Softness goes with strength, at least in toilet paper adverts…

Where is the strength in trans femininity, strength I can feel and exert rather than observe from the sidelines, ruefully thinking that’s just not me, I could not possibly be like that? The manly strength I aspired to when I sought to Be a Man, that idea of strength gets in the way of finding strength now. Strength in endurance does not feel enough.

In Walter Scott, there is a wife who makes all the important decisions, managing her husband so he imagines they are his. On less important decisions she will give way to him, to preserve the illusion. Manly directness fails before feminine wiles. Being clever, I like the idea of cleverness, persuasiveness, winning, but am infected with cultural attitudes ascribing virtue to qualities ascribed to men. Is “virtue” linked to the Latin for “man”? Latin “virtu” translates to “power”.

There is passive strength, strength to endure. When women stand up for themselves, this is called “sassy”- disrespectful- “Feisty”, which derives from the German for fart, meaning unpleasantly intrusive on attention, or “nasty”, a word which women are claiming. They are called “viragos”, aping men. There is huge cultural pressure against women behaving in that way.

Alexis and Barry debated women’s strength here. I don’t know whether Barry’s experience of women’s equality is specifically a Kiwi perspective. She defined strength as self-discipline, ambition, and emotional stability. These are certainly virtues, but unshowy. They will make confrontation easier, but don’t define how one acts in a confrontation. And, convinced of my wrongness, trying to see how I ought to be, has corroded my emotional stability. Because I fear my emotions, they overwhelm me.

Self-discipline, ambition and emotional stability could be stronger in a confrontation, where physical violence is not permitted- like most confrontations in civilised society. Then the attempt to intimidate is as much a sign of weakness as wheedling is, and calm insistence is strength.

Does being “compassionate, tolerant and fair” make one less likely to stand up for onesself? Possibly, but not necessarily less likely to achieve goals. For the most tolerant and fair person there is the moment you dig your heels in. Then emotion comes to the fore, visibly expressed. That is the moment of weakness. “You’re getting emotional” is a trump card- therefore you must be irrational, and wrong. The compassionate person sees the blind spots of the other, and sees how far the other might be led; and so leads consensus. Together, we are stronger.

Of these virtues, I feel emotional stability is the thing I need to work on, by emotional understanding and self-acceptance.

2 Corinthians comes to mind- Power is made perfect in weakness…When I am weak, then I am strong. I went to look it up; and I still don’t get what it means.


Trans refutes gender as social construct

“I love you,” she said.

“That’s what you’re for,” I said.

It was my niece, who had not started school, who went through a phase of telling adult relatives repeatedly “I love you”. She has grown up caring with good emotional intelligence.

If women are formed to be feminine, and men masculine, by nurture, subtle clues, and social enforcement, how come did it not work on us? The old response that feminine men are ill, “inverts”, because of an absent father and overbearing mother, relied on an idea that men really were supposed to be masculine, but increasingly people don’t accept an ideal nature, to which people should aspire, separate from the actual nature people actually have. I can’t aspire to be different. I tried. I can only shut down aspects of myself; so I aspire to fully realise all those aspects.

People benefit if they fit the stereotypes. They are clearly harmful for women. Consider Mrs Clinton, portrayed both as not proper leadership material- because of her femininity- yet nasty, when she did not conform. She loses both ways. What I have read- stuff off the internet, not an organised course of study- has mostly been about women’s oppression. Some goes too far. I read that BDSM is wrong, because men dominate women. Even in “femdom” the sub is really in control. Is it completely impossible, I wonder, for women of their own free will to indulge in kink? If they believe they do, are they in error?

I know men are restricted. If some feel that it is better to express themselves as women than as men, the motivation for such a drastic step is severe restriction. It makes sense to me that we are not a class apart, the “transsexual”, but the end of a spectrum of men more or less restricted by male stereotype- either because they really do not conform, or because they particularly care about it. Men are oppressed, women are oppressed, and I will not speculate on whose oppression is more painful, restrictive or damaging. From the point of view of earning money, women’s oppression is clearly worse, but earning money is not the sole measure of fulfilment.

That the social control to create conformity does not work on a number of people does not mean it is not there. Our suffering indicates there is that pervasive social control. Without it, we would be free.

