A feminist critique of “cisgender”

Originally posted on Liberation Collective:

Consistent with common usage of the term “cisgender,” the graphic below explains that “…if you identify with the gender you were assigened [sic] at birth, you are cis.”

Another Trans 101: Cisgender webpage describes cis this way: “For example, if a doctor said “it’s a boy!” when you were born, and you identify as a man, then you could be described as cisgender.”[i] Likewise, girl-born people who identify as women are also considered cisgender. WBW are cis.

Framing gender as a medically determined assignment may seem like a good start to explaining gendered oppression because it purports to make a distinction between physical sex and gender. Feminism similarly understands masculinity and femininity (e.g., gender) as strictly enforced social constructs neither of which are the “normal” or inevitable result of one’s reproductive sex organs. Feminism and trans theory agree that coercive gender assignments are a significant source of oppression.

On closer…

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I am taking out the trash

My, my, how many drive by commenters telling me what to think. I have been trashing almost every single comment for the past two months on my blog.

A little summary of what I got:

* People wanting to know how I dare to express my own opinion on my own blog

* People thinking I am terrified of sex / never had sex / telling people to be abstinent

* People complaining that I am not very forward with my idendity, cause they would love to attack me, get me fired, etc, etc. Go figure.

* People telling me my opinion is wrong and that I should think differently.

* People telling me I give feminism a bad name and that I am not nice enough to be a feminist.

There is No T in Lesbian

Feminist at Sea:

An important summary of how the transmovement is erasing the lesbian and women’s movement.

Originally posted on Liberation Collective:

In a recent anti-radical feminist screed, published prominently on several leftist blogs, a trans* activist attempted to equate gender critical analysis with homophobia. This is the latest twist on the conflation of the lesbian and gay rights political movement with the trans* political movement. And it’s the latest indication that it will be lesbians, other women, and girls who are most harmed by that conflation.

Though there are claims that our groups have reason to have a strong political alliance, it’s arguable that Gay, Inc. – the large, well-funded and influential political groups – created this conflation simply to increase funding and reach. There doesn’t seem to have been a period of time where lesbians and gay men were allowed any discussion or input about this decision. But there are obvious reasons to question the unholy alliance.

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Black Pete and freedom of expression in The Netherlands

Intocht Sinterklaas Heiloo 2011

This particular “debate” has been raging on for several weeks now and I finally have some time to chime in with my “two” cents.

To start of I want to remove a misconception many people, worldwide, seem to have about the Dutch Saint Nicholas (or Sinterklaas, as we call him). Saint Nicholas is NOT Dutch for Santa Claus. Like the Germans we have two celebrations in December; one is called Christmas and the other Saint Nicholas. We celebrate the latter on December the 5th (for the Germans it is on December the 6th) and we have two days of Christmas on December the 25th and 26th. We also have a Santa Claus, but we call him The Christmas Man (Kerstman).

I am only familiar with the Dutch celebration and a little with the German one, but Saint Nicholas is celebrated in other European nations as well and also in some of former and current Dutch colonies.

NY SLAVE Which brings me to me next point, which is the sordid history of how The Netherlands colonised other nations and was heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade. The estimates are that The Netherlands shipped almost a million human beings as slaves to the various colonies they had acquired. This happened during the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century and is a period of Dutch history that is to this day referred to as the “Golden Age.” A lot of the racism that people face today is a direct result of the actions of Dutch people during this period.

The “debate” regarding Black Pete (I put it between quotation marks, as it seems very one-sided) is not new. During the 1990s attempts have been made to change the appearance of Black Pete somewhat. Eventually people settled on no longer using makeup that is completely black, but instead use a dark brown to paint the faces of those who played Black Petes.

Pete.1850.1944.1990.2011

In the 90s I was still a child and I had questions about Black Pete, namely “How come his face is so dark?” Like children today, I was told this was because Black Pete is the one who goes down the chimney to deliver the gifts and the dark stuff on his face is soot. This never made much sense to me. Dutch chimneys have looked like this for as long as I can remember:

701px-Schoorstenen

How would a human being fit through, much less a fully grown one? I could also never understand why Pete’s face would get dirty, but his clothes stayed completely clean. Even thMary_Poppins3e chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins ended up with very dark clothes. The soot would also not explain the curly wigs, the red lips or the earrings and the often sparkly white sneakers. The whole story never made sense to me.

