Thursday, August 20, 2009

Andrea Dworkin on Transgender

Photo from The Boston Phoenix.



There has been a lot of heated discussion among Second-Wave radical feminists, concerning when transphobic theory "took over" the discourse. Women who claim to be of the hard-core Andrea Dworkin school of radical feminism, steadfastly adhere to the concept that trans people are not the gender they say they are and will not use preferred pronouns; some go so far as to edit comments on their blogs and change the pronouns, for example. Many of these Second-Wavers believe it is reactionary to "endorse" (for lack of a better word) the gender identities of trans folks. Much talk about the "gender binary" (male/female, historically constructed as mirror images, opposites, yin and yang) and how transgenderism "upholds" this binary, etc etc etc.

For many of these feminists, the late Andrea Dworkin is something of a patron saint. One well-known radfem uses a quote from Dworkin on her blog, to let it be known she is a "take no prisoners" sorta gal. I have read many, many quotes by Dworkin on Second-Wave radical feminist blogs.

But it is telling that they carefully leave out the quote(s) below, even though they claim to have all of her books.

In conversations with trans feminists, I have continually assured them that many Second-Wave radical feminists were NOT transphobic, and actually empathetic to trans people. However, I've had trouble finding any proof, other than my own memory and a few trans friends of Kate Millett's. Depressingly, the more I searched, I found much more proof that radical feminists were mean and vicious (i.e. Robin Morgan's lynch-mob rhetoric concerning trans women in her book titled Going Too Far). The Janice Raymond/Robin Morgan/Mary Daly faction seems to have "won" the transgender round of radical feminist theory, by default.

And so, it brings me great pleasure, after a very long search, to finally have the following quote IN MY HAND, not just from memory. Thank God for Amazon.com and the used books option, since this is long out of print.

The book is WOMAN HATING, copyright 1974, EP Dutton, New York City, ISBN 0-525-47423-4. The book jacket contains approving blurbs from: Phyllis Chesler, Ellen Frankfort, Florynce Kennedy, Audre Lorde, Kate Millett and Gloria Steinem.

I find it interesting that Morgan did not provide a blurb, since she and Dworkin were good friends. (Was this passage the reason?)

Note: In the 70s, at the time of this writing, the accepted terms were "transsexual" (instead of transgender) and "hermaphrodite" (instead of intersex)--and these are the terms Dworkin uses.

~*~

First, Dworkin believed that the human race is multi-sexual, and to maintain patriarchy, these multiple genders must be "contained" within the two-gender binary. Transgendered people, then, are the people who have fallen through the cracks, so to speak, who do not fit into this rigid system.

These excerpts are all from the suitably Dworkinesque-titled chapter Androgyny: Androgyny, Fucking and Community:

Hormone and chromosome research, attempts to develop new means of human reproduction (life created in, or considerably supported by, the scientist's laboratory), work with transsexuals, and studies of formation of gender identity in children provide basic information which challenges the notion that there are two discrete biological sexes. That information threatens to transform the traditional biology of sex difference into the radical biology of sex similarity. That is not to say there is one sex, but that there are many. The evidence which is germane here is simple. The words "male" and "female," "man" and "woman," are used only because as yet there are no others.
She discusses the facts that there are intersexed people, hairy women, feminine men, indistinct genitalia, etc.
We can presume then that there is a great deal about human sexuality to be discovered, and that our notion of two discrete biological sexes cannot remain intact. (Note: The following sentence is underlined repeatedly in my used copy.) We can presume then that we will discover cross-sexed phenomena in proportion to our ability to see them.

In addition, we can account for the relative rarity of hermaphrodites in the general population, for the consistency of male-female somatotypes that we do find, and for the relative rarity of cross-sexed characteristics in the general population (though they occur with more frequency than we are now willing to imagine) by recognizing that there is a process of cultural selection which, for people, supersedes natural selection in importance. Cultural selection, as opposed to natural selection, does not necessarily serve to improve the species or to ensure survival. It does necessarily serve to uphold cultural norms and to ensure that deviant somatotypes and cross-sexed characteristics are systematically bred out of the population.
Later in this section, she makes a statement in italics, for emphasis:
We are, clearly, a multi-sexed species which has its sexuality spread along a vast fluid continuum where the elements called male and female are not discrete.
And then, we get to the section titled Transsexuality, which she starts off by quoting "a transsexual friend":
How can I really care if we win "the Revolution"? Either way, any way, there will be no place for me.
Keeping in mind there were far fewer uncloseted transgendered people in the 70s, I find the following paragraphs to be pretty radical and trans-positive stuff:
Transsexuality is currently considered a gender disorder, that is, a person learns a gender role which contradicts his/her visible sex. It is a "disease" with a cure: a sex-change operation will change the person's visible sex and make it consonant with the person's felt identity.

Since we know very little about sex identity, and since psychiatrists are committed to the propagation of the cultural structure as it is, it would be premature and not very intelligent to accept the psychiatric judgement that transsexuality is caused by a faulty socialization. More probably, transsexuality is caused by a faulty society. Transsexuality can be defined as one particular formation of our general multisexuality which is unable to achieve its natural development because of extremely adverse social conditions.

There is no doubt that in the culture of male-female discreteness, transsexuality is a disaster for the individual transsexual. Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency as a transsexual. There are 3 crucial points here.

One, every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. This is an emergency measure for an emergency condition.

Two, by changing our premises about men and women, role-playing and polarity, the social situation of transsexuals will be transformed, and transsexuals will be integrated into community, no longer persecuted and despised.

Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it. Either the transsexual will be able to expand his/her sexuality into a fluid androgyny, or, as roles disppear, the phenomenon of transsexuality will disappear and that energy will be transformed into new modes of sexual identity and behavior.
~*~

I have noticed that many radical feminists latch on to her third point, overlooking the first two. Further, they make the third point prescriptive, rather than descriptive. Dworkin obviously meant that transgenderism will "disappear" after her androgynous feminist revolution, not that we should make actual trans people disappear RIGHT NOW. I think she is very clear on that.

When trans feminists initially read these words in the 70s, it is understandable that they felt welcome in the feminist movement. When they attempted to take their place among us Second-Wavers, they were rejected, trashed, outed, and accused of being "rapists" simply for being trans persons. Feminists who loved what Andrea wrote about pornography (including her legal activism), seemed to overlook what she said about trans people, and/or assume she had the views of Morgan, Daly, Sheila Jeffreys, et. al.

