How To Abolish Gender 101: Perpendicular Force
This post was originally published Sept 07, 2009 here.
So, today I was responding to a commenter on Alas a Blog regarding Sarah Kohen’s piece on trans folk and feminism. It’s a bit of a transphobic piece, like most feminist material is but that’s not actually my concern here. You see, the piece is speaking out against essentialism, which I think is great. Essentialism among trans folk is dangerous for us because as of now, there is absolutely no evidence of any essentialist brain structures or anything like that. So the NI model folk tend to base their approaches on an utter lack of scientific reasoning, which in turn leads to arbitrary bullshit like, “how feminine you are”, “what your self expression is”. You know, the kind of things that cis women have been trying to escape for centuries. It sets us up (the bomb! Er sorry, game joke) for a huge clusterfuck of in-house sexism (something trans folk do not need, at all) but that’s a post for another day.
Today I wanted to discuss some of the flawed ideas behind certain (NOT ALL) gender deconstructionalist rad fems and how they treat nonbinaries (TS or TG nonbinaries, although the terms do not yet include nonbinary TS’s), non gender normative binary trans folk and non gender normative binary transsexuals (basically everyone that the Neo HBS folk want to get the fuck away from forever and ever).
This is almost straight up copy paste from my comment on the blog, with some expansion because seriously, I wrote it fucking perfectly there:
“You wanna join ‘queue, girlie’, you better get it into your heads that ‘girlie’ is not something you believe yourself to be, it’s the name of the queue you want to join for some reason and you better learn the rules and stop lecturing/hectoring us.”
By Sarah Kohen
I pointed out that believing that you are something is a reason to want to join the queue. Which really, in the end, is the primary inconsistency that seems to crop up here. None of them actually know why they let in who they let in. The rules are entirely arbitrary and often shift. “You want to join this queue for some unknown reasons, welcome!”, “you want to join this queue because you feel like you belong here? Fuck you!”.
It’s a problem, largely because it acts to cement the roles and the gender classification itself. If everyone is fighting to keep these binary states intact, solid, rigid and the borders kept (including the so called gender deconstructionalist rad fems) then they are only succeeding in keeping gender intact.
How do they think those queues get dissolved? Do they think one day we’ll all wave a magic wand and suddenly everyone will be able to leave the queues, leave the school and go out and play in the sandbox? With the trucks and and shovels and buckets?
If people keep shifting between queues, blurring the lines, or even standing in different queues, no matter how much people yell and tell them that they are dumb, this will dilute and distort gender. Social constructs have, always, depended upon the individuals of society to uphold their rules. Sarah (within the context of this piece only) continues to stand in her queue and uphold its rules, only allowing in the quiet, the similar. Many rad fems continue to stand in their queue and uphold its rules, yelling at the ones standing in the third and fourth wavy queue that they’re fucking it all up and being stupid. Forgetting that they’re standing in a queue too.
Even I’m standing in a queue. I can understand the potent need for survival and that stepping out of that queue, refusing to be classified, working on attacking gender at its basis is rough. And that’s why a lot of deconstructionists still call themselves women (or men, there are men gender deconstructionists too). Well nonbinaries are in a bind. Their survival depends on breaking away from the binary, which gives them the same bad attention that a gender breaker will get. After all, the binarist paradigm treats itself as the end all be all of the gender paradigm, so even though a nonbinary is still operating within the gender paradigm, they will still be treated as though they have broken out of the paradigm.
It seems like no one sees the potential here. I see people standing in all sorts of queues. Violating social convention. Refusing to fit the norms. They are expanding out, diluting the construct, making it more difficult to create the us and them mentality, because the us and them depends on a binary. They also act as a point of interest. People see these folk, “leaving gender”. They aren’t actually leaving gender, they’re just expanding it, but cis and trans folk who think in the gender paradigm often think in the binary paradigm too and tend to equate them. This is the somewhat ignorant majority one deals with. Nonbinaries act as a baby step. Something that seems like it breaks or moves outside gender.
Real quick before I continue: Nonbinaries have a vested interest in moving out of their queues (just like binary trans folk do, but nonbinaries actually have an impact on gender classification itself, unlike me and other binary trans folk). Sure it might be a third queue (unless the nonbinary is also a gender deconstuctionist, and then chances are that nonbinary is just getting some body modification and telling people to fuck off with the queues) but it still breaks those conventions and needs to happen for their survival. Now I’ve said before that my body is not an agenda booster. This still applies to nonbinaries. Especially with how much people like to fuck them over. The difference between the statements raised as a problem in the nonbinaries post and here is that here we are passively allowing nonbinaries to do what they need. Forcing nonbinaries to transition, to make their queues is just as wrong as stopping them or even just telling them they’re stupid or bad for it (which is still a form of oppression as victims of slut shaming can attest to). Nonbinaries have this potential to further break down the system of classification that is weaponized to oppress women and built in such a way that it is directly oppressive to a lot (but not all) of trans folk. And this potential is built from what they need to survive. So, this is a mutually beneficial situation. Anyways, onward!