When the news broke in my country that Verene Shepherd and her colleagues of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had sent a letter to the Dutch government, my first thought was: What took them so long? Interestingly the letter was sent on 17 January 2013. The Permanent representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in Geneva, didn’t answer the letter until 10 July 2013. Several weeks later newspapers picked up the story and the public response was mostly one of mass fury. In newspapers, on the radio and television shows reactions could be summed up by these examples:

Black Pete Bingo

Do we even need to ask if this is racist? Of course it is racist. It is so obviously blackface, it doesn’t matter that it forms part of a children’s feast. This celebration started long before slavery was abolished and that too was a tradition. Tradition doesn’t make it right or inoffensive.

Furthermore, traditions change. Some dutch newspapers have written about the history of Black Pete and shortly thereafter this Youtube video began circulating:

Here you see the same celebration done in 1935. Everyone here is on horseback, instead of just Saint Nicholas with all the Black Petes on foot. Can you see something else? That’s right, no one does blackface here. Do the children look less happy about this? No they don’t. They just want the party, candy and gifts. As long as they get that they are happy.

It is really an insidious insinuation that the opponents of blackface Black Pete want to cancel the entire celebration. They only want people to stop doing blackface and no one has claimed that the celebration itself should disappear. But the voices who want to stick with the current tradition, no matter what, are louder and in the majority.

The people who are getting very emotional about the criticism of Black Pete are mostly adults. The children are a lot calmer about it. A dutch news organisation for youth news polled over a thousand children and did street interviews. The associations that children have with Black Pete are largely position, because he is the one that hands out the gifts and candy. The children are also afraid that the celebration will disappear altogether and they don’t think that’s fair to small children. They do however seem to understand better than adults that the discussion is important and that Black Pete is the comedy relief side-kick of Saint Nicholas and not the one in charge. Many children would also not care if Black Petes would have faces with different colors like purple or blue. In a way the children’s opinion seem to mirror the dominant opinions of the adults in my country.

If you were to show the images of Dutch Black Petes to people around the world and ask them if it is blackface you would find a large majority would agree. Yet in my country, that likes to present itself a model for the protection of human rights, we are somehow exempt for criticism under the guise of “protecting” children who seem more open to a discussion than the emotional adults. Or are the extreme emotional reactions perhaps more due to the fact that people do not like to be called racists or reminded of a past when our protection of human rights was far less of a priority or only applied selectively?

In my country there has never really been a “debate” on the racism of Black Pete. There has been criticism for over thirty years and it largely gets ignored, but now that the UN is involved it is met with aggression and accusations of intimidation and bullying. All people are trying to do is shut down a debate that never even started as quickly as possible.

Perhaps you will also have noticed that for Saint Nicholas and Black Pete I have consistently used male pronouns and that is because the celebration features no female characters either. Sometimes women dress up as Black Pete, but Feast of Saint Nicholas is as much about men as it is about racism.

What it really means to be bullied

These days, especially online, but also in regular, everyday conversations, I keep hearing the terms “bully”, “being/getting bullied” and “bullying” thrown about with increasing abandon, till the point where the words have lost nearly all meaning.

Politicians use it against protesters and each other when their positions are being opposed. Trans people use it against radical feminists for refusing to celebrate and embrace the stereotypes that hold back women from full participation in society. People who are victims of crimes, while this can be traumatizing, call their criminals “bullies” as well. Any time someone does something that a person doesn’t like or disagrees with that person might be called “a bully” under the current cultural definition of the word.

Let me tell you, that for a person who has lived through a period of bullying this is upsetting and disrespectful. In no way does the current accepted definition even come close to the effects bullying immediately has on someone while it occurs, as well as the way in which it permanently changes you.

First, let get one thing straight. Bullies can never be strangers. They know you and you know them. The places you encounter them are hard to avoid if you want to get anywhere in life. You will find them at school, at your work or at the places you go to pursue a hobby or an interest. In short, bullies consist of your peers.

