“Gender-critical” is not gender-critical

Wrote a comment in someone else’s blog then realized it’s probably important enough for a post of its own.

There are some radfems and their allies who define themselves as “gender-critical” or even “gender abolitionist”. I think the self-definition is simply false, at least using universally accepted definitions, so I always put the terms in quotes.

They are only “critical” of “gender” in an uncommon definition. a definition that they have basically made up. They are actually supportive of gender in its WHO definition. They will deny this, but look at the facts.

WHO: “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. http://apps.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/

Now, “gender critical” people say that males should be in the men’s bathrooms and females should be in the women’s bathrooms. Is going into a bathroom “behaviour”? Yes. So they assign appropriate behaviour to males and females – thus, they support gender!

Next, many of them will claim that males and fdemals should use “biologically appropriate” pronouns. But this is, again, behaviour. So, again. gender! (The original meaning of the word, too).

How about “only females can be feminists”? Obviously gender! (Disclaimer: I am not female and do not claim to be a feminist).

There is a *part* of gender, a *part* of “roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women”, that actually involves hierarchical oppression of women by men. What “gender critical” authors do is define “gender” as just that part, while keeping the sex-linked behaviour distinction that is not oppressive (or even protective of females, in ways they recognize) out of the term “gender”. But this is not the academic definition of their term, it is their very own invention.

Real gender abolition would mean a total destruction of all difference in “roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes” that would be in any way assigned to biological sex. And they are fighting *against* such gender abolition by insisting on the distinctions they like – even while claiming to want to abolish gender.

Whether gender abolition is a realistic aim, and to what degree it is a desirable aim, is an interesting discussion, involving reproduction, social resilience to adverse factors, the need for protection of females in certain situations (including protection from male violence – yes, sex-specific protection can be good, but it still is undeniably a part of gender) and what not.

But gender abolition is certainly not happening tomorrow. So the question then is how to accommodate maximum individual liberty in a world that is, as a given, gendered – and way too gendered for all of our liking, too.

Freedom of activity choice and of self-identification – including change, and unlinked from reproductive characteristics – appears to be one way of doing it. What do the “gender criticals” propose instead? Pretty much the same regarding activities, but with an insistence on “correct labels”, because they help their beloved class analysis.

News flash: real people don’t exist for the sake of somebody’s class analysis. News flash two: just because you call something “sex class”, it does not cease to be gender, and in fact identifying as a part of a “sex class” is by definition a part of “gender”.

P.S. I hope to be adding a series of posts soon, where I describe my current view on how the current gender setup arose and also discuss the thorny issue of religion, sexual identity (including orientation), and gender identity. My positions in the secular world and in the religious world might not seem to align so I need to get through that apparent difference before I can blog about the religious side here. (But first things first –  I defend the right of every person to choice of religion and abhor any attempt to default people into religion, including the one I follow, which happens to be Anglicanism. The Church of England must be disestablished forthwith, as the Church of Ireland, which I am a member of, thankfully is, otherwise I don’t think I would have joined with a clear conscience).

Scott Anderson, or how an academic mistake can ruin your life

I’ve just encountered the big debates around the experiences of Scott Anderson. Currently an esteemed, and happily married, computer science professor, he spent school years as an unhappy nerd. A big part of that was that he was.. not even rejected by girls, but rather, ashamed to ask them out for fear of being labeled a monster.

He mentioned feminism as a cause for such labeling, and mentioned reading Andrea Dworkin (and I suspect his list would also include McKinnon etc).

He got loads of flak for loads of things, many of those patently untrue. His response at http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=2119 (and yes I am hoping for a trackback) seems to have caused more waves. Some people made him out to be a misogynist, conflated his statement with the “nice guy fallacy” despite key factual differences (“Nice Guys TM” claim they are rejected while Scott was ashamed to ask to start with), and there were a lot of other things. There was also a generally awesome response by Laurie Penny, and they apparently agreed to work together.

But I still think something here is missed. And given that Scott is a professor I think I should mention it – if only because it might ultimately help with that advice post he seems to be still working on with Laurie.

WARNING: the following text is PERSONAL OPINION based on LIMITED information FROM INTERNET POSTINGS. This is in NO WAY a complete analysis and VERY WELL can miss facts. I’m only writing about it because I feel it’s a seriously dangerous intellectual “trap”.

