Monday, June 29, 2009

Kapo

I am a racist.

That declaration is the sort of thing that usually brings friends sputtering to your defense. "But Cat, you've dated people of color, some of your best friends, and you voted for Obama!" Which is true, but doesn't do a whole lot to defeat my original point.

Which is that, I am a racist.

I'm also an imperialist. A colonialist. Certainly a classist and probably a capitalist.

I'm not generally cognizant of any of this. But occasionally an incident throws this into focus. For me, it was this comment I wrote. You can go follow the link to find it; I have just enough vanity to not put it on the front page.

But the fact is, I wrote something that was racist and imperialist and I need to own up to that, and to own the privilege that let me think something like that was in any way appropriate. And own up to the fact that the only reason I've become chagrined enough to write about this incident is that I pissed off somebody who'd had this blog recommended to her. Only to be completely and finally turned away by what I wrote.

In other words, I was so blind to my privilege that it took that kind of embarrassment to make me notice it.

It seems useless to deny the fact of my racism. Every day I walk through the streets of the Great American Metropolis and I see the color of the skin of the people in suits heading downtown and the color of the skin of the people who are making deliveries or running deli counters, and I can see the relative worth placed on each. And every day I accept that, buy my paper at the deli, and move on to more important things, like who won the baseball game.

Likewise it is useless to deny the fact of my imperialism, not when I wear clothes made halfway around the world by impoverished people, people who had their wealth and resources stripped away by the wealthier countries, people locked into a cycle of poverty and slavery in all but name by the continued exploitation of them by those nations. I see this every day but am content to pay $8 for my tee shirts and move on to the comics section.

Sure, I try to be a good progressive. I try to speak out against open expressions of racism. I have been fortunate enough to know many people of color in my life, which leaves me less sheltered than most people of my (suburban, white, middle-class) background. I believe in all the Right Causes and critique all sorts of forms of oppression.

None of that changes the fact that I am part of a vast web of privileges that systematically elevates me by virtue of a few accidents of birth while at the same time debasing billions who don't share those features.

That I am trapped in the system as much as they are does not change one whit the fact that I have much the better position.

I write a lot here about feminism and sexism, and transness and transphobia. This is because these are the things that are important to me; sexism and transphobia are the prejudices that single me out. So it's fitting that I should be loudest in my opposition to them.

But what I have learned as I've been writing this blog, as I have grappled with the issues raised both here and in my life, as I've struggled to learn and understand more about feminism and how I can live a life that is concordant with it, is that my personal oppressions are not enough. That it is the whole system of oppressions that needs to be fought against.

There is a reason I prefer to use the term kyriarchy over patriarchy, cisarchy, or any number of other dominations. That's because I see them all as part of the same system: that kyriarchy describes the multivalent oppressive nature of human society. We are locked into it by the relative comfort of our privileges over others, which palliates our own lack of privilege compared to some. To confront real liberation would mean to seek to destroy the whole system of privilege itself, to voluntarily renounce and repudiate one's own privilege--to rip down the whole structure of oppression that has dominated human society since the Agricultural Revolution.

Too much to ask? Maybe. But it would seem to me that at the very least this process can begin with digging into my own privileges, to expose them to the light so that they stop being the invisible shackles that keep me tied to the ediface of oppression; that by recognizing them, I can find a way to be less invested in the struggle to maintain my own place. Because make no mistake: ultimately this system leads only to tyranny, the constant struggle of all against all that maintains the majority of the human race in suffering.

And it's a small thing, oh such a small and insignificant thing to do. If I weren't such a coward, if I weren't so deeply co-opted by kyriarchy, I could do more. I have to trust that it might help, though. I have to trust that in time greater things can become available to me.

But what I can't do is not keep pressing forward. Because anything is better than remaining a racist.


=========================

In the spirit of making some feeble amends, some links Google Reader served up to me on some uplifiting things happening in India recently:

Duniyalive.com » Gay community stages rally in Bhubaneswar

Riot of colours at Delhi's second gay pride march

India's transgender strive for rights | GlobalPost

Chennai turns up to support gay march

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Looking for Feminism in the Texicanic World

Greetings, ducks, from Dallas/Fort Worth airport, where my Texas sojourn is finally at an end!

I usually like to take a day to recover after having my face electrocuted, although given the relatively light workload nowadays I don't really need to. For recovery, you may read "sleep til noon, make a Starbucks run for breakfast, and then take a swim in 100-degree weather." It also means a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon on Hulu!

I've mentioned how much I've come to love Buffy. The characters talk like I want to, except even cooler! And they're all so cute! And I really like Willow, who like yours truly is a redhead. I'm even a bit like her--bookish, intensely interested in learning new things, convinced that knowledge is power.

There's another side to her, of course--as the series develops, Willow become interested in magic and witchcraft, and later comes out as a lesbian. (Not at the point I'm at in the series, though; right now she and Seth Green's Oz make an adorable couple. And then there' the Evil Vampiric Willow, from the episodes The Wish and Doppelgangland--the inhabitant of an alternate world where Buffy never came to Sunnydale, and she and Xander are two of the meanest vampires in town.

I watched both those episodes on this trip, and maybe it's just that I recently decided to try going off my antidepressants, but I really felt like Evil Willow for a while yesterday--that is, I seemed to be channeling my inner Bad Girl, someone who's probably dying for a workout right about now--she sees so little sunlight.

In this mood, I decided to run out and find some books on feminism.

I'll admit that for somebody who writes a blog largely about theoretical issues, I'm not nearly as grounded in feminist theory as I'd like to be. So, having time on my hands, I drove over to the local Barnes and Noble to see what I might be able to turn up in the way of anthologies or Large Omnibus Editions. Of course, I thought that my location might have some difficulties that I might not have in the Great American Metropolis--but Dallas is a surprisingly progressive city, I had been seeing Obama/Biden bumper stickers, and I figured what the hell, Barnes and Noble is homogeneous, that's what everyone complains about.

As it turns out, I did end up finding bell hooks' Feminist Theory, but it took some doing.

First I had to locate the Women's Studies section of the bookstore. This was not immediately apparent, and I wandered through Fiction and Literature, Self-Help, Literary Theory (which in a really incongruous bit of geography, was right next to Westerns) before I found the single half bookcase that was my goal--wedged in between Gay and Lesbian Fiction and African-American Studies. My initial assessment wasn't promising--there was a guide to mystical female symbols, a copy of Everything I Needed To Know I Learned From Other Women, and The Feminine Mystique, which would be good reading from a historical standpoint but not what I was in the mood for.

In contrast, there was a four-bookshelf deep Christianity section, a whole table devoted to Twilight (vampires! cool! with Mormon values! yikes!) and a book called Surrender, wherein a woman whose husband re-enlists in the Army (without telling her) and gets shipped off to Iraq learns how to avoid temptation but submitting to God (and, presumably, her husband's) will.

By this point I wanted to be wearing my vampiric leather corset, mutter "bored now" in my Evil Willow voice, and start flipping over bookcases.

I didn't--like I said, bell hooks saved me--but it was a good thing I found her book before I browsed the magazines, because "women's interests" always grates on my nerves. I mean, seriously? Besides, there was a time I wasn't a woman, and let me tell you, I was interested.

It didn't help that on my way to get dinner (Whattaburger: must take advantage of the cuisine de terroir), I passed a Halliburton office.

I think I'm going to adopt Evil Willow as the mascot of this blog. She'd be useful as a counterpoint to, say, Maureen Dowd. I always have such hope for Maureen--I mean, she's a snarky redhead with a voracious sexual appetite and a ton of power; that's pretty much my mission statement. Yet she writes stuff like this:

As in all great affairs, Mark Sanford fell in love simultaneously with a woman and himself — with the dashing new version of himself he saw in her molten eyes.

