Archive for the ‘Bodies’ Category

It’s TDoR today. Transgender Day of Remembrance. A day specifically devoted to the memories of our siblings who aren’t still here today because of the hate and bigotry of the societies they live in.

This year, we have 221 reported murders. 221 people killed. There’s been an increase. And that’s just those of us who were directly murdered. It doesn’t include those who have died in other ways from society’s hatred.

It’s frightening. It’s rage-enducing. It’s wrong.

And I know that a lot of people think that these figures represent freak incidents. People claim that there isn’t an underlying culture that fosters this degree of hatred and violence directed towards trans folks – primarily, it has to be said, people marginalised in several ways. The intersections are always the most dangerous places to walk – and continue with their casual cissexism, their casual binarism, misgendering, delegitimising, essentialism… and never stop to think that this is how a culture of hate and violence grows.

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It’s a slight cliche to argue that history is written by the winners, but unfortunately it’s true. Admittedly the phrase does imply somewhat more of a martial perspective, so let’s adjust it; history is written by the dominant.

As marginalised people, we only have to look at our own histories to see the truth in that. We are absent from the historical narrative to a very large extent; sometimes there are obscure glimmers of proof of our previous existence, but most often even those of us who achieved a place in the historical hall of fame have been bleached with the ideals of the dominant groups that did the writing.

I am a historian – still studying, and not yet studying exclusively history, but a historian nevertheless – and it frustrates me. Written primary sources were often written by privileged people whose perspective neglects the marginalised. Secondary sources also tend to reflect academia’s skewing towards the kyriarchal ideal. There are ways of finding out about the marginalised, but we rarely find their uncensored voices ringing down the ages.

What effect does that have? A huge effect. Some groups find themselves cut off from their roots, with much about their past lost irretrievably. Others find themselves entering the record only on the terms of their oppressors, with their personhood denigrated and their voices erased. Others find no reflection of their existence.

The neglect of the history of some groups combined with the elevation of that of others has a profoundly harmful effect. People have always looked to the past, for lessons and for inspiration and guidance, and if they find only certain groups reflected there it is very easy to have the idea, already implanted by the kyriarchy, that only those groups are worthy and important validated. It’s also used to denigrate people in the present, implying that they’re making things up because they only came into existence recently when the only evidence we have for that is a void in the general historical narrative with clues generally so small most people wouldn’t pick them up.

It’s important to factor this in as we write our own histories. How will the English Riots of this summer be remembered? Will the memory of the alienation and disillusionment suffered by those who rioted survive, or will they be painted merely as thugs? And the Occupy movement – when protestors say one thing and police say another, who will be believed by posterity? As for the Arab Spring – how will history perceive that?

The privileged classes have always tried to write their history on a higher level than the rest of the populace. Sometimes, just access to the tools of recording ensures their voices are the only ones heard. Other times, restricting access to academia or to certain media spaces is their preferred method. And quite often, they merely rely on their privilege to amplify their voices, as it so reliably does.

I’m all right. I’ve been trying to give myself some time out for self-care, but that hasn’t gone too well due to stresses and strains from other areas of my life. I’m going to try to write a decent post now though.

The kyriarchy enforces standards that are very, very rigid, and has produced a culture with Expectations. We are expected to conform to our social roles in the kyriarchy that are dictated by our ascribed statuses, and often that means that the marginalised are expected to be a lot less than they are and treated accordingly. Meanwhile oppressive behaviour is expected of the privileged. This culture also has expectations of people’s life courses and aspirations, and shows a high degree of contempt for those who cannot meet the expectations whether the reasons relate to a lack of privilege, a lack of opportunity or a lack of ability.

All of this creates a high-stress, low-compassion environment that negatively affects all of our lives. The marginalised, due to the fact that they are further away from the Standards because of the oppression they experience, are most affected and end up locked in a cycle of being prevented from reaching those standards and being blamed for that ‘failure.’ Meanwhile, the privileged absolve themselves of responsibility and feel justified in oppressive behaviour by the ‘failure’ of the marginalised and the ‘success’ of themselves as measured against the standards.

It’s one of the many ways that the kyriarchy is enabled. We absorb these standards (standards which have almost become separate entities looming in our culture) and ruthlessly impose them on ourselves and others. They are institutionally enforced, inflexibly and unforgivingly with no regard for the toll taken on the bodies and minds of people, especially marginalised people. And the very inflexibility propagates them, since when one is expending all one’s energy on meeting them one doesn’t question the system in which a privileged person can meet them with very little sweat and a marginalised person can work themselves to a standstill and still not meet them.

(This relates vaguely to the causes of my recent stress, which is almost certainly only going to get worse…)

Newsbag.

Posted: September 21, 2011 in Bodies, Capitalism, Education, Finance, Health, Science, Sexuality
Tags: ,

Okay, I’m going to attempt to be back now even though I’m still having trouble using a computer comfortably.

Really, Government, really? Possible proposals to cut the benefits of terminally ill folks? This is obscene. We always knew that this government was incredibly ableist, but here’s another rock-solid indication. It honestly scares me that the people in charge of the country are so very contemptuous of anyone who doesn’t fit the conventional notion of ‘ability’, and that they are actually enacting this stuff (as with other benefit changes that have gone through).

If the data bears it out, which I think is likely, this is exactly as expected. EMA has proved important for many people, and scrapping it is always going to have an effect.

Aaand from a sciencey point of view, the information that deep-sea squid mate with no regards to sex is fairly interesting.

I’m sorry this is a shite post. I’m still trying to think of a way to make a post out of my recent health issue and how that has been complicated by my lack of gender, which is definitely interesting. I realise, however, that I’m probably saying nothing that other people haven’t said before so… Still need to think some more about that one.

