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Found on JCJ’s site: Speech at Women’s Equality Party Assembly, 23 September 2020

To lay out my thoughts about women’s political representation, I want to first outline my socialist and radical feminist analysis of women’s politics. What I most want to underline is that from my perspective, feminism is a form of materialist class politics, not a form of identity politics. That is, my analysis of the position of women is rooted in understanding that female people have a particular type of body and reproductive capacity and are subject to a system of power on the basis of being female. This power structure exists because of the historical development of a hierarchical system of extraction of the reproductive and socially reproductive labour of female people, otherwise known as patriarchy. Consequently, women have a range of shared material political interests. Most obviously these pertain to issues around reproductive and sexual autonomy, and the violences women are subjected to by male power’s effort to control their bodies as a sexual and reproductive resource. This then extends to how women’s labour is devalued, invisibilised, and appropriated by the intertwined structures of patriarchy and capitalism. This includes women’s disproportionate poverty, the wage gap, maternity cover and child-care, the undervaluing and feminisation of all forms of care labour, the concentration of women in low-paid and low status occupations, and the ways all these issues disproportionately impact working class and racialised women. Lastly, this leads to the demand for a fundamental structural transformation in order to challenge extractive relations, undertake a just accounting of women’s labour, and do away with the symbolic representations and psychological conditioning that undermines women’s humanity by positioning them as a sexual, reproductive, domestic and emotional resource for males. The fundamental structure of patriarchal gender is then a matter of socialising women into the role of a service-class orientated to male needs, and socialising males into a mode of dominance and entitlement. Feminist politics which reinforces female socialisation and de-centers the needs and interests of female people is thus antithetical to challenging gender in its deepest sense.  

On the question of why women’s political representation matters, let’s focus on two key areas. The first involves the symbolic importance of women’s representation, the way it serves as a role model and opens possibilities for other women, and the fact that ‘representational justice or equality’ is an important value in and of itself. With respect to the inclusion of trans women in women’s representation, this immediately forces a confrontation with the bitterly contested ontological question of ‘what is a woman.’ As should be apparent from what I’ve just said, my answer to this question is informed by materialist class analysis. That is, women are a sex-class. This matters not only because it frames women’s class interests, but because the alternative interpretation, from our perspective, relies on essentialising gender, which we consider to be the mechanism of the oppression of women as a sex-class. At the heart of this conflict is the fundamental question of the definition of women being changed from a sex class to a gender class. Given that we think that gender is how women are oppressed on the basis of sex, we consider it regressive for women to be recognised in public life as instantiations of gender, and to be redefined on the basis of an identification with gender that not only bears little relation to our experience as female human beings, but diminishes the way patriarchal gender profoundly harms our humanity.

I think it’s worth briefly thinking this under the rubric of ‘Diversity and Inclusion.’ The aim of inclusion is actually structurally contradictory to the aim of diversity. If everyone is included inside one category, then many salient differences between groups get lost, and we undermine diversity. Much present identity politics is focused on a possibly over-stated emphasis on difference, while conversely, the relation of women and trans women is being thought under the sole political directive of inclusion, which is undermining the recognition of important political and social differences. What we should be aiming towards is a model that honours both similarity and difference. We need to recognise that female people and people who identify as women are not identical, and stop trying to erase this difference in a way which many women feel is overwriting their political existence and interests,. This will allow us stand in solidarity with each other, in areas where our political interests are aligned.

This leads to the second area where representation matters, the expression of women’s political interests. This is not simple, because under patriarchy women have the most fractured class consciousness of any oppressed group, and it is far from evident that women in positions of political authority are in the business of representing women’s interests. I would hope, however, that this is less true of the political consciousness of women inside a party set up by and for women. The question then is to what extent women and trans women share political interests. My claim here would be that trans women who respect the difference between trans women and women, and understand why women resist being redefined on the basis of gender, can stand in real and meaningful solidarity with women, although our interests still do not completely coincide. However, at present, given the effort to erase differences, redefine women by gender, and demand access to all sex-based spaces with no gatekeeping, the interests of women and those aligned with the present trans rights project, are, in fact, diametrically opposed. This was evident in Munroe Bergdoff’s much criticised injunction that women shouldn’t centre reproductive issues at the Woman’s March because it was ‘exclusionary’. It is also starkly illustrated by how often advocates of present trans rights discourse diminish the impact of male violence on women’s lives – as indeed Judith Butler did yesterday –  and the extent to which being raised in a society that sexualises women from their early teens, demands that female people have sex-based spaces to preserve their dignity and humanity, as well as their safety. This is source of great regret, as opposition to male violence is one of the places where women and trans women’s interests should most closely align. On the basis of all these factors I would argue that – especially under current circumstances – it is not appropriate for trans women to represent women politically, and I hope in time we can move towards a place where we can stand in close solidarity with each other.

Jane Clare Jones is a philosopher with a formidable intellect and a determined defender of women and their rights.  This exchange cuts through the usual emotional appeals/name calling to get to the heart of the case for defending female rights and boundaries.

Amazing clarity of argument.  Thank you Dr.Jones.

