– bell hooks, in interview with Lawrence Chua (BOMB magazine, issue 48, 1994)
When you are a woman and you use a confessional narrative, people tend to think there is not some more complex structure of thinking or philosophy behind that narrative. I needed to bring some of that background thinking more to the fore, otherwise, it failed…
… I am passionate about ideas. They’re not just the stuff of spectatorship and entertainment to me. They’re a life-blood, and that’s what makes the intellectual process so radically different from the academic process.
Part of the challenge for insurgent intellectuals, particularly those of us who are artists in this society, is to pull back from academe, actually, and academic settings, precisely to break this notion that has become so popular in the culture, that the two experiences are one.
– bell hooks, in interview with Lawrence Chua (BOMB magazine, issue 48, 1994)
At the conference, I confessed that I have really violent impulses that sometimes listening to some panels I had wanted to come out and shoot people. The audience laughed, but I wasn’t being funny, and I wasn’t saying it to be cute or exhibitionist.
I was acknowledging that the violent impulses don’t just exist out there in black youth or in the underclass, but that they reside in people like myself as well—people who have our PhD’s and our good jobs.
But that doesn’t mean that my life is not tormented by rageful or irrational, violent impulses. It does mean that instead of shooting people, I go home and write a critique. My irrational impulse to want to kill people who bore me or whose ideas are not very complex, clearly has to do with an exaggerated response to situations where I feel powerless.
One reason that so many people claim to value protecting trans women, but won’t go to bat when it comes time to follow through, is that they’re actually only interested in protecting hypothetical, innocent trans women. What these people fail to acknowledge is that, by definition, innocent trans women do not exist. Under patriarchy, “trans woman” and “innocent” are opposing concepts - we are defined as wellsprings of male violence even though, and because, we are some of its primary targets. Trans womanhood is a kind of alchemy that transforms violence committed against us into violence committed by us.
Nine year old trans girls forced to use men’s restrooms at school, homeless trans women forced to stay in men’s housing at shelters, activist trans women driven from “queer” or “women’s” community spaces, incarcerated trans women in men’s lockup or solitary, that isolated trans woman in your area who you’ve heard of but avoid because you’ve heard rumors that she’s “fucked up,” “predatory,” or “crazy” - these articulations of transmisogyny share in common a (partial) basis of defining trans women and our bodies as inherently violent, effectively displacing the blame for male violence onto its victims. This has two consequences. First, by defining trans women as perpetrators of male violence, it also defines us as worthy targets for it. Second, the actual perpetrators and beneficiaries of male violence, men (in this case, especially trans men), are freed from scrutiny (as an aside, this is part of how there are so many aggressively heterosexual TWEFs - you know who you are, lol).
To be a trans woman is to be called rapist as you are raped, batterer as you are beaten, and abuser as you are abused. It is the paradox of being utterly destroyed by the very violence that you are said to embody.
i’ve been thinking about women, transition, and the infantilization of women. i feel that i often hear trans men talk about being women or little girls previous to transitioning - girls who grow up to be men. similar phrasing, ‘boys or men who grow up to be women’ by contrast, often sets trans women on edge. i don’t have data on this, just personal observation.
lately, i’ve been wondering about the way that our culture infantilizes women and formulates men as adults - full and actualized humans. i wonder if the relative comfort some trans men display with language like ‘manning up’ or talking about their ‘female history’ relates to this infantilization. transition for trans guys doesn’t explicitly challenge the notion that manhood a is full and actualized adulthood while womanhood is a prolonged state of childhood or innocence. in contrast, transition for trans women would violate this narrative by moving us into a full, developed self as a woman having previously (for some of us) held some outward form of manhood (although i can’t stress how laughable i find it to think about any previous ‘manhood’ or masculinity i was compelled to express).
its not that i am blaming trans men for infantilization of women, but i’m curious about how this idea about women interacts with the way that cis people and cisnormative society responds to our transitions and thus what language we find ourselves bristling at or not.
It goes hand-in-hand with my pet theory of trans men becoming something considered admirable (men), while trans women reject the power and prestige associated with maleness and therefore must be “broken” or “incomplete.” I never really likened it to the tendency in western cultures to treat women as children, but it adds up
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to psychoanalyse myself out of whatever genderfuckery is going on with me and one of the things I found was that for me a big part of feeling incapable of being masculine and rejecting maleness means feeling incapable of being an adult and rejecting the demand to be an adult. And this is not meant to argue against the OP, it is just kind of a related thing, a psychological tangent to a political point (I take that to be the primary intent of what you said? ). From that psychological viewpoint there is a sense that it shouldn’t have negative connotations to be seen as child-like. I feel like embracing that child-like state or aspect of myself is something that helps me embrace and stop repressing the genderfuckery.