No.

Let the record show, once and for all, that she did not.

~*~

Everyone is welcome to discuss this post, regardless of your views. But the ground rules are: RESPECT FOR EVERYONE, including preferred pronouns. No trans-baiting and yes, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Make Andrea proud, and show some empathy for those people in a primary emergency within patriarchy.

Thank you.

63 comments:

queen emily said...

Wow. That seems fairly unambiguous.

Thanks for that, that made my day :)

recursiveparadox said...

It's nice to see that Andrea was a great deal more trans positive then I suspected.

Thank you.

One thing I did want to point out, is that some parallels discovered between the experiences of those with BIID (bodily integrity identity disorder) and those with GID (gender identity disorder, the medicalization of the surgical solutions for dysphoria) implies that there may be factors unrelated to society for some (not all) cases.

Not gender essentialism at all but more bodily integrity instincts. In BIID, these instincts make the mind reject one or more limbs. Limbs don't exactly have the social elements attached to them that genitals do, obviously. Yet the feelings are almost exactly the same for some trans folks.

So it stands to reason that if one could have miswired bodily integrity instincts for limbs, that one could have them for genitals and the chest too. The fact that nonbinary transsexals exist (and are receiving nullification or mixture surgery) is even further justification that these instincts are varied and not dependent on the arbitrary sex boxes of male and female (and therefore not essentialist). These sex and gender unrelated instincts nevertheless impact gender because they impact the mind's view of the genitals and secondary sexual characteristics (which are in turn explicitly socially associated with gender). The idea is the brain says, "these parts are foreign, what the fuck?" and the psyche says, "well if these parts are foreign then i can't possibly be a man/woman!" Hence identity follows bodily integrity instincts because of that association between body and gender.

So this raises the possibility that in an androgynous society we would still have modification of bodily characteristics that we used to associate with sex, but that it would be the same as the way BIID is seen. Like taking off a leg, not changing who you are. They would also be a whole lot more rare.

Sorry for the long winded comment. It's just an idea I've been playing with for a while. And your post brought it back to my attention

DaisyDeadhead said...

Recursive, your comment is fascinating! I think some anorexia is the same as BIID, in that some people w/anorexia actually feel there is "too much" flesh on their bodies, and actually "feel it" that way. I have started noticing how some of them "grab" their (non-existent) tummies, as if to SHOW YOU this huge glob of fat that they believe is OBVIOUSLY THERE, and it just isn't. But they really do believe this huge amount of fat is there, and some of them will try to show you. (They truly FEEL IT and EXPERIENCE IT that way.) A "miswiring" could account for this too, and I think lots of BIID is misdiagnosed as anorexia.

Thank you for your insightful comment!

Rachel said...

very good to have this info. I was considering reading some of Dworkin's work, but didn't know if it was "safe"...well, maybe that sounds silly the way I put it, but what I'm meaning is, you think someone has it right but then they get it wrong in a big way and you find it hard to agree with them even on what it was they were right about.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Rachel, Dworkin basically had it "wrong" on porn and sex-work, and I would recommend this piece by Suzie Bright, as accompaniment to reading her work. Bright gives Dworkin the respect she properly deserves, while also describing how the feminist 'sex wars' began.

Dworkin's views are more "dated" than anything, since she could not foresee porn or sex-work as being in any way female-positive or female-directed, and at the time she was writing, she was probably right: it was totally a man's business and male-controlled. (And certainly, there were no internet webcams turning millions of women into sex-biz-entrepreneurs right in the safety of their own living rooms, without even the necessity of leaving home!) But Dworkin wasn't interested in going there, period. She did not believe the business could be at all women-friendly, just as she didn't believe heterosexuality was either.

I tend to forgive her for that, since she had very negative experiences (in her words) being a prostituted woman herself. Sex work wasn't her idea, and she had a difficult time believing it could be any woman's free choice.

"Woman hating" is a good book to start with, but as I said, out of print! "Intercourse" and all her books written after it, tend to be exceedingly grim.

She really did have much "Heartache"--which is why I used the book cover. I think her empathy with trans folks came out of her own experience of never fitting in.

Rachel said...

thanks for the link. (And that Googlism thing is wild, lol.) well, having a heads up that i will find parts that get it wrong will help me read. if i know it is there i can brace myself.

Ellie d'Yckgirl said...

Thanks for this piece, I really found it interesting :)

And since I thought it was interesting, I did some translations of those quotes on my french blog (even though Dworkin is less of a "patron saint" here), http://pink.reveries.info I hope you don't mind ? (obviously, I can put them down if needed)

Kay Olson said...

Very interesting. Reading those quotes made me joyously happy.

CrackerLilo said...

Awesome. I tried to read a few of her books, but could never get through them and often ended up throwing them across the room. (See, this is one reason why print's better than downloading to a Kindle. :-) I had absolutely no idea she felt that way about transgenderism and sexual identity. This is surprising in a very good and interesting way, thank you.

Jo said...

Thanks for writing this post, Daisy.

I haven't read a whole lot of Dworkin's work, directly, and my exposure to her has been mostly related to her work on rape (which was super influential in my early feminist days) and sex work/porn (which was also influential, but more in a "oh, lord, that's not my jam" kind of way). But she's been so associated, for me, with the particular strain of radfem politics that you identify that's so transphobic and especially transmisogynist, that I wasn't about to go seek out her writing on trans issues.

So, I SUPER appreciate that you've brought this to light. Both for my own edification, and to have in my arsenal, as it were.

I'm not in total agreement with her here, especially on point three, but it's good to have a more fleshed out take on what Dworkin had to say.

feminist.love said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! I have been telling people that Woman Hating was an early and ground-breaking book for gender as a continuum, and fighting against the idea that Andrea Dworkin was anti-trans for *so* long.

Thank you for dispelling myths!!

I am a radical feminist, subscribe to some second-wave ideology *and* I am a radical queer and trans rights supporter. It is possible to be both!

feminist love,
Jen

Cameron Partridge said...

