dreamer_easy: (*books 3)
Disturbed by Kelly Robson's column in the April issue of Clarkesworld, "Another World: Being James Tiptree Jr". She discusses the letter which Dr. Alice B. Sheldon left to be released in case of her death, in which she outed the science fiction writer Tiptree as being a woman writing under a male pseudonym. Robson quotes a key passage from the letter: "Everything sounded so much more interesting coming from a man. (Didn't it. Didn't it, just a little? Be honest.)" She remarks, "Writing as Tiptree, Alice Sheldon didn’t just avoid gender discrimination; she supercharged everything she wrote with gravitas and authority... Writing as a man gave her freedom that was missing when she wrote as herself... Being Tiptree certainly allowed her to avoid gender discrimination, but more importantly, it allowed her to overcome the barriers in her own mind."

My contribution to Chicks Dig Time Lords, "If I can't Squee I Don't Want to Be Part of your Revolution"*, contains a puzzled self-examination: what makes women's writing different from men's, and thus made my Doctor Who novels different from the others, which were overwhelmingly written by men? I consulted a couple of books on the subject of women's writing: one pointed out that women generally have different experiences to men; the other seemed to warn against lumping all women together. My problem was, and is, my slightly loose connection to the category "woman". Though I am a ciswoman, and share many experiences with other ciswomen, I am also sufficiently gender non-conforming to be occasionally mistaken for a man.

In the Chicks chapter, I pointed out that the style of all of the Doctor Who novel writers was somewhat constrained by the fact that we were writing science fiction adventure stories, with the main characters already provided. Although we drew on our own lives, like any writer in any genre, the books are still fairly homogenous, and that may have overwhelmed any gender differences.

Robson recounts meeting a male SF fan who proudly proclaims that he never reads books by women. I seem to recall that, as a teen, I eschewed female SF authors because they didn't seem to be writing the kind of SF I enjoyed (Asimov, Niven, a Heinlein phase). Perhaps they were drawing on interests or experiences I didn't share; perhaps there were fewer female authors available, so I was less likely to hit on one that I liked**; or perhaps it was simple prejudice. I am frustrated by not yet having found women who write the sort of SF I've recently enjoyed, by Charles Stross, Neal Stephenson, and Liu Cixin.

As well as being disturbed by my freakish gender, it troubles me that I insist on reading and writing SF, even though fantasy seems like it would be my more natural home. Perhaps the reason I write science fiction is to grab some of the "gravitas and authority" that Tiptree's assumed gender provided. Some part of me insists that SF = srs bizness, fantasy = mucking around (the same part that insists that YA is also mucking around). I worry that this prejudice is also somehow grounded in gender. I guess that's why Robson's column troubles me. (OTOH, maybe I don't want to write fantasy because I'm far less interested in reading it?)

* Neither my best title nor my greatest piece of prose ever, but I am still desperately proud of having been part of this landmark book, particularly its role in triggering the Sad Puppies. I'm also chuffed to see it being quoted in academic books, which must mean I got something right. :)

** The two most significant anthologies in my youth were Tomorrow's Children, edited by Isaac Asimov, and The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus. The former contains 18 stories, three by women, but they seem to have made no impression on me, compared to Damon Knight's "Cabin Boy", Fritz Leiber's "A Pail of Air", Mark Clifton's "Star Bright", Asimov's own "The Ugly Little Boy", and, gods help us all, Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life". The Omnibus contains just one story by a woman - "The Snowball Effect" by Katherine MacLean, which I do remember, but it's a bit of fluff, damnit, surrounded by more memorable stuff.
dreamer_easy: (*feminism)
IIRC the Women's Legal Service Queensland learns today if its budget has been slashed, along with other community legal centres across the country. I'll ETA the news here when I find it.

The good news: North Carolina governor signs bill repealing and replacing transgender bathroom law amid criticism (WP, 30 March 2017). The bad news: the new law forbids local governments in NC from protecting trans people. ETA: Meanwhile in Australia, For some transgender students, the school bathroom is a battleground (ABC, 1 April 2017). SA, WA, and Victoria have guidelines for schools - where are New South Wales'?

Email Australian politicians to tell them to stop stuffing about with plebiscites and just vote on marriage equality already.

What do many lone attackers have in common? Domestic violence (GA, 29 March 2017). "Paul Gill, a UCL lecturer who studies so-called lone wolf terrorists, told the New York Times last year: 'Having a history of violence might help neutralise the natural barriers to committing violence.' In other words, wives and girlfriends make good target practice."

Scrap the tampon tax to win the women's vote, Treasurer told (SMH, 28 March 2017)
dreamer_easy: (*feminism)
Reproductive Freedom

I made it to the pro-choice rally yesterday, late as usual, but in time to join the march to Parliament House. (In fact, I'm briefly visible in the video from it here. :) The speakers really put into context for me the need for women, for any person with a uterus, to be able to control this most basic aspect of our lives: sexual assault, domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, homophobia and transphobia, the denial of sex education, the constant attacks on services - to Women's Legal Service Victoria. Illegal and/or inaccessible terminations, and harassment at clinics and hospitals, are just part of the continual assault on our well-being. Or to put it another way: Never mind America, access to abortion is a 'nightmare' for many Australians.

The Greens are introducing a Bill to remove abortion from the criminal law in NSW, where it's still technically illegal, which means that women's reproductive freedom is always in danger, perhaps more so now than ever. Read about the Bill and email your representative at http://www.end12.org.au/.

Abortion is also illegal in Queensland. QLD Coalition MPs oppose reform, so a proposed Bill decriminalising abortion was withdrawn earlier this year, but has been sent to the Law Reform Commission in the meantime.

The Northern Territory has just decriminalised abortion and legalised RU486, as well as providing safe access zones around clinics and hospitals. RU486 still can't be legally used by women in South Australia and the ACT (as you may imagine, this isn't stopping its use).

Medical abortion access restricted by cost, distance and knowledge (SMH, 23 January 2017). "The study recommends policy attention is put toward preventing unwanted pregnancies and advocates for increasing medicare rebates to lessen financial burden, particularly for women beyond their first trimester."