In a weepy, gothic unraveling, the South Carolina governor gave a press conference illustrating how smitten he was, not only with his Argentine amante, but with his own tenderness, his own pathos and his own feminine side.

He got into trouble as a man and tried to get out as a woman.
Way to go, Madame Dowd! Thank goodness sexism is over, or else I might get upset that even rich and famous women feel the need to practice it!

Sheesh.

Bored now. Wanna hunt.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Adventures in Transition, Special North Dallas Forty Edition: Face the Pain

Greetings, ducks, from Dallas, where today it didn't crack 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That actually made the news. Today, we continue our unintentional Trans Week (good week for it, though) with yet more about body modifications:

In the 26 months since I decided to transition, I've made a number of physical alterations to my body, both to make me feel better about myself, and to make it easier for me to blend in the world as a woman. The vaginoplasty you already know about; I've made oblique mention to the fact that I had breast implants done at the same time. (The rumors are true about that: the augmentation hurt more than the GRS; it's one thing to not be able to sit up for several weeks, and quite another to not be able to move your arms for four days.) And seventeen months ago, right when I went fulltime, I had plastic surgery to trim down my jaw and chin, which were quite heavy once upon a time.

None of these visible surgeries were to make me more conventionally beautiful, not even the breast implants--it was always about just trying to have something resembling the female body I feel I should have had, if things had only turned out differently. (Seriously, Scout's honor, and you know, I was a Boy Scout once.)

But my longest investment in time and money has been electrolysis, to remove what's left of my beard.

Getting rid of my facial hair was actually a project I began long before I began to seriously consider transition; I started laser treatments about a month after I separated from my wife. Even though I wasn't really thinking of it as a step towards transition, I still had a lot of trepidation about it--after all, ti was the first thing I had ever tried to permanently feminize my appearance, and as such it became a mental Rubicon of sorts; if I crossed that barrier, would I inevitably start on a transition path? (Er--yes, but not because of the laser.)

Unfortunately, I have light hair and light skin, which is only one half (the light skin) part of the ideal candidate profile for laser treatments. While it definitely helped somewhat (I was fairly quickly able to stop wearing heavy foundation and switch to tinted moisturizer), laser was never going to be the final answer for me. So two years ago, after I had started hormones, I began getting electrolysis.

Ducks, you need to know this: I am a wimp about pain. Sure, I can take it when I need to, but in general I try to minimize it as much as possible. And since I also had the disposable income, I decided to go to Electrology 3000, in Dallas. I chose them not only because they are really good at hair removal, but because uniquely amongst electolyisists in North America, they use anesthetic during the sessions. That is, they inject your face with lidocaine.

This has a lot of advantages--since you have to let your hairs grow (so they can tell which ones are active) for several days, there's an advantage to having your whole face cleared in a single day, something not really possible without anesthetic. (I've felt electrolysis without the lidocaine--not something you'd want to sit through for a couple of hours.)

The problem is, the lidocaine hurts: it gets injected at a shallow angle, multiple times, and it burns like acid under the skin. Sure, it's just for a few minutes, but those few minutes are pretty hellish--I cried the first time.

I still think it's worth it. Not because I couldn't be a woman with some facial hair; I've known plenty of women like that. No, it's worth it because of what it does for me--because shaving was the most masculine thing I did every day; because the things I had to do to cover up my beard were so frustrating and annoying, and such a reminder of who I wasn't; and because stubble is one of the things that remind me most of who I was.

So I keep coming. After a while, the lidocaine gets hurts less. And so does my past.

Blog Note

Sorry I haven't been updating more actively--been hectic here behind the scenes at TSA, plus I'm in Dallas getting my face electrocuted today. There will be posts, I promise.

Also: welcome new readers!

Also: thank you again everyone who has taken the time to comment--I love reading what you have added.

Also Also: thank you everyone who has said nice things about what I'm doing here--it truly touches me, and makes it a delight to keep pushing forward.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Adventures in Transition, Special Zeitgeist Edition: Where No Trans Has Gone Before

This post, ducks, will be a bit different in that it's going to be personal and I won't just be using my personal experience as a way to make a larger point. (Well, not much, anyway.)

I went to my first bridal shower on Saturday. At least, my first one as a woman; I seem to recall showing up to my fiancee's shower back in the Pona Time before I transitioned.

Like a lot of women, I suspect, the prospect filled me with emotions, most along the lines of "do I have to do this?"

Not initially, though.

I found out that my friend Joanna was going to have a shower when I called her from Thailand, a few days before I left for home. My friend/lackey/McDonald's wallah had returned to the States, and I finally decided to spend a small fortune and use my cell phone to call folks at home. Joanna was one of the first I called; we've known each other since high school, albeit with a nine-year interregnum between graduation and accidentally running into each other in a grocery store.

I wasn't expecting her to have a shower; she isn't having a bridal party (dashing my last, best hopes of being a bridesmaid; oh well), but her mom wanted to throw her one and she gave in. I was simultaneously glad to hear that she was having one and bracing myself to not be invited.

Except that I was.

I was very touched, because I felt so--well, accepted. Not so much by Joanna, who's always been supportive and morphed from friend to closet girlfriend with ease. But it meant a lot to me that she was willing to bring me into such an intimate family occasion, especially one as highly gendered as a bridal shower.

That feeling lasted a few weeks. Then the dread set in.

Events like this play merry hell with my insecurities. It's times like these when I feel most acutely my lack of a girlhood, the huge gaps in my socialization into ordinary female society. Normally, that doesn't bother me: after all, I'm not exactly unhappy that nobody told me I shouldn't study military history, or challenge my teachers, or be bad at math. (I took care of the last one all by myself, ducks.) But times like these, so encrusted with (ok, stupid) tradition and drenched in (ok, ridiculous) mores--these leave me feeling exposed.

Or worse, leave me fearing that I'll be exposed.

I mean, what am I supposed to bring? What's the etiquette? Will I make a huge faux-pas? Sure, I can (and did) ask my mom about this stuff, but I can't help but feel a little foolish: for not knowing, for needing to ask, for feeling that I needed to ask.

As it turned out, I had no worries. Most of the people who came already either knew me or knew about me and were all really lovely. A few had no idea (as I didn't) what the hell the wishing well was for. I had a pretty good time. Except. (You knew there would be an except, right?)

One of the women was somebody I didn't really know. We talked and as it turns out she knew my background, and we had a...well, sure, pleasant...little talk about some of my trans stuff. But sitting across from us was a woman I had never met before, a nice lady from Oklahoma. And at one point I noticed her listening to me and the other woman talking.

The next time I heard her refer to me, she used male pronouns.

This sort of thing happens occasionally; my official rule is to give people three screwups before I correct them. But this one put me in a fix: either say something, and draw attention to it, or ignore it and let her think that she was right. (But seriously: there weren't any men invited, I was wearing a dress, I was wearing high heels for fuck's sake--how do you think I prefer to be addressed?) I let it go that time. But it wasn't fun.

I rode the train home with several women from the shower. One of them talked about her boyfriend, and we all chimed in with advice and opinions. It was the very stereotypically female-gendered end to a very stereotypically female-gendered day.

My head was in a bit of a whirl. Part of my transition has been to finally put some distance between me as a trans person and me as a woman. That is, after all these years of being trans, of having that as the most important part of my life, I really want to try and just be for a while. I've done a gradual retreat from trans-only spaces, including a message board where I had been a long-time commentator.

