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Posts tagged ‘beauty norms’

The Erasure of Dicks

In about forty different ways.

Now for your daily dose of transactivist transphobia!

This time it’s “the majority of transphobic violence is committed against MTFs.”

It’s a general sentiment, but Julia Serano has actually written this in her book Whipping Girl (very closely paraphrased). And it is an unexplodey piece of shit.

This claim is bullshit because of two things: first, it’s unsubstantiated; and second, if you actually consider the actual way the world works, it’s very likely false. For simplicity’s sake (and honesty’s), I’m going to consider “violence” to be specifically physical violence, because even I know that having something shouted at you from a passing car is not nearly as traumatizing and intimidating as being physically attacked.

The first problem is self-explanatory; let’s focus on the second. Without any actual evidence, for example a survey that takes into account the relative time spent outside versus online, we don’t have any idea how often MTFs:FTMs are attacked—we don’t actually know how often either of them are attacked. Surveys are not very enlightening when it comes to the most vulnerable and abused, because they are the least likely to have the leisure and safety to fill one out.

And that’s part of the problem. From my observation, corroborated by the FTMs I’ve had the pleasure to meet, MTFs are by far the most prominent voices in the trans community. Put simply, FAAB men are not heard or counted as much or as loudly as their male-born counterparts.

This is not a trend isolated to the trans community. Reporting of eating disorders are similarly confused on a class and race basis: because of the way eating disorders are reported, they are incorrectly assumed to be largely specific to upper-middle class young white women. Here are the problems with assuming eating disorder reporting is correct:

1. Reports are gathered from medical and psychiatric authorities. Consider monetary and time expenditure, as well as cultural values and expectations (stigmatization, bootstraps fuckery, et cetera).

2. Eating disorders are often well-hidden until an extreme point; for example, Lierre Keith has gone more than twenty-nine years with an eating disorder without anyone recognizing what it was.

3. Those who are typically victimized by “authorities” are more likely to be suspicious of medical and psychiatric authorities, for good reason, and thus more likely to hide their eating disorders, if they go to aforementioned establishments at all.

4. The majority of eating disorders are not recognized and acknowledged; severe emaciation and/or constant self-induced vomiting is required for it to be seen as a “real” eating disorder.

5. Whether or not someone’s eating disorder qualifies as a “real” eating disorder is also highly dependent on sex, size, age, race/ethnicity and class.

That’s a lot of societal crap standing in the way of that nice, neat conclusion. Fact is, street kids—generally the poorest of the poor and marginalized so much that the word doesn’t even work to describe it—have eating disorders. All the time. All of the street kids I’ve met have eating disorders; the vast majority of the street kids Aslan has met (dude, Denver Five Points Area) also have eating disorders; almost none of them were white. I’ve got way more than enough evidence that the “profile” of people with eating disorders is worth less than the bananas I ate yesterday.

And even then, street kids have one more thing working against them—something that FAAB men do, too: they’re usually starving anyway, so any intentional starvation on their part is obscured and rendered as invisible as the lives of street kids generally are.

Same with FTMs, which the people crowing about how MTFs are the primary target of trans-related violence always miss: when violence is perpetrated against FTMs, how much of it is just violence against women? How much violence against FAAB men is identified as “merely” another woman killed, raped, beaten?

Certainly, that’s what their attackers mean it to be; it’s virtually certain that an FTM’s attacker is going to be MAAB, and even more certain that he is going to be viewing the violence as not against someone who is trans as it is a woman. Generally, MTFs get beaten, raped and killed for being “freaks” and “fags”; FTMs get beaten, raped and killed because they’re girls. The reality of violence is different for MTFs and FTMs, and it is exceedingly male-centric to deny these two things: first, that MTFs are more visible because of their at-birth assignment (that is to say, as male); second, that MTFs are not the standard by which transphobic violence can be measured.

