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Good talk.

  Found on Fair Play for Women, and wow if you ever needed a helpful guide to navigate the arguments that crop up with transactivists and their regressive buddies, this is it.

 

 

So, in light of this, I have a few very obvious and easy-to-explain questions that left-wing progressives need to ask themselves, on both a personal and political level. After all, one is not a socialist without class analysis and women are historically and currently the largest and most comprehensively oppressed class on the planet. Underneath each one, I’ll examine the potential answers.

 

1) Currently, you are holding these two beliefs in your mind at the same time: a) Anyone who self-defines as a woman IS a woman, and b) women are oppressed. Can you explain how women are oppressed?

Possible Answer a) “Women are oppressed because of their biology”.

But you just said that anyone who defines themselves as a woman is a woman. That removes biology from the equation. The women who you are calling transphobic bigots also believe that women are oppressed because of their biology, and that’s why they believe that self-definition is offensive and dangerous. The Equality Act also believes this and thinks it is so important that it is enshrined in law. This has got nothing to do with hating trans people or wanting to hold them back, it is purely about not wanting subjective feelings and beliefs taking precedence over scientific facts, ie not denying that woman is a biological fact.

Possible Answer b) women are oppressed because they are women.

Um, that’s not an actual answer. A 4-year-old child couldn’t get away with answering “a square is a square” if a teacher asked them what a square is. The only possible meaning that the statement “women are oppressed because they are women” can have is that the natural state of a woman is to be oppressed. To say this is to naturalise the notion that women exist to be oppressed, that it is our innate reason to be, and that to be a woman – to identify as a woman – is to accept this. Which leads us to…

 

2) If women are oppressed and woman is something you self-define as, doesn’t that mean that to self-define means to accept oppression?

Possible Answer: Um, no, because…

Exactly. There is no way around this glaringly obvious point. If women are oppressed and being a woman is a matter of self-identification, then this can only mean that women CHOOSE to be oppressed. Just like the misogynist term ‘cis’, meaning you agree with what gender says about you, self-identifying as a woman can only be a declaration that women accept oppression, accept being supposedly inferior, accept their lesser lot in life. And if we are led to believe that this is true, that this can only mean some very seriously offensive and dangerous things for women: a) if women don’t want to suffer oppression, do they have to self-identify as men? Even if this happened, it would still lead to a huge underclass of women who society and possibly even law deemed it right and natural to oppress – how it that progressive, and for whom is it progressive? and b) if women choose oppression, then there is no need to do anything about oppression. Oppressing women is the right thing to do – in fact, do they not actually need more oppression to support their self-identification?!

 

3) If one self-defines as a woman because you ‘feel’ like a woman, what does that actually mean if biology doesn’t  make you female?

Possible Answer: You feel like a female because you feel female.

Again, that’s circular thinking which isn’t any sort of answer. Women don’t feel female, they are female. If you don’t have female biology, then there is nothing for a person to base their ‘feelings’ of womanhood on except for gender stereotypes. Gender is a social construct designed to enforce and naturalise the idea that there is an innate human hierarchy with superior males at the top and inferior females at the bottom. To be a feminist is to reject gender stereotypes. To want even basic rights and equality is to reject them. To express any opinion is to reject them. To be involved in politics is to reject them.

To say that feeling female because of stereotypes is a legitimate truth, meanwhile, is to utterly uphold and legitimise them. There are no ifs or buts about this. Gender can’t be offensive, untrue and damaging when it comes to the gender pay gap, expecting all women to have children and denying them abortions, to #metoo and so much more, but empowering, true and progressive when it comes to biological males saying they are female because they feel more closely aligned to feminine stereotypes than masculine ones. It is disingenuous, not to mention pointless, of feminists and socialists to fight and condemn gender stereotypes UNLESS transwomen say they give them their gender identity and then they mystifyingly become not just accepting of those stereotypes but applaud them. Is this massive cognitive dissonance in not seeing the glaringly obvious dichotomy here? A deliberate, cynical political choice to jump on a trendy bandwagon? Or is that people aren’t genuine feminists and socialists and don’t really care about women?