There is social control. It does not fit people, and we suffer because of it- perhaps a majority of people suffer to some degree. Carl Rogers argued everyone suffered: there are shadow parts to each person which that person cannot acknowledge.

What is the answer? Society should be organised in the interests of all, not just the powerful, so that everyone can reach their potential. Of course, I have no idea how. But trans demonstrates that the social construct does not fit humans, and does not benefit humans.


Detransition II

Trans is all about appearance, and how that affects relationships. I am intensely aware of being seen as male/female, normal/weird, high/low status. It seems to me that my Real Self fits ideas of femininity- mine, and the wider culture’s- so much better than masculinity that presenting as visibly trans I appear less weird, and can relate to people as my real self better; and I am far more comfortable expressing female.

The heart of privilege is being valued or discounted because of appearance clues. Privilege arises from appearance. Carey Callahan, a F-M-F detransitioner, has the privilege that she passes as a cis woman at least on video, and it is not immediately apparent that she is physically affected by transition. Her voice sounds like a woman’s husky voice, rather than a voice broken by testosterone.

This is all leading up to something.

Rape threats and death threats are depraved. I cast around for the right word, rejecting “disgusting” because it did not seem to condemn strongly enough; “depraved”, lacking some essential part of humanity and civilisation, applies. Someone who tweets penis pictures to strangers is depraved.

Carey shared a Storify. It is not safe for work, containing those penis pictures. We need to know the details of such threats, because we need an immediate personal apprehension of their gravity and wrongfulness, but if you already have that you don’t need to look. It is by gnc-centric, who calls a trans woman a male and retweets “cisgender/transgender” is a false dichotomy that assumes some essential woman-nature/man-nature. There’s only human-nature. Yet another reason I hate twitter- it can be used for bald statements to encourage one side of a conflict, but people persist in using it to argue, though no nuance is possible. I could refute her tweet with a thousand word blog post- perhaps I will- but on twitter there can be little more than bald disagreement. Gnc-centric could just brush that off. So depraved people, wanting to make their disagreement matter, resort to rape threats; and other depraved people, trolling for lulz, make the threats to intimidate and disgust their targets, and fantasise about the reaction they provoke. Gnc-centric tweets back asking how would Emily feel on the receiving end, and expressing contempt and derision for the threats, but may still be affected by them. I understand some women lose self-confidence, and engage on-line less.

What to do about the rape threats? I think Twitter should employ humans to deal with complaints timeously, suspend accounts which utter them, and take action to identify human beings, not just IP addresses or twitter accounts, producing them. Whatever, effective action is needed, and it is down to the company not the Twitter community.

Here’s Carey’s video about the storify. I paraphrase, with direct quotes in italics: I’m done with being scared of being labelled a TERF… my politics does not exclude trans people. I am invested in the wellbeing of everyone who experiences gender dysphoria male or female trans identified or not. Mainstream feminist sites are angry about rape threats in other situations but certain opinions like the necessity for female space but other opinions too which get labelled TERF everyone kind of agrees that whatever attacks you get and whatever violence you get you deserved and I just don’t buy it I don’t think there is a person who deserves a rape threat…I’m done with taking seriously the feminism of people who use that word. If you use that word you are enabling and collaborating with those kinds of threats and harrassment, and you should stop. If you send a picture of your penis to a stranger you are having a mental health crisis and your community should deal with you. That word needs to die.

Ok. I am a trans woman. I think all rape threats are depraved, and nothing can justify them. And that charge against mainstream feminist sites is so grave that it needs strong evidence. Mere failure to mention TERFs in discussion of rape threats is not enough.

I had a look at the twitter feed of Emily Eldritch, who sent the penis pictures. Now it is EmyAmythyst, whose tweets are only accessible to confirmed followers, but who has pictures of Pepe the Frog- imagine my best out of touch high court judge voice when I say “A symbol of the alt-right, I understand”- in drag and in a Donald Trump wig, and a butter-wouldn’t melt femme face with a large gun.

Nothing that person says can be taken seriously. S/he will do anything to shock, and to destabilise her opponents. We on the Left want human connection and understanding. S/he wants to watch our world burn. It might not be a trans woman, but a troll who thought a trans woman persona would be useful to attack particular targets, and possibly to poison relations between trans women and potential allies. Judge her on her acts, as an individual. She is not valid evidence of what trans women in general are like.

