Elsewhere
Friday Ephemera

Tears and Role-Play

Further to Amanda Marcotte’s ongoing tussle with the Even More Righteous Sisterhood, this seems relevant. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a link to an item on the tribal agonies of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and their struggles to be sufficiently sensitive and inclusive. Each year the festival is shadowed by an organisation called Camp Trans, whose activities include a “radical masculinities workshop,” “flirting workshops” and

Protesting the exclusion of trans women from women-only spaces, most notably the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

Writer and activist Michelle Tea explains the origin of this dispute:

In 1991 a transsexual woman named Nancy Jean Burkholder was evicted from MWMF. Transsexual women, for those not up-to-date with the growing transgender revolution, are women who were born in male bodies and have been fighting against that ever since. They may or may not be on hormones, which can be costly or unavailable. Same goes for sex reassignment surgery, which is often prohibitively expensive and not covered by insurance… A lot of women inside the festival want to keep trans women out. Some staunchly insist that these individuals are not women but men in dresses trying to ruin the feminist event. Others concede that trans women are women, but because they were born boys and may still have penises, the festival is not the place for them.

Feelings continue to run high in both camps, as it were, and the list of possible identity subgroups continues to grow, along with a helpful lexicon of radical spellings, as can be seen from a recent festival communiqué:   

I deeply desire healing in our communities, and I can see and feel that you want that too. I would love for you and the other organisers of Camp Trans to find the place in your hearts and politics to support and honour space for womyn who have had the experience of being born and living their life as womyn. I ask that you respect that womon born womon is a valid and honourable gender identity. I also ask that you respect that womyn born womyn deeply need our space — as do all communities who create space to gather, whether that be womyn of colour, trans womyn or trans men… I wish you well, I want healing, and I believe this is possible between our communities, but not at the expense of deeply needed space for womyn born womyn.

Such is the drama of identity politics and the competitive victimhood it necessarily engenders.

A reader, R Sherman, highlighted the following comment, made in response to the MWMF’s attempt at conciliation.

What really makes me angry about this whole situation is non-trans people deciding what is and is not transphobia… The sentiment of this release is blatant transphobia, and the section calling it otherwise is just rhetoric. I don’t really believe that anyone has the right or ability to accurately gauge their own actions as phobic or not. The community being harmed is the only one with the perspective necessary to make that distinction. It is overstepping and disrespectful, to say the least, for the non-trans authors of this release to say that their policies are not transphobic and further to attempt to explain why.

The implications of this claim did not go unnoticed among other regulars of this site. The Thin Man added,   

Let’s transpose the object of that phrase and see what happens:

“I don’t really believe that anyone has the right or ability to accurately gauge their own actions as witchcraft or not. The community being harmed is the only one with the perspective necessary to make that distinction.”

Or,

“I don’t really believe that anyone has the right or ability to accurately gauge their own actions as heresy or not. The community being harmed is the only one with the perspective necessary to make that distinction.”

Or,

“I don’t really believe that anyone has the right or ability to accurately gauge their own actions as counter-revolutionary or not. The community being harmed is the only one with the perspective necessary to make that distinction.”

Quite. And throughout the Farce of Marcotte™ similar sentiments were internalised and expressed, with one reader of Ms Marcotte’s website offering the following pearl of wisdom:

As a white woman, though, I’m not the one offended, so it’s not my call as to what an appropriate response is.

And thus any claim to moral agency is surrendered to those members of a favoured group who happen to be shouting loudest. But despite the howls of victimhood, which so define our age, it’s hard to excuse the opportunist denial of any objective criteria or coherent ethical rationale. Thus, injustice is defined, unilaterally, by feelings, or claims of feelings - and, of course, by leverage. Phobias, prejudice and oppression become whatever the Designated Victim Group, or its representative, says they are. And the basis for apology, compensation and flattery becomes whatever the Designated Victim Group says it is. The practical result of this is egomaniacal license and the politics of role-play.

Comments

JuliaM

Must make more popcorn....!

"Phobias, prejudice and oppression become whatever the Designated Victim Group, or its representative, says they are..."

But what to do when the favoured groups turn on each other...?

http://houseofdumb.blogspot.com/2008_05_01_archive.html#5651763667390876807

David

Ah, then we must resort to Victimhood Poker.

http://dicklist.blogspot.com/2006/07/tdl-gaming-world-series-of-victimhood.html

Also known as the Pyramid of Oppression.

