The Conservative Gendered Stereotyping of Children, Radical Feminism and transgenderism.

This is Part One of a series responding to the issues around transgenderism and the media representations therein.

 When my daughter was 3 she decided she wanted to be a mermaid for the ability to swim underwater. This lasted until she realised that mermaids do two things: swim and brush their hair. Understandably, this was deemed too boring. So, she became a mermaid superhero, which combined awesome swimming skills (and potentially a visit to Atlantis) with the ability to fly and read minds (and ignore her mother). Eventually this became a superhero mermaid rock star since I, in a moment of extreme unreasonableness, refused to let her dye her hair bright blue. (She decided her way around this was to become the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as the band could veto my no blue hair rule, but that’s a whole different story).

My daughter no longer wants to be a mermaid or a rock star. She still loves superheroes and we spend a lot of time in comic book stores and at Comic Cons. She also has short hair. Despite clearly being a girl, at a recent Comic Con she was referred to as a boy because she chose to attend as a male superhero. The fact that many of the traditional male superheroes, such as Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Green Lantern,  are being replaced by women was deemed irrelevant. GrantedIMG_7717 this had a lot to do with the extreme sexualisation of female superheroes and villains, as seen in the comic artist Frank Quitely exhibit at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. Quitely was involved in the changes to the X-men costumes to make them more ‘practical’, except for Emma Frost who is wearing platform boots and two tiny pieces of cloth covering her breasts.*IMG_7716

Whilst deeply annoying, the ‘misgendering’ of my daughter did raise some interesting questions on why men assumed a primary school child had to be a boy because her costume featured neither a tutu nor a corset. The teenage boys dressed as female superheroes were classed as ‘transgressive’. My daughter, however, had to be a boy.

I was reminded of this situation when the utterly dreadful Good Housekeeping article on a boy whose Conservative Christian parents decided he must be a transgirl went viral. This child was forcibly transitioned by his parents in response to their relatives suggested he might be gay because he liked to play with toys that were for ‘girls’:

“Shortly after Kai turned 2, friends and family were starting to notice her behavior. Living in Pearland, Texas, that meant we were getting a lot of sidelong glances and questions. Kai would only play with other girls and girls’ toys. She said boys were “gross.” Family members were flat-out asking me if this kid was gay. It made me nervous, and I was constantly worried about what people would think of me, of us and of my parenting. While family was questioning whether Kai was gay ….”

Kai’s parents were so horrified by a son who like to wear bright dress up clothes that they decided he must be a girl.  This poor child has to contend with homophobic parents more concerned about appearances than raising an emotionally healthy child with a wide range of interests.

The correct response to such homophobic comments from family and friends should be to remove them from your child’s life (and deal with your own homophobia). Yet, these parents were feted by Good Housekeeping for transitioning a child to cover up their homophobia. Because having a gay child is the worst possible thing than raising a son who plays with toys traditionally assigned to girls and who may be gay (or, you know, just a kid who likes playing with toys). We are expected to celebrate these parents for their homophobia and for caring more about the neighbours than their own child.

This Good Housekeeping article encompasses all of my fears about the ways in which the construction of the Trans narrative is both deeply conservative and harmful to children.** Rather than recognizing the ways in which gender stereotypes create a hierarchy of male/ female and the decades of feminist research into the negative consequences this has for girls, we have, once again, arrived at a point where gender is deemed a binary with children unable to be just children. So, my superhero loving daughter, who only reads comics featuring female superheroes and villains, is being defined as male by so-called leftist people, who cannot conceive of women outside of a hyper-sexualised, violent pornographied object and by right-wing religious fundamentalists who believe women are inferior to men. It is not unsurprising that an Islamic fundamentalist country like Iran forcibly transitions people with the other option being death. The story of Kai demonstrates a similar trend in fundamentalist Christian communities in the US – the isolation and shaming of gay and lesbian children within these communities is well-documented and is responsible for the self-harming and suicides of far too many children.

I cannot see anything liberating about forcing children into categories of boy/girl based solely on whether or not they like trains or tutus – and all the subsequent medical interventions – or the entirety of the bigender/agender/ genderqueer constructions that continue to reify the sex based hierarchy rather than challenging them. Certainly, the recent article in the New York Times entitled “My daughter is not Trans, she’s a tomboy” still supports the theory that ‘girls’, unless they do ‘boy stuff’ are not as good as being born male. Girls who play with Barbies are bad and girls who climb trees are good is an asinine narrative that punishes children for trying to learn who they are within a culture that punishes children who try to conform or challenge the gendered patriarchal constructs of  masculine/ feminine.

