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  Interesting point of view.  But I do like the notion that individualistic solutions to societal problems isn’t the way go.

“Natalie Wynn has objected to this point by saying that if the objection was really to reinforcing sex stereotypes we’d expect to see feminists directing anger at particularly feminine women. She asked, why do feminists focus their anger on transwomen, rather than people like Kim Kardashian? (Wynn’s video here and a fuller reply from me here). But this question can be answered. While people like Kim Kardashian do conform to sex stereotypes, they don’t necessarily reinforce them. That’s because, as I said already, feminists believe there are as many ways to be a woman as there are women, or more. The only thing you need, to be a woman, is to be female. After that, do whatever you like, be however you want. Being feminine is one of those ways. Because there’s no ‘right’ way to be a woman, being feminine is not a ‘wrong’ way.

But the same goes for being a man. There’s no ‘wrong’ way to be a man, including being feminine (even though of course not everyone in society agrees with feminists on this point). When a transwoman adopts femininity and takes the extra step of claiming to be a woman, he is expressing to the world that he thinks being feminine is not a way to be a man. He reinforces sex stereotypes of masculinity. The usual criticism is made in the other direction: it is a familiar thought that transwomen reinforce sex stereotypes of femininity, because of the type of women they tend to try to be. But I don’t find this particularly persuasive. If this were the only criticism, Wynn would be right to ask why we’re angry with transwomen for doing this but not with women who do it. But because being trans involves a repudiation of one’s sex (or one’s ‘gender’ understood as a sex-typed social role), it necessarily involves the statement that this way I want to be is not a way of being my sex. For example, being sexually subordinated by men is not a way of being a man; being the person who takes care of the house and raises the children is not a way of being a man; taking a passive role and deferring to the man in my life is not a way of being a man; wearing dresses and makeup and having long hair is not a way of being a man; (you get the picture). (I take some of these examples from transwomen Raymond interviewed and quotes from in her book).

The same goes for nonbinary people, because all the ways that nonbinary people are, are ways of being their sex. It’s sex stereotypes that make us think they’re not. If nonbinary people would be the way they want to be (e.g. a female person with an elective double mastectomy and short hair) without claiming not to be their sex, then they would be contributing to the project of busting sex stereotypes. By claiming to be nonbinary instead, they send the message that this is not a way to be their sex, that in order to be this way you must repudiate your sex (or ‘gender’ understood as sex-typed social role).

This is an old point put in a new way. Feminists have long accused transwomen of reinforcing sex stereotypes. But it’s not stereotypes about women they’re reinforcing, it’s stereotypes about men. Many people instinctively felt this when they heard about UK Stonewall advisor Alex Drummond claiming to be widening the bandwidth of being a woman, by having a beard. Feminists worldwide asked, why isn’t Drummond widening the bandwidth of being a man, by wearing skirts and eyeliner? What makes it the one rather than the other? The reason feminists have been so angry with those trans and nonbinary people who don’t have a good excuse for claiming trans and nonbinary status is that it’s a form of crossing the picket line on the feminist project of busting sex stereotypes. This is not just an idea for a project, where there might be reasonable disagreement about which project to take up. It’s a project already in full swing and which has made massive gains for women. What we need is a movement comparable to feminism aimed at freeing men from the constraints of masculinity. What we don’t need is large numbers of people acting like gender dissatisfaction is an individual problem, and the solution to it is reconceptualising sex stereotypes as innate features of persons (under the banner of ‘gender identity’).”

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