I feel that young!Scott may have contributed to ruining his personal life at school by something that professor!Scott would probably be horrified with if he saw it from the outside. Academic bias, of all things!

He admits that he was “drawn” to the likes of Andrea Dworkin. But these are not toys we’re talking about, nor political journalists where you go pick a party and follow its pundits. This is research. And so the high school nerd has committed a nerdy mistake. He failed to read up on the opposing views.

There were, by the time, two coherent intellectual strands in opposition to Dworkin, and each would have provided its own pathways out of the impasse Scott had.

One was conservatism. Not the modern-day MRA radicals with their “game” and stuff – I think these were, thankfully, still not there – but good old conservatism with family values etc. It had an answer: that you just don’t “ask” for sex because sex outside of marriage is not a Good Thing. You get *yourself* ready for marriage while you also seek marriageable, as opposed to sex-able, female contacts. There are ways to do that. He mentioned the shtetl, but guess what – match-making still very much exists in Judaism. I am a Christian myself – of Jewish lineage but Christian by choice – separate discussion though; whatever religion he chose, he could have followed its arrangements to seek women interested in courtship towards marriage, while skipping the secular dating scene entirely. Or else one could just seek out friendship and companionship, with an outlook to “propose” the status of a “fiancee” (if not outright marriage) in *good* time – without bothering to compete with the “neanderthals” who want a quick bang. Wait with sex, all the way until marriage, because it’s the Right Thing To Do. I’m not sure if it would be less miserable (though it actually worked for me, more or less). But at least it was a different and coherent option.

The other strand opposing Dworkin was early feminist sex-positivism. Oh, the big feminist split, the world-shaking (well, America-shaking) censorship battles – I am rather baffled how one could research Dworkin and miss those. For the sex-positivists, consent was key. Their solution, as far as I can understand it, would be basically “ask but be ready to step back”. The “creepiness” is not the asking but the persistence. No means no, maybe means no. In words from a very different field (and apparently penned later, so not available to young!Scott), “fail early, fail often”. While “fail-readiness” might take some training it was still a coherent alternative. For the modern nerd, the obvious and funny similarity to Agile software development might be of help.

It appears – though I might very well be wrong – that young!Scott did not work out either of these pathways because he latched on to the Dworkin view without examining the alternatives. But Dworkin was writing in her own context. For many other people, mostly women, her words had, and still have, immense therapeutic meaning. And she did not set herself up to be The Only Voice.

She did try to push for a level of censorship, but not in the social sciences; so she never intended her works to be the only source of someone’s viewpoint. And it was not drummed into him at school, either.

Radical feminism, which I do NOT agree with, is still not to blame for someone choosing to read just its stuff and getting life lessons from it that it was just not designed to give. The radfems did not close the libraries to him. He should have checked the other viewpoints. And I am sure that Professor Scott would not make such a mistake when reading up on a subject these days. I hope he can advise new generations to be wider in their outlook.

And if Scott thinks he had it bad, he can just imagine – yeah, that argument again – someone transgender in his time and his situation with his reading preferences. If a transgender person made the same mistake of being drawn into collectivist radfem literature exclusively, suicide would have been a very likely outcome. They shamed Scott for any idea of asking girls out, but they would shame the transgender person for existing. (Not Dworkin herself but many of her colleagues).

TL;DR: Don’t choose to read just one academic strand in a relevant area of the social sciences. It will feck up your life. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, unfortunately including your own head.

#Ukraine Kiev government fires road police for not engaging in #war against #Donbass #SaveDonbassPeople

Kiev government in Ukraine fires 13 road police for refusing to go fight “separatists”

According to UNIAN, a pro-Kiev Ukrainian news source, the Kief internal affairs minister Avakov as fired 13 members of the road police for refusing to accept assignment to the “zone of the antiterrorist operation”, that is, the war zone.

The road police members are from the Volyn region of Western Ukraine. They refused reassignment into the Donbass resion, where pro-Russian insurgents have declared independent republics in the Donetsk and Lughansgk regions.

Road police are not trained fighters. Forcibly eassigning them from peaceful areas into a war zone appears to be a unique feature of the current Kiev government; for all I know, Russia did not do it, nor the United States.

