Gender Identity, Religious Identity and Performance.


10953174_10152933322533089_8073456879508513260_oWhen I cover my head in respect for the Holy One, it feels right. This act touches on a religious truth of who I am. To me, it not only matches who I am, it also expresses something about who I strive to be and the relationship I want to have with G-d.

Seeing Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, I think she’d say something similar about herself. Her outward appearance touches to the very core of who she is and who she has had the strength and courage to become.   Not only that, it feels right.

Sure, there is a wide gulf between the public nature of Jenner’s cover photo and my public head covering, yet, in these two examples, I see a number of connections. First, there is the real possibility of harm and danger. Second, there is a link between outside actions that express something true about the person on the inside. Third, value is placed on the agency and autonomy of the individual carrying out those actions. Finally, there is a performativity connection between religiosity and gender. It is the last point that I find particularly compelling.

I don’t cover my head anymore on a daily basis although I used to before I moved to Europe. Even though it doesn’t feel right, with the rise of anti-Semitism, it seems like the safe and unfortunately prudent thing to do. I also don’t wear any signifying my religion except for a small star of David earring. In 2014, by the Jewish community’s own account, anti-Semitism grew 200% in the Czech Republic alone.  Statistics seems to support my actions.

Jenner too, like so many members of the trans community, now has the real threat of violence against her person. While her public persona may make her somewhat safer, too many trans men and women have been harmed and even murdered just for being themselves. In fact, many trans people live closeted lives because of this danger and the fear of rejection from family, friends and the larger society.

While not minimizing the fear and danger, I want to return to the more theoretical link between gender expression, gender identity and religious identity. In 1990, Judith Butler wrote Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. For Butler, what we think of sex and its connections to gender as masculinity and femininity often come down to a person performing gender in a way that is socially recognizable. People wear clothing, do actions, speak words and use body language that marks them as woman or man and therefore individual agents adhere to societal constructions of gender at the same time they reinforce societal expectations for men and women. Butler’s suggestion is that gender performances, that subvert “normal” discourses on gender expression, show the ways in which gender is culturally constructed. They also disrupt what has been seen as somehow inherently natural. In other words, biologically-sexed females acting, dressing, speaking and behaving in ways typically associated with masculinity disrupts what it means to be both a woman and to be masculine. This would be impossible if things were as natural as society thinks they are.

One of Butler’s goal, in my opinion, is not only to expose the culturally constructed nature of sex/gender, but also to open up individual agency to perform gender in ways that would disrupt the power these “natural notions” have over peoples’ lives. Subversive gender performances, for Butler, creates more freedom in society and would hopefully undermine blanket misogyny and disrupt patriarchal power.

Yes, Butler has often been criticized in many ways, including the attempt to erase any notion of substance behind personhood and its gendered expression especially as it relates to transgendered individuals. Butler has spoken to this specific criticism saying on transadvocate.com that, “…others have a strong sense of self bound up with their genders, so to get rid of gender would be to shatter their self-hood. I think we have to accept a wide variety of positions on gender. Some want to be gender-free, but others want to be free really to be a gender that is crucial to who they are.”20150128_132833

In the end, what is essential for Butler is individual autonomy and freedom to be. Performing sex/gender is one possible way to get there. Let me suggest another that builds off Butler’s ideas of performativity. Religiosity is a type of culturally-laden performance. After all, what are kippot, hijabi, nuns’ habits, ministers’ robes, etc.? They are religious markers tied up in gender identity.

Just as masculine women subvert and disrupt social constructions, couldn’t a Jewish lesbian perform gender in a way that she passes for an orthodox man (or woman)? Doesn’t this disrupt what it means to be both lesbian and orthodox? I think so. This passing person also destabilizes the power of orthodox men to define womanhood and women’s sexuality. She defines for herself who she is. She may very well consider herself to be orthodox and masculine, just as masculine women consider their masculinity as part of who they are.  She may connect deeply with Jewish orthodox feminine styles of dress.  Nonetheless, her outward performance expresses something about her commitment to G-d and who she is as a Jew at the same time it subverts received religious notions of gender and sexuality.  Another example is a woman minister who wears priestly attire including the black shirt and white collar.   She too disrupts power relations, gender assumptions and, for some people, the very notion of women and ordination.  Religious performance is powerful stuff.

