea's early writings. I hope to make two points:

1. Andrea's view of 'woman' was directly and politically tied to the female body—uncritically.
2. John decontextualises or overvalues key points in some of her early work, points she later abandoned or came to understand as politically problematic. In the process, the core of her work is ignored.

In John's article, "Andrea Dworkin was not Transphobic", he stated that her early views were profound and life-changing for him. From "Andrea Was Not Transphobic" at Feminist Times:
One passage in Woman Hating changed my life forever:
“The discovery is, of course, that “man” and “woman” are fictions, caricatures, cultural constructs. As models they are reductive, totalitarian, inappropriate to human becoming. As roles they are static, demeaning to the female, dead-ended for male and female both.”
That is the opening of the last chapter of the book, chapter 9: "Androgyny: Androgyny, Fucking, and Community." Also from that chapter, page 175:
... The first question then is: What of biology? There are, after all, men and women. They are different, demonstrably so. We are each of one sex or the other. If there are two discrete biological sexes, then it is not hard to argue that there are two discrete modes of human behavior, sex-related, sex-determined. One might argue for a liberalization of sex-based roles, but one cannot justifiably argue for their total redefinition.  
Hormone and chromosome research, attempts to develop new means of human reproduction (life created in, or considerably supported by, the scientist’s laboratory), work with transsexuals, and studies of formation of gender identity in children provide basic information which challenges the notion that there are two discrete biological sexes. That information threatens to transform the traditional biology of sex difference into the radical biology of sex similarity. That is not to say that there is one sex, but that there are many. 
The issue, in part, is this matter of whether there are "two discrete biological sexes". Beginning on page 176, she offers the following evidence of the two not being "discrete", or polar opposites, biologically:
The words “male” and “female, ” “man” and “woman, ” are used only because as yet there are no others. 
1. Men and women have the same basic body structure. Both have both male and female genitals —the clitoris is a vestigial penis, the prostate gland is most probably a vestigial womb. ... 
2. Until the 7th week of fetal development both sexes have precisely the same external genitalia. Basically, the development of sex organs and ducts is the same for males and females and the same two sets of ducts develop in both.  
3. The gonads cannot be said to be entirely male or female. Dr. Mary Jane Sherfey writes: In their somatic organization, the gonads always retain a greater or lesser amount of the opposite-sex tissue which remains functional throughout life. 
4. Chromosomal sex is not necessarily the visible sex of the individual. It happens that a person of one chromosomal sex develops the gonads of the other sex. Gonadal sex and chromosomal sex can be in direct contradiction.  
5. Chromosomal sex is not only XX or XY. There are other chromosomal formations, and not much is known about them or what they signify.  
6. A person can have the gonads of one sex, and the secondary sexual characteristics of the other sex.  
7. Men and women both produce male and female hormones. The amounts and proportions vary greatly, and there is no way to determine biological maleness or femaleness from hormone count.  
8. One hormone can be transformed by the body into its “opposite, ” male into female, female into male.  
9. It is now thought that the male hormone determines the sex drive in both men and women. 
10. The female hormone (progesterone) can have a masculinizing effect. Dr. Sherfey writes:
We may have difficulty conceiving it, but natural selection has no difficulty using sexually heterotypic structures for homotypic purposes. For example, progesterone is the “pregnancy hormone” essential for menstruation and the prolonged pregnancy. It is as uniquely a “female” hormone as one can be. Yet progesterone possesses strong androgenic properties. It may be used to masculinize female embryos. In 1960, Jones (27, 63) demonstrated that progesterone given to human mothers early in pregnancy to prevent threatened miscarriages. . . severely masculinized a female fetus.
11. Visible sex differences are not discrete. There are men with tiny cocks, women with large clits. There are men with highly developed breasts, women with almost no breast development. There are men with wide hips, women with no noticeable hip development. There are men with virtually no body hair, women with much body hair. There are men with high voices, women with low voices. There are men with no facial hair, women who have beards and mustaches.  
12. Height and weight differences between men and women are not discrete. Muscle structures are not discrete. We know the despair of the tall, muscular woman who does not fit the female stereotype; we know also the despair of the small, delicate man who does not fit the male stereotype. 
13. There is compelling cross-cultural evidence that muscle strength and development are culturally determined. There are cultures in which there are no great differences in somatotype of men and women...
14. There are hermaphrodites in nature. Robert T. Francoeur, in Utopian Motherhood: New Trends in Human Reproduction, admits: The medical profession and experimental biologists have always been very skeptical about the existence of functional hermaphrodites among the higher animals and man, though the earthworm, the sea hare, and other lower animals do combine both sexes in the same individual.
We are not being told two sexes don't exist, in nature or otherwise; we are being told they don't exist 'discretely'. Any casual observations of humans around the world, and even within one culture or region, bears that out: females and males are not "opposites" or entirely physically different kinds of people. Due to that, she concludes, "[w]e are justified in making a radical new formulation of the nature of human sexuality. We are, clearly, a multisexed species which has its sexuality spread along a vast fluid continuum where the elements called male and female are not discrete."