 

4) What does self-definition actually mean?

Possible answer: self-definition means defining who you are, obviously.

Well, no, it’s not that obvious, actually. When you ARE something, you don’t need to define yourself as it. No-one self-defines as a human. No-one self-defines as alive. People with adequate vision don’t self-define as sighted. The very act of self-definition means to present yourself as something you are not. It is, bluntly put, to tell a lie and ask others to agree to pretend it is true. Believing that self-defining as a woman makes one a woman is magical thinking, it involves the suspension of logic, fact and critical reasoning, it is prioritising the subjectivity of the individual over objectivity – what happened to “religion is the opiate of the masses”, Comrades?! Or the masses themselves mattering more than the beliefs and feelings of the individual, for that matter? That is simply not Socialism in any recognisable form.

And if a biological male can self-identify as a woman, that leads to the next two obvious questions…

 

If you can self-identify as a woman, can you self-identify as anything? Black? Disabled? A different class? A different age? A different species, even?

Possible Answer: Of course not! Don’t be facetious and offensive!

Why is that facetious and offensive? Why is it perfectly acceptable to self-identify as a woman but not anything else? Why is that somehow more truthful – and more importantly, why is that not offensive when the others are? In Canada, where self-identification is a legal right, there are white men identifying as women of colour, and middle-aged men identifying as sexualised little girls (google ‘Stephonknee’ if you have a strong stomach). These men have positions of power and even inform the Canadian government on gender issues. Gender Dysphoria is not the only mental illness where people believe they are trapped in a wrong sort of body. It is in the same category of illness as Anorexia Nervosa and Body Dysmorphic Disorder – as well as transracialism, transablism, transspeciesism, etc. All of these are very real things that people suffer from, and there is zero real medical evidence to prove there is any factual, scientific truth to any of them. In fact, the more scientists understand about the human genome and neuroscience, the more we know that everyone is immutably sexed down to the cellular level, and that there is no such thing as brain sex in terms of anything other than being comprised of XX or XY cells, all disproving the idea that people ‘can’ somehow have a body that is ‘wrong’, or a different sexed brain to their body. Why must we agree that a male can self-ID as female but must not agree to tell a 5 stone anorexic that she is fat?

The answer is, of course, patriarchy. In our society, what men say *must* be true; truer still, that angry men must be appeased. Misogyny is so normalised, institutionalised and prevalent in every aspect of life that it is invisible so much of the time. We are all brainwashed from birth by the social construct of gender – the very thing that self-definition seeks to enshrine as truth over science – to see men as the default, the real human beings. Everything designated masculine is superior and right. Everything designated feminine is inferior and stupid. Women are seen, and treated, as existing to serve men, in every way possible, to be defined by men; their desires, their domestic needs, their necessary shitwork. Shitwork such as the myriad unpaid, thankless tasks undertaken by women that keep the Labour Party running, for example. Reducing women to a mere definition buys 100% into this highly offensive, wrong, misogynist, patriarchal thinking and acting: men are real, women aren’t. Women are whatever men say they are. The only way to believe that one can be a woman if you self-define as one is to think that a) women aren’t real in the way men are and b) that to be a woman is so demeaning, horrible and inferior that no-one would say they were one unless it was true. Both wholly misogynist beliefs.

The bottom line is that it is as offensive and unacceptable for a male to self-identify as a woman as it is for a white person to self-identify as black and an able-bodied person to self-identify as disabled. To make self-definition the actual definition of a woman is the active choice to deny the history and reasons for the oppression of women and the physical reality of being a woman.

 

6) What about self-identifying as men? Where is this in the debate? Why is the focus – yet again – only on transwomen?

Possible Answer: Because this is about women.

That’s not what I was asking. It is a perfectly reasonable question to ask. Why is all the political (and socio-cultural) focus on transwomen? Why the push to get more transwomen into politics but not transmen? When the media talks about transwomen, it is nearly always about a transwoman achieving something in politics, business and sport – and usually in positions supposedly designated women-only under the Equalities Act – whereas if transmen are even remembered at all, it is for being pregnant/having a baby. How curious that people talk about those born biologically male for their agency and achievements just like other biological males, and those born biologically female for their reproductive capacities just like other biological females…

The fact is, the focus on transwomen in a patriarchal society actually proves that people don’t genuinely see them as female, however much they say they do. The lack of interest in promoting transmen in a patriarchal society proves that no-one sees them as male or is particularly interested in appearing to do so – because if people truly believed transwomen were women and transmen were men, all the focus would be on transmen.

