Category Archives: Uncategorized
Hello, gentle readers
So, I’m not really a dieting type of woman, as those of you who know me know. But I am experiencing some symptoms of arthritis, and I’m not as perky in the mornings as I used to be, and I’m kinda stuffed up a lot. So, I thought, once we’ve (okay, it’s only me) finished eating all the sugary treats left over from Christmas, I’m going to begin with my new diet plan.
Which will be founded on bacon, nut butters and kombucha or other fermented spicy things like sauerkraut or kimchi juice. Also coffee, because even though my insides are starting to warn me away from coffee, i’m not gonna give it up. It’s my LAST thing! dammit.
Also, I’m going to do intermittent fasting, I think. I told a friend of mine about that idea, and said what my doctor had told me about it, “our distant ancestors couldn’t eat breakfast the moment they woke up, they had to go wrestle down an antelope first”. She (my friend) sensibly reminded me that our distant ancestors had a life expectancy of about 12 years. We were more like dogs then, I guess.
But it’s a cold and dismal dreary day here, might be better to have a hot chocolate and ponder that idea a bit longer before acting on it…
but the bacon and nut butter thing, THAT’s a good idea.
I started teaching on line this past week, AND i had my first session as apprentice at Terminal City Barbell Club. So when the university finally fires me, and I take them to court and have to pay for a lawyer and so on, I’ll have something else insecure and underpaid upon which to fall back. I do love the gym, it’s my favourite place to hang out. Yesterday I did a bunch of negative chins, many squats, nearly as many overhead presses, and a few sandbag getups. Then i watched a few people do similar stuff, and one of my gym buddies invited me to go with her to her first powerlifting meet on February 10th. She’s on the wait list to register, but even if she doesn’t get in, we’ll go so she can get an idea of what it’s all about. I used to compete. Then i was a referee for a while, too. But that was all more than 20 years ago, and I’m sure it’s changed a bit. Besides, those t-shirts are a bit thin now.
Alright. That’s all I’m going to post for now. I know it’s not much, but I want to post something once a week, and even if it’s a bit vapid (word of the day, Deborah!), it’s a bit of writing practice.
I hope it’s warmer in your homes and hearts than it is outside at present.
This comment from Feminist Current, spotted by Dead Wild Roses — via It’s Females who Have Gender Dysphoria!
it’s New Year’s Day. January 1st, 2018. This year it will be 30 years since i moved to Vancouver. October of 1988. Never planned to be here so long. Well, I never planned, really. I’m still not really a ‘plan-ahead’ sort. Oh well. I’ve crashed along this way so far and what a great life I have.
Last night, Dec 31, 2017, we went down to the beach, the dog beach in far east Vancouver, near the port there. Earlier in the day, we had made the Druid-inspired dolls of sticks and strips of fabric, each with something to leave in the past year written on it, dipped in parafin, wrapped ’round the sticks. My friend Terry met me after my regular Sunday evening meeting, drove us to pick up Su, and off we went in our long underwear and puffy coats to the park.
I wrote on my strips of fabric to leave to 2017 my self-doubt, the luxury of stillness in the face of fear, and a few broken friendships. Those are the big ones for me. I don’t like goodbyes. I don’t break up with people — not friends, lovers, co-workers, enemies — not me.
Su said to me once, “you don’t like saying goodbye, do you?”
“Nope, I don’t”, I replied.
“You don’t like saying ‘no’ either. It’s always, ‘Hello Hello Hello; Yes Yes Yes!’ with you, isn’t it?”
So writing down the names of friends I have loved, and setting fire to them, letting go of those relationships, that’s a big thing. They are women with whom I had good, long, sustaining friendships. One I still count as an ally, and I love her. We don’t understand each other, though, I think — perhaps we never have — and I betrayed her trust. She said two years ago that she didn’t want to be friends anymore. A second woman betrayed me, and made her decision to take an easier, softer path rather than trust her own instincts, or me. She was close, but decided she would not make an alliance with or commitment to feminism. The break was sudden and harsh, but I have to leave any resentment behind. Her decision was not about me, I know she loves me in her way, but I don’t trust her now. That’s okay. And a third was stalwart beside me for a long time — she helped me grieve, and helped me lift my eyes to the horizon. She was always on a different path, though. She has different and opposing political commitments to mine. At a certain point, we could no longer be friends. We’ve never talked about it, but we’re clear with each other, i think.
I left them in 2017, these friendships, these alliances. This is not to say we will never be friends or allies again. It means, to me, that now there is space for something else. I don’t want to be burdened with resentments or unfulfilled yearning for something that never was or could be. I wish them well, as always. And as my doll burned, and the smoke went out to the ocean, I felt relief. A burden lifted.
