Category Archives: feminism
I curse like a sailor.
Whenever a new person joins my team at work, I always ask whether they’re offended or bothered by cursing, because without censoring myself I have trouble keeping “fuck” out of my vocabulary. Especially as I become friends with my coworkers, it’s just likely to happen. But one word that’s always gotten to me, that I use far less frequently, is “bitch.”
I think “bitch” is uncomfortable to me mainly because of misogyny–it’s a word used mostly for women, or is supposed to be emasculating when used for men. It has a really ugly sound in my ears when used as a quick insult. But I’ve also noticed that I do sometimes use it in certain phrases, i.e. “bitch please.” In that context other words don’t have quite the same impact.
When I do use “bitch” in phrases like this, I’ve realized that the common element is a certain kind of competition or cattiness. This variety of competition is coded as intra-femme or woman-on woman, and I’ve internalized it in such a way that it can actually make me feel better to put a woman or femme down through such language. Think of the triumphant femme archetype in a movie getting into an argument with a femme villain who’s done something particularly vile. “Bitch, you just made it personal.” I have the urge to cheer on my fellow femme, crow with the heroine’s scrappy resilience, but at the same time this triumph is actually about putting another femme down. What does that say about the values I’ve internalized?
Pitting oppressed folks against each other is a tale as old as time. Using media and culture to encourage poor white racism against people of color in the same economic position was an easy tactic for elite white folks to consolidate power. Similarly, I wonder how media that glorifies femme competition might encourage us to frame personal success as being cooler, more fashionable, or wittier than other femmes, rather than working together in collective action. After all, part of the whole point of femme community is to challenge narratives of female competition, but acting in solidarity and avoiding societal messages requires continuous struggle.
This post is part three of a four-part series on polyamory, healing, and societal wounds. Start with part one.
In thinking about models for polyamory that don’t revolve around competition and scarcity, I couldn’t help thinking about healing and recovery. In the last post, I talked about healing from the societal wounds of capitalism and an alternative model for poly relationships. In this post, I’d like to talk about a different kind of healing, from interpersonal relationship trauma. This post does not describe details of my relationship history, but it does provide some thoughts on healing from emotional abuse and how abusers can manipulate a scarcity mentality. It also draws parallels with my experience of EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). For this reason, I’m putting most of the post below the cut tag. Please proceed with caution if this content may be triggering for you.
It’s #TERFWeek, which at first made me cringe, until I realized that the week is about educating the broader feminist community about the harmfulness of TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). This is a group of people, mostly women, many lesbians or queer-identified, who claim to be feminist, yet exclude trans women, one of the most marginalized and oppressed groups of women, from their communities. They’re usually the ones arguing that trans women in the women’s room or in lesbian groups or at MichFest are dangerous, often have weird convoluted mental requirements around transition-related surgeries to recognize trans women as women, and can be found outing trans women on the Internet (including previous names, arrest records, employer info, and home addresses) and generally making lives miserable.
Here’s the thing about TERFs: they’re not feminists.
Now, you could make the argument that a feminist is anyone who says they are one, but I don’t think that really jives with the definition. At the very least, TERFs are extremely hypocritical feminists opposed to the actual tenets of feminism, a movement that is about oppression to patriarchy (which includes, you guessed it, rigid gender norms and a hierarchical binary gender system!)
In this post, I’d like to focus specifically on why feminism must include trans women. I also believe that it must include trans people generally, but if you subscribe to the narrow definition of feminism being about male/female equality or equity, then trans women would be the focus here. It’s also important that feminism focuses on issues such as violence against women and lack of access to employment–areas where trans women are some of the most targeted and affected. Read the rest of this entry
As a white person, I don’t want to use #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and the Schwyzer debacle as a platform for my own thoughts, but I do want to lead my readers to just a few amazing women of color speaking for themselves. Please take a look at the following bloggers and authors, as well as the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag on Twitter and Mikki Kendall’s article explaining the subject.