This is a crucial point for John in his work. The insight also informs the work of others, many of whom are neither radical nor feminist.

Gender, sex, and sexuality as "a vast fluid continuum" is pursued by many white sexual Liberals and Queer Theorists in the following decades. I describe them as Liberals because, unless exceptionally, they are not engaged in efforts to eradicate colonialist patriarchy from the roots up. And too often they seek to distance themselves from those who do. A problem occurs when focus on sexual fluidity or continuums becomes the primary work, not in collaboration or coalition with radical and feminist activists.

Achieving greater dignity and visibility to those who are intersex or transsexual is a worthwhile endeavor—life saving for some. But seeking visibility in an unchallenged status quo was not the objective, even in this early work of Andrea's. We are being led to consider the following:
"...the concrete implications of multisexuality as we find it articulated in both androgynous mythology and biology necessitate the total redefinition of scenarios of proper human sexual behavior and pragmatic forms of human community. If human beings are multisexed, then all forms of sexual interaction which are directly rooted in the multisexual nature of people must be part of the fabric of human life, accepted into the lexicon of human possibility, integrated into the forms of human community. By redefining human sexuality, or by defining it correctly, we can transform human relationship and the institutions which seek to control that relationship. Sex as the power dynamic between men and women, its primary form sadomasochism, is what we know now. Sex as community between humans, our shared humanity, is the world we must build." 
Isolated from her core message, some of the above can come across as post-modern and Liberal Queer Theory-making. It is important to note, the problem with post-modernism isn't its discursive critique of colonialist patriarchal modernism; it is its belief that changes in language adequately lead to sufficient changes in culture, and therefore society. The problem with Liberalism isn't that it necessarily refuses Radicalism. The problem is that people are seduced by speaking and writing projects that don't disturb the major power-brokers of society. And, it is easier to target radical activists than be accountable to them. It is also pro-hegemonic to ignore those who are most harmed by systems of exploitation and violence, effectively protecting and preserving the status quo.

People, usually those atop various political hierarchies, are far too satisfied to avoid and ignore the most heinous realities: they can also better afford to do so. I know of no one who occupies various positions at the bottom of several political hierarchies who are Liberal or who believe that only reforming colonialist patriarchy is sufficient to save their lives.

Yet, Liberals can and have worked with Radicals; the problem is that because Liberals don't actively pursue radical transformation, they instead attack Radicals and their theories and agendas, often as being illiberal and even conservative. To the extent that people seeking to reform the status quo only endeavor to create more text, more identities, or more laws within patriarchy, they are liberal and a problematic form of post-modern. Academic discourse aside, it means they are invested, often without intent and usually without awareness, in the mass subordination, enslavement, and murder of women and girls.

