Reproductive Justice and the Invisible Sisterhood

I delivered this speech at the opening plenary of the 2013 State University of New York-- New Paltz Women's Studies Conference. I present it here in its original written form without additional comment. (Well, one additional comment: If you wish to follow along with audio and hear the voice of Nuclear Unicorn, click here. My profound thanks to Eli Mann for the recording.) *** Patriarchy does not begin in our bodies. Contrary to those theories, feminist and otherwise, that seek an “origin myth” for patriarchy that germinates somewhere in the uterus, patriarchy has no starting point in reproductive organs of any kind—there is nothing in our marrow as women, our DNA, that sets us up as ontological victims of men whose bodies, whose bits, predispose them to oppression. In the words of legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon: “It is one thing to identify woman’s biology as part of the terrain on which a struggle for dominance is acted out; it is another to identify woman’s biology … [Read more...]

All Things to All People: Some Brief Notes on Solidarity and Free Speech

If transgender people have a “superpower” it is our remarkable ability to stand for anything:  living, breathing “floating signifiers.” Our meaning d’jour is, for some on Fleet Street, “a professionally offended, Left wing lobby group” that is now the latest “post-Leveson” threat to free speech and a free press. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of things—fleeting as these meanings are, such that we can even speak of stable oppositions—Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill had accused trans people of dividing and distracting the Left from its “important” goals and its “true” cause. If this seems exasperating and contradictory, you ain’t seen nothing yet, as they say. But for now, it is enough to deal with these two absurdities one at a time and bring a bit of light to a decidedly un-illuminating heat. Free Speech: From Posturing to Substance Toby Young and all the other vacuous, fly-by-night defenders of “free speech” filch lovely rhetoric that whistle stops past all manner of liberal … [Read more...]

Once as Tragedy, Again as Farce

Not long ago I attended a conference at New York City’s Hunter College commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings where Professor Hill, in damning detail, publicly testified to her experience at the hands of now-Justice Thomas which included sustained sexual harassment. Her courage caused open discussion of sexual harassment to burst violently onto the national scene, unapologetically breaking the silence felt by millions of women who had been shamed, threatened, and cajoled into pretending what had happened to them was business as usual. The conference sought to honour Professor Hill and featured a variety of speakers, activists old and new, commentators, reporters, academics and friends who all offered their perspective on the matter. It was elucidating and, to turn that blessed cliché, empowering. The volunteers at the university all wore T-shirts that read “I Believe Anita Hill.” It was a powerful and dangerous message,as much now as it … [Read more...]

Ignorance and Want

Trigger Warning for explicit discussion of rape and its attendant traumas. Rape culture is an institution, to be certain; one whose powerful manifestations and expressions are found in all too many quarters of our society and whose influence is wide as it is deep. But like any social phenomenon one is well advised to take a magnifying glass to the small drops of mortar that bind together the brick wall of this institution. In reading a thread on a popular website about rape, a woman, who has since deleted her account due to the shaming she endured, stepped forward to make passionate arguments against rape apologism. Eventually she would describe her own experience. I do not have her permission to republish her story, so I will only quote a powerful line from her post that speaks to a general experience: Have you ever been raped? Do you know what it feels like to be turned into someone else's object? The worst is how filthy you'll feel after. You just want to be clean. You want to … [Read more...]

It’s Time I Said Something

Trigger Warning: Explicit discussion of rape and rape apologism follows. Often is the time that I wish I could update this space every day with thoughts on every topic under the sun, a constant celebration of what is good in the world, and tireless fusillades against what is not. For reasons of both self-care and lack of energy, I simply cannot, however. Yet my silence on one issue is glaring and it is time I said something, regardless of how exhausted I may be feeling right now and how ever much I may just be feeling a burning drive to forget the world exists for a while. This is not a post about Julian Assange. It is a post that was inspired by Sady Doyle’s bone-shaking message of defiance on her blog yesterday pertaining to her ongoing quest to wrest apologies from two rich white cis men in the media who see fit to tweet personal information about potential rape victims, Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore. This relates to the Assange case, yes, but the reason this case has … [Read more...]

Outside: An Exodus From Patriarchy on the Backs of Women

The operation of Kyriarchy in its peculiarly patriarchal forms never fails to impress me. As I look at a certain claque of radical feminists who claim to be fighting against a system of gender oppression in our world I find myself confronting women and men who have, in truth, merely internalised patriarchal power arrangements and are regurgitating them in a strange way. I’m speaking, of course, about radfem transphobia. Joelle Ruby Ryan, a trans woman academic, recently attended a conference in New Hampshire called Pornography as Sexual Violence. In trying to present on the often untold story of how trans pornography impacts both our community and gender in general, she found herself attacked by two transphobic feminists: Robert Jensen and Lierre Keith. Her story, passionate and quite understandably outraged in tone, can be found here. In it she quotes at length a screed from Ms. Keith. You’ll forgive me if I decide to take a shotgun to yon barrel of fish. Some might say that it … [Read more...]