Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A complicated mess

I'm actually rather cynical about Facebook, and don't log on there much. But when I do, I often find some amazing stuff. For instance, Kathleen Barry and Feminist Peace Movement both linked to this extraordinary post. Here's a short sample:
We, the undersigned 1960s radical feminists and current activists, have been concerned for some time about the rise within the academy and mainstream media of “gender theory,” which avoids naming men and the system of male supremacy as the beneficiaries of women’s oppression. Our concern changed to alarm when we learned about threats and attacks, some of them physical, on individuals and organizations daring to challenge the currently fashionable concept of gender.

Recent developments: A U.S. environmental organization that also calls itself radical feminist is attacked for its political analysis of gender. Feminist conferences in the U.K., U.S. and Canada are driven from their contracted locations for asserting the right of women to organize for their liberation separately from men, including M>F (male to female) transgendered people.

Deep Green Resistance (DGR) reports1 that queer activists defaced its published materials and trans activists threatened individual DGR members with arson, rape and murder. Bookstores are pressured not to carry DGR’s work and its speaking events are cancelled after protests by queer/transgender activists. At “RadFem” conferences in London2, Portland3 and Toronto4, trans activists accuse scheduled speakers of hate speech and/or being transphobic because they dare to analyze gender from a feminist political perspective. Both M>F transgender people and “men’s rights” groups, operating separately but using similar language, demand to be included in the Rad Fem 2013 conference in London called to fight against women’s oppression and for liberation.
I'm too tired to do justice to this topic tonight. In some ways, I have a lot of empathy with trans activists. In my own life, the question "Are you a boy or a girl?" has been a life-or-death issue. I don't doubt that trans people face violence and threats. But ultimately, I think the idea of "transgender" reinforces gender instead of undermining it. And I believe that people born into female-sexed bodies have the right to organize female-only space as a matter of resistance to our oppression.

That's not hate. That's a political opinion that trans activists strongly disagree with.

My admiration for the radical feminist post is tempered by a peculiar circumstance. it seems that the current operators of www.pandagon.net may have scooped up a Web address that the original operators inadvertently allowed to expire. The original Pandagon now appears at www.rawstory.com.

One of the original Pandagon folks, Amanda Marcotte, reacted with outrage to this. (Hat tip to Feminist Peace Network on Facebook for that link.) It's not clear exactly what connection the current operators of pandagon.net have to the authors of the radical feminist post, but it's a disquieting situation. I'm sad to see this difficult issue of gender politics blurred by this sort of confusion. It almost looks as if some radical feminists tried to get attention for their position (which I very much support and admire) by trying to make it appear that it came from people who are actually their political opponents.

I can't at all agree with Amanda Marcotte's characterization of radical feminists as "transphobic bigots," but I don't blame her for being pissed off that her url was swiped.

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