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[Essay] Laci Greene etc
#1
So I just thought I would watch a few of the videos, actually just two, of Laci Greene's interactions with the so called 'other side' which self refer and are culturally referred to as 'anti-feminists'. This theme of who defines who will become part of the point of this video.
I agree with Laci when she says that understanding sex and gender is the primary starting point for the subjects she talks about all the time, namely sex education and other subjects related to gender equality activism and general social sciences.
So she outlines the three main points of view that seem to dominate discussion about sex and gender. They are:
  • Anti-feminism: Biology is the answer - chromosomes, genitals, secondary sex characteristics and sexual dymorphism.
  • Radical feminism: gender is a system, or women are defined as women by society and this is the argument for the causation of patriarchy. TERF's don't recognise trans or queer as being part of their concerns, although I think this is wrong. While there are those who privilege women in a supremacist way (which are not feminists in my lexicon) there are also those who simply stick to the way in which gender is assigned and not self-definitive - a trans woman and a woman who has characteristics which fit social conventions about sex and gender will have had two very different experiences throughout life and some simply state that there is a difference, not that trans women or queer men/women should not exist, or have rights which protect them . I think many so called TERFs are actually part of this second category and female supremacists are another matter outside of feminist dialogues. In her second video however, she says that 'being seen as a woman' is enough for a radical feminist to classify assignment - so this can indeed include trans women.
  • Liberal feminism: gender is a self-defined identity and not defined from a system that overarches as an oppressive structure - this means that liberal feminists are not of the view that patriarchy is the cause of gender inequality and is rather, the result of multiple small scale deprivations that are solely to do with the individual being petty, sexist and unfair.
Laci lets it be known that is a liberal feminist - someone who does not believe in an overarching structure of patriarchy as the cause of gender inequalty, that women can self-identify, but also that gender can be 'infinite' due to this self-defining-identity. She also states that she views the experience of being a woman in a woman's body as being entirely different to that of men and that her method of activism is centered on the acknowledgment of these differences - laws and rights should be put in place with these differences in mind and are not an attempt to exclude men, it's just that certain rights don't apply to them like they do for women in general. Cheers in the background of the video when she mentions 'individualism' sound.
She then explains how the broad definition for gender is 'subjective'.
Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender-normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conformity.
This is far from subjective. In fact this is precisely what a system is, or rather a structure, or better yet, a social construction. Cultures are formed by society which is composed of individuals, but individuality is also a social construct as you have to have a convention - there have to be certain norms and practices, ways of speaking and acting that make individuality even possible for it to be given. This throws liberal feminism into a bit of a problem. What is said to be so, or given, true or righteous, is done so through discourse - or rather through force, power and domination. This means that identities can form out of retaliation or exclusion in relation to what is pushed forward as normative. Ultimately, the individual is not the highest moral authority and is subjected to the culture around them, this has an impact on attitudes, feelings and behavior which constitute the norm.
Laci says that attitudes, feelings and behaviors are entirely subjective - even when practiced culturally in social interactions and that small scale changes can counter small scale deprivations which are entirely independent of discourses.
When Laci claims that liberals changed their language from sex not being equivocal to gender, she now says they are by saying that biological sex is a social construct - which she then adds 'as if it's not real'. I find this to be a misrepresentation - it's more about explanatory priority and pragmatism, as I will explain later in regards to gender dysphoria. Biology is agreed by convention as a way to define gender, just like private property has to exist as a convention for capitalism to function and that the convention for individuality also has to be agreed upon for it to be possible. She then calls it 'subjective' again - which is a misrepresentation of the position. Monique Wittig for example shows how 'woman' is pretty much just a hang up from religion - woman as biology only hangs in there as a definition due to pregnancy as a duty and obligation, yet lesbianism and other women who cannot have children for example, are not really possible to define in this term and so this is where, among other reasons, why feminists may abandon biology conventionally when it comes to defining sex and gender.
She makes the observation that there are many genders and that these cannot be ignored - multiple non-conforming gender isn't something that must be, just like biological reduction of sex to define gender is not necessary and fundamental - when social scientists talk about the multiplicity of gender - they are saying it is, not that it should be. These expressions are there and it's not that biology is 'not real' or simply 'subjective', it's that it is not sufficient in many different cases.