S/he does not speak for anyone but herself. To use her to make generalisations about trans women, to say that the trans community should deal with her, or to make decisions about anything to do with trans because of her is- unfair, I suppose. That is not me, not anything like me. Don’t make it my job to deal with her- I tweeted her a rebuke, but doubted it would have a useful effect- or judge me because she continues her offensive way. It is possible for us to talk, to create understanding, but she is merely a distraction. Please don’t turn away from me because she exists.

Human beings try to make their way in the world. We forge careers, make relationships. Transition takes a huge amount of effort and energy. It was the most important thing in the world for me, and everything else got put on hold; and now I am in survival mode, with the project of valuing myself, turning my self-loathing into appreciation, without which it seems I can achieve nothing at all.

If you detransition, it might seem that all that effort was wasted, transition was a massive oppressive con against gender non-conforming people. At first you might want to find some meaning or purpose in your transition, but that might fade with time. I imagine you might move from some sympathy for trans-identified people- we are all in the same toxic trap- to rejection, as you put it behind you and got on with your life. That rejection, though, might carry all the resentment you feel for the hurt you have suffered, and we don’t deserve that.


Anger, truth and politics

Why would anyone create pizzagate memes, anyway? How can we respond?

I had not heard of John Podesta before the RussiLeaks email dump. Some of his emails concerned domestic trivia like getting pizza. Pizza was seen as a code for child sex, and the links between them endlessly elaborated on 4Chan. Why?

Message boards members like attention. Creativity, originality, clever expression and even playfulness bring Attention. Members flock with like minds in echo chambers and hugboxes. Manosphere people, white nationalists and others who hate Mrs Clinton, congregate. If you do not feel you get sufficient respect yourself, you may resent moral injunctions to respect others. Unsuccessful millennial males resent being told to check their privilege.

The hatred and anger is enough. Accusations of child abuse and child murder express that anger- they are proportionate to the levels of anger felt. If no expression of anger is acceptable, then any may erupt. It does not need to be true. So Michael Flynn junior tweets, Until pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story. Well, Birtherism, never credible, rumbles on. Pizzagate expresses rage against the “liberal elite”, who the 4Chanists think are so horrible to them (for ignoring or lecturing them): it is as bad as if they were child-sex-cannibals.

Michael Flynn senior tweeted U decide- NYPD blows whistle on new Hillary emails- money laundering, sex crimes w children etc, though that tweet was about false stories connecting Mrs Clinton to Jeffrey Epstein, not “Pizzagate”. The general is a disastrous choice for National Security Adviser, a prolific source of conspiracy theories known as “Flynn facts”, but not a 4chan addict.

The President-Elect expresses such anger. He claims stories of Russia working to influence the election in his favour are valueless, the product of Democrat sore losers: These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That derision is music to the ears of the 4Chanists. Derision is the opposite of respect. Feeling derided, they deride back.

If we feel we have something in common, then we will show respect and listen to the other side. Trump can whip up his own side, with derision and anger, accentuating the divides in society. He is not a fool. He uses it as a weapon to build political support. Lies are his tools to build resentment, rage, and derision, so he may destroy as he wishes, and profit from it.

It is tempting to use anger in response. Certainly, anger can give energy. Charles M. Blow writes, Angry yet? Yes. Good!…This is the reason I write, to remind people of honor and courage; to tell them that their cause isn’t lost, that their destiny is victory. Maybe I am confined by my craft, pumping out polemics that, it is my great hope, help to stiffen the spines and lift the spirits of those determined to stare down the threat. However, I fear that such angry confrontation may make the gulf between us worse.

Can we use truth to overcome Trump’s weapons?

I am a critical realist. I believe there is a “Real world” where we interact and where there is objective truth- but it is too complex for human beings to grasp. It is worth the attempt. The closer we get to understanding truth, the better we respond- but perhaps (thinking it through now) there is an optimum level of truth, for each individual. After a certain approximation, greater effort to be more certain of the truth will not yield proportionate returns. If the truth seems to be that you have no hope, denial and lies may be comforting.