But. I had been out with these other women, all or almost all of whom knew, and it wasn't a big deal; they didn't treat me any different than any of the other women at the party. So maybe I shouldn't worry about it, maybe I shouldn't care who knew and who didn't? Maybe it didn't matter.

But why did that make me feel so bad? Was I trying to be something I thought I had to be? (That worked out so well the last time I tried it.) Would I be happier not having anything trans in my life anymore? And if so, what about this blog, which gives me great pleasure to work on, even as it draws me back deeper into a world I am ambivalent about.

I still haven't figured it out yet. I hope I do. Because being stuck in the twilight zone of genders got old years ago.

Monday, June 22, 2009

We Have Met the Enemy, and She Is in the Can

A couple of years ago I took a trip down to Washington D.C. on business. This was before I had really decided to transition, although I was already spending most of my free time presenting female.

I took a trip down to the Mall and had a good time, despite being slightly hassled at the Smithsonian when I bought a mock-vintage pin--for some reason they needed to see ID for my credit card purchase--and was leaving the Metro stop in Arlington on my way back to my hotel when a guy caught up to me.

He was a truck driver who had recognized (as he put it) that I was "really a man" and invited me (implored, maybe is more accurate) to jump up in the cab of his semi for a while. I tried to ignore him as best I could and kept on walking, but I was obviously shaken.

I'd love to say that was the only time something like it has happened to me.

I bring this up not because this isn't something that can happen to any woman, but because I wanted to point out that he felt doubly entitled to treat me that way because I was trans. And I am in mind of how being trans seems to sometimes double- or treble- misogyny against people because once again Google reader has brought me some love, today courtesy of the blog A Room of Our Own. Please forgive the lengthy excerpt edited to only show excerpts; see comments. But please do go to the whole post...

It is sexist to expect women (female-at-birth) to submit and allow MTFs the use of female restrooms. Why is it the females who are always expected to accommodate the males? Why is it the females who are expected to be all-inclusive? [...]

Why should females protect males from males? It is the whole clean up your own backyard business before you go trying to control someone else’s backyard. Are there not so-called progressive males, pomo males that are willing to open the doors to male restrooms for transsexuals/transgenders? Why can’t they protect MTFs in the restroom from the other men? Or, could it be, there is no fucking way to tell predators apart? Yet, radical feminists are wrong and close-minded if we say aloud that all men are suspect. If all men are not suspect, then why don’t MTFs feel safe using male restrooms?

[...] If the MTFs use the male restrooms they may be subjected to harassment, even, rape? Well, exactly how are females supposed to know which of these MTFs will not take that male characteristic/behavior with them when they start using female restrooms? Should we assume/believe that the male’s urge/behavior to rape women is going to disappear simply because his penis is removed?[...]

If MTFs are really interested in being feminists, like so many of them claim to be when they are demanding to barge into female space and be escorted to the front row, why don’t they ask themselves not what females an do for them, but what they can do for females. If they did, and acted on it, then maybe I would believe they are budding feminists. Nevertheless, until then, they are just entitled men wanting to do whatever the fuck they want to do. A real feminist MTF would take one for the team and educate and rehabilitate the men in the restrooms, not run over to female restrooms and expect refuge from their own ilk.



Ah, yes. Absolutely. Forgive me--I had no idea asking for a public accommodation where I might be able to relieve a biological function was asking to be led down to the front row of female spaces. But of course I did! I forgot that I might actually be--sorry, still be--a rapist! That after a night out drinking beer and slamming down buffalo wings with all the rest of the "girls" (because, of course, all us MTF gals are just crotch scratchin', football-rootin', hypermasculine weirdos) if I duck into the ladies' I might suddenly decide to do a little rape while I'm there! Which couldn't happen if I wasn't transsexual, because that little cartoon lady in a dress is like garlic to vampires where non-penectomized men are concerned.

And she's right! Why, if only we crazy male-to-patriarchical-imitations-of-females were decent enough to simply use male facilities--why, nothing bad could happen--could it?

...Perez says she was feeling good, happy to be going to Manhattan to hang out with friends. In hindsight she admits that perhaps wearing a skirt wasn't the best idea—but even though Perez was staying in a men-only homeless shelter, she couldn't have known she was about to be raped...

...On the night of the attack, Perez says, she left the Charles H. Gay Shelter around 10, heading for the nearest bus stop. As soon as she walked out the front door, she sensed someone following her. It was a man she knew by sight, a fellow shelter resident who'd been pestering her since her arrival two days earlier. "He was always staring at me, making me uncomfortable," she recalls. "We have to share showers, and I didn't like how he looked at me."

Perez picked up her pace, not wanting to miss the Manhattan-bound bus she could see idling at the curb a few yards down the road. Then, she says, "He came up behind me real fast, and shoved me to the ground. When I tried to get up, he grabbed my hair, yanked my head back, and said, `I want a piece of you."' As her bus pulled away, Perez struggled to her feet and ran wildly after it. She says her attacker was hard on her heels, jabbing her in the back every few feet and driving her to her knees again and again. Realizing escape was impossible, she turned to fight. And then, says Perez, he grabbed her hair, wrestled her into a secluded area, and "he raped me. He pulled up my skirt and he raped me."

The entire incident took less than 10 minutes, but there was more humiliation to come. When her attacker released her—after threatening to "get you again tomorrow" if she complained—Perez wandered around in a daze, sobbing and bleeding until another bus arrived. She took it into the city and went directly to Harlem Hospital Center. Hospital records show she was treated for cuts and bruises, but that a full rectal exam couldn't be performed because the patient was "too tense." The attending doctor noted no "visible tears" to the anus.

Meanwhile, the police had been notified. Perez says that from the minute the cops showed up—first a group of uniformed men and later two detectives—they began belittling her version of the attack. "They kept saying, `Come on, admit it, you weren't raped. Someone just roughed you up."' Faced with a room full of doubting officers, Perez says she broke down. "I started crying. I was hysterical and could barely talk." One of the detectives asked her for identification, at which point Perez handed over two ID cards issued by Street Works, a nonprofit for homeless kids. One identifies her as Joey Perez and the other as Josephine Perez.

"The detective looked at both of them, and then stared at me like he was confused. I said, `I'm a transgender woman,' and he made a face like he didn't know what that was." Then, according to Perez, the detective—who, she says, gave her his name and badge number—bent over and took a long look up her skirt. As he straightened, she claims, he mumbled that "anyone with a penis can't be raped."

See? Nothing could possibly go wrong! Because, you know, men always have sympathy for anyone born with a penis--look at how Matthew Shepard was just given a gentle ribbing for being gay, or how everyone just had a big laugh when they found out Gwen Araujo was trans, or how after spending a weekend with her, Allen Andrade thought it was "really cool" that Angie Zapata was trans.

Oh, I'm sorry, that's right--they were all killed. So was Brandon Teena, but you see it's ok to feel bad about that--he was really a woman, you know.

And speaking of women, Google delivered this up to me today too:

This is why I have talked about artificial wombs. With no mother involved the father can't lose his kids. However, artificial wombs don't exist yet, or do they?

I recently discovered that they do in a way. This comment on Novaseeker's blog talked about the Rotunda Clinic in India. What the Rotunda Clinic in India will do if you pay them a little less than $10,000 is take a man's sperm, put it together with an egg donor and surrogate mother in India to make a man a baby that is his. There's a video on their website about a gay couple who did just that. It's safe to say that the egg donor and surrogate mother being in India won't be able to access the American legal system so for a man, the baby is completely and totally his. Since the Rotunda Clinic will do this as long as you pay them, a man on his own could do this. If you want you can use an artificial womb today.