One of the claims from her audience, in particular, from the trans community, is that multiple genders trivilaise gender dysphoria. Now this is a very interesting response, as it shows how these trans people are advocating essentialism, or non-multiplicity, which is entirely culturally dependent as other cultures have many genders yet still have people who are dysphoric. I will discuss this shortly in regards to arguments against transracialism
Another element is that of the approach to overcoming oppression whether due to overarching patriarchy or small scale deprivations that are due to the individuals fully deliberative choices is that rad fems talk about disposing strata (categories) and liberals talk about the expansion of strata. Both indicate a change in language. This is interesting and I will come back to this later.
So another charge for the sex equivocating liberals is that sex is 'rhetorically erased' from the conversation. Sex is over complicated to the point of loss of meaning. In other words, biological traits are put forward to advance an essentialist narrative in terms of trans women having biological traits associated with women born with primary sex characteristics, genitalia in the form of a vulva and secondary characteristics like breasts and self-identifying or assigned gender from birth as woman.
So what seems to creep out of this is a narrative for essentialism in order to advance gender multiplicity  which embraces trans above all and that the cultural significations have been grasped by liberals and trans advocates which are apparently sexist.
The problem with saying oppression is only present in individuals and that identity is solely innate in the body presents a number of problems - liberal feminism is a classic example of common sense ran riot to the point where I agree with Laci, it becomes confusing as to what they see as the causation of gender inequality, there is no evidence that sexist attitudes, behaviors and feelings come out of nowhere else as if entirely immune from social interactions - this is impossible and where i do disagree with Laci's presentation is the way in which she claims anything that is cultural, normative, or social, is subjective and somehow invalid. It seems to ignore the deep rootedness of gender inequality in external forms that are both dependent and independent of the individual and how much of 'me inside' is really able to change things.
Liberalism has often been criticised for its inability to explain the deep rootedness of gender inequality, these feelings, attitudes and behaviors don't come from nowhere - they are all-ready, which is to say, they are present in our reality and experience even before we get here as an individual (sometimes not even as an individual!) - a 'given' is something that we presuppose is just there and that we have access to it by just being there. What we can fail to recognise however, is that normativity is far from subjective.
There is one more school, or rather two more schools of feminism that she didn't mention - Marxist and Dual Systems - the latter being a combination of Marxism and Radical Feminism, which explain gender inequality and gender for that matter in terms of abstract causative factors such as capitalism and patriarchy, either in a hierarchy or as mutually dependent structures which complement each other. racism and intersectionality were introduced into the feminist lexicon in order to understand how there are three overarching structures that are abstract or less abstract in the form of racism, patriarchy and capitalism. So liberal feminism really stands at odds with other kinds of feminism - based on the idea that gender is something immune and so are all oppressive expressions, they sort of stand as completely separate, like a parallelism of sorts, so if we think of it like two clocks, ticking in time with each other, they are in no way causally linked at all - they just happen to correspond with each other and have no other or direct influence, ultimately there is a positive account of how we can tackle gender inequality with a view towards transcendence which comes down to each individual.  To then reject the claim that biology as a conventional way to define gender is invalid to miss the way in which an overarching social structure like language can influence those attitudes, feelings and behaviours make up the norms of our cultures and societies - in short it is debatable to me as to whether or not we really have the amount of power and self-identity as Laci and liberals claim we have.
The problem with all types of feminism is cause. One could say that the total affirmation of the individual is a brilliantly pragmatic approach for feminism. We can change the way we speak and act and bring about changes in the norms and customs. So while individuals may have some power, they still require cooperation from the masses in order to implement those changes. They have to withstand the test of time and then they have to be inherited in the following generations. So while the individual may be able to express themselves at odds with other small scale deprivations, they still require for the discourse to back it up.
