well, my last post actually attracted two radical feminists, one of which provided me this deeply flawed 2-page document which demonstrates a lot of the flaws in radfem understanding and treatment of trans issues. So I figure I might as well pick the thing apart bit by bit, for everyone’s entertainment and edumacation.
**TW for standard radfem fare**
Stereotyping is the act of making an assumption about an individual based on her membership in a specific class or group. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1989 landmark employment decision, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (490 U.S. 228), held that sex stereotyping is sex discrimination:
[i]n forbidding employers to discriminate against individuals because of their sex, Congress intended to strike at the entire spectrum of disparate treatment of men and women resulting from sex stereotypes.
Internal citations omitted.
An employer who objects to aggressiveness in women but whose positions require this trait places women in an intolerable and impermissible Catch-
22: out of a job if they behave aggressively and out of a job if they do not. Title VII lifts women out of this bind.
well actually, those two quotes seem to indicate that consequential action based on stereotyping is discrimination, not that stereotyping is. But so far, that’s close enough.
Feminists do not believe that women are naturally bad at math, but good at cooking and cleaning. We do not believe that women are neurologically, biologically, or genetically programmed to behave in certain “feminine” ways. To support women’s full and equal participation in society, women need strong legal
prohibitions against these persistently damaging stereotypes.
This is where the mistake from above gets compounded. First two sentences are self-evidently true. The last sentence gets tricky. Legal protections against discrimination are pretty straight forward; legal protections against hate speech are at least feasible, if ethically and legally questionable (and in the US, pretty much unconstitutional); but what the everglorious fuck can legal protections against stereotyping possibly be, and how would they work? Rather obvious fact aside that we can’t legislate people’s conscious or subconscious thoughts/attitudes, legislating against stereotype itself would render all American cultural artifacts illegal. Every.Single.Fucking.One.Of.Them. Because no cultural artifact is stereotype-free, especially if we remember that Title VII protects not just against sex-based discrimination but against “discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin”.
Anyway, point being that this is ridiculously fuzzy language, with some seriously fucking stupid consequences as a result.
Gender Identity protections must not come at the expense of Sex
okay…? did anyone suggest otherwise…?
Feminism supports every individual’s right to be gender non-conforming and to have legal protection from sex stereotyping discrimination in employment,
housing, education, credit, and access to public accommodations.
just worth noting that here they acknowledge that it’s sex stereotyping discrimination that must be protected against.
However, advocates who frame Gender Identity as more important than Sex…
“more important”? Just like with the first segment, this is vague and thus can be accurate or not, depenting on where they’re going with it or what meaning they attach to the words/terms in that sentence. but it’s a red flag, for sure.
…reinforce stereotypes about women that feminists have fought against for decades.
citation or it didn’t happen.
GLBT organizations are, in effect, undermining critical civil rights legal precedent by developing a theory of Gender Identity that values gendered “appearance, expression, or behavior” more than biological Sex. No other class of persons seeking protection under anti-discrimination legislation has attempted to intentionally disregard another protected class— until now.
This being the conclusion based on two unevidenced, asserted premises, it’s not worth much. Granted, this is a two-page flier, but since this is the central point of it, it would have helped to actually try to demonstrate that a)Gender Identity is valued higher than Sex*, and b)that protection against discrimination based on gender identity or “gendered ‘appearance, expression, or behavior'” undermines or disregards protection based on the visible physical phenotype.
Feminists are deeply invested in maintaining hard-won protections against Sex stereotyping in the form of legally actionable Sex discrimination. Feminists seek to preserve this precedent without having the same harmful assumptions about women’s appropriate “appearance, expression, or behavior” paradoxically privileged under the guise of Gender Identity.
you’re going to show any evidence, or at least a rational argument, for how protections against discrimination on the basis of Gender Identity would undermine “protections against Sex stereotyping in the form of legally actionable Sex discrimination”, or how the concept of Gender Identity, per-se, implies anything about what “appropriate” behaviors, appearance, etc. for women are? Just making and repeating these assertions isn’t making them any truer or any more convincing…
Feminist analysis of Sex stereotypes, legally actionable Sex discrimination, Gender Identity legislation, and the importance of protecting Sex as a separate legal class.
so we’re going to actually see some proper analysis finally? Thrilling. Except since no one** is arguing against protecting sex as a separate legal class, I’m not sure what’s there to analyze in connection to Gender Identity legislation.
The issue of Gender Identity has taken a prominent role in discussions, organizations, and activism supported by the Gay and Lesbian community.
Unfortunately, it’s not always clear that we have the same thing in mind when we talk about this issue. Feminist opposition to Gender Identity has been widely
misconstrued by those who don’t fully understand our concerns. This pamphlet will explain our objections and help readers engage in more productive discussions about Gender Identity that do not reinforce stereotypes or erase the legal importance of biological sex.
yeah, it’s pretty fucking obvious we’re not talking about the same fucking thing if you in any way imagine that gender identity reinforces any gender-based stereotypes or erases the legal importance of the visible physical phenotype***. I have very little hope that this pamphlet can actually manage to “explain” this false assumption into coherence.
