TERF War

As I wrote some time ago, to observe the culture wars is to realize that grievance is fractal:

There’s no limiting principle. And if you watch for a while, you begin to realize that “social injustice” is not only infinite, but fractal. It’s a Julia set of grievances. Zoom in all you like; new affronts will appear at every scale, world without end.

To generate fractal complexity, start with a basic figure, then use that figure as a template for transformation at smaller and smaller scales. For example, here’s a simple “box” fractal:

 
Grievance works the same way. You start with the most basic grievance of all: everybody else against white males. That works for a while, but soon the fractal process gets to work, and next thing you know it’s blacks and hispanics against homosexuals — and if you let the algorithm run for while, and crank up the magnification a bit, before you know it you’ve got black women vs. gay men.

Well, as I said, when it comes to fractals it’s “world without end”, and so you can zoom in all you like. Today’s example is a developing catfight between radical feminists and “transgendered” males. As usual, the issue is who’s more oppressed; you must keep in mind that we are peering into a looking-glass universe here, in which the competition for top status is decided by which identity group has the lowest status. (It’s still, mind you, just an old-fashioned contest for status; some things are simply universal.)

An article in the New Yorker sums things up. Here’s the radical-feminist argument for Top Victim status:

I will not call a male “she”; thirty-two years of suffering in this androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the title “woman”; one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers’ names and in our own, we must not call him sister.

Also this:

Anyone born a man retains male privilege in society; even if he chooses to live as a woman—and accept a correspondingly subordinate social position—the fact that he has a choice means that he can never understand what being a woman is really like. By extension, when trans women demand to be accepted as women they are simply exercising another form of male entitlement.

There’s a word for proponents of this view: TERFs. It stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”.

And in this corner:

All this enrages trans women and their allies, who point to the discrimination that trans people endure; although radical feminism is far from achieving all its goals, women have won far more formal equality than trans people have. In most states, it’s legal to fire someone for being transgender, and transgender people can’t serve in the military. A recent survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found overwhelming levels of anti-trans violence and persecution. Forty-one per cent of respondents said that they had attempted suicide.

There it is, then: the fight is on, and the fur is flying. And while it would be terribly sad, of course, to see angry feminists demoted to second-class victim status, I’d say the smart money’s on the transsexuals. They’ve got all the momentum right now (as Steve Sailer notes here and here, it’s even got to the point where pro-abortion groups are dropping the phrase “a woman’s right to choose”, because it excludes transgendered men) — and let’s face it, they’re just plain edgier. Oppression of women? It’s old hat, really. Humorless, angry feminists have been around so long now that they seem almost, well, traditional.

Forward!

4 Comments

  1. Forward toward (up?) the rear!

    Posted July 28, 2014 at 11:16 pm | Permalink
  2. Conservatives share a common strategy with liberals, which is to take the more ridiculous developments among partisans of the movement and use them to discredit the whole. I don’t think it’s malicious — it’s just that, when someone feels so little sympathy with something, every part seems as ill-conceived as every other part, so that the worst seems to him to reveal the underlying tendency even of things that partisans would call “better”. It is as if each part of the movement expresses an inner momentum towards the absurdity hidden in the whole.

    Be that as it may, I think there’s something here besides one-up-manship (a really execrable pun). Feminists feel qualms about “transgendered” males (I will leave the quotes to humor you) because, in identifying as a woman, they tend to identify with all those aspects of “womanhood” which feminists believe have been constructed by society to the detriment of (biological) women. In this way, by wanting to become a woman, one holds up the traditional conception as an ideal and perpetuates it.

    So I can see, at least, that if someone thinks there is really nothing personally (as opposed to biologically) characteristic of women, he will not be impressed by someone who claims to be “really” a woman and who, to live consistently with his feelings, dons a dress and so forth.

