This brilliant article was written by Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen, members of the feminist environmentalist organization, Deep Green Resistance, which has been the target of attacks in recent months for being transphobic (or, in other words, critically thinking about gender).
There are a few quotes that I want to share. Some of them are snippets, sentences here and there, that boil major issues into key points. Of course, the article should be read in its totality, but these are some statements that really stick out to me and are worth repeating here.
Feminism – movement that tells the terrible truths about women’s lives and aims to change them—is being disappeared…. Starting with the category “woman.” Transgender activist Joelle Ruby Ryan has written that the terms “female” and “sex-class” are “offensive and passé.” To make “sex-class” a dirty word means that the realities of women’s lives become once more unspeakable, each woman cut adrift in a hostile, chaotic sea. Apply the word “sex-class,” and that chaos snaps into a sharp pattern of subordination, from the small, daily insults to body and soul to the shattering traumas of incest and rape. The crimes men commit against women aren’t done to women as random individuals; they’re done because women belong to a subordinate class and they’re done to keep women a subordinate class…
But the basic truths of women’s lives are once more becoming unspeakable. Why? Because genderists are literally shouting feminists down to shut us up. Instead, they’ve laid claim to “woman.” …. The genderists claim that this is all natural, eternal, basic to the structure of the universe. A typical comment: “There is a distinct, substantive, immutable feminine gender, and it can not be transcended.” This is what systems of power always have to imprint on our psyches: not only is this state of affairs natural, resistance is futile. We beg to disagree. Some of us are living proof that feminine gender can be transcended—and the feminist movement is even larger proof that it can be fought.
The source of female oppression is erased in the name of trans inclusitivity. Women’s language and experiences are appropriated, women’s spaces are put under attack unless they permit male access, and discussion of the roots of sexism is deemed transphobic. Recognizing and naming the sex-based cause of female genital mutilation is called “cissexist.”
But the genderists don’t want to resist gender. They are, in fact, quite attached to it. Writes one, “It would be a crying shame if ‘woman’ and ‘man’ ceased to be relevant categories for me to play with.” Substitute poor and rich or black and white if you don’t understand how offensive that is. People being oppressed are not categories to be played with. If you understand that, the only question left is: are women people?
The strangest part of this whole debate is that feminists are being called biological essentialists. The genderists baldly state their belief in “brain sex” and the immortal, even cosmic, nature of femininity . White supremacists are the only people who believe in the “Negro brain.” But talk of “lady brains” is completely accepted across progressive communities if it comes from genderists. Feminists, in contrast, start with Simone DeBeauvior: “One is made, not born a woman.” It’s that making that we intend to stop. It can be stopped because gender is a social process. It’s the genderists who claim it’s biological, immutable. Yet we get called essentialist?
Gender essentialism is the idea that there is an inherent essence to being a man or a woman. Genderists assert that essential to being a woman is identifying as one, a declaration that erases the violent socialization of all infants into the male or female sex roles. “Woman” is not a label that a person knowingly consents to perform; it is an action done to them starting from birth.
“Being becomes having and having is reduced to merely appearing.” This is, of course, what has happened, and then some: commodity fetishism has conquered every human relationship, including, finally, that between body and self. Instead of inhabiting “the soft animal of your body,” as poet Mary Oliver so sweetly puts it, the body is an object to own and then to starve or slice until it approximates the punishing, promising image. Our genitals are now a commodity to be obtained rather than tissue to inhabit, the exquisite nerve endings where animal meets angel severed to create a surgical simulacrum. Perhaps the commodity has finally been defeated by a greater force: the image itself.
Once upon a time, a woman who was disgusted with the treatment of women, the expectations that were thrust upon her, the roles she was supposed to perform, the clothing she was supposed to wear, the mannerisms she was supposed to act with – was called a feminist. Today, she’d likely be labeled “transgender.”
I’d really like to see more writing that elaborates on this line “Our genitals are now a commodity to be obtained rather than tissue to inhabit.” I think gender is becoming increasingly restricted, increasingly defined. In the 60’s and 70’s, women learned that they could be whoever they wanted to be, that their tissue was just happenstance flesh that need not influence their potential, their behavior, their goals, their desires, their lifestyle, their personality. Today, it seems that we are pedaling backwards in a sense. Our roles are defined by our bodies, and if we don’t like our role, we should change our bodies. I wonder to what extent all of this is a product of the individualization of feminism, where “women” is no longer a category of shared oppression but a standard (with a sliding scale) of adherence to some particular set of stereotypes.