Some Second Wave Feminists and Transphobia

As someone who counts herself as too young to be a baby boomer, too old to be Gen X, I came of age as a feminist at the end of the Second Wave. (I’m also never sure how useful the “wave” talk is but that’s another issue.) And while I think I understand the limits that the lack of race, class, and disability analysis had on second wave work, I think I can also understand how focussing on one form of oppression might make others less obvious or visible. In the case of race, class, and disability, the main problem, it seems to me, was one of exclusion. But in the case of trans issues, it’s much more than that. One sometimes finds a kind of hostility verging on hate that I just can’t fathom. This came to mind recently reading a piece in the Guardian by Germain Greer on Caster Semenya. In it Greer writes, “Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be… some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so. We pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.” I thought the days of sex essentialism were long gone but I guess not. Kate Bornstein has a response here.

A different twist on sex/gender and sports

In the endless discussions of Caster Semenya (for a really excellent one see here), the claim is often made that women would never pose as men for sporting purposes as they’d only lose if they competed against men. There’s nothing like a real-life counterexample fo knock down such a myth. So I give you Rena Kanokogi, who posed as a man 50 years ago to win a judo championship. She was stripped of her medal once her sex was known, and became a campaigner for equality, eventually getting women’s judo added to the Olympics. Her medal has now been restored.
*Aug 21 - 00:05*

Thanks, CR!

“Why Women’s Rights are the cause of our times”

The title to this post announces the central theme of Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.  The remarkable  publication reflects what we noted just recently in comments on one of the articles; namely, the realization that the key  to solving many of the political problems in the world lies with the too often powerless.  explorision

The subtitles in the magazine range from the positive (a multi-media presentation):

How educating girls and empowering women can help fight poverty and extremism

To the less positive:

Why has development in India and China led to even more discrimination against girls?

Along with the questioning:

How a hybrid ideology — one that advocates the use of force to liberate Muslim women from persecution and burkas — evolved online.

One gets the sense that a lot of this impetus for this edition is due to Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  Multi-kudos to them and the NY Times.

I’ve mentioned perhaps half of the articles.  Taken together they set an agenda.  YES!

About Mothering

We’ve posted a lot on mothering, pressures on feminist philosophers as mothers, and models of good and bad mothering.  I was reading today about a mother who could easily be an object lesson for us all.  Maybe the story is familiar; certainly condemnation of people with similar stories is all too common.

She went through two  divorces, having started in a possibly bigamous relationship at 18 when she was three months pregnant by her partner.   One divorce, several years of single parenting, another marriage and divorce, so again a single parent, now with  two children!  And all the while she’s working and going to school.  Her son sent off to live with her parents for his  high schooling.  She’s white, but both children are bi-racial, though the second race is different in each case.

Clearly, she’d have a hard time getting a license to foster children, still less to adopt!

And what do you think the children grew up to be like?  Well, the son is now president of the US.  And a recent article describes some of the ideas and ideals she communicated to him:

Running through Dr. Soetoro’s doctoral research, as through all her work, was a challenge to popular perceptions regarding economically and politically marginalized groups; she showed that the people at society’s edges were not as different from the rest of us as is often supposed. Dr. Soetoro was also critical of the pernicious notion that the roots of poverty lie with the poor themselves and that cultural differences are responsible for the gap between less-developed countries and the industrialized West. …

…   She helped to pioneer microcredit programs that made small amounts of capital available to weavers, blacksmiths and other low-income groups — people who would otherwise have had no access to credit.

It’s worth pointing out that though microenterprise is fairly well-known today — and Indonesia now has one of the world’s largest microcredit programs — it was pretty radical stuff when Ann Soetoro was doing her work. But then, she had a habit of swimming against the current. …

There is a final lesson from her work that is worth remembering: No nation — even if it is our bitterest enemy — is incomprehensible. Anthropology shows that people who seem very different from us behave according to systems of logic, and that these systems can be grasped if we approach them with the sort of patience and respect that Dr. Soetoro practiced in her work.

Her doctoral dissertation, Surviving against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia, is going to be published this fall by Duke University Press.

Moral:  There is more than one way to be a great mother.

I can’t find out whether she breast fed her children though, something which has proved a controversial topic here.

Cultural Variation in Maths Gender Gap

A surprisingly large number of people are willing to uncritically accept the idea that boys outperform girls at the top end in maths performance, and that this is genetically determined (despite problems for it that we’ve noted before). Rob has pointed us to this very interesting article about cross-cultural variation. One fascinating thing is that some of the best countries for girls’ performance are Islamic ones. The authors of the original article speculate:

While of course highly speculative, these cross-country data are consistent with the hypothesis that mixed-gender classrooms are a necessary component for gender inequality to translate into poor female math performance, although it is difficult to distinguish single-sex classrooms from Islamic religion in the data.

What is it to be masculine?

A recent photo essay poses the question. “What is it to be masculine?” Philadelphia photographer Chad States photographs his subjects in the poses and settings they find most masculine. He finds his subjects using craiglist and leaves his ads gender neutral so that women and transmen feel free to reply. While there are some interesting responses, sadly the philosopher, naked but for socks, reports that he is masculine because “I abandon women after taking their love.” Another of the men says he is masculine when he “dominates in his field of study.” Cool though that the project includes transmen, who notably sound less stupid.