Labelling children transgender at the age of 2 is a conservative and reactionary response to the questioning of gender. It is inherently homophobic and it fails to challenge the neoliberal discourse of ‘choice’ which depoliticises liberation politics and renders any discussion of class-based politics as ‘hateful’. As a radical feminist, I want nothing less than the full liberation of all women from the white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.  This includes recognising that gender is not a performance or an ‘identity’. It is nothing more than the systemic social, cultural and physical oppression of women’s bodies, predicated on women’s reproductive, sexual and caring labour, which does nothing more than a reinforce a hierarchy of man/woman.

*Thank you to Claire Heuchan who pointed out this part of the exhibit to me.

** Part two is a discussion of the medical establishment and the transitioning of children.

Suggested Reading:

Dr. Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences, (London,2010).

Dr. Cordelia Fine, Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of our Gendered Minds, (UK, 2017)

Glosswitch, ‘Our culture dehumanises women by reducing them all to breeders and non-breeders‘, (New Statesman, 2014)

Claire Heuchan, “Sex, Gender and the New EssentialismSister Outrider, (7.2.2017).

Claire Heuchan, Lezbehonest about Queer Politics Erasing Lesbian WomenSister Outrider, (15.3.2017).

.Claire Heuchan, The Problem that has no name because women is too “essentialist”Sister Outrider, (22.2.2017).

bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody, (UK, 2000)

Miranda Kiraly  & Meagan Tyler (eds.), Freedom Fallacy: The Limits of Liberal Feminism, (Australia, 2015)

Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, (Oxford University Press, 1986)

Peggy Ornstein, Girls & Sex, (Great Britain, 2016), see pgs 160-165

PurpleSage, The Relentless Tide of Sex Stereotypes, (20.5.2016)

Dr. Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, “Gender is not a spectrum”Aeon, (28.6.2016)

Dr. Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, What I believe about Sex & GenderMore Radical with Age, (2015)

Denise Thompson, Radical Feminism Today, (London, 2001)

 

#womenwrites: on gender, identity politics and VAWG

All politics is “identity politics” by @MayaGoodfellow
via @WritersofColour

Charlotte Bronte did NOT repair her mourning shoes with her dead sister’s hair! by @KatharineEdgar

‘Impunity has consequences’: the women lost to Mexico’s drug war by Nina Lakhani in Jalapa

Princesses Are Terrifying. So Is Ivanka Trump via @ElleMagazine

Maybe We Do Need White History Month or Millennials Don’t Know Shit About Slavery or Picking Appropriate Essay Topics or Being a Black English Adjunct Sucks Sometimes– via @writermrsmith

I’m Tired by @RowenaMonde  via @RoomOfOurOwn

A brief history of ‘gender’  via @wordspinster

On Optimism and Despair by Zadie Smith

National Geographic’s ‘gender revolution’ cover fails women via @FeministCurrent

Frank Maloney is not a ‘butterfly’. He is a violent man.

Frank Maloney has a history of domestic violence. Quite a few people seem keen to forget this fact in their rush to deify him since transitioning. Today’s erasure of male violence comes from Polly Toynbee in her article ‘Here’s why feminism must embrace transpeople’:

there was also the jolt of a macho boxing promoter emerging like a butterfly as Kellie Maloney.

Granted, anyone who refers to political disagreements between women as ‘catfights’ isn’t exactly practising feminism, but completely erasing Maloney’s history of violence is inherently anti-woman. Transitioning does not magically make one a better person. And, it helps no one to pretend it does.

 

The Murder Statistics of Transgender People: Sources

 

Whilst engaged in research to respond to a comment on this blog, I was sent the following sources. I don’t know how to link photos in the comments so I’ve published them as a blog post instead.

This map is from Transgender Respect vs Transphobia Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 16.12.36

This breakdown of the statistics in the UK was first published on Mumsnet:

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 16.15.44

(I would suggest the statistics in the US are different due to racism and consequences of poverty and a complete lack of health care forcing vulnerable people in prostitution, which increases the risk of violence, rape and murder. Because men.)

This was on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 16.16.42

 

This from Parker Molloy on the 1 in 12 stat is worth reading. I would suggest reading Kay Brown on why she came up with the 1 in 12 statistic and why it’s wrong to continue using it. I also recommend this article “The Murder Statistics of Transgender People”.