I also burned my resentment and rage toward the boss people at my university. I want to have room for compassion for them. They’re just afraid, is all. They need me much more than I need them. But at the same time, I am dispensable — I’m just a sessional lecturer, after all. We are literally a dime a dozen. Did I tell you, speaking of that, that the dean of the faculty of education summoned me to his office in November? I couldn’t go because I was in Red Deer at the time (I have a draft blog post about that wonderful trip, I might get around to posting it), and by the time I returned, he’d decided that he’d best proceed with caution. I expect he is paying attention to the Lindsay Shepherd case at Wilfred Laurier University. That’s a link to the whole recording, which is pretty long. You’ve probably already heard about it anyway, and know that the university apologized to Shepherd. I wish I’d recorded my meetings. My bosses said the same kinds of things to me they did to Shepherd. Shameful things, like equating my views to that of a Holocaust denier. But it’s their shame, anyway, and so not my business, really.
The dean has never told me that he no longer wants to meet. His office minions only told my Faculty Association rep when she called them. He didn’t tell me in the first place that he wanted to meet with me, either. He got his assistant guy to do that. Apparently, late in the semester, they received more complaints. They are ‘reflecting’ according to the Faculty Relations guy, who talked to the Faculty Association woman, who told me. I’m still rattled about all that, of course. This blog is private now because of that whole mess, because my “superiors” have accused me of breaking the law and harming students. But I decided I’d burn that, too. There is nothing I can do about their behaviour toward me, and nothing I can do to prevent them from firing me, or from taking ‘disciplinary actions’, whatever they may be, in the future. So I burned my rage and disappointment, and I will go forward this year to teach the best I can, and use the room I have freed up to seek new opportunities, to shore up alliances, open broader horizons. Write more, read more, start running (!), train more… And speak.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, especially in the last four months, it’s that people want to hear and to discuss a full range of ideas about gender, feminism, sexism, racism, classism, oppression — they want to talk about it all and to figure out what they think — not only what they’re allowed to think. Way more of my students told me they appreciated having an opportunity to talk about the implications of trans ideology than complained about me. I think they protected me, too, by not bringing it up again in class. That was a shame. After all that, they didn’t — we didn’t talk much about anything contentious. We were all muffled, all semester.
It’s frightening, that speaking up thing. I knew it, of course, it’s easy to see what happens to women who speak up. When Margaret Mitchell told the House of Commons, in May of 1982, that one in ten women in Canada were battered by their husbands, her (male) colleagues laughed at and heckled her. Never mind that Canadian men were, with impunity, beating and raping the women they had sworn to “cherish, love and protect” in marriage. When women speak, we are still met with derision and insult. As well as threats. More than 30 years later, women who speak up about sexism and racism face terrible sanctions — from ‘no-platforming’ to death threats (Anna Sarkesian, Cindy Blackstock, Julie Bindel, Lierre Keith, Germaine Greer, Meghan Murphy, Magdalen Berns, Chimimanda Achidie, to name a few) — women who speak about male violence (including prostitution), racist state policies, and gender ideology face serious consequences. I’m small potatoes, me. Not in the same league at all as the women I listed there, but scary enough, I guess, to the education faculty here. Scary enough that they will draw up ‘guidelines’ in order to silence feminist dissent. Well.
So I also burned patriarchy, prostitution, male violence against women, gender. These are structural and they will take generations to dismantle. But when i burned them, I imagined the space their absence will free up. It will be space for us to see each other. It will be space to breathe. it will be space to imagine freedom together. All of those were part of forming the things personal to me that I burned — self-doubt, paralysis in the face of fear, those friendships, the clutter that turns me round and blocks my way. So I burned the personal and the political. I asked my ancestors to take it, to guide me toward right actions. I watched the smoke rise and the fog shroud the harbour across the bay. We stood together on the shore and felt the warmth of the flames as we let go of the stuff that holds us back.
They don’t look like much, but they threw off a lot of warmth. Here’s to a Happy New Year, to all of us. May we all, in 2018, bring freedom closer.
Hello, Beautiful People–
I started this post in mid-August. Since then, since this meeting about which you will read, I’ve had two more meetings. Four more students have complained about me (you’ll see why, below), and many more have, in class, in emails and in person said “thank you”. But still. Big Brother is watching and everyone’s turning into a Rhinoceros–
August 9th I met with the head of our department and the associate dean of the faculty in which I teach. Two students had gone to them with concerns about my teaching. In 2012, I went to a similar meeting, with similar boss people, for very similar reasons.
Other than that, these two meetings were worlds apart.
In 2012, three men in my class went to the teacher education office and complained that I was “sexist against men” — they were angry with my approach, and they found my feminism distasteful. They didn’t say that last bit, but that was the essence of their complaint. I usually spend some time talking about sexism in my classes, and male violence against women, and structural inequalities based on the political categories to which we are born — namely, sex, race and class. We get into it. We read and talk about the dehumanizing effects on all of us of the reproduction of inequity that the institutions of education, law, medicine perpetuate (especially education, on account of they’re all becoming teachers). It’s difficult. Sometimes I am a bit heavy-handed, and was even more so then, when I was less experienced. I could’ve done things different. I have done since then. Different every time, every year, every class. Often my students disagree with me, and sometimes they won’t say what they think, but more often they will, and more often we can explore these contradictory and difficult ideologies, ideas, approaches, and questions as well as together feel nervous, relieved, angry or curious or any combination of those (and more) emotions.