Yet, according to UNIAN, Avakov has openy admitted this reason for firing the officers. “To serve the country is to have bravery, not just wave a stick [to stop cars]”, Avakov said. He did not appear to mention that not all Ukrainians agree with his militant views on what is best for the country.

UNIAN reference: http://www.unian.net/politics/923947-avakov-uvolil-13-gaishnikov-za-otkaz-ehat-v-zonu-ato-slujit-strane-eto-ne-mahat-palochkoy.html

My LJ post about the conflict (has screenshots, in case UNIAN decided to pull the news): http://ramendik.livejournal.com/253033.html

“Anti-prostitution” texts invisibilize sex workers, “pro sex worker” texts invisibilize clients. Or so it seems to me.

(This post is intentionally free of moral judgements on sexual matters. Different discussion, different day. Also this post has a lot of “I think” and “I feel” because it is written into a personal blog. I know my feelings don’t matter in the issue. I still can write them in a little blog of my own).

I’ve recently been reading up on debates on prostitution/sex work. I tried to read a fair amount of reasoning on both sides. I do not have a fixed position of my own – don’t feel entitled to one as this is very much “not my war” as I have never ever used the services of a sex worker/prostitute (and don’t plan to). I have not even chatted to one at any length (I would want to do that – chat, I mean). My general individualist liberal leanings, and my general aversion to anything Janice Raymond says, tend to the sex worker side of the debate, but I see problems on it too; I’m trying to stay objective and get educated. And I feel that texts on both sides have large, well defined blind spots.

With “anti-prostitution” the blind spot is obvious – those sex workers who actually do choose the profession, and some of whom blog for the other side. They are generally dismissed as frauds, or else somehow blamed for legitimizing the slavery of others by advertising their own choice. This is discussed in loads of places already, but for me personally, it is the largest weakness of the anti-prostitution side. Dismissing a set of those disagreeing with you as frauds and liars is just not on. (I don’t do that about Communists!).

The blind spot on the “pro sex worker” side is far from that obvious. And no, it is not those enslaved, commonly described as “trafficked” (though it seems “enslaved” would be a better word, as some women are actually forced in their own countries, while some others do travel, but of their own free and informed choice – I guess the sides are avoiding it because for some people slavery is a turn on, rather improper in this case…) . Anyway, pro sex worker texts do cover those enslaved/trafficked/forced, generally stating that it will be easier for such people to get help if they are not seen as criminals or as abetting criminals.

The invisible group are, strangely enough, the clients. They are mentioned sometimes, but as a force of nature or something. Not as human beings making choices. At least in the texts I have read!

Consider this fine guide on how to be an ally to sex workers: http://web.archive.org/web/20131220013744/http://www.chezstella.org/docs/StellaInfoSheetAllies2013.pdf?PHPSESSID=0003e023984a5a4cba2b00ec80c48a4e . It mentions dating one, being a friend, a family member, and has ideas what a responsible person would do in such situations. Somehow it never mentions being in a “professional relationship”.

Perhaps the author thinks that an ally should never be a user? It would be quite a valid view, but that statement is not included either. Besides it would not fit the general “pro sex work” narrative. It says that the non-forced sex worker is in it either to survive economically or out of career interest. So following from their logic, a responsible client either helps the woman survive (like, not being scrimpy) or, for a career lady, is working with her to expand the horizons of both sides.

But this is just my speculation. They don’t seem to write about clients and FOR clients at all. The anti side does, here is a post from presumably Rachel Moran intended to explain to the “good punters” the gross abuse they are guilty of: http://theprostitutionexperience.com/?p=193

Yet what shall the pro side say in this regard? Ehere is the “how to be a good client to a sex worker” post? Even on the very basics – how to make sure someone is not forced – I did not notice anything. And if I ever wanted to become a client, that would be the first thing I would want to know. I mean, if I were to choose to pay for sex, I would accept being pleased because the person needs to pay her bills; but if there is a gun to her head, I’d much rather spend the time in the police station prodding them to action.

So prospective “sex worker allies”, for whom there is a wealth of very interesting blogs, and the actual clients seem to be two very different crowds. And, honestly, I feel uneasy about it. The sex work narrative starts to break down at the client point (in my own little personal view, of course).

