#SharedGirlhood: Puberty

Have been reading this wonderful article on experiences of starting periods: The Day I Got My First Period

There are some wonderful stories there, I’ve laughed at some (Call the Cops), cried happy tears at others (Bring us together), and felt saddened by others (Cosmopolitan Past). While they are all different stories by individuals from different eras and backgrounds they all have a common thread.

I have no love for menstruation, you’ll find no desire for period parties here. I see no strength in the menstruation itself, for me personally it’s been hellish from the very start. But there is great strength in the shared experiences of women, it transcends age and location.

Every born woman will have past experience of menstruation, yes, even those whose bodies didn’t do as they were meant to. Because they too will have grown up watching their peers go through it, and felt the worries related to it though multiplied. We all experienced the stigma and the status of menstruation. We all knew it’s significance of changing us from children to women, and the knowledge that we were expected to use this bit of our biology to bear children. Even at that young age we knew that our bodies were seen as ready for sex and procreation, and that to be unable or unwilling was seen as transgressive.

I remember there being a lot of talk of periods just before I started, one of the girls in our year had started at 9 years old and most of us had been told or read that we were likely to start any time after we turned 11. We were 10 years old, already feeling like we weren’t properly children as our age was in double digits. We weren’t like the little ones playing skipping rope in the playground. Instead we’d gather around teen girl’s magazines that someone had pinched from an older sister, or copies of Judy Blume books. We’d devour all the information we could on starting our periods. Alongside it we’d read about sex acts and how we were meant to look, the three seemed to always be packaged together.

We were simultaneously terrified of starting, and excited at the same time. We knew it marked the leap from girlhood to womanhood, we also knew it meant that our bodies were about to go through some massive changes. Some sounded great to us, let’s face it we all wanted boobs – some sounded awful, just how painful could period pain be?

We’d go through lists of what puberty entailed, trying to spot if any of us were showing any signs.

The girl who’d started early was our mentor, we all looked to her for advice and support as she was the “woman”, she’d been there. Through starting she’d suddenly been catapulted from being a girl like us to something else. We were proud to be friends with her, we were respectful of her experience, and we also felt pity for her as we knew it was scary to be first. We were both jealous that she’d been through it, and relieved it was her and not us.

We took bets on who would be next? Who would be last?

There was status in being on of the first, but also fear. We were worried it would hurt, and nervous of others (specifically boys, younger children and adults) knowing.

Conversations in whispered groups shared our hopes and fears. What if it hurt? What if it never happened? Did it mean we had to have sex? How did you use tampons? Did you need to have sex first to use tampons? How embarassing would it be to buy sanitary towels? What if only our dad was home when it started? What if we started in public? Or at school? What if boys spottted sanitary towels or tampons in our school bags? So many questions.

Then as different girls started we talked over what had happened, commiserating, celebrating and mentoring each other. In many ways it was a great equaliser, despite our differences we all shared these moments with each other. We all knew that despite our differences we were all together, and our shared experiences were a shelter in which we could be scared and vulnerable but safe.

We felt like the only ones to go through it, but also knew it was something bigger. For some of us it helped forge a closer bond with female relatives, for some with girls they’d previously been at odds, female teachers changed from distant and unknowable creatures to someone you relate (in a small way) to.

We were part of a club, not with the intent of exclusion, but one of support and safety. We needed to not take this first step into womanhood alone. Over the years I’ve spoken to women who’ve been supported through it, and those who haven’t. And no matter how things were at the time they started, all have been helped by discovering at some point that they are not alone – that they share this part of girlhood.

Is a world without gender that awful?

I keep seeing people talking about gender abolition as being something dreadful, and am genuinely perplexed by why it’s seen as such a bad thing. Maybe it’s crossed wires, or maybe there’s more to it, I have no idea.

From my point of view a world without gender, while it wouldn’t exactly be a utopia (few more issues to fix than just gender), is just not something I can see drawbacks to. And while I know I am already shoved in the “TERF” box by some people, I actually would genuinely like to see some conversation to try and find a middle ground, and maybe a way to move forward. Obviously never going to reach everyone, but if some of you could humour me that’d be great.

This isn’t going to be a long post, because I want to ask questions, but thought I’d give some perspective to my viewpoints. Just so it’s all open. I guess best way to answer is twitter (I’m @BellaSolanum) and/or the comments here on the blog, both have the advantage of allowing further conversation, so take your pick. I will not delete or hide any comments unless they are spam or abuse, so won’t be controlling the debate.