I don’t remember now what the exact incident was, but I do remember a particularly uncomfortable day, wherein several men became accusatory — one said he didn’t like that I said “all men benefit materially from some men’s violence against women”, another told me he was my ally, and several women said, “i don’t think so…” (but only one said that in class–others came to me after). One man left the classroom and never returned, not for the rest of the semester (I don’t remember if it was that was the same day or later on). I was a teaching assistant then, and my faculty mentor received and graded his final project.
Anyway, at that 2012 meeting, with the head of the department, and representatives from the teacher ed office and one of the main creators of the course and my faculty mentor, they started with reassurance. “We have to discuss these concerns with you, but we know you are a good teacher, and we support your work here” they said. “In fact, that some students are rattled enough to come to us indicates that you’re doing some interesting work, that you’re on the right track.” They met me with generosity and respect. They worked to help me check my defensiveness and to help me plan how to return to my classroom and try to deal with the hurt feelings and conflict between me and some of my students, and between the men who complained about me and some of their colleagues. They protected, supported and educated me, helped me find my part. In so doing, they reinforced me and helped me become a better teacher.
Fast forward five years,
When the bosses emailed to ask me to meet them, they did not tell me what it was about, nor did they invite me to bring someone with me. I know that these people don’t bother with lowly sessionals unless we’re a real problem to them, so I was pretty worried.
I revealed my anxiety at the beginning of the meeting, and they responded with some ‘lighthearted’ joking. “I’m a little paranoid,” I said, “I’m pretty sure you don’t ask sessionals in for meetings to tell us what a great job we’re doing”.
“Sometimes we do” replied the Associate Dean, “But we have some concerns”. I know, and they also told me at the beginning of the meeting that they have to bring problems to my attention if students go to them. That’s fine with me, though I would hope students will come to me first (one did. Another did not).
Once they got that out of the way, they proceeded with the accusations. Students won’t “feel safe”, they said. “You’re on record as saying you won’t use people’s preferred pronouns”, they said. And “You’re breaking the law”.
Of course I was delighted to finally have an opportunity to speak, with people in positions of authority in my workplace, about the contradictions between gender-identity and trans-inclusion and sex-based protections in the provincial human rights code (sadly, I’m joking. I had no such expectations). I said that there is almost nothing in the curriculum about sexism and male violence against women and girls in schools. I said we discuss many controversial and difficult topics in class, and people are often uncomfortable. Including me. But no one is “unsafe”. I want them to be uncomfortable, for all of us to agree to “stay in the discomfort” and to meet our feelings with curiosity, and each other with integrity and respect. We are looking at some powerful things here — policies designed to maintain the structures of domination and subordination — institutions that shaped us, and in which we have invested a lot. Criticizing those institutions and analyzing those policies is kind of risky. We have to, though. It’s part of our job as educators.
They said, “you have a lot of power over your students, you could fail them”. I said, “That’s true. I could. But I won’t fail them merely because we disagree. YOU have a lot of power over me, too. You could fire me.”
“That’s not exactly true” said one, “there are procedures…” which statement I found not at all comforting, for some reason. Neither of them said, for instance, “we wouldn’t fire you because we disagree with you, we want to learn how to continue to speak to each other even though we disagree, and reach some understanding”. That would’ve been nice.
They offered no reassurances. Once, one of them said, “I am beginning to understand what you mean”, and I’m sorry now that I didn’t ask her to describe to me what that was. At the end of the meeting I said, “I know we all want the students in our courses to have a rich educational experience, and we have their well-being foremost in our practice”, and they agreed. As I opened the door to leave, they thanked me for meeting with them. I said “you’re welcome. I know you’re watching me now”.
It was a terrible meeting, and shook my confidence. Sessional, (or Adjunct in the US), professors are not secure. We are not well-paid (especially, strangely, in Education. We are the lowest paid instructors on campus). A full-time course load is considered 15 credits a semester which is 5 courses. It’s a LOT of work.
And I love it. Love it. There’s something new every day, and each person is SO interesting–they come from everywhere and have with them so many stories and experiences…each class is a village. We hear each other’s stories. You can’t know someone’s story and not love them. So there’s lots of falling in love going on. Not like necessarily, or agreement — but love. And the possibility of conversation and connection across difference and conflict. It’s wonderful and prickly and energizing. I learn way more teaching, too, than I ever did studenting. I hope I get to keep doing it.
One month later, now. A new semester. After the first day, another student complained about me, and then dropped the course. During that first two hours together, we reviewed the syllabus, read and analysed our first article, and did a quick introductory exercise. Then, I guess, she went and looked me up on the internet, found this blog, wrote a letter of complaint to the above mentioned boss people and dropped the course. So, here we go again.
This time, because I had, this time, a representative from the Faculty Association, and also sent them notes from our first meeting, wherein I described our conversation and behaviour, they did begin with perfunctory reassurances. I think the head of our department said that they would still offer contracts, that I am likeable and smart. blah blah. So that was better. But the other one, the Associate Dean of the faculty, she was possibly even less hospitable than before. This time, they gave me a printed copy of some of the quotes from my blog the student had cherry-picked. This time, they invited me to bring a representative with me.