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/11/villainy-by-def.html

Man Born Man

Wow. That's a lot of healing and feeling. C'mon. Group hug.

Sir Henry Morgan

One of my brothers is a psychiatrist. Do you think he might be able to help them out?

Didn't think so ... too far gone.

David

Sir Henry,

Ah, rookie’s mistake. See, you don’t have “the perspective necessary to make that distinction.” And “it’s not your call as to what an appropriate response is.” Only members of The Tribe are entitled to judge their behaviour.

wayne fontes

I'm all way's struck by how the designated victim's groups seem to have no awareness that they are a minority group seeking to impose their will on the majority. I wonder just how many trans-gendered persons are we talking about? The feminists right to exclude who they see fit from their gathering is no different than the trans-gendered folk's right to exclude who they want to from their camp. What would the reaction have been if a group of straight men sought to attend the festival?

Look at the Seal Press fiasco. I assume that Seal Press is a small boutique firm publishing for the relatively small third wave feminist market. Amanda Marcotte's book currently stands at #25,000 on Amazon's all time best seller list. I'm guessing the total sales will be less than 40,000 copies. Marcotte has a following and a name. Seal Press is being criticized for not publishing "Women of Color" feminist. So after paying for diversity training and and committing their two editors to finding and publishing a WOC feminist do you think Seal Press will make enough money on the book to buy breakfast? I doubt it.

pst314

"But what to do when the favoured groups turn on each other...?"

Sell popcorn.

David

Cue music. http://www.geocities.com/televisioncity/studio/6546/Wavs/fightm.wav

R. Sherman

Further to Julia's comment, Ms. Marcotte’s site has been one titanic "Clash Of The Oppressed"(TM) this entire election cycle, with commenters and the sites authors arguing about the relative merits of race and gender. It almost seems as if they wish their designated "messiah" to be crucified so as not to jeopardize the hallowed status of victim.

Oy.

Regards.

steveaz

David,
Your cute festival communique, shortened:

"I deeply desire healing in our communities...through segregation."

The comment seems to suggest that 'communities' must first be made hermetic in order for any "healing" to take place.

Interesting thesis, that!

Candice

The U.S. Presidential choosing-dance provides us with many examples of the aggrieved parties jockeying for position. The tussle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton showcases the troubles. Shannon Drury of the Minnesota Women's Press asks us to imagine a "Pro-Vagina World."

"I realized that I wanted a woman to be the nominee much more than I thought. I wasn’t satisfied with Obama, who is not white. He’s still a guy, and I am sick of guys.

Yet when I announce this, I am accused of being not only sexist but racist. No, I don’t mean me personally, mostly because I am too mousy to stand up in the public square and talk about how sick I am of men in power (though my supportive husband encourages this). I should defer to the royal “we” here, because when Gloria Steinem wrote about the subject in a widely read opinion piece in the New York Times, you better believe my heart sang. (...)

By all accounts, Barack Obama is almost as cool a guy as my husband and son. If he’s the Democratic Party nominee, I will happily support him. But these days when I see him on camera, I’m always peeking over his shoulder, thinking: Hmm, that Michelle Obama is one smart and accomplished woman. Why didn’t she run? Damn.

Is wanting a woman to run the show selfish? Yes. I acknowledge that it is. So is wanting 50 percent of the members of Congress and at least three more Supreme Court justices to be women. I also want 50 percent of the parents watching their kids at the park to be men. I want what any parent wants. I want a pro-vagina world for both of my children."

What exactly a Pro-Vagina World™ is, or what its benefits would be is left to our imaginations.

David

Steveaz,

I particularly like the idea that by daring to explain *why* you’ve arrived at a particular judgment regarding The Tribe’s behaviour, you’re being “disrespectful” and compounding the original sin of daring to disagree. This outrageous temerity is, clearly, an attempt to de-legitimise the Sacred Whinging™ and thus oppress The Tribe. Think of the feelings that are being crushed. Think of the tears. Strange how quickly passive-aggressivism became so fashionable.

Candice,

That’s far too much vagina for my taste. In these parts we say “lady garden”. And we say it very quietly.

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