Bullying is not a one time encounter. It is not a single occurrence of malicious teasing. Is it not a robbery or a savage beating and it is not even a rape. These last three are crimes that are punishable by law, or at least they are in theory. Bullying is not punishable by law. Most of the time bullying will go seemingly unnoticed by persons of authority in society or within the group it occurs. The only time the instances of bullying even become known beyond their own peer groups is when the victim of the bullying commits suicide or if the bullies ultimately kill their victim and even then there is a chance that the world at large, the country or even the city/town, where it happened, will never hear of it.

Note that I only ever use “bullies” in plural form. This is because it takes more than one person to bully someone. Even if the other people within the peer group don’t actively participate in the acts of bullying their silence and refusal to acknowledge and treat the victim as a full member of the group is the minimal amount of support the main bully needs to continue the behavior. The goal is always positive attention from the group at large and the creation of a victim is a means of attaining that goal.

Earlier I talked about the “period” over which bullying occured and mentioned that bullying never consists of a single occurrence. Many of the acts that bullying consists of are small and seem by themselves largely insignificant. That is because they don’t need to be grand gestures of disrespect for the victim. At this point victims will have already learn to look over their shoulders and fear their peers. Any small gesture is merely a reminder that the victim still has reason to be afraid.

Bullying is constant. Whenever victims are in the same location as their peer groups a good day counts as a day where nothing happened. Nobody left an insulting note by their desk. Nobody laughed out loud because of something the victim had said or done at some point. None of the victims belongings got vandalized that day and so on. These are still mild examples. Alternatively a victim could be happy that no one tried to touch them that day, either to beat them or to molest them and in this day and age bullies can also enlist the help of strangers online by, for example, distributing (naked) photographs of the victim on the internet. This has the added effect of making a victim feel even more isolated with the knowledge that even complete strangers think badly of them.

There are several ways in which bullying changes you. You learn to live in constant fear of the both the milder forms of bullying and the more extreme ones. You constantly look over your shoulder. If your peer group changes or you move to a different group, accepting the fact that people might be civil or even nice to you seems like an impossible task. You will always been on your guard for the proverbial hidden knife that might at some point end up in your back. Because of your suspicious behavior toward people you don’t know, you have a high chance of ending up as a victim of bullying in new peer groups too. Friendships in the future will be hard to form and will always be a little distant.

You will spend much time inside your own head, living out scenarios in which you manage to hurt your bullies or found a way to escape the daily pain. In your head there is a life that doesn’t exist, but will always be more appealing than real life. You might find hobbies that you can enjoy either at home or close to home.  You learn to be your own best friend, because you might never believe that anyone else would be. You will also be stuck with triggers that never go away and make you cry when you thought that the memory had faded from your mind twenty or more years ago.

I want to end on a more positive note. It does get easier. As an adult you have more choices than you had as a kid. You have more freedom to pick the people you want to associate with. The internet, while is can amplify the bullying, also gives you the chance to find people who understand what it is like. The pain does fade, even if it can be triggered in ways you hadn’t imagined.

This is what it is like to be bullied. If you have never lived through it then please don’t say that you were a victim of bullying. You cheapen other people’s experiences and rob them of words to express themselves with. You claim a narrative that does not belong to you and appropriate someone else’s life.

Loki VS Spike VS Women

tumblr_static_280px-loki_avengers_enemyDrusilla-Spike-Angel-promotional-images-buffy-the-vampire-slayer-12513272-2072-2560

LET’S GET

READY TO RUMBLE!

Fight of the Whedon villains

***BIG ASS SPOILER ALERT!***

Every now and then I waste my time with www.thatguywiththeglasses.com. I amuse myself with the various videos while I wait for new video from Nostalgia Chick. A little while ago I came across this video:

My initial reaction was something like this:

“Huh? What?”

Then I found out that the movie, that apparently sparked this new fan favorite villain, was a Whedon flick. I had seen Thor and while it was nice as superhero movies go, it did not exactly make my favorites list nor could I recall many of the details. Either way, my curiosity was peaked and I decided to watch the 2012 Avengers movie.