According to Andrea, "redefining human sexuality", or "defining it correctly" does not, by itself, leave us with something other than "the power dynamic between men and women, its primary form sadomasochism", unless we build it. Dworkin, in this abandoned early theory, is calling for a more complex, non-hierarchical mythology of gender and sex as part of an overall program of dismantling patriarchy. It is not an end unto itself. The goal is not "more genders". The goal is the end of gender-as-hierarchy, and all expressions of male supremacist violence. So if we don't get there by changing terms and sexual categories, how do we?
"We must destroy the very structure of culture as we know it, its art, its churches, its laws." — Andrea Dworkin, "The Rape Atrocity and the Boy Next Door", page 48, Our Blood.
The project isn't primarily discursive (one of creating new theory) or one of expanding identities (as liberal genderqueer proponents do). It is eradicating male supremacist violence, including as it expresses itself through culture, art, religion, and laws.

To appreciate the implications of anything she wrote, one must face this fact:

Andrea's writing was a radical and feminist political act; she wrote as an activist, building revolution into her prose and nonfiction. She wanted patriarchy dead as soon as possible, accomplished by ending all forms of sexual violence against women and girls—against their spirits and minds, and against their female bodies. This, more than anything else, was what I believe Andrea wanted to see achieved.

We must also keep this in mind. With Nikki Craft alone, over a period of years, Andrea carefully selected the contents of the Andrea Dworkin Online Library. The section from Woman Hating now being promoted by John as, according to him, dis-identifying womanhood with femaleness, was not chosen by Andrea as something she wanted to have preserved in cyberspace. What she did choose was a portion of part 2, "The Pornography" as an introduction to a full chapter called "Woman as Victim: Story of O", pp. 53-63, from Woman Hating, copyright © 1974 by Andrea Dworkin.

From "The Pornography":
Pornography, like fairy tale, tells us who we are. It is the structure of male and female mind, the content of our shared erotic identity, the map of each inch and mile of our oppression and despair. Here we move beyond childhood terror. Here the fear is clammy and real, and rightly so. Here we are compelled to ask the real questions: why are we defined in these ways, and how can we bear it?
Now, the opening paragraph from "Woman as Victim: Story of O"
The Story of O, by Pauline Reage, incorporates, along with all literary pornography, principles and characters already isolated in my discussion of children's fairy tales. The female as a figure of innocence and evil enters the adult worldthe brutal world of genitalia. The female manifests in her adult formcunt. She emerges defined by the hole between her legs. In addition, Story of O is more than simple pornography. It claims to define epistemologically what a woman is, what she needs, her processes of thinking and feeling, her proper place. It links men and women in an erotic dance of some magnitude: the sado-masochistic complexion of O is not trivialit is formulated as a cosmic principle which articulates, absolutely, the feminine.
What is epistemically existent is the colossal and subordinating violence done to women's female bodies by men. This, not the separation of female bodies from women's lives, is what Andrea exposed.

Far less frequently quoted than some of what is above, is this: Andrea states, "I think there are a lot of things really wrong with the last chapter of Woman Hating." See, Without Apology: Andrea Dworkin's Art and Politics, by Cindy Jenefsky (1998). The quote is from page 139, in her notes to chapter 3. Her point is not thoroughly discussed so we do not know all of what she meant.

John's article continues:
That belief in the possibility of life beyond gender was a core of both her work and mine. A speech I gave within a few months after our meeting was published as Refusing to Be a Man (the title I gave my first book). In a speech of Andrea’s written about a year later she drew a distinction between reality and truth in order to say that: 
“while the system of gender polarity is real, it is not true…. [T]he system based on this polar model of existence is absolutely real; but the model itself is not true. We are living imprisoned inside a pernicious delusion, a delusion on which all reality as we know it is predicated.”
As already indicated, I do not believe "life beyond gender", per se, was "a core" of her work. The distinction may appear subtle, but here, John is conflating his own literary and political project with hers, implying a mutually reinforcing intellectual pursuit and activist agenda. We are deliberately told the chronology of their early writings. But the thing is, he has not strayed from his earliest points. She moved on.