Thanks very much for this-- very much appreciated. This would be helpful for the next go-round of my course "Thirty Years of Trans Studies," one segment of which is entitled "the androgyny episode" which looks at some of the pro-androgyny writings (including early Raymond, believe it or not) and then the backlash against them, and then compares that back and forth to anti-trans positions that were emerging around the same time.

peace,

Cameron

- said...

@recursiveparadox: As a transsexual woman, I really appreciate your comment! I've really grown tired of the "chicken-vs-the-egg" debates about trans people (did I begin to gravitate toward femininity because it's the behavior associated with the body I felt I ought to have, or did I begin to feel like I ought to have that body because my behavior was attached to that kind of body...) As though we can so easily piece apart bodies and identities, culture from biology, etc and clearly delineate where one ends and the other begins. It's all so complexly connected that's impossible to pin down a "cause" at all, I believe. And why do we feel like we have to, anyway? Trans people exist, deal with it! Meh.

However, I wonder if people who would use body modification technologies would become more rare in a less gendered/sexist world (as you suggest)... or whether, on the contrary, people might "transition" *more*!

If there were not the same strict meanings attached to bodies, if there were not such a terrible prohibition and stigma, if it would not mean a lifetime of degradation, poverty and violence... perhaps people would be more likely to experiment with different kinds of bodies in order to explore what makes them feel the most comfortable. Not that many people would have genital reconstruction surgery just to "try it out"(but then again, you never know and technology is advancing very quickly. Maybe someday people will!) but yeah, maybe actually the number of people who would alter there bodies in some way would actually increase slightly.
-sadie

recursiveparadox said...

@-: (wow that looks like an emoticon, but I'm not sure what to call you, -. XD)

It is very possible that people would experiment more in a world where gender as a sociological concept had far less (or no) impact on us. And I would certainly welcome that (especially with my hope of involving myself in cosmetic genetics and body restructuring as a career someday).

I think it's likely that there would be less cases of the "I'm in pain and I need to do this" (the disorder model), and more cases of "what works for me?" (the interest model) because of the removal of those pressures. Thank you for pointing out that the latter people are out there and may increase as time passes, because I certainly neglected to mention them. XD

voz said...

This is not in any way news.

I read this passage to a Women's Studies class in 2005 as a demonstration that old school feminists knew better and still actively chose hatred of trans women as the path of choice. So, theirs was an active, knowing, and intentional hatred. They knew better, and did it anyway.

Dworkin was not transpositive as much as we of greatly lowered expectations here are imagining. She still believed in the obliteration of trans women as a metric of feminist spaces, she does not assert our womanhood as real or defensible, only that we should be allowed to live and get State funded surgery.

You can bet your ass she would have fought for trans women to have legally mandated access to the men's restroom, and crowed about how positive that was that she was fighting for trans rights.

I am deeply disappointed in the myopic view here, and that nobody picked up on the fact that her stated goal was for us not to exist even tho she said a few nice things about us before launching on the more conventionally feminist tirade of anti trans woman hatred.

Fail. Utter fail. Color me deeply unimpressed.

Lucy said...

I have to pretty much agree with voz here. I don't see how Dworkin is trans-positive based on what's been quoted here. She seems to be merely not as trans-negative as other radical feminists of her time. That's a pretty low standard to hold someone to. Dworkin may not be as bad as Daly, Greer, et al, but she still didn't bother to actually listen to trans people and find out that any feminist gender revolution was not going to make trans people magically disappear.

So, yeah. Colour me unimpressed.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Well Voz and Lucy, I have to say I disagree with you both, since in 1974, nobody was saying this stuff except trans people themselves. I certainly found it shocking enough that I remembered it all these years.

And I don't think it was Dworkin's "goal" that trans people not exist, but what she thought would "naturally" occur/evolve. Later, she said (I think in the book "Heartbreak"--can't remember exactly, possibly an essay in SIGNS) she did not believe there would be a revolution and was very depressed and disappointed about that, so I'm not sure what she thought of the eventualities/inevitabilities she mentions here.

We'll have to agree to disagree. As one who engaged in the radfem arguments of the day, I thought she was a beacon of fairness, especially in endorsing community responsibility for transition.

Things were very different in 1974. But alas, I just had this conversation today about something ELSE, and I realize, people who haven't lived through a certain era, will never really understand what that era was like.

(((resigns herself to old ladydom)))

voz said...

Of couse you disagree. You, as a cis woman with a radfem history, are very well equipped to tell trans women what affects our lives, and how. Not.

It is the cisprivilege and ignorance you are waving about, and not any argumentative correctness.

She gets no love, no cookie for being slightly less hateful than her peers of the age. Your experiential failure to see that does not make it true, and your "agree to disagree" smacks of entitlement and privilege.

Nobody is denying your rights as a woman because of the stupid, hateful shit these feminists wrote, so I must say, your view of their "positivity" fails to take that into account.

The problem is, people listen to you as a white cis woman far more than they will me as a twoc, and thta means, your "agree to disagree" amplifies the denial of trans lives and experiences in a very significant way, and enables the current fetish for feminists to disavow their hateful history and the real, measureable effects it has had on women who do not share your rather entitled life.

I find you supremely unqualified to discuss what Dworkin or anybody else says about trans lives as expert testimony on what we see.

When I want a white cis lady to tell me what being a white cis lady was like in the 70s was like, I know where to go. In the meantime, please consider that the power of your voice far outstrips its ability to accurately describe what that era was like for us, and what that shit means for us.

Because, at the end of the day, you ain't us and that matters here.

Beyond that, you have a nice blog. But trying to rewrite Dworkin as a paragon of trans positivity, even for the time, is beyond the pale. Being the least awful of the day does not make you fair and positive, just not as evil.
Please lose the revisionism, it's unbecoming to an otherwise very together blog.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Voz: Of couse you disagree. You, as a cis woman with a radfem history, are very well equipped to tell trans women what affects our lives, and how. Not.

Say what?

It is the cisprivilege and ignorance you are waving about, and not any argumentative correctness.

However, I am NOT ignorant enough to judge the past by the standards of present.

Can you believe all those people in the past were so sweaty all the time? Why didn't they just turn on the A/C?

Whatta buncha dumb fucks they were.

She gets no love, no cookie for being slightly less hateful than her peers of the age. Your experiential failure to see that does not make it true, and your "agree to disagree" smacks of entitlement and privilege.

