There is something faintly ridiculous about this wet-behind-the-ears lad shutting up the savvy, middle-aged Penelope. But it’s a nice demonstration that right where written evidence for Western culture starts, women’s voices are not being heard in the public sphere; more than that, as Homer has it, an integral part of growing up, as a man, is learning to take control of public utterance and to silence the female of the species. — Prof Mary Beard, “The Public Voice of Women”
Social Justice sanctimony has been rehearsed into a performative public ceremony: call out, penitence, re-education. In short: Do what uncle sez.
I’ve witnessed these rotational recriminations — launched by males and their third wave neoliberal allies, almost inevitably against feminist women — online, on campuses, and increasingly in public conversations.
I know what bullying is: my horror-show adolescence could amount to a trial under the Geneva Conventions.
I’m also a transwoman; I know what transphobia is.
I’m telling you transgenderists have increasingly mobilized as a lobby of bullies.
“If only you were a boy, how happy I should be!”
–Murasaki Shikibu‘s father lamenting the birth of a female offspring
In Heian-era Japan, the literary imagination required a specifically formulated education in order to be considered learned, accomplished, and valid. If the aspirant wished to attain intellectual respectability, then he was required to possess scholarly credibility. The latter could only be obtained through a controlled conduit of classical Chinese learning, a sequence of instruction given only to the selected few.
Murasaki, although fortunate enough to be among the aristocratic caste that typically received such tutoring, was born with what was then and now concerned a critical birth defect: she was female, not male. According to anecdotal lore surrounding her life, her father exclaimed with exasperation, on seeing a vagina-having baby, that the skin of women would be wasted on too-difficult texts. Thus, to put his above-cited exclamation another way . . . “If only my daughter were born with a penis — how happy I would be!” Her biological sex was instant disqualification from literature.
Repeat: Her biological sex. Not gender identity. Biological sex. And one thousand years ago, the woman who would become the most famous figurehead of a millennium of Japanese literature was not permitted the formal education that predestined students to prominence in the literary arts.
Because of her biological sex. The same reason Malala Yousafza was shot in the head by men for learning the Pashto alphabet in school.
Dear aoifeschatology readers:
Please excuse the month-long hiatus in posting. I successfully had SRS on Jan 5th; and, thank God, I’ve been recovering steadily since then, my healing accumulating beautifully. My energy has been very low, and I’ve not been productive. However, with grace, I hope soon to be fit enough again for writing. For now, at the minute, I feel like a buddha (which doesn’t mean I identify as a buddha, FYI).
“To have courage for whatever comes in life — everything lies in that.” – St Teresa of Ávila
As is the custom here at aoifeschatology.com, I’d like to wish all of you a most Happy New Year, one full of courage, love, and uncompromising solidarity.
Carnival is a pageant without footlights and without a division into performers and spectators. In carnival everyone is an active participant, everyone communes in the carnival act… The laws, prohibitions, and restrictions that determine the structure and order of ordinary, that is noncarnival, life are suspended during carnival: what is suspended first is hierarchical structure and all the forms of terror, reverence, piety, and etiquette connected with it… or any other form of inequality among people. — mikhail bakhtin, on dostoyevsky’s poetics
The fifteen year old boy that I was . . . a cul-de-sac, catacomb adolescent of a second floor-back bedroom . . . for whom “portable audio” meant a cassette player larger than my hand, and pocket money was always an instalment plan for buying new albums . . . who found in headphones considerable relief as much as enormous pleasure . . . yeah, that teenage mop of myself for whom the mirror was already a veteran opponent . . . that was me, and I adored the B-52s; but especially its fierce crimson diva who was as decadent as a rose in a surrealist’s wine-glass, with me listening in the grim grey of my school uniform jumper décor. Kate Pierson.
The band’s signature sound sequestered me in an out of body experience — one of irresistible post-disco glambop that put the boots in my boogie. No small accomplishment for my perpetually uncoordinated hips and a complete lack of musical depth perception.
And so I thought, manually swapping from Side B back to Side A again — if I ever met Kate Pierson, she would understand me without explanations. Because singing like that suggested a braggadocios voice not attuned to apologies and excuses.
The theory of historical materialism has brought to light some important truths. Humanity is not an animal species, it is a historical reality. Human society is an antiphysis – in a sense it is against nature; it does not passively submit to the presence of nature but rather takes over the control of nature on its own behalf. This arrogation is not an inward, subjective operation; it is accomplished objectively in practical action.
–Simone de Beauvoir
I feel a touch sorry for Simone de Beauvoir . . . or at least for the legacy of Beauvoir. The commentariat carousel of plastic-stallion postmodernism has quoted her with gusto, haste, but most of all circular reasoning. She remains often cited, but rarely read.
And by rarely read . . . I should perhaps say hardly read at all. Quick-draw gender idolators lift a single line from the entire corpus of Le Deuxième Sexe in service to their blown-bubble cause.