The speech he links to above appears as chapter 9 in Our Blood, "The Root Cause". I shall excerpt a substantial portion of the speech, here:
One basic principle of reality, universally believed and adhered to with a vengeance, is that there are two sexes, man and woman, and that these sexes are not only distinct from each other, but are opposite. The model often used to describe the nature of these two sexes is that of magnetic poles. The male sex is likened to the positive pole, and the female sex is likened to the negative pole. Brought into proximity with each other, the magnetic fields of these two sexes are supposed to interact, locking the two poles together into a perfect whole. Needless to say, two like poles brought into proximity are supposed to repel each other. 
The male sex, in keeping with its positive designation, has positive qualities; and the female sex, in keeping with its negative designation, does not have any of the positive qualities attributed to the male sex. For instance, according to this model, men are active, strong, and courageous; and women are passive, weak, and fearful. In other words, whatever men are, women are not; whatever men can do, women cannot do; whatever capacities men have, women do not have. Man is the positive and woman is his negative.
... 
This diseased view of woman as the negative of man, "female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities," infects the whole of culture. It is the cancer in the gut of every political and economic system, of every social institution. It is the rot which spoils all human relationships, infests all human psychological reality, and destroys the very fiber of human identity.

This pathological view of female negativity has been enforced on our flesh for thousands of years. The savage mutilation of the female body, undertaken to distinguish us absolutely from men, has occurred on a massive scale.
Here we see the core theme of her work, well reiterated, consistent with the quote above from "The Rape Atrocity". "The diseased view" is not that woman has a female body. "The pathological view" is not that women are female. The sociopathology is the uses and abuses to which women's female bodies are put, in patriarchal cultural mythology and in hard-core practice.

Advocating the addition of other genders, while leaving unchallenged the tyrannical sexual hierarchy that is globalised, is not a revolutionary effort. It is liberal to the core. The big mistake is thinking Dworkin sought to separate women's resistance to patriarchy from being female, or men's efforts to transform themselves from being male. What Andrea sought was the end of any association, presented to us as both truth and reality, of being a woman with being feminine and submissive, or being a man with being masculine and predatory.

Addendum:
Many people I know, respect, and love are intersex, non-binary, or transsexual. There is no unspoken claim here by me that Andrea was anti-transsexual or that she denied the existence of intersex people. She was an astoundingly empathic and compassionate human being, very much against cruel stereotyping and hatred of any group systematically targeted for violence and socially marginalised by the powerful. She wrote in Woman Hating, page 182:
...whatever we choose to make out of the data of what is frequently called Intersex, it is clear that sex determination is not always clearcut and simple. Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins University has basically isolated these six aspects of sex identity: 
1. Genetic or nuclear sexuality as revealed by indicators like the sex-chromatin or Barr-body, a full chromosomal count and the leucocytic drumstick;
2. Hormonal sexuality which results from a balance that is predominantly androgenic or estrogenic; 
3. Gonadal sexuality which may be clearly ovarian or testicular, but occasionally also mixed; 
4. Internal sexuality as disclosed in the structure of the internal reproductive system; 
5. External genital sexuality as revealed in the external anatomy, and finally; 
6. Psychosexual development which through the external forces of rearing and social conditioning along with the individual's response to these factors directs the development of a personality which is by nature sexual. 
At this point, Dr. Money is more commonly known to have been a child abuser and pro-predation.