Speaking of privilege, let me ask, Voz, how old are you? Another young person telling me how fucked up we all were in the 70s? (Am I talking to someone who actually fought the good fight in the 70s, or someone who has read only about it in books?)

Because really being there and engaging in active-struggle (pardon old-fogie Marxist terminology), was very different than reading Women's Studies accounts.

Abe Lincoln, as a white man born in Kentucky, was pretty progressive on race for his day. Now, if we compare him to NOW, he isn't progressive at all. He believed in segregation, after all--for him, segregation was a GIVEN. But I am comparing him to the white men OF HIS DAY, OF HIS CLASS, BORN IN KENTUCKY and he comes out looking pretty good.

Likewise, comparing Dworkin to you, or to other trans women theorists, she will be lacking. But for her TIME, compared to other feminists? She was STELLAR.

DEAD AIR greatly dislikes how progressives judge the past by the standards of the present, and finds this a profoundly disturbing tendency of the Left (which Nietzsche warned us about), as well as simply a self-limiting thing to do, making people unable to appreciate progress and properly process the lessons of history.

Of course, like they say, YMMV.

Nobody is denying your rights as a woman because of the stupid, hateful shit these feminists wrote, so I must say, your view of their "positivity" fails to take that into account.

No, but you are attempting to deny my right to my own history and process. I dislike young people preaching to me about stuff they know NOTHING about first-hand, just as much as you dislike cis women doing the same.

The problem is, people listen to you as a white cis woman far more than they will me as a twoc,

I have seen no evidence of this. Piny dismissed me as "total prick" on Feministe, but I notice you got a WHOLE THREAD. :P

I am dismissed as just some old redneck hippie, of no importance, while your charges were taken very seriously. (At least by feminists) Now, maybe this is a reaction to the Dalyites, etc... a way of disavowing the radfems that have come before? Or disassociating oneself from them?


2B continued...

DaisyDeadhead said...

Voz: and that means, your "agree to disagree" amplifies the denial of trans lives and experiences in a very significant way, and enables the current fetish for feminists to disavow their hateful history and the real, measureable effects it has had on women who do not share your rather entitled life.

Actually, reading your blog, I see you are obviously far better educated than I am. You know about generators and all kindsa very useful stuff like that. I think you have obviously had some entitlements of your own; nobody taught me any of that, and I wish they had. Further, in my family, I would not have been allowed to learn. (As a result, I am very intimidated by anything mechanical, a fact I also find embarrassing.) If you came from a family that allowed you to learn such things, you have privileges also. If I'd learned such things, I might have a better job and make more money than I do now.

And I think rednecks are just as hated among certain classes of people, as trans persons are, but I won't get into that; another argument. Certainly, there are just as many jokes about us.

I find you supremely unqualified to discuss what Dworkin or anybody else says about trans lives as expert testimony on what we see.

Say what?

Many people have included Dworkin with the Mary Daly faction, and this was my attempt to clear her name and clear her of charges of transphobia. I am very pleased that I was able to do that with her own words.

I am not claiming expertise on anything, except Second Wave radical feminism. (And yes, I will claim that I know about that; I was there.)

When I want a white cis lady to tell me what being a white cis lady was like in the 70s was like, I know where to go.

1) So are young people allowed to discuss the 70s, or is it just offensive when old women who were actually there do it?

2) Lady? Who you callin a lady?

"God almighty made the women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies."--Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones

Rednecks are not ladies. Please don't call me one. Them's fightin words. Thanks.

In the meantime, please consider that the power of your voice far outstrips its ability to accurately describe what that era was like for us, and what that shit means for us.

Only if you don't address me as a lady.

Because, at the end of the day, you ain't us and that matters here.

Beyond that, you have a nice blog. But trying to rewrite Dworkin as a paragon of trans positivity, even for the time, is beyond the pale. Being the least awful of the day does not make you fair and positive, just not as evil.


We will have to agree to disagree.

I still like Abe Lincoln, too.

Please lose the revisionism, it's unbecoming to an otherwise very together blog.

You'll take my revisionism from me when you pry my cold dead hands from Literature and Revolution by Leon Trotsky.

But thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

daisy, you deserve voz. this is what you get for sucking up to trans. anything to be edgy. redneck is the word.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DaisyDeadhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
recursiveparadox said...

I'm not going to call this revisionism, because I'm fairly certain that you are aware that Dworkin was full of slightly less shit than the rest (which still didn't really change the fact that shit was present, shit being transphobia).

I think that this is largely a misunderstanding here and I think that the statement below, Daisy, is the one that is aggravating that misunderstanding:

"Many people have included Dworkin with the Mary Daly faction, and this was my attempt to clear her name and clear her of charges of transphobia. I am very pleased that I was able to do that with her own words."

The fact is, you can't clear her of charges of transphobia. You can point out that her transphobia is definably less than her peers. Definitely. You can point out that the transphobic bullshit justified in her name isn't nearly as justified by her words as people thought. Definitely.

But she is a product of her times and transphobia (also known as cissexism, nowadays) was the sea that everyone swam in. Still is actually. It isn't just second wavers who are cissexist. Third wavers, even trans folk can be cissexist. And Dworkin did have cissexism. Not as much as that vitriol spewing piece of shit, Greer, but she still had some.

We can recognize that she was a tiny bit ahead of her peers but we can't recognize that she wasn't transphobic. It's really important to draw that distinction.

Beyond that,

"And I think rednecks are just as hated among certain classes of people, as trans persons are, but I won't get into that; another argument. Certainly, there are just as many jokes about us."

This game of who has it worse never ends well and always diverts from the crux of the issue. Let's not play it.

voz said...

Daisy,

I like you.
I respect you.
As a longtime on and off and currently rural dwelling, card carrying member of the AARP, I take exception to invoking redneck status and age as you did. Truth is, they buy you credit with me, and you may want to do a lil searching where I stood up for "rednecks" over at QT.

Hint: Google "Texian" over at that blog. You will see.

