Warning: this site contains everything you want to say but dare not about anything political incorrect. You have to be an insensitive racist sexist transphobic cismysogynous anthropocentrism white-supremacist asshole to understand anything written on here
What happened: a white girl from Utah, Keziah Daum, wore a Chinese dress to her prom. A Chinese American guy called her out for cultural appropriation. The flame quickly grew from Twitter to the national media. Full story here.
Morale of the story: when it's a white woman, it's cultural appropriation. When it's a black woman, she's either cool or a victim—according to Black Lives Matter and any intersectionality discrimination victim olympics athletes out of their asses.
I'm not saying this stupid white girl is a fashion icon or post-cultural guru. She and her stupid Utah friends seem to have confused China with Thailand, which are in northeast and southeast Asia respectively. Maybe they should consider taking some high school geography lessons before they graduate from high school. I am more offended by the female lack of common sense in the front row and the male doucheness in the back row than anything else. Holy shit, speaking of country pumpkins...
Dear Black people who do not let others wear braids and hoop earrings,
No other groups have as big of an issue with cultural appropriation as yours, but you think you get the pass to wear whatever the fuck you wanna wear because you are black, right? Sure, feel free to wear as many foreign things as you want, but stop your people's violence against other minorities in Sacramento, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, etc. Eat Kimchi and do yoga every day. They are good for you.
Have you all heard some marginalized groups, trans, blacks, etc., saying that no one but them can talk about them, like the first comment in the screen shot (full story here: http://www.downtownchick.com/2017/05/when-trans-and-black-meet-chimamanda.html)? This kind of argument first comes from the canonical literature narrating the marginalized, like all the colonialist literature, or white people portraying black people in classical Hollywood or so. But then nowadays, this argument has gotten so culturally appropriated for anyone to silence others. Why the fuck do these marginalized trans people keep claiming they are underrepresented, if they don't want others to address them? So, these people don't want others to acknowledge them, but they want more representation? Hey, here's a name for their illness: cognitive dissonance.
Just so you know, not only not a conservative, Downtown Chick is not a Radical Feminist (radfem) either. I'm not a baby boomer. I don't think prostitution is a social problem at all. I like porn. What I don't like are bullies and hypocrites. I just sincerely hope all these progressive Nazis can go fuck themselves.
This round, we have Black Lives Matter's turn of having its supposedly noble cause violently hijacked and appropriated by a bunch of People of Color college kids demanding no homework. See that insane ultra-liberal politically correct academic being held captive by the new mob at Evergreen State College in the video. Clearly an incompetent white man who has absolutely no idea how to teach multiracial students.
Oh, don't miss out his "gratitude" to "thank" the mob. What a fucking moron! Here is the whole story.
The president of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, says he is “grateful” for the “passion and courage” demonstrated by a mob of students that has taken over his campus and driven a professor to teach off campus due to concerns for his safety.
In a speech delivered May 26 responding to student demands, college President George S. Bridgessaid he is “grateful to the courageous students who have voiced their concerns” about discrimination on campus.
“Let me reiterate my gratitude for the passion and courage you have shown me and others,” Mr. Bridges said in his remarks, as reported by student newspaper The Cooper Point Journal. “I want every one of you to feel safe on this campus and be able to learn in a supportive environment free from discrimination or intimidation.”
The president’s statement comes after a week of protests at the college, during which students have shouted down and cursed at faculty and administrators who show insufficient passion for social justice.
One professor targeted by protesters, Bret Weinstein, was told by campus police to hold his classes off of campus out of fear for his safety.
The biology professor wrote an email in March saying he would not participate in a no-whites “Day of Absence” at Evergreen.
“You may take this letter as a formal protest of this year’s structure, and you may assume I will be on campus during the Day of Absence,” Mr. Weinstein wrote in the email. “On a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color.”
That missive, and others he had written criticizing a proposal to increase the role of race in faculty hiring, later became public and prompted about 50 students to surround and berate Mr. Weinstein outside of his classroom May 23.
In an interview Friday on Fox News, Mr. Weinstein said students have threatened violence if their demands are not met.
New video also has surfaced showing the student protests at Evergreen last week. The footage depicts students shouting and cursing at Mr. Bridges at a May 23 meeting.
“Why is it all these black women and femmes doing all this emotional labor in this space?” one student shouts. “These white-a— faculty members need to be holding him and him and all these people accountable!”
Another student says: “I said, I’m tired of white people talking about what black and brown people need. You don’t know.”
Mr. Bridges tries to answer, “I’m just trying to respond—”
“Stop giggling and laughing every time we say something!” another student yells at the school president.
He tries to respond, “I am not giggling—I’m not laughing at you.”
“That’s how whiteness works!” another Evergreen student yells at Mr. Bridges, who is white. “Whiteness is the most violent f–ing system to ever breathe!”
That footage came at the end of a May 23 meeting between the administration and students. Much of the more damaging footage was not included in initial videos posted to social media by the students.
The video also appears to be the one students alleged was “stolen by white supremacists and edited to expose and ridicule the students and staff.” In their demands last week, students ordered it be “taken down by this administration by this Friday.”
In his address — delivered just three days after the meeting depicted in the video — Mr. Bridges submitted to most of the students’ demands.
First, he agreed to make the student conduct code a “living document that will adapt over time in order to serve evolving student needs.”
“Students will work on the code with staff over the summer, as well as work on other strategic initiatives,” he said. “Students will be paid for their labor.”
In response to a demand that Mr. Weinstein and various staff be fired, Mr. Bridges said the school “will not fire any employees in response to a request” but would conduct investigations.