And actually by quote – I should just say ripped naively out of context with wilful intellectual disingenuousness by people who haven’t actually read her book.
So I don’t so much feel sorry for Beauvoir, but rather a feminist indignation at the wanton and willful application of her complex, paradigm shattering philosophy in service to male short-term memory and total textual-deficit in regards to what she actually wrote.
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”
“On ne nait pas femme; on le devient.”
Thank you, as always, for reading, supporting, and sharing aoifeschatology. I am extremely grateful for your continued readership — especially given my own lapse in publishing schedule during the somewhat hectic syllabus of teaching radical feminism through my university course. I will renew regular essay publication shortly and hope you will continue onward with me in analysis.
Also, in regards to publication, I am pleased to announce one of my first academic articles will be translated into Portuguese and reprinted in an anthology by a Brazilian press. I don’t have complete details confirmed; but I will release them when the contract is inked in full. “Arisu in Harajuku: Yagawa Sumiko’s Wonderland as Translation, Theory, and Performance” (U of Iowa Press 2009) was an early investigation of mine into gender non-conformity and Japanese creative subcultures. I am tremendously pleased to see it further shared in this way.
My next blog essay — “The Deleted Vagina: Beauvoir and Male Supremacy” will be posted around Hallowe’en. Again, thank you so much for your patience.
First, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the executive committee of UBC’s Feminism Club. Rather than encountering cliche of ‘staunch’ resistance, these young students — organizing on their own accord, commitment, and resources — received rude indifference and condescending illogic from a male-dominated Alma Mater Society. Or, as I hasten to call them, the Alma Pater Society. These stamp-wielders denied their request to officially form as a student group. Now — the reason for their refusal? To paraphrase — you have to imagine me text messaging on my phone and sniffing condescendingly as I summarize the AMS response — “we have too many feminist oriented clubs already.”
Two of them, in fact. For a campus population of about fifty thousand.
At UBC sessionals make about $35-40k for full time teaching (3/3 load). I’m instructing one course right now, with the virtue that it at least is in my specific fields of research (radical feminism and comparative literature … I had a SSHRC postdoc, so my scholarship must have had some kind of top-level professional sanction). Prior to that, I have taught over 100 credits of freshman composition to unwilling science majors. For my efforts (the equivalent of pedagogical martyrdom without a cause), I now have 6 years of seniority lecturing in my department, which includes a teaching prize … which means nothing. I am at the scorpion’s tail-end of the list for those who get job offers. I have never taught beyond the second year because that opportunity has never been bequeathed to me.
I’m not blaming my poor status on transphobia. They’ve been accommodating if aloof (a genial ‘good morning’ is offered to me by about a handful of tenured professors — goddess bless them). There is another trans* identified biological male member of the department who is, by all accounts, thoroughly liberal in their feminism and very much the opposite of me in every possible way on gender. This instructor, also an adjunct professor, lectures in transgender studies (which is their right in our wee community of scholars, just as my right is to argue through my back teeth for radical feminism). They have been offered the chance to implement syllabi completely informed by theory from trans activism all the way up to the fourth year level of undergraduate curriculum.
Let me personally assure you — I do not teach, nor ever will teach, so-called transgender studies. My feminism will be about women, or it’s bullshit. Put that in my non-existent wikipedia page, please.
My fortnightly salary is $700. I am still not considered a ‘continuing’ sessional. I depend on my wife’s (who is also transsexual, and has bills of her own) health care plan for the $220/month for my hormone replacement therapy.
I’m just being honest here.
I was vibrantly encouraged by several young women who queued up after lecture to thank me for teaching a bit about radical feminism as part of my course in gender crit analysis. All of them said, ‘Why don’t they talk about this in my women’s studies class? Why don’t they talk about this in my queer theory class? Why don’t they talk about this in my philosophy of gender class?” And they expressed their appreciation for my approach. Their kind words meant a great deal to me, as I think anyone who knows me understands how adjuncting has come extremely close to destroying my love of teaching.
Instead, what I am discovering, in offering one of the only RadFem/Gendercrit courses out there (at least that I’m aware of), is that there is real demand for real analysis. And I’ve been granted, no question, the most enriching pedagogical experiences I have ever had. And it’s only week 2!
(On a side note, ending a lecture on Beauvoir and Atwood with “Penis is male. No, really. Psst!” achieved highlight reel status in my memories as an educator.)
I’ve been asked by earnest and opening minded people for what I consider to be good introductions to radical feminism and gender critical perspectives. Before I commence my own essays on the topic, I must first defer to the excellent, publicly available statements that argue the RadFem position. So, for this post, I’ll summarise my recommendations here — and in doing so position what I’m reading about radical feminist philosophy. I am not a liberal feminist. I am no longer a trans feminist. (I don’t actually know what a ‘trans feminist’ is, exactly?)