To go back to the point I made at the beginning. I think expressions of religiosity are similar to expressions of gender. In addition, claiming for one’s self a religious identity subverts patriarchal notions of gender. Yet, most importantly, performing a religious identity often expresses an inner truth. In both of these ways, religious identity performances could create freedom, disrupt power-over and destabilize patriarchy just as Butler hopes gender performativity does.  I would modify Butler’s approach somewhat to say, “I think we have to accept a wide variety of positions on gender [and/or religious identity]. Some want to be gender-free [and/or religion-free], but others want to be free really to be a gender [and/or religious indentity] that is crucial to who they are.”

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Categories: Feminism and Religion, Gender, Gender and Power, Gender and Sexuality, General, Identity Construction, Judaism, LGBTQ, Patriarchy, Power relations, Queer Theory, religion

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35 replies

  1. I find it interesting, in a sad and painful kind of way, how hard we have to work to be ourselves. It’s like the Creator planted a garden full of colourful, wild, beautiful, free and strong flowers, and people dig it up to plant a manicured lawn. We need the people who insist on being who they are to help us all be who we are and can be. Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts, Ivy.

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  2. Really nice post, thank you for this.

    Getting to the trend of the moment- how about race? Can we choose our own race? Some want to be race-free, but others really want to be free to be a race that is crucial to who they are.

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  3. Thanks for this post, Ivy, so very fine, indeed!! And thanks to the two commenters above, Barbara and nmr, for your right-on insights!!

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  4. Yes, I agree completely that gender identity is just like religious identity. Gender is indeed a belief system dependent upon subjective experiences and perceptions, and involving ritual, dogma, orthodoxy, and heresy. Exactly. Gender is a religion. Well spotted.

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    • I do not think gender is a religion by any means but I think the expressions of gender and religiosity could be said to function in similar ways in Western society.

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  5. Thanks for your post Ivy.. I am glad that Jenner is now more comfortable with her appearance. However,
    I am disturbed that she chose to display herself on Vanity Fair and that her appearance plays into many sexist stereotypes that have hurt women throughout history. Where are her feminist politics? Nowhere to be seen. The sensationalism of her change has been exploited in a way that is not good for women in general. I welcome transpersons who advance and improve conditions for ALL women- make the world safer, more
    welcoming and more prosperous for women and children. The sensationalism and publicity around Caitlyn Jenner’s change are a way to make money, not advance conditions for other trans persons (who don’t have the money and priviledge she brings with her family connections). More feminism please. Let’s get sexism off the planet.

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    • It would be nice if more transwomen were feminist. It would be nice if more women were feminist. It would be nice if more societies were feminist. I do not necessarily fault one transwoman for not being more feminist but rather society for being still so patriarchal

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    • So– we don’t get to decided whether or not Jenner (or any person) identifies as a feminist–especially not based on her clothing or how she sexually/sartorially expresses herself on a magazine (or anywhere).

      Sure– she has growth to do in her education as a woman (her words, not mine), but she gets to define herself in every capacity.

      We should welcome all people. FULL STOP.

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  6. Bruce Jenner is simply performing in womanface. It is actually a total insult to biological women, it does not end the fact that gemder is completely made up, that it is a system where women are expected to be submissive and men are expected to be dominant. When women refuse to obey male rules, all hell breaks loose. Bruce Jenner is a man, he is not a woman. He father many children with several wives, and he is a right wing republican. He is not brave, he is simply taking his female fetish public and getting widely praised for doing this. How many 65 year old women have been on the cover of VF as their true selves, without the make-up, airbrushing, and coy playboy bunny posing. Jenner is simply playing the “role” of submissive, but he retains every once of his white male privilege. His is probably going to keep his penis, have sex with women, and then claim to be a lesbian.