In that narrative, sex workers are service providers. But consider other providers. In software developer and network admin communities one can learn a lot about how to be a good user, to ask the right questions etc. A patient can learn a lot from doctor communities. A passenger, from railway worker ones (including the fact that trying to ride outside trains hurts real people a lot).

Yet with sex workers, community and professional interaction seem to exist in different worlds – why is that? Or am I reading the wrong places?

P.S. Of course, no sex worker or pro sex worker blogger owes me or any other random reader anything. This post is about my personal reaction and my personal observations..

The main real danger of TERF: political alliance with Right

As I follow “trans vs radfem” debates , it appears they often degenerate into competitions of ideological minutae about things like privilege. Honestly a time waste in my view.
What I am interested in is what affects real people, not abstract analysis of social structures.

And in that regard, the real danger from TERF activism to trans people does not seem to me to lie in “misgendering”, nor even in hate speech. While female violence against trans people does exist, like birdofparadox.wordpress.comc/2010/04/10/spain-two-cis-women-imprison-torture-and-murder-a-man-in-his-own-home/ or http://www.towleroad.com/2011/04/transgender.html, it is highly dubious the perps read TERF hate speech ( I suspect TERF would defend the latter as some bizarre form of self defence though),

Nor do TERF have any significant political influence on their own. But note “on their own”.

In 1980 Janice Raymond wrote a malicious, apparently intentionally anti-scientific, and quite possibly libelous piece, “Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery, for the US Government“. Trans activists claim http://transgriot.blogspot.ie/2010/09/why-trans-community-hates-dr-janice-g.html “This paper effectively eliminated federal and state aid for indigent and imprisoned transsexuals. It has forced incarcerated trans people to file federal court cases to get back trans related medical treatment they lost as a result of Raymond’s transphobic pen.”

No, it did not. Janice Raymond was not a policitian or bureaucrat. She was a random alleged expert. Her paper was simply used to defend a decision made for political reasons by, ultimately. the Reagan administration. To give “feminist cred” to what was essentially a reactionary move.

Symbolically she became a condom with which people suffering from transsexualism were screwed over. But just the condom, not the dick. And as any used condom she was thrown away. You don’t see the “Nordic model” on prostitution introduced in the USA for all her calls – this proves the lady has no real power.

The same action continues to this day, as a set of highly suspicious right-wing clubs organize a collection of signatures against California’s AB1266, a rather harmless law on detail of school policy – and TERF cheer them on.

Sometimes they don’t hide their admiration for their right-wing big brothers. Paul McHugh, a psychiatrist turned Vatican hack who defended paedophilic priests, is universally cited by TERF as being against treatment of transsexuals (he is nearly the only known person with some form of real medical experience who they can dig up with this position – their beau Dr. Blanchard is in fact quite a supporter).

Earlier I could also point to Sheila Jeffreys’ admiration for the conservative Lords who tried to defeat the UK Gender Recognition Act 2004, but sadly the blog “hagocrat”, which hosted her articles, went offline. I suspect it was a copyright claim, and I don’t want to risk a copyright claim (there is a disproportionate amount of lawyers among TERF). I’ll try to fish for my saved copy and put fair use quotes in a separate post later.

But this admiration will only ever be one-sided. Right wing will gladly take the feminist cred, the claim to “defend women” – and then throw TERF away like a used condom after another victory. There will be, from their side, no rattling of restrictive gender roles, just more restrictions against those pesky trans.

And more wars, of course. But that one seems common to all major US political groups.

 

Blog killer

I was named a blog killer by a certain GallusMag, the anonymous person besides a blog that apparently exists to be a focus of hatemongery and to elicit and amplify negative response from various trans people and allies. (I suspect but can not prove that some of the negative response is also fabricated, with extensive use of sock puppets).

While the label is unfortunately undeserved it’s still nice to have!

Perhaps I should take this as a clue I should find the time to write more on other matters. I want similar labels from Islamists, US imperialist warmongers, Catholic irredentists, atheist irredentists, hardlne Marxists… oh, and copyright fundamentalists too!

Label in question: http://sexnotgender.com/2013/10/11/no-animal-research-on-this-website-humans-only/#comment-2799

(The linked blog is not the one described above. I will not link to hate speech).