Women going without food to pay for abortions: study (SMH, 23 January 2017). About a third of the women surveyed experienced financial difficulties.

Sexual and Domestic Violence

Fact file: Domestic violence in Australia (ABC FactCheck, 15 April 2017) | Australian police handle 5,000 domestic violence matters a week, up 7 per cent (ABC, 22 April 2016) - that's over a quarter of a million every year. | National Legal Aid calls for more funding after new figures reveal domestic violence a factor in 79pc of family law cases (ABC, 18 April 2017)

More than third of sexual assaults, homicides linked to domestic violence, ABS data shows (ABC, 13 July 2016) | Half the men who kill partners have history of domestic violence (SMH 29 April 2017)

Aboriginal mothers 17 times more likely to die from homicide, WA study finds (ABC, 13 July 2016). Indigenous mothers in WA are 6.5 times more likely to die from all preventable causes, including car crashes and suicide.

Hidden victims: Women on visas feeling trapped after domestic violence abuse (ABC, 5 April 2017)

Family violence a bigger health risk for women than smoking, drinking, obesity: study (ABC, 1 November 2016). "The burden of disease is a calculation of the impact of particular diseases and risk factors on an entire population. It is a measure of both fatal and non-fatal health impacts, which take into account the severity and duration of health conditions. The study found partner violence was among the top ten risk factors contributing to disease burden among all adult women... Among women 18 to 44 years, it was the biggest single risk factor when violence in all intimate relationships was included, bigger than smoking, alcohol use or being overweight or obese. When considering only violence by live-in partners, in this age group, partner violence ranked second only to alcohol use."

Sexual assault on Australian campus is a serious problem. Compounding it: University sexual assault policies are often 'inconsistent' and 'confusing' (ABC, 2 March 2017). In fact, the group End Rape on Campus Australia accuses unis of active cover-ups of rape. An opinion piece asks: Sexual assault: What is your university doing to prevent it? (ABC, 25 February 2017)

In NSW, accused domestic violence perpetrators are allowed to cross-examine their alleged victims, a deeply traumatising experience.

'Life-saving' Victorian domestic violence pet shelter program struggling to meet high demand (ABC, 28 February 2017) Safe Steps has a list of temporary pet care for Australians fleeing domestic violence.

Explainer: What happens when someone applies for a domestic violence protection order (SMH, 1 February 2017)

Female domestic violence victims being punished for acting in self defence, say advocates (ABC, 6 July 2016)

How 'Disney dads' are making life hell for their partners (SMH, 23 October 2017): how financial abuse can worsen after separation.

Direct link between sexual objectification of girls and aggression towards them (Medical Xpress, 24 January 2017)

Men who kill female partners, as opposed to strangers, get lighter sentences, Canadian study finds (CBC News, 22 November 2015) "'This may mean that women killed by male partners are still seen as property,' researcher says".

ETA: Technology-facilitated abuse: The new breed of domestic violence (ABC, 27 March 2017)


Women using IVF to choose the sex of their children break silence on 'gender disappointment' (Lateline, 27 February 2017).

Compare and contrast: 'We don't know if your baby's a boy or a girl': growing up intersex (GA, 2 July 2017). "'My entire pregnancy, I'd worried that I wasn't going to be able to love my baby because it wasn't a he and it wasn't a she,” she recalls. But when Jack was born, he was blue and floppy. 'Although it was awful at the time, it was the best thing that could have happened: I would have done anything to have made sure he was breathing again.' Her eyes fill with tears. 'Quite quickly, he was crying. The relief was unbelievable. He was a baby and he needed feeding. Making sure that he was cared for was my priority, not poking around in his nappy.'

Report on new estimates of the size of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population of England (Medixal Xpress, 3 February 2017): somewhere between 2.5% and about 6%.

Sexual Orientation, Controversy, and Science (Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 25 April 2016). "The most contentious scientific issues have concerned the causes of sexual orientation—that is, why are some people heterosexual, others bisexual, and others homosexual? The actual relevance of these issues to social, political, and ethical decisions is often poorly justified, however."

Photos: Two-spirit people throughout history (NPR, 25 October 2014)

ETA: How AP tallied the cost of North Carolina's "bathroom bill" (Washington Post, 27 March 2017). The state's pointless bathroom fascism will cost it "more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years".

More stuff:

From the recent debate over "Obamacare": Male GOP lawmaker asks why men should pay for prenatal coverage. The same reason women pay for cover for prostate surgery. Follow the link for the simple explanation.

Also from Up Over: 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump. A blogger's analysis of 4chan, gender, and Trump, "the loser who has won".

Unconscious bias is keeping women out of senior roles — can we get around it? (ABC, 8 March 2017). The vicious cycle of affinity bias and how it helps maintain the glass ceiling.

Unpaid work contributes $345 billion a year to Australia's economy. Women perform about three-quarters of that work, including child care and domestic work. Paid work in Australia is still about as gender-segregated as it was twenty years ago.

Sex differences in cognition are small

(Mind Hacks, 14 February 2017). Or, to put it another way, there are no male and female brain types.

Remembering Nüshu, the 19th-Century Chinese Script Only Women Could Write (Atlas Obscura, 16 February 2017)
dreamer_easy: (*feminism)
Petition against the privatisation of 1800RESPECT, the national domestic violence / sexual assault hotline. They're meeting with the Minister tomorrow.

dreamer_easy: (*gender)
1800RESPECT is national sexual assault / domestic violence service offering phone and online counselling. Lots of info at their Web site.

Support services for at-risk queer Aussie youth (Star Observer, 25 November 2016)

The planned repeal of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) in the US will leave 55 million women unable to afford contraception, prompting a rush for IUDs and other long-lasting methods. Texas's stripping of funding from its reproductive health clinics, including Planned Parenthood (who are set to lose federal funding), means it now has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. With the UK also facing a crisis in abortion care, Australian women should be wary of copycat attacks on our reproductive freedom; the current government has already started chipping away at Medicare, and abortion and RU486 are technically illegal in more than one state and territory - something we must change.