He also promised to hire a full-time affirmative action and equal opportunity officer to investigate claims of discrimination, and said outside investigators would be brought on if necessary.
In response to a third demand, Mr. Bridges said the administration would expand annual training for campus police to address “anti-black racism, de-escalation, minimizing use of force, serving trans and queer students, sexual assault response and responding to the access of special needs students with disabilities.”
Faculty member Grace Huerta then read a statement saying professors are committed to imposing “annual mandatory training for all faculty beginning in the fall of 2017” to cover “subjects including but not limited to institutional racism, and the needs of students of color, LGBTQIA students, undocumented students, victims of sexual assault, and students with disabilities.”
Mr. Bridges also promised, per the demands, to build a new equity center.
According to the school’s website, Evergreen already boasts four such centers: The Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, the First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services, the Trans & Queer Center and the Veterans Resources Center.
The president said students will have final say over design plans for the new center and will be paid to consult on its creation.
Still responding to the demands, Mr. Bridges promised to hire full-time coordinators to oversee the Trans & Queer Center and to support undocumented students.
He also told students that the administration is not considering any punitive measures in response to the demonstrations.
“As of today, we’re not contemplating any action associated with the demonstrations of the last two weeks, but we can’t control what complaints we might receive,” he said. “If we receive complaints, we’ll need to follow up on them.”
Mr. Bridges concluded his remarks by expressing his “gratitude” for the “passion and courage” demonstrated by the students.
“I welcome your questions,” he said. “I hope we can break bread together and continue the conversation informally.”
Anne Hidalgo has threatened to sue the organisers for discrimination as it excludes white people.
The mayor of Paris is seeking to ban a black feminist festival in the city on the grounds of it being discriminatory.
Anne Hidalgo said that the Nyansapo Festival, which dubbed itself as an event rooted in black feminism, excludes white people. Hidalgo has condemned the festival and tweeted: "I am asking for this festival to be banned."
The Socialist city council leader also said that she reserved the right "to prosecute the organisers for discrimination".
The Nyansapo Festival is scheduled to run between 28 and 30 July at a cultural centre in the capital city of France.
Hidalgo's comments came after the organisers – the Mwasi feminist association – mentioned on its website that 80% of the venue would be reserved for black women.
It added that black people irrespective of gender would be allowed in another area, while a third area would be open to all.
Some French anti-racism organisations have also condemned the festival, calling it a "mistake".
SOS Racisme described the event "an abomination" and said it "wallows in ethnic separation", while Licra, the International League against Racism and Antisemitism, said: "Rosa Parks would be turning in her grave".
The regional head of Marine Le Pen's National Front party, Wallerand de Saint-Just, had also questioned the mayor and asked her to explain how the city was fine with an event that was "promoting a concept that is blatantly racist and anti-republican".
Police prefect Michel Delpuech said in a statement that police had not been informed about the upcoming event by Sunday (28 May) evening. But he added that the police "would ensure the rigorous compliance of the laws, values, and principles of the republic".
But the outrage has left the organisers of the event disheartened.
The cultural centre La Generale, where the event was to be hosted, and the Mwasi feminist association have said that they were the "target of a disinformation campaign and of 'fake news' orchestrated by the foulest far right".
"We are saddened to see certain antiracist associations letting them be manipulated like this."
The dust-up on social media over Rebecca Tuvel’s article, “In Defense of Transracialism” published in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, has given a new meaning to the public/private split central to the history of feminism. For decades, feminists have argued the personal is political, and explored the politics of our private lives. The split between what people wrote to both Rebecca Tuvel and to me in private, and what they felt compelled to say in public is one indication that the explosion of personal insults and vicious attacks on social media is symptomatic of something much bigger than the actual issues discussed in Tuvel’s article. In private messages, some people commiserated, expressed support, and apologized for what was happening and for not going public with their support. As one academic wrote to me in a private message, “sorry I’m not saying this publicly (I have no interest in battling the mean girls on Facebook) but fwiw it’s totally obvious to me that you haven’t been committing acts of violence against marginalized scholars.” Later, this same scholar wrote, again in private, saying Tuvel’s article is “a tight piece of philosophy” that makes clear that the position that “transgender is totally legit, [and] transracial is not—can only be justified using convoluted essentialist metaphysics. I will write to her privately and tell her so.” Others went further and supported Tuvel in private while actually attacking her in public. In private messages, these people apologized for what she must be going through, while in public they fanned the flames of hatred and bile on social media. The question is, why did so many scholars, especially feminists, express one sentiment behind closed doors and another out in the open? Why were so many others afraid to say anything in public?
For those lucky readers who didn’t follow the nasty attacks on social media, a bit of background is in order. To put it all too simply, in her Hypatia article, Tuvel claimed that the very public cases of Rachel Dolezal’s transracial transition and Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender transition operate according to a similar logic when it comes to thinking about identity and identity politics. Tuvel argued in favor of both transgender and transracial identities, as well as for a more fluid conception of identity more generally. In subsequent responses to her critics, Tuvel has said her article was a response to the media sentiment that transgender identity is socially acceptable (Jenner was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair, was a runner-up for Time magazine’s “Person of the Year”, and was named woman of the year by Glamour magazine), while transracial identity is taboo (Dolezal was fired from her job at the NAACP and scorned in the media).
Last week, a flurry of outrage stormed through social media calling the article “wack shit,” “crap,” “offensive,” “violent,” and more. And its author was called “transphobic,” “racist,” “crazy,” “stupid,” and worse. Many were (and still are) calling for a retraction of the article and an apology from Tuvel. Some scholars associated with the journal posted condemnations of the article and issued apologies for it. Eventually, a group of associate editors, spearheaded by Cressida Heyes, whose work is criticized in the article, published an official condemnation of the piece indicating that the journal had made a mistake in publishing it, which of course, just makes the journal look bad. The article was vetted by reviewers and editors, and published, after all.
