How do I know he's a witch-hunter? He is dressed as one!

Oh, how like a slimer I am in aspect and in character! How viscous my thoughts, how stalker-like my attempts at forming them in context of evidence! I have committed a grievous sin, which I will admit here and hope for papal dispensation from the gatekeepers of intersectionality: I have looked at the Likes on a post on Facebook, on a post that I felt aggrieved people with whom I feel the need to side with in a particular fight.

Ophelia Benson, with whom I have stood shoulder and shoulder in a great many fights against awful human beings bent on destroying feminists for being feminists on the internet, has decreed that I am anathema, that I am like a slimepitter; I am a terrible person and very much creepy and stalkerish for my actions in deciding to disagree with her that the question of whether trans women are women is not an easy one and in my methodology in catching up in the matter. By my picking now, while she feels under assault, to disagree with her specific tack and her specific argumentation about trans women making awful terrible demands of her like asking yes/no questions for clarification, I am of course disingenuous, not legitimately asking but rather just trying to tear her down. I am “joining the mob”. And I am even indistinguishable — despite our history — from that mob.

Let’s get the housekeeping out of the way first — the backstory that moves me to post so floridly once more, despite my prolonged absence.

Ophelia has recently, ostensibly inadvertently, angered the online trans community, with whom FtB is generally friendly, after some rather tone-deaf commentary on the performance of beauty by Caitlyn Jenner. This brought to the minds of a number of trans folk hereabouts a post from a year ago about Hobby Lobby, when she both dismissed a request to acknowledge that Planned Parenthood actually also benefits trans men who still require OB/GYN services, and subsequently misgendered a trans person who claims to have given their preferred pronouns — they were understandably wary of her and evidently viewed Jenner post as trans-antagonistic. This sparked a large fight, during which time Ophelia acted as though — if you’ll pardon my interpreting her feelings here — that she was under siege by a number of dishonest interlocutors.

After this fight simmered for a month plus (while I’ve been preoccupied with my own life nonsense and could not be moved to post even silly videos about turtles or about the latest video game that I’m obsessed with), things came to a renewed head recently, when a trans person asked her point blank whether trans women are actually women, and demanded a yes or no answer.

Sensing this as a trap, she has posted about how awful this tactic is, how holding her hostage to a yes or no answer is abridging freethought and demanding dogmatic adherence to a specific ideology. The trans community was, in my estimation rightly, incensed by this refusal to acknowledge their requested validation of trans women’s womanhood.

Ophelia’s reaction seems odd to me because the question has a very obvious answer that, as long as you recognize gender for the social construct that it is and are not trying to police what “counts” as womanhood while also demanding that we be critical of the gender binary, works entirely logically and equally with every other adjective you might add to “woman”. The phrase “are trans women actually women”, when you replace the adjective with another like “white”, or when you remove it altogether, has an obvious answer.

“Are white women actually women?”

“Yes — the ‘white’ part is not a modifier per se of the word ‘woman’, thus you are asking ‘are women actually women’, and thus the answer is yes.”

“Are women actually women?”

“Of course they are. That’s a tautology.”*

It’s for that reason that I can without hesitation answer the question of ‘are trans women actually women’ with an unequivocal yes, with no qualifiers or asterisks.

Whether “womanhood” as a construct is valid is a separate question, and one I think Benson with her “gender-critical” views (as evidenced by her reaction to Caitlyn Jenner coming out as trans, and the backlash thereabouts) has been attempting to undertake herself, and she clearly sees being sideswiped by the question of whether or not a trans woman “counts” as a woman as a monkey wrench in the gears she’s trying to build to grind gender away into nothingness.

I’ll happily talk more about gender as a construct and a performance, and the nexus of the expected performance vs the actually performed one, at a later juncture if anyone’s interested, but it’s not particularly important here. The short form of my argument, though, is that since classification as “woman” has no bearing on whether you have certain physiological needs e.g. trans men also need OB/GYN services, what is left is the societal construct only, and thus denying the desired gender role of the trans person just because of physiological concerns like “has penis” is every bit as gatekeeping and gross and gender-prescriptive as denying womanhood because of somehow insufficiently womanly performance.