Imagine Father's Days when you never have to worry about losing your kids. This is why artificial wombs will be used by men who want kids in this way. Already men are raising their kids more. This is a natural progression.

You see? I am so the real enemy here, not nutcase guys who want to--literally, and on so many levels--colonize women.

Especially when I'm peeing.

I Get Around

I'll have another exciting installment here later, but right now I have a guest post up at Tiger Beatdown--thank you so much to Sady for letting me drop by.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I Feel Pretty, I Feel...Coerced Into Being Co-Opted By the Patriarchalist Beauty Myth

I wear makeup. Almost everyday. In fact, I'm writing this from a nail salon, where some nice ladies are tackling my feet with a belt sander.

Now, when I say makeup, I mean just any old cosmetic. Most days, it's just some lipstick, and long-wear stuff at that, so I don't have to touch it up during the day; when I have to do a client visit, or am going out on the town, I'll add some blush and eye makeup. The whole deal takes about five minutes.

I wasn't always so minimalist. When I first began to present as female outside of my apartment, I wore a lot of makeup. Some of it was by necessity: beard shadow is tough to hide, so heavy foundation was usually called for. Some of it, of course, was just wanting to wear makeup, because most of the time I didn't allow myself to.

Since those days, I've done various things (like electrolysis) to make my life easier. Yet I still wear makeup, and as I am an introspective feminist, I wonder about what it says about me that I do.

Part of the reason is definitely to avoid any "OMGITSADOOODLOLZ". The last time I went out of the house without wearing lipstick (about a year ago) I got "clocked" (picked out as trans) rather nastily. At six a.m. Before I'd had any coffee.

Such trouble, I don't need.

Another reason is that I actually like to wear makeup, at least some of the time. I like the way it makes me look. I like the way that liking the way I look makes me feel, just as I like how I feel when I think I'm wearing a nice-looking outfit.

This is obviously a bit more problematic.

Because there's no doubt that doing so feeds into negative stereotypes of how a woman is supposed to look, dress, and act. There's little doubt in my mind that most of these are patriarchalist; that many are demeaning to women; that they constitute an ongoing backlash against women who dared be more than adjuncts to male sexuality.

I mean, hey, I've read Naomi Wolfe, I get all that.

But in my case it's even more complicated. Because, you see, I never had a girlhood; I didn't spend my childhood having lessons about what is proper or popular drummed into my head; and because of that, my relationship to fashion and cosmetics is a lot less complicated than most women my age.

I'm a bit like my friend Joanna. (Not that it matters, but she's not trans.) She didn't spend her high school or even early-adult years worrying that much about the latest clothes, the hippest trends. But around the time that I began to become interested in finding clothes I thought made me look good, instead of clothes that just made me look like a woman, she became interested in fashion. And she's now one of the most fashionable people I know, though not trendy or consumed with a passion for the next unattainable fashion accessory.

For both of us, our clothes, our makeup, our appearance is a lot more about the pleasure we get from it than a pressure to fit in. I won't deny that pressure exists--of course it does; but we both feel a lot more comfortable resisting it.

Or like I said before, we dress the way we do because of how it makes us feel, not because of how we feel we have to.

Ariel Levy said something in Female Chauvinist Pigs that I think gets at what I'm saying:

Monitoring her appearance and measuring the response to it have been her focal point. If her looks were a kind of hobby--if dressing and grooming and working out were things she did for pleasure--then the process would be its own reward. But she spoke of her pursuit as a kind of Sisyphean duty, one that many of her friends had charged themselves with as well.
I guess what I'm saying is that I definitely don't feel the Sisyphean duty part of that equation.

But by the same token, I can't help thinking about exactly how much I'm co-opted with the use of standards of beauty to repress women, that I can't help but think that while I may feel good for wearing certain clothes, that's only because the patriarchal culture around me tells me that I should, that these shoes/skirts/jeans make you feel good, and those (comfortable) shoes/(not-tight) skirts/(loose enough to breathe in) jeans won't. It's hard to sort out and the only thing that comforts me is that a lot of other women my age struggle to sort it out too.

But I'm still going to wear lipstick. Because more than one "LOLZURAGUYYYY" is too much. Hell, one was already too much.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why I Blog, Part Wev

Howdy, ducks! In today's exciting installment of The Second Awakening, we learn that I learned how to set up Google news alerts! Fabulous--or is it? See below for the exciting answer.

Starting a blog is an odd thing to do: you have to believe that a) you have something to say, and b) other people will actually give a good god-damn about what you have to say. If you're starting a feminist blog, you have to add c) that you understand feminism well enough to say something about it, and d) that what you're saying hasn't been pummeled to death like a very unlucky horse. But Ghu help you if you're trans and starting a feminist blog: then you have to worry about e-z) who the hell do you think you are to talk about being a woman, let alone feminism.

So I'm quite happy to have several wonderful blogs out there that have helped me learn enough to launch this endeavor, and keep teaching me every day.

For example, Sady over at Tiger Beatdown has this provocative post about Andrea Dworkin and radical feminism that's sparked an excellent discussion--to which, Maude save me, I've actually contributed. (I'll note in passing--for it truly requires a longer post to discuss fully--that I tend to cringe at the words "radical feminism," and probably unfairly; but given that some very, very vocal people who describe them that way have gone out of their way to let people like me know we're not really women.)

Then there's Liss, at Shakesville who offers up this post which might as well be another mission statement for what I want to do here:

Masculinity has defined itself exclusively in contradistinction to the feminine for so long that a serious challenge to the idea of inherent male superiority has left millions of American men floundering—and the best answer most of them have found for the question "What is my role if not a keeper of women?" is "I am a victim of oppression by women." Femininity has become the center-pin around which masculinity pivots—on one side there is dominion; on the other side, subjugation.

What American men are lacking is a vision of equality.

Women had to change the rules, because we were told "You can't," because we had seemingly unnavigable barriers put in our way by people who didn't want us to succeed, because, if we had played by The Rules (as dictated by The Patriarchy), we never would have gotten where are—because The Rules were designed so that we fail. For many of us, the odds have been against us our whole lives; everything we've ever done has been in defiance of the distinct likelihood—and expectation—that we would settle for less than we wanted.

The whole post is really good and a wonderful takedown of yet another Dooood's carping "what about teh menz?'

Wait! Like I said, I finally set up some news readers--basic stuff, one for "feminism" and the other for "transgender." (Understand that this is a work in progress.) And guess what popped up in the transgender feed? Have you guessed? Did you say--transphobia? Because Google sure did! (warning: links are triggery)

Now, do you see why people don't want to see transsexuals and the transgendered covered in laws against discrimination?

Some discrimination needs to happen, if you're business is going to survive. Discrimination at clubs goes on every single day, when pretty girls and celebrities go to the beginning of the line and right into the club, while others wait in line outside. Discrimination and the exclusion of freaks is the club way of life. And there's nothing illegal about it. It's business.

No-one wants a freak poisoning their establishment. No-one sinks their life savings into a business for the sake of social and contra-biological experimentation.

I know! What's better is, I know about this case! helen boyd blogged about it a few months ago--she teaches up in Appleton, Wisconsin; the incident occurred right after she arrived in January.

