In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Quick Hit: Nontoxic masculinity

Much like markers, masculinity comes in the toxic and the nontoxic kind. (Pointing out that fact is enough to enrage some guys into a lather.) At KatyKatiKate, Katie explains the concept, symptoms, and dangers of toxic masculinity. And she provides real-life and fictional examples of the non-toxic variety, ranging from the strong and physically imposing to the artistic and less imposing.

Why I’m OK with punching Nazis

[Content note: Violence against Nazis]

So the country is abuzz in the wake of an incident of violence following Friday’s inauguration. Floppy-haired white supremacist Richard Spencer was doing a sidewalk interview with Australia’s ABC when a dude in a hoodie came up from out of nowhere and just fucking clocked him, and then ran off.

Suddenly, all over the media, the question on everyone’s mind is: Is it OK to punch Nazis?

Sure, I’ll weigh in, and thanks for asking.

Betty Peters hates Common Core, PowerPoint, and “counting up”

Alabama School Board member Betty Peters really, really hates Common Core. Like, a lot. A lot. No, seriously, you really can’t appreciate how much she hates Common Core. And it’s because the homosexualists are trying to make our sons wear outfits, and do math in stupid ways that didn’t get us to the moon, and the SPLC and their PowerPoint presentations full of charts, and we have to stand up for our children.

Dragon Con followup: Female heroes and femininity

On Saturday, I sat on a panel in the American Sci-fi Classics track at Dragon Con, talking about female heroes in classic sci-fi. One question from the audience stuck out to me as being insufficiently addressed in the time we had available, so: Young woman in the front row, stage left, ’bout three seats from the end, if you’ve followed me here (which is totally cool and appreciated), here’s the answer you deserve.

Question: Seeing as how “femininity” is really just a social construct, don’t we need to see more heroines who eschew traditional signifiers of femininity?

Black Girls and the School to Prison Pipeline

If I say “school-to-prison pipeline,” you may think of the criminalization of African-American boys, almost always for behavior that would merit their white counterparts at most detention. But what about the girls? Just as racist police brutality does not give a pass to black women, so too does the school-to-prison pipeline operate for black girls as well. First, some statistics. According to Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected, BY Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw with Priscilla Ocen and Jyoti Nanda, a report issued by the African-American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Policy Studies at the Columbia Law School, in the 2011-2012 school year in NYC:

Black girls were suspended six times as often as white girls, with 12% of black girls being suspended in a given year.

There about twice as many black girls enrolled in public school as white girls, but they are disciplined ten times as often.

90% of expulsions of girls were of black girls. 90%! Not one white girl was expelled that year. (This strongly suggests to me that schools do not value black girls as students.)

“Black girls receive more severe sentences when they enter the juvenile justice system than do members of any other group of girls, and they are also the fastest growing population in the system” Crenshaw, Ocen, and Nanda write. So when teachers and schools fail to value black girls, punish them unreasonably for minor offenses (Crenshaw’s report opens with several pretty appalling examples), and in other ways discourage them from attending school or devalue the education they get, they are putting them at risk for criminal detention in a legal system that is all too happy to keep them. And as for young men, when young women leave school without a high school diploma, they are far more likely to find themselves stuck in low-wage work with very few routes for advancement.

The entire report is worth reading. Some of the appalling miscarriages of justice described are of a piece with what we know affects black boys as well: zero-tolerance policies that lead to expulsions for carrying nail clippers, for instance, and schools focused far more on discipline and high-stakes testing than education. But much of what Crenshaw writes about is gendered: girls experience metal detectors and searches on their way into school as akin to sexual harassment, as feeling “naked” in front of authority figures; girls who act out are punished to a far greater extent than boys who act out in the same way; boys’ sexual harassment of girls is overlooked while the girls’ responses are punished heavily; sexual abuse and other interpersonal violence is an incredibly strong predictor of girls’ involvement with school disciplinary procedures, and is also a significant reason for girls’ leaving school. And family care-taking responsibilities, including children and older family members, fall far more heavily on the shoulders of black girls than on their male counterparts.

I started collecting sources for this post back in April, and the interruption to my blogging has taken its toll; this topic deserves a far more thoughtful piece. But the perfect is the enemy of better-than-my-silence on this issue, and this site of oppression, at the intersection of race and gender and all too frequently, disability, needs to be a topic of discussion among feminists.