What’s important now, though, is that there was a conversation between some people I consider friends and allies on Twitter this morning, which I think was going in completely the wrong direction because of a certain specific recalcitrance to recognize that trans folk might actually have found Ophelia Benson’s arguing against the full womanhood of trans women to be damaging and might actually have been coming to that position through a rational examination of the evidence at hand. Even if that wasn’t her intent — even if her painting the entire exercise of asking for clarification because she’s been unclear to that point as pure McCarthyism (“Are you now or have you ever been”) was entirely out of fear of being painted into a binary yes/no question on a situation she thought was more complex, it’s clear that the correct answer was “yes” at the specific resolution in which it was being asked, and any “buts” actually come as nuance to the argument about the gender role, and not about the desire for that gender role by the trans person. Being unable to simply give the “yes” and then add whatever clarification was necessary, that act itself hurt those trans folks who posed the question.

My interjection into the Twitter conversation was explicitly about the potential of interpreting Benson’s response of the “trans women are women” question as having a qualifier that makes the womanhood of these trans women somehow questionable, that the use of the adjective somehow changed “women” in a way that “white” does not, and how her liking the responses that evinced that position might lead someone outside the argument to genuinely interpret Benson’s position as anti-trans. My argument was that judging Benson’s position as being anti-trans was actually fairly reasonable based on the evidence at hand.

I will note now that it is well possible to hold a nuanced view about gender as being a malleable and mostly-societally-prescribed construct without denying access to the desired gender role to the person who feels, thanks to nature or nurture, more comfortable in one over another. Given that we all get boxed into specific roles, and those specific roles might chafe (as I’m sure the specific roles Benson is saddled with chafe her in myriad ways, as she’s railed against them severally over the years), especially in context of society mistaking physical sex organs for appropriate classifying criteria for the otherwise malleable gender roles. It therefore seems only just and right to rally to assist those of us who would be more comfortable in another role, especially where our support of them comes at absolutely zero cost to us except to our own prior unexamined programming with regard to gender roles.

In fact, if the goal is the deconstruction of gender, it seems apposite to cause people to rethink how others might like to perform gender in their own ways regardless of the apparent discrepancies in their physiology, seeing as how the correlation between said physiology and their desired gender is entirely a shim between a fact and a societal construct. So, calling trans women women, saying yes to the dread question — if indeed “trans” alters the fact of “woman” in any way more proximately than “white” might, which I actually expressly deny — would thus aid in the deconstruction of the gender binary that so chafes at Benson and, frankly, us all.

Strangely enough, when I felt the need to catch up on this specific fight and interject in a conversation between these friends and allies on Twitter, apparently my simple act of reading a public Facebook thread where Benson asked for support against these arguments that were being made against her, and noticing that she’d liked some comments that apparently interpreted her position as something approximating “trans women shouldn’t need the adjective if they were actual full-stop women” (comments that I found particularly repulsive and moved me to see who liked them), was somehow creepy and stalkerish and Slimepitter-like. While this strikes me as a particularly vast overreach by someone who feels themselves under siege, I empathize with the thought processes that led to it, even if I disagree strenuously.

Being pointed to a thread, seeing who agreed with a repulsive comment, and noting that Benson herself did so, is not in fact equivalent to following her around social media for years and itemizing and indexing her every comment, like, edit, and all the rest of the social media equivalent of rifling through her garbage. Noting her public endorsement of a repugnant thing is not, actually, somehow thought-policing her. I have lost a number of friends — Benson included — over daring to suggest that Benson’s actions in this regard are actually relevant in determining Benson’s own views on trans folk, despite the fact that this collecting and parsing of evidence is only necessary since she’s so recalcitrant to give a simple yes or no when asked. Make no mistake that I have been burned for making this stand. But, I do not claim the victim mantle for that; anyone who’d burn me for these actions isn’t someone I’m wont to associate with anyway. I prefer people who can take a complicated and close topic like this and give it the nuanced treatment it deserves.

To be honest, I could not give you a link to the specific Facebook post now (since I’m not, you know, actually stalking her, committing URLs to my eidetic memory or copying them to my How-To-Burn-Ophelia file), nor do I care to put the full scope of how she’s behaved on trial (since I’m not trying to have her excommunicated or drummed out of anything or set on fire as a witch, despite her protestations). I am speaking only for myself, how I reacted to how I saw her behave and what I saw her endorse, and I am merely disagreeing with the whole vector this conversation and her repeated doubling-down against what should be a simple concession, much as she once disagreed with Michael Shermer for atheism being “kind of a guy thing” over his and fanboys’ howls of being witch-hunted. If you consider me a dishonest narrator, so be it. Since I can’t offer proof of what I saw or how I reacted, that’s your call.

