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Why Female Reproductive Health is a Women’s Issue

That headline would have seemed like a parody or a joke a few short years ago. But alas, here we are.

A tweeter recently advised that if you attend the women’s march,

“it is CRUICIAL [sic] that you do with an INTERSECTIONAL mindset. Centering reproductive systems at the heart of these demonstrations is reductive and exclusionary.”

Guess who this tweet was posted by? Nah, the quiz is too easy and you’ve already guessed. It was posted by a male. Specifically, the kind of male who wants to make his interest in sex-role performativity define and supersede women’s issues. Judging by Twitter and all sorts of other social media, he echos the sentiments of many other males who aren’t getting the attention they desire from feminism, as well as females who have learned to make disgruntled males their highest priority even within their own movement.

This tweet occurred in a context in which a woman booed and held a sign at a women’s march to protest a particular speaker, a male called “Hailey Heartless” whose feminist credentials included bragging about his job as a self-proclaimed “sadist” and hoping to school women on such vital life skills as “taking amazing selfies” and “contouring.” And in the context of heightened worry about the “exclusiveness” of pussy hats (with claims of racism sloppily tacked on–nobody’s labia are fuchsia–to make the claims of male-exclusion seem less silly). No word yet on whether Trump was also “exclusive” when he grabbed pussies instead of dicks during his sexual assault rampages.

I think even trans activists themselves have lost track of what they stand for. What was once a plea to stop equating “womanhood” with female reproductive organs, as in the phrase “abortion services for women” (versus just “abortion services”) morphed into a bizarre assertion that female reproductive organs are never to be mentioned in any context EVAR. (Dicks are still ok, of course, especially at women’s marches).

But also. Female reproductive issues are women’s issues.

It was not until males became involved in feminism that these claims of “exclusion” surfaced. Somehow, before transgender activism, women who didn’t have personal experience with some of the concerns of feminism refrained from yelling at and trying to silence other women who did. For example, some women don’t use birth control, like lesbians, infertile women, older women, celibate women, and some members of that rare and prized species, the intersex woman. And yet, these groups of women understood the importance of birth control. They refrained from showing up at women’s marches and trying to shut down workshops on the topic.

There’s a really simple reason why.

Feminism, like any activism, is not about gains for individuals. It’s about freedom from oppression for an entire class of people.

As it turns out, birth control is more than a neat little thingie that might get an individual woman out of a bind. It’s a big, enormous, societal thing that means the difference between life and death, freedom and slavery, having a career and being financially destitute, being an independent agent and being beholden to a husband, participating in public life and not, being sick and being well. For women. It means all this, and more, all over the world.

As it turns out, lesbians, infertile women, older women, celibate women, intersex women, and all sorts of other kinds of women, by virtue of being women, care about this. We care about this because its relevance is obvious to us. Its relevance is obvious to us because we have the bodies affected by these issues and we live in the world that punishes us when we are not vigilant about protecting our bodies.

We can visualize how our life would change if we got pregnant accidentally, got raped, had to navigate the world with small children, felt trapped in a home with a domestic abuser, got a fistula, lived where non-virgins are stoned to death, and many other reproduction-related horrors. We can visualize this because we are women. We wouldn’t think of saying, “I don’t need birth control, so screw the rest of you.”

That’s why feminists are appalled by female genital mutilation, even when it’s geographically remote. That’s why we care about health services for poor women even if we have our own money and health insurance. That’s why we want teenage girls to get better school guidance counseling even if we already have a good job. We don’t feel “excluded.” We feel solidarity.

If you don’t feel solidarity with a group of people, there might be a reason for that.

Let’s think about what topics “include” rather than “exclude” the participants of the average women’s march.

Approximately 50% of the people in the world have two X chromosomes and the reproductive organs capable of gestating young. Let’s call them “women” for convenience. Because we need a word for that. And let’s think globally, because women in developing countries need the gains of feminism the most. What’s discussed at a feminist event isn’t just for the women present. It’s for all women.

