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Piercing the Misty Veil March 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — amynomene @ 3:12 pm

If there’s one thing the trans borg hates, it’s Ray Blanchard’s suggestion that some trans women are not “women trapped in men’s bodies” but are acting out their particular paraphilia, in this case, autogynephilia. The mere mention of this term is guaranteed to start a shit storm in any online arena populated by trans women (and trans men and queers)…or any online arena these folks can find via Google. As radical feminists know practically and intuitively, whenever something strikes a nerve so powerfully and gets such a strong reaction, it’s got a grain of truth at the center. Also, there are plenty of individuals out there who feel at home with the autogynephilia descriptor. So let’s dive right in, shall we?

 

Ray Blanchard, a much-maligned sexologist, sat on the gender dysphoria working committee for the DSM-IV, which makes many on the LGBTetc spectrum nervous. Blanchard definitely falls into the category of thinking that transsexual people suffer from a mental disorder (whether they think they’re suffering is another story) and does not think surgery is the answer, generally. This last opinion alone is enough to warrant him death threats, I’m sure.

 

So here’s how Blanchard defines autogynephilia:  “a male’s propensity to be erotically aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.” (Origins of the Concept of Autogynephilia, 2004)

 

While there are several types of transsexualism for males recognized by researchers and lay observers alike, this term specifically describes a group of men who “seek sex reassignment in their 30s, 40s, 50s, or even later, after having lived outwardly successful lives as men. Usually they were not especially feminine as children, and many are not especially feminine as adults, either. Often they have been married to females and have fathered children. Many identify as lesbian or bisexual after reassignment. Nearly all have a past or current history of sexual arousal in association with cross- dressing or cross-gender fantasy.” (Autogynephilia: A Paraphilic Model of Gender Identiy Disorder, Anne Lawrence.

 

The individual who generally matches this type at some point in their “transition” is the one I want to explore today, in relation to some revelatory statements from Andrea Dworkin’s book Pornography: Men Possessing Women. (This piece will not address other manifestations, such as the younger, queer theory/identity politics trans group. Although, similar motivations will affect anyone raised male in the patriarchy and claiming female.

 

Dworkin posits that males objectify everything around them in order to dominate the objects and thus feel their own power and gain a sense of self (side note: that is terrifying). (Dworkin, p. 104)  The male, therefore, objectifies and dominates the female-as-object, basing the actual reality of a woman on an idea or idealized notion of woman. When the real woman does or acts not according to the ideal, the male’s spell is broken, and she must be punished.

 

“In his view, she is not a woman unless she acts like a woman as he has defined woman. … His definition need not be coherent. It is never scrutinized for logic or consistency or even threadbare common sense. He can theorize, fantasize, call it science or art; whatever he says about women is true because he says it. He is the authority on what she is because he has made her, cut away at her as if she were a piece of stone until the prized inanimate object is extracted.” (Dworkin, p. 65.

Of course, most, if not all, autogynephiles (AGPs for expediency) and “trans women” claim to not “think like men” or to have “allied with” women early on. They claim to have “felt like a woman” even as they outwardly appeared as a man, with all the attendant external and internal benefits that affords. Out of sheer survival, they had to negotiate the male hierarchy to whatever extent they could, and in many cases, did so successfully.

 

In the patriarchy, true womanhood is hidden behind the foggy veil of male assumptions about women and womanhood. For men who operate in the world as men while only secretly thinking of themselves as women, to pierce that veil deeply enough to truly know what it’s like on the other side is impossible. Many point out that their behaviors and preferences while still men prove that they were women all along. But let me be clear: Time spent trying on women’s clothes, pretending to be the woman in a sexual fantasy, or even taking the “submissive” (e.g, childcare, vacuuming, etc.) role in a marriage does not make you a woman. That is simply the AGPs idea-of-woman being paraded out as reality, which is the most male thing a person can do. But I digress.

 

As the male’s entire worldview is based on objectification of the world around him, it comes as no surprise that male heterosexual sexuality is also completely based on objectification. (Dworkin, p. 113) Like all other objects in the male’s grasping view, men assume it’s their God-given right (huge surprise given they invented God) to act upon the woman-as-his-own-idea.

 

Fetishes are, essentially, this objectification taken to an extreme – only part of the idea is romanticized and seen as bestowing the magic erection-giving powers. In the autogynephile, this notion and behavior is taken to an even further extreme: the ideal female is not even nominally based on an actual woman, on the existence, out there in the world, of real femaleness. The woman isn’t even necessary here – she’s merely a figment of the AGP’s imagination, conveniently projected within the only mise-en-scène that counts for anything in the patriarchy: the male’s own body and in the male’s own mind.

 

Here’s the problem: “Male perceptions of women are askew, wild, inept. Male renderings of women in art, literature, psychology, religious discourses, philosophy, and in the common wisdom of the day, whatever the day, are bizarre, distorted, fragmented at best, demented in the main.” (Dworkin, p. 64) Thus, we end up with men who want to be women but who not only have no idea what it’s like to be a woman, but no idea what a real woman is.

 

With the figment of female firmly implanted in the real actor of man, the AGP has closed the circle of objectification and purified the ritual of dominance.

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In one sense, this makes them the utterly ideal male – he doesn’t even have to get his hands dirty by using a live female. In the real male world, the removal and redirection of man’s external objectification schema from female to male self threatens the entire hierarchy, thus bringing on them a shit storm born of terrified male egos (hate crimes). At the same time, all men know that they have the birthright to act out whatever desires they have – this is how war is created, serial killer-rapists are made and surgeons came up with the idea for inverting the penis. Deep down, if a man wants to do it, they will find a way.

