Tag Archives: Feminism

Life as a woman 2.

25 Nov

Rant.

Lookit. The whole point is that transgender women are treated with hostility and violence because they have chosen to reject their male gender and live as women. What does this tell us? That women are in general regarded as inferior to men in a society that assigns us gender roles at birth or increasingly, before. If you don’t believe that, please explain why the hell we are paid less for doing the same work, just for starters.

Transgender women turn their backs on orthodox masculinity in favour of life as a woman, the ultimate insult, the ultimate rejection of the male orthodoxy. They are punished for this. They are punished for having been privileged to be born as male and then devaluing and undermining that privilege for all males, by choosing to reject it.

It is incomprehensible to certain types of masculinity that any man could ever want to abandon his gender and choose to join the ranks of WOMEN. It’s a form of treason. It’s lowering yourself.

The rejection of the phallus, particularly its literal destruction, is perceived as an obscenity.

We are all in servitude to the performance of gender roles assigned to us by our culture and enforced so strictly as to cripple and maim our lives in a multitude of ways. It is the strangulating grip of these enforced roles we ought to be questioning, in particular the rampant inequality, despite what Julie Bishop says, based entirely on gender, that haunts women every day of our lives.

Oh, and while we’re at it, why do high achieving women such as Bishop and many others, feel it is necessary to publicly disavow any interest in or connection with feminism? Could it be that even high achieving women are still scared of men?

 

 

Life as a woman

24 Nov

I have a close relative whose long-term partner decided in his fifties that he wanted to live as a woman. The manner in which he went about orchestrating this change caused immense shock and distress, mostly because he upped and went to Thailand and had the surgery without telling anyone, then rang his partner from that country to tell her what he’d done.

Of course she knew his desires, and was struggling to adapt herself to having chosen to live with a man who now wanted to change his sex to female. She didn’t, she said, want to be with a woman, she’d been there, done that and for her, choosing to spend her life with a man was an enormous change. And now look.

I, unhelpfully I see in retrospect, recalled her time as a radical feminist separatist who told me as I continued to give birth to boy babies that all men should be castrated. So when I heard what had happened I said, well. Be careful what you ask for.

When her partner came back from Thailand she ran away and came to stay with me and my husband for a while. None of us had ever before encountered such a situation, but we all knew about deceit, and dissembling, and secrets, and lies, so we could help her with that part.

For mine, I have no difficulties with what people decide to do with their bodies and if someone feels deeply wrong in the skin they’re in of course they have the right to do whatever they need to do about that. I’m talking here about gender reassignment, not women having the human right to breast implants and labiaplasty to make them look like air brushed porn stars as an exercise of feminist autonomy over their bodies. Separate issues. I do wonder, though, how someone who has been born male and lived male for over fifty years in our society, can suddenly know what life is like as a woman.

In this instance, and I’m not going to extrapolate our experience to anyone else, Felicity looks like a man who has had gender reassignment, and so is often treated even worse in this heterosexually dominant culture than are many “natural”-born women.

Now I have an ear worm of Carole King singing you make me feel like a natural woman, whatever the hell that meant, it was an anthem to some bloke though, and I suppose a validation of hetero sex because I haven’t heard any woman singing that to a female lover though it would be a delightful subversion if someone did, but I still wouldn’t know what the “natural” bit meant.

Felicity and I have had some ripper brawls over this life as a woman thing. I’ve told her straight up, you aren’t living life as a woman, you’re living life as a man who’s had gender reassignment surgery. The difficulties you’re  encountering since your surgery aren’t to do with the kind of gender prejudice I’ve had to deal with my entire life, they’re to do with people being unable to cope with gender reassignment. She’s called me a fucking cunt more times than I could ever count. It took me a long time to realise I was angry with her for trying to claim my experience of living on this earth as a woman for herself, when she hasn’t done the hard yards. She is doing hard yards, but they are of a different kind and I want her to own her difficulties, which are significant, and not pinch mine. Whenever we see one another we visibly bristle, and it’s on. And yet I think so much of her for what she’s done, the subversion, the courage, the determination to live as she wants to live.

I should add here that I agree with Judith Butler, gender is a performance of the roles assigned to us at birth, according to our genitals. A performance that is profoundly ingrained.

