Wednesday, January 13, 2010

This FWD thing

[In unrelated news: I doubt anyone in this general area of the internet doesn't also have a feed to Feministe, but if you don't, they have a page up detailing how you can support the relief effort in Haiti. Which you should be interested in if you have, like, money. Read the comments, too, and related links, before making a decision - much concerning corruption and who to donate to, etc. PIH in particular seems to be well recommended]
Okay. So FWD fucked up? This one is a bit of a tangle; I think I need to make a post about this to get my head around it in the first place. (The following bolded statements are paraphrased).

Is excluding cis men from something and not excluding trans men from that same thing erasure? How about men who are neither cis nor trans?

Speaking as none of these, addressing this could be putting words in the mouths of others by nature, but it is (or was) the crux of this issue. So...

Well, that depends on what it is, doesn't it? If that "something" is "women only" (which, I believe, was not the point in this case, but might have been construed that way) or "women and 'gender non-conforming' only" (as per one FWD rationalization) , this either erases/misgenders trans men or generalizes them by making the point that trans men (and all not-women not-cis men, as the open case) must all be gender "non-conforming".

At the same time, there is a very obvious solution which does not perpetuate any of these problems: simply acknowledging the cissexism that trans men face as the reason. And this is where the fail comes in - in this case, many rationalizations were offered up, but some were problematic in and of themselves, and all skirted around this issue.

And as for men who are neither cis nor trans (as was brought up in the thread)... that's an open case (not A, not B, but any of the rest of the possibilities). Which means it must be addressed on a case-by-case basis, as there may be many ways to identify as a man who is neither cis nor trans with no unifying feature between them (besides being men).

So, the rationalizations...

"We're including those who face gender oppression."

This doesn't seem to far off the mark, at face value. However, there is an issue with this: conflating the male oppression of women, the cis oppression of trans people, and (as was also included in this umbrella) binary oppression of non-binaries.

So, is it appropriate to put all of these under the same umbrella as "gender oppression"? Even when one acknowledges that they are all different things?

This is one I've still got to think about, personally. The message from gb is unequivocally "no" (as per the linked post), and her reasons make sense.

I can see some defense for this idea, however: that is, that misogyny, transphobia, and binarism, despite all being very different things, can all be literally termed oppression on the basis of gender. And there are intersections in these... But they are still very different things. I'm torn. But when one gets to the specifics of conflating sexism and cissexism (or sexism and binarism, etc.)? Yeah, not cool.

"Let's not talk about gender, this blog is centered on disability."

If this is so, you're closing the door on the rational explanation for including "gender oppression" as a viable axis for discriminating about content at all. There is no reasoning which explains why you should have your cake (decenter cis male voices) but eat it too (censor gender-based discussion away).

Honestly, this is simply sloppy - the site is called feminists with disabilities! If you were going to censor/ignore discussion of gender identity, why not simply leave it at "PWD" and not bother?

"When I see a bunch of bigoted disabled trans guys, I'll change my mind."

Appealing to "positive" discrimination (trans guys are nice, so that explains it!) is a pretty flippant rationalization for something which, as I noted, should be pretty easy to explain without resorting to stereotyping. Besides, the same argument could be made for any section of the [disabled] male population the speaker positively stereotypes (as not-bigots) - there's no clear reason to limit such a broad rationalization to trans men.

"Voz failed, so now I can claim the moral high ground for ignoring this."

Well, there are certainly more important things going on in the world to be talking about at the moment, so obviously you could be excused for blowing this whole thing off, fail or no fail.

But really? The fact that a single person, speaking on behalf of no one but herself, made bigoted remarks is no one's responsibility but herself, and certainly does not retroactively erase any responsibility of FWD to deal with their own problems. This is silly, childish behavior - X does something wrong, Y was unfair to X, X is... suddenly off the hook. Uh?

(Disclaimer: I don't know Voz, have never had contact with her, etc - I'm only trying to make sense of this situation. But there are things like "personal responsibility" which I'm pretty sure she is not exempt from.)

Abandon ship, FWD is over!

Well... not for this inconsequential new blogger, though I can see the rationale. I already had a problem with the language at FWD, anyway. But jumping ship? I hope they clarify some things, but I don't see this as get-the-hell-outta-there material, personally.


  1. What do you mean by "men who are neither cis nor trans"? I don't remember seeing that specific phrase in the thread (although i very probably didn't read all of it, as it seemingly grew considerably after i looked at it), although someone (i think it was codeman38) asked about (possibly not exact wording) "cissexual MAAB people who don't identify as men", and got the answer that links to posts written by such people would be acceptable. (I noticed that particularly because that describes me, although i don't know whether codeman38 specifically had me in mind, tho as he's commented at my blog before it's possible.)