The woman from the Faculty Association read my notes after that first meeting, and looked up this blog and did some research. She`s lovely. Sensible, intelligent, kind and good-natured. I don`t know whether or not she agrees with my analysis of this whole mess, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is she’s in my corner. She is thoughtful about the points I bring up, and she applies some of the analysis we talk about to examples in her own life. She is not an academic, so she can still think, and ask questions, and take some time to consider things.
unlike, apparently, the associate dean of education or the head of the department for which I teach. We talked for an hour at our second meeting, and we again came to no resolution. They (the boss people) stepped outside for a bit and when they returned, they said that they would come up with some `guidelines for instructors`. And the head of the department said he would like to meet with me on my own (with my Faculty Association rep as well) to discuss some possible ways forward.
This is all so tiresome, I tell you what. the week after, I had another meeting this time with the department head and the FA rep. He does not get it. Of course. We talked for an hour, which was about an hour longer than any of us has, and we came to no agreements. At one point I said, “What about the majority of students who said, ‘thank you for letting us talk about this, we don’t know what to think, and we don’t feel there is anywhere we can discuss it.’ What about the students making room for their ideas and feelings?” His reply was, to the best of my recollection something like, “That’s a good point. I didn’t think about that”. Which of course I knew. In the end he said, `perhaps you can address these topics in such a way as to not hurt anyone’s feelings`. To which I responded, “not likely”.
in late September, after that meeting, I received from him a letter describing the department’s expectations of instructors (well, just me, really, but never mind that). It indicated, as I had already surmised, that those previous meetings were a giant waste of time. We are not closer to understanding than we ever were. Here`s the second page:
Equal access to education includes access to the Department’s individual courses and classes. To be clear: it is not acceptable or available to suggest that particular students should choose, or would be better served by choosing, different or specific courses or teachers because they possess a protected characteristic. All students are entitled to access all courses, without discrimination.
A person does not have equal access to a course if one reasonably perceives oneself to be unwelcome to attend at, or access, the class or education because of a protected characteristic. This constitutes discrimination. As we discussed, reasonably and objectively feeling unwelcome is something different from subjectively feeling “offended” by academic dialogue. Reasoned, respectful discourse about social or political life does not create a climate of discrimination, but statements and behaviours which exclude, or create a climate of exclusion, do. Some examples of statements or behaviours which reasonably and objectively exclude are:
- Stating or suggesting that a protected characteristic is not real;
- Stating or suggesting that a protected characteristic is or should be socially unacceptable;
- Stating or suggesting that a protected characteristic is a product of disease or illness;
- Stating or suggesting that accepting a protected characteristic is a form of abuse;
- Stating or suggesting that a protected characteristic will not be recognized when providing the service; and
- Stating or suggesting that views or opinions supporting or acknowledging the characteristic are unwelcome
These statements and behaviours create a climate of exclusion which is contrary to the Department’s expectation that learning environments will respect the inherent dignity and self-worth of all. Not only do these types of statements attack the inherent self-worth and human dignity of anyone possessing a characteristic, they suggest that any person possessing the characteristic is not welcome or is less able to access the education, class or service. It is also the Department’s expectation that teachers, being leaders and directors of the classroom, foster this inclusive environment. They are certainly not permitted to compromise it. The Department views a breach of this expectation as a serious offence
So. That’s how a feminist critique is understood. They decided from an out of context selection of quotes from my blog, and misunderstood paraphrasing of a few students’ memories of some comments from class that I am withholding a service and trodding upon someone’s human rights. And here we are. They decide whether to offer me teaching contracts, and they decide how many. They can’t see that gender-identity protection contradicts protections based on sex, but in any case they have decided that gender identity is more important than anything else. Of course it`s more important to them, because addressing inclusion doesn’t challenge the sex-caste system that reinforces male dominion over women. Indeed, it reinforces patriarchy. Men are much better at being women than we are, because they know what men want in a woman. And when women reject their womanhood to `transition`, they are no longer a threat to male domination.
So I sent that letter to the Faculty Association representative, and I asked a friend and ally who is a lawyer to look at it too. Both of them agreed that it was threatening and heavy handed. My lawyer friend helped me find some compassion.
“There is no case law about this, no one wants to be the first” she said, “they’re frightened”. And they’ll throw me under the bus, sure as shootin’, if I step over the line to ask questions or offer a critique.
it’s not true that there is, (as he said in his letter), no hierarchy of rights or value. Gender identity is like religious or political belief — they are subjective. It’s fine for example, to critique Catholicism, or Marxism, or even post-modernism. But heaven forbid anyone should even question gender ideology. Which is a big shift from even five years ago.
Anyway, with the help of my lawyer friend and my Faculty Association friend, I wrote the head of the department a letter in reply to his letter. Here’s an excerpt:
I am writing in response to your letter of September 27th, which aimed to clarify your interpretation of the department’s expectations of instructors with respect to teaching and sections of BC Human Rights Code.