Human Rights Watch says Papua New Guinea has failed to protect women and children (GA, 13 January 2017) | more on women and children in PNG from MSF

Sexual fluidity: Living a label-free life (ABC, 4 October 2016) | Australia's secret history of sexual fluidity (ABC, 3 Octobr 2016) Pretty sure these stories were in response to the Australian's vicious war on the Safe Schools program and gender-variant kids, providing some much-needed information in the face of ignorance. (More on Safe Schools: "Heteronormativity, cisgender, gender binary, queer theory and gender fluidity are now mainstream ideas, or at least mainstream enough to cause a sustained backlash.") | No differences noted over time for children of gay, lesbian adoptive parents (Medical XPress, 24 October 2016) | Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children (Human Rights Campaign / American Academy of Pediatrics / American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians guide, 29 September 2016)

Push to support homeless LGBTI youth after influx at crisis accommodation centres (ABC, 31 March 2016) | Queer, young and homeless (Background Briefing, 3 April 2016) | Explainer: what treatment do young children receive for gender dysphoria and is it irreversible?
(The Conversation, 2 September 2016) | Transgender teenagers 'risking lives' buying hormones on black market because they can't access the Family Court (Australian Story, 15 August 2016)

Sexual assault among young people is on the rise. But why? (ABC, 3 September 2016) |How the justice system lets sexual assault victims down (ABC, 3 September 2016) | We cannot allow the courts to judge rape by sexual history (GA, 18 October 2016) |Sexual assault victims find justice online (SMH, 24 April 2016) Women are reporting street harassment, domestic violence, and sexual assault on Web sites which can put them in touch with counsellors and even pass on anonymous reports to police. This is an excellent way to give women (men, too, I hope) a chance to tell their story while keeping complete control, which is exactly what is lost in an incident of abuse.

Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs sounds alarm on rape and sexual assault (SMH, 20 September 2016) | Sexual assault on campus is systemic. But Sydney uni has failed to act for decades (GA, 23 August 2016) | The US Department of Justice's 2016 report on racism in Baltimore's Police Department also discovered their persistent failure to investigate sexual assault. Officers display scepticism and hostility toward women who report sexual assault, especially sex workers, and mistreat transgender people. It's wearying to be reminded that, in so many places, the clock is still stuck on this issue.

Donald Trump's Remarks Show He's Mistaken on Sexual Assault in Military (NYT, 8 September 2016). Trump defended a Tweet saying that rape in the military is the result of placing men and women together. In fact, half of the victims are men.

Testing of backlogged rape evidence leads to hundreds of convictions (Phys.org, 14 November 2016)

Elderly women in Kenya learning karate to fight back against sexual assault in slums (ABC, 16 January 2016). They are awesome. Includes the phrase "ferocious grandmother".

Study gives doctors guidance on reproductive coercion
(Medical XPress, 11 October 2016) "New research finds that men purposely are breaking their own condoms and pressuring female partners in their teens and 20s to go without birth control in order to get them pregnant... similar to other forms of controlling behavior in abusive relationships, male partners interfere with women's birth control use as a means to control them."

Almost a third of young women don't feel safe in public places at night, A Right to the Night report finds (ABC, 12 May 2016) | Half of Australian women feel unsafe walking alone at night, report says (SMH, 27 October 2016)

Sexual harassment rate jumps across Australia by more than 12 per cent from 2011 (ABC, 17 October 2016) | Why is CSIRO losing its brightest stars? (Background Briefing, 20 November 2016). "Some of CSIRO's top women astronomers are quitting due to a dysfunctional workplace that they say protects harassers and punishes them instead."

The secret mosques opening their doors to LGBT+ Muslims (ABC, 3 October 2016)

Most migrant sex workers satisfied with their work: Australian Institute of Criminology (SMH, 22 July 2016) | Male sex workers call for respect, understanding (SMH, 19 June 2016) | Sex workers fight against stigma for equal justice (Saturday Paper, 26 November 2016). Australian sex workers may avoid reported sexual and other assault to the police for fear of mistreatment or of being "outed". Laws making sex work a crime contribute to the problem. | Former sex workers claim harassment by pro-prostitution groups after speaking out (ABC, 12 October 2016). Takeaway message: "Not all sex workers have the same experience or want the same thing."

The Male Face Of Sexual Slavery (OZY, 17 February 2016)

South Korea's Misogyny (NY Times, 13 June 2016) | South Korea: A Thriving Sex Industry In A Powerful, Wealthy Super-State (IBT, 29 April 2013)

The WHO says being transgender is a mental illness. But that could soon change (SMH, 29 July 2016)

The transgender 'bathroom bill': Who wants it — men or women? (Medical XPress, 19 December 2016). "Most women are not bothered much about the fact that they might at times share public bathrooms designated for females with transgender women... Men on the other hand take umbrage, and worry about the safety and privacy of the women in their lives. Such male transphobia has its roots in how men see themselves as the so-called protectors of women." There are certainly transphobic and gender policing women infesting public loos - I'm a little worried about encountering one on our next visit Up Over - but since there are no known cases of a trans woman harassing a cis woman in the ladies', it makes sense that cis women would generally not be worried about a nonexistent threat.

Does CCTV footage help or hinder the reduction of violence against women? (ABC, 26 October 2016)

The ignorance aimed at Caster Semenya flies in the face of the Olympic spirit (GA, 23 August 2016) "It is also clear the increased scrutiny is reserved for women perceived as not feminine enough, which is the bedrock of what is in the policies. For example, it is stated that: 'The individuals concerned often display masculine traits and have an uncommon athletic capacity in relation to their fellow female competitors.' Gender variance has always incited scrutiny, and this scrutiny is often racialised. Living outside of these normative racialised gendered expectations means coming under scrutiny and probing in ways invisible to the institutions and individuals doing the looking." | I know how Caster Semenya feels – as an intersex person, I've been harassed my entire life (The Independent, 21 August 2016) "Being visibly outside of the expectations of gender roles can come at a great cost, and with a steady stream of abuse from the rest of the world. It can make you feel as if you are an alien, a monster in a bad sci-fi movie."