    Women are being bowled over and completely attacked for standing up to these imposters, lesbian culture and space is under attack, men are insisting on invading women’s changing rooms at Planet Fitness, and women who complain get kicked out. Male supremacy is what this is all about. Women who have to cover their heads are FORCED to do this in many parts of the world. Jenner killed a woman in a car accident several months before he did his interivew with Diane Sawyer, yup, a woman was killed, it was deamed an accident, but he showed absolutly no remorse at all for this death.

    Gender is about dominance and submission, it is about sadism with men FORCING themselves on women everywhere, just as women are forced to cover themselves in patriarchal religions. There is nothing transgressive about another white man conning women. The trans lobby is essentially a reactionary movement of male supremacists, nothing more nothing less.

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  7. I tend to agree with AE about Jenner. He’s still a guy and he’s pretending to beb a woman. I wish him well and hope hes happy, but I’m really tired of hearing about him.

    If you want to have a Very Interesting Conversation about the male to female trans lobby, bring up the topic in a group of Dianic witches. There are strong feelings.

    Ivy, good luck to you and blessings to your path.

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    • I’m sorry for being so blunt but you two should be ashamed of yourselves for writing such transphobic statements.

      AE: “The trans lobby is essentially a reactionary movement of male supremacists, nothing more nothing less.” REALLY!?0 Like, really!?! We just got done celebrating pride all through West Hollywood and there are more to come across the country and I think that you should be utterly ashamed of the comments you just made and how they would make the countless number of trans individuals, both young and old, feel about their identities being compared to a “lobbying group of male supremacists.”

      Barbara: I expected better from an individual who is educated and activist-oriented like yourself than to agree with such transphobic statements. I’m very disappointed.

      This blog seriously needs to look at its allowance of such hate speech on the commentary.

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      • Shaming people for expressing opinions about transgenderism illustrates an important belief of those who subscribe to the religion of gender: Gender must always be “respected,” which means it must never be examined, criticized, or questioned. People who challenge ANY tenets or practices of genderism must be condemned as phobic bigots. Well illustrated, John.

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      • “Women are being bowled over and completely attacked for standing up to these impostors, lesbian culture and space is under attack, men are insisting on invading women’s changing rooms at Planet Fitness, and women who complain get kicked out. ”

        This exact type of thinking (echoed multiple times by not only commentators but FAR contributors on multiple posts now) is what keeps women out of positions of power within the church, politics, and even in the home. It is also what is killing feminism among young adults. How sad to see it echoed here time and time again–and then the silence from the FAR community just letting it slide. Would we allow these types of comments in regards to the dignity of cis-women asking for inclusion around the world in their traditions? Silence is aid of oppression.

        Coretta King famously said, ” Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.”

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  8. First, let me say this. It is interesting that the “controversial” part of this blog seems to be a transgendered woman’s action which in so many ways is not the main theme of this piece.

    Second, I was hoping for comments in which people shared how they expressed their religious identity and whether or not people agreed with the connection I see between gender identity performance and religious identity performance.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to stifle conversation, but rather redirect it back toward the larger themes discussed here. I’m looking forward to hearing your responses and continuing the conversation.

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    • Ivy –

      Apologies! I didn’t mean to “hijack” your post. I feel that your linkage between gender and religious identities are interesting. In relation to Butler’s arguments, I see their use, but I feel there is more here that can be said. What about the use of Butler’s later work and her focus on bodies and affect? This might help out your linkage to the “threat to life” that individuals from both communities face. My main question here though is: who is more at threat as a result of their performance, albeit religious or gendered? Would an transgendered individual of color be more at risk or an individual like yourself who was covering her head? Now, we can get into the risk that still faces the Muslim community in America who are being killed for their beliefs and outward expression of their religious practices) but I fail to see how a transgendered individual are supposed to see the linkage between you not feeling safe to wearing a headscarf to their going out in public and performing their appropriate gender expression when they still face insurmountable odds not only getting up the courage to walk outside their doors but letalone live their lives as their true selves. Also, gender identity is more than just dress and performance, as Butler makes it abundantly clear.

