Monday, August 11, 2014

Bringing an end to the “end of gender”

So next month will be the one-year anniversary of my book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive being released, and I will be celebrating by posting small excerpts of some of my favorite paragraphs and passages from the book on my blog over the course of September.

One of the passages I was planning to quote is very germane to the latest round of TERF debates, so I am posting it today instead.

Radical feminists who are opposed to trans people repeatedly offer this justification: They are trying to bring on the “end of gender” whereas trans people “reinforce gender.” Throughout Excluded, I eviscerate the “reinforcing trope” and how it is arbitrarily used as a tool within activism to exclude minorities/marginalized subpopulations within movements (including lesbians in the early days of radical feminism).

And in the following passage from the book, I point out how ridiculously vague and arbitrary such “end of gender” claims really are.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Final thoughts on that Michelle Goldberg article, faux journalism, and recognizing bias

So last week I briefly responded to a Michelle Goldberg article that had just appeared in The New Yorker magazine called “What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism.” It was a piece that I was interviewed for, and felt misrepresented by. It was also a piece that many people (including myself) felt had a strong anti-transgender bias (see critical reviews from Bitch MagazineAutostraddle, Bilerico, The Slantist, New Statesman, and Columbia Journalism Review).

Three days ago, my formal response to Goldberg’s article was published as an op-ed on The Advocate. It is entitled “An Open Letter to The New Yorker.” Rather than merely listing all my grievances with Goldberg’s piece (many of which have been addressed in the critical reviews listed above, and a few more will be described in this post), I talk more generally about what it was like for me (behind the scenes, if you will) to be a long-time activist within a marginalized community, and to have a mainstream journalist swoop in and cover really complicated issues, only to oversimplify and misrepresent them in a manner that mainstream audiences will find “titillating” and misperceive as “balanced.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

two articles (plus thoughts on autogynephilia as the transgender equivalent of slut-shaming)

Two things happened today:

1) I have a new article out on Ms. Magazine blog today called Empowering Femininity, wherein I revisit some of the ideas I initially forwarded in the chapter of Whipping Girl called "Putting the Feminine Back into Feminism." Check it out!

2) Some of you may be aware of a New Yorker article by Michelle Goldberg that came out today entitled "What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism." It is basically about how Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists (TERFs) are increasingly becoming marginalized within feminism, and it is mostly written from their perspective (e.g., about ways in which they have been personally attacked or "censored" by trans activists). Let's just say that it is not the piece that I would have written on the matter.

I do not have the time or energy to write a formal response to the entire piece, but since I am one of the few trans voices included in the article, I feel compelled to make a few points "for the record" as it were:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Regarding “Generation Wars”: some reflections upon reading the recent Jack Halberstam essay

Jack Halberstam recently published an essay called You Are Triggering me! The Neo-Liberal Rhetoric of Harm, Danger and Trauma, and it’s been making waves on the activist internets over the last week. It felt like a bit of a “kitchen sink” article to me, in that it discussed a plethora of different matters (including Monty Python, historical debates between second- and third-wave feminisms, current controversies surrounding the word “tranny,” the recent proliferation of trigger warnings, supposed connections between expressions of trauma and neoliberalism, safe spaces, “It Gets Better” campaigns, and concerns about millennials being hypersensitive) and attempted to weave them into one nice neat coherent narrative. This narrative could be summarized as follows:

queer & trans culture and politics circa the 1990’s was strong, progressive, and fun!

whereas queer & trans culture and politics circa the 2010’s is frail, conservative, and a killjoy.

While Halberstam’s essay made a few points that are certainly worthy of further exploration and discussion, it also overreached in a number of ways, especially in its attempts to shoehorn a potpourri of recent events and trends into the aforementioned overarching narrative. Some concerns that I have about the essay have been addressed by others here and here and here and here (sorry, original posting of that response was here) and here

Monday, June 2, 2014

On the "activist language merry-go-round," Stephen Pinker's "euphemism treadmill," and "political correctness" more generally

A couple weeks ago, I published a fairly lengthy essay called A Personal History of the “T-word” (and some more general reflections on language and activism). The first half discusses shifting attitudes regarding the word "tranny" that I have witnessed over my last decade-plus of being involved in trans communities. The second half (and in my opinion, the most important part) of the essay more generally discusses how language within trans communities remains in a perpetual state of flux, where virtually every word associated with transgender people and experiences is eventually deemed by some people to be problematic, and new terms are constantly being proposed to take their place. I referred to this phenomenon as the "activist language merry-go-round."

I go on to make the case that the "activist language merry-go-round" is fueled by stigma: Trans people are stigmatized in our culture, and this stigma latches onto the words that are used to describe us and our experiences. As a result, many activists may feel compelled to focus on changing language (i.e., swapping out "bad" words with new words that feel more neutral or empowering). However, so long as trans people remain stigmatized, these newer terms will eventually become tainted by that stigma, and there will be even further calls for newer and supposedly better replacement terms. I argue that there are no magical "perfect words" that will make everyone happy. And the "activist language merry-go-round" will not stop until trans people are no longer stigmatized, at which point there will be no compelling need to replace existing trans-related terms.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Julia update May 2014 - new music and writings!

So earlier this week I sent out my latest email update. It offers links to some of my more recent writings plus a bit of news about Excluded.

But the update mostly discusses my new solo music project *soft vowel sounds* and my first record (a four-song EP) under that moniker called Ray versus Macbeth and the Music Box, part one. The record includes the eponymous song "Ray," a contemporary parody of The Kinks' song "Lola." To listen to the record and/or find out how you can download it for free (for a limited time), simply check out the email update!

If you want future julia updates emailed directly to you, you can sign up for my email list here.

And if you want future updates for upcoming *soft vowel sounds* shows & music, you can sign up for the *soft vowel sounds* email list here.

enjoy! -j.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

a quick guide to media reports about brain studies

When someone in the media says:

Researchers at [fill-in-the-blank university/institution] have found that group X's brains are better at [fill-in-the-blank specific task] than group Y's.

This is what they really mean:

In the study, group X's results formed a bell curve. And group Y's results also formed a bell curve. And those bell curves largely overlapped - in other words, the groups were more similar than different. However, if you ignore those bell curves and simply look at the average result for each group, then those average numbers differ somewhat. And that is *so much* easier & more fascinating to report, so that is all we're going to tell you about the study!

That is pretty much everything you need to know about media and pop science reporting on brain studies...