A Statement About UBC’s New Feminist Club

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.

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A Statement about Conditions Teaching as a Transsexual Adjunct

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.

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Raw Policy Notes: Why the Hating on Aoife?

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?)

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Very Brief Update

I’m still up, about, and taking notes — many’s a thank you for your emails and well-wishes!

The Autumn term is now fully underway and I am engaged in lecturing for my introductory class to gender critical feminism and literary theory.  I also have a forthcoming essay for the blog — “In His Image: Beauvoir and Sexed Asymmetry from Eden to Pioneer” — and I am busily writing my second monograph, The Crosswords of Trans Identities: Subjectivity Narratives and Gender Critical Feminism.

I will be posting regularly again very soon — the above cited piece should be up sometime this week; and I aim to publish every fortnight after that. Thank you for your support, shares, and signal boosts.

Now that the crass scent of factional kerb pissing contests is over from the anti-feminist trans activists, I would like to personally thank all of you who still remain, who are still intrigued by the lines of feminist analysis that I am now pursuing, and to those whose support, encouragement, and readership ensures this blog’s endurance. You are all very lovely. Yes, you. The unfollows were expected and substantial. I realise I have alienated my core readership and now dwell in the Neutral Zone of feminist bloggers, with all empires wary and even a friendly tweet can be seen as a treaty violation.

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The Conversion of Aoife: There’s No Flash of Light After All

“Sexual difference is probably the issue in our time which could be our ‘salvation’ if we thought it through.” -Luce Irigaray

 

A note:

I’ve substantially updated by About Me section, which now provides forthright, if also preliminary, statements of my current feminist analysis. They are — at this rudimentary present — in the form of sketch book, rather than a formal essay. I hope to provide more lengthy posts in due course.

I completely understand that my theories are not everyone’s cup of tea. I am not claiming to have the only truth. But I respect my readership with the utmost care: I respect everyone enough to be honest about how my theoretical lens is refocussing. I will, perhaps, explain in more detail how this “conversion” to utilising gender critical frameworks to query trans narratives within them.

Quite frankly, if the media orchestrated carnival of Goldberg v Trans-Central-Station suggested anything, contestation is profitable in capital of money as well as commentary. There has to be another approach.

I have plans for a forum for gender critical discussion. But, for now, I am not so much as even writing.  I’m not entirely certain of my framework. I’m not prepared to explicate with the nuanced, detailed gender critical positions that I now insist are essential for the interrogation of sex, gender, and being. Mostly, I’m still learning. I am always trying to learn. It’s the single most persistent attribute of my being.

Pax,

Aoife

PS: There will never, ever be any misgendering on this blog. I swear to the best of all of my ability. Likewise, I believe ‘TERF’ has taken on the rhetorical praxis of a slur and I will no longer use it. I recognise resorting to acronyms is sloppy intellectual practice.

Well, I’ll deploy it one last time: the RadTransFems have an announcement. Since it’s “#TERFWeek” — so …

A toast!

Cider! The office drink and official beverage of #TERFTokens everywhere! 

Sláinte!

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Hiatus from the Comitatus: On Divergence and Damnation in Trans Blogging

I never really had a teleological purpose for this blog, as such. Except maybe blasphemy and iconoclasm … also known as my religion that isn’t a religion, AKA satanic feminism. We all knew this wasn’t going to be voted most congenial, so I’ve lingered in philosophical indiscretions because the rant — the “pain of speech” as a colleague of mine called the anti-genre — was the only discourse I trusted.

From what I can tell, mainstream trans feminism has turned into a comitatus, a clan structure of conflict and scions.

I truly think the Goldberg v Trans-Central-Station incident initiated some kind of nervous breakdown in my writerly sense of queer culture’s impossibility. I saw something very unholy happen in the peace treaty that concluded the “dispute”. This is, no doubt, for profit. Identity politics are for sale; and I’ve never seen a civil rights movement for intent on selling their invented subjectivties as memoirs than with trans activism. The cling wrap rhetoric will be the new glahanded discourse of politesse, and trans feminism swings in such directions I don’t belong in that category anymore. I quit, or I can only revolt.