      Yes, Caitlyn has privilege but I’m more-so referring to individuals who do not, i.e. Laverne Cox’s amazing post about Caitlyn Jenner (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/02/laverne-cox-caitlyn-jenner_n_7494484.html) We’re supposed to say these things are the same? I think not and that’s where your post, albeit interesting, needs more work.

      In regards to the comments, I refuse to let another post on this site go that is extremely transphobic. Obviously, We can never plan how the comments go here but not addressing hateful comments like those two as the author is part of the problem; we have to speak up and address these issues now rather than let them festival in virtual and literal silence. This is supposed to be a safe site for everyone and I cannot tell you how many individuals reach out to me that are longtime readers of this site who have taken issue with the fact that comments like the ones above go unchecked and become representative of a site like this (when we know that is NOT the case) because as I have experienced, all voices are welcome here and because we have a commenting policy, those voices are respected and individuals who post hate speech are not welcomed (I still cannot get over an individual comparing the trans lobby to male supremacy groups!)

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      • I never said the two things (gender identity and religious identity) were the same. I said I see some connections between the two and Butler’s theory of performance. At the same time, I would never equate one form of oppression as the same as others, but many forms of oppression have commonalities which are necessary to acknowledge. In a similar way, mutli-layered oppressions are different from each other.

        You have no idea what it is like to live with anti-Semitism on a daily basis. There is a constant threat to me just for being myself. It is not the same as a transwoman of color, but it exists. Just think back 70 years or even Paris months ago, Jews die because of who we are. Head covered or not, I’m still Jewish. Perhaps, I am not courageous enough to cover my head on a daily basis and a transgendered women of color who walks the street dressed just as she needs to is more courageous than I. I applaud and admire her strength. Yet, the threat to both of us is real.

        Not matter what, no one, regardless of ethnicity/race, gender identity, religious identity,, etc. should have to feel the threat of death, be beaten up or be killed for being who they are. It is wrong. It needs to change. That is my goal of this blog. We need to think of ways of subverting the system so that all people may flourish.

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      • John Erickson, thank you for your input. While I can’t pretend I can imagine all the levels of discrimination you have been facing, I do think your post needs more work. First, your assumption that Ivy is equating religious performance and gender performance (rather than comparing them) is not correct. Second, your assumption that Ivy is referring to covering her head with a head scarf seems to be missing the key point of her post. While your point would be equally confusing if she spoke about actual head scarfs or hijabs, and while her photo might not be too helpful, I believe in her post she seems to be referring to a kippah, a Jewish head cover traditionally associated with Jewish men, raising a very interesting and controversial topic of kippot being worn by Jewish women. She also explains why she would no longer wear her head covered in the place where she lives now, which brings me to my next point: your post is surprisingly U.S.-centered, which is especially confusing as Ivy is clearly not speaking about the U.S. environment in relation to her personal experience. She actually seems to be referring to her life in Eastern Europe, where, I believe, anti-Semitism has been actually well-documented and recognized as a systemic issue. This is not to say that anti-Semitism in the U.S., Western Europe or anywhere else for that matter doesn’t exist, rather to point out that you might be missing out on a whole universe of consequences of religious and/or gender performance that might be new to you. Thank you, John, again, for moderating this site voluntarily in your spare time and for dealing with all the people who reach out to you – that must be tough!

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    • Yes, I agree with your connection with gender identity performance, and religious identity performance, and I think we can extend this to many, many different kinds of performance for “public consumption” and “can’t we all get along” forces. As per Mr. Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage!”

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    • Ok, feeling guilty that my first response (5 am one) was rather flip and ‘knee-jerk’. Sorry.

      I think we build authentic selves by reacting to (accepting or rejecting) the social conventions and obstacles that we encounter in our cultural/historical experience. I assume that “self” is a somewhat fluid entity and subject to change, but I know other people assume “self” is a more solid entity whose core does not change.