We can see that to deny these things is patriarchal, also, because of the history of homophobic violence and the focus of the recent gay rights movements. When gay men are beaten or killed, it is horrific, although not so much for rape (since sexual violence is still a big no-no in the hot-to-trot social justice scene); when lesbians are beaten, killed and raped, it’s more of the same. The rape of lesbian women is so institutionalized, in fact, that we have a fucking name for it: “corrective rape.” And you can bet how widely-used that is—I found it via surfing a bunch of feminist blogs.

What about the New Jersey Four? What about the lesbians who have been subjected to male violence because they were lesbians? What about the lesbians who have been subjected to male violence because they were women? What’s the fucking difference between those two things? The life of women—people who are put into boxes labeled “women,” a fucking social reality—that landscape is covered with so much blood and violence that it becomes virtually meaningless. Violence against women is normal; as it is said, “the water we swim in and the air we breathe.” When an MTF actually goes beyond a refusal to see and avoid dealing with the privilege and behaviors she was socialized into from birth, when she reaches the point of being just a woman, when that woman experiences rape, battery, abuse, murder at the hands of men, she isn’t experiencing it because she’s trans. She’s experiencing it because she’s a woman. That’s what life means; that’s what the social reality of “woman” is.

And it is important too to ask the questions: Who is doing the beating? Who is doing the raping? Who is doing the abusing? Who is doing the murdering?

If transactivists are genuinely interested in stopping trans-related violence, then the answer to that question cannot be fudged. You can’t argue these words are beating, raping and murdering you. I am doing no such thing and, furthermore, no person who ever reads these words and agrees will be doing any of those things to you, either. Get over yourself. You either care about trans-related violence or you don’t. And if you want to stick the responsibility of violence to people who are not perpetrating actual violence against transfolk, then you don’t care about ending that violence at all.

FTMs are not given this extra-special kind of respect by the holders of power (that is to say, MAAB men as a social reality) because they want to be one of the guys or whatever. They’re still seen as women. When they get attacked, they get attacked because they’re seen as women. And their safety is exponentially more at risk, because they are traveling into the domain of those who are most likely to beat, rape and kill them. Invisibility is paramount. Invisibility is passing, and passing is safety.

But when you’re an MTF, and you’re exploiting that invisibility to argue that you’re the most specialest and oppressed, you’re just acting like everyone born with a dick is trained to act. Which is, well… a dick.

The Alpha Rapist in Popular Culture

What is this crap I keep hearing from MRAs about “alpha men” and “beta men?” Are these people living in another universe? Assuming that “alpha” and “beta” are taken from the social structures of wolf packs—which undoubtedly they are, since humans have this unexplodey fetish for comparing themselves to the species, complete with ridiculous misconceptions—the assumptions involved are… unrealistic.

First! It’s irrational and tellingly biased that alpha and beta only get applied to those who are or who we’d like to imagine as predator-types. So there are references to “alpha men,” but very few to alpha women—who, in a strict hierarchal power-structure, would by necessity have to exist.

Second, it assumes characteristics that aren’t necessarily present in wolf packs. Humans like to believe that “alpha” means an aggressive, assertive power that commands everyone else to submit or they’ll rip you apart… but that isn’t the case in wolf packs: alpha wolves are actually the most social and are only rarely involved in a dispute. Actually, alpha wolves are alpha wolves not because they’re the biggest and meanest, but because they are the most charismatic—others want to follow them, trust them, and do what they say. I’ve met only a few alpha humans by the actual wolf definition of “alpha,” and that trait doesn’t have anything to do with looks—although it helps, given the persistent disregard and dismissal of those who aren’t freaking Barbies and Kens.

The MRA definition of alpha seems to be: aggressive, powerful, threatening rapist. Let’s talk about how far these types of individuals get in any social species outside of a civilization and imposed societal structure that prevents them from being straight-up disposed of because homigosh murder!!1

Then there’s the slander against “beta males.” Eh? Betas are actually those who work very well with everyone in the group, and are usually arbiter/secondary-Mommy role, and get this: they’re actually not that maligned or disempowered in wolf society because, hey! They are the second highest-ranking!