No matter how much Julie Bishop might want to protest otherwise, life as a woman in this culture still brings with it enormous inherent challenges, for no reason other than our habitation of a female body. It does the same for indigenous people, for no reason other than skin colour.  It does the same for gays and lesbians and polyamorists. This is still the universe of the white heterosexual alpha male, and the males who aspire to that status, and the rest of us are still knocking on its doors begging to be allowed in and equally paid, and not murdered because we have vaginas, and the rest. And, if possible, to be let in on some of our own terms without having to entirely capitulate to the orthodoxy, as I would strongly argue Julie Bishop has. In my life as a woman I don’t want to play the alpha bloke’s games. Which is why I’m a blogger in my nightgown and not Janet Albrechtsen. Ha!

Dear You

1 Nov

Georgia O'Keefe

I don’t know if you still visit here.  There are times I hope that you do, because of the extraordinary phone call we had the day you rang me in such fury and distress about your husband’s affair with me and its aftermath. When we stopped shouting we talked about so many intimate things and I find it remarkable, given our circumstances, that we found any trust at all in one another.

That trust fluctuates on my part. I don’t know you. I know you are protecting your husband from my fury and I don’t like that. He should deal with the mess. That’s what I told my husband. Deal with the mess you’ve made, I’m not saving you from its consequences. If she wants to scream at you it’s the least you can let her do, I told him. If I was her I’d poke your fucking eyes out, I said. Maybe I will anyway, I said.

I’ve no time for men who hide behind women like little kids clinging to their mother’s skirts. Raising boys can do that to a woman. When you’ve got them to adulthood you really don’t want to be taking on another man-child.

Anyway.

I think about you every day, and wonder how you are, and if you have anyone you talk to about these events. I wonder if you want us to talk again, and if that would help us or not. You sound brave. You sound strong. I imagine you always putting up a good front. I imagine how shocked and hurt you must be about what he and I have done to all our lives. I still can’t grasp how he has caused so much devastation to two women who love him, and whom he says he loves. It makes me wonder just what he thinks love means. Not that I’d know, love’s manifestations are apparently  infinite, and who hasn’t been beguiled by them at one time or another.

There are times I hope you aren’t visiting here. What you’d read could only make you feel worse. Perhaps you think I shouldn’t write about these things, but I’m a writer and writers are cannibals, we devour our own kind, digest them, and expel them out on the page.

I’ve kept back details that might give clues to his identity, which means there’s much I haven’t written about the genesis of the affair. It hasn’t done me any good to be reticent about this, and I’ve only done it for you. I don’t actually care if the entire world finds out who he is and the shitty things he’s done to both of us, but you don’t deserve that much exposure.

I only ever dreamt about him once or twice, but I dreamt about you a lot, or the woman my unconscious imagined you to be. I’d be at your house and we’d be talking, and walking round the garden. He’d be a shadowy presence in the background, sometimes asleep, a figure I’d see as I walked past his bedroom door, huddled under his blankets, nothing of him visible, a shape in a bed. All the energy was between you and me, and it was amicable and warm. I’d wake up thinking, what is this about, it’s bloody unnerving to be dreaming like this about my lover’s wife, there’s something going wrong with my head. Then after we talked I thought, she sounds exactly like I dreamed her.

He once asked me if I dreamed about him and I said not much, but I dream about your wife a lot.

I don’t know what he made of that.

 

He felt guilty all the time, he said. Guilty about me, guilty about you, guilty about the family he was putting at risk. Guilt is such a useless emotion, I told him. It rarely stops people doing what they want to do. It doesn’t do anything to help the people they hurt. It just exists inside the guilty party’s head and they think it means that deep down they’re good, just because they feel guilty.

Guilt didn’t stop him telling me to “remember my hips between your thighs” while you sat in another room crying because he was talking to me on the phone and you knew he was.

 ∫

 I was a complete failure at being a mistress. The demeaning limitations of that role almost destroyed me. I can’t imagine anyone who could be worse at it than me.  I would say to myself, I love him, I can do this, and cripple my nature for another day. His need of me overwhelmed me. I learned very early in life to respond to the needs of men before my own. You don’t have any choice in the matter when you’re a child and then the pattern is set, you don’t even recognise it and when you do, breaking out of it is the work of a lifetime. If there’s anything good for me in this sorry situation, it’s that I’m coming to understand how what I think of as love is distorted by the obligations imposed on me as a child. I thought I had all this sorted. Obviously I didn’t. Because honestly, no matter how attracted I’d been to him, I’d have done nothing if he hadn’t been in a state of desperate need, and begged me for me.