The feeding frenzy in response to Tuvel’s article couldn’t have happened without social media. The viciousness of the attacks was fueled by the mob mentality of Facebook. Dissenters, even those who just wanted a civil discussion of the issue, were shut down immediately or afraid to voice their opinions in public. Some who in private were sympathetic to Tuvel, felt compelled to join in the attacking mob. The thought police were in full force. Both Tuvel and the journal were under pressure to retract the article and apologize. In a private message to me, one of my academic friends said one editor’s Facebook apology for publishing such an “offensive” article, “sounded like something ISIS makes its captors read in a hostage video before beheading them.” Joking aside, there was (and still is) tremendous pressure to condemn Tuvel and her article. Some who joined in the protests later admitted in private that they hadn’t even read the article. And at least one person who signed a petition demanding that Hypatia retract the text in question, later, when the media tides were turning, wanted to remove her signature from the damning letter. I wonder how many of those who signed that letter had actually read the article. Just this morning, I received a text from someone I respect, lamenting the cruelty on social media, but telling me she was sure she would disagree with the article and find it offensive, even though she hadn’t yet read it.
I have to admit, I didn’t want to enter the Facebook shit-storm and face the wrath of the “mean girls” either. I felt the need to defend Rebecca Tuvel not only because she is a friend and former Ph.D. student of mine, but also because I respect her work, which is always well argued—whether or not you agree with it—and I found her arguments compelling. I summoned up the courage and entered the fray suggesting only that Hypatia invite critical responses to the article. This suggestion was met with ridicule and derision. I then asked critics to respond with philosophical arguments rather than lobbing insults, which was met with claims that I was doing “violence” to marginalized scholars.
The most vocal figures on social media claimed they were harmed, even traumatized, by Tuvel’s article, and by my defense of its right to exist. Some said that Tuvel’s article harmed them, and I was doing violence to them, even triggering PTSD, just by calling for an open discussion of, and debate over, the arguments in the article. While I readily agree that words can do harm and that hate speech exists, my call for philosophical engagement with Tuvel’s article does not constitute harmful speech. In fact, if an essay that openly supports trans identity does violence, and defense of open debate causes PTSD, then by which name should we call the physical violence inflicted on trans people and others daily? What of the PTSD caused by domestic violence, rape, and hate crimes? If an essay written by a young feminist scholar in support of trans rights is violent and harmful, then haven’t we leveled all violence such that everything has become swept up by it, and the very notion of violence has lost its meaning? Certainly, at the very least, we need to distinguish between levels of violence. One Facebook critic called my remarks “unforgivable,” seemingly putting them on par with crimes against humanity. At this point in the social media blowout, (until the Daily Nous published a defense of the article, which elicited support from all sides) I seemed to be the only one publicly defending Tuvel, in spite of the private support she received from folks too afraid to go public.
Through every medium imaginable, senior feminist scholars were pressuring, even threatening, Tuvel that she wouldn’t get tenure and her career would be ruined if she didn’t retract her article. When I called out the worst insulters for threatening an untenured junior feminist, they claimed they were the victims here not her. I wonder. Tuvel’s article in support of transgender and transracial identities didn’t threaten anyone, and didn’t jeopardize anyone’s career. Whereas those calling for a retraction were doing just that to a junior woman in a field, philosophy, nearly 80% of which is still populated by men and which is still resistant to feminism. A senior feminist philosopher called to warn Tuvel that she should be appealing to the “right people” if she wanted to get tenure and warned her not to publish her book on this topic or it would ruin her career and mark her as “all that is wrong with white feminism.”
Part of the problem with the response to Tuvel’s article is that some seem to feel that they are the only ones who have the legitimate right to talk about certain topics. At best, this is identity politics run amok; at worst it is a turf war. Indeed, it leads to a kind of academic Selfie culture where all we can do is take pictures of ourselves and never consider the lives of others. Another criticism of Tuvel’s article is that it didn’t cite enough trans scholarship or philosophy of race. While this may be true, it doesn’t defeat her argument. Apparently, Tuvel’s worst offense was the “deadnaming” of Caitlyn Jenner. Deadnaming is using a trans person’s birth name instead of their chosen name, which can do harm when outing a person as trans, or when that person considers their old self or old name “dead.” I was fiercely attacked on Facebook for pointing out that Jenner is a public figure, a Reality TV star, who doesn’t reject deadnaming herself in her book: “Transgender guidelines suggest that I no longer be referred to as Bruce in any circumstance. Here are my guidelines: I will refer to the name Bruce when I think it appropriate. Bruce existed for sixty-five years, and Caitlyn is just going on her second birthday. That’s the reality.” The irony is that some of the same people publicly disparaging Tuvel for deadnaming Jenner, privately admitted that they’d never heard the word “deadnaming” before the Facebook frenzy. Call it a teachable moment.
In response to my comments on social media about philosophical engagement, some argued it was unnecessary because the issues raised in Tuvel’s article were discussed “decades ago.” That seems unlikely given that the main theme in Tuvel’s article was the 2015 media response to Jenner and Dolezal. Even so, it’s not harmful to ask to see those arguments applied specifically to Tuvel’s article. To the contrary, it should give scholars an opportunity to renew their positions with more vigor, especially given the current spotlight on Tuvel’s essay. Some suggest they don’t want to “dignify” the article with a response. They’d rather just express their outrage at its very existence. My point here isn’t to defend the arguments in Tuvel’s article, but rather to defend the possibility of an open dialogue and debate, and to try to diagnose the outraged response to that idea—the idea upon which the discipline of philosophy, and the academy more generally, if not also democracy itself, are based.