Nobinaries make their queues, people yell and scream, but… the fact is, those nonbinaries are happy. Others see this and follow suit in different ways. Girls start stepping out of queue more. Guys start making the line into a zig zag. People shift around as the queues become more and more distorted (including the third and fourth and fifth new queues that upset the rad fems I’m directing this to so very much). Eventually the queues get overlaps, unconscious non purposeful overlaps. People suddenly realize that, “hey I’m kinda in the girlie queue now, weird… I don’t see myself as a girl.” And that prompts realizations. People start realizing that, not only are the queues arbitrary and built on silliness, but they barely exist at all anymore.
One of the important things to remember about social change that adjusts a fundamental paradigm of thought in a society is that it can not ever happen quickly. No literally, it can’t. There’s simply too much inertia in society, too much momentum to directly oppose a paradigm and actually successfully stop it. In many martial arts, there is a skill trained into people to find the perpendicular point of force motion and apply pressure there. Your enemy moves his hand down? Don’t block it upwards because then it is strength vs. strength and if your enemy is bigger and stronger, you’re fucked. Block it sideways. Suddenly, his strength is diverted. He misses you and you barely exerted at all. Your smaller strength is no longer an issue.
These rad fems are practicing strength vs. strength (and oppressing nonbinaries and certain types of binary trans folk while doing so, something no decent person can advocate without being privileged and unaware as fuck). No wonder gender deconstuctionism hasn’t made a lot of leaps and bounds. No wonder the majority of cis and trans people still firmly think in the gender paradigm.
Fighting the full strength, head on, of the dominant mode of thought in society is rife with failure. Especially when your group is small (and trust me, they’re called radical feminists for a reason. There’s not a lot of them). However, that paradigm is directed entirely in one direction. What if you moved at an angle? The karate chop will continue to fall, obviously (and the paradigm will still exist) but its force is weakened, its movement diverted. And it leaves openings to attack from.
Nonbinaries are that sideways attack. Originally transsexuals were that sideways attack. The fact that one could shift from spot to spot was something that broke the gender rigidity paradigm. And by passively allowing binary transsexuals to get what we needed, feminists benefited (actually it’s more that TS folk fought like wild [~edited for ableist language, RP] while feminists stood in the way like giant concrete bricks, but you get the idea, they still benefited in the end). Then the transgender folk came along. The ones not strictly binarist transitioning and by passively allowing them to get what they needed we all benefited (actually same applies, they fought like wild [~edited for ableist language, RP] because the TS folk and the feminists were once again giant stupid assholes. See a pattern?). Now the nonbinaries are here. Had people actually passively just allowed those that came before to just do their own thing, gender would have been weakened quickly, through weakening the rigid gender paradigm and weakening the gender expression paradigm. So now, it’s up to feminists to speed up the process by getting the fuck out of the way of nonbinaries so they can break the binary paradigm.
Because frankly, each of these pillars hold up gender. These elements are all the parts of gender that give it its strength. Rigidity allowed for precise definition and othering, which meant you could easily dismiss anyone who was precisely not a man. Essentialist expression allowed for regulation and dismissal. If one did not fit the expression rules, then one was not proper and could be ignored and shuffled into the othered set, further cementing the power of the masculine. And the binary paradigm keeps the us and them mentality intact and prevents mixing through segregation of the sexes based on that paradigm. There are more pillars than that, obviously, but those ones are nasty. And leaps and bounds have been made after each of the trans revolutions, because we destabilize these tools of oppression.
So, if you just stand back, shut the fuck up about how much nonbinaries “are breaking the rules” (those arbitrary, constructed rules you seek to abolish, silly goose) and let nonbinaries make their 3 and 5 and 10 queues, you’ll find that one of the most effective and dangerous pillars used to weaponize and empower gender as a classification system (and use it as a tool of oppression) will degrade and fall apart from the erosion of nonbinaries simply doing what they need to do to be happy and survive.
And that is how you abolish gender. Not by standing in line and shouting, “HEY, WE SHOULD ALL GET OUT OF THIS LINE.” Because I can guarantee you, no one is going to step out of it when you stand in the line and shout about getting out of it.
The majority is not on your side, cis included. They need to be slowly, carefully, sneakily led into it. If you’re obvious, they’ll only shut you down. Strength vs. strength folks. You don’t have the “muscles” to win that fight. Go perpendicular instead.
Quiz on friday. Don’t be late.
Go here to read the comments on the original post.
Filed under: activism, rant | 7 Comments
Tags: cis, feminism, how to abolish gender 101, kyriarchy, nonbinary, patriarchy, transgender