Thursday, June 11, 2015

"What Makes/Is a Woman" and the false "feminists vs transgender activists" binary

Last weekend, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Elinor Burkett called "What Makes a Woman?" If the title looks eerily familiar, it's probably because of Michelle Goldberg's "What Is a Woman?" article that appeared in The New Yorker last year. And they have more than their titles in common: They both perpetuate an absolutely *false* "feminists vs transgender activists" binary, and portray trans people (and especially trans women) as undermining feminism.

I've had many people ask me to write a response to it, but I've been too busy. Besides, I basically debunked each and every one of the assumptions Burkett makes in my book Whipping Girl. If you don't have time to read the book, here is a short piece I wrote for Ms. Magazine debunking the trans-activism-vs-feminism binary.

But lo and behold, today I will get to respond to Burkett's piece on HuffPost Live at 4pm EST! I am told that my interview will likely be in the 4:05-4:15 range - here is the link for the show if you want to watch:

I will try to post a permanent link for the segment after the show...

Postscript: The show can now be viewed here. My segment runs from about 6:50 thru 14:20.

[note: If you appreciate my work and want to see more of it, please check out my Patreon page]


  1. I hope to be able to watch/listen, Julie. I am a transwoman. I read your book (Whipping Girl) and liked it. Among other things, I found very helpful your term "subconscious sex" in lieu of the more common "gender identity". I think that some radical feminists confuse the term "gender identity" with "patriarchal gender norms or expectations" and, as a result, they view the transsexual phenomenon as fraudulent. The term "subconscious sex" avoids the confusion caused by this terminology. That having been said, I believe that many transwomen are less aware of the insidiousness of patriarchal gender norms and expectations at the beginning of their transition than they are once they have lived for years as a woman. I know that was true in my case. And there are many reasons for that--among them that we were brought up and socialized by our parents as boys/men and were not as sensitive as we would have been to women's issues had we been brought up and socialized as girls/women. And I can understand why many feminists, including me, were disappointed by the choice of photograph used to introduce Caitlyn Jenner to the public. I (and many other women and transwomen I know) felt that the photograph had the wrong emphasis and sexualized/objectified women and transwomen in particular. It was Jenner's opportunity to introduce herself and transwomen in general to the public, and she chose a photo that looked like a 1950s pinup photo. The message it seemed to send was that transwoman are all about looks, sex, and bodies. That bothered me. Joanie Rae Wimmer, Attorney at Law, 928 Warren Avenue, Downers Grove, IL 60515, (630) 810-0005

    1. sorry Joanie that I accidentally deleted your other comment. also, on this comment you included some of your personal info - please let me know if you'd prefer me to delete the comment (to remove that info)...