People see things differently. Nietzsche did not say, And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music, though he came close. For Nietzsche, accusations of sickness go both ways:

Even in the German Middle Ages, under the same power of Dionysus, constantly growing hordes thronged from place to place, singing and dancing…. There are people who, from a lack of experience or out of apathy, turn mockingly or pityingly away from such phenomena as from a “sickness of the people,” with a sense of their own health. These poor people naturally do not have any sense of how deathly and ghost-like this very “health” of theirs sounds, when the glowing life of the Dionysian throng roars past them.

And, he wrote, ‘You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist’. That is called “Perspectivism”.

I was fascinated by Jack Maden’s To Be Frank magazine article on the quote, aimed at Millennials. It addresses a complex philosophical question in a simple way. It starts by asking its readers to digest and unpack the meaning of the quote, fearful that they will merely see it, declare it deep, and move on to click-bait, forgetting it; because their attention spans are hurling some real angry, sustained abuse my way: ‘BORED. THIS IS BORING’. Maden summarises Nietzsche: there is a multitude of differing perspectives that are subject to cultural, societal and biological limitations. It is only through combining these different views that we can begin to appreciate a broader understanding of the universe we live in. Against that, he pits scientific investigators, patiently accumulating data and mathematical theorising to create objective explanations. (My answer there- Newton was a genius, explaining the observations through his theory of gravity, and Newton was wrong. 19th century observations demonstrated that.) All human observations are subjective, and have different meanings for each of us. Metaphor dances beyond objectivity.

How do the denizens of 4Chan or Reddit view truth? Their attention spans might not be long enough to consider evidence, preferring the quick hit of a witty allusion- These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It mocks The Enemy, and encourages Our Own Side. Your resentment and anger are Right! You are the Good People! Let me smite your enemies- those who tell you what to do, the Liberal Metropolitan Elites- for you!

They follow the leaders of the Right. No-one says that voter suppression is necessary because they don’t want people of colour to vote, they say it is necessary because of fraudulent voting. Disregard for truth did not start with Trump, it has been happening all this century.

I am glad when people speak up for truth. I hope that people can be taught to value truth, and to see that seeking the truth is worth the effort- but that is not an easy lesson for people in despair, who enjoy the buzz they get from anger. What good will truth do them? Why should they listen to you?

The antidote to derision is respect. The antidote to anger is Love. Love can still be derided, called patronising, and portrayed as weakness, but it is the only way. In the world of Trump and Farage, where centre-right Conservatism bows to the Nationalists, we have a long way to go.

The Charles M Blow article is illustrated with a protestor holding up a banner- THE FUTURE IS NASTY. Women have adopted Trump’s arrogant dismissal of Mrs Clinton as a “Nasty woman”- no more deference! Self-respect is necessary; but the energy of anger must not give rise to an angry reaction, but a loving response.

From Common Prayer- a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals:

Peace is not just about the absence of conflict; it’s also about the presence of justice.  …  A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or distracted or so beat up and tired of fighting that all seems calm. But true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, forgiveness. Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.

Words for women

Being “sassy” is a good thing. It means not taking shit from no-one. Yet it means not showing proper respect; and so it only applies to women, for women (irony Alert) should keep quiet and show respect when a man is talking. Especially if she knows more than he does. Confidence is a bad thing in a woman, who is feisty, or a “hoyden” (shocking).

There are all these words which only apply to women. Some judge women’s sexuality or appearance: frumpy, frigid, curvy, voluptuous. Words intended as a compliment such as “bombshell” objectify. Sometimes a woman is stupid because she is beautiful- an airhead- or sexy, “breathy”. “Exotic”- if he cannot conceive of her other than as an object. Bewitching. Women should not be too sexual: “slut”. No woman is a “femme fatale”- that blames her for the man’s response, as does “tease”.

Lots of words tear down successful or gifted women. Ambitious. Abrasive, because women should smooth the way and bring people together, not point out when men are wrong. Bitchy or catty, though gay men can also be bitchy, meaning malicious or snide (as opposed to openly confrontational, which would be abrasive). Bolshy, standing up for her rights- the only way to be acceptably feminine is to give in. Bossy rather than authoritative, or showing leadership. Pushy- stay at home mums can be pushy, as well as workers. Shrill, because women can just be too loud- men would be “direct”. Haughty- above herself. Brash. Psychologies shows how women get work performance reviews which are negative, with such words, where men’s for the same actions are positive.

