What is “Cultural Feminism” and why are Transsexuals its Enemies?

I have to admit, I never understood why certain branches of feminism seemed pre-occupied with the vilification of transsexuals.

Particularly since transsexualism, as a cause, focused on people with transsexualism gaining access to medical care that centered on our needs, non-discrimination based on sex, and equality between the sexes as well as the agency to pursue our own dreams and our own happiness, which all seemed consistent with feminism.

I never expected assigned female at birth women to focus on the fine points of women born transsexual’s medical access issues as that wasn’t particularly an area of common ground, even though it might fall under the rubric of control over the reproductive aspects of one’s own body.

I have to admit that I saw some of the ideas of a common shared sisterhood of all women and the idea that women as a class, particularly white middle and upper class women were more oppressed by sexism than anything else, as being a bit absurd.

I came from the left.  I grew up poor.  Without doubt sexism and misogyny are factors of oppression.  So too are such matters of class, race, ableism, religion or lack of religion and even things like height and appearance.

This is not to ridicule the idea that women as a class are oppressed by sexism and misogyny, but rather to point out that not all are equally oppressed and that some/many carry the burden of additional factors of oppression.

I saw feminism on a personal level as striving for equality between the sexes.  Not just equal pay for equal work, but equal agency,  control over our bodies including the right to say yes to sex as well as no, and have both consent to sex and refusal to have sex taken seriously.

To me, feminism was about having the agency to say no to the corporate peddling of femininity, with all its high priced corrections for flaws, I would never have seen myself as having, were it not for them engaging in major advertising campaigns to convince me I had those flaws, and needed to correct them.

I saw access to birth control and abortion (for any reason and at any time prior to giving birth.) as being something that should be a woman’s right.  I saw my right to treat my transsexualism with Sex Reassignment Surgery as the same sort of issue, particularly since SRS includes sterilization as part of the process of changing one’s assigned sex.

In short I am in the political feminist camp.  I think many in this camp came originally from the left or at least the liberal Democratic Party wing. We tend to be the annoyingly inclusive sort who raises other issues and causes, co-mingling them together.  You will find this sort of feminist at the anti-corporate demonstrations currently happening on Wall Street.

Being anti-misogyny and anti-sexism isn’t the same as being a female supremacist.  Being anti-sexism permits one to see how sex roles/gender roles are used to control men as well as women, particularly when used as an element of oppression that also analyzes other elements of oppression such as race and class.

Cultural Feminism is different from political feminism F

Definition: Cultural feminism is a variety of feminism which emphasizes essential* differences between men and women, based on biological differences in reproductive capacity. Cultural feminism attributes to those differences distinctive and superior virtues in women. What women share, in this perspective, provides a basis for “sisterhood,” or unity, solidarity and shared identity.

* The phrase “essential differences” refers to the belief that gender differences are part of the essence of females or males, that the differences are not chosen but are part of the nature of woman or man.

(From About.com:  http://womenshistory.about.com/od/feminism/g/culturalfem.htm)

Other Kinds of Feminism

From Wikigender:  Feminist Perspectives

Liberal Feminism

Liberal Feminism has a perspective that is diametrically opposite to that of cultural feminism. They believe that the differences in male and female social behavior are not so much because of biology but because of how their environment conditions them to be. They believe that gender identity and behavior are cultural constructs, products of the discrepancies in the legal and social opportunities available to men and women, and of the differences in how gender norms for behavior, choices, expectations, etc are set by society for girls and boys, and men and women. The focus of liberal feminists therefore is on creating a completely level playing field for the genders in terms of legal and social systems, and gender norms and gender socializations for that is what they believe is the key to the gender equality.

Socialist (Marxist) Feminism

This theory recognizes that in addition to gender discrimination, there are many other social venues for discrimination, such as race, class, education, sexual orientation and economics. And they believe that each category of discrimination compounds a woman’s experience of gender discrimination. So for example a poor, uneducated black American woman would be three times more disadvantaged than a wealthy, educated white American woman. So the Socialist Feminist perspective is that for there to be total gender equity all forms of discrimination in society will have to be simultaneously addressed.

 Radical Feminism

It believes that a dominating patriarchy is the primary form of female oppression in society, regardless of class, color and economics. The control that men have had over women is largely through brute, physical force. The focus of Radical Feminists is largely on the violence that women suffer, and their social subjugation through violent behavior inflicted by men. And they believe that this is what keeps women oppressed whether they are rich or poor, black or white, educated or illiterate. The focus of Radical feminism is therefore on fighting gender related violence.