I know I’m on the blockbot list, so that may limit some lines of communication on twitter, but am open to talk on there too. I try to avoid blocking users on there so there should be no problems sending me messages.

Anyway.. hopefully I wont be talking to myself.

 

I guess for a start I best point to the definitions I use for gender/sex, and ask how you would define gender/sex if different to those? And if you do disagree with mine, I’d like to know why, what flaws have you spotted in my logic?

 

Using the terms above, my next question is what are the benefits to keeping gender (as opposed to sex) terms? I personally feel it’s too limiting, and while I get that for some the response is to create more gender terms, I do favour doing away with them entirely as it’s still creating boxes to fit people in.

 

Lastly, for now, what are the disadvantages to getting rid of gender (as opposed to sex) terms? What harm could be caused by not having feminine and masculine  or female and male as descriptors?

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend

I’ve seen a few bits about 4chan planning a “genocide” against transgender people by trying to get as many as possible to commit suicide.

One of the things mentioned to do with this is that they, apparently, plan to align with TERFs to do so.

As I’ve already been branded a TERF I wanted to come right out and say, “hell fucking no.”

This particular group on 4chan is a apparently a particularly right wing group, I only say apparently as I’d rather tear my fingernails out than go spend time on there, but I believe it. Especially given the screenshots.

Here’s a few things from my perspective:

I now appear to know, and speak to, a fair few so-called TERFs. As far as I can tell I follow quite a lot of the women who are regarded as epitome of TERFiness. And from what I’ve read of their thoughts and opinions, none of the ones I know are interested in the slightest in a “genocide” against the trans community. Have never seen anyone advocating murder or violence towards trans people.

I’ve seen a lot of analysis of the damage that gender does to trans and “cis” alike, with a focus on how much more detrimental gender is to born women than born men.

I’ve seen a lot of frustration with some in the trans community affirming gender roles by equating “woman” with a particular set of behaviours and fashions. Why wouldn’t there be frustration when RF’s are working so hard to eradicate this idea of women being a certain way only to be undermined by TW?

I’ve seen a lot of anger at the violent language being used towards women by those who were born and socialised as men, eg. “die cis scum”, “DIAF”. Bearing in mind Violence Against Women is a huge part of what RF’s are fighting against this also makes sense.

I’ve seen a lot of anger at TW demanding access to spaces which are safe spaces for born women.

But I have never seen any wishing TW were dead, or actively trying to drive them to suicide. We’ll ignore for now that I have seen AFTA’s trying to drive other TW who follow a RF line of thought to suicide.

Now on to the ever lovely 4chan.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen 4chan be in support of feminism, especially not Radical Feminism. And I’ve definitely never known a RadFem be a supporter of 4chan.

So I find it extremely unlikely that any so-called TERFs would want to get involved with a 4chan brigade.

I also think it is obvious that 4chan will be very much aware of the AFTA/TERF debate, and are just hoping to destroy both TW and feminism in one go. They don’t actually want to align with TERF’s, they want to use them to draw fire from themselves. Let’s face it, they’d love it if they could do serious harm to both groups, then stand back and watch the chaos unfurl. Occasionally stepping in to add fuel to the fire.

 

So while trans activists and radical feminists may never see eye to eye, mores the pity, let’s not play into those bigoted fuckwits hands ok?

These nasty pieces of work enjoy causing chaos, let’s not let them achieve their goal. For all our differences, this is one time we could maybe be a united front.

I have a lot of love for the trans men and women I know, and would hate to see them harmed.

Even those AFTA’s who are wishing death and harm on my fellow feminists, while I have no love for them and a lot of hatred for the fear they spread, I still don’t wish harm on them. Maybe I’m too much of a hippy at heart.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to quit railing against gender. I’m never going to accept that creating more gender boxes is a better solution than razing all the boxes to the ground.

 

But I will stand beside the trans community when 4chan come calling. And I’d hope my feminist sisters will be by my side. We can’t let 4chan use us like they want to, especially not if their aim is to cause harm.

Biology isn’t the only reality

Apparently there are people out there that believe foetuses can be trans. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s the logical step when you believe gender is innate really.

And I also shouldn’t be surprised that it’s labelled transphobia if you say that a foetus cannot be trans.

Well, it can’t, and you know what? It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if you are trans and that gender is not innate.

Gender doesn’t need to be innate for you to be trans. See my previous post for more detail on the difference between socialised gender and innate gender.