I would love to know if all the left-wing men supporting self-identification as women would also support self-identification as men. Would they give up places and spaces and right for them and agree that vaginas are as male as penises are? Somehow, I don’t think so. The fact that women are conversely expected to do all that and more for transwomen proves just how far we have to go in terms of any real equality.

 

7) If biology cannot be used to define women (and remember that trans activists insist that it mustn’t be, they refuse to accept even the idea that ‘woman’ can be both a self-definition AND biological, which they say is transphobic), then what is left to describe what a woman is?

Possible Answer: Whatever a woman says makes her a woman.

Really? I mean, apart from that being absolutely nonsensical, the implications of that are as horrific as they are irresponsible. There is nothing left to define women but gender stereotypes – the very things that exist to oppress us and which we have been fighting for so long. Every right we have fought for and won can be reversed if we change the meaning of woman from biological to gender stereotypes – and, indeed, if we must now accept that gender stereotypes hold any truth about what makes one a woman, then we should reverse all women’s rights in both personal and public life. As I said earlier, gender stereotyping cannot be simultaneously untrue and true when it suits you. If gender stereotypes are a truth that makes a biological male female, then they are truths that make biological females female too, obviously. If gender stereotypes are a truth that defines us even more than biology, then women must stop having jobs, money, the right to vote, the right to be out in public unaccompanied, the right to have any decision about their own reproduction or children, the rights to say no to any sexual activity and so much more. This is not hyperbole, this is what gender says is right and proper. This is the purpose gender was created for and this is how and why gender has allowed men to oppress women because of their biology for millennia. Gender is upheld not to empower males who prefer to wear dresses to trousers, but to keep women as the subhuman chattels of men. This is what feminists and all true progressives have been fighting for a long time: gender is a lie. It is the enemy. Not the women who correctly call it out for what it is, acting as modern-day Cassandras trying to get people to see that any collusion with the idea that gender contains truth is active participation in misogyny and patriarchy.

 

8) Why are so many women (and men) so worried about the implications of self-identification?

Possible Answer: Because they’re all conservative, narrow-minded, regressive right-wingers who are probably Christian fundamentalists to boot?

Thing is though, they’re not. I mean, even if you just look at comments on Twitter, you can see that nearly all the women expressing concern are Labour Party party members or at at least voters. Many others vote Liberal or Green, or are Marxists, Communists or Anarchists. Most are atheists or have no religious affiliation. These are the women who have fought for all the rights women currently have, or adhere to the type of feminism (Second Wave/Radical Feminism) that the women who fought for them did so because of that feminism. Equal Pay, domestic violence shelters, rape support, making rape illegal within marriage… the list goes on and on. These are the women who were at Greenham Common and the daughters of those women. These are the lesbians who were supporting gay men dying of AIDS in the 80s when everyone else shunned them, even medical staff. These are the women whose campaigning brought about the protections women so desperately need under the Equality Act. These are the women who made all-women shortlists a thing. These are the women who have been involved in just about every left-wing, progressive cause, march, campaign, etc., you can think of and more besides. These are women who have not just fought for their own rights, but the rights of everyone else. So you have to ask yourself why these huge numbers of women from every possible background, left-wing women who support all the causes you do, who’ve done more campaigning than most people reading this, so many of them lesbians with decades of LGBT campaigning under their belt, women who all understand oppression inside out because it is the ticktock reality of their daily lives, are suddenly horribly bigoted on this one issue. Are suddenly the supposed oppressors with privilege and entitlement over people born and raised male. It just doesn’t make sense, does it?

