Category Archives: Radical feminism

BDSM is not “edgy.” It’s just society magnified.

BDSM is being sold to us as an “edgy” form of sex, as opposed to the boring “vanilla” forms of sex used by most people. BDSM is said to be outrageous, transgressive, psychologically healing. But at the same time, we are told that BDSM is a perfectly valid, consensual way of exploring sexuality, so it’s not so transgressive that it becomes outright illegal.

But if you look at the theory of BDSM, you find that BDSM is actually not really “edgy” or transgressive. It is really nothing but another reflection of how our societies work. The monogamous family structure is one reflection of society, in that it posits a hierarchical framework where men dominate women and children, centered around property rights (the inviolability of the home).

BDSM is a different kind of reflection. While the monogamous family is a reflection of the conservative elements of society (and conservatives invoke it at any opportunity), BDSM is a reflection of the liberal elements of society. The liberal view of sex is one where women are not owned by one man, but indirectly by all men (through fuckability standards, the double standard, pornography and prostitution), and where ownership is generalized (where men own women’s sexuality, and women own men’s sexuality). BDSM is a codified, rationalized way of doing sex in accordance with these principles.

The main characteristics of BDSM are:

1. The dom/sub dynamic. This is a straightforward reproduction of the domination and submission dynamic that exists in all hierarchies, simply making it clearer than it usually is. While in most hierarchies the realization that one is dominating others, or is submitting to others, is hidden or repressed through various mechanisms of control, in BDSM that realization is the basis of the performance.

2. Hierarchies are structures of directed control (directed from the dominants to the submissives). The dom/sub dynamic is no different. BDSM “scenes” are frameworks for control flowing from doms to subs. Hierarchies enforce their control through violence or the threat of violence. In “scenes,” there is, likewise, violence and threats of violence.

Now, whenever you say this, BDSM advocates pipe up and say “it’s the sub who is really in control.” Right, like we don’t hear that sort of rationalization all the time. The doms are the one inflicting the violence, not the subs: that’s what they’re there for, and that’s why they’re called “dominants,” because they have the power. Now, I am not saying that all sexual violence is necessarily bad, although I definitely think they should be consensual. Which brings me to the next point…

3. BDSM is based on “consensual non-consent.” What does that mean? It means that you consent beforehand, either by verbal negotiations or through a contract, and that you have a safe word to use in order to stop a scene when it goes too far. But this is not consent, only the appearance of consent. Likewise, hierarchies are greatly concerned about maintaining the appearance of consent while not actually enforcing consent.

The best example of this is contracts. In capitalism, contracts are used to extract surplus value from workers in exchange for financial security (and in many jobs, not even that). In BDSM, contracts are used to normalize future sex acts. They are both form of ritual admission of dominance/submission which aim at providing the appearance of consent. But in reality, the worker has no more consented to obeying future orders than the sub has consented to the future sex acts.

BDSM advocates also say that safe words provide a clear way to prevent abuse. However, we know in practice that it does not, because of the high percentages of people who are abused in BDSM. There are many reasons why safe words can fail: because subs cannot form words due to trauma (or as they euphemistically call it, “subspace”), because subs forget their safe words, because subs don’t want to get disapproval from their doms, because doms don’t hear the word correctly, or because they simply ignore it. Superiors in our hierarchies also have all sorts of reasons not to care about the rights or desires of those they give orders to, all sorts of rationalizations explaining why they don’t have to care at all. We want to believe that we’re all safe from abuse, that the laws protect us, but this is just as delusional.

Through these three points, BDSM encapsulates the rules of universal exploitation. In theory, anyone can decide to be a dom or a sub. A sub can have different doms, and a dom can have different subs. They codify their social relations with contracts (like the work contract and the marriage contract). These relations are ostensibly based on “the consent of governed.”

BDSM’s sole function is to reproduce all the hierarchies and inequalities that have existed in our societies for centuries: sexism, racism, childism (through infantilism/DD and lg). There’s also nothing “edgy” about ritualized submission: religion has been doing it for millennia. Likewise, a relationship between two people sealed by mutual control and ritual is nothing new: we “vanilla” people call it “marriage.”

If you’re into race play you’re a racist. You’re getting off on perpetuating harmful, dehumanizing stereotypes that people live with everyday. If you weren’t racist you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it, let alone enjoy doing it.

If you’re into rape play you condone and normalize rape, and may be a rapist. You are literally getting off on and enjoying the simulated act of raping someone. You’re aroused by their nonconsent (feigned or otherwise). You derive pleasure from forced sexual violation.

If you’re into age play sexually, you are a pedophile. You are achieving sexual gratification from the image of a child. It doesn’t matter that the ‘child’ in question is a consenting adult, the image they are displaying to you is that of a child. If you’re fucking someone who is pretending to be 5 it’s because you’re socially aware enough to know you couldn’t get away with fucking an actual 5 year old and are fucking a substitute instead. That doesn’t make you less of a pedophile.

The only thing that could be said to be “new” about BDSM is the drive to rationalize it as psychologically healing and a form of sexual freedom, claims which have rarely been made about bigotry, religion, or marriage. It is the application of all these old concepts to sexuality that makes BDSM a distinctive ideology: applying bigotry, ritualized submission, and control and ritual, to people’s sex lives. But none of these things are desirable in the first place. We don’t need to keep reproducing bigotry. We don’t need ritualized submission, not to a god, not to a king, not to each other. We don’t need to keep controlling each other. None of this adds up to better sex. None of this adds up to any sort of challenge or even difference from our mainstream, abusive conceptions of sexuality and relationships.

Many BDSM advocates think they have a good argument against us when they say “mainstream heterosexual relationships are abusive too!” But in saying this, they admit that they’re just the same as the mainstream. This is not a revolutionary argument, or even a good argument. It’s just another tu quoque fallacy… terrible logic and even worse life advice.

Some people try to argue that there’s no contradiction between BDSM and feminism. I’ve debunked one such attempt in this entry. I won’t repeat myself here: if you’re interested in my arguments about that, read that entry. I have nothing against people who want to take charge of their sexuality and explore something different. But BDSM is not the way to go. Its explicit, strident anti-egalitarianism, its deliberate lies about “consent,” the fact that it’s aiding and abetting abusers and rapists (both within the community and without), are just disgusting. We don’t need that shit.

A new, exciting play: Agency Man Saves Women.

Theater is having a sort of renewal right now, especially with the influx of Hollywood franchises and talent. However, the indie theater is also doing well. Since this is relevant to my interests on this blog, I wanted to transcribe for you a little bit of a new play that is probably going to be a big hit. It’s called Agency Man Saves Women, and is a really wonderful story about agency, being personified into this superhero-type character, saves women who are in precarious situations. Have a read.

***

(A dilapidated room in the basement of a house. There are naked women posters, sexual paraphernalia, and torture equipment all over the walls. Upstage left, a desk with a computer open to a porn site and various recording equipment. Center, Gloria is lying down on a bare mattress and shackled to a post behind the mattress, struggling. She is still wearing her streetwalking clothes. To the left, there is a camera on a tripod aimed at the mattress.)