Womanism (Woman of Color Feminism)

This is the feminist movement of the women of color. It started in the U.S. and includes black, Hispanic and Asian-American women. Womanists believe that is it not men who are their primary oppressors but a white, racist society. And that men of color suffer from this racial and related class discrimination, just as much as they do as women. They do recognize the oppression of colored women by colored men, but they believe that this is a result of the indignity the colored man suffers. So the focus of the Womanist movement has been on joining hands with their colored brothers to fight for racial equality.

Anarcha-Feminism (Anarchist Feminism)

This theory believes that the domination of the patriarchy is the inadvertent result of a larger societal thinking that fosters a hierarchical set-up of society. So the focus of Anarcha-feminists is the fight against the state and the dismantling of a hierarchical governance, for that they believe is the only road to equality of genders and all other social stratas.

Cultural Feminism/Radical Feminism:  Reasons for incompatibility with transsexuals

Cultural and radical feminism is an ideology is based on women assigned female at birth being equally oppressed as a class. A proposition that classifies the Women’s Studies Ph.D. from one of the Ivy League/Seven sisters Universities and unwed, high school dropout, welfare mothers as equally oppressed by the patriarchy.

One does not had to be a serious Marxist to look at that basic concept and think it to be somewhat sketchy.

As I suggested last week certain elements of “cultural feminism” sprang from Jane Alpert’s “Mother Right

Alpert and Robin Morgan began proselytizing a theory that not only were women oppressed by the patriarchy but that women were innately and essentially different from men.

This in many ways represented a direct attack upon theories put forth by not only feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir but those of scientist studying the development of both Sex and Gender.  Many years before Anna Fausto-Sterling, Dr. Benjamin postulated that there were several different criteria for the determining of sex.  John Money and Anke A. Ehrhardt in Man and Woman, Boy and Girl – Differentiation and Dimorphism of Gender Identity from Conception to Maturity discussed variations in sexual development as well as the role of socialization and culture.

Cultural feminism move away from the other, more politically oriented forms of feminism.  Particularly after the publication of numerous books postulating , with very little archeological evidence and a great deal of wishful thinking an ancient matriarchal past located some place in the period of hunter gatherers and early agriculture.

I personally thought the alternative explanation offered by Friedrich Engels in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State  seemed far more realistic and supported by evidence.

But then Cultural feminism gradually became more and more like a fundamentalist religion.  Cultural Feminists are true believers and are extremely adverse to anything that questions or challenges their beliefs.

They seem to believe in just as rigid a set of sex differences as  the patriarchal pigs of the male dominated religions.  They are just as down with idea of “men are from Mars/women are from Venus” as any religious fanatic, who uses their religion to define women as inferior.  In many ways the only difference is female supremacist thinking although that gets strange too because ultimate victimhood and the essential feminine channel claiming the female supremacy into such areas as “moral authority”.

Post-transsexual women mess with their theories of essentialism, which doesn’t wish to acknowledge the vast overlapping of traits held by both male and female or how the dividing line is pretty sketchy at times

After all how can transsexualism be innate if one is not assigned female at birth due to having ovaries and two X chromosomes.  Or if it is innate where is that element that creates the essentialness of femaleness located?  Transsexualism tends to suggest more of a social construct to gender, however more like that postulated by de Beauvoir than by Judith Butler.

Mostly though cultural feminism’s view of transsexualism is so incoherent and contradictory as to reveal an inchoate rage directed at the entire concept along with an extremely deep and humor challenged hatred of males.

One should recall that some extremists in the Cultural Feminist/Radical Feminist/Lesbian Separatist factions of feminism went so far as to suggest women who had male infants should surrender custody and responsibility for those male children to their father.

Unfortunately Cultural feminism has been taken way too seriously and used to discredit political feminism.  It has found a career home in some gender studies/women’s studies programs as well as having certain elements picked up by the radical right.

People use the work of scholars such as Carol Gilligan to push for sex segregated schooling and the work of others like Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon  to push anti-sex as well as anti-pornography campaigns that tend to promote anti-choice, anti-sex education and abstinence programs with a religious agenda.

To be continued…

2 Responses to “What is “Cultural Feminism” and why are Transsexuals its Enemies?”

  1. quenyar Says:

    I am sorry, but “Cultural Feminism” is just another rejection of rational humanism in favor of elitist bigotry and prejudice. There is just one kind of human: human. Some humans are male, some are female and some of neither or both. The range of human activity, capacity, feeling, thought and accomplishment is and should be gender blind. The fact that our society and most other human societies are misogynistic does not justify misandry. Feminism can be turned into a religious dogma just like any other set of beliefs and when it is, it harms everyone it touches.

  2. Andrea B. Says:

    I look forward to reading the next part of this.

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