I would like to assure you that I understand there is so far almost no case law by which we can understand and interpret the new protected grounds of ‘gender identity’, and everyone (no matter where you stand in regard to your analysis of the merits or otherwise of this characteristic as protected) is kind of on tenterhooks about how to behave. As I have told you each time we have met, the students in my classes bring up the topic of gender identity every year. I do not bring it up, but once it’s in the room, I must, because of my political beliefs and pedagogical commitments, offer a feminist analysis of this form of identity politics.
This characteristic, “gender identity” is pretty subjective, as is political belief and religion. Unlike other protected grounds such as sex, race, ethnicity, these more subjectively defined protected grounds may be interpreted as in contradiction with each other. It seems that [our university] does interpret the relative importance of these protected grounds, as even asking questions about gender identity, or criticizing the ideology that informs this identity is subject to censure. Religion is also a protected characteristic. Yet there are many examples when it is entirely appropriate to invite students in the teacher education program to engage in critical analysis and expect challenging questions of some of the teachings of various religious traditions and organizations. […] I’m sure you would not prohibit, or warn an instructor away from offering students a criticism of ideologies or thought of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or Marxism. Indeed, [our university] has been quite public about its criticism of the religious instruction offered to students of the law program at [___], a private Christian university [we’ll call it PCU from now on].
So, in this sense, your statement in the fourth paragraph, “…there exists no hierarchy of importance or value” is not the way I see [our university] interpret the relative standing of prohibited grounds, in light of its position on [PCU] Law School graduates.
Also, and with due respect, I would like to draw your attention to Section 13 of the BC Human Rights Code which states:
(1) A person must not
(a) refuse to employ or refuse to continue to employ a person, or
(b) discriminate against a person regarding employment or any term or condition of employment
because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or because that person has been convicted of a criminal or summary conviction offence that is unrelated to the employment or to the intended employment of that person. (http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/00_96210_01#section13–emphasis added).
I don’t think it is unreasonable of me to interpret your letter as a form of censure of my expression of political belief, and therefore could be considered a contravention of Section 13 of the BC Human Rights code. Certainly, case law on competing rights is constantly evolving and we cannot predict outcomes with certainty. […]
I have never denied a student entry into my class for any reason, nor discriminated against them. I am not contravening the new law when I suggest that perhaps a student who is firmly invested in their beliefs (about gender-identity, Christianity, or any political or religious belief that may be scrutinized in the classroom) may be more comfortable with an instructor who will not question or criticize these beliefs. Indeed, when I was a student, I would sometimes not enroll in courses because I knew I would find the professor’s politics distasteful or offensive. In the case you spoke to me about, the class in which the student was enrolled is over-subscribed, and there are many sections of the same course available at the same time. In other words, I did not deny her access to the class, (in fact I told the associate dean that I would certainly teach students who identify as transgender, you may remember that exchange), and she had many other options from which to choose when she decided to change classes.
I will not teach something that I find abhorrent. If you decide that I am not to offer a feminist critique of transgender ideology, or a feminist analysis of the social construction of gender, then I will advise my students that we will not be discussing that topic in any of my classes. It pains me to do that, but I won’t agree to offer only one view of this issue, and I think that I would not be acting with integrity were I to act as if the ideology promoted in the university is beyond criticism.
In conclusion, please be assured that I have the utmost respect for the people in my classes, and I am committed to providing my best to them in terms of instruction, investigation, opportunity to explore difficult and challenging material, and expectations for their success. We do not have to agree about anything, but I hope everyone has the opportunity to express their thought and emotion and to stay together through discomfort as we develop new understanding together.
The response the head of the department sent was merely, “thank you for sharing your response”. I don’t know if he even read it. So now, we’ll see if they will offer me any more work in the spring or next fall. I love teaching. I love teaching in this program, but I don’t like the constant and increasing scrutiny and thought-policing to which we’re subjected.
Fortunately, I am now a certified personal trainer, so if this whole under-paid, insecure sessional gig does dry up, I have a plan B — under-paid, insecure personal trainer. At least barbells and kettlebells don’t have a gender identity. yet, anyway.
This is excellent. And the comments (sadly) prove her argument.
Source: You should’ve asked
This is a breath of fresh air. I didn’t stick around after the Dyke March in Vancouver, but saw some of the “coverage” after, and was struck by how hard the organizers and media worked to erase the presence of lesbians and other women from the march. Except those women who either bared or bound their breasts in honour of the patriarchy. well.
We’re not allowed. To take space, that is. I was just talking with a friend of mine. We’ve known each other for nearly twenty years now, I think. Worked in “front line” women’s services at the same time, sometimes the same place. She’s been an advocate for impoverished women for a long time. It’s hard work. You know that. Women are under attack. Not least of all because we are women, because men are taught they are entitled to our bodies, our sexual organs, our labour, our ideas, our emotional support. And now they want into our drop-in centres, transition houses, bathrooms, sports teams, support groups – everywhere. She told me that, unlike when we were co-workers, and the males had to make some effort to fit in as women (more than we do, for sure), now the place she works allows men to come into this (previously) women’s space to have a meal, get advocacy help, and rifle through the donation clothes closet. Men who say they are women when they come to where she works, but then also go to services for men. Men who don’t even bother to apply some of the markers of femininity, or constrain themselves in stupid shoes. And now, there are also women working in these places — shelters and drop-in centres and so on, who are wearing binders, and “identifying” as anything-but-women. So why take a job in a women-serving organization? i don’t get that…I DO get hating the stereotypes, of course I do. and hating the victimization we experience at the hands of men (in service to the patriarchy). I get that. But wearing a binder, pitching your voice lower, taking testosterone, whatever — that won’t change anything about our society, it won’t aid other women, it won’t get any of us any closer to freedom.
it’s obvious that feminists all agree that people who identify as trans deserve the right to live free from harassment and violence, just as anyone else. They need housing, jobs, family and friends, like everyone else.
