Transwomen are transwomen



Transwomen are transwomen. This should be a non-controversial identity statement. Red is red. Cats are cats. A = A. Women are women. Transwomen are transwomen. Yet in the world I am rapidly leaving behind (liberal feminism, liberalism), this is not only controversial, it is by turns bigoted, ‘transphobic’, conservativerightwingfascistnazi, TERFy, murderous, etc. etc. I’ve been grappling with trans-activism and its implications for a while now, my mind being boggled anew on an almost daily basis at the crazy-town authoritarianism of my-former-liberal-tribe and its allies. Not that they shouldn’t argue their case, which is that “transwomen are women”. Have at it, I thought. Make the case. It’s not

the case per se, I told myself for quite some time, but that those making it are so authoritarian, so rigid, so hostile to dissent, discussion, so quick name call and shame call…and so on and so forth. Until I remembered they’re all tactics I’ve engaged in, indeed anyone involved in fighting a political fight engages in. As a pro-choice activist lib-fem, I certainly never shrunk from name-calling, shaming, efforts at no-platforming, and on and on on opponents of abortion rights. In focusing so much on the way the campaign is being waged, am I not simply the pot calling the kettle a stupid unthinking vessel for boiling water? Do I really have any high ground on which to stand in terms of how the “transwomen are women” campaign is being fought? No! Do I have a non-hypocritical case to make on that score? Probably not. Which leaves what?

Clearly, the only decent thing to do is simply make my own case, state my own position, and try to do it in a better, smarter, less nasty, less oppressive (oh, yeah, and less sanctimonious!) way. Ānei:

A PLACE TO STAND (this is a work in progress…thinking is likely to change/evolve)

I’ve thought a lot about how it might be possible to balance the rights of women and transwomen (I’m focusing on that side of the sex divide because I’m a woman). It seems from the trans-activist side, anything short of transwomen = women (an identity statement of the logical kind mentioned above, red = red, A = A), socially, legally and, somehow, biologically (??) etc. etc. is all-of-the-above (transphobic, bigoted, murderous, TERFy etc. etc.) It’s all or nothing. There’s no middle ground in there. For women, the implications of this are enormous, in all spheres of life, and much has been written about them — so much so that I’m not going to traverse it all here. Just DuckDuckGo it (or Google if you’re still attached to that empire), and/or read some Julie Bindel, some Sheila Jeffries, some Meghan Murphy.

While I haven’t come up with any kind of answer to the complicated question of rights balancing, I’ve come up with a place to stand, and it’s based on the title of this post: transwomen are transwomen. It’s just a starting point; I don’t know where it goes from there.

For starters, let me be upfront, “transwomen are transwomen” means “transwomen are not women”, where ‘woman’ is an adult human biological female. Transwomen are their own thing — people, assuming it needs saying, who must be afforded their full human rights, to live free of violence, poverty, discrimination and so on.

Because transwomen are transwomen, entry into all the arenas of life organised around women as a sex class needs to be negotiated. It isn’t a given. I hold this position with what I think/hope is an open mind about what that access might wind up being. The problem with the place many (or most) trans-activists (and their liberal allies) stand — that transwomen = women — is that it is simply an end-run around any sort of discussion, negotiation, working out of boundaries and rights with respect to women as a sex class, about their spaces and their lives. Maybe that end-run approach was deliberate, I don’t know. But I don’t stand there. 

And on a side note, I’m pretty ticked that self-ID law changes in Aotearoa New Zealand, which will enshrine the end-run in the law, have proceeded apace with little to no public consultation, and, per above, a whole shitload of name-calling and abuse of anyone who might have concerns or questions about it. If nothing else, maybe this whole thing has taught me a lesson about hypocrisy…about the limits of political tribalism…and in its own way, it’s definitely part of the  ‘Confessions of an ex-Liberal‘ series. Let the name-calling begin. 


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Quitting the Media: Part IV (Facebook)

Quitting the Media, Part IV, Making Use of Facebook’s Delete Delay

(Click here for the ‘Quitting the Media’ series so far, with some ‘Confessions of a Former Liberal’ episodes included)

Dealing with “the media” (or maybe the media industrial complex) is an ongoing problem/issue/challenge. I’ve written before about quitting MSM (mainstream media), which here is NZ means NZ Herald, Stuff, TVNZ News, commercial radio news, and now also The Spinoff. I still like Newsroom, and I’ve kept on looking at Radio New Zealand News, but as “a former liberal”, that’s getting harder and harder. RNZ, for example, is increasingly open-throating the worst of the (neo) liberal (I’m talking about social, not economic neoliberalism) Kool-Aid, for example, it has bought into erasing women from the discussion of reproductive rights (aka “pregnant people”). And Scoop actually deleted, aka censored, a gender critical feminist. Sure, you’d expect this from MSM, but Scoop alleged it was independent. Truly independent. I actually am a bit of a free-speech absolutist, appreciating this is not state censorship, but nevertheless, it’s problematic for an outlet that promotes itself the way Scoop does. 