The film was enjoyable, but I couldn’t stop making the comparison with one of Whedon’s earlier villains, Spike, from the Buffy the Vampire Slayers series. Part of the reason is the Black Widow. The film became at least twice as interesting right about the time she started kicking ass. At that point I really started to enjoy the movie and I cried foul when I noticed that her part in the story was relatively small compared to most of the other avengers. When she was first introduced I rolled my eyes at the image of a scantily clad woman, in heels of course, being tortured by some random evil dudes. I figure this would be the classic damsel in distress trope, but of course it wouldn’t be. Buffy was not like that either and was based of the same premise of a seemingly vulnerable woman who turns around and teaches everyone who’s boss. It is something Whedon has made himself known for.

kneel_before_Loki-300x200In the movie Loki goes from the lying, wishy-washy, replacement king, from the first movie, to an ineffectual wannabe dictator. Some idiot even gave Loki an army, though he obviously had no idea what to do with it. Seriously, Loki, wouldn’t it have been smarter to complete your take-down of S.H.I.E.L.D. and to overthrown some major governments first, before you started smashing massive, alien, troop-transport vessels into buildings? Even Hitler needed longer to march his own troops to their deaths in Russia.

2333951-avengersvfx10009layer1In his video Doug Walker names several reasons, gathered through a poll of Loki fans, as to why Loki might be so very popular. While I don’t agree with all of these reasons, the one that stood out to me was the “Whoobie”. Fans apparently feel sorry for the character because he tries hard and fails even harder. In the movie you can see Loki thinking he has won every time right before he either gets smashed into something, blown up, stomped on, thrown, mentally penetrated, imprisoned, shot, etc. Practically everything he tries he fails at and he just can’t seem to fathom why and often does not even realise he already lost.

Spike has a similar story arc, with the exception that he is more aware of his own limitations. Spike was introduced in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer series in the second season as a vampire who had “killing slayers” as hobby and he killed one about every fifty to a hundred years. Buffy was next on his list. Naturally he fails, but more interestingly is why he fails. He knows it immediately and it became an important theme in the show. Buffy has family and friends and that is why she is so hard to kill. Spike was immediately well received by fans as a villain. He wasn’t moping or brooding or showing off. He loves being a vampire and he loves the world he inhabits, so much so that he eventually makes deal with Buffy to save it from her turned-evil by the power of her vag, former boyfriend. He became a recurring character to get his ass kicked by Buffy at the end of each episode he appeared in.

Pangs-Spike-600x450However, unlike with Loki, the lines of Spike’s villainy never blurred for the most of the fans till about season four, when things start to go very wrong for him. The cronies of Buffy’s then, soldier boyfriend manage to taser and capture Spike. They stuff a computer chip in his head that effectively de-fangs him. He can no longer bite people, which is a major bummer for him, because people are, naturally, his favorite food. Through the chip he loses the part of his undead “life” that gives him joy. It is at this point he reaches out to Buffy and her friends for help.

spike-chained-in-bathtubThis villain-made-harmless change in the show initially leads to hilarious situations where Buffy teases the heck out of Spike. Her ethics won’t allow her to stake a defenseless creature, though considering his history of repeatedly trying to kill her and her friends she would love nothing better than to “dust him.” (Vampires in the series always turned to dust when they die.)

Spike is miserable without his murderous abilities and time and again tries to get rid of his chip. Like Loki, he fails at every attempt and from that moment on almost all of his evil plans go awry as well. Then, to his horror, he discovers that he is a little bit more attracted to Buffy then his desire to kill her and drain her dry. He finds he actually wants her alive and in his bed. Yes, the Buffy vampires sleep in beds and not in coffins. He goes to some creepy lengthy to simulate his desires in real live, including having his vampire girlfriend dress up as Buffy and chase him around their communal cave and having someone build him Buffy robot look-a-like.

Both Spike and Loki are written and performed as fascinating and problematic villains. They are fascinating because their creators went through great lengths to give them facets and to make them complex characters that are not just evil for evil’s sake. They are problematic in that they are entirely a little too sympathetic and identifiable for women in general. Their characters struggle almost as much, if not more, than the heroes do. Plus you have the added bonus of these villains being only one character against multiple adversaries, which applies to both The Avengers as well as Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Both Spike and Loki are outcasts. They are the geeks among the cool kids and they don’t fit in.