Posted: September 13, 2011 in Bodies, Health, Personal

Hello folks, I know there hasn’t been a post in ages. I’m afraid that may not change for a bit; I’ve had a bit of a health emergency and while I am able to use a computer typing is uncomfortable and difficult.

At least I live in a country with public healthcare…

Trigger warning; cissexist/binarist erasure, sexist rhetoric, discussion of reproductive coercion

Oh now this is encouraging. Not. The Government caving in to plans to reduce abortion rates by adding another layer of counselling. A lot hinges on the word ‘offer’ – is it being used to mean a service that is there if wanted, a compulsory ‘service’ or one that may as well be due to the level of throat-shoving people receive? However, I’m going to post independently of that – my personal opinion is the latter option, but I don’t know. And anyway, it doesn’t sound like the extra counselling would be from anyone good. I’m not the biggest expert on abortion issues (I’m staunchly pro-choice but don’t follow the discussion as much as I should because there’s often an unfortunate degree of erasure of uterus-having non-women), so I will probably miss a facet or two. EDIT – such as the demonisation of abortion providers implicit in the idea of trying to stop them doing the counselling.

So basically, boil this down to the bones and we get the claim that abortion-seekers (of any gender/s/non-gender/s, although no doubt the introducers of this are thinking purely in terms of ‘women’, sigh) need extra counselling, need to have the process slowed down, because they can’t be trusted to know what they want for their own body. Great. That really shows dedication to people’s welfare, doesn’t it? Ha ha. As if most of these abortion restrictions are even about welfare. They’re about control. They’re about asserting the power of the kyriarchally-privileged over the marginalised, about restricting the marginalised’s agency, about controlling them.

There’s this delightful quote from Dorries on the issue; “The abortion process is so fast – seven to 14 days. Women who do have doubts or niggles are on the other side before they have a chance to think it through. The majority may feel it’s fine but there are a growing number thinking it wasn’t what I wanted to do. As it gets faster and faster more women are falling off the edge. This is a women’s rights issue.”

Translation; Women don’t know what they want and are too emotional and weak to deal with things happening at this pace, they need everything slowed down for their tiny little ladybrains. Abortion is wrong and I’ve pulled some vague stats out of nowhere, and now I’m going to use emotive language and completely ignore the fact that there is a kyriarchal component to who is most likely to be pressured into aborting. And besides this, I’m incredibly cis privileged and will continue to erase the selves of anyone who might need an abortion who isn’t a woman.

We’ve seen so much of this stuff from the USA, and these ‘additional counselling’ things so often end up being barely disguised attempts to discourage abortion. There are people who get pressured into abortion, but that sort of thing is not the way to help. As for the people who choose it – their choices are valid. It’s their body, their choice.

Trigger warning – discussion of common silencing/denial-of-oppression techniques.

My apologies for the unofficial hiatus; I’m trying to recharge my batteries but sometimes it feels like the charger just isn’t working. EDIT – changed post title to reflect the fact that defences of bigotry seem to be a Thing of mine at the moment.

Anyway. I’m going back to an old hobby-horse of mine – tone policing. Along with the accusation of oversensitivity, which oddly enough are often found coexisting. Not only are both infuriating, wrong and kyriarchy-enforcing on their own, but in tandem they become increasingly illogical.

The reason for this is simple. Tone policing, simply put, is the dismissal of a person’s argument (generally a less-privileged person in social justice discourse) because of their tone, which may be perceived by the bigoted more-privileged person as ‘too personal,’ ‘too emotional’ or ‘too angry.’ Meanwhile, the oversensitivity argument basically amounts to the bigoted more-privileged person telling the less-privileged person to suck it up and deal with the abuse the kyriarchy deals out. Put together, these things add up to a massive display of double standards. ‘I shouldn’t have to deal with your [justified] anger/pain, but you should just sit back and take my [unjustified] bigotry.’

Which, conveniently, is just the way the kyriarchy works. Hence, it’s perfect for enforcement of it.

The attitude is wholly reprehensible. Not only are the less-privileged (along whatever axis of privilege being discussed) subjected to kyriarchal abuse which is seen as normal and acceptable, but they are also condemned for responding. And there’s really no limit to the tone argument. It can be invoked even when a person is deadly calm; when a bigoted more-privileged person decides to silence a less-privileged person, there is no tone that is exempt. Often even the act of quietly making a point is an attack upon the more-privileged person, personally, and they see it as unprovoked because they are privileged enough to be able to ignore the shrapnel-sleet of micro- and macroaggressions the less-privileged experience every day.

It is a function of privilege to be able to see oneself as an objective speaker, and to expect detachment in the discourse. Many of us can’t detach ourselves from the oppression we scream under; it’s burned into our bones and our bodies, into our selves and our souls, while the privileged (on whichever axis) can ignore it and pretend it doesn’t happen.

And it’s a function of double-thinking to be able to simultaneously tone-police, and demand that less-privileged people become less ‘oversensitive’. Not only is ‘oversensitivity’ a pretty ableist concept (especially in the way I’ve often seen it applied, with regards to trigger warnings), it’s also a direct result of the fact that the privileged are able to ignore oppression and so interpret people’s entirely natural responses to it as oversensitivity.

If anyone is being oversensitive in a conversation such as this one, it’s the [bigoted] more-privileged person demanding that the less-privileged person suppress their justified pain and anger for the more-privileged person’s comfort. (They’re also being entitled, which is another basic function of privilege.)

I get so fed up of this pair of problems that so often occur together. We have a right to our feelings about our oppression, and as long as we are being non-oppressive and not actively harming others we have a right to express them. We have a right to talk about our oppression and to try to end it. That means that in situations like this, more-privileged persons (I include myself in this group as well as the other, since I have privilege along many axes) need to listen and allow less-privileged groups to lead the discourse.