From Julia Serano: http://juliaserano.blogspot.ca/2014/07/two-articles-related-to-femininity-and.html?spref=tw%22
By Julia Serano
Monday, July 28, 2014
Reposted with permission
Two things happened today:
1) I have a new article out on Ms. Magazine blog today called Empowering Femininity, wherein I revisit some of the ideas I initially forwarded in the chapter of Whipping Girl called “Putting the Feminine Back into Feminism.” Check it out!
2) Some of you may be aware of a New Yorker article by Michelle Goldberg that came out today entitled “What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism.” It is basically about how Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists (TERFs) are increasingly becoming marginalized within feminism, and it is mostly written from their perspective (e.g., about ways in which they have been personally attacked or “censored” by trans activists). Let’s just say that it is not the piece that I would have written on the matter.
I do not have the time or energy to write a formal response to the entire piece, but since I am one of the few trans voices included in the article, I feel compelled to make a few points “for the record” as it were:
1) When Goldberg interviewed me for the piece, I talked extensively about TERF attacks on trans people: About the hatefull speech I (and other trans women) regularly receive from TERFs on my Twitter feed, blog comments, etc., and how much of it is of a sexualizing nature. I talked at great length about Cathy Brennan who is notorious for her personal attacks and outing of trans people, her various websites where she engages in smear campaigns against trans women (once again, usually of a sexualizing nature). I mentioned how, after my appearance at a SF Dyke March forum on AGE DIVERSITY AND GENDER FLUIDITY – which was designed to build bridges between trans-positive queer women and those (often of older generations) who are trans unaware, and which resulted in respectful and constructive dialogue on all sides – several TERFs crashed the Facebook page and spewed so much hateful speech that they had to shut the whole thread down.
None of this made it into the story, which will likely lead uninformed readers to presume that trans people are simply mean and out of control, rather than reacting to the transphobia/trans-misogyny/sexualizing comments we constantly face from TERFs.
2) I am very disappointed with the way that the issue of “autogynephilia” was handled in the piece. I understand that Sheila Jeffreys cites the concept in her book in order to engage in a form of transgender slut-shaming (i.e., citing trans women’s sexual histories as a way to entirely dismiss them and their opinions), and that this fact could be relevant to the story. But to have a paragraph detailing Jeffreys’s and Blanchard’s views of “autogynephilia” without any counter argument or mention of the fact that THE THEORY HAS BEEN DISPROVEN here and here and here, or that cisgender women experience analogous sexual fantasies, is downright reckless. When (later on in the piece) Goldberg mentions that Jeffreys paints me out to be an “autogynephile,” I am sure many uninformed readers will believe that to be true, because no counter argument to the concept had even been mentioned.
And Goldberg’s omission here is not for lack of knowing: I discussed my concerns about this matter with Goldberg in two follow up emails – to clear the record, I will paste those emails at the bottom of this blog-post.
3) I would not exactly describe my interactions with MichFest attendees when I attended Camp Trans in 2003 as “cordial.” There were some good, positive interactions, but others were tense and somewhat hostile. I discuss this “mixed bag” of experiences in chapter 2 of my book Excluded.
4) Seriously, can we finally put to rest the “one in 10,000/one in 30,000” people are transsexual statistic. It is ancient and it has been repeatedly debunked.
That’s it. Now here is what I emailed Goldberg regarding “autogynephilia”
I mentioned this recent Vice Magazine interview with Blanchard in our phone conversation the other day and said I’d send you the link. Here it is if you’re interested:
Also, I know you said that you will be referring to autogynephilia as “controverial.” I do think that it’s fair to say that multiple lines of research by numerous researchers have shown that while the fantasies are a real phenomenon, Blanchard’s theory (specifically, that there are two “types” of trans women, and that the fantasies drive transsexuality/transition in one group) does not hold true. Also, the two researchers who actually used cisgender female controls in their studies both found that analogous fantasies are experienced by a significant number of cisgender women.
All this research is summarized in my review:
and Charles Moser’s review:
both were published in peer-reviewed journals in 2010.
The evidence is clear that the theory Blanchard created to explain these fantasies, and his assumption that such fantasies are transsexual-specific and cause transsexuality, are both untrue. That may not move you. But I wanted to share that with you, because it concerns me when the term “controversial” is used to give a disproven theory some legitimacy (e.g., as it is in climate change debates).