Andrea Smith, Conquest
Adrien Wing, ed., Critical Race Feminism
INCITE! Women of Color Collective, Color of Violence and The Revolution Will Not Be Funded
Jessica Danforth, ed., Feminism for Real
Gloria Anzaldua & Cherrie Moraga, eds., This Bridge Called My Back
Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, eds., The Revolution Starts at Home
bell hooks, Feminist Theory from Margin to Center
Happy New Year!
As we dig into 2012, I have several exciting things to announce.
First, a href=http://www.queerfeminism.comQueerFeminism.com/a has officially launched! Focusing on areas where the feminist movement could improve, including queer/trans inclusion, anti-racism, disability, and decolonization, this is a collaborative site that welcomes contributions from anyone who has thought I wish feminism would do better with me and my community.
Second, Ive been very pleased with participation in the Sunday Twitter chats I launched in the fall. #transchat and #queerchat take place alternating Sundays, 2-4 pm. Anyone can suggest a topic by contacting me on Twitter or just leaving a comment here.
Finally, I have several cool workshops and talks coming up. At Creating Change, the nations premiere LGBT organizing conference in Baltimore, Ill be leading a workshop Friday morning, January 27th, on incorporating ambiguous identities in queer organizing. At Lavender Languages (Saturday, February 11th) Ill be facilitating a lunchtime workshop on the words used to describe non-binary identities and populations. At Momentum (last weekend in March, workshop date TBA) Ill be leading Workshopping Your Sexual Orientation, a unique experience that will break your sexuality wide open. If youd like me to speak on your campus or at your organization, let me know. I still have spring dates available.
Also, no details yet, but look for more coming from me at Gender Across Borders.
Listen up, white feminists.
We have a problem. I’m including myself because none of us are immune from this problem. We all fuck up. And you can say “fucking up is natural,” and that’s true, but it’s time for us to start identifying our fuck ups, and not just learning from them, but acknowledging the hurt they cause other people.
We need to acknowledge that we cannot know what it’s like to be an oppressed racial minority. Cannot. The end. Period. We don’t know because we’re queer, because we’re disabled, because we’re Jewish, because we were the nerdy kid in school. These things may have hurt us severely, but we need to stop playing Oppression Olympics and acknowledge that when we’re talking about race we Do. Not. Know. No more metaphors.
As feminists share tips, stories, and body love today, I am pleased to see that some are also highlighting the negatives of the body-love imperative. While fighting body-negative messages is crucial, it is important to recognize that the goal should be acceptance of others’ bodies, not unqualified love of one’s own. For many people, including transgender, genderqueer, and intersect people, people with disabilities, people with a history of eating disorders, and those with a history of sexual assault, body love may not be a comfortable or appropriate goal. It’s important to realize that for some of us, a body is an inconvenience or a hindrance, and that experience is just as valid as body-love.
So what tips would I share on Love Your Body Day?
1. Speak to others in a thoughtful, compassionate way about bodies. Recognize that people’s relationships with their bodies vary widely and respect that. Don’t speak in absolute terms or offer advice when it’s not wanted or needed. For example, don’t sing the praises of exercise–many feel that while it’s wrong to criticize someone’s weight, exercise is right for everyone, and that simply isn’t true.
2. Be gentle with yourself if you have difficulty with body-love. Sometimes our bodies are disappointing. They might not function how we’d like them to. It might be hard to gain or lose weight. We might have health problems we can’t control, or a body that doesn’t feel right for our gender. If nurturing your body isn’t appropriate for you, try nurturing your mind or your spirit. A lot of body issues are mental health issues, and it can help to have a safe space to talk those out, even if they aren’t “fixable.”
3) Look for and give support where you can. It might be helpful to share experiences with others who have similar body issues. This doesn’t have to be a formal support group–I’ve seen plenty of this on Twitter and Tumblr.
4) Think of ways to visualize yourself or express your creative spirit–this doesn’t necessarily have to involve your body. For example, you might design an avatar or a work of art to represent you, make a spirit wall, practice creative visualization to envision yourself in some way other than the embodied, or use fashion to cover your body or make it less noticeable than what you’re displaying on it.