GLBT Organizations have asked state and local legislatures around the country to take up the cause of discrimination against people of trans experience. To
do so, GLBT Organizations have offered up “Gender Identity” to protect trans people. Though familiar to people in the center of the debate, the concept has caused a lot of confusion because it’s too broad.
Prominent GLBT organizations—including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)—support a definition of Gender Identity similar to this one from Washington, DC:
“Gender identity” means a gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.
First, it’s not actually DC, it’s Iowa (the quote is from this list), but that’s a minor quibble.
Second, for clarification, I’d like to point out that these are working definitions for a protected class, rather than definitions for Gender Identity per-se. This matters, since this is anti-discrimination protection, and thus a class should include both the thing itself and also behaviors, expressions etc. of/in relation to the thing. so for example, while religion wasn’t defined in title VII itself, a later law defines it as “all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief” (which, if you ask an evangelical, is not the definition of their religion, for example; faith not works, remember? :-p). Most of the definitions at that link go through the trouble of separating the thing (Gender Identity) from other things relating to it, legally speaking (Gender Expression); a few do not, and a few go even further and fold Gender Identity and Gender Expression into sexual orientation, an even more inaccurate grouping. One that doesn’t make sense if one wanted to learn what Gender Identity is (i.e. its actual definition), but might be actually an attempt to pass comprehensive LGBT protection, as opposed to attempting to do it piecemeal; a potentially strategical decision then, I guess.
Anyway, yeah, these are broad definitions, and they are certainly quite varied. One can reasonably quibble about them, their accuracy, their effectiveness, etc. and the specific example provided is “too broad” only insofar as it doesn’t separate identity from expression, the way the nearly identical one from DC does****. But considering the precedent of including not just aspects of a person but also actions and behaviors in class-definitions even when they’re not part of the word definitions, it’s I think a minor quibble.
As of March 2012, at least fifteen American states have passed Gender Identity legislation modeled after this definition (the “Stereotyping Definition”).
um. “This definition” is specific to Iowa. I somehow doubt other states have passed legislation based on an Iowan definition. Also: the only “stereotype” part of that definition is the conflation of Gender Identity with Gender Expression. I’d be very surprised if that’s why it’s labeled so here.
1. The Stereotyping Definition does not define “gender.” If one doesn’t know what a “gender identity” means, how could one know what a “gender-related
true; it should be noted however, that “race”, “color”, and even “sex” are not, to my knowledge, defined in Title VII either; and “religion” was only defined years after the thing passed. I suppose one could make the argument that defining “gender” even when other terms aren’t defined is necessary, better, more useful, whatever… but then one should actually make and support that argument, not vaguely hint at it.
2. The Stereotyping Definition of Gender Identity is phrased in such a way that it intentionally overrides Sex: “regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.”
no. English simply doesn’t work that way. Sex (the visible physical phenotype) is simply being marked as a variable independent of and separate from from Gender Identity/Gender Expression. Which it is. What I suspect is happening here is a parsing problem (whether honest or not I’ll leave up to the reader) because of the impreciseness of that regardless. better would be “a gender related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of a person, which are independent of the person’s assigned sex at birth.”
Nonetheless, even with that imprecise “regardless”, the statement doesn’t override sex any more than the class-definitions for race, national origin, or religion do; those are also “regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth”, they just don’t say so, because nowhere has anyone ever conflated race, national origin, or religion with sex. Gender Expression and Gender Identity on the other hand are constantly conflated with sex.
No other class of persons seeking protection under anti-discrimination legislation has attempted to literally disregard another protected class.
actually, they all do. Religious discrimination exists regardless of race of the person being discriminated against; national origin discrimination exists regardless of the sex of the person*****. I just explained why this one definition bothered to make that distinction. And I also just explained that the phrase disregards the connection between sex and Gender Identity, rather than disregarding sex as a protective class. So yeah, that sentence is fractal wrongness.
Feminists object to the Stereotyping Definition because Sex has objective physical, reproductive, and experiential consequences for the overwhelming majority of women assigned-female-at-birth
no, not because. The first part of that sentence doesn’t follow from the second.
Sex exists in its own right and requires unique legal protections that Gender Identity cannot explain or represent. Gender Identity cannot replace the legal concept of sex without a significant loss of legal protections for females.
oh look, a strawman.
3. Understanding the Stereotyping Definition depends on understanding how traditional sex roles and stereotypes operate. Enduring sexist assumptions about
women create stereotypes—that we’re softer, gentler, and more emotional than men; that we’re all inclined toward “femininity,” nurturing children, and wearing certain clothing. These stereotypes act as major stumbling blocks to women’s social equality. They especially damage women who don’t conform to them.
The Stereotyping Definition elevates gendered “appearance, expression, or behavior” over bodily reality. Framing gender identity—specifically, femininity—as that which fundamentally constitutes “woman” will not improve women’s social status. On the contrary, this definition of Gender Identity legitimizes as natural the social order created by traditional sex roles. This will ultimately make it more difficult for women to combat the Sex stereotypes that prevent our advancement in employment, education, and political office.