What they do not need is unfettered access to female-only spaces. Really, c’mon. Women have worked really hard to develop rape crisis centres and transition houses for battered women and their children, and have worked really hard to carve out spaces where we can talk to each other about how it is to be a woman in world that discredits, diminishes, marginalizes and threatens us because of our sex. Sex. Not Gender. Gender is one of the ways in which we are threatened, diminished, dispossessed, marginalized…because of our sex. If those fellows want to set up “trans-inclusive” spaces, transition houses, centres, etc — go to it!
But they won’t because theirs is an individualistic and libertarian ideology — not based on any structural analysis of oppression and not centred on achieving shared liberation. Rather they seek widespread public recognition of their idea of ‘legitimate’ womanhood. They don’t want to change gender, or abolish it — they want to reinforce it.
I got into a little twitter fight with a former friend a while back. It started with her reply to me about something I said along the lines of the above – that feminist organizations ought to determine with whom to organize, and whom to serve — “most feminist organizations include trans folks” she said, and “[A local feminist anti-violence organization] doesn’t speak for all feminists.” Another woman asked her, “and you do?” or something along those lines. My former friend’s response was kind of self-righteous, I thought (I should know, I can do self-righteous like nobody’s business!). She said, “I’ve been working for 25 years for feminists, trans and gender-variant people” I’m pretty sure she listed a whole bunch of labels, not one of them “women”. but i could be wrong, maybe she said “women” in there somewhere. Anyway. I chimed in to say that it’s anti-feminist to insist that women’s groups should not determine their own mandate or membership. She reasserted that she “proudly” stands beside all the trans and gender-variant people. And feminists. I invited her to just get out of the way, and stop trying to undermine the work of radical feminists. We can’t be all things to all people, I said, (meeting her self-righteous tone, I’m afraid) “feminists stand with women” I said. Of course my former friend couldn’t let that go — she said, “Erin, we Disagree! I’m proud to stand beside ALL women including transwomen (etc)”. Then she blocked me.
So I can never say to her that it’s okay to disagree. For now. I can never say to her that we have to find a way to navigate this whole ‘rights and diversity’ mess. We all want freedom, we just don’t have the same understanding of what it is and for whom. If you’re advocating for the ‘rights’ of people who are male*, to live in women’s shelters, play on women’s teams, change in women’s changerooms, organize feminist events, participate in women’s conferences, enroll in women’s schools, and so forth, you are obstructing women’s rights. That’s what I think. I disagree with my former friend, she’s right about that, (who, by the way, has not done FIVE minutes of voluntary, unpaid work on behalf of women, or of feminism — all of her experience has been either as a paid transition house worker, or as an academic), and while I think she’s wrong, even that she is doing harm, I think it’s important to explore the disagreement. What does she mean by ‘gender-variant’ for example? Especially given that she is a lesbian herself. What does she mean by “standing beside”, or “in alliance”?
You know, the more I think about it, the more I read and see — the more I think that “trans rights” are just another way to ‘disappear’ women. Of course other women have been saying this for a long time. Ruth Barrett just put together an impressive anthology of writing by all kinds of women called Female Erasure. I think more women (and men!) are thinking about how dangerous and harmful this gender ideology has become.
I started this post long before I posted the most recent one (the one that starts with a description of the hike up the BCMC trail), and before I attended WoLF Fest. Before I taught my summer courses, even, i think. I haven’t yet paid a great price for my critique of gender ideology — but it’s starting. This summer, my little gang of sober women has splintered along this line. We have been meeting together every fall and winter to help each other with this whole not drinking business for a long time. Some of the women who’ve joined us over the years have responded to the sexism they face by claiming an identity of “trans” or “non-binary” or something. Some of them have told me, “I don’t really qualify for this group because I don’t identify as a woman”. I remember one conversation I had with one of these women. I said, “you’re female, you ‘qualify’.” But she won’t come because she doesn’t think she’s female anymore. She thinks she can change her sex. And because I say, “I don’t care how you identify, other than as someone who wants to stop drinking. Just so long as you were born female, raised as a girl, you belong here”, I am not allowing them to tell the truth about their lives. So they won’t come to the group — And they don’t want to go to a men’s group, some of them. Some of the women in my group are going to meet on a different night, and make it a “women and trans group”. I don’t know who all will do that, and I wish them well, but I’m pretty sad that we’re divided from each other about this. I love them. We’ve been through a lot together. Now there is this between us. And now i’m a bit paranoid that the other women in the group see me as the problem. One of my friends told me that at different times, I’d not used the preferred pronouns. It’s a women’s group, fer cryin’ out loud. They must know that they need the support of other women if they’re attending a women’s group, how can calling other females “she” be harmful?