That said, I think the intent and execution of this post was flawed and damaging. As of now, your responses are not aiding the sitch at all. Please don't continue to fuck things up. Please don't let your zeal to cleanse the name of a woman who did great harm along with much good deny you vision.
Can we at least do that? It's your call from here, and you know where to find me.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Recursive, I actually have to clarify then: I basically agree with Dworkin's 'multi-gendered' take on things; don't know if I would phrase it exactly that way--but I don't know HOW to say it. As she says, we don't even have the words.

I don't see what is cissexist about it; I have heard similar views espoused by some trans writers. (?)

I agree that Dworkin's point #3 is cissexist, but my primary reason for reprinting: that was always the selective quote you got from the radfems without the full context of the other two points coming first. Once you read the three paragraphs together, you see that the radfem take on it wasn't accurate, and she was not referring to the here and now (i.e. not letting trans women into MichFest or feminist events).

Anon:

1) Delete your own shit, I won't.

2) If Voz comes here to engage me, she is treating me as an equal. YOU are placing yourself above me, haughtily deciding if I am "worthy" enough for your input. Fuck you.

3) Voz is therefore showing more ability to dialogue than you are, with your bullshit cloak and dagger routine and refusal to use correct pronouns or it might 'compromise' your precious princess-ass.

Thus, we see who is the serious radical, and who is a whiny spoiled BRAT.

Fuck off.

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queen emily said...

I always boggle a bit when people saying "sucking up" (ie treating as human) to trans people is edgy. Is there a coolness thing I'm missing? Are y'all feeling slightly hipper cos I posted here?

I should start charging for this.

DaisyDeadhead said...

QE, hope not, I'm on a VERY TIGHT blogging budget! :D

recursiveparadox said...

@Daisy:

The whole multigendered thing is something I agree on too (as a trans writer XD). The cissexism and cis privilege arises where she assumes that transsexuality (in terms of seeking bodily modification to stop painful dysphoria) would disappear with a gender free society in point #3, where you seem to agree with me fully.

I can understand printing the quote in its entirety to retain credibility while criticizing quote mining pseudofeminist transphobes.

All of this combined is why I looked at the situation and said to myself, "this has to be a misunderstanding" and when I spotted that one line about clearing her of charges of transphobia, I figured out where the misunderstanding really came to a peak.

Unfortunately, misunderstandings of a point on trans related things made by a cis person will usually have a far worse impact than misunderstandings of a point on trans related things made by a trans person. In the end, privilege is the thing that makes the former far worse than the latter in its impact. And not just because cis folks tend to have their words taken above trans folks.

A good parallel is if a guy was speaking on feminism and made a slip in how he put something about women's rights. His intentions were pure and he was trying to say something largely positive, with perspective for the privilege involved. But his slip up would be seen very badly by us because he is speaking from a position of privilege. And with all the shit we've gone through, he should be aware that the reactions might be less than civil.

I hope that reasonably describes why the reaction was so intense.

sqrrel said...

Here's some reasons why what dworkin says here is fucked up, even if it was less fucked up than what her peers were saying: The way she frames the "multi-gendered" theory of human existence implicitly denies the possibility of cisgendered transsexual people. That is, trans people who are binary male or binary female. She sees trans people as having a sex of "other" in all cases. She has some positivity for that idea, but it's still the wrong idea and a harmful idea. I see what she's written here as a precursor to the subverivist frames common in queer spaces today.

She also misses entirely that transsexuality is about bodies, and her discourse suffers appropriately from that oversight.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Sqrrel, yes, I get what you are saying.

Thing is, I don't think Dworkin believed the binary was 'real'--for anyone, not cis, not trans, male, female, NO ONE. I think she believed the sex-gender system was imposed from above, by patriarchy. This is an overall impression I get from reading a number of her books and essays, no quote available. I believe Germaine Greer was also taking this line in her book "The Female Eunuch"--that all gender performance is .... well, inauthentic or "learned" in some way. (She later abdicated this view and jumped on board the Dalyite-essentialist train, unfortunately.) Notice Dworkin uses the word 'learned' in the quote. No one is exempt from this judgment; I think she believed gender was largely fake or imposed, like class under capitalism. (She compared the two, often.)

I am agnostic on that whole subject, personally, and don't think it matters much at this point. But in the 70s, the idea that gender (and by extension, sexuality) was "learned" and not strictly biological, was some powerful stuff. Now, the whole concept is rather passe.

I tend to agree with "-" who posted above, that there will be more body modification in the future, rather than less.

Barbara Falconer Newhall said...

I don't see the problem here. If people want to be referred to as "she" or as "he," who am I to argue with her or him?

My great-grandmother was a First Wave feminist, and I was young and active in the women's movement in 1969, when feminists endured a lot of bitter opposition.

I got tired of being bitter back so now I fight the fight with humor. Check out my blog for my thoughts on the girdle that appeared on the Mad Men season premiere last Sunday.

It's my way of carrying on the family tradition.

LarryE said...

I have just one comment: I have not been involved in debates about feminism or feminist theory since the 1980s, so I expect it is only my ignorance of the nuances of how the debate has shifted over the years that leads this outsider to observe that it seems odd to me that some claim that transgenderism "upholds" a "gender binary."

Rather, it would appear to me that transgenderism shows that gender identity is more plastic than previously or otherwise allowed and so undermines a strict "binary" nature for such identity.

So I expect :sigh: that I'm just some old fart who doesn't get it, but there it is.

queen emily said...

Yes, it doesn't make much sense LarryE. *As if* the average person meets a binary identified transsexual man or woman and goes "phew! So glad you're binary identified!"

It's one of those recurring memes that no doubt seems very cleverly counter-intuitive when you add a dash of Derrida to your paper, but ends up just being a tool for the more privileged to smack trans people with.

Tobi said...

Hmm, it's fascinating to see this, as it reflects my parents' view on trans issues completely. Perhaps they even picked it up from Dworkin.

I grew up being taught that gender isn't "real" and I shouldn't let other people's gender expectations and stereotypes restrict or limit me. In itself, that was great.

But once I came out as trans, point #3 came out. My mom was surprised and felt she had done something wrong because if she had truly raised me without and gender social pressures then there would be no need to transition. She's come around a great deal, but that perspective still impacts her view as she recently told me that she sees my transition as a conciliation or a compromise of my gender-free androgynous potential -- somewhat ignoring my gender-free andogynous post-transition existence.

pocochina said...