GLORIA
Help! Someone help! Anybody! HELP!

(Gloria continues to struggle for a few seconds, then AGENCY MAN appears from right and walks to Gloria, who is surprised.)

AGENCY MAN
Ah, do not fret! AGENCY MAN is here! I will “save” you from this predicament!

GLORIA
AGENCY MAN! Get me out of here!

AGENCY MAN
No.

GLORIA
WHAT?

AGENCY MAN
That’s not what I’m here for at all. Getting you out of here? That’s nonsense.

GLORIA
But you gotta get me out! I’ve been kidnapped by this john, and he’s gonna rape me on film!

AGENCY MAN
Whoa there, let me correct you. What you’re talking about is porn. Women voluntarily participate in porn of their own free will, and I feel that you’re insulting their choices by associating porn with rape. Having sex on camera is not rape.

GLORIA
I don’t give a shit! I didn’t choose to be here!

AGENCY MAN
(Laughing.)
So you’re saying that you don’t have agency? That doesn’t make any sense! You chose to be a sex worker, and you’re going to have sex.

GLORIA
He’s going to rape me!

AGENCY MAN
(Very serious.)
Are you denying the choices of sex workers to be in porn shoots?

GLORIA
NO! I just want you to get me out of here!

AGENCY MAN
That’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to stop you from disempowering yourself. You are a human being with the capacity to choose. You should never forget that. You should celebrate your agency, not scream against it. You are a strong woman, and I hear you roar!

GLORIA
I’M ROARING BECAUSE I WANT TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!

AGENCY MAN
I feel like you’re muddling the line between prostitution and sex trafficking. You’re not from another country, so it’s really not a big deal. In this economy, you should thank God you have a job that makes this much money.

GLORIA
I don’t want to be a prostitute, I just need the cash! And I don’t want to be here!

AGENCY MAN
First of all, it’s “sex worker,” not prostitute. Using the correct term is very important. It seems to me that you just don’t care about your fellow sex workers. You’re not one of those SWERFs, are you? Because if you are, forget about me ever reblogging you.

GLORIA
WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? WHAT THE FUCK IS A SWERF?

AGENCY MAN
It means Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist. One of those old, hairy, ugly feminists who are against sex workers. You don’t look old, hairy or ugly, so you must not be one. They are all really bitter that they aren’t pretty enough to be successful sex workers, so they turn against them. Typical female jealousy. All they talk about is how sex workers are not safe, saying that “if sex work is a form of work, then why don’t work safety laws apply to it too?”, talking about how women’s choices are influenced by this or that factor, that sort of bullshit. They hate the fact that women can choose to do sex work so they attack their agency… which is silly because we all have agency! And that’s why-

GLORIA
Shut the fuck up and help me! I am a victim of kidnapping! Get me outta here!

AGENCY MAN
HEY! I told you to watch your language.

GLORIA
WHAT?? WHAT DID I SAY?

AGENCY MAN
We don’t say the v-word. That’s a denial of agency. You’re not a v-word, you’re a thriver.

GLORIA
I’M NOT GONNA BE A FUCKING THRIVER IF YOU DON’T HELP ME GET OUT!

AGENCY MAN
(Ignoring what Gloria just said.)
As for the “kidnapping” part, well, obviously kidnapping is not a good thing. But that’s why we need to legalize sex work. Legalization will allow women to make their choices without the threat of getting arrested hanging over them. But you know, from a sex work standpoint, it’s not kidnapping. Your body is a tool of production, so really this is just workplace pilfering, like an office worker stealing a stapler or some pens. It’s not that big of a deal.
(A loud noise comes from off right, both Gloria and Agency Man look in that direction while Agency Man says the next two lines.)
Well, it seems like your performance is about to begin. I’m going to leave now.

GLORIA
WAIT! YOU WERE GOING TO SAVE ME!

AGENCY MAN
That’s right, and I did. I saved you from being disempowered. Now you know that you have the agency needed to do whatever you want to do. If you want to free yourself from this situation, simply negotiate terms with your john. That’s how workplace disputes are resolved. Also, you really need to read more about feminism, real feminism, not the hairy man-hating kind of feminism, which is misandry and just as bad as misogyny. There’s no need to hate anyone in this world. Remember, you have agency, you are empowered. Make the choices YOU want to make. Also, I just want to say, I love women. I’m glad I was able to be a small part of your process. Goodbye!

(Agency Man exits stage left while Gloria struggles vigorously and footsteps can be heard coming from off right.)

***

This reads like a great play. I heard they’re trying to get Lin-Manuel Miranda to play Agency Man. I’m sure it’s gonna be the next Hamilton.

“You’re just trying to turn everyone into victims.”

For more than a century now, there has been a rising awareness of the need for universal human rights: first for the workers of the world, then for women and people of color, then for many other groups. This has led to many different waves of backlash, all tied to the specific movement they are going against.

In this era of continued growing awareness, it seems to some people that there’s no end to the complaints about subgroups being exploited or mistreated, which is why they use the term “political correctness” derisively. They are trying to reduce these movements to demands about words, when the use of words is only a symptom of the greater problems. Calling a black person a “nigger” is not the root of the problem. It is a symptom of the underlying racism that made that person say it. Wanting white people to stop saying “nigger” is an attempt to get white people to see black people in a more respectful light. People who object to such “correctness” only see the word, not the causes of the use of the word, or they are racists and simply don’t care if people use that word.

But there is a more sophisticated strategy that they can take here. Instead of just objecting to the “correctness,” they sometimes say something like, “so you think [oppressed group] is so fragile that they can’t stand hearing the word [slur]? I think you need to start treating [oppressed group] like adults who can stand up to a simple word.” Here is a real life example of a misogynist commenting on the “ban bossy” campaign:

The biggest level of cognitive dissonance is – this is a campaign that is done in solidarity of young women and girls, yet it is making it sound like they are so fragile that they can’t handle being called a word. I mean, really? Are we really making that argument? Cause if we are, then you are tacitly admitting that they shouldn’t be holding positions of power. Reason – because they can’t take criticism.

This is an insidious tactic because it claims to be on the side of the oppressed, that the oppressed are not weak and can take the abuse, so it’s not really abusive. This particular example is even better because it creates a double bind: either women are too weak to be called “bossy,” in which case they don’t deserve power (as if men can take criticism any better), or they are strong enough to be called “bossy,” in which case we should continue to insult them. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Inevitably this tactic is framed in terms of “fragility” or “weakness.” The implication is that if members of an oppressed group are offended by a certain word, then they must be “fragile” or “weak,” and (at least in the case of the example I quoted) therefore unable to withstand serious human interactions. This is, of course, disingenuous and hypocritical: when people in power are offended, they don’t conclude that they are too “fragile” or “weak” to keep holding power. It is therefore purely a matter of self-interest, and the end goal of the maneuver is to shut people up.