    Perhaps it’s easiest to understand in terms of the distinction that is made between sex and gender, where sex is the biological aspect and gender is the cultural (traditional) aspect: we sometimes think of such people as being transsexual, “a woman born in a man’s body” — but all they really are is what they claim to be, transgender, and by identifying with, even fetishizing an idea of what it is to be a woman which is (supposed to be) manifestly harmful, they are only perpetuating that harm.

    I am sorry if the style of this explanation seems rather barbaric, but I can never be sure which concepts and premises to appeal to in my elucidation, nor how to appeal to them, because I can’t take for granted what you will and will not find sympathetic. I am here neither advocating for nor am I a detractor of anything — I am only trying to explain the way I think some feminists would see this.

    And I say “some” feminists, because it would be just as much a mistake to discredit feminism by appeal to the doctrines of a faction in the movement, as it is to discredit liberals or conservatives by such an appeal to the doctrines of factions. Really I think it is better to examine all ideologies and movements in parts, because they tend to be a clumping of theories and ideas merely by association (in the sense of an association of ideas and of course in the more mundane association of people — families, friends, colleagues), and one is lucky if the whole is consistent, but it is too much to suppose there will be a logical relation binding the whole together.

    Posted July 30, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Permalink
  3. “Conservatives share a common strategy with liberals, which is to take the more ridiculous developments among partisans of the movement and use them to discredit the whole.”

    Quite true, Alex. In fact, that common “strategy”, commonly referred to as propaganda, is common to all political movements. Moreover, it is common to find a whole spectrum of “developments among partisans of the movement”, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime (I exaggerate, of course) in all major political movements.

    Nevertheless, the distribution of such developments within a given movement will be significantly different from the corresponding distributions of other movements, especialy among rival movements. This is why intelligent people focus on the peak developments within a spectrum, not the valleys. The peaks are where you find the core values.

    If those core values appeal to your sense of what is right (or least wrong), then you have found your political strategy.

    Propaganda, however, is not a strategy. It is merely a tactic in support of the movement’s strategy.

    Posted July 30, 2014 at 8:44 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Hi Alex – welcome back.

    It is as if each part of the movement expresses an inner momentum towards the absurdity hidden in the whole.

    It’s that the movement in general has an essence, which manifests itself in predictable, and instructive, ways.

    The essence of the Left is radical egalitarianism, and leveling of all advantage, natural or otherwise. This means that those most disadvantaged are those most entitled to attention, deference, and the provision of social blessings. This is just another way of describing elevated social status, and of course competition for status is universal among all human groups (and even beyond our own species).

    It seems to me that different ways of embedding oneself in society can be arranged along a linear axis. On one end you’d have a sense of positive relation to the traditional society as a whole; this would take such forms as patriotism, duty, philanthropy, civic volunteerism, etc. In the middle you’d have a neutral valence with regard to the general society, which would manifest itself as libertarian self-reliance and a relative lack of broad engagement. Finally, on the other end you’d find an negative disposition toward the ambient, traditional culture — seeing it not as a positive good to be affirmed, joined, and supported, but as an oppressor and an antagonist to be subdued, dismantled, and transformed.

    In political terms these correspond fairly obviously, I think, to Right, Libertarian, and Left. Clearly they will allocate status in very different ways, and that’s exactly what we see here.

    Perhaps it’s easiest to understand in terms of the distinction that is made between sex and gender, where sex is the biological aspect and gender is the cultural (traditional) aspect: we sometimes think of such people as being transsexual, “a woman born in a man’s body” — but all they really are is what they claim to be, transgender, and by identifying with, even fetishizing an idea of what it is to be a woman which is (supposed to be) manifestly harmful, they are only perpetuating that harm.

    Implicit in this is the assumption that the biological and cultural aspects of sex and “gender” are completely decoupled. Given the universality of highly differentiated sex roles in all cultures always and everywhere, this is an extremely radical ideological position, and I think it is quite transparently false.

    Posted July 31, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

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