Everyone is emotional, but emotions make women, not men, irrational. We are hormonal, hysterical highly strung and illogical. Our complaints are not worthy of notice, whining and whinging.

Calling a woman a woman- or female- artist, CEO, doctor, anything, diminishes her. She is a CEO, etc. Being a woman and CEO should not be particularly remarkable, and does not make her a poorer CEO.

Buzzfeed gives alternatives, though not to the most invidious. A woman or gay man who “flounces” walks out, or takes a stand.

Taken from the Telegraph, which may have stolen even more brazenly from The Odyssey. “Headstrong” was added by

Sacraparental has a list of 122 words, explaining them: some words punish women for behaviour acceptable in men, such as being confident in expressing ideas. Some words curb women’s sexuality. Some words praise women for feminine behaviour, unthreatening to patriarchy, or criticise “unfeminine” behaviour- a “tomboy”, but a girl should not be like a boy. Others minimise women’s achievements. When two men argue, that’s a debate, not a bitchfest or catfight. It proposes action we can take.

Bustle gives the best explanations, and includes “feminazi”. The origin was Rush Limbaugh saying feminists encouraged abortion, which he compared to the holocaust, insulting Jews as well as women; now it means a feminist a man disagrees with.

You know you have to vote, don’t you.


National Pantsuit Day

These women are angry.

There are stories of buying cars. A woman tells that she went with her husband to the car showroom. The salesman asked her husband how he could help.

-My wife is here to buy a car.
-How nice. (To the husband) What kind of car is she looking for?

-Nothing here, it seems, she said, and walked out.

Not just cars, but sledgehammers- “What size is he looking for?” the assistant asks the lone woman; drills- “Is it a gift?” “No, it’s for me”; and jack posts to raise up floor joists, to work in the crawl space: her husband told the clerk, “Hey, ask her. It’s her project, I have no idea.”

There are stories of pantsuits. (Trouser suits, in case you didn’t know.) A woman’s boss asked her to wear skirts to work. She said her trousers are more expensive, more fashionable and more professional than the skirts in the office.

There are stories of sexual harassment. In some cases, the man could have ruined the woman’s career, like the judge who wrote a scathing, clearly personal opinion about a prosecutor in a legal proceeding, which might have led her to appear before the bar council, because she had resisted his advances. She had sat beside him on a plane for five hours, while he insisted on talking, and repeatedly asked her out.

There are work discrimination stories- getting lower paid jobs than male graduates with poorer degrees, asked “Can you type?” and being given admin tasks, being called by the husband’s name- “Mrs John Doe”!-  why should a woman change her name?

One woman has been working with a therapist for two years to recognise and allow her anger. She saw a Trump sign in her street, and felt extreme rage towards it, like her anger in her marriage. Trump is the archetypal narcissistic abusive male, but she says your anger may be inspired by others. Women here are supportive: one quotes “Now is your time to lean”, to turn to those who love you and will support you. “You deserve to be loved and respected.” It’s good to recognise and express that anger: men’s anger is allowed to transform, but women’s anger is repressed, one says. It turns inward and becomes depression, and women can struggle with anger and depression for years. (As do I.) Anger at Trump helped one to connect to her anger at her husband, who quoted St Paul to demand her obedience. Recognising the necessity of repression frees her from self-judgment.

Trump, despicable himself, is a symbol for women of their outrage at male abusers. This is the obverse of voting for the qualified, committed, principled woman likely to become president. One says this abominable man could bring women together to express our anger at how we have been treated all our lives.

Pantsuit Day is 8 November. I hope it will be pantsuit day on 9th November too, and thereafter.

Anger and depression I know well, and would like to get beyond them. In the fifth circle of Dante’s Inferno, At the surface of the foul Stygian marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers writes, “the active hatreds rend and snarl at one another; at the bottom, the sullen hatreds lie gurgling, unable even to express themselves for the rage that chokes them.”

Right now I am choked like that.

It is not a good way to be.