One last thought: I talked before about how the theory is often used (e.g., by Jeffreys) to sexualize trans women, thereby invalidating us. In my paper, I make the following analogy to illustrate why this is such this problem:
“Many natal women have rape fantasies. It is one thing to respectfully attempt to explore and understand such fantasies. It is an entirely different thing to insist that there are two subtypes of women – those who have rape fantasies and those who do not; to use the label “autoraptophiles” when describing women who have such fantasies and to insist that they are primarily motivated by their desire to be raped; to include “autoraptophilia” as a modifier in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; and to encourage the lay public to actively distinguish between those women who are “autoraptophiles” and those who are not. Such actions would undoubtedly have a severe, negative impact on women (who are already routinely sexualized and marginalized in our culture). Yet, proponents of autogynephilia have argued that transsexual women should be viewed and treated in an analogous manner.”
Anyway, that’s all I wanted to add.
Best wishes, -julia
second email: After speaking with the fact checker from the New Yorker, I found that there were several passages from my book Whipping Girl where I discussed certain aspects of my sexual history that were going to be included in the article – I believe that they were meant to show “my side” of the story in relation to Jeffreys painting me out as an “autogynephile.” I am thankful that Goldberg did not include those passages in the final draft. But given that Jeffreys’s views and the specter of “autogynephilia” were raised in her article with regards to me and without any counter argument, I believe that it is worthwhile sharing what I wrote to Goldberg about the potential inclusion of those passages:
Obviously, I haven’t seen the whole article yet. And I understand that, as an interviewee, journalists I speak with will come to their own conclusions, and may portray me in ways that don’t necessarily jibe with how I see myself. And I realize that I am (to a certain extent) a public figure who has put myself out there via what I have written, and that people may use that in ways that I didn’t expect or do not want. So you are obviously free to write what you want.
But I would like to share an analogy: Imagine a feminist author who writes seriously about gender and society, and whose ideas are well regarded in certain circles. And imagine someone who has very different views about gender and society – perhaps they are a religious conservative, or a men’s rights activists, or an evolutionary psychologist, or whatever. And let’s say that they wrote a book challenging feminism, and their central premise was that feminist women are primarily driven by their sexual desires (rather than out of a sincere concern about gender-based oppression or society). And when taking on this particular feminist woman in their book, they didn’t focus much on the ideas and theories she has forwarded, but instead dissected her sexual history (which maybe she wrote about in the past because, you know, women have sexualities, and gender-based-oppression is designed to make some of us feel ashamed about our sexualities, and sometimes we have to speak openly about our own sexual experiences in order to debunk heteropatriarchal assumptions that others make about our sexualities).
Anyway, imagine all that already happened. And someone outside of the situation decided to write about this controversy for a mainstream publication. How would you prefer that they cover it:
1) Spend a lot of time discussing “both sides” of the woman’s sexual history: describing the religious conservative’s/MRA’s/evolutionary psychologists’s/etc.’s depiction of her sexuality, along with passages of her describing her own sexuality (which, while in her own words, is *more discussion about her sexuality*, and which is not germane to challenging gender-based oppression and other societal issues – the major focus of her work).
or 2) Simply say that, rather than seriously engaging in a debate about the feminist woman’s ideas or theories, the author resorted to sexualizing her instead. And as feminists have shown, this is a tried-and-true method for smearing people’s authenticity and credibility (as I discussed at great length in our last phone conversation).
You initially asked to interview me about the “tensions between trans activists and some radical feminists” (which I provided my thoughts on over the course of the interview process). I honestly don’t understand how sexual thoughts that I had over twenty years ago (as a young trans person trying to sort out my identity) has any bearing on these tensions, other than the fact that Jeffreys stoops to the transgender equivalent of slut-shaming in her book.
Anyway, I haven’t seen the whole article yet, so I will reserve judgment on the totality of it until it finally comes out. But I did want to share my concerns about this particular aspect of the article ahead of time. As a woman and a public figure yourself, I’m sure you can understand why having one’s sexual history litigated in the pages of a mainstream magazine might seem troubling (to put it extremely mildly). And if you had/have ever written about your previous sexual experiences in a publication that primarily targeted your own demographic in order to help folks better understand, and not feel ashamed about, their analogous experiences, I imagine that you too might be worried about how those same passages might be misinterpreted by lay audiences if excerpted in a major mainstream publication (especially one your relatives, potential future employers, etc., regularly read).