We live in an era of outrage—let’s call it the Trump era. That’s how Trump got elected, by voicing outrage. His most ardent disciples uncritically and unthinkingly believe everything he says because it is expressed with anger and zest. Civility is suspected of being “political,” which has become a dirty word. It’s hard to argue with outrage, and that’s precisely the problem. Outrage has become the new truth. At one extreme, we have Trump and his supporters proudly embracing political incorrectness, and at the other, we have the political correctness police calling for censorship of a scholarly article written by someone working for social justice. On both sides, we have virulent intolerance fueled by hatred. The feminist thought police are the flip side of the alternative facts machine. And both are threats to the open dialogue that is so vital for critical thought inside and outside the academy.
What I find most distressing about the hostile attacks against Tuvel, the article, and my defense of an open dialogue about it, is that there are people and institutions out there that are trying to deny rights to women, especially trans women and women of color. Dissent and debate allow feminism—and scholarship more generally—to flourish and advance, while insults and censorship are the tools of those who would shut us down. In this battle, feminists embracing inclusivity are not the enemy. Far from it. The real enemy is our culture of displaced outrage and its symptoms, namely the thought police and the alternative facts machine. Let’s have critical debate and philosophical arguments instead of cyber-shaming and personal insults.
Adichie was recently coined transphobic (together with more and more feminists) after saying the following in an interview.
“So, when people talk about , you know, ‘Are trans-women women?’ My feeling is trans-women are trans-women. I think the whole problem of gender in the world is about our experiences, it’s not about how we wear our hair, or whether we have a vagina or penis, it’s about the way the world treats us.
And I think if you lived in the world as a man, with the privileges that the world accords to men, and then sort of changed, switched gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate to your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman, and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.
And so, I think there has to be…And this is not of course to say, this is…I am saying this also with, sort of, a certainty that transgender people should be allowed to be.
But I don’t think it’s good thing to conflate everything into one. I don’t think it’s a good thing to talk about women’s issues being exactly the same as the issues of trans-women, because I don’t think that’s true.”
After all the ungrounded harassment, even as the most popular African black feminist leftist figure in the Western world, she clarified what she meant on Facebook. So far, no trans forgave her, according to the over 10,000 comments.
Because I have been the subject of much hostility for standing up for LGBTQ rights in Nigeria, I found myself being very defensive at being labeled 'trans phobic.' My first thought was – how could anyone think that?
I didn't like that version of myself. It felt like a white person saying 'I'm not racist, I supported civil rights.'
Because the truth is that I do think one can be trans phobic while generally supporting LGBTQ rights.
And so I want to put my defensiveness aside and clarify my thoughts. To make sure that I am fully understood.
I said, in an interview, that trans women are trans women, that they are people who, having been born male, benefited from the privileges that the world affords men, and that we should not say that the experience of women born female is the same as the experience of trans women.
This upset many people, and I consider their concerns to be valid. I realize that I occupy this strange position of being a ‘voice’ for gender rights and so there is an automatic import to my words.
I think the impulse to say that trans women are women just like women born female are women comes from a need to make trans issues mainstream. Because by making them mainstream, we might reduce the many oppressions they experience.
But it feels disingenuous to me. The intent is a good one but the strategy feels untrue. Diversity does not have to mean division.
Because we can oppose violence against trans women while also acknowledging differences. Because we should be able to acknowledge differences while also being supportive. Because we do not have to insist, in the name of being supportive, that everything is the same. Because we run the risk of reducing gender to a single, essentialist thing.
Perhaps I should have said trans women are trans women and cis women are cis women and all are women. Except that 'cis' is not an organic part of my vocabulary. And would probably not be understood by a majority of people. Because saying ‘trans’ and ‘cis’ acknowledges that there is a distinction between women born female and women who transition, without elevating one or the other, which was my point.
I have and will continue to stand up for the rights of transgender people. Not merely because of the violence they experience but because they are equal human beings deserving to be what they are.
I see how my saying that we should not conflate the gender experiences of trans women with that of women born female could appear as if I was suggesting that one experience is more important than the other. Or that the experiences of trans women are less valid than those of women born female. I do not think so at all – I know that trans women can be vulnerable in ways that women born female are not. This, again, is a reason to not deny the differences.
Why does this even matter?
Because at issue is gender.
Gender is a problem not because of how we look or how we identify or how we feel but because of how the world treats us.
Girls are socialized in ways that are harmful to their sense of self – to reduce themselves, to cater to the egos of men, to think of their bodies as repositories of shame. As adult women, many struggle to overcome, to unlearn, much of that social conditioning.
A trans woman is a person born male and a person who, before transitioning, was treated as male by the world. Which means that they experienced the privileges that the world accords men. This does not dismiss the pain of gender confusion or the difficult complexities of how they felt living in bodies not their own.
Because the truth about societal privilege is that it isn't about how you feel. (Anti-racist white people still benefit from race privilege in the United States). It is about how the world treats you, about the subtle and not so subtle things that you internalize and absorb.
This is not to say that trans women did not undergo difficulties as boys. But they did not undergo those particular difficulties specific to being born female, and this matters because those experiences shape how adult women born female interact with the world.
And because to be human is to be a complex amalgam of your experiences, it is disingenuous to say that their being born male has no effect on their experience of gender as trans women.
Of course there are individual differences. But there are always individual differences. We speak of ‘women’s issues’ knowing that while there are individual differences, the truth of human history is that women as a group have been treated as subordinate to men. And we speak of male privilege acknowledging that individual men differ but that men as a group are nevertheless accorded privileges by the world.