Well, fuck it, not all of us got the chance to go through childhood, right? It’s into the fogged tunnel at 10, or 13, and then we stumble out, coughing and rubbing our eyes, sometimes decades later. And even then we’ve got the choice: we’ve only got so much energy, does that go toward clawing back a future or a past? I think it’s very understandable that childhood / the possibility of childhood / child-ish-ness can mean something very different for trans women.
Trans writers shouldn’t be drafted into playing the the summarizer games over and over. We have new ideas.– Aoife Emily Heart, Aoifeschatology and the Number of the Beast
Theory is ultimately not about being ‘academic’. You want to slag theory, you see it as pretentious and impractical… all right, that’s your opinion. For me? Theory rebuilt my world. And believe you me I did not have much will, faith, or desire to build a birdhouse let alone a future. But with theory, with coming out — I discovered possibility. And I want to share the projects of possibility and therefore resistance that feminist philosophy can enable.– Aoife Emily Heart, Aoifeschatology and the Number of the Beast
– ace-muslim, When the answer is always no: Sex aversion and my sex-negative feminism
When the answer is always no, when I will never give consent, then sex will always be rape. I usually avoid the R word, phrase it as “sex would be a site of oppression for me”. Saying that all sex is rape, even if I mean just for me, sounds radical feminist. The whole sex-positive movement defines itself in opposition to radical feminism. And the asexual community is very sold on sex-positivity.
Sometimes it seems that to be anti-sex is to be a “bad asexual”. You always have to preface your discussion with “but it’s totally OK with me if other people have sex!” and “of course, I only apply this to myself” and a dozen other hedges to reassure people that you don’t mean to hurt the feelings of those who enjoy sex and that you’re not a prude or trying to moralize to others (i.e., sex cheerleading).
The idea that sex-positive people might ever need to reassure me or check if they’re hurting my feelings or imposing their views on me, never seems to cross anyone’s mind.
– Slightly rephrased from this post about the anti-trigger-warning campaign
We have “subversive, liberal” professors claiming that they need to be able to use traumatic material to break down the smug, privileged mindset of white dudes. They have to show rape so that men might realise it’s bad.
This is utterly out of tune with the needs of us who already have a good idea, thanks, how bad it is. We don’t need someone at the front of the class telling us we have to live in the real world, man, we can’t just pretend this doesn’t happen. Who deliberately catches us unaware with it to use the moment of shock as a “teachable moment”.
But the kind of student for whom the idea that rape exists is shocking is not - and must not become - the only kind of student in the classroom.
I’m going to go as far as saying that the anti-trigger-warning campaign has a lot in common with compulsory sexuality and those sex-positive feminisms which fail to wrangle with compulsory sexuality:
1. They both represent the biggest sin as that of narrowing down possibilities. Heaven forbid that for many people, nasty possibilities need narrowing down before better ones become available. No. At the very moment of thinking about politics, it is sinful - in that exact moment - to remove any possibilities, regardless of what that means for the future or in a context of justice.
Consequently they fail to pay attention (at best) to the sin of forcing people into a harmful possibility. Put another way, the biggest sin is “no”, the biggest virtue is “yes”, yes-sayers are saints and nay-sayers are oppressive. When what we’re trying to say “no” to is the behaviour of an oppressive system and of individuals oppressing others within that system, that metaphysics is a problem.
In doing so, both sex+ feminism and the anti-TW campaign group society into two groups: good progressives who say yes and open up possibilities and bad conservatives who close them down. This forecloses thinking about bad progressives who force others into bad possibilities and good progressives who try to close down bad possibilities.
2. They both presume a certain kind of privileged subject. The subject of naive sex+ feminism is the woman who, until now, has been prevented from choosing sex, and for whom choosing sex is liberatory. This represents a very small subset of women. Certainly there are a lot of women who’d like to have more joyful, free sex, and that’s what the cover page for sex+ feminism says it’s all about. But I like to pay attention to what’s being done not just what people say they’re doing. There can be a gap between the two - sometimes a large one.
The presumed subject of the anti-TW campaign is a little different. In this case we have “subversive, liberal” professors claiming that they need to be able to use traumatic material to break down the smug, privileged subjectivity of white dudes. They have to show rape so that men might realise it’s bad. This is utterly unattuned to the needs of us who already have a good idea, thanks, how bad it is and don’t need someone at the front of the class telling us we have to live in the real world, man, we can’t just pretend this doesn’t happen - who deliberately catches us unaware with it to use the moment of shock as a “teachable moment”. But the kind of pedagogic subject to whom rape is shocking is not - and must not become - the only subject in the classroom.