And just when I thought I'd heard enough--and trust me, that was enough--of this Debbie Schlussel person....you know what's funny? In a hate-filled, oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-it way? She wrote her own post on the article Liss blogged about:

Still, the facts and figures he cites are telling. As America continues its push toward a matriarchy, pushing men out of the way in favor of artificial insemination, single mother households, etc., it is one more step in the way of America's demise and our continuing quest to emulate Europe. As we honor Governors who abandon their families to Mr. Moms, while they pursue political careers and while their own daughters father babies out of wedlock and shut the fathers of their babies out of their kids' lives, we must ask ourselves what are the benefits of that. Why are we applauding those who behave this way?

As men are cast off to the wayside as obsolete, ask yourself if you want America to be the international equivalent of the WNBA or a NOW meeting?
Oh Zbornak! I should have stuck with the New York Post.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Erasure

(warning: any links from the New York Post should automatically be considered triggery.)

I was married once.

It was a rather ordinary marriage, except that we both got unnecessary blood tests; our information about New Jersey law was out of date.

In case you're wondering, I was the groom. As if you needed to.

That was the easy one. If I ever get married again--to a man or a woman--things will be likely more difficult, depending on whether the state I'm in recognizes a) legal sex change and b) gay marriage (just in case, either way.) It's one of those nebulous things about being trans--for example, as Jenny Boylan notes, had I stayed married and gotten all my paperwork done, my (ex-)wife and I would have had a legal, lesbian marriage. Except that it didn't start that way.

Now, most progressive places don't have any trouble sorting this out, while a few (Ohio! I'm looking at you! Let people change their birth certificate gender, for pete's sake) have more--difficulty. But even in the heart of the most progressive regions, you can get something like this, from the New York Post:

Wedding Crashers

I dupe, I dupe!

While political arguments rage, New York City has certified its first gay marriage -- of two men who fooled the City Clerk's Office into letting them tie the knot.

Hakim Nelson and Jason Stenson married on May 26 with nary a raised eyebrow among the oblivious city bureaucrats who not only OK'd the marriage license, but conducted the ceremony, despite gay marriage being illegal in the state.

The plucky couple filled out their marriage application online at the Apple Store on 14th Street in May. A few days later, they went to the City Clerk's Office on Worth Street to complete the form and get their marriage license.

Nelson -- who goes by the name "Kimah" and hopes to one day have surgery to become a "full female" -- wore an orange dress and white leggings, his straight, brown hair falling to his shoulders.

The gullible clerk didn't seem to notice that both Nelson, 18, and Stenson, 21, have male first names.

They both had to present identification to obtain the license. Stenson used his state ID card, and Nelson gave a state Benefit Card, which he uses to collect food stamps.

By a fluke, Nelson's ID card has an "F" for female on it, because the official who issued it in April assumed from his appearance that he was a woman.


Good morning, transphobia, how are you going to fuck up peoples' lives today?

It's almost pointless where to start here--that it wasn't a same-sex marriage because trans women aren't men, that "duping" is an insanely insensitive thing to say to trans people (it's what the people who commit violence against us use as their defense), that it's not a "fluke" that Kimah's ID had an F on it--you only need a letter from a therapist to change your gender on your driver's license in New York State--and for fuck's sake, enough with the Pronoun Fail.

I won't quote further from the Post--I feel all icky inside already--but here are the headlines of their follow-up stories; that should give you a feel for things:

Unwed Dudes A Happy Couple

Marriage License Of 2 Nyc Men Revoked

N.Y. Unwittingly Marries "Same-Sex" Couple


Oh wait! That last one isn't from the Post, it's from The Advocate.

I can't say I'm surprised.

The erasure of the "T" from LGBT is not exactly a new phenomenon. Whether it's ignoring Sylvia Rivera (who was one of the instigators of the Stonewall riots but was later given the cold shoulder by the gay movement) or deciding trans people don't deserve equal rights yet, there has been a long history within the gay rights movement of ignoring or denigrating trans issues.

And while I understand that often there are very different issues involved--for example, the marriage issue is more or less resolved for heterosexual trans people in most of the country--that still doesn't mean there isn't a convergance of issues. Removing the gender-identity provisions in ENDA didn't just throw trans people under the bus--it said to the femmy gay guys and butch lesbians that they didn't deserve rights either; that the protections that ENDA promised--most of all, the right to live your life the way you want to live it without worrying about losing your job or not finding a home--only applied to "normal"-looking queers.

That eraser gets a pretty good workout.

But hey, if the Advocate wants to be on the same page as the Post, who am I to complain?

After all, I'm naturally deceptive, don't you know.

Sarah Haskins on....Lady Friends!



I *heart* Sarah Haskins.

(h/t Feministe)

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Second Awakening: Special Retro-Mobile Edition!

Sgniteerg Skcud! I mean, greetings, ducks! I'm on my way home again and blogging at 50 mph, after spending a weekend teaching myself to play the theme from Love Story, listening to my niece read to me, and finally catching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Hulu. Which, along with my return homewards, has me in a retrospective mood.

I didn't watch Buffy back when it was on TV--oddly enough, I had seen (and even liked) the movie, and maybe that kept me away at first; I remembered the film as harmless fluff. By the time I heard that Joss Whedon had taken it in a very different, darker, and (as usual) beautifully-characterized direction, it was too late to catch up on things and I didn't want to try to come in late. So I missed it, until now.

I'm not one of those trans peeps who regrets not having a girlhood, per se; I know how lousy my adolescence was, and I really don't think having been female would have helped much. (Or would it? I've become such a different--and better--person since I transitioned, maybe it would have worked out...) But that doesn't keep me from occasionally getting blue about--about the tremendous waste involved with my early life, the years of being strangled with doubt and confusion, the horrific amount of mental baggage I carried around. And then too there is the consciousness of not having had a girlhood, of not having had to deal with being a teen ager, of all the ways my history separates me from other women.

Which isn't to say there aren't compensations; I was raised to believe that all things were possible for me, whereas sadly far too many women I know were raised to believe that they could be only those things that were proper. I might have been drowning in dysphoria, but I was never stifled by sexism, never silenced by society. I might have struggled with my assigned role, but it was a lot easier role to deal with than being an adolescent female.

On the other hand, though, try being the boy in sixth grade with a stuffed animal collection that covers his bed. That hill ain't so fun to climb either.

I adore Buffy so far. I love how the show manages to have empowered female characters, to show the human side of everyone, all without denying the ordinary pressures of adolescent society: Buffy might be a superhuman being with an awesome responsibility, but she worries about being popular; Xander's sly self-deprecation reminds me of someone I used to know (Ahem. It was one way to deal with always being picked on.) And I love Willow, even if she hasn't become a witch yet.

Plus, Joss Whedon's pitch statement--"high school as a horror movie"--pretty much sums up my recollection of those days.

Even so, watching it can't but help stir the pot of my memories--if part of my tranisition has been learning about how unhappy I used to be (without even knowing it), then high school was me at my most miserable--tormented by my strangeness, my awkwardness, and the horrible feelings I had that I feared were at the root of everything. Watching Buffy can lead me to those "if only" moments--if only I knew that I could be a woman, if only I knew how happy it would make me--if only I could have just been born female and avoided all of this pain.

I can't change that. I'm not even sure I would if I could; the person I am today was forged on the anvil of my transness, and I would be a very different person indeed without it. And I like that person, more and more every day.

So I shouldn't regret the past. If only I could.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Second Awakening: Special Mobile Edition!

Welcome again, ducks! Today's post comes to you live from Amtrak! I am on my way to visit my parents, and as we are a Green outfit here at TSA, we're riding mass transit. I am writing this on my trusty blue Acer Inspire One, which I bought for the trip to Thailand and has become my indispensable travelling companion--it fits in all my purses, and with the wireless broadband modem, I can blog anywhere!