Actually, as a whole, the rage about alpha males and beta males and how those stupid beta males give in to the evil feminists is based on the idea that if the feminists weren’t around, women wouldn’t be able to stop men from getting their dicks wet whenever they wanted. Which doesn’t do much to convince me that MRA isn’t all about “those bitches won’t spread their legs for me!” Which speaks of entitlement, and guys… entitlement doesn’t come up in a society where you are underpowered and disenfranchised: nonwhites and women actually have to struggle against the idea that they aren’t as worthy, good, or smart as whites and men (and white men).

On the other hand, what’s the problem? Nobody but the alphas get to breed—ever. Betas, regardless of what sex they are, do not get to breed—it is one of those fundamental laws of wolf society: you don’t get to do this. That it’s a social tenet is underscored by the fact that wolves raised outside of wolf culture—by humans, for example—have no qualms with mating even though they’re not alphas.

… So, ironically, the MRAs have nothing to complain about: men and women are already equal, unless you count men’s disproportionate presence and representation inside politics, high-paying and high-prestige jobs, etc. They’re fine to object to that if they want—I agree, capitalism is fucking awful and drains your soul, and I’ll be happy to welcome them over to the anarchist side of things as soon as they get rid of their patriarchal, white and human privilege.

I do have a further problem with the idea of alpha as it is applied to humans: “alpha” standards for men and women differ, massively, in ways that are not borne out by personality differences between men and women. Men are supposed to be hyperaggressive, warlike rapists—chill, I said supposed to be, as in by society, and I appreciate your agreement that men are not inherently rapists and shouldn’t ever be—but women’s “alpha” status is… appearance. You have to be thin, made-up, perfumed, conventionally attractive—and silent, apparently, because no mention of women’s personalities are ever made in “alpha” standards. Because to men, women are fuckholes. Wait, I missed the part where society is supposed to value women more than men again, I think.

In conclusion, shut the fuck up and stop slandering other species you honestly know jack shit about. They do not support your concepts of how the world is supposed to be run, and if you weren’t constantly using only the measures of your paradigm on them, you’d know that. But what is carnism if not exploiting animals’ lives to reinforce your own sense of superiority?

Privilege isn’t Winning, it’s Not Participating

A huge problem I have with the concept of “cisgender privilege” is that my female-bodied friends, and female-bodied people in general, are somehow assumed to have more privilege from being recognizable as feminine, instead of more targeted for victimization. Er, no. Femininity doesn’t work like that: there is no place of acceptance or safety, just different kinds of violence and objectification.

What I’ve seen is that when women achieve or fall into contemporary beauty (i.e. femininity) norms, they are not given a magic shield from gendered violence, whether sexual, emotional or physical. But they are given more attention of the kind patriarchy wants us to believe is positive—a guy not-so-covertly stalking you throughout the entire grocery store, spooking you so much that you keep your keys between your fingers and look over your shoulder walking through the parking lot; some douche who comes up and tells you that you’re pretty, with the obvious expectation that you’ll immediately swoon and accompany him to bed; getting “HAY BAYBEE” or sundry other things shouted at you from a passing man (in a car, on foot) instead of “FATASS” or “FREAK.” Stop acting like these things are not just as invalidating, minimizing, and fucking terrifying as the things women go through when they’re not feminine enough. They are.

Newsflash from Feminism 101: Women do not win. Ever.

But dividing women has one very salient advantage—it keeps them occupied arguing over who’s the prettiest, ugliest, bitchiest or most privileged, short-circuiting any destruction the silly little dears might have otherwise been able to wreak on the existing power structure.