      Also, I wish Kaitlyn Jenner had posed on a Wheaties box instead of Vanity Fair. Then I would feel my childhood had come full circle.

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      • Ivy –

        I’m a bit confused then. You said:
        “To go back to the point I made at the beginning. I think expressions of religiosity are similar to expressions of gender. In addition, claiming for one’s self a religious identity subverts patriarchal notions of gender. Yet, most importantly, performing a religious identity often expresses an inner truth. In both of these ways, religious identity performances could create freedom, disrupt power-over and destabilize patriarchy just as Butler hopes gender performativity does.”

        You equate the two with each other under the guise of expression. Expression is key to identity. One’s identity is intertwined with how they present and express themselves either through clothing (re: headscarves and their religious identity) or forms of gendered expression through clothes or the transformation of one’s outward bodily expression to match how they feel internally.

        You are courageous for HOWEVER or WHENEVER you choose to cover your head or not. No one is more courageous than the other person; all are forms of overcoming the daily struggle and oppression multiple people face on a daily basis rather it be antisemitism or anti-transgender attitudes.

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  9. Rebecca –

    I’m quite offended by your condescending and attacking tone. I never would speak to someone’s experiences the way that you did at the beginning and end of your comments and I would recommend that next time you try to edit that out because it reads as a personal attack rather than one about the actual arguments at play here and on this site that is part of the commenting policy; i.e.: attacks are not welcome!
    You don’t agree with comment, that’s fine and totally warranted and welcome; however, don’t make it personal. I take time to read each and every post on this site because I care about the reputation that this blog has and the blogs that I participate in. When I wake up to messages from dear and trusted friends stating that a blog I write for is being openly anti-queer or transphobic, I take issue with that as I hope you would too.

    I apologize because I didn’t mean to equate headscarf with a kippah; I was merely speaking in general about the act of covering up. If you’d like me to step outside of the US and also quote stats about the transgender community in places outside of the Western world, I’d be happy to. I’m sure you can already imagine they’re on par with that of antisemitic attitudes in Eastern Europe (read: Russia’s war of the LGBT community).

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  10. Thank you all for the comments you have made here and for taking time to address comments that raise red flags, include personal attacks, and/or hate speech. FAR has a comment policy that clearly states that personal attacks and insults will not be posted and further encourages us all to comment in such a way that further dialogues, not shuts it down. I’m including it below…

    But first, one thing I would like to say is that all of us, collectively, set the tone of FAR, both through our active participation and through our silence. I feel convicted that I do not participate in the comment section as much as I do in the behind-the-scenes and day-to-day work of FAR. I am implicated by John and “a girl with a meme’s” comments. I need to be more active, I know that. We indeed need more of us countering comments that are transphobic; the reality is that conversations about people who are trans are not abstract, but occur in a context in which violence against trans folks, and youth, is real and should be all of our concern.

    We all put our time into these conversations voluntarily and because we care about the issues, about the state of our world, and the aims of this small collective effort. On FAR we have the opportunity to practice our humanity with one another – with the many voices who willingly come together in conversation even while we may be very different. Our dialogue with one another is important – it makes a difference – it matters in this world. To quote Saba Mahmood, we meet across our differences in the hopes that we “might come to learn things that we did not already know before we undertook the engagement with another,” (from Politics of Piety, 36-37).

    Or, closer to home, Kate Brunner (FAR co-weaver), as we talked about the difficulties of dialogue said: “FAR, to me, is a container for dialogue. It is a space for the types of posts & discussions that help us understand (but not necessarily AGREE with) each other…yelling at [each other] and calling [each other names] will not ever help close the empathy gap…we have to keep talking to each other, firmly, patiently, passionately, but also compassionately. We have to keep holding the space open for discussion.”

    I love how Judith Butler says that: “I cannot muster the the ‘we’ except by finding the way in which I am tied to ‘you’” (Precarious Life, 49).