The arguments are actually more to do with whether or not gender is essentialist. These opposing views of gender can be explained as the root of oppression in social structures.This is to say whether or not gender can be reduced to specific causes that are linked to biology, or whether gender is separate from biological sex and social constructed, so to move back to sex being a social construction can go two ways:
  1. Essentialism comes back in a new form which seeks to expand definitions which are more inclusive while grasping existing social terms and expressions, cultural significations of what gender means in biological terms, some of them just as sexist and oppressive as the ones used from anti-feminist points of view.
  2. Essentialism is viewed simply as the most pragmatic approach for inclusion of trans people who want to use the medical system to have sex reassignment surgery - so it's not actually true that gender entirely matches with biological sex for the gender dysphoric patient, but rather it is the most practical for them.
David Reimer is perhaps the most common case used to show how gender somehow appears to be innate, but this is not proof of or sufficient enough rebuttal of constructive theory about gender dysphoria. Identity is something which is added on to from day one, much of who we are is entirely unconscious, but acts more like a reflex. Essentialism excludes the possibility that someone can acquire gender through the way in which others act towards them. David Reimer was to wait a whole year to have SRS - in that time enough of a pattern of drives, desires and other forms will have congealed in his mind to form what may be referred to as masculine and so trying to assign female genitals with the intent to treat him as a her is more an example of medical indemnity than a way to show how gender is innate or constructed - either way construction can't be proven or disproven and essentialism is purely a medical discourse which facilitates the happiness of the individual.
So what can be said about those who experience gender dysphoria? They claim that they have always been a woman and will provide information which claims that there are essentialist elements to their gender - this stands completely at odds with what Laci terms the old liberalism where sex and gender were not viewed as the same as that one could be more than their body, but this invokes a kind of dualism which I don't agree with as I think the view of the woman body as a kind of prison that must be escaped is only present within a masculine economy of language - where as woman can only mean one thing, but woman is a centrifugal sign which can take on multiple meanings.
This bring me to Rebecca Tuvel who compared the way in which liberal trans-advocates dismissed the claim of a woman who sees herself as being black, or trans-racial , with arguments for transfolk such as Caitlain Jenner.
Green defended Rebecca Tuval, calling an open letter a "complete misrepresentation of her argument," accusing it of trying to censor the paper and ruin Tuval's academic reputation. What Laci is getting at here and what I happened to discover a few months ago was this exact dead lock in the essentialist-pragmatist-trans-advocating-liberal-feminism which seems to have reached its limit in terms of what it is trying to achieve using the biological convention and appealing to cultural dependent significations.
Race is a social construct - we think, act and speak race, but once again it is not really possible to reduce race significations to biology, as territories are entirely constructed - arbitrarily defined through conventions and battles, race carries with it history and again, you have to be assigned from the outside, become part of the culture around you. Places of birth don't mean much either, being born in Africa and being raised in Russia does not mean that you are African in racial terms, as you may express yourself culturally as Russian. So the same goes for trans folk - yet they reject trans racial identity - self-defining identity that is - and Dolezal simply pointed out these inconsistencies as the arguments were the same for gender identity and for gender dysphoria, just with another form of social and individual expression.  
I think it possible we have a hybrid of causes - identity is a total construct for one thing, who we are is dependent on our culture and what we are exposed to, how one can express themselves, how they are received by others and all of this can be the result of making what is available their own, so what appears innate and essential can be either social or biological, or more precisely - both, with a few anomalies.
The truth is, nobody has a fully functioning, all encompassing theory of gender. I am of the view that people can express themselves how they like and I will be pragmatic about that - but in truth, if you really want to get down to it - I don't think we can exclude the influence of overarching structures in favour of an ultra-responsible citizen of ultimate moral power - this is just as easily picked up from capitalist discourse and it will support oppressive norms and customs within capitalism, which in turn affect racist and patriarchal structures as well - also, what may seem like an emancipating discourse for women, may just as easily turn into an oppressive one when it tries to synthesise biological essentialism to include and not 'trivialise' trans folk.  I can understand why this is next to impossible to talk about and I commend Laci for taking a stand with the Dolezel paper.

I guess my next question is how can one be against one form of domination, without considering other oppressive structures and can spectral classification truly overcome oppression when valuation on the whole comes down to a binary anyway?
Words are greater than we.
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