I think of feminism as Feminisms. Race and class shape our experience of gender. Sexuality shapes our experience of gender. And so when I say that I think trans women are trans women, it is not to diminish or exclude trans women but to say that we cannot insist – no matter how good our intentions – that they are the same as women born female.
Nor do I think that we need to insist that both are the same.
To acknowledge different experiences is to start to move towards more fluid – and therefore more honest and true to the real world – conceptions of gender.
Today, the trans even downed the female Martin Luther King. Seriously, Almighty God my Redeemer, please forgive us. WTF.
Allegedly, a workshop entitled "Misery for Profit/Who is Funding the Transgender Movement and it's impacts on the LGB," organized by Jennifer Bilek, for the Left Forum 2017 (Left Forum, Department of Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center), was cracked down by trans activists.
This is the original panel blurb. It does sound ludicrous to me, but the point is not that the panel is no good, but that the transgender people censors everything in the public space now.
On May 24th, a few dozen people gathered in a conference room at the Central Library, a century-old Georgian Revival building in downtown Portland, Oregon, for an event called Radfems Respond. The conference had been convened by a group that wanted to defend two positions that have made radical feminism anathema to much of the left. First, the organizers hoped to refute charges that the desire to ban prostitution implies hostility toward prostitutes. Then they were going to try to explain why, at a time when transgender rights are ascendant, radical feminists insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women.
The dispute began more than forty years ago, at the height of the second-wave feminist movement. In one early skirmish, in 1973, the West Coast Lesbian Conference, in Los Angeles, furiously split over a scheduled performance by the folksinger Beth Elliott, who is what was then called a transsexual. Robin Morgan, the keynote speaker, said:
I will not call a male “she”; thirty-two years of suffering in this androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the title “woman”; one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers’ names and in our own, we must not call him sister.
Such views are shared by few feminists now, but they still have a foothold among some self-described radical feminists, who have found themselves in an acrimonious battle with trans people and their allies. Trans women say that they are women because they feel female—that, as some put it, they have women’s brains in men’s bodies. Radical feminists reject the notion of a “female brain.” They believe that if women think and act differently from men it’s because society forces them to, requiring them to be sexually attractive, nurturing, and deferential. In the words of Lierre Keith, a speaker at Radfems Respond, femininity is “ritualized submission.”
In this view, gender is less an identity than a caste position. Anyone born a man retains male privilege in society; even if he chooses to live as a woman—and accept a correspondingly subordinate social position—the fact that he has a choice means that he can never understand what being a woman is really like. By extension, when trans women demand to be accepted as women they are simply exercising another form of male entitlement. All this enrages trans women and their allies, who point to the discrimination that trans people endure; although radical feminism is far from achieving all its goals, women have won far more formal equality than trans people have. In most states, it’s legal to fire someone for being transgender, and transgender people can’t serve in the military. A recent survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found overwhelming levels of anti-trans violence and persecution. Forty-one per cent of respondents said that they had attempted suicide.
Yet, at the same time, the trans-rights movement is growing in power and cachet: a recent Time cover featuring the actress Laverne Cox was headlined “the transgender tipping point.” The very word “transgender,” which first came into wide use in the nineteen-nineties, encompasses far more people than the term “transsexual” did. It includes not just the small number of people who seek gender-reassignment surgery—according to frequently cited estimates, about one in thirty thousand men and one in a hundred thousand women—but also those who take hormones, or who simply identify with the opposite gender, or, in some cases, with both or with neither. (According to the National Center survey, most trans women have taken female hormones, but only about a quarter of them have had genital surgery.) The elasticity of the term “transgender” has forced a rethinking of what sex and gender mean; at least in progressive circles, what’s determinative isn’t people’s chromosomes or their genitals or the way that they were brought up but how they see themselves.
Having rejected this supposition, radical feminists now find themselves in a position that few would have imagined when the conflict began: shunned as reactionaries on the wrong side of a sexual-rights issue. It is, to them, a baffling political inversion. Radfems Respond was originally to have taken place across town from the library, at a Quaker meeting house, but trans activists had launched a petition on Change.org demanding that the event be cancelled. They said that, in hosting it, the Quakers would alienate trans people and “be complicit in the violence against them.” The Quakers, citing concerns in their community, revoked the agreement.