Digression: Another post I’d love to write, but am probably too lazy, is how interesting it is that new and/or old radical economic ideas — like serious redistribution of wealth, say, or universal guaranteed income, or, even socialised dentistry — remain pretty much ignored, if not relegated to kook-land by MSM including outlets like RNZ.

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Confessions of a Former Liberal: Part 2

Confessions of a Former Liberal: Part 2. (They’re Boring)

The second in an occasional series about Pohutu’s confusing journey into the political wilderness.

But of course it’s much worse than just being boring. Excuse the wait for Part 2 of The Confessions (here’s Part 1), but these posts have a timetable of their own, waiting till enough pressure builds up that I explode all over the page. Anyway, back to liberals being “boring”, which is a stand in for dishonest and intellectually bankrupt.

It starts with being boringly certain about how right they are, which leads to no interesting analysis of anything anymore from the liberal side. (Note 1: I used to at least say “left liberal” or interchange “liberal” with “left”. Boy was that stupid. Lately the only decent analysis of what’s going on in the US that I’ve read has been in the communist newspaper the Militant, to which I proudly subscribe.) This certainty simply leads to liberals endlessly making the same statements over and over again about how right they are, and then, if they’ve done a little more thinking, they start in on who’s to blame for it. It’s the latter that prompted me to write this, in particular a piece in The New York Review of Books headlined “The Autocracy App” about the evils of Facebook, by Jacob Weisberg. (The books he’s writing about in the piece are: “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy,” by Siva Vaidhyanathan, Oxford University Press; and “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” by Jaron Lanier).

Let me get this out of the way first: I loathe and despise Facebook and am a serial account deleter (I’ve done it three times over the past 5 or so years, most recently last month) so I’m always eager to read a Facebook takedown. This piece thinks it’s a takedown, but for the most part is another example of liberal whining about, yet again, how everything is turning to shit but none of this is our fault, as humans, as citizens, as liberals because…well, Facebook!

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The Shock of the Old

The Shock of the Old: Simone de Beauvoir on Aging and Freedom

So this is something I wrote that I turned into a paper for a conference. Only this is an early draft … the conference thing was shorter, but this is the Internet, so there’s room to wax on. And why not. 


The Abstract

(i.e what this post is all about, in less than 200 words)

When she was in her mid-50s, Simone de Beauvoir decided her life was all but over. Everything that mattered to her was in the past: her work, her looks, her lovers. When she looked in the mirror, she wrote in her autobiography, “I see my face as it was, attacked by the pox of time for which there is no cure.” What did she mean by “my face as it was”? In this paper, I follow Beauvoir (and Sartre’s) conception of aging as an “unrealisable” that is imposed on us from outside in order to investigate this alienation from the self that comes with growing older. Why and how is it that we no longer identify with the face we see in the mirror? Which of our younger selves do we consider a “truer” self — and why? Scholars have rightly questioned whether Beauvoir’s existentialist understanding of human freedom was undermined by her later writing on aging, and while she did identify myriad ways in which aging shrinks horizons and confines futures, I argue her understanding of aging as an “unrealisable” also reveals avenues of escape — particularly for women. (Editor’s note: or not…)


The Shock of the Old: Simone de Beauvoir on Aging and Freedom

When she was in her mid 50s, Simone de Beauvoir decided her life was all but over. Everything that mattered to her was in the past: her work, her lovers, her looks:

As she wrote in the third volume of her autobiography, Force of Circumstance (La force des choses)

While I was able to look at my face without displeasure I gave it no thought, it could look after itself. The wheel eventually stops. I loathe my appearance now: the eyebrows slipping down toward the eyes, the bags underneath, the excessive fullness of the cheeks, and that air of sadness around the mouth that wrinkles always bring. Perhaps the people in the street see merely a woman in her fifties who simply looks her age, no more, no less. But when I look, I see my face as it was, attacked by the pox of time for which there is no cure. (Hard Times: Force of Circumstance IIp. 378)

Such despair, such hopelessness — and from such a woman as she — and in her 50s, no less — came as a shock to many of her readers, myself among them. What chance for the rest of us if bags and wrinkles and sliding eyebrows can fell Simone de Beauvoir? Surely the life of the mind trumps that of the face? And, anyway, just what did she mean by “my face as it was” (“mon ancienne bête” in the original French)? As it was when? At 15, at 20, at 35? Why is one face more “me” than another?