That segment of the population needs advocacy for the problems associated with owning those particular organs (to include both taking care of those organs and mitigating the oppressions that happen to people who own those organs). Let’s call that advocacy feminism. I mean, we used to, and that worked for a really long time. It worked until we allowed the people who don’t need that advocacy to silence the people who do.

To this number we can, if you like, add those who “identify” as women. Transgender people make up around .06% of the population by the latest estimates. That percentage includes people who are already female, so we can’t count them twice. We need to identify only the males, or AMABs, if you prefer recasting reality as an oppressive delivery room practice. So as a guess, let’s take half of it, which is .03%.

So now the number of people who need feminism, plus the number who think they do, is 50.03% of the population, or 50.03 people out of 100.

Approximately 50 of those people need care and advocacy for concerns related to female biology. Approximately one-third of a person does not.

I think we’re being generous with the transgender estimate here, because a vast number of people in the world are too busy trying to find food and to avoid getting shot at to even seek the gender-expression-related validation that feminism apparently owes them.

So the topic of reproductive health includes most women, and should interest even those who aren’t “included,” if we care about liberating the class of women worldwide.

Talking about female reproductive organs destigmatizes female sexuality and female bodies, which is absolutely imperative to creating a world that will stop tolerating the host of torturous societal crimes committed against women all over the globe.

We live in a world where female toddlers are held down to have their genitals sliced off so that the men who will choose them for marriage can be sure they are “pure.” We live in a world where men throw acid in the faces of women over sexual rejection, leaving them blind and disfigured for life. We live in a world where stoning a female teenager to death for rejecting a marriage proposal is called an “honor killing.” We live in a world where grown men marry nine-year-old girls.

As long as we live in this world, we absolutely cannot thwart the vital work of destigmatizing female bodies in favor of debating the universality of the symbolism conveyed by knitted hats.

Anyone who puts up with this type of derailing is an enemy to feminism and to women.

Any male who prioritizes policing “inclusiveness” over solving the heinous problems facing women worldwide demonstrates how very little he understands about womanhood.

And what did the presumably more “inclusive” speaker talk about?

Selfies. Contouring. Celebrating sex work.

The woman carrying the sign didn’t look like a narcissist, a makeup aficionado, or a prostitute. Maybe she felt “excluded” by these topics?

Women in developing countries don’t have time for selfies or makeup tips, either. And when they perform “sex work” it’s often because they were kidnapped and sold into its service. So they’re not exactly in the mood to celebrate.

It would seem that selfies, contouring, and celebrating sex work are rather exclusionary. And being exclusionary is a problem, isn’t it? Should we ban these topics? Isn’t that how this works?

Our renowned speaker also offered to teach women how to “practice excellent hygiene.” Does he know that “hygiene” is one of the justifications for female genital mutilation? Is he aware of the long history of religious traditions that exclude women from public life for being “unclean”?

Could there be a reason for his complete and utterly inappropriate empathy fail in this matter? For example, that he’s not a woman by absolutely any useful definition?

Interesting, isn’t it, that it’s the navel-gazing genderqueer crowd, in their relentless pursuit of validation, that has the incredible luxury of dismissing the actual violence faced by many women in the world in favor of fashion concerns. And yet, it is this same crowd who so often professes their “intersectionality” and laments the “white privilege” of everyone else.

Hailey Heartless is a male fetishist who enjoys hurting people for a sexual thrill. Hailey Heartless cares more about fashion than women’s issues. He thinks that women need his advice on how to clean themselves. He wants you to shut up about your gross vagina and your period. These are all deeply conservative traits that he shares with countless other run-of-the-mill men.

Fetishism is almost unheard of in the female population, and five of the six most common fetishes involve clothing. What he’s doing is not a female thing. It’s a male thing.

Women, this person’s desire to wear a latex corset, pee in a new restroom and be called by his preferred pronouns are not your issue.

Reproductive health, among other things, is your issue. It is a women’s issue.

We have to stop waiting for males to tell us that it’s ok to fight for our rights. They are not going to. We have to fight for them anyway.

By All Means, Be Your True, Authentic Self. Unless That’s a Rapist.