The whole reason I became an academic was to give myself freedom in the venturing of my thought. To have my thoughts beholden to no one. I am, Cassandra-like, aghast as at the congenial collaborating that’s restructuring feminism into but a new order of control: the genre and discourse change, but the hierarchy remains. I’ll probably write more on Marxist feminism — it’s eerie how trans popularity is now dividing into ‘entertainer’ and ‘intellectual’ classes, with obvious race and class distinctions . . . I know these women are doing the absolute best they can, but the very structures their platforms are built upon will raise them up to different levels.

I will now most likely be saying some analysis that will no doubt be getting me meme’d as a TERF . . . [oh, and I will no longer use 'TERF" on this blog, and instead will use 'RF' for Raymondian feminism]; or the usual anti-intellectual jibes such as ‘academic’ or ‘pretentious’, or an HBSer [an acronym intended to belittle, n'est-ce pas? Hence why I will no longer say TERF] . . . anyway, I’ve  also  been told I’m geeky and unemployed . . . or Pro-Ana, because I support Deleuzian readings of anorexia that do not stigmatize the woman anorexic’s body as a female blood sacrifice for patriarchy … trans community me arse …  by a crowd under the anthem of “always was! always was!’ spoken with a Born-Again’s zealotry.

Look : I’ve been called of the above things by other trans women — we know the tables are always turning, and we turn on each other, I’ve my regrets and apologies — so I soon renounced my place, but really the bolts to my seat were screwed undone. “We didn’t really mix together”. It’s impossible to trust movements — are not new orders just systems redone?

To be honest I’m really most happy writing in psychoanalysis and philosophy and connecting our activism to the traditions of critical enquiry. I’m exhausted of having to play “Serano Says” and trying to defend untenable ideas about sacrosanct ‘gender identity’ and ‘unconscious sex’ kernels, or definitions of ‘cis’ that have been crumbling under the slightest of critical analysis. Trans feminism needs to lose its Jungian romanticism. I would like to write more introductory essays to famous texts of second and third wave feminism to help introduce readers. Write more esoteric readings on popular subcultures in Japan, perhaps translating cool, geeky feminist blogs from the Japanese. That’s certainly a direction I’ll more earnestly be going; and if I accrue a circle of an erudite audience who wants to think through these critical, radical issues of women with me — then I am blessed by a readership. No longer interested in movements, but in  thinkers — and the truth is I find such individuals all over the terrain of radical feminist throughout. I want there to be a counterpoint to gentrification of trans activism, the queer capital of vonnections and background checks. (“A Trans Women Struggles With Irigaray And Radical Feminism” will be my next forthcoming essay.) The purpose was never numbers or handshakes. What we need is revolution not reform. My flag is with radicalism.

I would trust, despite the most intense periods of self destructive depression from gender dysphoria that I survived for so very long, that I have something to offer and live and work for. I hope. I type.

My next post will be “One Trans Woman’s Irigaray: Me, Luce, and Radical Feminism”. Reflecting on my preparations to lecture on The Handmaid’s Tale, I revisited some of the radical feminist works of the early 90s, especially Grosz and her relationship to psychoanalysis and reproduction rights. This material feminism has strong critiques of transsexual ontology that are not easy to shrug off. I’ll consider my experiences rediscovering radical feminism, especially by French authors, in how I approach teaching patriarchy and anti-womanism in Atwood. As my readership will no doubt be further shrinking, I’ll be posting essays less frequently. I’ll be taking the rest of the month on the next one, I reckon. I hope you’ll be about when it’s published.

Non serviam,
Aoife

The Goldberg Variations: Trans Exclusion and Old School Dialectics

[editorial note: sept 2014 -- There is much about this essay i would rewrite now. while certain kernals remain valueable to me, i regret many of the formulations here. writing this essay is when my liberalism broke entirely; so i leave it here as a document of that. i apologise for the contents. I was wrong.]