Benevolent sexism

“Benevolent sexism” is men looking after women, holding doors open, walking on the off side of the pavement, helping women with their coats. With the right person it can be pleasant occasionally, and the man’s motivation may be caring, but it reinforces the idea that men are strong and women, who are weak, need looked after, and makes it more difficult for women to be authoritative. “Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head about that.”

I heard that feminists did not want doors opened for them before I heard of BS. I had no idea why. So the term is very useful, expressing elegantly the problem: this is sexism, treating people differently on the ground of their sex, and it has the pernicious effects of sexism. If doors are too heavy for smaller people to open without too much effort, make them lighter! But men still show they don’t understand.

Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. Sadly for Paul Ryan, there are few opportunities to be a hero in modern civilised life. Women do not need champions, and saying we should not be “objectified”, while true, does not make you one. You can get to be a hero in fantasy role play, perhaps. Reverence is unnecessary too: respect is sufficient.

Hitting on married women?… Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters. Mitt Romney thinks men should protect the women who belong to them?

I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. It’s not a good idea in an apology to start on “It’s not that bad really”. Say the apology and move on. But if your highest claim to decency is that you are not hypocritical about your abuse, you are a psychopath. Any healthy person knows that they should pretend not to be quite as vile as Mr Trump’s remarks reveal him to be. He would grab women between the legs, and kiss them on the lips. He would sexually assault them for his own sexual gratification. He is a noisome liar, but these remarks have the ring of truth.

Paul Ryan’s and Mitt Romney’s remarks show their attitudes are scarcely better. If Republican condemnation of Trump’s boasting of groping women between the legs does not indicate that women are equal, those who condemn do not believe that women are equal. Even Mitch McConnell’s remarks aren’t quite it. As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape, he said. So, unmarried undergraduates need not believe the same? What about, “As a human being, recognising that women are human too”?

Representative Jason Chaffetz seems closer: If I can’t look my fifteen year old daughter in the eye and tell her these things I can’t endorse this person. He points out that was an apology for getting caught.

Conservative Evangelicals, to end with: What have we taught our boys about respecting women? What have our little girls learned about men? That was Dr James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Character matters, and the American people are hungry for that message. We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character. Was that conservative Evangelicals standing on principle? No; they were talking about Mr Clinton, in the 1990s. David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network tweeted, This just in: Donald Trump is a flawed man! We ALL sin every single day. What if we had a ‘hot mic’ around each one of us all the time? Mmm. Does Brody grab women between their legs, too?

Here is Mr Trump’s initial statement, in full: “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

Unwelcome advances

I was writing the email in my head. “I’m not coming because your flirting creeps me out.” I am not used to men making passes, and I was angry and upset: I cycled like the wind because my anger physically invigorated me.

I have said I am not interested, clearly. “I am gynephile”, I said, and proceeded to explain that. And he keeps doing it, and yet again as a trans woman I am learning things cis women learn in their teens. It was so enlightening talking to Mhairi.

Mhairi told me of ceilidhs in Steòrnabhagh. There were the young men, who you wanted to dance with, and the old men- say, 35 or over- who wanted to dance with you. Some you might do Strip the Willow with, but not a St Bernard’s Waltz as a ballroom hold would be fatal. You would set a boundary, but even if they crossed it you would take pains to care for their feelings: you find an excuse to stop dancing. You need to keep the peace. You will need to socialise with them later.  Some men could be vindictive, feeling insulted if you would not give yourself to them and finding ways to punish you. It is your responsibility to extricate yourself, and let them down as gently as possible.

So I can’t punch him on the nose, then. That is a man’s reaction.

He hints to me that he can get me what I want- even, financial security, though that seems mere fantasy. The more I think about it, the more impossible it seems. Something less, though, but still something I really want: he hints to me that I could be useful, that I could do something worthwhile. Increasingly, though, I don’t see that is possible either. He wants to tell me I am beautiful, to hold my hand, possibly to hold more of me. He has discussed an “open relationship” with his wife, he tells me. She is very friendly to me. She knows how to manage him, I suppose, knows his faults and foibles and how to get what she wants, what she mun put up with. The relationship might be happily co-operative, or a constant striving for mastery- I find it harder to understand how the latter could appeal to anyone, but it appears that it does to some.