5) Assert your right (and others’) to take up space in a way that works for you. It’s okay to say that your body fucking sucks. You have a right to be sad, hurt, or angry. Anyone who insists that you love your body, get over your issues, or make more of an effort to love yourself is practicing emotional abuse. You have a right to inhabit physical space as well. You have a right to accommodations that you need. You have a right to say no to anything that makes you uncomfortable. You have a right to tell others not to say things about your body that they think are positive, and not to touch your body. These are all parts of bodily autonomy.
Just a note to let you know that I’ll be out and about for the weekend with the Progressive Women’s Voices program through the Women’s Media Center in New York. This year’s class is a phenomenal bunch of activists, performers, and opinionmakers, and I’m happy to be a part of it. I’ll be Tweeting when I can @queerscholar, but otherwise offline. Have a great weekend!
So, readers, I was having a little conundrum today. I really would like to review the new anthology Feminism for Real, but I am in the middle of a strict austerity plan due to a soul-crushing dental bill. I was agonizing over how to get together the $15 to buy the book when I had a thought: why not offer blog posts for money? Here’s what you do: comment, Tweet @ queerscholar, or leave a message on the Radically Queer Facebook page with a topic, issue, etc. you’d like me to blog on. The first three that I am able to do, I’ll let you know that your idea has been selected and give you instructions to Paypal me $5 towards the book. Sound easy? It is! Can’t wait to hear your ideas.
I’ve been away from this blog for a couple of months, so I’ll start with an apology. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of adjusting, related to my participation in online communities and how I juggle self-care with all my different online pursuits. I will try to keep posting regularly here, but I would encourage you to follow my Twitter feed and/or Facebook Page if you want very regular updates, as I’ve been updating those during breaks at work.
So now I’m back, and I want to talk a little bit about something that’s going around, namely a critical discussion of feminist blog culture and its participants. I don’t want to call out any particular blogs here, but I do want to talk a little bit about my participation in this culture and how I’m changing it. For a long time, I’ve followed a few big feminist group blogs, and just a couple of individual ones. At times, I’ve noticed things I don’t like on these big blogs–for example, not enough participation from women of color, marginalization of commenters who try to bring up multiple oppressions, etc. But my initial view of large feminist blogs has been that we’re all into intersectionality, diversity, and bringing together all sorts of activist issues under the umbrella of feminism. I saw these missing pieces as an aberration and have felt like I “can’t” remove these big blogs from my Google Reader because that’s where I can get the best feminist content.
My views on this subject have been changing over the past couple of years. I still enjoy some of the bigger blogs, and particular contributors and guest contributors to those blogs. I do appreciate the focus on intersectionality that is often apparent in the selection of guests and in individual posts. But I also see something lacking. Lately, I’ve noticed a disturbing backlash and a tendency to get defensive when someone brings up inclusion issues in the feminist community. It’s starting to look sadly like confrontations I’ve read about in the 1960s, where WOC were left out of both feminist and anti-racism circles, where queer women were shoved to the side. When marginalized feminists want to be included in the conversation, those feminists are often bullied out by a majority of often-white, often-able-bodied, often-middle-class, often-cis-gendered people.
My solution is to expand the reach of my feminist reading, and to give support and my ear to blogs that focus on specific issues that intersect with gender–for example, race, disability, fat activism, class, and immigration. By following a selection of interesting blogs and Twitter feeds that focus on these issues, and are written by feminists that are often marginalized in different ways, I’m getting a more complete picture when it comes to the issues that are important to me as a feminist. I realize that not everyone has the time to do this, but I think the online feminist community could benefit from more of us reading and commenting on these solo blogs, and possibly taking some time off the bigger blogs to do it if that’s the only way we can make time. Feminists can support each other while simultaneously using a critical lens to view each other’s posts, and I’m going to do my best to meet these goals in the years to come.