I’m talking about tactics based on arguing that the person defending a given group is trying to turn the people of that group into victims. This particular argument is just a specific instance of that category, since it contends that the people trying to abolish slurs are implying that the oppressed people are weak. In general, though, the rationalization used is not that the oppressed people are “weak,” but rather that they have “agency” or “choice,” which is even more insidious because it seems to “empower” oppressed people with the ability to decide their destiny. The argument goes something like this:

1. You claim that a group of people P is oppressed.
2. But such a statement denies that people P have agency and (have chosen the life situation that you decry/need to choose a better life situation and “life themselves by their bootstraps.”)
3. Therefore you are denying people P agency, portraying them as victims when they actually (are/should be) empowered.

There are two branches to this argument, and they switch from one to the other depending on whether they find the oppression desirable or not. So for instance, homemaking, pornography or prostitution get the “they’ve chosen the life situation that you decry” branch, while poverty or police harassment get the “need to choose a better life situation” branch.

One major problem with this argument, however, is that it does not apply to bigotry, which is the foundation of the oppressions they are trying to rationalize. So for example the following argument makes sense to them:

Women in pornography and prostitution have agency and have chosen the life situation that you decry. Therefore you are denying women in pornography and prostitution their agency, portraying them as victims when they actually are empowered.

But once you start trying to address sexism itself, neither branch of the argument makes sense. While genderists do believe that various parts of sexism are empowering (such as the fuckability mandate or rigid gender roles), sexism itself is still not considered “empowering,” and it makes no sense to say that women who are victim of sexism need to choose a better life situation, since they can’t change being a woman (genderist blathering notwithstanding). The “agency” ploy only works on the oppressed’ reactions to bigotry. It doesn’t work on the bigotry itself.

That’s obvious if you understand what “agency” is really all about, and that’s victim-blaming, more specifically, defending evil institutions by claiming the victims’ participation is justified by “agency.” But obviously victims of bigotry do not participate in it, they only participate to their own reactions to the bigotry.

But this is a major flaw of the argument, as it doesn’t actually explain the oppression itself. Homemaking, pornography, prostitution, poverty and police harassment are effects of misogyny and racism, which are the root causes. The latter cannot be addressed without also addressing the former. Therefore any argument which justifies one without justifying the other is logically flawed. If the existence of those effects is justified by “agency,” then misogyny and racism must also be justified by “agency,” otherwise neither can be justified by “agency.”

Is identifying oppression the same as turning people into victims? Well, I think there is a problem with the question, insofar as a belief in “agency” seems to preclude any victimhood whatsoever. How can anyone be a victim if everyone has the “agency” to “choose” their oppression or to leave it? Take a very clear-cut example of oppression: a mother is beaten by her husband but does not want to leave him because of the children. According to the argument, the mother is not being oppressed because she has the “agency” to leave him, so the fact that she’s not leaving is actually “her choice” (they would never say that last part, but it is implied). Things like financial dependence or fear never factor in “agency” explanations (they never count against prostitution or pornography, for example), so we can’t let them factor in here either.

Such arguments reduce victimhood to a matter of subjectivity, whether a person feels “empowered” or not, whether they are said to have “chosen” where they ended up. This is generally not based on any facts or statistics. Every case is treated as a separate entity, and institutions are portrayed as being somewhat fluid, not quite real. Coercion and exploitation is obscured by the stories of the happy homemakers, the happy hookers, the happy actresses. Poverty and lower social status are portrayed as a sort of laziness, reserved for people who don’t work hard enough to get themselves free of it. There is a great deal of vagueness, of ambiguity, projected upon the whole thing, following the principle of inserting a “shadow of a doubt” in order to secure innocence. If some people aren’t victims, then none really are.

I like to think of this as “eracism.” It’s become fashionable to deny the existence of racism, while hiding it behind codewords and dogwhistles. A racist candidate is now a “law and order” candidate. A racist policy against blacks is now targeting “welfare queens” or “urban crime.” One erases racism by turning victims into miscreants. It is a high priority of anyone who supports the status quo to deny that anyone is being victimized by the system, that it’s all fair and just part of the game.

Eracism is necessarily victim-blaming, and I would include the “you’re turning everyone into victims” argument in that category, because it seeks to cloak oppression with “empowerment.” When people treat victims of sexist or racist oppression as “empowered,” they are hiding the victimhood, and they are also hiding their own role in the process as social agents. By projecting blame on the victims, they exculpate themselves. This is a comforting thought, if you don’t care at all for truth or justice.

The catharsis theory used to defend pornography.

There is a fairly common argument for pornography that I haven’t addressed before, simply because it didn’t cross my mind. But it is something that I used to agree with, politically. The catharsis theory is basically the belief that when people are exposed to a representation of violence or sex, they will have a lower desire to perform violent or sexual actions.

There is scientific evidence behind this theory (here is an example of discussion of that evidence). I don’t have any qualms against these studies (except about the founding study of catharsis theory, based on post-WW2 Denmark, which was proven wrong). However, the problem is that pornography advocates draw ridiculously overinflated conclusions from those studies. For instance, the article I linked to is entitled “How the Web Prevents Rape.” And yes, they are talking about Internet pornography here.

And we know factually that this grandiose conclusion is nor true. We know that pornography usage is linked to objectification of women, support for rape, and a greater likelihood of rape and pedophilia. The difference is that the studies that pornography advocates use to make their point are about the immediate consequences of pornography-watching, while the other studies are mostly about the medium and long-term.

I find that their arguments rely on a certain, bizarre model of indoctrination. For lack of a better term, I will call this the no-subconscious model, because its primary feature is the complete absence of the subconscious. According to this model, every message we receive is immediately analyzed by our rational, conscious mind. First, it goes through a filter, which only lets in messages which appeal to the identities that the recipient identifies with. So for example, a man would not internalize the misogyny in a beer ad if he does not identify as a beer drinker. Then, those messages which have not been filtered out are analyzed rationally by the recipient, who decides to accept or reject the message. Finally, action is taken immediately on the basis of that message: either rational acceptance (accepting a message and immediately acting on it), or reject the message altogether.

This model explains the two major areas where liberal feminists reject indoctrination: pornography and transgenderism. They argue that pornography cannot possibly create more rape if studies show that men who watch pornography do not immediately go out and rape. They argue that men do not internalize the messages of pornography because those messages are not rational. They argue that toddlers and young children do not internalize messages addressed to a gender they don’t identify with. These views are completely nonsensical from any even remotely realistic point of view, but they hold a powerful attraction to the people who believe them: I think this is because of their bizarre folk model of indoctrination. But that model was probably adopted in order to fit their beliefs, and not the reverse. By pointing out how ridiculous the model is, we’re really only showing how ridiculous the beliefs in pornography and transgenderism are, because they depend on this model in order to make any sense.