If you’re spending your time arguing that a nurse has the right to get his hands in a woman’s vagina when she doesn’t want them there, you are a rape apologist. If you think she should drop her pants without complaint for any and all who feel qualified to get into them, even if she’s uncomfortable, then you are a rape apologist. If you recast her discomfort as bigotry, that is rapey as fuck.

News flash: A woman’s vagina is not a public service and her refusal to make it available is never “unfair.” Any and all decisions she makes about its availability or lack thereof are valid.

News flash: No one has the right to touch another person without her consent. Not if they’re in a medical setting, not because you don’t like their definition of “gender,” not because the rebuffed person feels offended or denied. News flash: You wouldn’t be the first rape apologist to feel rebuffed, offended or denied.

News flash: People who respect women don’t try to override their discomfort. That’s a rapist’s tactic.

If you’re arguing that a person who experiences an initial attraction to someone and then loses interest when they learn more about the person’s biology is “transphobic” and “cowardly” then you’re a rape apologist. If you’re questioning or shaming them for backing out of sex they don’t want, you’re a rape apologist. If you recast a person’s lost interest as latent desire that they’re afraid to admit to, that’s rapey as fuck.

News flash: You wouldn’t be the first rape apologist to use “they actually wanted it” to justify rape. That’s pretty much the classic rapist M.O.

News flash: You aren’t entitled to sex. Not from someone who seemed attracted to you for a minute. Not because you don’t like their definition of “gender.” Not because you suspect more bravery on their part would get you laid more.

If you’re arguing that my lowered sexual response to you when you refused to meet my sexual needs was an inconvenience that hindered your ability to extract the frequency and type of sex out of me that you felt entitled to, that’s rapey as fuck.

News Flash: I didn’t owe sex to someone who didn’t inspire my desire and who stopped even trying to do so. Even if we were married. Even if he would have liked more enthusiasm for his cosmetic and medical interventions. Even if my waning sexual desire conflicted with his need for validation.

At this point, I’ve come to understand I married a narcissist. But it’s still hard to swallow that I married a rape apologist.

If you recast women’s discomfort with sexual situations as an inconvenience to someone else, anyone else, for any reason, ever, then you are a rape apologist.

Anyone who respects women respects their right to their sexual boundaries. Even when those boundaries seem mysterious. Even when they seem contradictory. Even when they seem unfair. Anyone who sympathizes with the would-be boundary crosser over the woman who says no is a rape apologist.

 

About This Blog

I wrote this blog about my marriage to a transgender person, starting in January of 2016. We have since divorced. I’ve slowed down on posting here, and at one point, decided I’d close this blog altogether and start a different one. I made all the posts private and temporarily changed the name.

But then emails started pouring in. Trans widows, parents of trans teens and assorted regular people told me that they loved my blog, shared it with others, referenced it and didn’t want to see it disappear. So I’m re-releasing these blog articles, a few at a time. Note the dates — most don’t represent what’s going on in my life, but what went on in my life a couple of years ago.

I have other projects in the works and I’ll keep you posted on those. But for now, thank you for your support, and enjoy these re-released posts. Perhaps “enjoy” isn’t the right word. In any case, it’s good to be back.

Skinning Kittens and Other Bad Life Decisions

WalterPotterKittens
If you wake up one day and find that you’re skinning kittens for a living, consider the possibility that your life has taken a wrong turn.

Walter Potter was a taxidermist in the Victorian era who created dioramas of mounted animals, like kittens and bunnies, participating in tea parties and weddings. Though the public flocked to see his “whimsical” creations in 1861, by the time of his death their popularity had significantly waned. Though once a highly successful exhibition, Potter’s heirs couldn’t even give away his collection once the public’s tastes changed and charges of animal cruelty were brought to the fore.

Lots of things were different in 1861. There were no vets; spaying and neutering cats was not a thing.  So farmers often killed large quantities of kittens for population control. People lived with that reality. Museum placards claimed that the animals in Potter’s collection died of natural causes, and the public was probably all too happy to swallow that lie, even though it’s not believable. I grew up in farmland and I’ve known a thousand kittens in my day. Only a few have died of “natural causes”–I can probably count them on one hand. A case of distemper, a motherless stray. Certainly, it would be exceedingly unlikely for a dozen matching ginger kittens of the same age and size to all die at once of natural causes. Several times over. But the Victorians were a denial-addled bunch, having just left the scientifically-advanced, education-loving Enlightenment for organ-squashing corsets, sexual repression and charges of female hysteria.  Sounds familiar–I guess these things go in cycles.

