Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Feminism By Another Name

Just to reiterate:  whatever I end up calling this, and to be honest I probably won't come up with a name for it, I want to emphasise that feminism of some kind is undoubtedly correct and that patriarchy is a central part of the problem with the predicament in which the species, and by extension the biosphere, finds itself.  I don't think this is even controversial and I'm only saying it because there are people who don't agree with it for some reason I don't understand.  Maybe they don't know what feminism is.

Now we've got that out of the way, I know a lot of "proper" women who feel affronted by what they see as radical feminism for some reason which might be explained as a failure to have their consciousness raised, although that sounds patronising.  In particular, there seem to be women who think heterosexuality is acceptable.  It's not generally any of my business whether they do or don't, but sometimes it is because - well, I'll go into that later, but sometimes things go wrong.

One commonly recognised dynamic is where the victims of abuse and bullying visit that on the people "below" them or the next generation.  When this happens, one can end up in the awkward position of appearing to defend the abusers by trying to understand them.  It's a complicated situation to be in, illustrated for example by the possible example of Israel, which I understand to be a state composed of people of a victimised ethnicity who then visited their trauma on another group.  A more personal example would of course be the idea that child abusers have frequently been abused, and an example from formal education would be where teachers pick on children because they are themselves being picked on by colleagues and the government.  In these situations, there is often plenty of rationalisation regarding why it's OK for them to do it to others but not for them to have had it done to them.

Returning to radical feminism, clearly exponents of this ideology have been victimised by the patriarchy and often by particular men.  This has happened to them and they are survivors.  One of their coping strategies seems to be to defend themselves by prudently taking the offensive.  Two examples of this are of course "all men are rapists" and the concept, and it is a concept rather than a notion, that male to female transition is rape or something similar such as the invasion of female space or an attempt by male surgeons to construct a woman due to womb envy, which maybe it is, I don't know because I'm not a surgeon but I do know womb envy is a powerful element in my own psyche.

It stands to reason that if a group of people have been traumatised and victimised to the extent ciswomen have, they might go on to perpetrate something similar on another group.  I can't presume to be certain what they're doing and this suggestion may sound patronising to people of course.  I'm going to have to let go of that and say that I'm not responsible for that interpretation while noting that it's not the only valid one.

Regarding "all men are rapists", that is the corollary of women being perceived sexually by men, so that does make sense in that context.  It's a retaliation for that fact.  If all women are objectified sexually, i.e. their appearance and use as a sex object is all that matters to others, someone is doing the objectification and once men are understood generally in that manner, the perception of a man by a woman could well have that effect - this person is a potential rapist - in an analogous manner.  The actual "internal" intentions of the man involved are not the point, although they may be exactly that for all I know.  This is a man in the same sense as one becomes an object for an observer in Sartre's "Look" scenario, and since meaning may not be internal to the people involved, this could very well make all men rapists.  I don't mean this is literally true but it does seem to have a symmetry to it. Two possible rational responses to that by a man are suicide or gender reassignment - don't "be a man" any more.  These are for some reason blocked off by certain radical feminists.  I have no idea why, once again.  It's not a game I could win, so I left it.  It may of course be like thermodynamics - you can't win, you can't break even and you can't leave the game - but I do my best not to play it just as most of us do our best not to play the game of thermodynamics by avoiding death.

It remains the case that clearly people find my existence offensive and I need to address this.  Incidentally, that's my existence, not an attribute of mine, and I can't escape existence unless I use the same method as I would to leave the game of thermodynamics.  The reasons, I think, why they find me offensive are probably that they think I'm doing this for fetishistic reasons and that they find me disgusting.  A small handful of people, probably about five in fact, will realise the profound irony of that perception, but delicious though it is, I won't be sharing that.  Just accept that there is a deep, unspeakable reason why they think me choosing to wear the clothes I do now is fetishistic.  Anyway, I'm at peace with disgust, as it's something I deal with in myself every day of my life.  Again, suicide is an option, although not one I want to take as it sets a bad example to the children.  To be frank I'm not that keen on killing myself any more.  As I've mentioned before, I would expect the possibility that someone was doing it for sexual reasons to be seen as a good thing from a feminist perspective, so the reactions of disgust, when motivated by that thought, are incomprehensible to me or might reflect underthinking - someone who is getting off sexually on wearing a dress is not about to rape anyone because he's not going to be attracted to women, surely?  He's taken himself out of the potential rapist-sex object equation to my mind if he's done this - and I'm using that pronoun deliberately.  Nonetheless I do think this is the attitude some people take, even if it isn't thought through.  Maybe it's the wisdom of disgust.  I don't think I feature prominently enough in most people's lives for this to be a problem.  I'll just say that this is not fetishistic.

I am a member of a small minority.  Most people are not gender dysphoric.  There are clearly far more  ciswomen than transwomen.  Therefore, the benefits of any kind of specifically anti-F2M transphobic action are likely to be tiny compared to more general pro-feminist action, and although suffering is not additive simply because it involves more people, my own disadvantage is insignificant compared to that.  Even so, I am sometimes amenable to the idea that a category including "all people with female brain structure" might be a useful one to equate to the category "women".  Sometimes.  However, suppose I do take this seriously.  I decide that gender identity is based on subjective, first-person perception rather than social construction.  That doesn't help ciswomen in itself, although it may be that transwomen have insights into patriarchy that ciswomen lack.  Whereas there may be such a thing as cisgender privilege, it's insignificant compared to male privilege and might not be worth trying to oppose compared to it.  I mean, trans people do get beaten up, sexually assaulted and violently murdered by strangers about fifty times as often as ciswomen, but we're asking for it, aren't we?  It can easily be addressed by suicide.  Nonetheless, there are still two categories:  ciswomen and transwomen.  These categories are still significant and undergo oppression in different ways.  The differences are as follows:

  • Ciswomen are socialised as female and suffer the consequences of sexism and patriarchy.  Their central nervous systems are female and therefore they identify as female.
  • Transwomen are socialised as male and have the advantage of being the oppressors in some respects.  Their central nervous systems are female and therefore they identify as female, or at least the latter.  I am unaware of much of my male privilege but I take it on faith that it's so.
What this means is that feminism is less about defending the rights of women and liberating them than it is about overcoming the problems associated with the oppression of people who have been socialised as female.  These people are not necessarily women either - F2M people would also be included.  I'm not sure this should even be called feminism because it doesn't seem to be about women.  In fact, men suffer the consequences of the patriarchy in a different way.

Whatever this thing is called, it ought to be about liberating people from the patriarchy, whoever they are.  I don't know what this would involve on the whole.

Getting back to ciswomen who feel that they are affronted by the consequences of radical feminism and therefore think it's acceptable for them to be heterosexual.  This has hardly ever been a problem for me because I've long tried hard to be too disgusting to others, not to myself, to be the object of sexual attraction, although it can be difficult to tread the line between disgust and offence.  It's a game other people can play, whose rules to me are impenetrable and petty.  Unfortunately that went wrong a couple of times.  It's a problem to be overcome, a sign of mental illness and I don't know how to help, or even if I can help.  Luckily it hardly ever happens.