The reality is that internalization of media messages is not mediated by rationality or filtered by identification. Everyone is affected by those messages, no matter who they are or how they identify. One thing that does have some impact on their effect is the recipient’s level of media literacy: a person who has high media literacy is less likely to change their behavior, as long as they maintain an active questioning of the messages they’re being given. But we all internalize the messages we’re given. The transgender activist’s belief in immunity to messages due to identity, or the pornography advocate’s belief that the pornography user can rationally refuse to integrate a desire for violent sex, are fictions, especially since both categories of people have zero interest in advocating for actual media literacy. Neither of them want you to think very deeply about their messages, just to accept them passively.

Internalization is also not an instantaneous event, but a medium and long-term event. The false corollary given to us (as a result of the no-unconscious model) is that if a man watches pornography videos and does not immediately go out there and rape a woman, that means he did not integrate the message. But internalization comes from repetition and reinforcement from the wider society, and that takes some time. It takes time to integrate a belief within our mental framework, as long as it takes to chip a belief out of it.

Pornsick men are pornsick because they have become addicted to pornography for their arousal. And this is the result of watching pornography again and again and again, escalating the violence and objectification of the videos until they have no more connection to actual sex. This process changes a person’s framework about women, about sex, about relationships, and about rape. And yes, it does mean that they are more likely to rape and get off on rape, whether it’s the rape of prostituted women, pornographic rape, or the rape of “good women.”

Transgender children become transgender, not because of some pseudo-scientific “innate gender,” but because of two repetitions. The first is the repetition of gender dogma, which constantly hammers home the fact that their behavior is “wrong” and “unnatural”; the second is the repetition of talking to other children on social media who have assimilated trans dogma, which gives them a simplistic and comforting explanation for their struggles with gender. These are two mutually reinforcing systems of thought which partake of the same logic: the enforcement of gender roles leads gender non-conforming children to feel alienated, which leads them to the company of like-minded children, who tell them that gender must be enforced through surgery and social approval, which leads them to look to gender roles as the blueprint of how they should be. They are both based on the notion that gender is ingrained and must be followed at all costs, including at the cost of your own life. This gives a particular urgency to the victims of the transgender cause.

Finally, internalization mostly takes place at the level of the subconscious. The subconscious makes people uncomfortable because it’s harder to measure (although psychologists use techniques like priming to try to get to it). Liberal feminists are unlikely to take the subconscious seriously because it goes against their fundamental premise of “agency”; other belief systems, like Objectivism, which are based around Reason Triumphant, also reject the subconscious’ importance because of its irrationality. Either way, if the very basis of your worldview is that your life is entirely in your hands and that you can be blamed for every single bad decision you make, then the last thing you’d want to do is believe there is a part of your mind that is outside of your conscious control (although cults like Scientology can use that excuse to punish you whenever they want). The concept of “empowerment” is completely at odds with the reality of internalization.

The similarities between pornsick men and spanking advocates.

While my regular readers will not be too surprised by this topic, a vast majority of people, I suspect, would be outraged by it: both people who are pro-pornography and anti-spanking (liberal types) and people who are anti-pornography and pro-spanking (conservative types). I have never seen this comparison made before, and for good reason: people devote a great deal of energy denying what pornography and spanking are, and comparing them truthfully requires one to first understand precisely that. What I intend to show here is that the arguments used by both pornsick men and spanking advocates are very similar. I don’t believe this is a coincidence.

1. “It’s not real abuse!”

This is pretty straightforward. Spanking advocates vehemently deny that spanking is abusive at all: it’s generally the very first thing they start their arguments with, as if we need to be “set straight” on this subject before we can even understand their arguments. They say that spanking is a necessary part of parenting, that without it children simply cannot be disciplined.

Pornsick men also argue that pornography is just fantasy and that the abuse we observe is not real, did not really happen, and are a necessary part of “the industry.” In fact, they apply considerable legal pressure against, for instance, mandatory contraception in pornographic shoots on the grounds that, without legal leeway, pornography simply cannot survive.

These arguments are great examples of delusional thinking. While there is an element of fantasy in both cases (in the case of spanking, the rituals associated with its use, in the case of pornography, the dialogue and acting that comes before the sex), spanking and sex in pornography are real acts that happen to real people and have real consequences. Real children are sexually assaulted every day, and real women are getting assaulted and raped on film every day. The rituals and the dialogue only serve to distance the participants (and viewers) from the acts, although nowadays pornography is increasingly getting rid of dialogue and going straight for the sex.

2. “Bad women/bad children deserve to be abused (because they chose to be bad)”

Both positions share the belief that women/children must be divided into two groups, “good” and “bad,” although the justification for those groups differs. In the case of pornography, women are divided into “good women,” usually described as “wives, mothers, sisters,” and so on, and “bad women” (“sluts”), who want to be abused and get no negative repercussions from the abuse. Even though they also have families, these “bad women” are never described as wives, mothers, or sisters because, again, the objective is to distance the pornography viewer from empathizing with those women.

In the case of spanking, children are divided into “good children,” who are “better seen and not heard,” and “bad children,” who are unruly, too loud, “wild,” refuse to agree with their parents, refuse to behave, refuse to obey orders. The latter deserve to be abused because they “chose” to be unruly.

The concept of “choice” is crucially important in both cases, and shows the similarity of views about “choice” for liberals and conservatives. For people who are pro-pornography, the women’s “choice” to be in pornography validates the abuse they go through, but it’s framed as a good thing. For people who are pro-spanking, the child’s “choice” to be unruly validates the abuse they go through, and it’s framed as a punishment, as a correction, or using the weasel word “discipline.” “Choice” is always used as a cudgel against the exploited group, no matter who’s doing the exploiting; they just frame it differently.

Many questions are buried under the word “choice,” and the most important of those is: what makes a woman or a child turn “bad”? It’s an important question because the people who push this “choice” rhetoric absolutely do not want to you ask it, and they will complain and whine mightily if you try to give some answers. Obviously the people doing the exploitation don’t want you to undo the illusion of “choice” that their moral high ground relies upon.

Furthermore, in both cases, the motivation is connected to the exploiters themselves in some way. In the case of children, it’s a direct connection: by and large, children are “bad” because their parents either put unreasonable demands on the child and have made it so rebelling is the only way out, or have mishandled the child’s early development. Most parents have no expertise whatsoever in child-raising, and you get the results you expect to get from amateurs, in the same way that you’d expect a group of amateurs to build a terrible house or fail at driving a plane (and a child is many orders of magnitude more complex than a house or a plane). So they compensate for their failures by inflicting physical violence, because force is the only thing that makes any sense to them.

In the case of prostitution, the connection is more indirect. By and large, women involved in pornography are economically motivated: they get involved because they are promised a high-paying career and they have no better alternatives. This is a result of the way capitalism has segregated people by gender, the same capitalism that the pornography industry is embedded into. And the pornography industry is no more kind to its workers than any other industry.

Now, I know many people are thinking “but surely there are women out there who are bad/surely there are children out there who are bad.” I reject that premise, because I reject the perspectives (misogyny, childism) within which these categories make sense. Just to be clear, I am not saying that women and children do not commit immoral acts. But that’s not what a “bad woman” or a “bad child” is. A “bad woman” is not an immoral woman, it’s a woman who wants to be sexually abused in pornography and who gets off on it. And there’s no such thing. A “bad child” is not an immoral child, it’s a child that deserves to be punished for being unruly. And there’s no such thing. No matter what they do, no woman or child “chooses” or deserves to be abused.