Socialised gender is real, it is constructed but it is real. It is an invention of humankind with no physical or scientific basis but it is still real.

Of course not everyone is going to be comfortable with the gender that society forces on them, it’s a lazy set of cliches, I suspect the amount of people who actually fit and are happy with the gender stereotypes are in a very tiny minority. Of the rest,

  • Some will be happy just fitting in with as many of their socialised gender stereotypes as possible
  • Some will be unhappy but do it anyway
  • Some will just do what they want with no regard to the stereotypes
  • Some will reject the stereotypes outright by creating new genders
  • Some will reject them by rejecting gender itself
  • Some will reject them by fighting to have the stereotypes ignored
  • Some will reject them by aligning themselves with the opposite socialised gender

All of these are understandable.

None of them are wrong in themselves, though some become linked to less ok actions.

And all of those who are unhappy with their socialised gender are genuinely unhappy, their feelings on their gender are not minimised by gender not being innate. Saying gender is constructed does not relieve their misery. Demanding that gender be treated as innate does not actually improve their lives.

So no, foetuses cannot be trans, they haven’t been socialised to be either gender, so have no gender to be uncomfortable with.

This is no reflection on anyone who feels their gender is wrong. It just is.

Put words in my mouth, I’m Going to Spit Them Out

I agree with all of this, and it’s said far more eloquently than I could say it.

whoiscis

There are big misconceptions about what I think and about the Facebook page that I run, Homosexuals not Homogenderuals. Firstly, I’ve said this numerous times to numerous people and the repetition of the same conversation is tedious. I’m just going to state it here, and when confronted with accusations will reference this post.

First and foremost I don’t hate anyone, I don’t have a heart filled with hate. Just because I disagree with what seems to be the mainstream thought on the issues of gender and gender identity doesn’t mean I hate trans people, I simply disagree with you. I don’t think gender is an innate feeling or identity, the only reality I see in regards to gender is that is a used as a tool of oppression against the female class. The suffering of men due to gender is incidental, and while I feel compassion for any person who…

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The Deleted Vagina (Part One)

Really interesting and beautifully written.
A must read!

aoifeschatology

The theory of historical materialism has brought to light some important truths. Humanity is not an animal species, it is a historical reality. Human society is an antiphysis – in a sense it is against nature; it does not passively submit to the presence of nature but rather takes over the control of nature on its own behalf. This arrogation is not an inward, subjective operation; it is accomplished objectively in practical action.

–Simone de Beauvoir

I feel a touch sorry for Simone de Beauvoir . . . or at least for the legacy of Beauvoir. The commentariat carousel of plastic-stallion postmodernism has quoted her with gusto, haste, but most of all circular reasoning. She remains often cited, but rarely read.

And by rarely read . . . I should perhaps say hardly read at all.  Quick-draw gender idolators rip a single line from the entire corpus of Le Deuxième…

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Dismissing violence against women is misogynistic

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone, but one particular AFTA has been tweeting about how FGM is “cissexist”.

They’ve then joked about it.

Yep, in a conversation where they’ve minimised the fact that FGM is about violence inflicted on girls and women they’ve decided it’s funny that people are upset.

They want FGM to be called “clitoral amputation”, which is

a) not accurate

b) minimises that the mutilation happens because the victims are female

By arguing for the removal of the word “female” they are arguing for the erasure of the reason behind FGM.

Also “clitoral amputation” suggests a medical procedure, and let’s not kid ourselves, FGM isn’t medical it’s torture. It is performed mostly without anaesthetic and by people with no medical training. It is not performed for any medical reasons, it is performed because women are seen as needing to be controlled.

FGM isn’t about the clitorus. And anyone who thinks it is has closed their eyes to the real horror of it.

FGM is about punishing girls preemptively just for the fact they will grow up to be women.

FGM is about keeping women under the control of men.

FGM is about causing harm to girls and women just because they are seen as lesser than men.

You cannot stop calling it FGM. You cannot remove sex from the equation.

Anyone who places their discomfort with terms that reference biological sex above the serious harm of children is a narcissistic and misogynistic individual. And should maybe be forced to listen to the screams of the girls undergoing this procedure, and then think about why it’s not just about body parts.

Confusing sex and gender?

Just wanted to go over three quick terms and what they mean, because I keep seeing people get them confused and making some really odd comparisons.

1. Sex

This is biological, it’s to do with which reproductive organs people are born with. So uterus/ovaries/vagina=female, and testicles/penis=male. Pretty simple biology that one.