It wasn’t the first time that such an event had lost a scheduled venue. The Radfem 2012 conference was to be held in London, at Conway Hall, which bills itself as “a hub for free speech and independent thought.” But trans activists objected both to Radfem’s women-only policy—which was widely understood to exclude trans women—and to the participation of Sheila Jeffreys, a professor of political science at the University of Melbourne. Jeffreys was scheduled to speak on prostitution, but she is a longtime critic of the transgender movement, and Conway Hall officials decided that they could not allow speakers who “conflict with our ethos, principles, and culture.” Ultimately, the event was held at a still secret location; organizers escorted delegates to it from a nearby meeting place. Radfem 2013 also had to switch locations, as did a gathering in Toronto last year, called Radfems Rise Up. In response, thirty-seven radical feminists, including major figures from the second wave, such as Ti-Grace Atkinson, Kathie Sarachild, and Michele Wallace, signed a statement titled “Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Criticism of ‘Gender,’ ” which described their “alarm” at “threats and attacks, some of them physical, on individuals and organizations daring to challenge the currently fashionable concept of gender.” With all this in mind, the Radfems Respond organizers had arranged the library space as a backup, but then a post on Portland Indymedia announced: We questioned the library administration about allowing a hate group who promotes discrimination and their response is that they cannot kick them out because of freedom of speech. So we also exercise our right to free speech in public space this Saturday to drive the TERFs and Radfems out of our library and our Portland! (TERF stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” The term can be useful for making a distinction with radical feminists who do not share the same position, but those at whom it is directed consider it a slur.) Abusive posts proliferated on Twitter and, especially, Tumblr. One read, “/kill/terfs 2K14.” Another suggested, “how about ‘slowly and horrendously murder terfs in saw-like torture machines and contraptions’ 2K14.” A young blogger holding a knife posted a selfie with the caption “Fetch me a terf.” Such threats have become so common that radical-feminist Web sites have taken to cataloguing them. “It’s aggrieved entitlement,” Lierre Keith told me. “They are so angry that we will not see them as women.” Keith is a writer and an activist who runs a small permaculture farm in Northern California. She is forty-nine, with cropped pewter hair and a uniform of black T-shirts and jeans. Three years ago, she co-founded the ecofeminist group Deep Green Resistance, which has some two hundred members and links the oppression of women to the pillaging of the planet. D.G.R. is defiantly militant, refusing to condemn the use of violence in the service of goals it considers just. In radical circles, though, what makes the group truly controversial is its stance on gender. As members see it, a person born with male privilege can no more shed it through surgery than a white person can claim an African-American identity simply by darkening his or her skin. Before D.G.R. held its first conference, in 2011, in Wisconsin, the group informed a person in the process of a male-to-female transition that she couldn’t stay in the women’s quarters. “We said, That’s fine if you want to come, but, no, you’re not going to have access to the women’s sleeping spaces and the women’s bathrooms,” Keith told me. Last February, Keith was to be a keynote speaker at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, at the University of Oregon, in Eugene, but the student government voted to condemn her, and more than a thousand people signed a petition demanding that the address be cancelled. Amid threats of violence, six policemen escorted Keith to the lectern, though, in the end, the protest proved peaceful: some audience members walked out and held a rally, leaving her to speak to a half-empty room. Keith had an easier time at Radfems Respond, where she spoke on the differences between radicalism and liberalism. Two gender-bending punk kids who looked as if they might be there to protest left during the long opening session, on prostitution. A men’s-rights activist showed up—he later posted mocking clips from a video that he had secretly made—but said nothing during the sessions. Several trans women arrived and sat at the back, but, in fact, they were there to express solidarity, having decided that the attacks on radical feminists were both out of control and misguided. One of them, a thin, forty-year-old blonde from the Bay Area, who blogs under the name Snowflake Especial, noted that all the violence against trans women that she’s aware of was committed by men. “Why aren’t we dealing with them?” she asked. Despite that surprising show of support, most of the speakers felt embattled. Heath Atom Russell gave the closing talk. A stocky woman, with curly turquoise hair and a bluish stubble shadow on her cheeks, she wore a T-shirt that read “I Survived Testosterone Poisoning.” At twenty-five, she is a “detransitioner,” a person who once identified as transgender but no longer does. (Expert estimates of the number of transitioners who abandon their new gender range from fewer than one per cent to as many as five per cent.) Russell, a lesbian who grew up in a conservative Baptist family in Southern California, began transitioning to male as a student at Humboldt State University, and was embraced by gender-rights groups on campus. She started taking hormones and changed her name. Then, in her senior year, she discovered “Unpacking Queer Politics” (2003), by Sheila Jeffreys, which critiques female-to-male transsexualism as capitulation to misogyny. At first, the book infuriated Russell, but she couldn’t let go of the questions that it raised about her own identity. She had been having heart palpitations, which made her uneasy about the hormones she was taking. Nor did she ever fully believe herself to be male. At one point during her transition, she hooked up with a middle-aged trans woman. Russell knew that she was supposed to think of herself as a man with a woman, but, she said, “It didn’t feel right, and I was scared.” Eventually, she proclaimed herself a woman again, and a radical feminist, though it meant being ostracized by many of her friends. She is now engaged to a woman; someone keyed the word “dyke” on her fiancée’s car. Russell appears in Sheila Jeffreys’s new book, “Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism.” Jeffreys, who is sixty-six, has short silver hair and a weathered face. She has taught at the University of Melbourne for twenty-three years, but she grew up in London, and has been described as the Andrea Dworkin of the U.K. She has written nine previous books, all of which focus on the sexual subjugation of women, whether through rape, incest, pornography, prostitution, or Western beauty norms. Like Dworkin, she is viewed as a heroine by a cadre of like-minded admirers and as a zealot by others. In 2005, in an admiring feature in the Guardian, Julie Bindel wrote, “Jeffreys sees sexuality as the basis of the oppression of women by men, in much the same way as Marx saw capitalism as the scourge of the working class. This unwavering belief has made her many enemies. Postmodern theorist Judith Halberstam once said, ‘If Sheila Jeffreys did not exist, Camille Paglia would have had to invent her.’ ” In eight brisk chapters (half of them written with Jeffreys’s former Ph.D. student Lorene Gottschalk), “Gender Hurts” offers Jeffreys’s first full-length treatment of transgenderism. Ordinarily, Jeffreys told me, she would launch the publication of a new book with an event at the university, but this time campus security warned against it. She has also taken her name off her office door. She gave a talk in London this month, but it was invitation-only. In the book, Jeffreys calls detransitioners like Russell “survivors,” and cites them as evidence that transgenderism isn’t immutable and thus doesn’t warrant radical medical intervention. (She considers gender-reassignment surgery a form of mutilation.) “The phenomenon of regret undermines the idea that there exists a particular kind of person who is genuinely and essentially transgender and can be identified accurately by psychiatrists,” she writes. “It is radically destabilising to the transgender project.” She cites as further evidence the case of Bradley Cooper, who, in 2011, at the age of seventeen, became Britain’s youngest gender-reassignment patient, then publicly regretted his transition the next year and returned to living as a boy. Jeffreys is especially alarmed by doctors in Europe, Australia, and the United States who treat transgender children with puberty-delaying drugs, which prevent them from developing unwanted secondary sex characteristics and can result in sterilization. Throughout the book, Jeffreys insists on using male pronouns to refer to trans women and female ones to refer to trans men. “Use by men of feminine pronouns conceals the masculine privilege bestowed upon them by virtue of having been placed in and brought up in the male sex caste,” she writes. To her critics, the book becomes particularly hateful when she tries to account for the reality of trans people. Explaining female-to-male transition is fairly easy for her (and for other radical feminists): women seek to become men in order to raise their status in a sexist system. Heath Atom Russell, for example, is quoted as attributing her former desire to become a man to the absence of a “proud woman loving culture.” But, if that’s true, why would men demote themselves to womanhood? For reasons of sexual fetishism, Jeffreys says. She substantiates her argument with the highly controversial theories of Ray Blanchard, a retired professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and the related work of J. Michael Bailey, a psychology professor at Northwestern University. Contrary to widespread belief, Blanchard says, the majority of trans women in the West start off not as effeminate gay men but as straight or bisexual men, and they are initially motivated by erotic compulsion rather than by any conceived female identity. “The core is, it’s really exciting for guys to imagine themselves with female breasts, or female breasts and a vulva,” he told me. To describe the syndrome, Blanchard coined the term “autogynephilia,” meaning sexual arousal at the thought of oneself as female. Blanchard is far from a radical feminist. He believes that gender-reassignment surgery can relieve psychological suffering; he has even counselled people who undergo it. He also accepts the commonly held view that male brains differ from female brains in ways that affect behavior. Nevertheless, Jeffreys believes that the work of Blanchard and Bailey shows that when trans women ask to be accepted as women they’re seeking to have an erotic fixation indulged. The last time a feminist of any standing published an attack on transgenderism as caustic as “Gender Hurts” was in 1979, when Janice Raymond produced “The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male.” Raymond was a lesbian ex-nun who became a doctoral student of the radical-feminist theologian Mary Daly, at Boston College. Inspired by the women’s-health movement, Raymond framed much of “The Transsexual Empire” as a critique of a patriarchal medical and psychiatric establishment. Still, the book was frequently febrile, particularly with regard to lesbian trans women. “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves,” Raymond wrote. “However, the transsexually constructed lesbian-feminist violates women’s sexuality and spirit.” It’s a measure of how much perceptions have changed in the past thirty-five years that “The Transsexual Empire” received a respectful, even admiring hearing in the mainstream media, unlike “Gender Hurts,” which has been largely ignored there. Reviewing “The Transsexual Empire” in the Times, the psychiatrist Thomas Szasz called it “flawless.” Raymond, he wrote, “has rightly seized on transsexualism as an emblem of modern society’s unremitting—though increasingly concealed—antifeminism.” One of the women Raymond wrote about was Sandy Stone, a performance artist and academic who this fall will teach digital arts and new media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. When Raymond’s book was published, Stone was a recording engineer at Olivia Records, a women’s-music collective in Los Angeles. In the late sixties, after graduating from college, and while still living as a man, she had bluffed her way into a job at New York’s famed Record Plant recording studio, where she worked with Jimi Hendrix and the Velvet Underground. (For a time, she slept in the studio basement, on a pile of Hendrix’s capes.) She moved to the West Coast and transitioned in 1974. Olivia approached her soon afterward; experienced female recording engineers were hard to find. Stone became a member of the collective the next year and moved into a communal house that it rented, where she was the only trans woman among a dozen or so other lesbians. According to “The Transsexual Empire,” her presence was a major source of controversy in lesbian-feminist circles, but Stone insists that it was Raymond who created the dissension. “When the book came out, we were deluged with hate mail,” Stone says. “Up to that point, we were pretty much happy campers, making our music and doing our political work.” Stone received death threats, but ultimately it was the threat of a boycott that drove her out of the collective. She eventually earned a doctorate in philosophy at Santa Cruz. In 1987, Stone wrote an essay, “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto,” which is widely seen as the founding text of transgender studies. It’s still taught around the world; a second French edition is about to be published, and Stone has received a request to allow a Catalan translation. The last time that Janice Raymond wrote on transgender issues was in 1994, for a new introduction to “The Transsexual Empire.” Since then, she has focussed on sex trafficking, and last August a Norwegian government agency invited her to Oslo to speak on a panel about prostitution legislation. When she arrived, however, an official informed her that she had been disinvited; a letter to the editor of a major Norwegian newspaper had accused her of transphobia. Raymond says that similar things have “happened much more frequently within the last couple of years.” The most dramatic change in the perception of transgenderism can be seen in academia. Particularly at liberal-arts colleges, students are now routinely asked which gender pronoun they would prefer to be addressed by: choices might include “ze,” “ou,” “hir,” “they,” or even “it.” A decade ago, no university offered a student health plan that covered gender-reassignment surgery. Today, dozens do, including Harvard, Brown, Duke, Yale, Stanford, and the