In The Second Sex, Beauvoir called this estrangement from oneself a “depersonalisation”, which she described like this: 

I am not the old woman the mirror shows me. The woman who ‘never felt so young’ and who never saw herself so old is not able to reconcile these two aspects of herself. (The Second Sex, p. 638)

She is a creature whose “double no longer resembles her”. As well as being an incurable disease — a pox — this estrangement is also a kind of madness, a rending of the psyche into unrecognisable parts, a self that cannot fight off this unwanted metamorphosis that is imposed on it from outside itself. Continue reading

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What I Want for My Child – uh, Cat

Because I don’t have a child, I don’t care what happens to the country, the planet, race relations, the housing crisis or child poverty. Because I don’t have a child, I never do anything “good” because, you know, we do that stuff “for our children and grandchildren”. Obviously, I don’t give a crap about climate change either because my Hot_cat2children and grandchildren aren’t going to be among those inheriting the earth. Luckily, I don’t have to bother with learning about New Zealand history or colonisation or what happened at Waitangi because I don’t have a child whose future understanding I can’t help thinking of. It’s great not having a child. You get to do whatever you want and hang the consequences for everyone else. Or should that be, for everyone else’s child. Yeah, I’m kind of sick of being someone who apparently doesn’t really feel all that stuff quite as much as the mothers and fathers and grandparents; someone whose untimely death wouldn’t really be a tragedy, unlike that of “mother of two”.

I know there are the parents who like to milk (sorry) that stuff for all its worth, and who can blame Jacinda for joining in. But then I think, hey, are the people doing all this fine stuff for their children really setting such a good example? Are they really making the point they think they’re making? Because shouldn’t we all be doing all this fine stuff for the good of all?

OK, OK, you got me. I’m not being honest. I’m really doing it for my cat.


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Men at Meetings

In my last post (Confessions of a Former Liberal: Part I) I wrote that I’d been going to a few political meetings. So it turns out, I’m not going to be doing that any more. Why not? Read on…

Last week, a group whose kaupapa/ambitions I support (very liberal, I might add) had a meeting about all the parlous things going on in God Zone…poverty, inequality, mass incarceration, polluted water, suicide and so on.

(I think there’s a separate post in there somewhere about what it means to be constantly immersed in Just How Awful Everything Is, given that, what with climate change, over-population, automation/robotics, etc., it’s all going to get a whole lot worse in the coming years. But I’ll save that uplifting effort for another day.)

I digress. So, anyway, the panel of speakers did their thing. They were mostly interesting and I mostly agreed.  Then came the inevitable Q&A. It’s worth noting that this was not a young crowd at all. Mostly middle aged to older white people. (I need to run with a better class of people, I know!) I counted at least 12 questions only two of which were from women. And the other 10 were not actually questions. You know how it goes…guy gets up and pretends he has a question, but really he just wants to tell us what he thinks about X, Y or Z. He’s not the least bit interested in what anyone else has to say, and doesn’t give a shit about any 2-minute time limit for his “question”.

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Confessions of a Former Liberal: Part 1

The first in an occasional series about Pohutu’s confusing journey into the political wilderness.

I don’t live in the United States, but last year’s election campaign was a shocker for me. I was always (mostly) on board with my fellow liberals, till last year. Now I’m politically homeless. A recovering ex-liberal, wondering how it was that I went along with it all for so long. Did I change? Did everyone else?

I’d say I’m a Communist — class analysis and all that — but the ‘old’ categories/groupings don’t quite seem to work anymore. Is that because capitalism isn’t ‘just’ exploiting workers but destroying the planet and all life thereon? How can the old class analysis and Communist programme deal with that? At least one thing’s clear: liberalism can’t deal with it, so there’s that. These days, I know what I am not (a liberal), but I’m not quite sure what I am (politically speaking).

I think this political awakening/confusion had been building for a long time. Decades probably. So what happened? I’m still thinking about that. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that social media (Twitter etc.) exposed “liberals” for the intolerant bullies with no coherent political programme that we/they always were. The current form of capitalism isn’t called “neoliberalism” for nothing. It’s all about the individual, and that’s where regular old leftist liberalism has gone. As I said, no class analysis, and especially when it comes to feminism, no analysis of women as an oppressed class. You just can’t say that anymore.

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