Obviously there are rare people born with different combinations of the above, these people are intersex. They are usually brought up as male or female depending on which external organs they possess. Or which ones are more clearly defined. This brings us on to the next term.

2. Gender Socialisation

While this isn’t a physical thing like sex it is just as real, and virtually impossible to avoid. Everyone is subject to this one, even intersex individuals if they have been labelled as one sex or the other.

It’s both overt and subtle ideas of what men and women should be like, it dictates anything from personality traits, to mannerisms, to interests and preferences.

These things are taught from such a young age* that it is completely normal to internalise them. While people are able to move away from them to one degree or another, it is often difficult and can leave people vulnerable to ill treatment from society at large. Sometimes violence if people feel they are too transgressive.

*I did read of a study that showed people treated male and female babies differently, for example cuddling the girls more.

3. Innate Gender

This is the idea that gender is something born with rather than taught. This idea suggests that there are male and female brains, which are independant of sex.

I have never seen any studies that reliably prove this.

 

I’ve seen confusion arise when these have been mistaken for each other.

As a gender critical feminist I feel that women have been deemed lesser due to their sex, that gender socialisation is real, and that innate gender is not. I feel the world would be a slightly better place if gender socialisation didn’t exist.

The example I saw recently was of a GC feminist pointing out that a transwoman showed “male” traits, this was taken to mean they believed in innate gender, when what they were referencing was gender socialisation.

While a transwoman who passes will then find they experience gender socialisation like a woman, this will not erase the gender socialisation they experienced as a boy and man. Arguably the gender socialisation they experience during their formative childhood years is likely to be a lot more internalised than during their adult post-transition years.

The feminist was also accused of sexism for referencing a generalised view of the male sex. But the thing about gender socialisation is it is a set of qualities placed on a sex in general. It doesn’t allow for individualism by it’s very nature, so to talk about it’s affects you have to also talk in generalisties. Gender socialisation doesn’t make allowances unfortunately, if it did it wouldn’t be such a problem, and so no one gets to avoid it.

I would love to say I’m a bit of a outlier and have somehow avoided being socialised as a woman, but I haven’t. I couldn’t. And while I am now, through feminism, trying to unpick from my personality what is me and what has been ingrained in me, it is no easy task. It is frustrating to know that I fell for it all too, but everyone has to one degree or another, and saying so is not an insult. It’s an acknowledgement that we all suffer at the hands of gender.

So when a GC feminist says someone’s actions are “typically male traits”, this isn’t necessarily a criticism of the person, but it is always an acknowledgement of the force gender socialisation has on all of us. And how even transitioning and living as a woman will never erase what was taught as a man.

Gender critique

I want to start of by saying that I admire and respect Anita Sarkeesian, and I think my Twitter timeline should show that. I am not in any way a hater of her. In fact it’s because I respect her that I felt I had to write this.

Totally get if she doesn’t read this, she’s got a lot on her plate after all!

I just need to vent.

Earlier today she tweeted

Transgender women are women. End of discussion.

I don’t actually know the context of it, I will find out, but for now this is my contextless response.

At the beginning of all Tropes Vs Women videos she comments that critiquing something doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy it.

So I am unimpressed with her saying “End of discussion” about the issue of trans women.

This discussion needs to be had, refusing to engage with the myriad of associated problems doesn’t make them go away.

And talking about them doesn’t make the speaker transphobic or a TERF. No more than critiquing games makes someone a game hater trying to take down the games industry.

It’s late and there are far more eloquent women than me who can talk about the specific issues in depth, but here’s my very short version of why we need to discuss whether transwomen really are women.

1. If they are just women then what does this mean for lesbians? If they are just women then do lesbians then lose the right to know that there is a penis before they invite a partner back to their bed? Is that not a little homophobic to suggest lesbians would like cock if they just tried it?

2. In the same way that TvsW talks about the greater societal issues surrounding tropes in games, we need to talk about the greater issues surrounding womanhood. Eg. how much does our socialisation as women count towards later in our lives? What kind of disadvantages will we have amassed that TW wont? Or vice versa?

3. If TW are just women, then what does it actually mean to be a woman? If it isn’t our biology then what exactly is it?

4. If TW are just women, then where does that leave areas where women want to be around other biological women? Are there no circumstances where it might be reasonable for a woman not to want to be confronted with the sight of penises?

There are obviously more. But really, we need to be able to critique this. It is important for both born women and trans women that we do.