First, understanding any definition for a protective class, be it specified or not, sort of depends on understanding the roles and stereotypes involved. Can’t make sense of race discrimination protection without racism, racist stereotypes, and the harm they do to people within a racist community. Cant make sense of sex discrimination without the understanding of those stereotypes, either.
Second, Gender Identity is not Gender Expression; “femininity” is not a female Gender Identity, so the argument based on that conflation is a fucking strawman.
Third, fuck-all is being “elevated over”, as I already explained.
Fourth, Gender Identity, being an issue specifically because some individuals so thoroughly reject assigned sex roles that they end up being killed for it, cannot reinforce traditional ideas about sex. It’s doing in fact the exact opposite of that.
Fifth, Gender Identity is independent of Gender Expression, since there are femme trans men, and butch trans women; thus, it’s impossible for Gender Identity to legitimize enforcement of traditional gender roles either; which BTW aren’t the same as sex roles, since sex and gender aren’t the same, except in the patriarchal mind.
This paragraph is therefore also fractal wrongness.
We propose this alternative:
“Gender identity” means a person’s identification with the sex opposite her or his physiology or assigned sex at birth, which can be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of a transsexual medical condition, or related condition, as deemed medically necessary by
the American Medical Association.
Gender Identity means “identification with the sex opposite her or his physiology or assigned sex at birth” in exactly the same way that sexual orientation means wanting to fuck people of the same sex, and race means being a Person of Color, you bigoted, privileged fucks.
The rest of that definition means that a person can be discriminated against until they have reams of paper s “proving” they’re really trans, a stipulation not present for any other protective class, and excluding people in the early stages of transition (or pre-transition); making this a completely fucking discriminatory definition and thus utterly fucking worthless as a legal definition of a protective class. And as a definition of a protective class (rather than as a definition of Gender Identity per-se), it also potentially leaves the door open to discrimination based on non-conformity with sex stereotypes for the the sex assigned at birth******, and as such it fucking contradicts your claim to be against discrimination based of sex stereotypes
This definition maintains a clear distinction between sex and gender.
so did the other one; you fucking complained about the part where it made that distinction clear though.
It also protects transsexual people from discrimination without legislatively prioritizing Gender Identity over Sex
neither did the other one, you just can’t fucking read.
and without falsely presuming that Gender Identity exists independently of sex roles and stereotypes.
Gender Identity does exist independent of sex and gender roles, and stereotypes. Just because you don’t fucking know what it is, doesn’t mean you get to claim that this independence is “false”.
Now, discrimination against people’s Gender Identities and their choices of expression and behavior stereotypically tagged as gendered would not exist without these roles and stereotypes, seeing as it’s these stereotypes and roles that are gendering these things in the first place. But that’s a separate kettle of fish which this pamphlet ignores and inverts incorrectly.
So yeah. That is why I’m done with radical feminism.
– – – – – – – – – –
*I have a pretty good idea where the idea starts out from, namely that the sex assigned at birth based on the visible physical phenotype is being rejected by trans folk based on the diverging psychological sex; since radical feminists don’t seem to acknowledge the existence of this diverging sexual body mapping, they think that the “real” sex of a person is what they were assigned at birth, and disregard the sex the brain has a map for. This by itself doesn’t lead to “advocates who frame Gender Identity as more important than Sex” in the context of anti-discrimination protection, and less still to “a theory of Gender Identity that values gendered “appearance, expression, or behavior” more than biological Sex”, where “biological sex”, I assume, is the visible physical phenotype; unless CAIS women aren’t women either *snort*. There is a leap of logic here that simply does not follow from any stated or implied premises.
**well; the patriarchy defenders everywhere probably do, but this isn’t about MRAs, Fundies, Republicans, or any of their like.
***were this the kind of blog that liked to commit the fallacy of the Golden Middle and the fallacy of the False Equivalence, this would be the point where I would ramble about miscommunication, and both sides misunderstanding the each other. This is not such a blog, so I’ll just point out that it’s NOT bloody likely that Newt Gingrich knows better what atheism means than atheists do; or that Rick Santorum knows better what sexual orientation is than LGBT people do; and so, it’s not bloody likely that radfems know better what Gender Identity is than trans people do.
****”Gender identity or expression” – a gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.
*****because of intersectionality, a lot of people experience multiple forms of discrimination, often interconnected ones: sexism against black women for example is quite different from sexism against white women. so sometimes it would be useful to treat the different protective classes as influencing each other. Now, if the radfems would make an argument that the specific inclusion of the “regardless” phrase in the definition will make it impossible/more difficult to make the argument that sex-based discrimination and Gender Identity/Gender Expression discrimination can influence each other, and thus should be excluded or rephrased as I did above to clarify what is regardless of what, they’re welcome to do so.
******theoretically, discrimination based on sex could cover this. Since it has never done so, it obviously doesn’t cover it sufficiently well, and thus it needs to be covered elsewhere. You might wish it wasn’t so, but if we’re going to be basing legislation on wishful thinking, why bother with protected classes at all? we could just wish for there to not be any discimination at all, after all.