    ~~~~~~~
    We welcome comments and appreciate all viewpoints shared. There is no single definition of feminism and this is a place of many voices. Please be respectful and share with the intent of furthering dialogue and creating community. Personal attacks and insults will not be posted – nor will unsolicited ads or plugs. Blog admins reserve the ultimate right to review, moderate, and screen comments. By submitting a reader comment, the reader agrees to be bound by and accepts the terms laid forth here.

    Please remember that the purpose of FAR is to further feminist dialogue while nurturing one another, even across our differences. Our tone should be encouraging rather than judgmental. We all bring our own feminist perspectives and practices to the conversation and that should be welcomed. It may be that in our encounter with one another across the diversity of our contexts and experiences our definitions of feminisms may be expanded – a sign that feminisms is alive and grounded in the lived reality of people’s lives.

    Thank you for honoring our policy and we look forward to expanding dialogue and building community with all who are interested.

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  11. Thank you Rebecca for adding some clarity to what my post is highlighting. Multiple times in my post I never say that gender and religious expressions are the same but that there are some ways in which they function similarly. As for your tone, personally, I have no issue with it. Perhaps it borders on sarcastic, but I do not agree with John that it is a personal attack against him.

    John, as supportive as I am of the trans community, its struggles and its experiences, I do not think that the way to convince people that transphobic comments are wrong is to tell them to be ashamed of themselves. However much you may think that Rebecca’s posts attack you, you also publicly called out two women (Barbara and AE) for sharing their viewpoints in a way that seems to silence them by telling them to be ashamed of themselves. However much you disagree, telling someone to be ashamed of themselves for the viewpoints they hold attacks them as a person and does not attack the comment nor does it attempt to understand where they are coming from. It also does not convince them how they are wrong in their viewpoints. Wouldn’t an explanation about why you think they are wrong be more effective? For example, calling someone sexist may not be effective when the person doesn’t understand what it was they said that was sexist. Part of calling out sexism and transphobic comments I think requires education. What did they say that was offensive? Why is the comment offensive? Perhaps, even a question like “why did they say what they said” would be helpful? While the other party might not listen, at least you can feel justified that you conveyed your point rather than just a blanket public shaming.

    In my opinion, if FAR is a place for dialogue then we need to be able to listen to the viewpoints we don’t agree with and we need to challenge people to explain where they are coming from with their remarks rather than blanket them as “transphobic” however much they may seem transphobic to us.

    While I do not agree with the viewpoints in this comment section against the trans community and I would never for example say that Caitlyn is pretending to be a woman (in fact, I say much to the contrary), I can understand where some women-born-women come from and why they hold the perspective they do toward the trans community (at least the MTF members of it). I have a number of transwomen friends who have transitioned later in life and for as much as I believe they are expressing their true selves, there are things about growing up as a woman and sexism they do not understand. I have to say that transmen seem to understand and be sympathetic to women-born-women and feminism more so than the transwomen I’ve met because they grew up gendered as girls/women in society. Of course, I do not want to overgeneralize, rather I am speaking to the ways in which transwomen’s experiences are different from female-born women. I also know many transwomen who since transitioning want to better understand feminism and sexism because of the ways they now experience it personally. I applaud that effort.

    While I don’t know for sure, I think many feminists who call out transwomen for invading women’s spaces call them out because of these lack of shared experiences. Yes, some also call them out out of fear of men and fear of rape. Perhaps not the most rational argument, but isn’t it patriarchy that values rationality more than feeling? There are some women-born-women who have been so traumatized by the men in their lives that even those (who were once male-born and have since transitioned) frighten them. I believe that we cannot deny them their right to express their fear.

    Part of what is foundational to second wave feminism was the consciousness-raising groups which linked the experiences of women and oppression. To one day put on a dress and say that you know what it is like to be a woman is problematic. To say the same even after three, five or ten years of living as a women is insulting to many women-born-women who have been living under sexism and misogyny since the day they were born. Some of these women-born-women want to distance themselves from transwomen for that reason. I cannot blame them for that, but I would also add that this does neither group a favor. Perhaps we need to renew consciousness-raising groups in which transwomen and women-born-women come together to share their experiences and learn from each other. There may be much that women-born-women do not understand about what it is like to feel trapped in the wrong body, transition, gain acceptance, etc. at the same time there is much that transwomen can learn from women-born-women about sexism, feminism, etc. Maybe some of these groups exist already and I just don’t know about them.