I Never Went Through Puberty: Life As A Perpetual Adolescent (Cracked, of all places, 2 October 2016). The story of Kevin, an intersex boy with Klinefelter Syndrome. | Intersex — seeking the beauty in difference (Medical XPress, 4 October 2016) Sean, an intersex man, has Androgen-Insensitivity Syndrome.

Always an interesting perspective: World's most senior transgender military officer says she was surprised by sexism (GA, 4 April 2015)

Bisexual men and women face pay gap, US study finds (Phys.org, 15 November 2016) | Workplace discrimination: Half of LGBTI Australians hide sexuality at work, report finds (ABC, 28 September 2016)

Sexism may be harmful to men's mental health (Medical XPress, 21 November 2016). Doesn't do anyone else any good, either. :)

6 Matriarchies Still Functioning Today (Marie Claire, 8 March 2016)

Life-like robot babies do not discourage teen pregnancies: study (ABC, 26 August 2016) wtf

Viral pics of a maned lioness (probably).

(Saving the domestic violence stuff for another posting.)
dreamer_easy: (*feminism)
Fay Weldon, writing in 2002, on the suicides of Sylvia Plath (1963) and Assia Wevill (1969): "How could it happen, today's young women ask, in bewilderment? How could women see their lives only in terms of being loved or not loved by a man? The times were against them, so the times had to change. And so they did."

Russell T. Davies, in a 2016 interview about his adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream: "For example, in the original script, all the women at some point refer to killing themselves. 'But I refuse to transmit those lines now. In 2016 I'm not having lovelorn women say they'll kill themselves. I'm not putting that on BBC1; I absolutely refuse. Because I hope young girls will be watching this, and I don’t think it's an appropriate thing to say – 'I love you so much, if you don't love me I'll kill myself.' I think that's untransmittable, I'm not having it.'"
dreamer_easy: (refugees)
The torment of women at Nauru: 'This is reason I left my country – this fear of rape' (SMH, 7 June 2016) The newly released Protection Denied, Abuse Condoned: Women on Nauru at Risk report from Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru. The news item includes a staggering report of a traumatised rape victim being deliberately starved for a week to force her to leave her room. The report also includes a history of Nauru and background to its current situation, and, importantly, considers violence against Nauruan women. (Here's another backgrounder on Australia's long history of using Nauru. With remarkable compassion, Free the Children NAURU on Facebook shared reminders of the environmental state of the island.)

Hundreds of detention centre abuses go unreported (SMH, 5 June 2016) "Documents provided to Fairfax Media show that Comcare, which is responsible for the health and safety of all people in Australian government workplaces, including workers and detainees in mainland and offshore detention centres, has not investigated abuse and injuries on a vast scale."

Worker suspended over alleged asylum seeker assault amid detention centre veil of secrecy (SMH, 5 June 2016) "The Australian Border Force is refusing to release figures on the number of incidents in onshore detention referred to police over the past three years, including child sexual assault cases, nor will it say how many complaints led to a prosecution."

Public servants could face court over death of asylum seeker Hamid Khazaei: lawyers (SMH, 7 June 2016) Aw yiss.

PNG demands answers from Manus Island contractors ISOS after Hamid Khazaei's death (SMH, 6 June 2016) "The PNG government will suspend new medical licences for International SOS staff working on Manus Island amid an investigation into the death... PNG health minister Michael Malabag has accused the company of deliberately avoiding correspondence and refusing to assist investigations."

Wilson Security guards injured on Nauru, Manus Island not entitled to work cover (17 May, 2016)
dreamer_easy: (refugees)
Iranian refugee tried to burn herself to death from despair over indefinite detention on Nauru, husband says (ABC, 31 March 2016) This is Fatima, a mentally ill refugee who locked herself inside her family's accommodation and set it alight. She has now "been placed under the care of the Immigration Department controlled mental health unit on Nauru", a phrase which frankly gives me chills.

Marital rape no longer allowed and suicide, homosexuality decriminalised at Nauru (SMH, 27 April 2016) Which is good news, but rapes of refugees go unprosecuted and gangs beat gay refugees.

Resettling refugees in Papua New Guinea: a tragic theatre of the absurd (GA, 20 May 2016). "Lae is considered the most dangerous city in Papua New Guinea. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website advises Australian citizens 'to exercise a high degree of caution in PNG because of the high levels of serious crime', with particularly high crime rates in Lae, where 'bush knives (machetes) and firearms are often used in assaults and thefts'. Yet, somehow, Australia has chosen this city as the ideal place to resettle refugees."

Cambodia revives Australia refugee deal with planned Nauru visit (ABC, 25 May 2016) | First refugees sent to Cambodia under $55m deal have left (ABC, 27 May 2016)

Australian police accessed phone records of asylum whistleblower (GA, 24 May 2016). This is scary as hell. After the death of Manus detainee Hamid Khazaei, the Department of Immigration asked the AFP to investigate where the media had got their information about the lethal mishandling of his case. Dr Peter Young was a target because he had criticised asylum seeker medical care in the press. Police examined his phone records and grilled his colleagues.

Australia’s Offshore Cruelty (The New York Times, 23 May 2016). "The Australian treatment of refugees trying to reach this vast, thinly populated country by boat follows textbook rules for the administering of cruelty. It begins with the anodyne name for the procedures — 'offshore processing' — as if these desperate human beings were just an accumulation of data."

There's been such a response to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's baseless remarks about "illiterate and innumerate" refugees which have been (correctly IMHO) understood as disparaging all migrants from a non-English speaking background. For example, this passionate editorial in The Age: Time to embrace the potential refugees offer Australia (The Age, 22 May 2016) "The refugees I meet at the ASRC are not some racist's caricature. They are the doctor I know who speaks nine languages, and the young man who is studying a double degree in law and business after arriving by boat as an unaccompanied child without a word of English. They are everyday mums and dads willing to do anything, often the jobs no Australians will touch, just to put food and dignity on the table for their families. They are my heroes, my role models and this nation's future."