This is because they AREN’T horribly bigoted. There should be no clash between women’s rights and trans rights, but it is trans activism making this so, not feminism. This is not about inclusion, it is about colonisation, and we are merely exercising our rights to boundaries. The women concerned by the issue of self-identification don’t want trans people to not have any political representation, voice or rights, or want them to face oppression. You need to ask yourself why you are so quick to call women wanting to stand up for the meaning of women bigots and why you presume that women wanting to retain rights and the meaning of their own being means they want to or could somehow harm any other group. No other marginalised group has ever demanded that the meaning of a far greater marginalised group be utterly changed and made a nonsense of to protect their rights, except recent Trans ideology. That needs examining.

As for regressive, the only regressive belief in this whole scenario is the belief that gender represents any kind of truth, especially about women, or that people can be ‘born in the wrong body’ or have a sexed brain that doesn’t correspond with their body. That is all anti-science, anti-logic, irrational and prioritising the individual, all of which goes against the class analysis central to socialist belief. These are women offended and worried by the growing pressure to make gender the overriding definition of what is a woman rather than the truth of biological fact. To not be worried about that would be like turkeys voting for Christmas! Denying science is regressive. Believing stereotypes are true is regressive. Believing ‘woman’ is merely a label or a choice while men are real is regressive. And all of those things are what socialists call out right-wingers for every single day… except for this one issue.

A final note: It has to be understood that denying, removing and attempting to make illegal/forbidden the ability or right to describe one’s own oppression is not only oppression in itself but totalitarianism. And telling women that being female is anything other than our biological truth is that very denial and removal. Leaving us with only stereotypes that posit us as subhumans to describe ourselves is barbaric.

Now tell me again how progressive you are.

My undergraduate University days were nothing like what is routinely described as the ‘University Experience’.  It was a much more utilitarian experience – go to class, take notes, and then rinse and repeat the next day.  Add review said notes and study as test time rolled around.  The social aspect of University was pretty much all but lost on me at the time as the group of friends I had at the time did not attend.  In hindsight, not having friends doing the same thing made focusing on my studies much more difficult and it extended my stay at the lovely U by a few years.   Lessons learned and what not.

So, my Uni days were, to oversimplify, just highschool but harder.  My real learning started or at least the path to intellectual maturity started after I earned my degree.  It also helped that my partner was smart af and pushed me to become more rigorous in developing and defending my thoughts and arguments.  So when I read this essay I could understand what they where saying, but couldn’t really relate to what was being said of the state of university/college campuses regarding the moral/social development of their students.

For me, finding my moral and ethical centre was quite independent of the educational process, such as it was, during my tenure at the U.  Granted, of course, I was being exposed to and learning about topics that would, in the future, inform my ethical-self and boundaries, but nothing on the level which seems to happen in the US college scene.  So then while reading this quote intrigued me:

   “It is entirely reasonable, then, for students to conclude that questions of right and wrong, of ought and obligation, are not, in the first instance at least, matters to be debated, deliberated, researched or discussed as part of their intellectual lives in classrooms and as essential elements of their studies. “

What?  Isn’t inside the classroom where the great arguments and debates should happen?  I mean, it is in the university that you can hash out and grapple with the big problems with the help of professors and the knowledge that they bring and provide of the big thinkers that have grappled with these questions in the past.  The university is where you can make mistakes and get nuanced feedback that will sharpen your intellectual faculties and better equip you to lead the examine life, right?

(It’s funny – none of this really happened for me – sit in class, get taught stuff, regurgitate stuff – was the order of the day).  But yeah, in the formal sense, if you’re not going to university to grapple with the right and wrong questions, then why go?  Getting a degree for job is nice and stuff, but attending higher education is supposed to be more than that.

Here is an excerpt from Wellmen’s take on the the state of the university experience in the US:

 

“The transformation of American colleges and universities into corporate concerns is particularly evident in the maze of offices, departments and agencies that manage the moral lives of students. When they appeal to administrators with demands that speakers not be invited, that particular policies be implemented, or that certain individuals be institutionally sanctioned, students are doing what our institutions have formed them to do. They are following procedure, appealing to the institution to manage moral problems, and relying on the administrators who oversee the system. A student who experiences discrimination or harassment is taught to file complaints by submitting a written statement; the office then determines if the complaint potentially has merit; the office conducts an investigation and produces a report; an executive accepts or rejects the report; and then the office ‘notifies’ the parties of the ‘outcome’. 