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    • Thank you Ivy for your thoughtful reply. The trans community is an important part of the effort to get sexism off the planet. As such those persons have to work harmoniously with other groups of people ALSO hurt
      by sexism. And we have to be respectful of how other groups choose to meet and organize. Women born women have a legitimate right in my view to ask for space away from men and transpersons- a right to be just with other women born women. The same right that transperson have a right to meet together with ONLY other transpersons. Often things can be discussed and resolved just with the group who share
      the same kind of sexist oppression. For example, lesbians of color were meeting in our local women’s bookstore and I absolutely respected their choice to meet just with each other without white women present.
      That’s not “racist” or anything, nor is it “anti-transperson” to ask that trans people respect women who want to meet with only women. Until we are much further ahead getting sexism out of our communities these
      types of organizing forms will occur and are a step forward. Let’s fight the likes of FOX news, not each other.

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    • Ivy,
      I appreciate very much your articulation of the dynamics of real and potential conflict between female-born-women and transwomen. To return to your point about the similarities between gender performance and religious identity performance, I think it would be important to pursue a comparison to the dynamics of those born and raised within a religious identity tradition and those who choose it later in life. Despite the halakhic place of converts to Judaism as equal (almost entirely) to born Jews, the dynamic between born Jews and Jewish converts sometimes also shows, it seems to me, some of the same dynamics. Converts are sometimes dismissed because they didn’t grow up with the experience of anti-semitism that born Jews did. Their authenticity is questioned and they may sometimes be seen as representatives of the dominant Christianity taking over Jewish spaces.
      I have kept this comment relating to Jewish communities, but I suspect that it may apply to other communities similarly.
      What do you think about continuing the comparison in this way?

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  12. Thank you, Ivy, for your comment here. I can tell you really thought this out. It communicates so well the complexities of people’s various perspectives and our possibility for dialogue about them. I appreciate it!

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    • Thank you Ivy for your further clarification on your arguments. Like I said above, I thought your comparison and linkages were interesting and you’ve helped clarify your points now.

      I’m sorry, but it sounds like your defending the transphobic statements by AE and Barbara under the guise of further education being needed for them. Is that the case? Should individuals like myself or yourself who equate the trans lobby with male supremacy organizations take more time out of our days to educate ignorance? If you’re defending them, that is fine, that is your prerogative but I just can sit there and let comments like that become symbolic of this blog, especially when there is no genderqueer or trans presence actively writing here. The questions I ask myself when reading comments but here and elsewhere are: Are these comments hate speech? Is this comment welcoming to members outside of the FAR community? Where is the line for what is legitimate discussion and then just hate speech?

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      • No it’s not hate speech to call out male supremacy, and yes, supporting transgender politics requires acceptance of male supremacist beliefs. Please hear me out.

        Lots of feminists will tell you that feminism is all about equality — it’s about securing equal justice under law for all human beings. I’m a different kind of feminist. While I certainly support equal justice under law, my feminism focuses on females. Specifically, my feminist priority is to liberate female people — women and girls — from global, all-pervasive male supremacy, a.k.a. patriarchy, a.k.a. the way the whole world currently operates.

        Why such a narrow focus? Why concern myself primarily with females? Because in all nations on this planet, females endure violence and exploitation simply because they are female. It’s not because they “identify” as female, or because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. It’s not because of their personality traits or education levels or poverty or wealth. Females are oppressed on the basis of having female bodies. FGM, rape, forced marriage, forced pregnancy, prostitution, pornography, limited access to abortion, limited access to birth control, compulsory heterosexuality, and the list goes on — these are real-world examples of patriarchy enacted upon the female body.