I’m not a feminist who believes in a sisterhood because we all have vaginas. I am a feminist who can see the politics of the miserable configuration in which we find ourselves.

If it’s any consolation to you, I am still a fucking mess and don’t expect that to change anytime soon. At the same time, I realise that your pain must be excruciating, and what’s more, you have to see him every day and find some way of living with him. He said to me after you’d found out, You are crying on the phone, my wife is crying in the next room, this is impossible. Did you think we’d fucking get over it in five minutes, I shouted. Don’t you realise the impact of this on us?

I don’t think he had a clue, really.

I am here if you want. I understand if you don’t. I won’t stop thinking about you and wondering how you are. I never imagined I would be part of bringing so much hurt into another woman’s life.

Oh, I found my music. It is yellowed, and there are silverfish.  I think it is too late for me to think of a piano. But I often imagine you playing yours.

Jennifer.

Quint Buccholz Two

Julie Bishop and the prism of gender

30 Oct

Gender Inequality

Look. Julie Bishop doesn’t have to call herself a feminist if she doesn’t want to. Her public disavowal of the very political movement that made her success possible says far more about her than it does about feminism. But her refusal to “look at the world through the prism of gender” is insane.

There is nothing in this capitalist world that should not be viewed through the prism of gender, especially if you are  a member of the bloody government. Bishop is one woman who has achieved success at the highest level because of a constellation of fortunate circumstances, including, I’m sure, hard slog. However, there are millions of women who slog just as hard in circumstances far less conducive than those experienced by Ms Bishop. “I’ve had a very privileged upbringing as many women in Australia have,” she says. “We don’t fear violence, we don’t fear hunger. We don’t have the degraded life that many women around the world suffer.”

Um, what? There are millions of women and girls in Australia who fear violence. There are thousands of women and girls  in Australia who go hungry, and are dependent on charity for food and somewhere for themselves and their children to sleep. They don’t count as women? The “we” Bishop speaks of excludes anyone whose life experience does not coincide with her own, a lack of imagination that is a given in conservatives circles.

I don’t give a toss if Bishop doesn’t call herself a feminist. I’m a bit challenged by that myself these days, when feminism seems to have become about the right to sculpt our labia, and binge drink till we vomit in the gutter just like the blokes do. But the ignorant refusal to consider the world through the prism of gender is a symptom of a self-absorbed, smug woman entirely out of touch with reality.

Apart from that, I’m wracking my brains to think of one thing, one single thing Bishop has ever said publicly that is interesting, original or enlightening. She’s like a bloody Stepford wife in the Abbott government.

Christ.

Am I a feminist? Or why a woman without a label is like a fish on a bicycle

15 Apr

FishOnBicycleAnd we have yet another article on feminism, this one titled “Am I a feminist?” prompted, it appears, by Senator Penny Wong’s call to all Australian women to identify ourselves by that label, because a woman without a label is like a fish on bicycle or something something something politics.

The most interesting comments in this latest feminist selfie come from Paula Matthewson, who points out that Senator Wong’s real intention in exhorting us to proudly embrace feminism  is likely to be entirely politically motivated, rather than springing from warm fuzzy feelings of sisterhood strong enough to cross the political divide. That is, the good Senator doesn’t really want ALL women to be feminists, because if Liberal women identify as such, Labor loses the high moral feminist ground. Matthewson also rightly reminds us that it is not in a conservative’s nature to be an activist, therefore feminism would seem an anathema to Liberal women, something Wong must be aware of, making her call for feminist unity somewhat disingenuous.

Matthewson’s observations settled on my soul like a dank cloud. I took to my bed, where I embarked on a period of extended navel gazing that led to me discovering enough lint, as my good Twitter friend @newswithnipples put it, to felt a blue tie.

I have long suspected that feminism has been so thoroughly co-opted by capitalism and politics as to be rendered utterly meaningless. To understand as well that Penny Wong has now become the Alain de Botton of feminism is, frankly, more than I can stomach, and confirms my worst suspicions.

