The political is personal

“Real tipping point stuff!” exulted my facebook friend. A cis friend emailed it to me. We have won the argument: the radfems trying to exclude us have lost, and here is The Independent on Sunday: When it comes to transgender rights, there’s nothing feminist about being a bigot. I loved her argument that if you force trans men into women’s toilets, That means that people who look like blokes, and therefore blokes, can enter women’s changing rooms. Does that make it less likely or more likely that rapists are going to be in women’s spaces? Most commenters are hostile, one accusing Katy Guest of autogynephilia, as if no cis woman would say this. I would have heard of her if she were trans.

There are a small number of women very angry that men get into women’s space. “Saying you’re a woman does not make you a woman,” they argue, with every appearance of rationality, and the liberal majority say, so what? Or, What harm do trans do?

I am pleased; yet it matters less to me that a trans man trounces a radfem on Channel 4 News than that my friend says I am a man, and evinces horror that her friend’s child might transition, believing that is always wrong, for everybody.

The personal is political is a feminist slogan from the 1960s: personal matters such as access to health care are influenced by politicians, so women should be politically active to make their personal lives better. I turn it round: there is this live political issue with all these cis people engaged discussing who or what I am, which affects me personally, and what matters to me is that H is revolted, or J is accepting: how my own personal relationships are affected. I cycled into Marsley for provisions, and chatted to the woman on the checkout in Tesco, briefly, about the background music- sweet dreams are made of this- and the woman in the butcher’s about nothing at all. Whatever they think of trans as a political issue, both were polite and friendly, and that is what I want.

This might fit with feminist care ethics. Rebarbative as it might be to some feminists that women might think differently from men, personal and concrete situations matter far more to me than universal, abstract principles, and those theorists at least thought this was characteristic of women. Not all women, or no men, and of course I can think abstractly; yet I have these tendencies, which are different and not inferior.

George Elgar Hicks, A summer bouquet

12 thoughts on “The political is personal

  1. It is strange to me that some seem to think that we can only care about one thing at a time. It is not as though since you care deeply about your personal relationships and wellbeing you cannot also care about political issues as well. It seems to me that your approach is fairly balanced.

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    • Welcome, Ruth. I am delighted you are here.

      One friend cares about politics to the point of grave distress about TTIP (in the US there is also TPP) and climate change and extinction rates; and when someone says “I don’t care about politics” it seems to me not necessarily that they do not understand, but that they have no affect. And different things at different times impinge, and have my attention: thank you particularly for that last sentence.

      If you don’t mind- how does it feel to you?

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      • I’ve been reading along. This is the first time I’ve felt I could contribute. You are such a thoughtful writer.

        I’m concerned with politics but I care about people. Politics seems a long game so while I do care about it I care a great deal more about the immediacy. I don’t get particularly stressed about politics because they change with the wind and I feel relatively powerless to blow it in any particular direction.

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        • Glowing happily.

          For me, it was so normal to be passionate about politics: I was 12 at the 1979 General Election, and imbibed my father’s delight at the decisive failure then defeat of the Left and the chance of the Right to change the country for the better; and my politics has moved a long way to the left. Now I don’t feel so passionate, which may be seeing how little power I have.

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          • My family was never very political. I’m not sure my dad was even registered to vote. I never even heard particularly political discussions until I married into a (locally)political family. Then as I got more involved in Church and became more and more conservative, finally ending up ultra conservative, I saw it as a spiritual battle between good and evil. Having left that environment I’ve moved to a more moderate position that ultra conservatives would call left-wing.

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  2. That’s a great article in the Independent! The conversation underneath is less heartening. We’ve seen it all before if you’re not a sexual majority white man – every other culture is lesser, every other gender is lesser, every other sexual or gender expression is lesser. Suppress everyone and convince them to submit to their position of no power. It’s dangerous to free slaves, it’s dangerous to let women make decisions or vote, it’s dangerous to decriminalise gay sex, and it’s dangerous to let trans people go to the loo. Who’s next?

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    • So many people feel the need to defend themselves or others from us, or to whip up anger against someone for supporting us. Here I found the phrase “genetically proper pronouns”- that is, calling me “he” and feeling self-righteous about it; as well as well-intentioned efforts to treat trans girls as girls, while giving all girls in a school proper privacy, characterised as “The federal government is going after school districts, trying to force them to let boys shower with little girls” in order to stir up anger.

      The white men show how they support women by attacking us and expressing disgust for us, and disadvantaged groups squabble among ourselves.

      Added, here is a conservative saying Ted Cruz’s stand is “a winning issue”: We need a candidate for president who will press Hillary on these very unpopular positions she has taken.

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      • The standard answer to that is, we know. We could hardly not be used to it. Back and forth we could go, about how you are the beneficiary of the patriarchy and how we can defend ourselves from you: our attacks are really justifiable defence, your defence is unjustifiable attack. That is the basics, these arguments are at my fingertips only through Google.

        I dip into repeats of Top of the Pops on BBC4 occasionally. Some of the music is dire, passé, dull. I loved “Jealous Guy” in 1981, and still rather like it. I have just seen this:

        He has wronged her, and he is apologising.

        I didn’t mean to hurt you
        I’m sorry that I made you cry-

        but the last time he sings that chorus, there is a hint that he is fed up. He has apologised, and that should be the end of the matter. He states the truth of the situation: he is sorry, and that should be enough- and what he wants, that they go back to as it was, must happen. Or he will be angry.

        I didn’t remember Susan Fassbender at all. I would call Twilight café “Punk Pop”.

        I find a delightful sense of freedom here.

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  3. Here’s the thing to me: nothing is stopping men from going into women’s restrooms now. Not really. If a man goes into a women’s room with the intent to prank or harm, they will. There is no magic barrier stopping them from doing so. If a man is going to do it, he will do so regardless of the laws in place. Meanwhile, I imagine any trans person who does not “pass” worries about public restrooms in general. They deserve protection from bigots, so the laws should pass without reservation.

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    • The magic barrier is taboo. I would not want to go in the Gents’. People who will breach the taboo are dangerous, you don’t know what they will do. Whereas, I just tweak the definition of the taboo slightly, because I tweak the definition of “woman” slightly. I am not really breaking the taboo. But I feel there are far easier ways for a sexual predator to predate, than to dress in drag and go around public places.

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