        My feminism asks: What’s the source of this problem? Is it the female body? No. The problem is male supremacy. The problem is male entitlement, male disrespect, and male ignorance concerning the female body.

        So, when I hear other feminists say that it’s *exclusionary* toward transwomen to claim that abortion access is a women’s issue, and that it’s somehow *hateful* to presume that women have vaginas — well, I’m going to wonder: What and who, exactly, is served by pretending that vaginas are suddenly optional? Who is served by pretending that people can “identify” themselves in and out of patriarchal oppression as if it’s a costume rather than a vicious system of control? Who is served by pressuring lesbians to accept that a penis is female genitalia, and calling lesbians bigots if they refuse?

        Male supremacy is served, that’s what. That’s who. Males telling women what it feels like, and what it means, to be female — that’s male supremacy. It’s also, not coincidentally, what many male-to-female transgendered people are doing.

        I’m a woman, and I can tell you how I feel, but I can’t presume to tell you “how a woman feels.” Yet the transgender lobby will tell you that transwomen are more female than most females because they *feel* like females, they *know* themselves to be female because they have female brains. To me, this sounds like projection, appropriation, or delusion. It doesn’t sound like feminism.

        Women aren’t allowed to say this. We aren’t welcome to comment frankly and critically about the basic assumptions and values of transgenderism. Heroes and champions of the transgender community have let women know in no uncertain terms that we will be silenced with accusations of “hate speech,” and in some cases, with threats of violence. Who and what is served by this?

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  13. Lisa,

    I would ask you if a 4-5 year old transgendered child knows of that supremacy you are imposing on them? Have you met young trans children? Are they a threat? Are they a threat to the same women that you and are are actively trying to work at liberating? Would they be a threat to children?

    Was that threat language not also used to describe the treats on the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of the family when acceptance of the reality of being LGB was everywhere?

    Look– we are fighting for the same things. I hear you when you say that as feminists we are fighting for the liberation of women and children–but without intersectionality– you are lost and feminism is lost. I don’t say that aggressively. I say that with SO MUCH SADNESS. Just yesterday I saw a man defend the shootings in Charleston saying, ” White men are disenfranchised. Look what women have done. Those dead bodies are feminist collateral.”

    The horror I felt was something I cant even describe. We are not alone on this island– and patriarchy does actually hurt everyone. The burden on it not only chains me, but every single person affected by it. I cant throw chains off if there is a new person to throw them right back on when I take a step forward. There is no way to free women from patriarchy if we do not free men (and women who do not want to be freed and gay men and women, and trans men and women, and the planet, and animals and all of us of every color, shape, feel, denomination) from patriarchy.

    The future is intersectionalism. The hope is there– particularly if what we really want is to ACTUALLY be free. There is no freedom without allies.

    Like

    • This rings so true, deeply true: “I cant throw chains off if there is a new person to throw them right back on when I take a step forward.” That really is our challenge, how to think collectively, creatively, for all of our well-being, in light of all the various, concretely real, contexts. Thank you for this.

      Like

      • I cannot tell you how great it is to finally see and have these types of discussions on this blog. Although we do not all agree it is great that it is happening!

        Like

      • Yes, absolutely! Thank you all for the depth of engagement and for your investment to richer conversations and understanding.

        Like

    • Ah, yes. Let’s think of the children.

      Who is served when adults insist that minor children have a moral and legal right to undergo extensive surgical procedures to alter their otherwise healthy bodies? Who benefits from allowing children to choose as a matter of their own sacrosanct free agency to be sterilized chemically or surgically? These children will require synthetic hormones and other drugs, and additional medical intervention, for the rest of their lives. Does this liberate children? Or does it enslave them to the medical-pharmaceutical industry?

      Who exactly is throwing chains around whom when children are trotted out to lend legitimacy to transgender politics?

      Bonus question: Who benefits from the theory of intersectionality? Intersectionality refuses to name, let alone address, the reality of male supremacism across all cultures, all races, all ethnicities, all nations, all major religions, and all major institutions including the LGBT movement. Who does this serve?

      Like

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