Ten Questions for Catharine MacKinnon

I’m a great admirer of MacKinnon, particularly her unwavering commitment to fighting the masculinity-made apocalypse of bodies that are pornography and prostitution.

Thus, I was curious to peruse her conversation with The TransAdvocatea trans-militant website that is hostile to corporeal feminism. While the interview never once addresses MacKinnon’s scholarship on prostitution and porn — a shocking omission, given these are the very subjects upon which her research and writing achieved global recognition  — TA preferred to proffer a sequence of leading fuzzywuzzy questions about “gender identity”.

This commentary on Beauvoir, from MacKinnon in that interview, felt particularly abstruse to me:

“I always thought I don’t care how someone becomes a woman or a man; it does not matter to me. It is just part of their specificity, their uniqueness, like everyone else’s. Anybody who identifies as a woman, wants to be a woman, is going around being a woman, as far as I’m concerned, is a woman.”

While I suspect MacKinnon didn’t intend for her comments to be a definitive presentation of her philosophical and activist views, her responses nonetheless suggest an endorsement for anti-materialism and libertarian analysis (at least as far as her views on gender are specifically concerned).

MacKinnon’s interview left many of us with with more questions than answers, and here are some of mine. I was strongly influenced by reading Ms Hell Bedlam’s commentary, and I put forth some of my own inquiries . . . as a transwoman with a keen interest in Beauvoir who is questioning transgenderism.

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Publication Announcement for my First Book

I am extremely pleased to report that my first monograph — entitled Ancestral Recall: The Celtic Revival and Japanese Modernism — was today granted full funding by the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program.

With this fortunate news — along with the endorsement of my peer reviewers (whom I thank most earnestly), as well as recommendation by the executive committee of McGill Queen’s University Press — I anticipate publication in early 2016. Look for me in their Spring Catalog.

My heartfelt thanks to those who have believed in me and my research. In particular, I offer a massive bit of gratitude to Mark Abley, my editor at MQUP, who has shown me far more patience than any one of my many eccentricities deserves.

You can read an overview of my book here.

Pax,

Aoife

Excellence in Teaching Notification

I’m honoured to announce that I placed within the very top tenth percentile of teaching excellence, as evaluated across the entirety of the Faculty of Arts, at the University of British Columbia. These evaluations and rankings included assessments of my well-received course on gender critical feminism, which earned exceedingly high reviews from my students.

Despite such praise, including a major teaching prize in 2010, I’ve encountered little but indifference and hostility from management in my department; and I’m currently unemployed and have not been offered anything close to equitable or gainful work.

Academia is a profession in which doing your job well and excelling at it means nothing

. . .  means losing your position, in my case.

UBC: do you care about keeping your best teachers, or are you content to toss us away as the academic equivalent of disposable Keurig pods? That’s how you’ve made me feel.

This is the state of education: I have a letter like this in my hand, but I cannot find any employment at all. None. Nil. I don’t think I’m special: I’m just asking, along with thousands of other sessionals, for something equitable.

UBC Arts, your sessionals sacrifice our souls to be educators. We’re assigned courses students don’t want; we work with your first years, many of whom are in very intense personal life crises and transitions; we share musty offices, double down on the hours spent in them; and all that same time are publishing, giving talks, reviewing articles, serving on committees, taking our research into the public … and all the other things that we’re told will improve our lot but do not. And I shall not perpetuate the farce. The truth is too awful to shroud.  Teaching as a career is now regarded to be an embarrassment, despite whatever dress and garb the tenure track elite are peddling in their acceptance letters.

Their system is a broken locomotive; in the blur they can’t define their future vision anymore. The external review of my department even as conceded as much, but no substantive changes have resulted, at least from where I’m scrounging. But down here all vocations turn to dust.

I reckon it’s a despairing climate that is readily recognized. There is a catastrophic grade of unethical treatment shown to the lower caste instructors. I must beg my students to consider other options than grad school, because it’s immoral to tell them it’s a worthy course of action. And so I resigned from what I once considered my life’s passion. UBC: Do you care? Do you care about teaching and teachers at all? Otherwise, this letter is an insult. To me and to students.

signed, an open letter to a disconcerting disaster,

aoife assumpta hart
who once loved being an educator

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On Being Silenced (Part II) — Lost on Planet Feckless

“We must honorably adhere to the rules that we are making up on the spot.”

–Andy Bernard, The Office (7.19, “Garage Sale”)

For Part Two, I’d like to step back for a second and take up a case study for examination, one that should prove useful as I continue forward in later additions to this series on silencing.

But let me start here, please: and tell me if you’ve heard this fantasist claim before . . . (Oh, yes, for full effect, do cut and paste the sentence below into your favourite word processor, and convert the font to comic sans):

There are zero incidents of trans people assaulting cis people in bathrooms.”

“Zero incidents!”

Rubbish.

Was it an “incident” when a 6′ 3″, 280 lb transwoman punched a woman because she questioned his presence in the women’s bathroom . . . when years of martial arts training culminate in a straight-right blow to her face . . .  when she endures $60,0000 in medical costs, incalculable personal trauma, and a lifelong chronic pain condition? “Assaulting cis people . . .” I believe you mean women. And did this woman imagine her assault? of finding her teeth scattered across the toilet floor? Was it an incident? Did it not happen? No, it never happens, they say!

Because she felt unsafe and made enquiries?

“Zero incidents!”

Woman offers opinion; transwoman doesn’t like said opinion, so he punches her full force in the jaw. (Oh, no male socialization about that.) HE shatters this lady’s lower mandible with a slam of his knuckles, inertia first, into the soft angle of her chin. One punch — one manly, mighty strike of his imperious fist — because she asked if he was male — and what’s left her for one question? An aftermath of reconstructive wires and deadbolt sized surgical screws to weld her broken mouth back together.

But trans activists say that this never happens, has never happened. It’s all lies invented by radical feminists, those rancid with anti-unicorn bigotry and disdain for tasting the rainbow, who’ve organized into coven-hovel crews of their agitprop conniving. Innocent until proven “cis”! It was all in her head! Because women must be liars, daydreamers, attention seekers, drama queens, fit-throwers, hysterics, bigots, witches, communists, and TERFs. “Now shut up and DIAF, you bigot!”

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On Being Silenced (Part One)

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.

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The Non-Binary Capacitance

“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.

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Brief Update (2015)

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).

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“Torn Sheets in the Rain”: A Fan Missive for the Lovely Kate Pierson

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.

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The Deleted Vagina (Part One)

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.”

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