Speaking of that trip, I passed through a large swath of Asia during it, and in honor of the first post I've written at 50 miles per hour, I thought I'd share some impressions of sex roles and segregation I gathered on the way.

Our first stop was Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. We only were there to transfer flights--if you're flying to India or Thailand, I highly recommend Etihad Airlways; they spare no expense, the planes are comfortable even in coach, and the food was actually good. But even that brief layover gave me a sense of the character of the place. There were women working, but mostly as servers; the salesmen we saw at the various stores were, well, men. Abu Dhabi is a crossroads in the Persian Gulf, so we saw all varieties of dress, from full burqas to women in completely Western dress. (The flight attendants on Etihad, though, wore these odd combination pillbox hats and veils.) The bathrooms were a bit different; there was an attendant/chaperone, and they follow the British custom of having full-own rooms with doors instead of stalls.

One definite difference: the metal detectors were sex-segregated, to make sure that you were only touched by someone of the same gender. (This was to be a recurring theme, we shall see, and one that usually left me pretty worried.)

India: Saying anything authoritative about India is an excercise in futility; it's too big, too varied, too everything. Our tour was exclusively in the northern part, so there were more Muslims there than other parts of India; again, there was a lot of variety in how Muslim women dressed, though when we visited the Jammu Mosque in Delhi, I saw quite a few people in burquas.

Indian standards of modesty are different than those found in America: bare bellies are fine (and an artifact of wearing a sari, as I know now--I bought two), but shoulders and knees should be covered. Both my boyfriend and I had to don ceremonial, wildly-patterned caftans when we visited the Jammu Masjid; once again, the metal detectors and clothing attendants were strictly sex-segragated.

Indian business and commerce are far more completely dominated by men than I was used to. We did meet several businesswomen, but almost exclusively in hotels; in stores, and the various "local craftsman" factories we were taken to by our guides (so we could be browbeat for 20 minutes in the hope of buying a rug/inlaid marble table/block printed cloth--the guide got a commission, of course), the people who did the talking were always male. As were all our guides; come to think of it, I think all the Indian guides I saw were male, as were a majority of the servers in restaurants.


Plate 1: The Author contemplates that the most beautiful building in the world was built for a dead woman.



Moreover, the quintessential picture of Indian poverty, I am sad to say, is a woman with her children. While I'm sure I saw some men begging--I certainly saw many, many poor people of both sexes; in India, if a space is flat, somebody's living on it--the people who approached us were almost universally women. (On the other hand, the people who tried to sell us overpriced trinkets while we waited on various lines were exclusively male.) Every public bathroom I went to in India had an attendant; I'm not sure if that was always true for my boyfriend, but it was for me. These were very poor women (or heartbreakingly, little girls) who handed you a napkin to use to wipe yourself in exchange for a small tip; we usually gave them 50 ruppes, around a dollar. I can't speak with any sure knowledge, but I would hardly be surprised to find that these women were Dalits.

On our way out of Indira Gandhi Airport (the first place I ever saw a traffic jam of luggage carts), we once again were run through sex-segregated metal detectors. These were more elaborate than the ones in Abu Dhabi; you were in a completely screened-off area, where you got wanded by the guard. Of the proper sex, of course.

Perhaps nothing captures the attitudes I encountered in India better than this: I was the one who booked the trip, who paid for it, who had negotiated with the tour company. When we arrived in Delhi, my name was on the card the tour representative held up at the airport exit. Yet when we got in the car--I was sitting right behind the rep--he turned to my boyfriend and said, "So, sir, is this your first time in India?"

Invisibility and being pushed around by men were the hallmarks of the trip for me.

Cambodia: Once we left India, we noticed a marked change in the presence of women in business--in that we actually saw several. Men still did most of the jobs that involved talking, including guide to foreign tourists. Like India, my boyfriend was spoken to first and more often.

I have no idea what the rules for the separation of the sexes are in Cambodia, but there seemed to be something subtle going on around us: our guide, Mr. K, constantly talked about the pictures of the apsara, or dancing girls that you see in bas-relief everywhere on the Angkor temples. He was often wistful about it, whispering: "Aspara. Dancing girls. Very beautiful girls." We suspected dating was pretty complicated in Cambodia.

Plate 2: Mr. K wants you to know he feels nothing for these women. Nothing!



Thailand: We passed through Thailand twice, actually: once, very briefly, on the way to Siem Reap in Cambodia, and then of course of the Purpose of the Visit. Thailand, least in Bangkok and Suvarnabhumi Airport is huge, and more modern than LAX or Newark Liberty; if not for the presence of signs in Thai, you'd hardly know you weren't in America.

Plate 3: It's like Los Angeles, just with worse traffic.



In Thailand we finally saw something approaching gender equity. Women were firmly entrenched in the workplace, at about the same proportion that you find in America. Men talked to me--sometimes even first!--and women were definitely assertive, at least to me.

That isn't to say that there wasn't a lot of sexism; there was. Thai (or at least Bangkok) culture has something resembling a mix of 50s-style mores, plus a thousand years of Buddhism, plus modern capitalistic ruthless. My nurses told me, for example, that it was still considered somewhat risque for women to smoke--I mean, holy Mad Men!

But at least in Thailand (and Cambodia) I could pee by myself; there weren't any bathroom attendants. And the metal detectors were unisex.

This is the face of progress, ducks: a man being wanded by a female security guard.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crossroads

Intersectionality, ducks! It's all the rage! Everyone talks about it because--everyone lives it!

Take, for example, this story over at Pam's House Blend. It seems that there was a topless coffee shop up in Maine, one that a (deranged, angry, spiteful) local resident decided it was OK to burn to the ground. Nobody was hurt, but they could have been--the owner and his wife and children were sleeping inside. In addition to the destruction of his uninsured building, the owner lost the lobster pots and carpenter's equipment he used to make a living.

Why am I bringing this up? Because of the dizzying intersections of forces, privileges and theories in this one case. When I first read the story, my thinking went something like this:


  1. A topless coffee shop? That's got to be some sexist exploitation going on.

  2. Didn't deserve to burn down, though. That's not right.

  3. Wait, they had a topless waiter too?

  4. The family nearly died?

  5. Still, I think a topless anything is probably exploitative.

  6. The townsfolk didn't like the place.

  7. But they didn't like it, it seems, because they thought it was sexist: they didn't like it because they thought it was "dirty."

  8. Well, sex isn't dirty. I like sex. People, such as me, should have more sex and feel less guilty about it.

  9. Wait, one of the waitresses was using the money to put herself through college?

  10. But it's still exploitative, right?

  11. Sure, because it's sexist that being a topless waitress was the best way for her to make money. Whew. I almost had to think for a second.

  12. My head hurts. I can't figure out if I should write a post condemning the place, or write them a check. Or both.

And that's a relatively benign example. Things can get far more complicated than that.

For example, there's me.

Being trans opens you up to a wonderful world of intersecting under- and overprivileging. On the one hand, I'm a woman--I identify as one, I look like one, I am in general treated like one, with all that entails. Moreover, I'm a trans woman, which means that if/when people find out/are told/Google me that their attitudes about me will very likely change. Some will stop thinking of me as a woman. Some will think of me as a woman with an asterisk. Sometimes I'll be expected to be the mystical tranny, here to tell everyone about what it's like to be trans. (And, of course, almost everyone will want to know what my genitals look like, something not an ordinary area of discourse, at least not at lunch.) Not to mention that there are people who will react violently towards me, who will single me out, who will make me a special target--that over and beyond the targeted/othered status I bear as a woman, as a trans woman I'm at risk for even greater degrees of violence.