    I think the thing about "gender non-conforming" brings up some interesting distinctions. One i think is important is that being "gender non-conforming" can be either a passive or an active state: for example, a binary-gendered, traditionally-feminine trans woman isn't "gender non-conforming" from her own point of view, but if she doesn't "pass" as a cis woman, she is probably going to be percieved as "gender non-conforming" by the majority of (certainly cissexual/cisgendered) people. Conversely, someone like me, who is nonbinary but whose physical appearance fits well with stereotypes on one or other binary sex and whose clothing etc fits reasonably well into the "same" binary gender, is "gender non-conforming" from an internal point of view, but isn't going to be casually percieved as such (until ze's seen acting in an obviously non-gender-conforming way). If some people are talking about "gender non-conforming" in terms of self-definition, while others are talking about "gender non-conforming" in terms of how people are percieved by others, there are going to be nasty clashes even if both sides are thoroughly liberatory in intent. I'm not sure, however, how to resolve this, except perhaps by more clearly using phrases like "gender non-conforming or likely to be percieved as gender non-conforming", and/or framing the latter concept more in terms of being subject to gender oppression.

    (As to "gender oppression" itself as an umbrella term, i do think it's useful in a broad, inclusive sense, but i agree that it's wrong to conflate the different aspects of gender oppression into one monolithic thing, as that overlooks how they intersect with each other - someone who is subject to misogyny, transphobia/cissexism *and* binarism is going to be a lot more oppressed than someone who only experiences 1 of the 3...)

    And while "a bunch of bigoted disabled trans guys" would be an exaggeration, i have met trans men with *very* problematic views about nonbinaries, about aspects of disability (tho some of them would have had the right, had they chose it, to identify as disabled themselves), and who had just as much male entitlement and attendant misogyny as the average cis man. (Of course, i've also met trans women and nonbinaries who were bigots, including a trans woman who denied the Holocaust and believed in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and *plenty* of homophobic and transphobic disabled cis people - so no group is exempt.)

    I haven't decided yet whether i ought to post about my issues with FWD's commenting policy, or whether i should or shouldn't try to comment there again. I still think it's a worthwhile blog, but one that could have been but turned out not to be a truly great one.

  2. W/rt: "neither cis nor trans"
    I recalled seeing a mention of this by amandaw's post and another in the thread. It's possible I'm remembering wrong!

    And as for who might identify this way; well, I think there are genderqueers who actually identify with a binary gender, which I imagine could be one way.

    W/rt "gender non-comforming"
    Obviously, whether it is defined passively or actively, it's wrong to generalize a group as gender non-conforming. There are simply so many ways to be gender conforming or non-conforming and so many ways to define those terms, the solution (in my opinion at least) is to not make assumptions.

    And, honestly? I think, cis or trans, binary or nonbinary, as people become more self-aware about gender any given person is more and more likely to assume "gender non-conforming" as a label/definer, anyway - "normativity" and "conformance" are subject to quick erosion once people realize it's okay to transgress.

    Anyway, even being nonbinary, despite being often (and disingenuously, even damagingly, I think) characterized as inherently "subversive" does not make one "gender non-comforming". The existence of people (I don't want to use you as an example, but...) who present in a normative-assumed fashion while being nonbinary in gender is makes a case where this is obviously readily possible. And it hits up against who sets the goalposts - are man/woman the only genders which, by nature, can be "conformed" to? That's tricky to address, but I think I'd disagree with it.

    And as for active vs. passive - I really dislike it when people use passive definitions to identify others, personally. I've been thinking about this (and have a little rough writing done) since encountering the "passive" view of gender. A couple main problems I have: First, people are, by nature, active participants in defining their identity. It's impossible to define identity in the absence of this fact - or, at least, you run into all sorts of philosophical problems about defining where the passive individuals somehow are able to aggregate into an active identifying agency. Second, it's inconsistent by nature - if many groups of people experience someone's identifier differently (out as bi in X, but straight in Y, unknown in Z, etc), is that person now all of these things simultaneously, and how is this even verified? It seems clear to me that the best solution is that the person is what ze identifies as. None of this is at the crux of the issue at hand, but... yeah.

    W/rt "gender oppression"
    Not only that, but if one isn't very careful, one risks subsuming those experiences into the largest section with the most privilege - meaning, in this case, reducing experiences like transphobia and binarism into man-on-woman oppression. But yeah, I'm leaning toward that boat - I think it's useful, but it's important to be conscious about how one is using it.