Boat migrants 'turned back to jail', despite Vietnamese promise (SMH, 24 May 2016) The same fate befell asylum seekers who were returned last year.

'Like returning a lamb to a den of lions’: Deo Nuyu's fight to stay in Australia (SMH, 1 June 2016)

Asylum seeker forcibly returned by Australia says his refugee claim was ignored (GA, 18 May 2016). "Sri Lankan asylum seeker says he was only asked his name, where he was from and why he came when he arrived at the Cocos Islands by boat."
dreamer_easy: (*gender)
I've been reading Judith Halberstam's 1998 book "Female Masculinity" on and off. Right now I'm gripped by a chapter on the "border wars" between trans men and butch lesbians, and all the attendant arguments about who is challenging binary gender and who is reinforcing it and a whole lot of questions around what we would now call trans and genderqueer identities.

I am gender non-conforming, but in my case that's more an absence of femininity than an embracing of masculinity. I have been harassed for being gender non-conforming, and I may be again when I next visit a public bathroom in the US, but I will never face the marginalisation or the active danger that either a trans man or a masculine-presenting lesbian face.

Nonetheless from time to time I will be blindsided by a phrase: "the status of unbelonging".
dreamer_easy: (refugees)
Asal, 17: A voice from Nauru (The Saturday Paper, 14 May 2016)

Nauru refugee and premature baby in critical condition after emergency caesarean (GA, 13 May 2016) Both have been flown to Australia. Doctors for Refugees say that she had eclampsia and should have been evacuated when she had a seizure five months into the pregnancy. The Guardian article also tells the God-awful story of Rakib, the poor devil who died of heart failure after overdosing on Panadol; he and his boyfriend were given a public thrashing by Nauruans, and threatened with far worse.

The Federal Court has ruled that the rape victim known as S99 must be brought to Australia for her abortion.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton opines that the new wing of the hospital on Nauru is better than some in regional Australia. Putting aside his ability to judge a medical facility, it had better be: the maternal mortality rate on Nauru is forty-three times higher than it is in Australia; 30 babies died per 1,000 live births on Nauru, but only 4 per 1,000 in Australia. Refugees deserve decent health care, and so do Nauruans. (Not to mention Australians in regional areas!)

Perhaps taking a leaf from Australia's use of technicalities, Papua New Guinea now states that the refugees on Manus Island are no longer in detention. Not only are they still illegally imprisoned, but if released, are in danger of being, and I quote Manus Island MP Ron Knight, 'chopped up'. At least the poor bastards won't be sent to Nauru. Say, I know another island where they could live...

Real women

Apr. 12th, 2016 02:50 pm
dreamer_easy: (*gender)
In her appearance on Q&A, Germaine Greer acknowledged the fact that male and female aren't adequate to describe human physical and anatomical sex - "I'm not entirely immune to information", she quipped - but continues to have reservations about trans women which sound more like they're coming from a random person on the street, not someone who has thought about gender their entire lives. Do trans women know they are women, or merely believe it? No-one thinks to ask Germaine whether she knows she is a woman, or only believes she is one.

She makes a more interesting point, though, when she remarks:
"I don't believe that a man who has lived for forty years as a man, and had children with a woman, and enjoyed the unpaid services of a wife - which most women will never know - that he then decides that the whole time he's been a woman... you believed you were a woman, but you married another woman? Well, that wasn't fair, was it?"*

[And summarising her position:] "If you're a 50-year-old truck driver who's had four children with a wife and you've decided the whole time you've been a woman, I think you're probably wrong."

I've seen this position before: that being a woman is a sort of privilege, something that must be earned, and trans women have not earned that privilege. This is an extraordinary inversion of our understanding of privilege. We know from the accounts of trans women in the workplace that they have lost their male privilege**. Unless she passes, a trans woman also loses her cis privilege.

Also missing from Greer's comments is an understanding of why a trans woman might live as a man, with a traditionally male occupation, and father kids. Why do these masculine things if you are a woman? Let's put aside the possibility that you might not want to be beaten to death. In recent months I've read about trans women who joined the military and deliberately did brave, dangerous things. They were hypermasculine men precisely because they were trying to defeat their urges to be feminine - to prove to themselves that they were "real" men. Greer's hypothetical virile truckie may well be doing the same thing.

But why would any feminist ask: Why do these masculine things if you are a woman? If you are a truck driver, have a wife, and have kids, you are not a real woman. Lesbian truck drivers with wives and children are not real women. Wait, what? What are the essential criteria here? Are straight women who drive trucks and have children real women? Is an unmarried male nurse a real man? If he is married but does not beget children, is he a real man? If he begets children but does not marry, is he a real man?

These are deep questions about our assumptions about gender - assumptions which Greer, despite thinking deeply, has not yet come to grips with. I've barely begun to read the real-life stories of trans women (and men). When Greer does, she'll have a lot more to think about.

* It wasn't "fair" of the lesbian in Melissa Etheridge's song "The Wanting of You" to marry a man, either. Gender prejudice fucks everyone up.

** The term "privilege" is both confusing and overused. In this instance, the trans women reported that they were now the victims of sexism which they previously hadn't had to deal with. "Cis privilege" is when I go into the women's bathroom and no-one calls security or beats me to death.
dreamer_easy: (*gender)
I'm furious at The Australian for sneering that "gender fluidity" is an "ideological construct" and not the lived experience of real people. Good on Lateline for interviewing some of those imaginary gender-fluid kids.

The problem with sex education for LGBTI women (ABC, 8 March 2016): the vast majority are missing out on relevant sex ed.

Girl fights: Are Aussie women becoming more violent? (ABC, 18 March 2016) SPOILER: no.

Anti-slavery workers say government is failing sex trafficking victims (The Drum, 1 March 2016): trafficked women who won't or can't assist with prosecutions miss out on support.

Recently I clashed on FB with someone who thought that helping refugees should come second to helping Australian women facing domestic violence. But, with nearly $3 billion budgeted to offshore detention, where could the Federal government possibly find the $127 million needed to fix the shortage in anti-DV funding? Perhaps they somehow will, since the PM has declared domestic violence a "national priority", despite stripping federal public servants of DV leave.