Particularly white feminists, because there’s another side to this issue. The side with the active voice. Black girls are suspended, are expelled, are disciplined. But who is it who’s suspending, expelling, and otherwise pushing these girls away from education and toward the criminal “justice” system? Mikki Kendall notes in this interview that “80% of teachers are white and mostly women.” Who is waging this war on black children, boys and girls? Principals, sure, but the teachers on the frontlines are mostly white women. This is a situation where white women are enforcing race and gender norms at the expense of black girls. I have not been able to get my hands on Kendall’s piece about this for Bitch Planet (I keep trying to buy the issue digitally, it keeps not working) but I’d bet solid money that what she has to say is worth reading. I’m going to try and order it from my local comic shop. I’d welcome comments from, well, everybody, obviously, but if anybody has read it, I’d be particularly interested to hear about it.

Nigeria bans female genital mutilation

[Content note: female genital mutilation (obviously)]

A new ban, passed in May and signed into law by outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan, outlaws female genital mutilation in Nigeria. The practice was banned worldwide by the U.N. in 2012 and already outlawed in several states within Nigeria, but the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 represents a nationwide commitment to the ban. The new law also outlaws abandonment of spouse and/or dependents without financial support, and battery.

Trans women and the future


This article, by Kai Cheng Tom, is a moving and beautifully written piece about what it means to be a young trans woman of color and to read over and over again about the violent death of women like you.

I have argued for years that male rape of women is a terrorist act, reminding all women what men can do to us, how vulnerable we are, how we have no way to exist in safety in this world. That the knock-on effects of one woman’s rape extends to her family and friends (if she feels comfortable enough to share the story) and beyond, if the news media picks it up. I do not mean to imply by this that survivors of rape should keep quiet or that rape should not be reported in the news. The problem is not knowledge. The problem is rape.

I gave up an extra unpaid job writing for a local Queens newspaper more than fifteen years ago because I was having to cover community board meetings etc. that took place in the evening, and thus had to take the G train back home to Brooklyn late at night. The G train ran seldom and was usually empty, and this was just the time that a man dubbed by the local news as “the G-train rapist” was operating. So much for a career in journalism.

Edit: I think this kind of unremitting, unrelenting violence against trans women is also terrorism. Look at the effects on the trans women who are not its direct victims. Look at the way Kai Cheng Tom has to live in fear, how hard it becomes to envision a future free of that violence and the fear of it. I felt something that I think is a little similar when I was 18 and I started to find out how many of my friends had been raped: I started to think that being raped was inevitable. But as a cis white woman, I had many more resources for support, ways to help me move past that feeling.

And at least I could give up that job–women who had paid jobs late at night on the G line couldn’t. And what are trans women supposed to do? Stop being?

Trans women need a future. They deserve a future. So what I’m posting here is a link to a piece on trans people over 50. Some transitioned later, some earlier. But they’re still here, still living, still making lives and happiness. If we are all lucky, this is what the future looks like.

Edited because I lost the thread originally and forgot to make the parallel between rape of cis women and transmisogynist violence that I was trying to create clear. Sorry about that. That’s what I get for composing directly on-site instead of drafting.

Criminalizing trans people

So, a Florida state representative, Frank Artiles, has introduced a bill to criminalize somebody using any bathroom or changing room or locker room but the one corresponding to that person’s assigned sex at birth. It doesn’t matter how they’re presenting, how they identify, whether they’ve had surgery, whether they’ve had their sex legally changed (as far as I’m concerned, only one of these should matter, and it’s the second one)–you follow your birth certificate or you are subject to a year in jail and a $1000 fine.

Such a bill would do nothing but turn trans people into criminals simply for living their lives like we all do, and, it is specified, leave them and facility owners vulnerable to civil suits that could be brought by anybody “lawfully” in a single-sex facility.

And what’s the reason? Well, to keep the poor little cis ladies safe, of course: to reduce “the potential for crimes against individuals using those facilities, including, but not limited to, assault, battery, molestation, rape, voyeurism, and exhibitionism,” or, in Artiles’s example, to prevent cis men from going into women’s bathrooms to be voyeurs. Artiles admits that this is not actually a thing that has happened, but you never know. I’m not sure what Artiles’s record is on violence against cis women in general, but he’s clearly willing to, at best, accept trans people as collateral damage in his effort to combat an imaginary scourge. Speaking as a cis woman who worries quite a bit I have to say that this particular danger has never leapt to my mind as a priority to worry about.

If one were really worried about cis men harassing cis women in bathrooms, I just want to point out, one could draft really pointed anti-harassment legislation that would cover voyeurism.

There’s also the issue of how anybody would enforce this bit of legislation. Would people be asked to drop their pants for inspection at the door of every restroom? Carry around birth certificates? Would cis mothers of small cis boys be forced to send their kids into the men’s room alone lest they taint the sanctity of the ladies’ room with a tiny penis? I can’t help but think that these issues alone will make sure the bill won’t pass and that Artiles is showboating, but that does not lessen the transphobia he is advocating and using, and he ought to be ashamed of himself.