 

Language does matter: menstruation is not “transphobic”

UCLA student Zoey Freedman weighed in on the global debate around taxing tampons. Normally, I’m a huge supporter of any publication willing to print this: 

Aside from some forms of birth control or medical complications, nothing will stop a woman’s period. It’s a natural part of having a uterus that just can’t be helped.

Health care currently covers services such as sexually transmitted infection testing, birth control, abortion and even access to erectile dysfunction treatments such as penile implants.

Although erectile dysfunction is a problem, it is not one that all men are inherently born with. Menstruation, on the other hand, is something almost every woman deals with at some point in her life. It’s a bit ridiculous that surgeries for sexual needs are covered before everyday feminine hygiene products.

Unfortunately, the editors felt the need to include this statement:

This blog post refers to individuals who menstruate as women because the author wanted to highlight gender inequality in health care. We acknowledge that not all individuals who menstruate identify as women and that not all individuals who identify as women menstruate, but feel this generalization is appropriate considering the gendered nature of most health care policies.

It used to be that we couldn’t talk about women’s biology because it grossed men out. Now, we can no longer talk about women’s biology because it’s transphobic. Menstruation, FGM, vulvas, breasts, birthing a child, breastfeeding, infertility, menopause, and hysterectomies have all become banned topics for fear we cause transwomen ‘violence’. Oddly, I’ve never seen viagra, something widely available on health insurance in the US whilst birth control remains controversial, deemed ‘transphobic’. Vulva cupcakes, on the other hand, constitute ‘violence’.

Women have been fighting for hundreds of years to end real gender essentialism that is predicated on a hierarchical construction of sex. Now, we’re seeing a resurgence of reifying gender through an obsession with labelling brains ‘male’ or ‘female’. Recognising that a uterus exists only in a female body makes you transphobic and guilty of the murder of transwomen (despite the fact that it’s pretty clear that men are responsible for the physical violence that results in the murder of transwomen – not women’s words).

Women have been actually dying for thousands of years because of the denial of the reality of our bodies. Childbirth remains one of the biggest killers of women worldwide. Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise, but we aren’t allowed to point that infections pass more easily during penis-in-vagina sex or that the vast majority of urinary tract infections are caused by a penis that isn’t clean. Instead, young girls are denied an education because menstruation is considered ‘unclean’.

Viagra is a medical necessity to ensure erect penises aren’t denied sexual pleasure, including ‘female’ penises. Tampons are classed as a luxury despite menstruation being a biological necessity.

The liberation of women from male violence and other causes and consequences of the white supremacist capitalist-patriarchy will not happen whilst we are banned from talking about the biological realities of women’s bodies. Discussing menstruation is not transphobic and it will not cause the death of transwomen.

I really hope this is meant to be a joke:

because this has to be one of the stupidest things I have ever read:

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 14.00.42

The province of Ontario needs to do some serious work on their social studies curriculum if this what their graduates come out with.

Kim Kardashian is a better choice than Caitlyn Jenner for the BBC Women’s Hour

This is the response the from BBC to my complaint about the inclusion of transwoman Caitlyn Jenner on the Women’s Hour Power List:

We note you were unhappy that Caitlyn Jenner featured on the Woman’s Hour Power List 2015.

This list featured women involved in a wide range of areas, from politics and fashion to journalism and entertainment. As stated on the Woman’s Hour website, “The aim of this year’s list was to identify a range of women who have an exceptionally large impact on our lives, not just because of their job title but because of their personal ability to influence others.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1wsc6xjTph1CvN5jWzLtfzT/womans-hour-2015-power-list-influencers

The list was decided upon by a panel of judges, headed up by journalist and broadcaster Emma Barnett and including human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy QC and Radio 1 DJ Gemma Cairney. They looked at well-known women’s personal ability to influence others. You can read more about the judges here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1YmbsbyVkMDTXgjwgn9P4Ff/the-womans-hour-2015-power-list-influencers

As the following BBC News article on Caitlyn Jenner’s inclusion notes:

“Speaking about Jenner’s inclusion in this year’s top 10, Daily Mail columnist and judge Sarah Vine acknowledged it was controversial, for several reasons.

“Initially… many of us felt that Kim Kardashian would have to appear somewhere – not because any of us felt any particular admiration for the woman, but simply because her influence on millions of women worldwide is undeniable.