(plus, I really can’t stomach the whole trend to refer to individuals as “they” — if someone’s in front of me, I’ll use her name. If she’s not, she’ll not hear me refer to her as ‘she’ so she can’t get all bent out of shape, can she?).
Anyhow, it’s easy enough to avoid the pronoun business altogether in the group itself. But other women in the group have found it troubling that I refer to the members of the group as “she”, I guess. Anyway, I’m sad that we can’t agree that being female means something — that being women means something, and has specific implications about our drinking and our sobriety. I’m also sad that there is this between us, this patriarchy, this new version of identity politics. And I’m afraid that when we start up again in the fall no one will come. Mind you, now there will be two groups on different nights, so more possibilities for women who want to stop drinking. That can’t be bad.
And then there’s the work meeting coming up next week. I am trying to not think about it. I’m pretty sure lowly sessional instructors are not called in for meetings with the boss people when their students are happy with everything, or when they’ve done a great job teaching. I’ll let you know.
But now i will do something with all these apricots, work on the syllabus for my course, and maybe get to work on our banner for the (pathetic, liberal, in-desperate-need-of-feminist-leadership/intervention) dyke march this weekend. And fling some kettlebells around, even if it’s too hot and smoky to move much. I’m afraid for everyone in the interior of BC.
No. Wait. I’m afraid, period. For all of us. The last couple of nights, the setting sun has been a deep red. Apocalyptic.
- of course, by “male” I am referring to the dominant sex class — the people born with penises, testes, prostates, and all that. Here’s a good post that takes apart the ideological concept of gender and ‘mis-gendering’
Yesterday I went up the Grouse Grind with some people from my gym, and Su came along too. We went up the trail beside the Grind, the one called BCMC. It’s a bit longer than the Grind, less well marked, less built up, and a lot less busy than the Grind. We went up, then we walked down, too. Al and Christina went up three times (but only made the descent on foot once, the other two times they took the Gondola down — which was smart). I was nearly crying the when i finally reached the bottom. I will NEVER walk down that trail again. Good Lord. On the way up, all kinds of people passed me. I’m way less conditioned than I was when I first went up that trail with Joanna in 2010. She’s been gone now a year, a little more than that. Still hard to believe…
Anyway, those times, the times we went up the BCMC, I was a lot faster than she was, which gave me great joy. I would scamper up the hill, then make my way back down to her, and say, “Twenty years, Asthma. heheheh”. Which was what I had on her — twenty years older and asthmatic. She was good-natured about my teasing. Yesterday, though, EVERYONE passed me. Just about. Thankfully we started up early enough (9 am) that the families with small children weren’t making their way up yet. So the people who passed me were mostly 20-30 somethings, my team from the gym, and a few guys my age or older with light-weight shoes and walking poles (I used this grand walking stick i got in a second-hand store in New York — it’s a knotted, thorny wooden stick, looks like a shillelagh–beautiful). On the way down, Su waited for me at one point, but I was embarrassed about how slow and clumsy I was so I wasn’t having any of that. Quite a number of young, limber people ran past me, springing and slipping from rock to root like mountain goats in spandex. By the time i was making the treacherous descent, the mid-day people were climbing up — including people with very young children. I heard one small child refer to me as “that old lady” after they went up past me. I saw a young woman with a child strapped to her back who looked about half the size of her mom! The kid gave me a challenging stare as the woman struggled up the hill — I nearly told the kid to get out and walk, give her mama a break. But that glare she gave me was a bit scary. What’s with all these people strapping their children to their backs and walking up mountains? Looked like they were practicing to be refugees.
One delightful little girl was skipping up with her dad and a tiny sibling in a snuggly thing strapped to him. She was trying to tell him a Spanish word she knew. He said, “I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me, honey, maybe we can find someone who speaks Spanish” I said, “Well, I’ve heard French, and I think Farsi, and Arabic, I’m sure you’ll meet someone who speaks Spanish today”. She asked if i did, and I said that no, I didn’t. She proclaimed that she knew one word — I think she said, “Si se puede” — “We can do it”, or “we will do it”. They were nearly at the top, and I agreed with her. She had me smiling for at least 73 metres. But then my shoes filled with stones and my knees were complaining and I was hungry. People do this kind of thing for fun. Other people, of course, more than we can count, do that kind of thing because they have to. They do have to leave their homelands and carry their babies on their backs, and tell each other “Si se puede” when they don’t believe it, not really.
Feminists are like that. We have to carry each other, and we have to tell each other that we will succeed, even when our faith is not strong.