Wait, you mean feminists born before the 1980s are and were not all Heart of Blackest Evil Stepmothers? I AM INTRIGUED BY YOUR NOVEL THEORY. /snark

I've only read the tiniest bit of Dworkin (I admit I was scared off a bit by the fact that the caricature Dworkin will be battling it out with real Dworkin as I read, but I know it's worth the work I'll have to do on that), but I think this here has convinced me to pick up a copy of Woman Hating.

piny said...

Daisy, thanks for doing the digging. I read WH way back, but I was mostly reading it to try to figure out why anyone would hang out with Catherine MacKinnon.

Thing is, I don't think Dworkin believed the binary was 'real'--for anyone, not cis, not trans, male, female, NO ONE. I think she believed the sex-gender system was imposed from above, by patriarchy. This is an overall impression I get from reading a number of her books and essays, no quote available. I believe Germaine Greer was also taking this line in her book "The Female Eunuch"--that all gender performance is .... well, inauthentic or "learned" in some way. (She later abdicated this view and jumped on board the Dalyite-essentialist train, unfortunately.) Notice Dworkin uses the word 'learned' in the quote. No one is exempt from this judgment; I think she believed gender was largely fake or imposed, like class under capitalism. (She compared the two, often.)

Ah, the majestic equality of radical feminism, which forces the cis and the trans alike to problematize their genders!

I appreciate that Dworkin was doing pretty well by the standards of her time--although that qualifier would probably make herself turn in her grave--but this is kind of the problem, isn't it?

Many radfems simply demonized trans people, particularly trans women. But even the ones who adopted a more, uh, compassionate stance never understood that the equation implicit in "not cis, not trans, male, female, NO ONE" was really ignorant and hurtful. Social constructionism is grand. Social constructionism combined with an unexamined social insistence on the uselessness and pathology of trans genders supports transphobia. Trans people were already being told that their genders were fake, and that they were the artifacts of a mistaken time. It is not necessarily progress to argue that cis men and cis women are also shaped. Somehow, their utopian selves were never quite as denatured by this logic.

Kristofski said...

LarryE said: "it seems odd to me that some claim that transgenderism "upholds" a "gender binary.""

As a trans man involved in the radical queer/feminist scene (though not so much in the last few years), I have come across this accusation several times in spaces that I would have assumed would be safe for me. The idea seems to be that, as gender is fluid and isn't defined by your body, then you can ID as any gender you want without changeing your body. Having hormones or surgery to change your physical body is seen as normalisation, adhearing to the idea that men and women have to be a certian way, rather than allowing themselves to remain in an androgynous/othered state.

I have been taking testosterone for seveal years (something I've occasionally got shit for in feminist/queer circles), but I've not had chest surgery and I'm not planning on it, and I've often had people (generally who I bearly know) saying how great this is, implying that this makes me somehow "better" than trans folk who do feel the need for surgery. I'm always quick to correct them, as I hate the idea that's often around in these circles that the more androgynous/gender fuck you are the cooler you are, it's just about how you feel comfortable in your own skin and not about notching up points.

edith said...

Hi Daisy,

I arrived at your blog by Googling John Perry Barlow and misogyny - a very long story. I found your blog about Andrea Dworkin heartening.

Ironically, I have been reading comments on a forum devoted to topics on intersex. Caster Semenya has been the subject of controversy for months. The IAAF has offered to put up the funds to have her testicles removed to reduce her testosterone levels to the normal female reference ranges. I very much agree with the people posting to the intersex forum, I am speaking of, that this is an outrageous imposition. People should not have others determine what is best. Caster should not have to be forced to conform to some gender paradigm. Here's a link to the story:
http://intersexnews.blogspot.com/2009/12/iaaf-offers-to-pay-for-caster-semenyas.html

I used this quote from your Dworkin article as a status update on my Facebook page yesterday : "That information threatens to transform the traditional biology of sex difference into the radical biology of sex similarity. That is not to say there is one sex, but that there are many." I truly believe there are many sexes.

My previous paragraphs are a set up for the next few, however. I read the comments about BIID in regard to genital surgeries such as vaginoplasty. I cannot speak from experience about mastectomy, or oophorectomy but the implication that vaginoplasty has anything in common with having a limb removed is something I find very offensive and totally lacking any kind of comprehension as far as motivation or outcome is concerned.

Genital surgery is much more common than people realize. Most of the time it is done on children without their consent or people who are young, who are poorly informed about the implications of such surgeries. But for lack of insurance, I would have had genital surgery when I was young.

Having a limb removed renders a person disabled. The notion that one who has vaginoplasty is having an amputation is ignorant and offensive. I can say with authority that, for some, it is a very positive experience providing a great deal of satisfaction and improvement in life quality.

I also want to add that anorexia can be a life threatening condition. It is known as "body dysmorphia". Dysmorphia is often confused with the word "dysphoria" which merely implies distress, not delusion, which dysmorphia does.

The word "disorder" has very negative implications for people who are born with biological variations, whether it be transsexualism or other variations considered to fall under the category of intersex. Terms like "Gender Identity Disorder"(GID) and "Disorders of Sex Development"(DSD) are very offensive when used to describe people who are as sane and healthy as anyone else.

Experience has taught me that people wander far astray when speculating about the motivations of those who were born transsexual, even when other transsexual or intersex people are doing the speculating.

Kind regards,

Edith

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Anonymous said...

I am in an emergency too. I am a female in a patriarchy. The feminist revolution seeks to overthrow the patriarchy so attempts to conform to the patriarchy are called out when it comes to transpeople.
Transpeople, when they wear make up and high heels, are validating the patriarchy, not helping us to fight it.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Anon writes: Transpeople, when they wear make up and high heels, are validating the patriarchy, not helping us to fight it.

I see. So trans men are okay with you, but trans women are not? Sounds like garden-variety misogyny to me. Deja Vu all over again. Why are you singling out the women for abuse?

When non-trans women wear makeup and high heels, are they validating the patriarchy too? Or does this rule of yours only extend to trans women? Why? If you can't tell by looking, what's the difference? (i.e. Do you criticize ALL women you meet who dress this way, or is only the trans women who get your wrath?)