These bureaucratic processes transmute moral injury, desire and imagination into an object that flows through depersonalised, opaque procedures that produce an ‘outcome’. Questions of character, duty, moral insight, reconciliation, community, ethos or justice have at most a limited role. US colleges and universities speak to the national argot of individual rights, institutional affiliation and complaint that dominate American capitalism. They have few moral resources from which to draw any alternative moral language and imagination. 

The extracurricular system of moral management requires an ever-expanding array of ‘resources’ – counselling centres, legal services, deans of student life. Teams of devoted professionals work to help students hold their lives together. The people who support and oversee these extracurricular systems of moral management do so almost entirely apart from any coherent curricular project. 

It is entirely reasonable, then, for students to conclude that questions of right and wrong, of ought and obligation, are not, in the first instance at least, matters to be debated, deliberated, researched or discussed as part of their intellectual lives in classrooms and as essential elements of their studies. They are, instead, matters for their extracurricular lives in dorms, fraternities or sororities and student activity groups, most of which are managed by professional staff. “

It seems less of an organic process, and more of a ritualized ‘thing ya do’ to start making the bucks in society.  It seems like such a waste that we have strict qualifications to get and to graduate, but at the same time that we’re not challenging people, making them stretch and reform their assumptions about the world.  Where else can we have the space to do such important life work?

Introspection time folks. Know thyself and all that. :)

What is wrong with the whole barrel of hoopla that is identity politics.  Love the Marx reference to weaving flowers/chains reference.

In case you were unfamiliar. :)

   I’ve written more than my fair share of five paragraph essays.  Graded a few in my time as well.  It would be nice if we could spend the time and teach people different ways of grappling with thoughts and ideas in their writing.  The online Aeon Magazine has some surprisingly good and thoughtful articles, this one by Sam Dresser is a fine example:

 

“Carrying out this kind of teaching calls for concentrating effort at two levels. One is teaching students how to make meaning at the sentence level, using syntax to organise words to say what you want them to say. Books on writing at the sentence level – my favourites are Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (1981) by Joseph Bizup and Joseph M Williams, now in its 11th edition; and Fish’s How to Write a Sentence – lay out a series of useful rules of thumb: be clear, be concise, be direct, focus on actors and actions, play with language, listen for the music. The other is teaching students how to make meaning across an entire text, using rhetorical moves that help them structure a compelling argument from beginning to end. My favourite book in this genre is Graff and Birkenstein’s They Say, I Say. I use all three in a graduate class I teach on academic writing.

I’ve also developed my own set of questions that writers need to answer when constructing an analytical text:

1. What’s the point? This is the analysis issue: what is your angle?
2. Who says? This is the validity issue: on what (data, literature) are you basing your claims?
3. What’s new? This is the value-added issue: what do you contribute that we don’t already know?
4. Who cares? This is the significance issue, the most important issue of all, the one that subsumes all the others. Is this work worth doing? Is the text worth reading?But, you ask, aren’t these just alternative sets of rules, much like the Rule of Five? I say no. One difference is that these are clearly labelled not as rules but rules of thumb. They are things to keep in mind as you write (and especially as you edit your writing), many of which might be in tension with each other, and which you must draw upon or ignore as needed. Another difference is that they resist the temptation to provide a rigid structure for a text of the kind that I have been discussing here. Deal with issues in the literature where it helps to frame and support your argument rather than confining it to the lit-review ghetto. And don’t make the reader wait until the conclusion to find out what gives the text significance; most people would stop long before this point.

Rules of thumb call for the writer to exercise judgment rather than follow the format. Of course, it takes more time and effort to develop writerly judgment than it does to follow the shortcut of the five-paragraph essay. Form is harder than formalism. But the result is a text that does more than just look like a piece of writing; it makes meaning.”

I like his guidelines and suggestions for writing, although I’m not sure I’m quite ready to give up my 5 paragraphs quite yet.

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