When I come across something heinous and disturbing in the world, I often try to put myself in the shoes of its practitioners, to help me sort of process the whole thing. Potter lived in a world where kittens couldn’t be saved anyway. Perhaps he started in his vocation by preserving beloved family pets. Perhaps he was already desensitized by his occupation, and indeed by the culture in which he lived, by the time he began his curious hobby. He was an artist of sorts, and I imagine that the task involved a certain amount of craft and engagement. He probably wasn’t killing kittens; they were probably already dead when he received them. And to be honest, one could argue that if the kittens were going to die either way, Potter’s behavior wasn’t even strictly unethical. Just icky.

Still, whatever else was going on, this was a man who skinned kittens.

All the time.

If you wake up one day and find that you’re skinning kittens for a living, I submit, your life may have taken a wrong turn. If I were Potter, I like to think I would have said, “Nah, man. I get that it’s all very confusing and ethically murky. But I will not skin kittens.”

Skinning kittens is not something I do.”

Culture gets confusing. Ethics get confusing.

But if your culture and your ethics tell you to acquiesce and indeed, to cheer, when a twelve-year-old girl wants to have her breasts removed, perhaps your life has taken a wrong turn. If you don’t protect her with all your might, tell her she’s beautiful, try to keep her intact, side with her over the forces who make her believe she isn’t adequate as she is, perhaps your life has taken a wrong turn.

If your activism centers on hating women, even some segment of them, and rejoicing in violence perpetrated against them; if you can’t find something better to do with your time than to badger lesbians, or others, into sleeping with people they don’t like; if your cause de jour is berating rape victims for seeking asylum from males;

perhaps your life has taken a wrong turn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pascal’s Wager of Socially Constructed Gender

Trans women are women, full stop, we’re told. “Trans women” needs to have a space in it, we’re told. Why? Because a “trans woman” is just a woman, like any other woman, and “trans” is but a largely irrelevant modifier.

Never mind the fact that “trans” means “transition” which is what this person does from the sex/gender that they allegedly aren’t, to the sex/gender that they allegedly are. And that if in fact a “trans woman” were a woman like everyone else, then it would not be necessary to socially construct, through language and clothes, this alleged woman, and to repeatedly ask others to participate in the construction.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

The reason why our language is so policed on this issue (“Don’t misgender! Don’t leave the space out of the word! Don’t use the word as a noun! Stop saying ‘breastfeeding’! Start saying ‘cis’! Repeat the official mantras!”) is because this social construction is a fragile house of cards that requires everyone’s cooperation to exist. This much is openly admitted, even as it’s denied: if a man says he’s a man this week, and a woman next, and a man again next, then we must agree, because there isn’t an underlying reality on the matter that exists apart from a lot of talking and vehement head nodding.

No other identification works this way. I don’t need signs and signals and language and social contracts to recognize cats or dolphins or oranges.

It’s all very much like Pascal’s wager. Nobody takes Pascal’s wager seriously because it contains a big, giant, glaring flaw: you can ask me to believe, but you can’t make me believe. If I’m not a believer then your wager doesn’t work, as it can result only in one of two unsatisfactory outcomes: either I still don’t believe and say so, or I still don’t believe but I say that I do because I’m afraid of this “hell” you speak of.

As with “trans women are women.” Congratulations, transgender activists, you’ve divided the sane world into two camps: those who still don’t believe you’re a woman and say so (sometimes persisting even after you call them the dirty word you made up for them), and those who still don’t believe but say they do because they’re afraid of being publicly shouted down by aggressive males (or perhaps because you’ve convinced them that it’s the way to be nice).

How important is it to extract pretend belief?

It’s very important when your identity requires the cooperation of others to exist, I guess.

Religious zealots and transgender zealots even have the same threat for nonbelievers: die in a fire.