The argument proceeding from clownfish. The argument proceeding from strawberries. The argument proceeding from seahorses. “Intersex people are as common as redheads, so sex does not exist.” “Sex is a spectrum, so males are female.” “Bio-essentialism!” (Is that like thinking horses and carrots exist?) “It’s SO COMPLICATED.” “Thinking women exist is like thinking women […]

via The TRA Trope Almanac — Jane Clare Jones

   We need to insure that inclusivity does not become male dominance by any other name.  Jane Clare Jones delineates between helpful and harmful inclusion:

 

“I’ve been meaning to write, and will write soon, something on how the left’s current obsession with ‘inclusion’ and ‘openness’ and ‘smashing boundaries’ and ‘deterritorialization’ makes sense only as a critique of the psychic structure of dominance (like, go and tell it to Donald Trump and leave us the fuck alone). It is entirely, gratuitously, inappropriate, when turned against the boundaries of the violated, of those who are raised in a society which leads them to understand – when they are grabbed or catcalled or made to feel like meat – that that is where they are positioned. It is no wonder that a woman who cannot even bear to think about this fact, who prefers to deny the power that frames it, who prefers to think it could all be rewritten by playing games with superficial scripts, would, when addressing the mess that she has made, avert her eyes so resolutely from what this is actually about. Women’s psyches are far far more than ‘scenes of violation,’ but there can be no feminism which refuses its reality, which recoils from recognising that ‘smashing boundaries,’ when used against women as a class, is the absolute axiom of male power, and, at its core, everything happening here is as it ever was.”

This isn’t a general essay, more the upshot of the ongoing intra-philosophical spats, so it might not be of interest to all of you.. So, anyway, someone calling themselves Dr Specious (ho ho), possibly one of our philosophical colleagues in disguise, turned up and pass-agg pointed me and Kathleen and Holly at this paper, which […]

via On a Specious Reply — Jane Clare Jones

Jane Clare Jones is amazing.  This is from her annotation of a discussion presented on BBC 4’s Woman Hour:

Sally Hines, Professor of Sociology and Gender Identities at the University of Leeds, and our very own Kathleen Stock, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex, very ably adjudicated by Jane Garvey.

 

[SH]…y’know, and we’ve seen this before, it’s very very dangerous, we’ve seen this before in feminism, in relation to the position of Black women, and in relation to the position of working class women, y’know, I think we absolutely as feminists have got to move away from a politics which is based around perceptions of realness, and that white, cis women such as myself, such as Kathleen, have got to give up some privilege here…

[JCJ] Let’s unpack some intersectionality burble then shall we Sally? First, the imputation that Black women and working-class women are a subset of women whose womanhood is ‘less real’ that white women’s womanhood is bullshit, and politically motivated and offensive bullshit. There have always been and remain tensions within feminism along race and class lines, and there probably will always be, because these intersections are massively important political and social differences that cut though the body of women. We will, I hope, always continue to wrestle with these issues, to give them space, and to endeavour to work with them in order to best articulate our shared interests as women, and to allow for the expression of our differences. As I have said before, it is not easy, and it shouldn’t be. None of this translates into an idea that Black women or working-class women are somehow not women, and Crenshaw never intended intersectionality to be used to fracture the class of female people in order to include male people. The fact that Black females are female does not mean that male people are female, and you really need to stop and have a long hard look at yourself and what the fuck you’re saying. Frankly, this makes my blood boil. And I know from listening to many Black women that they find it enraging – both because their womanhood is being undermined, and they’re being used as a political prop in an argument, and maybe even more so, because it’s being done with a veneer of woke anti-racism, while being fucking racist, and the women doing it won’t listen to them when they call it out.

Secondly, can you imagine anything more white and middle class and privileged than thinking you can avoid sex-based oppression by identifying out of it? What kind of life have you lived, that you respond to a well-grounded observation about the distribution of care-work (let alone femicide, or poverty, or lack of education, or FGM, or forced marriage, or sexual slavery, or any other of the number of sex-based violences that disproportionately affect women with less economic and racial power, or from cultures with more rigid patriarchal practices than our own), and turn around, and say that you are fighting for the interests of working class and women of colour by denying the analysis of the basis of their exploitation????? This whole towering pile of bullshit is precisely an artefact of privilege. Walk into any Gender Studies class in the country if you have any doubts. Over to Kathleen…

KS: I am exactly here to fight on behalf of the interests of Black and working-class female women, it is them that bear the disproportionate brunt of inequality in our society, and if we lose the ability to name those people as such, and to talk about the causal factors that lead to their predicament, then we won’t be able to fight for them, so it’s precisely dangerous, the kind of rhetoric that’s coming out of the new gender identity doctrine…

JG: Sally, can I just, I mean, if it were a level playing field, why do we not hear as much from trans men as we do from trans women?

BOOM. Answer that question while avoiding granting recognition to the political importance of sex if you will Sally?

 

In the future I’ll be quoting other parts of JCJ’s post, as her clarity of thought and argumentation is unrivalled on these topics that important to women.

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