It worries me that it turned me on, a bit; but Mhairi is only as sympathetic as she reasonably can be. That too is for me to deal with.

My self-concept is involved. “I am not the kind of person who-” In that imagined email, I got on my high horse. “Even if a woman was positively delighted that her husband had found another woman,” I expatiated, sententiously, “because it stopped him bothering her, and put a spring in his step-

I would still not want to be that other woman.” That might be moral disapproval, or a feeling of being dishonoured, or otherwise completely unrelated to reality. We are civilised beings, and we are animals. I wrote that my No, my tendency to withdraw and hide, is far too strong- but I really can’t see any other way to deal with this.

Later- I had agreed to go over again, and I have not. What happened? He took my hand, lightly enough that I could pull away but not actually letting go. I did not pull away, did not particularly indicate discomfort that I felt. I then went home and felt so enraged that I wanted to tell everyone what a vile pervert he is. Now I just withdraw from the situation. None of this is satisfactory to me. Perhaps I might learn and find better ways of responding, but right now I just want to hide away: hiding is the best way I have found of managing my feelings. Though when I was engaged with X I realised after that I had not been obsessively thinking about Y, which was a relief; and practice, rather than analysis, might be a better way of finding my way forward.

Aubrey Beardsley, illustration for the Oscar Wilde play Salome

Liberation from gender

There are numerous problems with [the idea that gender is a spectrum], problems that render it internally incoherent and politically unattractive. Another radical feminist article on Trans.

Political philosopher Rebecca Reilly-Cooper does not like the word “cis”. It create[s] a false binary between those who conform to the gender norms associated with their sex, and those who do not. In reality, everybody is non-binary. We all actively participate in some gender norms, passively acquiesce with others, and positively rail against others still. Indeed, everyone does, and some, as radical feminists, make a particular political point about it. It would be irritating to be called “cis” if you loaded onto the term all you hated most about conformity to patriarchal gendered culture, but it does not mean that. It means “not trans”.

The radical feminists are fighting gender in their way, pointing out privilege and oppression, showing gender concepts don’t really fit people, and we fight it in ours, with breast-binding, T injections and gender-neutral pronouns. As she says on her blog, Another generation of bright, committed, impassioned women is being worn down. Being killed by the power of sisterhood. While that privilege and oppression exist, it makes no sense for those of us subverting it to squabble like this. Some of us subvert through patient philosophical exploration and explanation, and some through playing games. We all do it through being: insisting on the pronoun “they” rather than “she” is an overt way of escaping femininity and gendered expectation. Kudos to all who escape it, subtly or unsubtly.

She does not like that game-playing, gender as a label to adopt so that you now have a way to describe just how large and multitudinous and interesting you are. That word “interesting”, with such heavy irony. [T]hey are far too interesting and revolutionary and transgressive for something as ordinary and conventional as cis. I am frivolous. It is my way of surviving. I niggle and provoke, with a little giggle as a defensive measure. I don’t deny her interestingness, why should she disparage mine? I am not a philosopher. I am not like Humour in Babi Yar, but he is my example:

Tsars, kings, emperors,
Rulers of the world,
Commanded parades
But humor – humor they could not…
He is used to stern glances,
But it does not hurt him.
And humor looks upon himself
At times with humor.

He is everlasting.
He is smart.
And nimble.

He will walk through everything and everybody.

And so, glory to humor!
He is a courageous fellow.

I am so peeved to read of the concept of [name]gender, as I came up with it spontaneously in November, and wanted to be original. My gender is “Clare”. There is no other accurate label. How better could I dance, as if the bars of the cage did not exist?

The logical conclusion of all this is: if gender is a spectrum, not a binary, then everyone is trans. Or alternatively, there are no trans people. Either way, this a profoundly unsatisfactory conclusion, and one that serves both to obscure the reality of female oppression, as well as to erase and invalidate the experiences of transsexual people. Please don’t insist that I be logical! Thank God I am inconsistent, because consistent people are either inerrant (this is unlikely) or their consistency forces them beyond what the observed facts justify. We are paradoxical, in an unknowable world, seeing through a glass darkly. I don’t know why I wanted to transition, but I wanted it so I did. She calls me a jailer, and I feel so unfree!