    W/rt trans guys and bigotry
    I'll note that "a bunch of..." was used in the post I was paraphrasing from, which I thought was important to preserve the meaning.

  3. I hope it's clear in the post (if not, I need to go back and address it) that I'm not of the stance that there are a whole bunch of disabled trans guys out there waiting to pounce - it's just that it isn't necessary to engage in stereotyping (even the positive kind). Because, yes, there are bigoted trans guys in the world, and it is disingenuous for FWD to base their policy on pretending that those guys can't/don't exist.

    W/rt FWD's comments policy (overall)
    I'm a bit antsy about commenting there - I respect them using whatever policy works for them, but from what I've seen/heard it seems pretty draconian. My preferred commenting environment is one that is neither conducive to hate speech (as, say, bilerico's has been, in my experience) nor over-enthusiastic about stopping things in the gates (as FWD seems to be, or Shakesville). But I generally don't drop something for the state of the comments unless it's *really* bad.

    And now I'm off to bed - thanks for commenting, and I'm sorry if it took a long time to get posted! (I'm mulling over moderation, but I really want anonymous commenting enabled and no captcha, so I feel like - better safe than sorry)

  4. "I think there are genderqueers who actually identify with a binary gender, which I imagine could be one way."

    Hmm. This confuses me a bit, because in the circles i move in, "genderqueer" mostly seems to be used to mean "non-binary-identified *and* choosing to make a public political statement of that". Also, while i sometimes describe myself as "neither cis nor trans" (and i think that whether that is a possible description depends on how inclusive a definition of "trans" is being used, since at its most exclusive *everyone* who isn't cis is trans by definition - but i think one can definitely be eg. "neither cissexual nor transsexual" or "neither cisgendered nor transgendered"), it was specfically "men who are neither cis nor trans" that confused me, because i find it hard to see how one can be a "man" yet neither a cis man nor a trans man - but, again, that would seem to depend on exactly how widely "cis" and "trans" are being defined...

    (One of my very common issues tends to be that i see ambiguities too easily, and therefore tend to require a greater degree of preciseness than most people to understand a statement. I think it's to do with difficulty in inferring intent and/or context...)

    I think i need to think some more about the active vs. passive identity thing. Maybe make a post of it. (I wanted to reply further here, but couldn't quite get my thoughts together on it coherently enough.) I've been thinking about it particularly in the context of "passing" since the recent-ish post on Questioning Transphobia on the subject, and the concept that came up of "passing" really meaning "being passed".

    Also with regard to the "nonbinary as inherently subversive" thing: I think it's possible to be "subversive", by some definitions of the word, without intending or wanting to be, just by being oneself in a society which does not accept certain selves. Again i think this comes down to active and passive definitions, but i'm starting to think that there need to be entirely separate sets of language for talking about "what one identifies as" and "what one is identified by others as" - maybe not using the word "identify" with regard to the latter.

  5. W/rt neither cis nor trans thing
    I'm pretty sure I've heard the terms "gq woman" and "gq man" before, somewhere. I don't really know what those statements entail, but (especially not being gq myself) I'm not prepared to pass any judgments.

    And as far as cis and trans - I'm pretty sure the definitions go something like "identifies with [the gender associated with the sex that one was assigned from birth]" for "cis" and trans being "does not identify with [that stuff]", in which case... I don't know whether it makes sense to be neither cis nor trans, fundamentally. My brain hurts on this subject.

    W/rt active vs. passive
    I like that you bring up the subject of passing. One thing I hate about this thing about assigning someone's identification passively (as concerns gender, in this case) is that it erases/misgenders those who don't (always) "pass". I guess the "pass" in "passive" is no coincidence.

    W/rt nonbinary and subversiveness
    It's possible to be unintentionally subversive, yes - here, my brain gets foggy again.

    I've seen "subversiveness" paraded about in active and passive ways and manage to be damaging either way. There are those who characterize nonbinaries as a monolithic entity with an actively subversive agenda - in order to discredit nonbinaries as a whole. And there are those who use passive subversiveness to dehumanize us and treat us like exotic postmodern figures, especially to make statements about "social constructionism" with regards to gender.

    Both of those bother me, a lot. Neither of them are necessarily a byproduct of subversiveness (I see no reason why being subversive, passively or actively, inherently discredits or exotifies someone), but... I find sweeping statements (i.e. stereotypes) distasteful regardless.


Note that comments are moderated. I hope this is a completely unnecessary measure, but hate speech will not be tolerated (without a scathing retort, anyway).