Pornography has an additional consideration about this dichotomy, and that’s the belief that if men are not free to exploit “bad women” then they will rape “good women.” In a sense, “bad women” are conceived of as an inferior class which should be abused for the benefit of the superior classes. In childism, there is a concept that “bad children” can negatively influence “good children” and drag them down to their level, although I don’t think it’s specific to pro-spanking rhetoric. Most importantly, “good children” and “bad children” are not really seen as different classes, since any child can be spanked if they “misbehave.”

3. “I don’t care what you say, my personal gratification is more important.”

Pornsick men don’t care about the abuse or rape they may be masturbating to, because they hold that their orgasms are more important. Parents don’t care about the assaults they are inflicting on their children, because their intense desire for a quiet home or obedient kids trumps any such consideration. In both cases, the evaluation is done on a selfish basis. They don’t care about the well-being of women or children, they care about their own well-being above all else. And that’s just fucked up. How self-absorbed do you have to be to support women getting assaulted and raped, or children getting assaulted, to protect your own little feelings?

4. Flimsy rights claims.

Pornsick men claim that they have the right to watch pornography. They argue for this in two ways: first, in claiming the right to free speech for producers of pornography, second, in claiming that their orgasm is so important that watching pornography should be recognized as a right, no matter where. I’ve previously debunked the use of free speech to defend pornography. As for orgasms, everyone knows men don’t need pornography to get one… except, of course, if they’re pornsick. Either way, it’s not clear why this is a human right at all.

But more importantly, it’s also not clear how these rights claims, which are rather tenuous, stack up with the rights of the women who get raped and assaulted within the production of pornography, or the rights of the women whose rape or assault is motivated by pornography use, or the implicit threat that widespread pornography and pornographic media content presents for women as a class. These are real, tangible crimes. Not letting pornsick men have videos of a woman getting choked by penises… not really a crime of the same magnitude. I don’t think you can reasonably compare the two.

Spanking advocates claim that they have the right to parent as they see fit, even if this includes corporal punishment. Now, logically, you can’t have such a right unless you assume that the child is owned by the parents. Otherwise how could you claim a right to control another human being to the point where you can assault them, or, if you prefer, “discipline” them? No human being has the right to assault any other, but we think that parenting should be the exception. From a non-childist perspective, that doesn’t really make sense: children are human beings and deserve to be treated like human beings. Human beings may be stopped from doing something damageable if they are not aware of the danger, and they may be prevented from harming others, but they may not be assaulted in order to conform to someone else’s desires.

***

As I wrote above, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that pornsick men and spanking advocates use the same general approach to justify their perversions, because both pornography and spanking involve sexual assault and personal gratification. The fact that pornography reproduces inequality, and that spanking takes place in a context of incredible inequality, has something to do with it as well. Finally, stereotypes about women often refer to infantile characteristics: the oppression of women goes hand in hand with the oppression of children (and this is true in terms of social value as well).

Now, I do want to be clear: I am not stating that pornography and spanking are “equally bad.” I have no idea how you could even measure such a thing. I am not organizing an Oppression Olympics. What I am saying is that the arguments are similar because the social context is roughly similar. If you support the use of violence in one hierarchy, then you have no particularly good reason to reject the use of violence in another hierarchy. You could say similar sort of things about capital punishment fans, corporate abuses, neo-liberalism around the world, BDSM, natalism, and so on. The same attitude underlies support for all of them. Underlying all these rationalizations is a simple principle: might makes right.

Here are my answers to each of these points:

1. Abuse against other human beings is abuse, no matter the rituals, contracts or other scripts put around it.
2. There is no such thing as a “bad woman” or a “bad child,” because no matter what they do, no one deserves to be sexually abused.
3. Any individual’s personal gratification is not worth the ongoing abuse against women and children.
4. The rights of women and children to be free from abuse are more important than the oppressors’ “rights.”

The eroticization of female body parts is the problem.

There is a lot of complaints about radical feminism from liberal types who believe that radfems are concerned with telling other women how to live. I’ve written about this phenomenon in this entry, and I explained why radfem, which is a form of systemic criticism, has nothing to do with criticizing women’s personal actions. Or to say it more simply, “it’s the institutions, stupid.” We cannot blame any woman for how she deals with the gender hierarchy or the patriarchy in general. What we should attack are the ideas, the institutions that spread those ideas, and the worldview underlying them all.

The way liberals talk about it, they seem to assume that both using makeup and not using makeup, shaving and not shaving, having long hair and having short hair, are equal “choices” (a nonsense word), that a woman may “choose” one or the other at a whim, and that the only thing wrong with the situation is that there are some “angry feminists” trying to make other women feel guilty. But this is clearly not true: the patriarchy wants women to police themselves.

The support and promotion of femininity is a backlash against a totally preconceived set of social beliefs and attitudes that doesn’t exist. Gender non-conforming women do not dominate the feminist movement nor the world at large, they are not widely praised and rewarded for their nonconformity, and their voices and experiences are routinely ignored. There is no similar amount of support for unfeminine girls and women, especially butch lesbians, who go through their lives being told that “real women” are thin, attractive, feminine, and pleasing to men. In fact femininity is so often conflated with womanhood that gender non-conforming women are frequently accused of misogyny (or even of being men!) for rejecting femininity and beauty standards.

The problem is not individual women not wearing makeup or not shaving, the problem is systemic. Generally speaking, the problem is the male gaze. More specifically, the problem lies in the premise, usually unquestioned, that certain body parts of women are, and must be, erotic: her hair, her face, her belly, her breasts, her vulva, her butt, her legs, her feet. Actually, there’s nothing innately erotic about them, and there is nothing in nature that says those body parts must always be erotic. The fact that we think a naked human body is sexual and scandalous is cultural, and is not, by far, universal.

We consider these body parts erotic because eroticism is constructed by society, and in the case of Western societies, that mainly means Western gender roles and pornography (as well as the extension of pornography into mainstream media). The body may grow hairs, stretch with fat, and grow old, but an erotic body cannot do any of those things. The ideal erotic body, as shown by pornography and mainstream photo shoots, is a body free from hair, slim and trim, free of blemishes, wrinkles and marks, flexible and pliable. If it becomes in any way blemished, it is no longer erotic (unless it can be heavily Photoshopped), and therefore no longer valuable as a female body.

And this comes with the assumption that each individual woman will “work” on herself in order to keep her body parts up to the erotic standards. It is assumed that a respectable woman will shave her legs, pluck her face, keep her hair professional (i.e. not “black”), wear makeup, and if she wants to be sexually active, shave the rest of her body hair (including her pubic hair), have her labia trimmed if necessary, and not be menstruating. It is contradictory to claim that the eroticization of women’s bodies is empowering, when it really limits women in how they’re allowed to move into the world if they want to get the credibility that men already get by default.