You realize the makeup-and-high heels industry is supported by billions of non-trans WOMEN, right? It would not exist otherwise. What are you doing about that, since you feel so strongly about makeup and high heels? Have you organized a boycott against particular makeup and high heel manufacturers?

If not, why should trans women be the ones to start that, when you won't?

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some girl said...

only just saw this. teh awesumm. daisy's dead air rox radikalizm.

*bows*

janefae said...

er, yeah: like a lot of other posters have said: quite awesome, and likely to get me reading Dworkin from a new perspective. What struck me especially, is her view that psychiatry exists to support existing social constructs, and therefore we should heartily distrust any analysis that emerges from that quarter.

If you'll indulge me a little, i'll add a personal view that may be unique to me, or may assist in contributing towards an understanding of the multi-layered thing that is trans. (and picks up, loosely, on some of recursiveparadox's remarks).

So under the one trans umbrella are far more varieties than the big divides (ts, tv, genderqueer and so on): rather, there are divides within each and every one of those sub-sets.

Myself, i identified as female, socially, long before i had explicit social issues. For a while i questioned whether i fitted within the various theories of trans because...the body thing seemed to be less important, and all the psychs seem to make it SO important.

I identified as female...and sorry folk, i am also quite girly in my personal modes of expression...and as i grew older found male society harder and harder. In one sense, ts, for me, has been my journey to female acceptance, as i've taken on more and more markers of femaleness, from clothes to boobs, so i get the impression i am "taken seriously": i'm viewed not as a bloke trying to muscle in...more as someone seriousabout wishing to sign up to the female project.

That makes it sound far more calculated than it is: i'm just back-analysing.

It puts me at odds, interestingly, with some trans women for whom the body thing is more important, and who don't socialise so well.

But still, i was shocked by how things have gone. From intellectually wondering whether the whole process was right for me, post op i woke to a feeling of absolute joy.

Its hard to put into words, but...it is truly like being reborn...and even though i didn't know that the body side of things was so important, in retrospect now, i find it was.

Having a vagina does not "make me a woman"...and i'd be the first to object to such a simplistic view: but what it does do is make it easier for me to live as one, in every sene of that phrase.

And, since it cuts one of the most visible links to my male past in a fairly absolute way, it is a ser5ious psychological boost.

jane

Thérèse said...

Daisy, here through your link on the Patheos thread. I'm sorry your kind attempt at reaching common ground was so rudely rebuffed. Letting you know, I appreciate this and what you were trying to say. Count me as one who found the information in this post a pleasant surprise.

Some transkids have to be the most radical on the block. I think you probably know something about that.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Thérèse, thank you!

Really tired of trying to reach out to people who obviously just wanna fight. (I deleted my initially borderline-nasty response.) This is happening to me on several political fronts at once, and it's very weird and startling. I seem to be occupying the crossroads, and a fairly easy target.

Thank you again! I appreciate your comments so much.

LazyJay H said...

This article just turned up in my paper.li collection. Shame I only found it 3 years after it was written: it's very interesting.

Put back in their context, and allowing for the advances in medicine and psychology since they were written, those comments show a lot more sense and openness than I'm seeing from the movement today.

It's all the more (self)-destructive when you consider that, as someone recently pointed out, it's almost impossible to be transgender without being a feminist, irrespective of what your genitalia have ever looked like.

Lindsay said...

I don't have any insightful commentary on trans issues, or what Andrea Dworkin thought about trans issues, but I did want to say I *LOVE* that photo of her you used to illustrate your post!

I've never seen her smiling before. The joy in her face there is absolutely infectious; it's beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Daisy, have you read this? It seems inspired by this post

http://transfeminism.tumblr.com/post/12371381560/andrea-dworkin-wasnt-a-friend-to-trans-people





DaisyDeadhead said...

Anon, yeah I have. Thank you for the opportunity to reply, which I have wanted to do since first reading it, but you know... I did not want to start some tedious blog/flame war by doing a whole separate post highlighting it.

As Thérèse said, I was already attacked by trans activists on another blog/thread, so I try to be careful. (No good deed goes unpunished.) I am trying NOT to be baited, as I have so many times in the past. Also, after the whole Dyke March debacle concerning Cathy Brennan vs. Ida Hammer, I did not want to be seen as attacking Ida (author of this piece) at a crucial juncture, when she is under political and personal attack by transphobic radfems. Oh HELL no!

Thus, it seems proper to respond in this thread. I just never got around to it! (So again, thanks for the reminder.)

1) There is not a single citation, link or direct quote in Ida's post... which means her definitions and measurement of exactly what constitutes transphobia are open to considerable debate. As we see right here in this thread, what constitutes transphobia can differ among even radical trans activists. By simply announcing someone is transphobic, with no quotes? We can't come to our *own* conclusions, in that case.

I deliberately used Dworkin's own words in this post, so people could pick them apart to their heart's content. By contrast, saying "Dworkin actually went on to give her assistance to [Janice] Raymond..." makes me want to ask what "give assistance" means? Like what? No examples are given.

2) Further, I simply find this very hard to believe. Mary Daly was Raymond's thesis adviser and I think Ida has confused Daly and Dworkin; Daly was Raymond's mentor and she did not listen to anybody else but her guru. Daly and Dworkin notably DID NOT get along. Thus, I find this alliance unbelievable. I did not hear about this at the time... I certainly DID hear about the Chrysalis article by Raymond, trashing Dworkin... and Dworkin rarely, if ever, 'made nice' with anyone who trashed her publicly.

It also could be that Robin Morgan, the Ms editor who got Raymond's ravings excerpted in Ms, got the two together at some point as a peace-keeping mission, and that may be what this refers to. (Morgan and Dworkin WERE friends, but Morgan never crossed Dworkin.) However, that is hardly "giving assistance" to Raymond. As I said, Raymond was besotted with Daly. Daly and Dworkin's theory was miles apart.

3) I am further doubtful because Hammer also writes: "Dworkin, in fact, gave a glowing endorsement to the The Transsexual Empire when the book was originally published in 1979."

My copy of "The Transsexual Empire" does not have any glowing endorsement from Dworkin on it. If she means a glowing review, she needs to link or quote from the review and name exactly where/when it was published. I was keeping careful track of everything at the time, and I recall no such review. (I worked at Plexus, Womansong and Majority Report feminist newspapers, and had ready access to most feminist media.)