 

For women, and feminists, to accept someone displaying this behavior/desire into space meant for born-females means accepting that real women have no autonomy – no right to define their own reality whatsoever. It’s not even about the AGP individuals in women’s space – it’s about the precedent that sets to the male world in general. To argue that born-females cannot set our own boundaries argues for the continued imprisonment of all womankind.

 

But the more dangerous point is this: To accept someone displaying this as being one on our side of the misty veils of patriarchal womanhood means accepting that real women are not even necessary in the world. The AGP sets the precedent that there is another way to femaleness, through maleness. And as anyone who has even considered the patriarchy for even a moment knows, that’s exactly what the fuckers want.

 

Bring the pain January 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — amynomene @ 12:48 am
Tags: , , ,

New, extremely limited study finds women feel more pain than men.

“Why the pain responses are at the higher level in females, we really don’t know. Is it completely psychologically based? Is it related to hormones? We are really not clear”

Yes, this doctor really did trot out those workhorse explanations about women’s health: hysteria and ye olde “time of the month” trope. Women are assumed to be governed by their hormones because women are weak, blah blah blah.

Anyway, the article also suggested that men may be in the same amount of pain but be unwilling to admit it. The myth of the Marlboro Man strikes again. Not that I’m suggesting that isn’t the reason…more like, it seems like a really dumb idea to under-report pain. Which brings me back to: yeah, that sounds about right.

I wonder what it means for the administration of painkillers.

 

Taking down The Baker’s Wife January 20, 2012

Filed under: Media — amynomene @ 3:57 pm
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Some years ago, I saw the musical The Baker’s Wife. Something recently reminded me of it, so I decided to do a feminist takedown of the musical. Although, I admit, it’s hardly worth it. The misogyny was so heavy-handed, so obvious, and so typical that it’s barely worth bothering with. But I will, in honor of all the women in the audience that night who left feeling somehow unsatisfied but maybe weren’t sure why.

For those who haven’t had the privilege of seeing this show, the musical takes place in a remote town in France. The townspeople are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the town’s new baker, as they haven’t had fresh bread in weeks. The baker and his wife arrive, and he is old and she is young. Dramatic tension! We learn they are newlyweds, and she is still pining for an ex. And, apparently, she married the baker because he did nice things for her.

You can probably guess what happens next, but I’ll spell it out for you. A young man from the town “falls in love” with her at first sight, and she runs off with him. The baker is destroyed, and stops baking. This inspires the townspeople, who have still not healed from the trauma of their bread-less days, to find the wife and bring her back. She returns to the baker, he forgives her, the end.

Let’s examine the characters and their relationships more closely:

First, the baker’s wife, Genevieve. She has no job (she used to be a waitress before they moved to this town) and nothing to do except be the tool for the romantic plot. We see her pining, we see her trying to talk herself into falling in love with her kindly husband, we see her lamenting a lack of passion in her marriage. She throws off the young man’s advances until one night when he sings to her and climbs up to her balcony, she just can’t help herself anymore. After being on the lam with her young lover for awhile, she realizes that passion can’t sustain a relationship and leaves him. On her way out the door, she just happens to run into not one, not two, but three townsmen sent to retrieve her. I half-expected a SWAT situation.

They are expecting a fight from her, but she’s docile, tamed, ready to return with her tail between her legs. She banks on her beauty and her husband’s desperation to engineer her forgiveness, and it works, of course, because men are controlled by their penii. He calls her a slut, because he can’t control his penis, but then gives her dinner. She’s childlike, helpless to her emotions, easily overcome by male decision-making. That is, a perfect encapsulation of every trite characteristic/desire men foist on women.

The other women in the town were written no better despite a few opportunities for redemption. The men had lots of stuff going on – feuds, businesses, friendships with other men. The women had the men. At one point, when all the men go off to look for the errant baker’s wife, the women are left with a perfect opportunity to bond over their hideous husbands. What do they sing about? Romance and how much they long for it, positively yearn with every fiber of their feminine bodies. Of course. And then they pair off and tango – and not one pair ends up in a lesbian love affair! Très disappointing.

Why they yearn for these duds…well, that’s clearly a product of the male imagination, too, because these guys are assholes.

– The cafe owner constantly puts down his wife, Denise, for being “old” even though he’s probably older. She gets in a couple mild zings, but the audience is supposed to know that it’s only because she’s starved for attention from him. When he “comes to his senses” later and gives her a rose, we know: all is forgiven. She’s hooked again, relieved that he hasn’t really cast her out of her association with the male hierarchy (except he totally never thought she was included in the hierarchy.)

– The Marquis, another older fellow, has three young, kept women – whom he kindly lends out to the town’s men for solace during a particularly gross number where there’s two men on each woman. Because all women adore being used as sex objects, the women gyrate around with giant grins on their faces.

– One is a domestic terrorist. We know this because he tells her to shut up and calls her stupid in front of everyone and won’t allow his wife to get a strawberry tart for herself from the baker because he doesn’t like strawberries. The audience is supposed to feel sorry for her but be sufficiently distracted by all the singing and dancing to not think too deeply about what’s going on behind closed doors: clearly, she’s getting the shit beaten out of her at home. The sole bright spot of the musical, feminsim-wise, is that after seeing the baker’s wife flee, the abused wife gets the courage to leave her abuser. And yet, Denise tries to talk her out of it. Because that’s the role of women, see? To convince other women that getting the shit beat out of you is just the normal everyday course of events in the patriarchy.

So, we end up with men who are fully-formed individuals with complex concerns and feelings, and child-like women who only care about men. Basically, I saw half of a musical. I should ask for my money back – from the writer. But it would probably turn out like that episode of South Park (“The Passion of the Jew”) where Stan and Kenny try to get their money back from Mel Gibson…