Men are not subjected to the same scrutiny, and their body parts are not illuminated by the spotlight of eroticism (except, to some extent, the penis, which is a staple of what is ostensibly “heterosexual pornography”). A man can refuse to shave, not wear any makeup, be old and fat, and this is (except in some specific settings) not counted as a demerit against him. There is an ideal male body occasionally put on display, but it is not assumed to be relevant to any other man.

No individual woman, or even women as a class, can wake up and decide that their legs (for example) are not erotic. Men will still judge them on whether their legs are shaved or not, what footwear they’re wearing, how they’re showing their legs off, no matter how much women complain. Women are judged primarily on their bodies, not on their accomplishments or the power they wield (while men will still bow to that power, they privately resent it). Neither women who shave their legs, nor women who do not shave their legs, can change the fact that they are not in control of the framework (the male gaze) through which other people perceive them.

The eroticization of women’s bodies also has social consequences at the level of specific body parts. For example, the eroticization of breasts, which is particularly important to heterosexual men, is a great hinderance to support of breast feeding, and warps the debate around breast feeding. The fact that breasts themselves are classified as erotic (and nipples, as downright pornographic and degraded) means that women are blamed for showing them in public, even though breast feeding in itself is not eroticized. The eroticization of the vulva, I think, has a lot to do with men’s revulsion of menstruation. And many people have already commented that the demand for women to shave their faces and legs derives from the infantilizing nature of femininity.

A lot is written about body image problems in women, but not much is written about their source. Body image issues are not only the fault of the mainstream media, as the mainstream media has been pornified. Pornography presents the female body as a sexual object which conforms on all points to the requirements of eroticization. Nowadays, it is through pornography that most people get their first experience of the erotic female body, and how women come to internalize the male gaze, not through magazines or advertisements, although criticism is only focused at the latter. This ensures that the problem itself will never be eradicated, which is convenient for those institutions that depend on female servility.

Incidentally, there’s been a great deal of research done on the effects of watching pornography on men, but I have never seen any research on the effects of watching pornography on women. I think there’s a lot of misogyny in that approach: we care about the effects of pornography if men are hurt psychologically, but we apparently don’t give a shit about women getting hurt psychologically. Ho-hum. Of course pornsick men who gain power and can make rulings about laws, or change the laws, are very dangerous to women, and should be monitored, but the effect of pornography on women’s self-image needs to be studied as well.

FETAs and the denial of the existence of the social class “women.”

All radical analysis is by definition a systemic analysis. And systemic analysis heavily relies on the concept of social classes as a way to understand and articulate the effect of social policies, indoctrination, and moral principles. Some people associate the concept of social classes with Marxism, but everyone uses social classes as part of their argumentation, even right-wing fanatics (given how often they talk about the poor, immigrants, black people, and how they’re responsible for all sorts of social ills). So you’d think that arguments against the concept of social classes would be pretty self-defeating.

There are people, however, who have a vested interest in denying the existence of specific classes. The privileged always want to downplay their existence as a social class. Some take it a step further. Many transgender advocates have dedicated their energies to denying the existence of women as a class. This seems simply blind, as women are very clearly targeted by genderist policies, including anti-abortion policies, opposition to contraceptives, anti-social services policies, wage inequality, and the lack of prosecution of rape and battering, to name only those happening in Western countries. If we start piling on the various forms of gynocide that have been in operation for centuries (sati, witch-hunting, foot-binding, forced pregnancies, female genital mutilation), then the proposition that there is no such thing as women becomes ridiculously untenable.

The reason behind this denial is to eliminate the importance of being “born woman.” They believe rightly that the transgender movement can only succeed if it first exterminates any female resistance. As long as women believe that they are a social class with its own interests (even if they have a narrow view of what those interests are), they will resist the idea that a man who thinks he is a woman, or who had his penis cut off, must be considered a woman on the same level as any other woman.

In order to argue this, they have pushed two main lines of reasoning:

1. The sex binary does not exist, therefore one’s genitals can have nothing to do with whether one is a “woman” or not.
2. Female socialization does not exist, therefore one’s assigned gender can have nothing to do with whether one is a “woman” or not.

In order to make sense of this reasoning, however, we must first ask the question: what is a woman? FETAs are singularly unable to answer it except by appealing to the concept of innate gender, which is not only pseudo-scientific nonsense, but fails to answer the question. The concept “woman” is used in order to describe the targeted oppression I’ve described. Women are targeted by men because they were assigned as women and socialized as women. And they were assigned as women and socialized as women because of their genitals.

Therefore we see that the two lines of reasoning above attempt to deny the roots of gender oppression: biological sex and female socialization. As a matter of fact, FETAs widely argue against these two concepts. How can this be explained, except as a deliberate attempt at erasing gender oppression, opening the way for their new brand of Genderism Lite(tm)?

It is hard to imagine that anyone seriously argues against the concept of biological sex, but there are plenty of FETAs who do (I analyzed one of them here). Their sole argument is that male and female are not absolutely, totally, 100% separate concepts: not all males are XY, not all females are XX, not all males have the same level of testosterone, not all females have the same level of estrogen, not all females have large breasts, not all males have flat chests, therefore there is no sex binary. Often intersex people (who are approximately 0.2% of the population) are trotted out as proof that there is no sex binary (they don’t give a shit about how intersex people are treated, they just want to use their plight as an argument).

But this is a profoundly anti-intellectual way of arguing. We do not simply deny the existence of clusters of data points because there are also points outside of them. Obviously there are some individuals who do not fit the criteria for male or female 100%. We could say the same about living species, businesses, video games, music, furniture, clouds, or any other set of entities that we classify into complex categories. Any definition we use for a complex concept will be probabilistic in nature, not absolute: sure, this makes people uncomfortable, but it doesn’t make us deny the existence of anything complex. Denying the existence of the sex binary is just as pseudo-scientific as, for instance, rejecting the evolutionary timeline because some species fall slightly outside of it.

Now, granted, one can also go pseudo-scientific in the other direction, and posit the existence of clusters where there are none. For instance, Creationists classify all primate human ancestors as being either “like modern humans” or “not like modern humans at all.” A FETA might describe this as a situation where a “human binary” has been assumed, and is clearly wrong based on the science that we have. But quacks cannot take refuge in science: the sex binary is a scientific fact observed throughout the animal kingdom, and it has far-reaching consequences (see for example sexual dimorphism, of which there are many stunning and spectacular examples). In the case of our ancestors, however, we see a clear gradation (e.g. in head shapes and head volume) which does not leave much room for clusters.

FETAs sometimes accuse their opponents of being obsessed with genitals. Actually, we’re not: we just point out the fact that genitals are what genderists use to assign gender on babies. It is therefore a tool of oppression, but it is necessary for genderism to operate in society because it classifies human beings in two categories, the oppressors and the oppressed. In a sane (non-genderist) society, genitals should have no more to do with who you are than your hair color, your skin tone, your height, or your favourite color. But the fact is that our genitals do have a huge impact on how we’re raised and who we’re seen to be. To ignore that fact is delusional.

