writer, performer and activist Julia Serano's blog! most posts will focus on gender & sexuality, and on transgender, queer and feminist politics. occasionally I write about health and (dis)ability, art and performance, and other stuff that interests or concerns me. I am not the most frequent or thorough blogger, and I apologize in advance if I do not have the time to reply to your comments... oh, and you can check out my website at juliaserano.com
So this morning I sent out my monthly(ish) email update, it has info about my Portland & Seattle book readings this week, links to interviews, reviews, excerpts from my new book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive, a World AIDS Day reading I am in, and more!
So in an earlier post, I discussed the concept of myriad double standards that I forward in Excluded. The idea
is quite simple: Generally within feminism and queer activism, we have a fixed
idea of the system that we are challenging—e.g., the patriarchy,
heteronormativity, the gender binary, kyriarchy, and so on. Being fixed models,
each of these acknowledges certain forms of sexism and marginalization while
overlooking or dismissing others. The forms of sexism and marginalization that
are ignored tend to become points of exclusion—for instance, if your concept of
“patriarchy” does not include transphobia/cissexism, then your movement will
exclude trans people; if your concept of “the gender binary” does not include biphobia/monosexism, then your movement will exclude bisexuals. And so on.
So in Excluded, I
introduce the term “gender artifactualism” to describe, “the tendency to conceptualize and depict
gender as being primarily or entirely a cultural artifact.”[p.117] Gender
artifactualist viewpoints are pervasive within feminist and queer activism, and
within the academic fields of Women’s/Gender Studies, Queer Theory, Sociology, certain
subfields of Psychology, and in the Humanities more generally.
Within the activist circles I run in, I routinely hear
people accuse others of appropriation,
or claim that certain behaviors or endeavors are appropriative. I myself have written about how certain people
(e.g., cisgender academics and media producers) sometimes appropriate transgender
identities and experiences (discussed more below). So I am certainly
sympathetic to the concept.
At the same time, however, I have seen the concept of
appropriation used (or misused) in order to undermine marginalized groups as
well. For instance, cisgender feminists have long accused trans women of “appropriating female dress” or “appropriating women’s identities”—indeed, if you click
the link you will see that this was part of the justification for why Sylvia
Rivera was kicked off the stage at a 1973 Pride rally in New York City. On
Cathy Brennan’s anti-trans-dyke website “Pretendbians” (which I refuse to link
to), the byline at the top of the webpage says: “We don't hate you, we hate
appropriation”—the implication being that trans women cannot ever be actual
lesbians, but rather we can only appropriate lesbian identities and culture.