Come on. This has been happening for centuries. Women fight over who’s more beautiful and the winner is men. Women fight over a husband and the winner is the man. One of the sad truths of women’s interactions throughout history is that women are always more likely to blame and fight each other than men. Patriarchy—all power structures—create a competition amongst the underclass to divert their attention and energies to getting small slivers of oppressor-given approval and power, because the easiest way to quell rebellion is to make sure it never begins. By making women compete, patriarchy succeeded in making men and men’s power invisible: in the din and dust of scrabbling to get whatever scrap of male approval was there, women forgot who was standing above them, laughing, and blamed the women around them for being better at the competition, or worse.

Part of the solidarity of the feminist movement was realizing that the women who won were still being forced to compete.

When I look at the belief that women—because it is always women—are privileged because they have an advantage in the competition, I see that history and that community disappeared. When I see the dismissal of this competition as important, as a fundamental shaping factor of all women’s lives—because all women have to deal with this in any civilization—what appears to me is not a fight for the rights of those maligned, but an incredible push to make people forget that the competition ever existed at all.

That’s the voice of postmodernism, individualism, transactional oppression. It’s the voice of the pornographers and the pimps, the doctors and the butchers and the rapists: women have power over the competition because they choose to compete.

This is the voice of reality: women have no choice to compete, because they are not the ones setting up the arenas. Men are, and the prize is sexual, emotional and capitalistic victimization. The only beneficiaries of the Colosseum were the spectators.

The privilege and power that transactivists seek does not lie in being able to participate in the competition, much less in winning at it. Those things reside only in not competing, and women cannot give you this—they’ve been trying for thousands of years to find a way out of the competition, themselves. You cannot give power you aren’t allowed to have in the first place, and women cannot oppress you as women, if trying to found a safe place for themselves and those like them—who were given no power and no choice—even counts as oppression. Demanding that women give you the power to be like them is only begging from an empty hand, because women have never had the power to decide what women were in the first place. And I find it unsurprising that when women finally do try to decide what women are—people designated unwilling competitors from birth in a system they cannot benefit from, because they have ovaries—the reaction is this vicious.

As women, they have no power to give you and even less to take yours from you. As women, they aren’t even allowed to decide who does not get to be around them, because that would be making boundaries, and those without power cannot have boundaries. As people born and recognized as men most of your lives, you still believe that women should not be allowed to have boundaries that are respected, defended. I know you believe this because your actions are written by patriarchy, and they are the same as any other man in the world, speaking slowly and menacingly: you have no right to keep yourself from me.

The only reason that oppressiveness is scented when a woman says, “I feel unsafe, and I don’t want you around me,” is that men have always had every right to women’s space, women’s bodies and women’s time. So when someone who was raised as a man is told no, it is perceived as a limiting of their rights, their privilege. Women are oppressing men by taking away their rights, the rights that were originally taken from women. But that is also invisible, especially to men.

As a genderqueer, I am absolutely skeptical of the idea that such a thing as “cisgender privilege” exists. Seeing it in the light of male privilege and the reality of women’s lives, instead of abstracted to fit the needs of those who have been privileged all their lives, it is just more of the same thing from the same place.

Remember: pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Identity/Fat

It’s been noted before that female-coded clothing is never neutral: no matter what tone you may be wearing or what cut or style, there is no point where that clothing will not be perceived as saying something about you. Large, gaudy necklaces tag you as “artsy”; short skirts, breast-crushing shirts and stockings mark you as misogynistic fratboy fuck-target. Mismatched clothing tags you as “punk,” pathetic, or hipster. Batik clothing makes you a New Ager or middle to upper class trustifarian. Sneakers means you’re desperate to fit in. High heels? Asking for it.

Female-bodied people have virtually no ability to control how they are perceived. Being able to say, “this is the kind of person I am” is something exclusively reserved for men—who, while they may have typed clothing, also have neutral clothing available to them—because women are property, and the kind of “packaging” they have defines what kind of product they are. Maybe you’re an S&M product? Or a Happy Hooker product? Perhaps you’re the Feisty Prowler type—what about the Shy Bookworm? Your identity—who you are as a person—is not as important as what kind of front you present, because your personality cannot be fetishized and objectified: your appearance can.