schools in the University of California system. There are young transgender-critical radical feminists, like Heath Atom Russell and Rachel Ivey, aged twenty-four, who was one of the organizers of Radfems Respond, but they are the first to admit that they’re a minority. “If I were to say in a typical women’s-studies class today, ‘Female people are oppressed on the basis of reproduction,’ I would get called out,” Ivey says. Other students, she adds, would ask, “What about women who are male?” That might be an exaggeration, but only a slight one. The members of the board of the New York Abortion Access Fund, an all-volunteer group that helps to pay for abortions for those who can’t afford them, are mostly young women; Alison Turkos, the group’s co-chair, is twenty-six. In May, they voted unanimously to stop using the word “women” when talking about people who get pregnant, so as not to exclude trans men. “We recognize that people who identify as men can become pregnant and seek abortions,” the group’s new Statement of Values says. A Change.org petition asks naral and Planned Parenthood to adopt similarly gender-inclusive language. It specifically criticizes the hashtag #StandWithTexasWomen, which ricocheted around Twitter during State Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster against an anti-abortion bill in her state, and the phrase “Trust Women,” which was the slogan of George Tiller, the doctor and abortion provider who was murdered in Wichita in 2009. To some younger activists, it seems obvious that anyone who objects to such changes is simply clinging to the privilege inherent in being cisgender, a word popularized in the nineteen-nineties to mean any person who is not transgender. Alison Turkos has heard complaints that the new language obscures the fact that cisgender women overwhelmingly bear the brunt of the current political attacks on reproductive rights. She replies, “It may not feel comfortable, but it’s important to create a space for more people who are often denied space and visibility.” Older feminists who have not yet adopted this way of thinking can find themselves experiencing ideological whiplash. Sara St. Martin Lynne, a forty-year-old filmmaker and video producer from Oakland, told me, “When you come from a liberation, leftist background, you want to be on the right side of history,” and the debate “kind of puts you through your paces.” Last year, she was asked to resign from the board of Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, a nonprofit that “empowers girls through music,” because of her involvement with the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which bills itself as an event for “womyn-born womyn” only. Michfest, as it’s called, takes place every August, on six hundred and fifty acres of land in the woods east of Lake Michigan. Lisa Vogel founded it in 1976, when she was a nineteen-year-old Central Michigan University student, and she still runs it. The music, Vogel says, is only part of what makes Michfest important. Each year, several thousand women set up camp there and find themselves, for a week, living in a matriarchy. Meals are cooked in kitchen tents and eaten communally. There are workshops and classes. Some women don extravagant costumes; others wear nothing at all. There is free child care and a team to assist disabled women who ordinarily cannot go camping. Vogel describes the governing ethos as “How would a town look if we actually got to decide what was important?” She told me, “There’s something that I experience on the land when I walk at night without a flashlight in the woods and recognize that for that moment I feel completely safe. And there’s nowhere else I can do that.” She continued, “If, tomorrow, we said everyone is welcome, I’m sure it would still be a really cool event, but that piece that allows women to let down their guard and feel that really deep sense of personal liberation would be different, and that’s what we’re about.” To transgender activists, Vogel’s stance is laden with offensive assumptions: that trans women are different in an essential way from other women, and that they’re dangerous. “The trope of trans women” constituting “a threat to women’s spaces has been tossed around forever,” Julia Serano told me. To her, it’s akin to straight people refusing to share a locker room with gays or lesbians. Serano, forty-six, is a biologist by training who now spends most of her time writing and speaking on transgender issues and feminism; last year, she lectured at schools including Brown, Stanford, Smith, and Cornell. (Sheila Jeffreys attacks her in “Gender Hurts,” using autobiographical details from Serano’s first book, “Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity” (2007), to paint her as an autogynephile who seeks to “reinvent ‘feminism’ to fit his erotic interests.”) In the summer of 2003, Serano joined about a hundred people at Camp Trans, a protest camp near the Michfest site, which has run intermittently since 1994. Serano said that relations with Michfest attendees were often unexpectedly cordial. A few years ago, though, Vogel says, some protesters committed acts of vandalism—stealing electrical cables, cutting water pipes, keying cars in the parking lot, and spray-painting a six-foot penis, and the words “Real Women Have Dicks,” on the side of the main kitchen tent. Since then, as with the case of Olivia Records, the demonstrations have been supplanted by a boycott campaign. Last year, the Indigo Girls, longtime regulars at Michfest, announced that they wouldn’t appear again until the event became trans-inclusive. This year, the scheduled headliners, Hunter Valentine, pulled out for the same reason. Performers who do appear face protests and boycotts of their own; the funk singer Shelley Nicole says that her band, blaKbüshe, was dropped from a show in Brooklyn because it is playing at Michfest next month. Before Sara St. Martin Lynne was asked to leave the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp board, she hadn’t identified closely with radical feminism. Yet, as the campaign against Michfest—and against radical feminism as a whole—has grown, she’s come to feel strongly about keeping the event “womyn-born-womyn.” She said, “This moment where we’re losing the ability to say the word ‘woman’ or to acknowledge the fact that being born female has lived consequences and meaning is kind of intense to me.” One of the trans women who showed up at the Radfems Respond conference, a thirty-five-year-old software engineer from California, with a tiny nose stud and long brown hair, agrees. She understands why trans women are hurt by their exclusion from Michfest and other female-only events and facilities, saying, “It’s not really wanting to invade space. It’s a deep-seated wanting to belong.” But, she adds, “if you’re identifying with women, shouldn’t you be empathizing with women?” Sandy Stone shares this view—up to a point. Of the radical feminists’ position, she says, “It’s my personal belief, from speaking to some of these people at length, that it comes from having been subject to serious trauma at the hands of some man, or multiple men.” She adds, “You have to respect that. That’s their experience of the world.” But the pain of radical feminists, she insists, can’t trump trans rights. “If it were a perfect world, we would find ways to reach out and find ways of mutual healing,” she says. But, as it is, “I am going to have to say, It’s your place to stay out of spaces where transgender male-to-female people go. It’s not our job to avoid you.”