As de Botton dumbs down complex philosophical concepts into mere self-help twaddle, so forces beyond my control have dumbed-down feminism to “issues” of having IT all, self-actualisation by way of cosmetic surgery, and the freedom to be who we want to be, whatever the hell that means, ask Alain de Botton.

When a movement degenerates into mental masturbation about who is entitled to be in it and who is not, and disingenuous political exhortations to the effect that everyone should be, it’s a sign the movement has ceased significant movement. Like the ALP, feminism has disappeared so far up its own fundament, it’s blinded by the shit in its eyes.

Toxic, online and feminist. Really?

30 Jan

 I vividly recall highly emotional encounters with radical separatist women when I was a young feminist, one of whom was my actual sister, on the matter of my then dedicated heterosexuality (synonymous with offering myself up for rape with every sexual act) my disappointing failure to give birth to girl children, the length of my hair, (blonde, which somehow made it worse) my choice of clothing, and my marital status, all of which, it appeared, conspired to brand me a traitor to feminism, and an unreconstructable victim of the patriarchy.

My sister was conflicted, after all we loved each other in our own fraught ways, to the extent that when I decided to give birth to my second child in a bean bag in the sitting room, she wanted to not only be present but to set up her tripod between my legs and record the whole event, including my feminist midwife bringing me to orgasm because she swore it would help. It did.

Never mind, my sister said consolingly, when a male infant fought his way into the world from between my thighs as her camera furiously clicked above both our groans and wails, pity it’s not a girl, but you can’t help it. Her photos I count as among my most precious possessions, and I store them along with vital documents, readily accessible in the event of catastrophe.

In spite of our differences, my sister and I managed to maintain our relationship throughout those tumultuous years of second wave feminism. She was delighted, politically, when I divorced, though somehow she managed to sincerely comfort me and help me with my boys. I nursed her through a massive betrayal by her girlfriend, and, even though I was shocked beyond belief and not a little annoyed considering the shame she’d heaped upon me, into her new relationship with a bloke.

I lost contact with the other radical separatists because I was eventually unable to tolerate their scornful disapproval, and one day a wise woman told me I didn’t have to. This is not to say I don’t owe them: I do. They were some of my most powerful teachers, even if their manner was not always tender. However, whatever our differences we all had one thing in common: our whiteness.

All this came back to me today as I read this essay by Michelle Goldberg on feminism’s current Twitter wars. Briefly, Goldberg writes of a “toxic” online culture comprising an ideological war between white feminists and women of colour, a war of such ferocity that some writers describe being afraid to publish for fear of incurring the wrath of “online enforcers” protesting the domination of feminism by privileged white people. There is, Goldberg writes, “…a nascent genre of essays by people who feel emotionally savaged…not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.” People who feel themselves to be marginalised by white privilege complain of the “tone police” who punish them for their anger, and their methods of expressing it.This, in turn has led to “privileged” feminists fearing they are about to step on an ideological landmine, that they will be “insufficiently radical, too nuanced,” as a consequence of their racial privilege.

Next, I read one of the “nascent” essays, written by Glosswitch of the New Statesman, in which the author makes an impassioned argument for not capitulating to what she feels as intimidation from feminists who attempt to trash her. Glosswitch has even coined a term for such a feminist, the misogofeminist, who she believes misrepresents and abuses her online because “…1. I’m a woman and 2. I have a New Statesman blog and am therefore considered excessively ‘privileged.'” White privilege, Glosswitch continues, is “…a line you cross which makes you less credible, less capable of experiencing pain and less capable of acting in good faith.” Glosswitch is supported in her position by Helen Lewis, also of the New Statesman.

I next turned to the Red Light Politics blog. Here I found a post titled “‘Misogofeminists’ and the white men who profit from silencing critique.” The author takes umbrage at Helen Lewis “…equating critiques from Women of Colour to bullying, harassment and now codifying all this behaviour under a new umbrella term ‘misogofeminism,’ or in lay terms ‘when uppity Women of Colour and other marginalised minorities complain that mainstream publications contribute to their marginalisation.'” There follows a deeply interesting analysis, that I strongly recommend, of the misfortunes of the New Statesman and how the publication was pulled back from the brink of ruin by, of all things, feminism, with a link provided to an Independent piece on the topic that begins:

In the New Statesman’s darkest hours, when the venerable leftist periodical looked like it had no viable future, few would have seen feminism as the source of its salvation. It is an ideology aligned, in the minds of many, to the bra-burning and peace-camp protests of a gender politics which predated Tony Blair’s modernisation of the Labour Party. Why would a magazine that was attempting to be relevant in the 21st century return to the battlefields of a bygone era?  Yet it is feminism which ensures that the New Statesman has not only made it to its centenary but can celebrate that anniversary this week with confidence that it has the caught the attention of young readers, especially young female readers.
It is this conflation of white women such as Lewis and Glosswitch with white men such as the proprietor of the New Statesman, that Red Light Politics argues creates a feminism that perpetuates  and reproduces a centuries-old pattern of marginalisation of Women of Colour. How better to perpetuate this marginalisation than by accusations of bullying and harassment made by privileged women with the kind of platform no marginalised woman can ever dream of? How is a marginalised woman to contest such allegations?
Prior to her employment at the New Statesman, Lewis worked at the Daily Mail. During her time at the Mail, the Statesman published a scathing assessment of that paper’s tactics:
The Mail’s quest to reflect the moral and political values of its lower-middle-class readers frequently goes beyond mere reporting, taking on the shape of a punitive campaign against anybody who says or does anything that challenges those values.
Challenges to one’s ideology are not synonymous with abuse. Anger is not synonymous with abuse. Critique is not synonymous with abuse. Being called on one’s obvious privilege is not abuse. Even “slashing righteousness” is not necessarily abusive. While it certainly isn’t pleasant to be identified as racist, transphobic, privileged or offensive, some of the accusations levelled at Glosswitch, is it automatically abusive? Glosswitch has an enviable platform, supported by powerful media males, from which to refute such allegations. This is part of her privilege, a privilege I can find no real acknowledgement of in her complaints.
Megan Murphy complains of the “wilful misrepresentation of words, thoughts, arguments and life in order to silence you and beat you…into submission…” by feminists who challenge privilege, described by Murphy as “trashing.” She also expresses indignation at being “…expected to divulge every single horrific trauma… before we are acknowledged as credible or worthy of a voice.”
I find this latter grievance extraordinary. Women who have experienced horrific trauma rarely enjoy a public voice. We are speaking here of women with an extraordinary platform, elite women, if you will, women with very big voices who are established in their professions and of whom no one will demand an accounting of their personal traumas as a pre-requisite for expressing opinions that are globally received.  All of the women I quote are white.  All are successful career feminists. I have yet to hear of a successful white career feminist who was forced to reveal her private trauma in order to get her foot on the ladder.
Sadly, but probably inevitably, things have not changed much in feminism since I was a beginner. Feminism is an ideology, and all ideologies are battlegrounds.  I will likely be crucified for this next observation, but there is something in the complaints of the privileged documented here that puts me uncomfortably in mind of the Andrew Bolt school of  white resentment. I am of the belief that in spite of the difficulties of my life, they would have been much worse if I’d been born a woman of colour as well. I’m not usually inclined to advocate a hierarchy of suffering, and I admit my own experiences have toughened me considerably on the question of what is and isn’t abuse. So my sympathies do not naturally gravitate to privileged women with global platforms supported by capitalist press barons. Their power is immense. I doubt the marginalised will do them much harm.  
My thanks to @MsLou and @Sunili for links to these and many other pieces, and discussions over the last months.

On being stoned by feminists, thank you Bob

22 Jun

They’ll stone you when you’re trying to be so good
They’ll stone you just like they said they would
They’ll stone you when you’re trying to go home
They’ll stone you when you’re there all alone
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned

They’ll stone you when you’re walking on the street
They’ll stone you when you’re trying to keep your seat
They’ll stone you when your walking on the floor
They’ll stone you when your walking to the door
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned

They’ll stone you when you’re at the breakfast table
They’ll stone you when you are young and able
They’ll stone you when you’re trying to make a buck
They’ll stone you and then they’ll say good luck
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned

Well They’ll stone you and say that it’s the end
They’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again
They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car
They’ll stone you when you’re playing you guitar
Yes But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned
Alright

Well They’ll stone you when you are all alone
They’ll stone you when you are walking home
They’ll stone you and then say they’re all brave
They’ll stone you when you’re send down in your grave
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned

Rainy Day Woman. Bob Dylan. 

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