Domestic violence perpetrators learn they are not the victim in unique Perth rehabilitation program (7:30, 25 February 2016): Specifically, they get kicked out of the house (and into therapy) instead of getting to stay there while their victim flees.

Sexual assault: Victim-blaming attitudes common among young people, research finds (PM, 22 February 2016)

A matter of life and death (ABC, 8 March 2016: "This week a report was tabled to Queensland Parliament on a bill that seeks to make non-lethal strangulation in domestic violence situations a crime." I was puzzled by this at first, but clicked through the links in the text to learn that strangulation is (a) extremely dangerous in its own right, with possible serious effects occurring long after the assault, and (b) a frequent "warning sign" of impending homicide in a domestic violence situation. So it needs its own specific law.

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Why women need a men's revolution (ABC 4 March 2016): I'm in two minds about this. "We need to be able to look at a man who has a career, who has a set of goals, but who also says my family is going to come first and see him as a strong confident man who's willing to break gender stereotypes." Sure. But "We've liberated women essentially to be men, to do the work that men have traditionally done, and in the process we've devalued the work that women traditionally did; the work of care, the work of nurturing." I don't think was feminism that dictated that housework should be unpaid and pink collar work should be underpaid.
dreamer_easy: (*gender)
to: office@piccoli.minister.nsw.gov.au
cc: Malcolm.Turnbull.MP@aph.gov.au

Dear Minister,

I'm writing to you to ask you to follow the lead of Victoria and the ACT in fully funding the Safe Schools program in New South Wales.

In my last two years of high school, a gang of girls decided that I was a lesbian. They constantly pursued, threatened, and harassed me. Their incessant bullying made those critical years of my education a nightmare. I have no doubt that it contributed to my lifelong problems of anxiety and depression, especially social anxiety, which are typical of bullying targets.

I can only imagine what it would have been like if I actually had been a lesbian, struggling to maintain some self-esteem in a society that still in many ways reflects those girls' attitude and behaviour.

I can only imagine what it might have been like if anti-bullying programs had existed in schools in the late eighties - if those girls had been taught not just that bullying itself is wrong, but that lesbians are normal, healthy, and broadly accepted by Australian society - including being asked to imagine themselves in the place of a lesbian.

Please support Safe Schools and vulnerable Australian children and adolescents.

Kate Orman
dreamer_easy: (refugees)
Send a few bucks to We Care Nauru's IWD Women's Health Campaign to help provide asylum seekers and refugees with some essentials and some dignity.
dreamer_easy: (refugees)
As a survivor of rape, this is what I want to say on International Women's Day (GA, March 8 2016) "Malcolm Turnbull's call for respect for women at every level must extend to the women held in – and traumatised by – Australian-run detention centres."
dreamer_easy: (refugees)
Gay refugees on Nauru 'prisoners' in their home as Australia prepares to celebrate Mardi Gras (5 March, 2016) Beaten and verbally abused, they leave their flat only once a week. Sign the petition to bring them to Australia.

Offshore detention and work place laws (Law Report, 23 February 2016). "Lawyers argue that the Federal Public sector health and safety regulator must act over conditions in offshore detention."

The view from Venezuela: Australia Looks to Resettle More than 1,400 Imprisoned Refugees (teleSUR, 20 February 2016)
dreamer_easy: (*gender)
How the Fight Over Transgender Kids Got a Leading Sex Researcher Fired discusses not just a flimsy review of a gender clinic which wasted an opportunity for research, but the difficult, sensitive, and complex question of whether young children have gender identities in the same way that older children, adolescents, and adults do - and if not, then what is the most appropriate way to treat young kids with gender dysphoria.

Colleen Francis and the infamous Evergreen State College incident (The Transadvocate, 13 September 2013). "News" stories about trans people behaving inappropriately in changing rooms and restrooms keep turning out to be lies. | Trans Students Have Caused Zero Incidents in Bathrooms Nationwide (The Advocate, 3 June 2015)

Melbourne transgender man AJ Kearns says he is 'blessed' to have become pregnant and given birth (10 August 2015). We're living in the future! :D

Gay people are less healthy, happy and content than straight people, says a survey (SMH, 16 July 2016) | Majority of LGBTI Australians experience bullying, harassment: Human Rights Commission report (AM, 10 June 2015) | of LGBT Australians, Transgender people face the highest level of harassment (SMH, 31 March 2015) | Beyondblue research reveals alarming levels of homophobia in teenagers (SMH, 31 March 2015) | Study in older LGBTI Australians finds fear, discrimination and pain (SMH, 1 March 2015)

Judge Says That Claiming to Cure Homosexuality Is Consumer Fraud (Mother Jones, 13 February 2015)

When the Rapist Doesn't See It as Rape (NYT 23 May 2015) | Ask 10,000 Men About "Forced Sex," And Rape Statistics Start to Make Sense (Smithsonian.com, 10 September 2013): "Accounting for the widespread prevalence of sexual violence means, essentially, admitting that perpetrators of sexual violence must be much, much more common than we’d like to think... According to the study, which surveyed more than 10,000 men from six countries (Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea), around a quarter of all men admitted that they’ve sexually assaulted a woman... The key to getting men to open up was that they were not specifically asked about rape. Instead, they were asked in a sideways way. “The word 'rape' was not used in the questions, but the men were asked if they had ever forced a woman to have sex when she wasn't willing or if they had ever forced sex on someone who was too drunk or drugged to consent.'"

How economic theory can help stop sexual assault (PBS, 19 December 2014): some pretty clever ideas here, including "information escrow" in which people can report rape without having to contact authorities, and "social norms marketing".

I Am a False Rape Allegation Statistic: "The detective looked at me... 'Tell me you made the whole thing up... You can leave, if you just tell me you made it up. Tell me you made it up and you’re sorry for lying, and I’ll let you leave.'... Honestly, at that point, all I wanted in the entire world was just to get out of that room. There are very few things I wouldn't have done, if I could only leave. So I looked at him and lied. I said, 'I made the whole thing up. I'm sorry.'"