And from page 186:
Transsexuality  
How can I really care if we win “the Revolution”? Either way, any way, there will be no place for me. A transsexual friend, in a conversation 
Transsexuality is currently considered a gender disorder, that is, a person learns a gender role which contradicts his/her visible sex. It is a “disease” with a cure: a sex-change operation will change the person’s visible sex and make it consonant with the person’s felt identity.  
Since we know very little about sex identity, and since psychiatrists are committed to the propagation of the cultural structure as it is, it would be premature and not very intelligent to accept the psychiatric judgment that transsexuality is caused by faulty socialization. More probably transsexuality is caused by a faulty society. Transsexuality can be defined as one particular formation of our general multisexuality which is unable to achieve its natural development because of extremely adverse social conditions.  
There is no doubt that in the culture of male-female discreteness, transsexuality is a disaster for the individual transsexual. Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency (see p. 185) as a transsexual. There are 3 crucial points here. One, every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means that every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. This is an emergency measure for an emergency condition. Two, by changing our premises about men and women, role-playing, and polarity, the social situation of transsexuals will be transformed, and transsexuals will be integrated into community, no longer persecuted and despised. Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it. Either the transsexual will be able to expand his/her sexuality into a fluid androgyny, or, as roles disappear, the phenomenon of transsexuality will disappear and that energy will be transformed into new modes of sexual identity and behavior.
She goes on to discuss Transvestism, Bestiality, and Incest, although not in the pro-predation, pro-perpetration ways that MRAs claim. But it should be quite clear that what she proposes here was later rejected for several reasons, in part because it is victim-ignoring, politically naive, and speculative relative to her later work. For example, this, from page 180 of Woman Hating:
It is interesting here to speculate on the perceptions of men like Lionel Tiger (Men in Groups) who in effect project human cultural patterns of dominance and submission on the animal world. For instance, Dr. Sherfey tells us that “In many primate species, the females would be diagnosed hermaphrodites if they were human” (Italics hers.) Most probably, we often simply project our own culturally determined modes of acting and perceiving onto other animals—we effectively screen information that would challenge the notions of male and female which are holy to us. In that case, a bias toward androgyny (instead of the current bias toward polarity) would give us significantly different scenarios of animal behavior.
Nothing too dangerous happens to non-human animals if we don't bother to notice that female and male are not the only presentations of sexed being. A lot happens to them, and to us, if we fail to challenge the ways female human beings across their lifetimes, as girls and as women, are harassed, threatened, beaten, raped, and murdered, precisely for being female women. Colonialist patriarchy is a core problem in the West and beyond. Girls across the globe are imperiled right now, but more generations of girls will continue to be if we ignore the bulk of what Andrea so truthfully described in her work across the 1980s and until her death, about entirely unspeculative gendered atrocities.



Monday, February 15, 2016

Fighting Sexual Exploitation: In Solidarity with My Life My Choice!

This is the opening of a statement by Audrey Morrissey, the Associate Director of My Life My Choice, who is a trafficking survivor.
My Experience in the Sex Trade Had Nothing to Do with Choice
audrey-1
I was first sold for sex when I was 16. My boyfriend told me that if I loved him and our daughter, I’d work the corner so we could have a better life. He made me think there were no other options. He convinced me I wasn’t doing it for him, but for us. 
I know there are some women who say they do this willingly—they call themselves “sex workers.” Maybe that’s their truth, but that’s not mine. 
Nor is it the truth for the hundreds of girls I’ve counseled over the past 12 years at My Life My Choice.
For the rest of her statement, please go here to demandabolition.org.

I stand in solidarity with My Life My Choice. Here is the summary of their work:
Harnessing the strength of the collective voices of survivors, My Life My Choice empowers vulnerable youth to be agents of change in their own lives and in the movement to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Here is their mission statement:
The mission of My Life My Choice is to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of adolescents through survivor-led programs that educate and empower youth to find their voice and create a positive life path while working to eliminate the violence and victimization of sexual exploitation. 
We have a laser focus on strengthening the power, and amplifying the voices, of those who are most vulnerable and of those who have survived exploitation.
We are building a network of allies to stand up to the force of the illegal sex industry and create long-lasting social change.
Here is their history:
In 2001, a young Boston woman was brutally murdered. She was 17 years old and living in a Child Protective Services (CPS) funded group home. Unbeknownst to any of the caring adults in her life, she was being commercially sexually exploited. At the time of her death, leaders across Boston came together to say "was this an isolated incident or the tip of the iceberg?” We quickly learned that it was the tip of the iceberg. Out of Latasha's death, My Life My Choice was born. 
Today, My Life My Choice offers a unique continuum of survivor-led services spanning provider training, prevention groups for vulnerable adolescent girls, survivor mentoring to young victims of commercial sexual exploitation, and advocacy and leadership development. Our programs are grounded in the strength and resiliency of survivor leaders. 

To all the employees, volunteers, and activists affiliated with My Life My Choice, thank you for all you do for girls and women!  -- Julian