Following on from the TERF thread...

(632 Posts)
CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 21:28:48

Trying to get my head straight on this. Surely the whole malarkey around transwomen wanting to be recognised as women even though they have penises will eventually actually help to break down the idea of gender?

What I mean is, if a person with a penis can be labelled a woman simply because they want to be labelled in that way, surely gender becomes meaningless as it tells you nothing meaningful about a person except perhaps the clothes they like to wear?

This is a half-formed thought, feel free to develop/challenge.

OddBoots Sun 15-Jun-14 21:34:33

It does to an extent but it also cements the idea of gender too as it can't be related to biological sex, so gender must be something powerful in itself if one can be a woman without being female.

FloraFox Sun 15-Jun-14 21:44:19

I think it cements the idea of gender as an inherent aspect of a person rather than being socially determined. The UN definition of "gender" is:

"the social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between women and men and girls and boys, as well as the relations between women and those between men. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes. They are context/ time-specific and changeable. Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a women or a man in a given context. In most societies there are differences and inequalities between women and men in responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities. Gender is part of the broader socio-cultural context."

Rather than gender becoming meaningless, I think it will be reinforced and, even worse, excused. The justification for sex discrimination has usually been variations on the theme of "lady brain". In my own profession (law), women were barred from the profession because the female nature was considered unsuited to adversarial nature of the work. Women had to argue that these ideas of a female nature were wrong in order to get into the profession. Gender theory relies on the acceptance of a female nature, brain, spirit, essence or something of that sort. I don't think gender would become meaningless but the reality of women's oppression based on their sex would become invisible. If it can't be identified, it can't be dismantled.

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 21:45:43

Doesn't it detract from the power though, oddboots, ultimately? What I mean is, if a man can put on "female" clothes and then essentially be a "woman" doesn't it mean that the idea of "woman" doesn't exist, as it really doesn't refer to anything except a preference for a certain type of clothes (which changes with the times/fashion anyway).
That could either be a good or a bad thing, in the end. It could go either way - that women become even more of a nothing than they are now, or that, in the distant future, people just abandon the idea of gender, acknowledge we have different genitals and cater to that and don't associate any particular traits/ideas with those genitals.

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 21:51:34

Hmmm...I see what you mean Flora. So, the idea is that the idea of being trans reinforces the notion that you can have a "female" way of thinking (without actually being female) and so contributes to the whole "men and women are different" bollocks, thus justifying discrimination?

In spite of being horrified by the crap from some transactivists around expecting to be treated as women and being allowed access to female space etc I actually think it has the potential to be a good thing. So far, governments have responded as expected, by giving males (who claim to be trans) what they want at the expense of females. But, I think over time the idea that someone with a penis can just claim to be a woman and then be treated as such will actually throw a lot of light for the general public on the issue of gender and perhaps expose it for the feeble construct it is - too optimistic?

FloraFox Sun 15-Jun-14 21:52:47

in the distant future, people just abandon the idea of gender, acknowledge we have different genitals and cater to that and don't associate any particular traits/ideas with those genitals

How would gender theory get to this point though or effect any change in power? It is embracing the idea of gender, not abandoning it. I like this image.

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 21:55:03

What I mean is, if the debate around female space is pushed far enough then I think it'll come down to "if you have a vulva you can enter here, if you don't get lost -" which, over a long period, could actually do a lot to strip away ideas of gender as what you'll be saying is, ok, we have two basic types of genitals (with some variations in between) and those genitals relate to nothing else to do with a person - they can wear dresses or suits, want to be called man or woman, it's all a matter of choice, we just restrict based on anatomy not on any notion of gender" - does that make sense?

FloraFox Sun 15-Jun-14 21:56:07

sorry cross-post.

the idea that someone with a penis can just claim to be a woman and then be treated as such will actually throw a lot of light for the general public on the issue of gender and perhaps expose it for the feeble construct it is - too optimistic?

Yes, I can see what you mean here. I think the more airtime is given to the post-modern aspect of gender theory, the more people will see that it is nonsense and that might help to break down other ideas of gender? My concern is that women's rights are being eroded in the meantime and (a) this is dangerous for women and (b) will we be able to get them back again?

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 21:57:01

X-post, although I think my last post sort of addresses your question? But to develop further, if a man, with xy chromosomes and a penis can legitimately claim to be a woman, then surely "woman" is a meaningless term as it could apply to literally anyone?

FloraFox Sun 15-Jun-14 22:05:43

I agree it largely becomes meaningless but how does that stop the oppression of women based on their actual or potential sexual and reproductive labour? All it does, IMO, is obscure it and make it difficult to identify and dismantle.

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 22:08:08

Also, the whole thing with transwomen with penises expecting lesbians to be attracted to them and lesbians resisting this ridiculous fuckwittery - doesn't this also help to throw out the whole notion of gender? It sharply points out the fact that lesbians are not attracted to "femininity," which is a male, patriarchal notion of what women should be like, but to the actual physical bodies of biological women, their vulvas, their vaginas, their breasts. The trans idea that lesbians should be attracted to "women" with penises starkly shows up the misogynistic idea that women must like and revere penises and clearly shows men's horror at the idea that some women genuinely love a woman's body. It pushes lesbian sexuality out of the dark and into the spotlight and highlights in a very clear way that they are not "playing" at being lesbians - they do, genuinely, have no interest in a penis, no matter how much feminine costume surrounds that penis.