Boy, do many women and girls know how that feels. Even if it takes us a long time to realize it and some of us never do, we are born as outcasts. Little by little, as we grow up, we realize we don’t belong in this world that men own. We are the butt end of jokes. We are the emotional and physical punching bags for frustrated and lonely men. We are the silent pleasures that make the lives of men easier. We are items to be used and discarded. We are the exotic curiosities you’d expect to find in a museum. We are to be “figured out” and studied. We are the evil hags and the temptresses. We are a problem and a puzzle to be solved. We are literally misunderstood as human beings due to the very fact that most men and some women can’t even see us as human beings. This is why so many women and girls consciously or unconsciously identify so strongly with characters such a Loki and Spike and often with their actors and directors as well. In seeing such characters there just might be a glimmer of hope that the men who created them understand what it’s like to be despised for your biology and could possibly be our allies.

7acef3a31d732367ea5But if we are truly honest with ourselves we’ll realise the creators of these characters are no more capable of recognizing us as fellow members of the human species than the rest of the world. Ultimately Loki threatens a woman with rape on two occasions and calls one woman a cunt. Joss Whedon considers the fact that he was able to get away with having a misfit character use a gendered slur his proudest moment in the whole movie. The actor who plays Loki, Tom Hiddleston, also sees nothing wrong with the word. However, many Loki fans said that it felt out of character, even for him, and that they thought that having him say that word went just a little too far. Several fans have remarked that even face-eating cannibal Lecter would draw the line at gendered insults.

Spike also calls Buffy and both his former vampire girlfriends “bitches” and blames them for his warped way of thinking. His obsession with Buffy finally culminates in a rape attempt. For this he is promptly forgiven in the next season and by the show’s finale the creators have turned him into some sort of a messiah.

Joss_Whedon_by_Gage_Skidmore_3Now would be a good time to point out that Whedon likes to have female writes on his team and that the actions his fan-favorite villains take are in part the work of women as well. This is what makes it so heart breaking. Self-proclaimed, male feminist Whedon enlists the help of women to take female fans of his work down a peg.

You don’t have to have PIV, ever.

I am sure I have touched on this topic several times, but it always surprises me that straight women never consider this an option. For over 80% of women PIV ranges from boring to painful and makes a sexual experience with a guy either annoying or a real drag.

While he thrusts his STD/pregnancy-stick inside of you, you either wonder when he is finally done or hope he’ll be done really soon so you can let the pain die down. You just hope the condom is still in place and that in his enthusiasm to masturbate inside your body he actually bothered to ensure there is no condom mishap. But, really, you know the only reason he is wearing a condom is because he knows he won’t get any pussy without it.

In the above paragraph I have been crass on purpose. The stress that accompanies the possibility of a pregnancy and being being stuck with said pregnancy is something no man would ever be able to understand. It is a sometimes a crushing fear that adds to sex being less pleasurable when it involves PIV. Often the shear reluctance of a man to put himself in women’s shoes is incredibly off putting, in the same way that it hurts a lot when he mocks us for insisting the front door is locked at night. There are risks we women face, both due to our biology and our social status in society, that a man will never have to worry about.

Men make it painfully obvious they are not our allies and they are not our friends, when they time and again show us that our safety and comfort is not important to them. It becomes almost impossible to believe a man who says he loves a woman when he callously disregards her fears and her pleasure and only wants her to have an orgasm because it boosts his ego as a “lover.”

I just want to say to my fellow women (who sleep with men) that other options are available to you. You don’t owe him anything when it comes to sex. In fact sex with women is a privilege they should consider themselves damn lucky to get. They don’t get to make demands or requests, because we take the vast majority of all the risks. We are more at risk of not only becoming infected with an STI, but also to get sick from it. And we are the only ones to risk pregnancies.

If he is unsatisfied with the sexual encounter he always has his hand. I repeat, you don’t owe him a damn thing. If there is something he wants that you don’t like, there is no way it is ever OK for him to ask even twice, much less try to blackmail you into it. These guys are not worth having sex with. There are actually guys who don’t whine and try to make you do shit you don’t want. Find them and let the rest just fuck off. Or stick to masturbation or lesbianism. Every option is better than a dude trying to pressure you into having PIV.