However, even then, many women have the ability to skew how they are perceived—either through judicious use of clothing tags or making their own clothing. There’s one group of women who have no ability to control how they are perceived, even in the limited scope that most women have. You know them—you’ve been taught that they’re disgusting, and that their fallen state is an external sign of their personal failures: if they weren’t such horrible wastes of flesh—if they just wouldn’t keep shoving fourteen pizzas in their mouth a night*—then they’d be… um… well, fuckable, I guess. That’s about as close as any woman comes to “acceptable,” though.

They’re fat. I want to take a minute right here and give a shout-out to all my fat comrades and the strength it takes them to get through a day, let alone still challenge the status quo.

Fatness is intersectional in nature: it is bound up in body-policing, femininity (of not taking enough, let alone too much), beauty ideals, race, class, and probably a lot of other things I’m not thinking of right now. Beyond anything else, people who are thin are given more institutional power—sexual, social, economic—and those who do not meet the unreliable definition of “thinness” are continuously disenfranchised by the same system. Fat men get farther, but that’s not saying much.

I want to specifically point out how little control fat women have over their projection and acceptance of identity, though. To a point, thin women have some powers of self-identification—again, they’re limited, but still there—but fat women have none because the totality of what they are perceived to be is what could be best described as infintesimal in scope.

My fat female-bodied friends have no option and no choice. If they act happy, they’re stinky and obtrusive; if they’re feeling sexy, they’re laughable and pathetic; if they have desires, they’re gluttonous and smothering; if they’re affectionate, they’re flippant; if they’re bouncy, they’re vapid and unintelligent; if they’re cute, they’re obnoxious and thunderous; if they’re loud, they’re overwhelming and don’t know how to control themselves; if they’re sad, they’re emotional eaters; if they’re angry, they’re bitter, shrill bitches. Fat women cannot win, ever, but with a totality that most thin women couldn’t even grasp at.

One of my friends a few years ago confided to me that her social anxiety and reticence developed when she realized that no one ever saw her as cute and bouncy—they saw her as obnoxious, overbearing and stupid. Her withdrawal was a way out: because she couldn’t bear to be seen as this stupid, silly thing that was such a distortion of who she really was. It didn’t matter that she had an eating disorder, and that she was eating high raw because it was one of the few ways she could make it disappear in totality: when people looked at her, they saw fat. That was the totality of who she was, to them—unhealthy, prediabetic at best, probably cancerous, and definitely an eyesore if not necessarily contagious. Even when people weren’t making “moo” sounds at her, she could tell by their awkwardness and skepticism that they condemned the hell out of her.

She chose to withdraw because that was the only option for control she had ever known: as a child, the only way she could get away mentally from her family’s abuse was to turn to stone inside and convince everyone that nothing mattered to her. The extent of people’s judgment and prejudice against her body didn’t just make her ashamed: it made her change into a different person.

Because the person she was didn’t matter, only the packaging. In a society where your presentation matters more than your personhood, and where your packaging implicitly justifies violation regardless of its austerity… you’re not safe. As someone who is trans, I’m not safe—because my packaging matters more than who I am.

Property status—that process and underlying ideology through which you are turned into a product—must be abolished. No excuses. No mistakes. No compromise.

I want to make clear that fatphobia will not be allowed on any part of this site. Body-policing is unacceptable and only reinforces the idea that womens’ bodies are communal property for whatever reason—though I’m sure it’s just because of their “health.” In light of a history that actively encourages women to starve to fit acceptable ideals of femininity, behavioral and physical, and in light of the fact that there is no known way to make fat people into thin people—you need to do better than a 95% failure rate—you get to shut your ignorant yaps.

*Does anyone actually know someone who does this? It’s highly eating-disordered even so, but apparently I’m eating baby-flavored doughnuts every night… silly fools! I’m vegan! Don’t they know I only eat dumpstered babies?

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