 “Shit on your whole mortifying, imaginary and symbolic theatre!”

– Gilles DeleuzE, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

You know the joke? . . . how are Londoners like smarties?

They both melt in the tube!

And outside a London tube station in 2012, avoiding the summer broil, a nondescript gathering took place. A dozen or so biological women … emh … “women born women and living as women” were standing about. Note the wording change: the original phrasing as to who were  permissible attendees was changed when their somatic illogic of “biological” were pointed out.

The summer light had sufficient gloss that concessions to sunblock were required. The hurried commotion of British metropolitan transit, that up and down smash of a commute between passengers and time constraints, didn’t even notice the patriarchy smashing going down, right there, in the open.

They were planning — preparing — for the universal elimination of gender.

Dossing, chatting, comparing blueprints for dismantling the symbolic order of caste structures based on the ‘feminine’, exposing the latest transgender conspiracies to reinforce said ‘femininity’ — these activists collaborate under the ideology loosely known as radical feminism. And these tube station bystanders were permitted participants for an international conference, widely advertised and receiving copious attention from the Big British press, known as RadFem 2012.

Typically, such a forum of scholars and activists would meet in more suitable environs than the clatter and shake of a hot subway line. There’d been a snag, however.  The hired venue cancelled the booking when they learned that almost all of the entirety of the programme would be dedicated to excluding and excising transgender women, since they’re covert operatives of men’s rights activism. Given that Conway Hall has historical connections to both the anti-slavery movement and Irish expat communities, and thus knowing a thing or two about discrimination . . . they were most swift to disassociate themselves with an event predicated on expulsive labels of “us” from “them”, of the valid and invalid. They decided that this private, closed congregation, dedicated to securing legitimate womanhood from non-legitimate womanhood, wasn’t a monologue they wanted to host. Like the RadFems, they made a decision about who could and could not “belong”. And Conway Hall wasn’t alone in this; the usual institutions of conversation and conferences had no interest. No universities had any interest in sponsorship.

And so RadFem2012 transpired outside of a Tube station — or so that portion of the conference transpired, as was  related to me by a “woman√woman + lives as a woman” individual who dropped in on the sunburned colloquium.

Despite almost 40 years of activity, this group remains almost entirely unknown, even to the most RSS-obsessed feminist issues reader. Yet Michelle Goldberg selected this sect as an article for the hallowed New Yorker. Because, as she lets us know, “transgenderism” has achieved too much visibility and, as she quaintly puts it, “cachet”. (“Transgenderism is getting to be kewl!”)  Corrective balance — the dispute must be given its due — is required.

But Goldberg is seeking “debate” in some kind of false equilibrium of comparison.

“Balance”, as an introductory plea to begin an essay, whistles out of the sheathed paragraph like a blade. And if I read that word at the beginning of a pop media essay on trans issue? — my eyeballs roll back inward as far as they’ll go and I think “oh, shite.” It never ends balanced.

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America’s Got Abjection: The Trans Subject as Sacrifice, from Stage to Street

“On the edge of non- existence and hallucination, of a reality that, if I acknowledge it, annihilates me. There, abject and abjection are my safeguards. The primers of my culture.” — Julia Kristeva

 

As this essay introduces some basic concepts of Kristeva’s feminist philosophy — namely, abjection and contractual sacrifice — I’d like to foreground my analysis with a descriptive personal reminiscence.

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Your Natal Sun I Do Not Accept

[Editorial Note: this is another personal essay, written more out of a steam of frustrated consciousness, than from care and critical reflection, for my natal birthday -- which I do not celebrate, as such.

My forthcoming blog post -- "America's Got Abjection: The Trans Sacrificial Subject from Stage to Street" -- will be up in a short while from now. I've opted to write two personal pieces for this week]:

 

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