4) The rest of her piece is simply guilt-by-association, trashing Raymond further and suggesting Dworkin made Raymond possible, which simply is not true. She means Daly! Totally different factions of feminism!

Real sloppy work and character assassination.

And what you wanna bet this person has a college degree, too? Is this what passes for scholarship from the kidz these days?

No wonder we're in trouble. (sigh)

Anonymous said...

you've been linked on Reddit. this post.

youre prob right - ida has confused daly w/dworkin. they were nothing alike

didnt all those 2nd wave crazy ladies think exactly the same daisy? you mean they could be -different- from each other? woah! (?_?)

DaisyDeadhead said...

Anon, yeah, and here is a sample of their, um, opinions:

And I don't give a fuck about your situation, you're cis-scum who'd rather defend a cissexist and transphobe than worry about the real-world ramifications that Dworkin's shit had for real, living, trans* people. Fuck you.

For the record, she means me.

Still, no actual proof of Dworkin's supposed transphobia is provided; not a single quote from anything Dworkin wrote, with a citation. What are they talking about? Really, I am genuinely interested. I continue to believe these people have confused Daly with Dworkin, as I said. (Thanks, anon, for agreeing with me!)

NOTICE: Until I see the quote and citation, which does not exist, it's all bullshit, ladies. Sorry to rain on your hate-parade.

But really, what makes the Reddit-gang so FURIOUS at someone who is attempting to find common ground? This anger is all out of proportion... remember what Madonna said, fight the real enemy.

If they lived here in upstate South Carolina, they'd either shoot somebody or get shot, within the first ten minutes of their arrival. Its very hard to take them seriously.

And then again, they very well might be anti-trans trolls, writing with the actual intention of making trans activists look unstable, anti-feminist and thoroughly wacko... and succeeding admirably.

bryce said...

chapter and verse, right d? lol

i think a lot are trolls & fakes. *thats* why they cant provide any quotes. not real - just assholes !

anthony sez: " too many hormones"

maybe. that whole page reads like screamin meth heads. reddits a sewer.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Bryce, yeah. Severely toxic. :(

I wouldn't go over there on a bet.

bryce said...

" If they lived here in upstate South Carolina, they'd either shoot somebody or get shot, within the first ten minutes of their arrival. "

10? i say 5 max. :x

sheepcrookandblackdog said...

LOL - I think it was Sinead O'Connor who said "fight the real enemy", not Madonna.

not to practice blog necromancy, but this post made me quite thoughtful. I know a child, who was born with the body of a boy. but she is not a boy. she's a girl. the child had a lot of challenges in the boy-identified-boy body, so to speak, that have become much easier to manage now that she is just an ordinary girl, as far as anyone but her family (and some friends) knows. She's eating instead of starving herself, she's talking instead of being non-verbal, she's interacting instead of flapping - she's improving on all levels.

she's 8 years old. she's a happy little girl instead of a SEVERELY TROUBLED little boy. I can't think of a way that could be bad. can it be said that this child is benefiting from male privilege, now in her life? would she be welcome in Women-Only spaces in ten years or so?

Her parents have a hard road ahead, with many very difficult decisions to make. but I know that they will choose what keeps their baby away from self-harm and suicide. can anyone blame them?

Did anyone anticipate back in the 70s the idea of transgendered children?

Daisy Deadhead said...

Sheep, a few weeks after Sinead was booed off Saturday Night Lives for ripping up the pope's photo (and she did say, "fight the real enemy" as she tore it up), Madonna spoofed her, ripping up Joey Buttafuoco's photo, and she repeated "fight the real enemy"... and it was goddamn hilarious.

She meant:

For many of us, the asshole Joeys of the world constitute our major daily trials and tribulations, not the church (which now more than ever, seems very far away in its actual authority). Joey, on the other hand, fixes our cars and might be our boss or brother or lives next door... and we must deal with him constantly.

Madonna scored again, by understanding the working class from whence she came. We all jokingly said "fight the real enemy" for a long time afterwards, and we weren't referencing O'Connor. ;)

To answer your questions: absolutely not, I don't think anyone EVER foresaw transgender children. But its interesting we all could name kids we knew while growing up, that likely were.

When I say "male privilege"--I base the idea on the sociological facts that most male babies are cooed at and talked to and picked up and generally "tended to" more promptly than girls. Now, obviously that is a generalization (my mother never wanted boys)--but its usually true. I do believe that male privilege starts the moment one is identified as male and given a male name, whether correctly or incorrectly. (In some countries, they put the girls down right away, you know.)
Of course, there is an astronomical difference between the small amount of male privilege (or IS IT truly small?) that goes with male babyhood ... and the huge amount that someone like Lana Wachowski had, who admits being encouraged (along with her brother) from the time she was a small child, to fiercely excel in her field and in all her creative endeavors.

Its up to trans people, both men and woman, to analyze male privilege and the effects of patriarchy on their transitions and on their own lives. The problem is that it appears most trans women in particular, have not done this, and recently, many have announced they have NEVER EXPERIENCED male privilege, period. (Toni Dorsay has recently decreed the very statement is transphobic, even to mention it.)

As a leftist who was conditioned to acknowledge my white privilege and hetero privilege (even as a bisexual, I am married to a man and fully admit that I experience hetero privilege), I have little patience with people who will not fess up w/THEIR privilege... and then (wait for it!) say with a straight face that they got to learn all kinds of cool stuff the rest of us girls were not permitted to learn. (As I said to Voz right here in this thread, who is my age... how did she learn metalwork? Girls our age were not permitted to go near that shit, not permitted to learn to fix cars, woodworking, etc... THOSE ARE PRIVILEGES THAT WERE DENIED TO ME, DO NOT FLAUNT YOUR MASCULINE CAPABILITIES TO ME AND THEN DENY HOW AND WHERE YOU LEARNED THAT SHIT.)

I expect an analysis of male priv from trans women (as POC rightly expect analysis of white racism from white people) and if they can't provide that, they are not feminists and they can stop pretending they have any understanding of the word at all.

Not that I expect them to be. Most women do not call themselves feminists and there is no reason to think trans women will be any more radical than the majority. For some reason though, they THINK THEY ARE, and that is the weird part.

Or maybe that's just the kids on Tumblr?