But wait. There's also no denying that I have and have had privileges simply not available to most women. As a very, very simple example: it is highly unlikely that a woman who had my editorial assistant job 14 years ago would have been given the license to teach herself how to program computers that I received. (Especially not at that company--the boss was a right old chauvinist.) In fact, just about everything about my career in IT, which is my bread and butter, was aided by being male at the time. I had instant credibility; it was considered proper for me to be in the field; and I never had to vouchsafe my identity as a programmer the way many women in IT have to. (Though many women don't have to vouchsafe their gender the way I often have to; like I said, it gets dizzying.)

And of course I'm white, not overweight, college-educated, not disabled. A ton of privileges. Do my underprivileged characteristics--not cisgendered, not straight, not chromosomally female--outweigh my privileges?

It depends.

One of the reasons I began writing this blog was the gradual awakening I had about the iniquities of privilege. It's the passion that drives me, even as I struggle to understand and expose my own privileges. It's why I am an opponent of kyriarchy, why I so staunchly oppose all the various petty divisions within the different communities of underprivilege.

But as it turns out, checking your privilege is very hard to do.

Which leads me to Shakesville. I've only been a recent reader there, but the community there had a profound influence on me; indeed, Shakesville and Tiger Beatdown are the two sites that inspired me to start blogging again after a four-year hiatus.

I'm mentioning Shakesville because--as you may have noticed in my little blogroll widget--the site is in stasis right now. You can read about it at Shakesville, but what it breaks down to is: Melissa McEwan, the founder and webmistress of the site, had to take a break from posting. On her own blog. Because people wouldn't listen to her when she said that a lot of the comments were bothering her, and that people needed to be more civil.

I'll repeat that. She stopped posting. To her own blog.

Even though I've only been a recent Shaker, the safe space that Liss has created and worked so hard to maintain is something I cherish. And even as I get mad that things came to this head, I feel bad for my own failings, sins of commission and omission, there.

The idea that Shakesville has reached a crossroads, that there could really not be a Shakesville anymore, is chilling.

Sady at Tiger Beatdown as usual is all over this, far better than I can add with my poor powers. But I will say: this is an issue of privilege, of flaunting it and most of all of not examining your own privilege. But just so we all understand:

When somebody tells you something you said hurt them, and you don't take it
seriously, that's privilege.

When somebody tells you your conduct is against the simple rules she created
for her own space, that's privilege.

When you repeatedly ignore complaints except to occasionally apologize and
then go right back to doing what you were doing, that's privilege.

If you think that somebody is supposed to do something for you, something
that you value and treasure, and you don't listen to what they say, you in fact
act like you were owed something--you better believe that's
privilege with a capital-fuckin' P.

And when somebody writes an incensed blog post about privilege, you can bet she has some privilege too. We all do. So what are you going to do about that?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Satire or Wince--You Make the Call

I'm in a bad mood right now, ducks, so I find myself not in a position to judge on the humor of this piece--I get what they're doing, but I'm surprisingly humorless about this subject.

But judge for yourselves:


Conservatives Warn Quick Sex Change Only Barrier Between Gays, Marriage

(h/t helen boyd at (en)gender)

Me, I'm off to hide under the covers against the moment when somebody takes me to task for using a sports reference in the title of this post--it's only been a few hours since someone tried to revoke my womanhood, and I need to recharge.

Except I Am

Reasons I Am Told I Cannot Be A Feminist
Culled from Books, Message Boards, Web Pages and Conversations by, for, and against feminists

  1. Because I shave my legs.
  2. Because I color my hair.
  3. Because I wear skirts.
  4. Because I wear dresses.
  5. Because I wear high heels.
  6. Because I had plastic surgery.
  7. Because I had breast implants.
  8. Because I had vaginoplasty.
  9. Because I am attracted to men.
  10. Because I still am attracted to women.
  11. Because I've read a few books on feminism.
  12. Because I've only read a few books on feminism.
  13. Because I have a vagina--now.
  14. Because I didn't have a vagina--then.
  15. Because I don't have a cervix.
  16. Because I had a penis.
  17. Because I had male privilege.
  18. Because I had white, male, middle-class privilege.
  19. Because I still have white, middle-class privilege.
  20. Because I wasn't raised as a girl.
  21. Because I look like a dude.
  22. Because I look like a woman.
  23. Because of who I was.
  24. Because of who I am.
  25. Because I dare call myself a woman.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Balcony Is Closed

You probably think your humble blogeuse never does anything but write proposals and gather outrage for her next post. On the contrary! Like many denizens of A Great American Metropolis, I occasionally venture out of the apartment to do--stuff. Like eat Chinese food! Or go to movies!

On Friday I went out to see a festival of independent short films. (For independent read student.) Normally, an evening screening films is a pleasure to me--why, I've even sat through Robert Altman double-features and left feeling elated. (Confused and strangely unconfined by narrative, but elated.) But last night set my teeth on edge, because I saw a strong thread running through all the films, none of which, I should mention, were directed by women. What could that thread be? Read on to find out! (But, as Sady would say, Hint: THE MISOGYNY.)

Yes, I'm afraid that most of these films were either lady absent or lady silencing or, everybody's favorite, lady objectifying. Not all the films--for example, there was a cute little Canadian Star Trek parody that was not only funny, but had a woman in it--a woman with actual lines! (This lovely young woman, incidentally, was the only woman in the entire evening's show that had a direct line of dialogue.) There was a disturbing yet amusing time travel movie that definitely broke new ground in the genre. And there was an amusingly dark animated short about the perils of the workplace.

The rest though, primed me to gun up the outrage engines. There were two films that were montages of film clips that were cleverly edited but didn't seem to have a real point of view. "The Control Master" was definitely a technical feat--the animation was taken from clip art advertising from the '50s--but began with the villain stalking the heroine and turning her into a dog. Lovely. The last film before the intermission was a mash-up of video games and afternoon cartoon shows like "She-Ra" that had one good sight gag--the invaders from space were, well, Space Invaders--but mostly seemed to be an excuse to film a heroine in her panties, from behind. Oh, and the reason she and the villain are fighting is because she messed around on him (even if he is a giant cube.)

The film that really set me off, though, was "Funny Guy." The premise began amusingly enough--a guy telling horribly bad jokes to his bathroom mirror--and our realization that he is a very disturbed young man is--disturbing. So, a good start, if not exactly the most original place to go.

It's where director Frank Rinaldi takes this that provoked my strong reaction. It turns out that our disturbed young man wants to talk to a prostitute who hangs out across a highway from him, but is too shy. (This is the only woman in the entire film--a prostitute with no lines. Sigh.) He later chases the girl down to confront her, tracks down one of her johns and gets into a confrontation with him, and then later ambushes the john and takes him back to his bathroom. The filmaking in this sequence is tense--we sense imminent violence, especially when our abductor reveals the hideous black fungus (a metaphor for his own disease?) growing on the shower stall walls--with a human ear embedded in it.

Yet this scene deflates, and we next see abductor and abductee share a moment sniffing paint thinner. The john agrees to try and get the woman to talk to his abductor, but when he shyly hides from them the john takes off with her.

The film is disturbing all right, but what disturbed me was that it was ultimately another piece of stalker porn; that once again I had to watch a misunderstood guy who goes nuts and finds the only way to connect to women is to hunt them down. His rage over her "rejection" of him--that seems to be the way he interprets her going off with the other john--echoes nothing but the normal sense of entitlement to women's bodies that most men feel.

