Thursday, February 02, 2017

Rift In Women's Studies Over "Transgender" Issues

So here's the kind of gibberish that rules not only in the pseudo-discipline of women's studies, but in large swaths of the humanities and more qualitative social sciences:
   The call for panelists was for a session for this year’s conference of the National Women’s Studies Association. The session is to be called “Pregnancy Without Women: Representations of Reproduction in Art, Literature, Film and Culture.”
   Organizers explained: “Almost 20 years ago, Jack Halberstam challenged scholars to consider ‘masculinity without men.’ At the time, this endeavor might have seemed perverse, but it ultimately challenged feminists to rethink the discourses they relied on to frame sexuality and sexual identities. In similarly counterintuitive fashion, this panel seeks papers that theorize pregnancy without women from feminist and/or queer perspectives …. We’re interested in how economics, race and ability complicate both ‘pro-choice’ rhetoric that relies on fairly narrow constructions of a self-reliant woman and also conceives of pregnancy (and abortion) as an issue that impacts more than just women. To paraphrase Halberstam, considering pregnancy without women ‘affords us a glimpse of how [pregnancy] is constructed as [pregnancy].’ Since pregnancy without women is not yet a biological possibility, we are particularly interested in papers that consider imaginative constructions of pregnancy through art, literature, film and so forth.”
   Suggested topics included artificial reproductive technologies, pregnancy “as/not disability,” pregnancy in science “and speculative fiction,” the economics of pregnancy and abortion.
   Some of those who responded on WMST-L then objected to the idea of discussing pregnancy without women, and some of those arguments suggested that being a woman should reflect biology alone. Transgender people and those who study them have a wide range of views on gender identity but generally reject the idea of a biologically driven gender binary. And they view those scholars who state such a binary as the only way to look at gender as hostile to the rights of transgender people.
One comment in particular angered trans scholars.
   “We don't need supposedly progressive folks downplaying the importance of women's reproductive functions at this time. Let us stop this game now. Only women get pregnant and it serves women not at all to pretend this is not true!”
   The comment was from Sheila Jeffreys, a professor at the University of Melbourne, in Australia, whose work criticizing the transgender movement has been controversial in other settings as well.
   That post and other prompted Cael Keegan, assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Grand Valley State University, to this weekend issue a call for a boycott.
   “The continual rehashing of the validity, dignity and academic worthiness of trans identities, bodies and studies on this Listserv is unacceptable,” Keegan wrote. “The lack of moderator intervention to stymie these kinds of oppressive, exclusionary assertions is also unacceptable. The harm it does to trans users of this Listserv, and the terrible example it sets in this new era when trans people are becoming even more vulnerable (already, our health care under the ACA has been nationally suspended by a single federal judge), is inexcusable. The persistent stated beliefs that speaking about trans bodies or trans oppression is a ‘distraction’ and that acknowledging non-transgender (cis) privilege exists and needs to be interrogated is ‘insulting’ are retrograde and anti-feminist. In the new era, I cannot participate in these same tired discussions that position me and others like me as constantly in need of explanation, justification or silencing. I no longer have the patience to deal with this this kind of ‘feminism’ or this debate over my own worthiness or materiality as a human being.”
And:
“The feminist ideas I voice are seen as threatening to the existence, not of persons who trans as they may continue to trans as cross-dressing predated the present trans phenomenon [sic], but to the ideological base of transgenderism as a practice in the present”
The humanities are not inherently bullshit. They've made themselves bullshit with this sort of nonsense.

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