True or false? The contested terrain of false allegations (Australian Institute of Family Studies, November 2013)

Kenya's women-only villages offer protection from domestic violence and rape (AM, 19 January 2016)

National women's anti-violence group loses funding, could close (The Age, 24 December 2015) | Domestic violence considered a bigger threat than terrorism, poll shows (SMH 6 July 2015)

Study reveals 'concerning' youth views on domestic violence (ABC, 24 September 2015)

Domestic violence: How does a magistrate decide who needs protection? (3 June 2015)

Police Have a Much Bigger Domestic-Abuse Problem Than the NFL Does (The Atlantic, 19 September 2014): "Research suggests that family violence is two to four times higher in the law-enforcement community than in the general population."

The worse you are at games, the more likely you are to be hostile to women, says one study (PC Games)

The heroic Zoe Quinn has dropped her harassment lawsuit against her ex, the guy who started GamerGate. Bless her for fighting for so hard for so long - and, in the process, changing the world.

Hardcore internet pornography 'most prominent sexual educator' for young people, experts say (7.30, 5 June 2015) | Confusion over 'normal' drives surge in demand for female genital cosmetic surgery (SMH, 15 April 2015)

UN report shows countries where it is hardest to be a woman (SMH 28 April 2015)

Harnaam Kaur: the bearded dame (Life Matters, 13 April 2015): "Diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome at age 11, Harnaam Kaur began to grow a beard as a teenager. She told Life Matters about the difficult time she had at school, her current anti-bullying efforts, and how she learned to love her beard and herself."

When society isn't judging, women's sex drive rivals men's (Mind Hacks, 1 May 2015) | Study: More Than Half The World Doesn't Kiss (askmen.com, 15 July 2015)


Feb. 11th, 2016 11:41 am
dreamer_easy: (*gender)
The Special Features on the complete 1960s Batman boxed set are not just unusually high in quality, but charming, including "Holy Memorabilia, Batman!". There's a wonderful, relaxed sense of fun about it all - documentaries about fans are so often uptight and apologetic. But what I wanted to comment on was a section where Jordan Hembrough, host of "Toy Hunter" (whatever that may be), describes the process of collecting:

"It's very primordial. It's very caveman. Ever since we evolved from Neanderthals*, and they were hunting food - people are hunting the toys now, because it sparks something in us. We need more. It's insatiable. And then you start looking around. You start hunting. You start asking questions, you start tracking it - now it's time to jump. [You pay for it] - that's the kill. That's when you get it. You take it home - just like the cavemen dragged home the bear or the mammoth** - and you have it, you feast on the collectible, you enjoy it."
You could get a thesis out of this, especially since he goes on to compare collecting to sex, but what struck me was how little the collecting process resembles the adventures of that ultimate figure of natural maleness, the caveman - whether real or imagined.

In the documentary, Hembrough's analogy is bracketed by quotes from collectors describing their process, which is not so much the solitary stalking of prey, but involves a lot of foraging and a lot of trade. There's clearly an element of cooperation involved in building a collection - just as no caveman would have gone after a bear on his own. Palaeolithic women, too, hunted small game collaboratively. Similarly, collectors browse, whether on auction sites or in shops, which is a lot more like gathering food than hunting for it - work we associate with stone age women, not men.

In short, the whole caveman analogy breaks down: the collectors act like cavewomen as much as they act like cavemen. Even the solitary "man cave" of the collector's display room is a mismatch for the ancient cave in which the whole tribe huddled together.

Having said all of which, I completely understood what Hembrough was getting at, because I am a collector too - not of things, but of pieces of information. It's not at all unusual for me to be the solitary stalker of a specific book or article or quote or fact, which can't be too different from the "quest" one collector describes for an item one has made up one's mind to buy. I really believe there is something in the brain about foraging, too - in fact, I'm sure supermarkets depend on it, or at least the ability to pick out specific colours in a complex background. (There's a reason it's called a Web "browser", too.) An awful lot of my research involves looking at whatever books are on either side of the one I'm looking for***. In fact, I am a terrible lay scholar - I accumulate the most enormous piles of facts, but often have no framework to fit them together.

One form of hunting I am good at, though, is the type of chase where you just persistently follow your prey, never letting it rest, until it finally gives in through sheer exhaustion. Oh yes, Egyptian Healing Statues in Three Museums in Italy: Turin, Florence, Naples, you shall (eventually) be mine.

On a related note, from Tumblr: "I think my biggest “huh” moment with respect to gender roles is when it was pointed out to me that your typical “geek” is just as hypermasculine as your typical “jock” when you look at it from the right angle." Now read on.

* Let it ride.

** I actually can't make out this word, but this seems like a reasonable guess.

*** Which is why I'm so sorrowful that so much of Sydney University's collection has gone into storage. But at least that means they haven't chucked it out!
dreamer_easy: (refugees)
Asylum seeker students 'all of a sudden just disappear', says Victorian principal (GA, 11 February 2016). "Head of Glenroy College says he is afraid his three asylum seeker students who were part of the high court challenge will be removed imminently." | Victorian principal risks jail by speaking out about asylum seeker students at his school (The Age, 9 February 2016)

Manus Island asylum seekers given anti-malarial drug known to cause mental health problems; Immigration Department moving to offer alternatives (ABC, 11 February 2016)

These Are The Queer Refugees Australia Has Locked Up On A Remote Pacific Island (Buzzfeed News, 9 February 2016). "In 2012, Mohsen, who is bisexual and a Christian convert, fled his home in Iran after his uncle hit him with his car and, when he survived, vowed to finish him off."

The Truth-Silencers Demand the Truth: In Defence Of The ABC (Matilda, 10 February 2016). "The Immigration Department... has attacked the ABC for making a factual error in a news story about asylum seekers. This is the same department which sacked 10 Save the Children social workers after accusing them of coaching asylum seekers to lie about trauma and assaults. In the subsequent inquiry into the dismissals, the accusations proved to be false; instead the inquiry found evidence of rape, sexual assault of minors, and guards trading marijuana for sexual favours from female asylum seekers. This is the same department which incorrectly blamed asylum seekers for starting the violence in Manus Island detention centre that led to the eventual murder of Reza Berati."