The movie isn't bad, per se--technically, it's an accomplished student film. I'm just annoyed that these techniques are put in the service of yet another story where women are stalked, fought over, shared between men, and ultimately purely adjuncts to the plot--a motivating factor, a force of nature, incapable of speaking or acting in their own defence (it's telling that she's a prostitute, and thus not even allowed to choose her own sexual partners.) I spoke to the director after the movie--it turns out, ducks, that he was sitting right in front of me--and talked to him about my concerns. (No blood was shed.)

I expect a little misogyny when I go to the movies, because I expect a little misogyny when I step out of my apartment, turn on the tv, or read the newspaper. There are even great films which are profoundly misogynistic--for example, "Taxi Driver." Scocese's misanthropic and misogynistic gem from 1976--made at a time when he was battling a cocaine addiction, going through a horrific divorce, and basically "hated women"--remains a tough film to watch. Yet the women in that film--idealized, paternalized, and ultimately hated by DeNiro's Travis Bickle--retain their own agency--they are people, and make choices. "Taxi Driver's" awful force of misogyny is only part of its awful force, period--although it is women who inspire Travis' acts of violence, it's also clear that these actions are only possible because of a deeper instability in his character.

It might be a lot to ask a student director to approach the skill of a Scorsese; but on the other hand, it's thirty-three years later, and not exactly difficult to learn about how women feel about, well, anything. That it remains true that the easiest way to give a disturbed character motivation is to have him rejected by a woman is yet another depressing indication of the institutionalized misogyny of your liberal media.

And it's sad that in a city as liberal and progressive as A Great American Metropolis that the only way to ensure that you will see an independent film directed by a woman is to go to a woman's film festival.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Annie Get Your...

Randy Cohen, who writes the "Ethicist" column for the NY Times, has a modest proposal: keep men from openly carrying guns as we do today (in most places, ducks, in most places) but require women to carry them. It's mostly facetious, but he does touch on the usual statistics: 90% of all gun violence is committed by men, and strangely (but rightly) hits on Susan Faludi's observation (without referencing her, though) that occupations once considered high-status when dominated by men (secretary, frex) become low-status when dominated by women. (Ah, that's the answer to the American epidemic of gun violence: sexism! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems!)

The comments are more interesting. The old canard (ahem) about guns solving the problems of 2,00,000 violent crimes. (Really? Think it's that easy to shoot someone? See, for example, this, as well as S.L.A Marshall's contention that only 25% of soldiers fired their weapons during WWII.) A surprising number of women write about their experiences owning weapons. One woman hopes that this will lead to guns in designer colors. Then there's this charming passage:

Before you recommend to arm all womyn and unleash them on mankind please remember the import of the following two words:

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).

Ya know, folks, I happen to have pretty first-hand experience in the differences between male and female hormones, even if I don't and won't ever cycle. But given the disparity between male and female violent crimes, given how often men come to blows over minor disagreements (I saw two guys nearly get into a fight just yesterday--in the middle of the sidewalk. At 9 AM.), given how the culture of masculinity celebrates testosterone-soaked rage--why is it always women who are supposed to have the hormone problem? Don't they also say that women are better at social networking? Shouldn't we be telling guys to stay out of politics because their brains just can't deal with the complexities of international diplomacy? Shouldn't we tut-tut men for getting into a fight over who was the better hitter in 1939 by saying that they shouldn't let their hormones get the better of them?

Yeah, probably we should. If arming women helps to bring that about--well, Mr. Cohen, sign me up.

We Apolgize for the Inconvenience

Sorry about no post yesterday, ducks; long day. In the meantime, though, enjoy Sady's latest brilliant opus on Tiger Beatdown.

Once again, this has been another edition of What Sady Said.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

31 Days Later....

Greetings, Ducks! Today, it turns out, is the one-monthery (strictly speaking, an anniversary refers to a year. Yes, I took Latin! Yes, I am a shameless pedant!) of this blog. Which I seem to have celebrated by taking the day off (well, to be fair, that proposal I wrote the other day blossomed into further proposals and some discussions with the potential client, so I was busy.)

I want to thank all of you who have dropped by, and especially all of you who left such nice comments here. Starting a blog again was something that I did with some trepidation, and your encouragement has really been so lovely.

I had trepidation because part of my "process" (no, thank you, Anonymous!) is figuring out exactly how much my transness is going to be integrated with the rest of my life, and starting a blog where I was so open about it (albeit with personal details obscured) seemed to have the potential to swallow my life up again. After so, so many years where my transness was a constant, overriding distraction to my life, I really wanted to just try being a woman for a while.

But it's clear that I have things to say about transness, and especially about how transness intersects with feminism. So I say them here, and so far it hasn't consumed me--in fact, it's acted as a safety valve, letting me work on living a life not always dominated by where I've come from, but by where I'm going.

So thank you all for dropping by, for your encouragement and support, for giving me a reason to write every day--something I thought I might never do again. And here's to the start of our second month!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Don't Scream

Good morning, ducks! Let me ask you--do you like to see women in stark screaming terror and in fear of imminent death? Or at least simulations of such? Well, the New York Daily News does! Today they put up a gallery of "screaming starlets" from nineteen separate horror movies! It's one stop shopping for all your terror porn!

As a film buff, I've watched my fair share of horror films. The vast majority boil down to either stalker or torture porn, of course, with tons of women in various stages of undress being voyeuristically hunted down. Even if the trend lately is towards making the woman the hero, letting her ultimately triumph (for example, the American remake of The Ring or the original Halloween), you can be sure that she'll first go through a degradation that no male hero would be forced to undergo. This is true of even the best of the bunch, such as the Scream franchise, which featured a woman hero who was easily the most capable character in all the films, or the solid-B movie The Descent, which at least featured a main cast of women who did things (like whitewater rafting, caving, and fending off cannibalistic subhuman cave dwellers), even if it did find room for the death of a child, a murderous catfight, and the heroine killing a mother and child--your basic smorgasbord of Hollywood misogyny.

I'm really baffled by why the News thought this was a good idea, though of course not surprised. We do live, as Liss McEwan put it yesterday, "in a rape-soaked culture" so I guess putting images of anguished women shrieking in terror on your web site is just giving the public what it wants.

Besides, it's not like you can have photographs of naked women in your newspaper. I mean, this is America.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fine Feathered Foul?

Hello, du...hmm. I nearly used the common English word for a member of the family anatidae. Which, it seems, would be wrong, at least according to Anonymous:

Here's the deal: gay men call people ducks; women do not. Consider it part of the process to remove that word from your vocabulary. Please.
Now, I got defensive when I first read this, but then I thought: hey, maybe Anonymous has a point; I mean, I've gotten all sorts of good advice from anonymous folks before, from "Duck!" (oops) to "suck my..."--well maybe that last wasn't such good advice. But you get the picture.

As I said in my response, I do all kinds of things on this blog I don't do in regular life, from talking about my vagina to using complex analogies about the kyriarchy. (I do, however, bore folks with feminist analyses of French peri-impressionism.) I'll confess to adopting Winged Water Fowl as a greeting as part of the quasi-folksy style I affect in the lighter posts hereabouts. At the very least, I figured I might be remembered as that "crazy lady who calls everyone Mallards."

But I'd hate to slow my process; I'm not sure what that means, but it sure sounds bad! Seeing as it's a slow day here at TSA (I spent most of it writing a proposal for a--I hope--largish client), I thought I would put it out there for you, du...er, wigeons: should I stop using That Word and call everybody something serious, like Fellow Denizens of the Feminist and Transfeminist blogospheres? I leave it to you!

Unless you consider it a wild goose chase.