I love her Doctor Who reference, because I am a fan, and I want to make connection here- human personality [is]… more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, humany-wumany stuff. A slight concession to dancing humourists…

She summarises the trans position: An oft-repeated mantra … is that ‘gender is not a binary; it’s a spectrum’. What follows from this view is not that we need to tear down the pink and the blue boxes; rather, we simply need to recognise that there are many more boxes than just these two. No, we are in a state of change, but the liberation struggle takes time. We need to chip away at the pink and blue boxes. If they might collapse like a wet paper bag it would have happened by now.

This is part of growing and maturing as a human being. All our lives we are in tension between conformity and individuality.

If we were all to deny that we have an innate, essential gender identity, then the label ‘agender’ would become redundant, as lacking in gender would be a universal trait. Indeed. I don’t know what the world will be like without gendered expectation, but given that not everyone is radical feminist- there are people who are not actively opposing gender- why should you turn your ire on me?

Gender as a hierarchy perpetuates the subordination of female people to male people, and constrains the development of both sexes. Yes. That is the problem. Please let me work on my own solution to it.

The idea that gender is a spectrum is a new gender prison- article.
Rebecca Reilly-Cooper’s blog.

Artemisia Gentileschi / (1593-1653) - Maria Magdalena as Melanconia

Foot binding

Foot binding was abominably cruel, deforming the whole body as walking put pressure on the pelvis. Sometimes the flesh of the foot was encouraged to rot away, by sharp objects within the binding. Why would people do this? How would they rationalise it? The practice lasted a thousand years, and women bound their daughters’ feet. How could you see your daughter in the pain of having her bones broken, and necrotic tissue on the foot? As a way to control her? As a way of gaining some advantage for her?

John Mao, who has a photograph of a bare foot which made me gasp in horror, writes, The most common reason is that foot binding is often thought of as a prerequisite for marriage. The second reason is family honour. Families with a great reputation, families wanting to maintain their goods reputation, bind their daughter’s feet. For upholding this tradition for so long, the motive was for men to be able to dominate women. He explains the Qing dynasty sought to eradicate the practice intermittently from 1645, and foreign missionaries in the 19th century worked against it. Perhaps that made reactionary Chinese do it defiantly, as their thing. It was a way for poorer families to marry their daughter into money; the wealthiest Han families all bound their daughters’ feet.

Kwame Anthony Appiah: The tiniest feet — three-inch “golden lotuses,” as they were known — were important as a sign of status for women who could afford not to work in the fields or walk to market; the bound foot was a sign and instrument of chastity too, by limiting the movements of women. And you can’t overstate the force of convention: Chinese families bound their daughters’ feet because that was the normal thing to do.

Amanda Foreman: From the start, foot-binding was imbued with erotic overtones. Women, unable to resist or escape. For women, Neo-Confucianism placed extra emphasis on chastity, obedience and diligence. A good wife should have no desire other than to serve her husband, no ambition other than to produce a son, and no interest beyond subjugating herself to her husband’s family…The act of foot-binding—the pain involved and the physical limitations it created—became a woman’s daily demonstration of her own commitment to Confucian values.

Shiye Fu seeks to hear the women. One may feel revulsion at the practice while seeking to understand and respect the women themselves. Saying this is a way to make women docile might be imposing “the rhetoric of modernity”. In reaction to that, a feminist view might see it as “a voluntary ordeal undertaken by mothers to inform their daughters of how to succeed in a world authored by men”, or a practice where women show their agency and their control over their own bodies. Human beings use our bodies as tools, and the way we do this is controlled by culture: Based on this argument, I will then move on to discuss footbinding at the level of body technique, and to shed light on how bodily pain works to reflect the complicated relationship between body and self in the Chinese context.

In other words, I can’t know.

Illustration showing Yaoniang (窅娘) binding her own feet, Qing Dynasty woodblock print from Hundred Poems of Beautiful Women (Bai Mei Xin Yong Tu Zhuan 百美新詠圖傳)

Illustration showing Yaoniang (窅娘) binding her own feet, Qing Dynasty woodblock print from Hundred Poems of Beautiful Women (Bai Mei Xin Yong Tu Zhuan 百美新詠圖傳)