Catching up on links:

Scott Morrison won't apologise after claims detainees coached to self-harm (GA, 22 January 2016) | Save the Children staff forcibly removed from Nauru should be paid compensation, departmental review says (ABC, 16 January 2016)

Manus Island residents air grievances about hosting Australian detention centre (GA, 22 January 2016). "About 1,000 people gather in Lorengau to air grievances about how promised benefits for hosting Australia’s immigration detention regime have not been seen."

Meanwhile, onshore: Australia's harshest detention centre revealed (SMH, 21 January 2016). "Melbourne's Maribyrnong detention centre is the harshest in Australia, according to figures that show guards restrain and handcuff asylum seekers or deploy other force at a rate far outstripping other facilities." Also includes statistics comparing self-harm and assaults at different onshore detention centres.

Gender II

Jan. 23rd, 2016 05:26 pm
dreamer_easy: (*gender)
Just wanted to jot down a few notes from a 1991 essay called "Transsexualism: Reflections on the Persistence of Gender and the Mutability of Sex" by Judith Shapiro. She discusses, and I think explains, an apparent paradox of transgender, encapsulated in a quotation which I'm sure I've seen more than once:

"Unlike various liberated groups, transsexuals are reactionary, moving back towards the core-culture rather than away from it. They are the Uncle Toms of the sexual revolution. With these individuals, the dialectic of social change comes full circle and the position of greatest deviance becomes that of the greatest conformity." — Thomas Kando
The idea being that, by changing from male to female or vice versa, transgender people may shake up the idea of the gender binary, but ultimately they reinforce it: the belief that there are exactly two genders, that genitals are the "essential sign" of gender, and so on. What's more, studies of transwomen (keep in mind the date at which Shapiro is writing) report that they are stereotypically feminine, wanting to be housewives and/or work in pink collar jobs, considering themselves nurturing and intuitive, holding even more conservative opinions about sex roles than ciswomen, and so forth. Cue much feminist ire.

But, as Shapiro and others have pointed out: "The gender conservatism of transsexuals is encouraged and reinforced by the medical establishment on which they are dependent for therapy. The conservatism of the doctors is in turn reinforced by their need to feel justified in undertaking as momentous a procedure as sex change surgery... It has been [largely] male surgeons' and psychiatrists' expectations about femininity that have had to be satisfied... There are reports in the literature of doctors using their own responses to a patient - that is, whether or not the doctor is attracted to the patient - to gauge the suitability of sex change surgery. Physical attractiveness seems to have provided the major basis for an optimistic prognosis in male to female sex change." (My emphasis, and may I just add, what the *&%*%?!) What's more, medics "have also felt the need to socialize male to female transsexuals into their future roles" - such as accepting lower pay.

In short, to get life-saving help, transwomen have had to subject themselves to the cookie-cutter of gender even more than ciswomen have. One pair of critics said that "the medical profession has indirectly tamed and transformed a potential wildcat strike at the gender factory".

"The way in which transsexuals go about establishing their gender in social interactions reminds us that the basis on which we are assigned a gender in the first place (that is, anatomical sex) is not what creates the reality of gender in ongoing social life. Moreover, the strategies used by transsexuals to establish their gender socially [dress, voice, behaviour, etc] are the same when they are playing the role associated with their original anatomical sex and when they are playing the role associated with their new achieved sex. In neither case is this accomplished by flashing. Transsexuals make explicit for us the usually tacit processes of gender attribution... In other words, they make us realise that we are all passing." (My emphasis again.)

Transwomen, remarks Shapiro, "would seem to be engaged in a willful act of downward mobility… we might see [transphobia] as reflecting the fact that those who intentionally move down in the system are more threatening to its values than those seeking to move up. The latter may constitute a threat to the group concerned with maintaining its privileges, but the former constitute a threat to the principles on which the hierarchy itself is based."

Critiquing what has come to be called "trans-exclusionary" feminism, Shapiro notes "there has been a somewhat unprincipled marriage of convenience between a social constructionist view of gender and an essentialist view of womanhood." Zing! Woman is made, not born - unless she's a transwoman and you want to keep her out.

This brings me to my own theory of where some of the transphobia in feminism has its origins: the second wave's reclaiming of the female body. Our foremothers did important work in fighting the disgust and loathing directed at female anatomy, and extolled the virtues which they saw as connected to femaleness, such as creativity and nurturance. But I think that for some feminists, then and now, this became an insistence that transwomen could not be real women because (to borrow Germaine Greer's in-your-face, no-apology phrases) they don't have "a big, hairy, smelly vagina" and that "If you didn't find your pants full of blood when you were 13 there's something important about being a woman you don't know."

The tension here is simply resolved, IMHO, by accepting transwomen into the category of "woman" as simply another one of its many, many sub-categories. Women everywhere share many experiences, but our experiences are not homogeneous, even when it comes to biology. Shapiro suggests that trans people be thought of as "naturalized" women and men. (ETA: This is an accepting, welcoming metaphor, but it's challenged by, for example, Fredd, the trans boy quoted in Judith Halberstamm's Female Masculinity: "No, I don't just speak French having moved there, I AM French.")

To finish, the anecdote Shapiro uses to start: "There is a story about two small children in a museum standing front of a painting of Adam and Eve. One child asks the other, 'Which is the man and which is the lady?' The other child answers, 'I can't tell - they don't have any clothes on.'"
Halberstamm, Judith. Female Masculinity. Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 1998.
Kando, Thomas. Sex Change: the Achievement of Gender Identity Among Feminized Transsexuals. Springfield Illinois, Charles C. Thomas, 1973.
Shapiro, Judith. "Transsexualism: Reflections on the Persistence of Gender and the Mutability of Sex". in Julia Epstein and Kristina Straub (eds). Body Guards: the Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity. Routledge, New York and London, 1991.


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