To claim “not everyone who is born female can bear children therefore bearing children has nothing to do with being female” is rather like me arguing that because I was born with three nipples, any biology textbook which claims having two nipples is a feature of being human is making a random assertion rather than an obvious generalisation. And generalisations matter. To argue otherwise is not only to dismiss the history of discrimination but to perpetuate it.
Cordelia Fine

Their rejection of female socialization is no less irrational. In fact, both arguments are very similar in nature. Remember that the argument against the sex binary is that either all individuals are unequivocally either male or female, or there is no sex binary at all. Their argument against female socialization is that either all females experience their socialization in the same exact way, or there’s no such thing as female socialization. The only difference is that they do not argue that there are people who had an unusual socialization, but that any difference at all disproves the existence of female socialization. As such, it’s an even more absurd claim. Here is an example of it:

TERFs willfully misuse the word ‘socialization’ to misgender trans women and treat us as malicious “men,” saying trans women are and have been perpetrators of male violence, because us trans women pre-coming out and pre-transition must experience malehood and therefore male privilege. They generally base this off how we are read when we are younger, meaning read as male and treated as such. While I understand why folks argue this, it relies on omitting a few things: a key aspect of socialization called response, what privilege actually is, and, naturally, the lived experiences of trans women… As Reed puts it, “There is no singular, universal woman’s narrative. There are as many stories and experiences as there are women.”

And she’s right. What experience of womanhood is experienced by all women? You probably don’t have to think very hard to see that this really is impossible, and for shared girlhood to be a thing, it needs to ignore that us women are multifaceted.

There are two parts to this argument. One is the myth that children can somehow decide how to respond to the socialization they receive, and therefore that children whose innate gender differs from their assigned gender will somehow not assimilate that socialization. Another is that, if all women do not have the exact same experiences, then there’s no such thing as womanhood.

So what is the argument for the belief that transgender individuals have not internalized their assigned gender’s socialization when they were younger? Most FETAs don’t even bother arguing that point, but we are presented with an argument here:

Nobody internalizes all messages sent to them the same way (which is, again, why there are so many different expressions of womanhood). In fact, some are outright rejected, and that’s because folks know a message is not about them. TERFs often act like folks have no agency within these structures, that people, particularly women in this case, are more stone tablets to have their identities engraved upon them. That sounds pretty darn misogynistic, doesn’t it? Seems to be a pattern in TERF rhetoric. Acting like women don’t have agency over their own experiences sounds exactly like what patriarchy says about women.

Those who read my blog will recognize this argument immediately. I analyzed it in my entry “You’re just trying to turn everyone into victims”: the bigot pretends to be on the side of the oppressed by stating that they are powerful enough, or have enough “agency,” to stand against oppression, and that anyone who says otherwise must therefore think that the oppressed are “weak” and unable to stand on their own two feet. In this case, the FETA bigot is arguing that women have the “agency” to reject messages given to them in their female socialization when they feel they’re “not about them.” People who argue against this must therefore think that women have “no agency” and are “misogynistic,” thus projecting the misogyny of FETA rhetoric onto actual feminists. Women are not victims of socialization, as they can reject any message they want, and those women who feel oppressed by their female socialization are just complainers.

There are a lot of things wrong with this logic. For one thing, there is no such thing as innate gender. A child raised to believe it is a boy will internalize messages issued at boys, regardless of how they will see themselves later in life. For another thing, no one has any “agency” to decide to reject a message they do not like. We are all indoctrinated to believe in the social constructs enforced by socialization. Unless they are introduced to alternatives, a three year old will not know that they can simply believe that “there’s no such thing as boys or girls” or “it doesn’t matter how smart someone is.” It’s useless to talk of “agency” when there are no possible alternatives.

Furthermore, socialization is about a lot more than “messages,” and to reduce it to that dimension means ignoring all the other ways we’re trained to be boys or girls:

They said trans women don’t identify with the messages about boys they hear because they know they are girls, so when they hear that girls are weak they understand it means they are weak. But that doesn’t make sense. Socialization is so much more than just people telling you boys are this and girls are that. It’s being catcalled when you’re only eight years old. It’s being laughed at and patronized when you say you want to be the President when you’re older, when the boys in your class get told that if they study hard it’s possible for them. It’s being talked over and told to shut up and never getting a reason why but slowly realizing it’s because you are a girl. Socialization isn’t always easily recognizable, so how could an eight year old transgender kid just automatically know and reject all of it?

FETAs want to imagine that socialization is only a parent telling their child gender stereotypes, like “boys play outside and climb trees, but you should stay inside and read,” and the child standing there thinking “hmmm… do I accept this message or not… I consider myself a girl, therefore…”, and so on. But that’s just one of the ways in which we’re socialized (and we certainly don’t spend our time accepting or rejecting these messages). Most socialization is implicit and exists in the narratives we tell, the ways we treat each other, the ways other people act.

As for the argument that women do not all have the same experiences, it is quite true, but does not prove the non-existence of female socialization. When we say “female socialization,” we’re not saying that all women have experienced the same messages, the same narratives, the same incentives. What we are saying is that all women have been socialized into a certain gender role, and that men have been socialized into a different gender role. While no individual may have been indoctrinated into their gender role completely and totally, the outcomes are predictable: men as a class are more violent, more pedophilic, more sexually entitled, more confident in their ability to reason, more athletic, less caring, less compassionate, less able to deal with unwanted emotions. This is what we mean by socialization.

This reasoning applies to all groups: no one has the exact same experiences, but we don’t use this as an excuse to deny the existence of that group, or of the fact that the members have been socialized or affected in a specific way. As culturallyboundgender points out, we can say the exact same thing about gay people, native people, black people, or rape victims:

There is no shared gay experience. A gay man in Uganda, a lesbian woman in Vancouver–these people have incredibly different experiences of what it means to experience same-sex attraction and love. This does not mean that there is no such thing as gay, or that gay people should be unwelcome to meet without straight people saying “but my parents don’t like my girlfriend and people sometimes called me anti-gay slurs, which is, you must admit, pretty similar to some things that have happened to some of you!”

There is no shared American Indian experience. Some people of American Indian descent grow up on reservations, some don’t. Among both groups, socioeconomic status can vary tremendously. Different American Indian and First Nations groups have very different cultural norms and policies about assimilating into a white-dominated society. It would be ridiculous for someone to say that American Indians should be forced to admit the American Indianhood of anyone who claimed it, simply because they claimed it and there is no universal experience of being an American Indian anyway.

There is no shared black experience. Black kids in the Portland ‘burbs from an upper middle class background and black kids in the Florida panhandle experience very different “black in America” narratives. No one says that a lack of “shared blackness” should make it so anyone who has felt oppressed about their racial role can simply declare themselves black, and thus avail themselves of affirmative action policies designed to redress ongoing racial bias and discrimination against black Americans.