“But then the Caitlyn Jenner story broke and I in particular felt that she trumped all others in the celebrity stakes.”

She added: “I understand why someone like Jenner might make people feel uncomfortable; but she is a human being like the rest of us and should not be denied the same rights – or indeed respect – as those who live more conventional lives.

“As to her influence, it can only be to the good if a wider audience can learn to understand her experience.””

Woman’s Hour editor Alice Feinstein also gave her thoughts on the list, adding:

“”The way power operates in today’s global, interconnected society is not straightforward – brokers of hard power like prime ministers, presidents and CEOs are no longer calling all the shots.

“What I wanted to examine in this year’s list of influencers is how women are operating outside traditional power structures to get things done.””

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-33344317

We hope this is helpful in explaining the focus of this list, and giving more insight into the judges’ decisions, but we appreciate that you may continue to disagree with Caitlyn Jenner’s inclusion and we appreciate your feedback.

Please know complaints are sent to programme makers and senior management every morning and we’ve included your points in our overnight reports. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC ensuring that complaints are seen quickly by the right people.

I would have preferred Kim Kardashian be on the power list instead of Caitlyn Jenner, since Kardashian has not:

  1. Killed another woman this year with her car. Unlike Jenner who killed Kim Howe
  2. Kardashian financially supports her daughter. Unlike Jenner who failed to financially support his sons from his first marriage.
  3. Kardashian hasn’t bragged about stealing anyone’s underwear. Unlike Jenner who stole his stepdaughters’ underwear and wore it. Which is massively creepy and the type of activity sexual predators enjoy.

Obviously, the BBC doesn’t let little things like child abuse or killing women get in the way of declaring an abusive man a great woman. I can’t wait to see next year’s list. Maybe they will include a child sexual predator for funnsies.

Caitlyn Jenner makes Woman’s Hour Power List

Shall we enumerate the ways in which Caitlyn Jenner has helped women:

1. Killed Kim Howe with his car.

2. Failed to financially support his children.

3. Stole his teenage step-daughter’s underwear to wear it around the house.

4. Reinforced neurosexism and heteronormativity with his stance on ‘female brains’ and ‘female souls’.

So, Bruce Jenner makes the list for doing sweet fuck all for women. Fabu-fucking-doodle. Next we’ll see Charlie Sheen on the list for not insulting, denigrating and threatening. one of the mother’s of his children for a period of 24 hours.

 

I made a formal complaint to the BBC here.

Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender woman who has killed a woman (Kim Howe) through dangerous driving, failed to financially support her children from previous relationships, and who admitted to stealing and wearing her step-daughter’s lingerie has been placed on Women’s Hour Power List. What precisely has Jenner done for women that negate killing a woman, financial child abuse, and stealing her stepdaughter’s lingerie (which in and of itself is deeply creepy)?

Could Woman’s Hour not find any women to place on this list that haven’t committed criminal offences like financial child abuse? Or, not killed anyone recently?

Jenner’s inclusion makes a mockery of the idea of a power list.

Frank Maloney is a perpetrator of domestic violence

Frank Maloney attempted to strangle his then wife Tracey. Maloney also claims to have engaged in emotionally abusive behaviour.

According to the Daily Mail, and Maloney, this isn’t really a big deal because Maloney has since had a gender reassignment surgery and is now known as Kellie.

Maloney has admitted to committing domestic violence but we’re supposed to feel sympathy as it was a:

“toxic combination of pent-up frustration, anguish over her gender identity and booze had caused Kellie to lunge at 48-year-old Tracey.”

Because those sound nothing like the normal excuses used to minimise responsibility for domestic violence. Anger, alcohol, and mental illness do not cause domestic violence. Men, and domestic violence is nearly always perpetrated by a man, make a choice to engage in emotional and physical abuse.

Maloney is a perpetrator. I don’t care if he’s since undergone gender reassignment surgery. That doesn’t negate his choice to behave abusively.

Maloney made a choice. He should be held legally accountable for those choices; not fawned over by the mainstream media eager to minimise yet another example of domestic violence perpetrated by a celebrity.

Bruce Jenner killed a woman

Kim Howe was killed in February of this year when her car was rear-ended by Bruce Jenner and then pushed into oncoming traffic.

Kim Howe is dead because of the actions of Bruce Jenner. It would be nice if some of the hagiographies being written recently would remember that Kim Howe was a real person. That she matters too.