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 22:13:17

Sorry x-post again.

I think the ultimate aim of feminism (and this is my personal take on it) is to make gender irrelevant. Currently the idea of gender is closely tied to reproduction and sex. If gender is removed then the fact becomes that half of the population reproduces and so needs that taken into account in all aspects of their life.

I admit though, that that's a longterm thing. And in the meantime women are at risk.

FloraFox Sun 15-Jun-14 22:19:10

I think we are agreeing as much as we are cross-posting grin

Without wishing to be pedantic, I think the aim of feminism is to abolish gender and make sex irrelevant, IYSWIM. Is that the same? Probably.

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 22:23:30

Yes, that's clearer, abolish gender and make sex irrelevant. And I actually think the whole TERF/trans thing is helping, without intending to. From what I've read from the TERF-accusers is that they assume that gender is a fixed, immutable thing. The whole discussion around the idea of TERFs exposes that assumption quite clearly and I think that can only be a good thing, as it slowly, slowly opens people's eyes.

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 22:31:16

IME women who reject feminism buy very much into the idea that men and women are different and are very wedded to the notion of separating men and women (part of trauma bonding, I think, the need to feel "safe" among women by sending the men to the pub, keeping the kitchen as "women's space" etc.) I think if trans men threaten that, that kick a lot of women out of their fog of identification with patriarchy as the "flight or fight" reaction will come into force in a meaningful way. In other words, if their safe spaces are threatened, if they can't even have a women's toilet or changing room then they will react very viscerally to that. And that can only be a good thing.

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 22:32:05

sorry that should say "that could kick"

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 22:36:57

Sorry to bang on, but to clarify, those who reject feminism tend to be in favour of hen nights, spa days, changing together in shop changing rooms etc - the separation of men and women's recreation essentially. There is a need for that separation among women who reject feminism I think, they need to feel there is a space where they can get away from men as they feel no sense of equality or connection with them. If even that is taken away, if men say "actually I'm going to wear a dress and come into the changing room with you," there will be a strong reaction to that, as it challenges the idea of separation, which is fundamental to patriarchy.

Anything that gets more women onto feminism is good in my opinion.

CailinDana Sun 15-Jun-14 22:46:37

Also, if there is a visceral reaction to the idea of a man in a women's changing room, and the man whines that he's being discriminated against, the hope is that women will examine why they don't want a man in the changing room - essentially, because he's a threat. I think recognising that sense of threat, the idea that a man is always a potential source of danger, is absolutely fundamental to awakening a feminist spirit in a woman. When you recognise the power men have over you, from a purely physical point of view, everything else flows from there I think.

grimbletart Sun 15-Jun-14 23:10:37

Excuse me butting in but I see transwomen with penises wanting to be accepted as women as another way for male entitlement to try and impose itself. They want to eat their cake and have it too.

Either that, or I have entered a parallel universe.

FloraFox Mon 16-Jun-14 00:07:23

Yes, I'd agree with that grimble

CailinDana I agree it would help for people to examine why there is sex separation for certain things (including statistics). I am concerned that there is no opportunity for examination because of accusations of TERF etc.

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Mon 16-Jun-14 08:44:12

What if trans women were accepted as women in the gender sense, but not as female in the biological sense?

A lot of the trans activist rhetoric seems to be denial of biological reality.

Public toilets, changing rooms, reproductive services are separate because of biological sex, not gender identity.

I read something recently arguing that talking about periods, abortion, pregnancy etc as women's issues was 'cis sexist' because they affect men too. Surely thisis madness?

Perhaps the separating of sex and gender would be a good thing, but I would still defend born women differentiating themselves. Born men too .

Gender is a frighteningly complex edifice that inserts itself into all sorts of problems, doesn't it.

I started by thinking how if there were no gender, nobody (or very few people) would feel that they had been assigned the 'wrong' gender. They could be themselves, regardless of their body shape. Want to have a beard and wear pink dresses? Nobody gives two shits.

But then you get into the issue of women's safety in shared spaces; having no gender would still mean women might fear sexual assault.

The issue isn't actually with trans* or with feminists, the issue, as ever, comes back to men's behaviour. If ordinary men could be trusted not to leer at women's bodies (or even, let's be fair to the NAM, to look at them in what they hope is an unobtrusive, admiring way) and to push women's boundaries up to and including raping them, then there wouldn't really be a problem with shared space. As there isn't a problem with lesbians sharing changing facilities with straight women.

But because of men's violent and entitled behaviour (or obliviousness to it / willingness to overlook it in others) both trans and women suffer.

Is the crux of the problem one's definition of the word 'women' then? For the moment in our society, woman is synonymous in most people's minds with female-bodied person.

Periods, pregnancy etc are female-bodied people's issues. Testicular cancer is a male-bodied person's issue. Regardless of their gender identity? Or does even pointing out the biological reality of people born with uteri attract the TERF insult?

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Mon 16-Jun-14 12:57:47

That's what the article I read was suggesting buffy, that it was cis sexist to tell your children that boys have willies and girls have vaginas, to say that women have periods, etc, etc.

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Mon 16-Jun-14 13:05:13

I can't link on my phone but the article was on Everyday Feminism and was called '3 examples of everyday cis sexism'

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