There is no shared rape experience. Rape survivors are a diverse group, including people from every demographic. Some rape victims are infants, some are elderly. Some are violently beaten, others are drugged, others are emotionally coerced. That doesn’t mean that just anyone should be able to claim the status “rape victim,” or use the resources allotted for rape victims in our society.

We do not object to trans women using women’s bathrooms because we are bigoted or because we are transphobic. We object to it because trans women were socialized as men and have a man’s psychology. We do not object to trans women entering women-only spaces because they have insufficient “womanhood.” We object to it because women must be able to assemble and organize if they are to liberate themselves, and having men invade those spaces will inevitably render them useless (of course, that is the clear objective of those transgender advocates who are anti-feminists).

The denial of the existence of women as a class is an attempt at erasing women’s accomplishments and feminist ideals. Not just in the way that some FETAs have started claiming historical women as “genderqueer” or “trans men,” but in the way that they are setting themselves up as an alternative form of genderism, and therefore as an alternative way to justify the oppression of women. This is nothing new for women, whose contributions have been erased for thousands of years and continue to be erased in our modern times (just look, for instance, at all the female scientists whose works were stolen by men, the women whose domestic and reproductive labor doesn’t count as “real” work, the female artists whose work is ignored, belittled, or who have to become sex objects in order to succeed, to name only those). The fact that this new erasure is taking place with the enthusiastic support of so-called leftists is only slightly more troubling.

Should we use personalized pronouns?

A big trend amongst the “genderqueer” and other supertrendy “gender is a performance” people is to push personalized pronouns. There are a great number of such pronouns, from the obvious “it” to “ze, “xe,” “thae,” and so on. There are also animal-themed pronouns, mythical-themed pronouns, royal-themed pronouns, and so on and so forth.

It’s easy to make fun of all this. Who speaks like this except a bunch of teenagers on tumblr who want to feel special? To have personalized pronouns is to force other people to remember your personal preferences. It’s an imposition on someone’s else attention and time. It’s a selfish demand on other people.

Now I know some people will argue that you should be respectful of others. I have no qualms with that proposition. I do think we should respect others. Political Correctness, for example, aims to respect others. We shouldn’t go around saying “bitch” or “nigger” because those words are established as demeaning or offensive words when used against women and black people (note that I said they were offensive, not that they offended people: whether anyone is offended or not is besides the point). We shouldn’t go around gratuitously demeaning people just because they are different from us. This is just common sense.

But where do pronouns factor into it? Obviously we can misgender as a way to demean someone: as telling a man that he is woman-like is the greatest insult one can utter, using feminine words or pronouns to a man can be seen as a provocation. Women can also be punished for their feminism or gender-rebellion by being called a man. This, however, rarely entails using the wrong pronouns, at least in my experience.

Calling a man a she or calling a woman a he can be an honest mistake (if one does not know that person and their personal appearance is ambiguous) or it can be a personal attack. But is it a personal attack to call someone the appropriate pronoun, because they demand that you use a different, made-up one?

I don’t see how it could be. Certainly the other person is free to be irritated at you. If a person asks to be called by a different name than their original one, and you keep calling them their original name, they may very well be irritated about it, but there’s nothing disrespectful about it. Living in a place where people speak English, I prefer when people can say my name right, but most people can’t, and that’s fine. Even when they get it hilariously wrong, I’m not too beaten up about it. It’s not a personal attack. Calling someone their actual gender is not a personal attack, it’s a statement of fact.

Then there are people who actually do have dysphoria and who have wrestled with their gender identity for a long time. The voices of those people get lost in the sea of wannabes, pretenders, and egoists. And I think that’s a very regrettable thing. Because those people deserve more attention and encouragement. Actual gender rebels are constantly under attack in our societies and the fact that so many genderists pretend to be gender rebels just takes attention away from the good people.

It may seem obtuse for someone who is against gender, like me, to denote gender with pronouns. When gender is unknown or abstract, I use ey and em, or they and them. The former has a tendency to confuse readers, and the latter is obnoxious because it looks plural. The obvious solution is to use “it,” which I use to clearly identify cases where using gendered pronouns is grossly inappropriate, but people greatly prefer “he”/”she” to “it”. There’s no good solution here. And in cases where there’s no good solution, I can’t recommend one solution above any others. It would be nice if we only had neutral pronouns, but that’s not the language we’re using (at least English does not go overboard with gendered words, unlike Romance languages like French or Spanish).

What about transgender people and their pronouns? That’s another issue altogether, because in this case it’s not simply an issue of personal taste. Transgender people actually claim to be of the opposite gender, and that therefore not calling them the “correct” pronoun is a form of profound disrespect (at best). Transmen should be called “he,” and transwomen should be called “she,” according to this ideology.

This goes back to the concept that gender is performance. If you agree with that statement, then you may believe that their position makes sense. If a transwoman is performing womanhood well enough, either through following stereotyped clothing, mannerisms, and makeup, or through biological mutilation, we should call them “she.” If a transman is performing manhood well enough, we should call them “he.”

But gender is not just performance. Gender is a hierarchy, based on the oppression of half the population against the other half. This hierarchy is maintained through socialization. Men are men because they have been socialized as men, and women are women because they have been socialized as women, each to fulfill their assigned roles by looking, acting and thinking in accordance with existing gender standards. To call a transwoman “she” is to ignore the fact that they were born male, assigned men as gender, socialized to be men, and reaped the benefit of manhood up to that point.

Look for instance at Caitlyn Jenner (if you have to). They became famous for winning at an Olympic sport which is not even open to women. And now they’re a woman? A little hypocrite, don’t you think? My point being, Jenner was socialized as a man and received the benefits of manhood for all their life. This fact was not contradicted by their later “transformation.”

Dressing differently, acting differently, thinking differently, or getting your genitals mutilated, do not turn a man into a woman. A man of 65 years old cannot become a woman, no matter what they do. So why should we call them “she”? A man is a man. They should be called a “he,” not a “she.”

Use by men of feminine pronouns conceal the masculine privilege bestowed upon them by virtue of having been placed in and brought up in the male sex caste. If men are addressed as ‘she’, then all this privilege, which affects their speaking position and may be crucial to their choice to be ‘women’ in the first place, is disappeared.

Sheila Jeffreys

Even if gender is performance, it still doesn’t make much sense. If gender is performance, and you have to tell people what gender you are, then maybe your performance indicates that you are not the gender you claim to be, or maybe you’re not performing very well. In either case, dictating gender pronouns would seem self-defeating.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that transgender people deserve to be called by a pronoun they do not like simply because they are not womanly or manly enough. I don’t believe in gender performance, because it’s all stereotypes anyway. It’s not based on any kind of reality. What I am saying is that, insofar as gender is real (as a social construct or, as they believe, as a performance), then the demands by transgender people to address them by their preferred pronouns doesn’t make much sense.

There is something to be said about trying to keep the peace with transgender people by indulging their choice of pronouns. As I’ve said before, transgender people are not the enemy. They are, by and large, innocent people who got trapped into an ideology of hate. It is the hate peddlers, the advocates of transgenderism, who are our enemies.