We just returned from WoLFFest in Northern California. It was the second year, a weekend of Feminists in the Redwood forest. All women, a few kids, three resident dogs. We tented in woods surrounding a small meadow and a couple of little houses. It was COLD. In the morning and the evening. Daytime was hot. There were workshops on how to do menstrual extractions and early abortions, and a couple of herb walks around the land. There were workshops about how to do political graffiti using stuff that’s lying around your house, or easy to get. Max Dashu did three workshops based on her “Suppressed Herstory Archives” — women have always resisted patriarchy, always tried to protect each other, always tried to take up our share of space, and make a path for others. We’ve always been suppressed, too, and burned and hunted and raped — by men. Of course not all men — but all men do benefit. And women often betray each other in order to save themselves and/or their children. Or we keep quiet about what we know to protect ourselves and/or our loved ones. Or we go mad. But somehow our stories survive (even if only in fragments), and there have always been women they could not burn. There’s a slogan, Max showed a slide of a young woman’s back, and printed on her skin (tattooed?) were the words, “We are the granddaughters of the witches they could not burn”. There was a workshop by a woman from the Dominican Republic about male violence against women there, and women’s resistance. There were three tents — a Women of Colour tent, the Meadow Tent, and the Forest Tent. We talked about how to find each other in the age of social media (that’s often alienating), and how to understand each other when our own recent herstories are being erased or dismissed as irrelevant. There was a journaling workshop (I didn’t go to that, but it sounded cool), and there was a campfire circle every night where women went to smoke and talk — I didn’t go there either. We arrived Friday evening, Saturday I was on security duty, and Sunday everyone sat at the big fire for a closing ceremony. There were about a hundred women there, most of us were of European descent, but there was probably a third who were women of colour or Aboriginal. there wasn’t much music–I played my accordion a bit, and Sarah lead us in some Ali Bee songs on Saturday night — THAT was fun. Lierre started us singing rounds (revolutions!) on Sunday night, and other women taught us songs or chants they knew or had written. It was a grand weekend, full of feminist discussions, debates, trading strategies and imagining how to meaningfully intervene in the patriarchal juggernaut that is tearing through what women have tried to create (women-only spaces, access to abortion, women-centred health care, art, access to and influence in public space, music, lives of freedom from slavery, prostitution, male violence –). It felt to me like there is a possibility for movement, there may be a shift toward a female future. Maybe. Someone asked, at one of the workshops, “What about hope? Can you tell me, is there hope for us?” — I don’t remember if it was Lierre or Meghan leading the discussion that time, or even who answered — a woman in the audience, maybe? Anyway, she said, “Hope doesn’t matter. We don’t have to have hope in order to act, that’s an indulgence. We have to act in the face of no hope.” Not in those words, but that’s the meaning I got from her answer. Reminded me of when Chris Hedges said at a talk in Vancouver a couple of years ago, “I don’t fight fascists because I think I’ll win, I fight fascists because they’re fascists”. Similarly, we must organize as women, as feminists, whether or not we like each other, or whether or not we believe we will win — but because the women before us made this world where some of us do have some slack in our chain, and we can imagine something that looks like freedom — not wholly, but we are just beginning.
Then I got an email from the teacher education department of my university. The head of our department and the head of the teacher education office want to meet with me about the course I just finished teaching. The course is called “Teaching and Ethics”. Every year, i’m getting a bit bolder about providing some material that is critical of the institution of education’s promotion of trans-ing children. We had a discussion in that last class about this trans stuff, and one of the teacher candidates asked to speak to me one-on-one about our class discussion. She asked “what if there’s a trans student in your class?” I don’t remember what my answer to her was. Something about staying in the discomfort and finding a way to speak to each other. Not to agree, that’s not necessary — but to talk about what we think, and how we came to our decisions and which forces condition our choices– that’s what I want for all my classes. So, a week later, I get an email from the boss people that they want to speak to me. There is no one else who is providing a critique of this trans ideology, and the harms that ideology is doing to children (especially girls). There is no analysis of the political/social structures (especially sexism, but certainly racism/imperialism and classism) that this whole “trans inclusion” stuff is reinforcing and reproducing. I figure our meeting will be about that. About how i’m a bigot and all.
I am, of course, imagining the worst. But I’ll breathe deep, and pray to the ancestors, and believe in the good intentions of the people who disagree with me and hold some love for them in my heart. And I will tell the truth and maintain my integrity and composure. I know I am not alone, and I owe the feminists who lead me and those who are following me. Also, all the little girls who are like I was–fierce and active tomboys, who pledged to always remember who they are. I remember, when i was 8 or 9, and my friends and I were talking about our mothers. Most of the other girls said, “My mom used to be a tomboy.” And I remember thinking, “how could they have forgotten? I will always remember that i’m a tomboy”. Of course, none of those women ever forgot, but what could they do? I owe them, too, a debt for the space and opportunities I have.
I’ve got more to say, but this post is long enough now, it’s been so long since i wrote anything, I have a lot of catching up to do! Oh, while i’m here, update on the stowaway–i have an MRI in late August, I feel fine, I’m back at the gym, (of course), and remain on anti-seizure medication. I am always grateful, always.
“I just gave him the language”: Top gender doc uses pop tart analogy to persuade 8-year-old girl she’s really a boy
Had this kind of “medical” treatment been around when I was a little girl, I would have been sunk. Any one else? Does this child remind you of yourself when you were her age?