Saturday, September 19, 2015

Elinor Burkett: What Makes A Woman

Apparently the NYT is a bit more sober than most of the places I visit on the web. Here's a case against classifying e.g. Caitlyn Jenner as a woman--though the arguments are rather a mixed bag:

The good:
I have fought for many of my 68 years against efforts to put women — our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods — into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes. Suddenly, I find that many of the people I think of as being on my side — people who proudly call themselves progressive and fervently support the human need for self-determination — are buying into the notion that minor differences in male and female brains lead to major forks in the road and that some sort of gendered destiny is encoded in us.
That’s the kind of nonsense that was used to repress women for centuries. But the desire to support people like Ms. Jenner and their journey toward their truest selves has strangely and unwittingly brought it back.
The meh:
People who haven’t lived their whole lives as women, whether Ms. Jenner or Mr. Summers, shouldn’t get to define us. That’s something men have been doing for much too long. And as much as I recognize and endorse the right of men to throw off the mantle of maleness, they cannot stake their claim to dignity as transgender people by trampling on mine as a woman.
The bad:
Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity. They haven’t traveled through the world as women and been shaped by all that this entails. They haven’t suffered through business meetings with men talking to their breasts or woken up after sex terrified they’d forgotten to take their birth control pills the day before. They haven’t had to cope with the onset of their periods in the middle of a crowded subway, the humiliation of discovering that their male work partners’ checks were far larger than theirs, or the fear of being too weak to ward off rapists. 
For me and many women, feminist and otherwise, one of the difficult parts of witnessing and wanting to rally behind the movement for transgender rights is the language that a growing number of trans individuals insist on, the notions of femininity that they’re articulating, and their disregard for the fact that being a woman means having accrued certain experiences, endured certain indignities and relished certain courtesies in a culture that reacted to you as one.
A woman is not someone who has accrued certain experiences. A woman is someone with a certain type of biology. A woman who grows up in an isolated, egalitarian community is not not a woman. A woman is an adult human female; and Caitlyn Jenner is not female. Ergo Caitlyn Jenner is not a woman. The reasoning is simple and conclusive.
Some other good stuff in the piece:
In January 2014, the actress Martha Plimpton, an abortion-rights advocate, sent out a tweet about a benefit for Texas abortion funding called “A Night of a Thousand Vaginas.” Suddenly, she was swamped by criticism for using the word “vagina.” “Given the constant genital policing, you can’t expect trans folks to feel included by an event title focused on a policed, binary genital,” responded @DrJaneChi. 
WHEN Ms. Plimpton explained that she would continue to say “vagina” — and why shouldn’t she, given that without a vagina, there is no pregnancy or abortion? — her feed overflowed anew with indignation, Michelle Goldberg reported in The Nation. “So you’re really committed to doubling down on using a term that you’ve been told many times is exclusionary & harmful?” asked one blogger. Ms. Plimpton became, to use the new trans insult, a terf, which stands for “trans exclusionary radical feminist.” 
In January, Project: Theater at Mount Holyoke College, a self-described liberal arts college for women, canceled a performance of Eve Ensler’s iconic feminist play “The Vagina Monologues” because it offered an “extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman,” explained Erin Murphy, the student group’s chairwoman.
Let me get this right: The word “vagina” is exclusionary and offers an extremely narrow perspective on womanhood, so the 3.5 billion of us who have vaginas, along with the trans people who want them, should describe ours with the politically correct terminology trans activists are pushing on us: “front hole” or “internal genitalia”?
Um..."front hole"? No. They can stick that suggestion right up hole... The PCs are known for frothily insisting on stupid, inaccurate terminology...but that one's perhaps the worst of a very, very bad lot. 
   Anyway, at least there's discussion of this stuff going on. Even places like Reddit--usually pretty raucous and chaotic--the PC orthodoxy has taken over. It's downright bizarre watching so many people who are so independent with respect to so many issues not only falling in line on this one, but shaming those who don't. When the NYT is edgier than Reddit, you know something weird is going on.


Blogger The Mystic said...

Ugh, that use of experience in defining womanhood is parallel to its use in defining blackness here:

Those who deny the parallelism between the Dolezal and Jenner examples are going to have to deal with a lot of parallel discussion, nonetheless..

12:17 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

It's so easy to see that these views are wrong... How is it that they seem so common?

9:10 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Internet amplification?

9:21 AM  

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