I sincerely doubt that the mere action of looking at the Likes on a particularly gross post on Facebook and discovering the person you’re in the process of collecting data on is anything approaching the years-long, patently unfair and grossly fixated harassment campaign she amongst others hereabouts has endured at the hands of the numerous antifeminist atheists who inhabit the slime pit. And yet, a number of long-term commenters at Freethought Blogs, who should know who I am and what I’m about, evidently feel strongly enough that my noticing her liking comments that I find repugnant is somehow a literal witch-hunt that, despite the innumerable fights we’ve had over criticism vs McCarthyism, they agree that I am somehow dredging the annals of Benson’s history of associations to find some few words to hang her by like some Cardinal Richelieu.

Except, that is patently not my intent here. I disagree with the specifics of why Benson refused the yes or no question. I do not think she should be excommunicated or excoriated or burned at the stake or drummed out of the movement or drummed out of the blog network or defriended or block-botted or what-have-you, except I do not deny that people who’ve been hurt might feel otherwise. That people have reacted genuinely to being hurt and feeling betrayed by her is not particularly invalid, nor am I one to judge those cries and those blocks and those friendships thrown on the pyre. But in the meantime, I absolutely refuse to believe — despite her feeling under siege presently — that anyone should hold off on nuanced criticism.

I absolutely empathise with her reaction, though. It’s surely difficult to recognize valid criticism when you feel you’re under siege from all parties. I’ve seen so many of us go siege mentality. I’ve done it myself. I get what it feels like to be attacked, and for such a length of time. I’ve seen it in others where no valid criticism ever gets through to you, being drowned out by the rage and the howling. I’ve even seen how she’s reacted to others acting exactly as she’s doing now — when others deny there’s anything valid there, she holds them to account even despite the defense and the protests of witch-hunts.

Except honestly, much — maybe even most — of the criticism she’s receiving is, indeed, valid. What I’m seeing is a lot of valid, stretched out over time, peppered with a little overreach. Admittedly, I’m not the locus, but I’m certainly seeing a good deal of legitimate criticism of the calibre that you didn’t see with Rebecca Watson or Anita Sarkeesian.

Even if you CAN find me tons of examples of overreach, of attacking her directly, of attacking her for specious connections and tenuous arguments bolstered only by rumours and insinuation (none of which I can deny because it is in the very nature of a dogpile to contain overreach like this), a good deal of the criticism she is facing is actually valid. There are honest interlocutors genuinely hurt by things she’s said and done, that they can point to, that are still extant on the internet and not grossly misinterpreted; and these honest interlocutors are demanding a genuine and contrite apology and improvement in behaviour in the future. That is to say, nothing that would cost her a damn thing except a moment’s introspection.

When she’s ready to hear these requests, they’ll still be said. These people will still be here. The arguments will continue to exist, despite their various handwaving dismissals by Benson and supporters. And they’ll be provided by the people whose axe to grind is against their own oppression, not against Benson as a person, not against dishonest pilers-on from places slimey and antifeminist and only interested in taking down another strong feminist to the end of their holy war against feminists on the internet. Mind you, the longer she grabs at the victim mantle and paints all criticism equally, the more likely she’s doing damage to herself, and the more exasperated the honest interlocutors will get. The more likely it is, over time, that many of these people will have left, tired of waiting for Benson to catch up.

In the meantime, I side unequivocally with the trans folks who are hurt by this whole incident. Not out of spite of Benson, nor malice, nor attempting to drive traffic or steal traffic or popularity or “drama blogging” or whatever other excuse one might pull from the Grab Bag of I Don’t Wanna Deal With My Criticism. Let’s be honest — I barely blog any more. I can barely find it in me to do any sort of activism, given how high a price you pay when you dare disagree with people within your own community. I am only moved to fight the most proximate of injustices, and I harbor no pretenses that I’ll actually impact on them. Given I have two orders of magnitude lower traffic than Benson at the moment, I suspect only she will really see this (and only then thanks to the two links back to her posts in this one, thus the trackbacks). I further suspect only a select few very close to this issue or motivated to defend her against all attacks might comment. But if she does see this, and makes it to the end of this post without ragequitting half way through, good on her. She should hopefully know I have no “grudge” against her, no “beef”. Maybe the whole story laid out like this will bring her to realize this isn’t an attack, it’s a genuine request for dialogue.

I’m not kidding myself, though. Probably not.

*”Are blue candies actually candies?”

“OBVIOUSLY NOT. YOU WOULDN’T NEED TO QUALIFY THEM AS BLUE UNLESS THAT MEANT SOMETHING SPECIAL IN TERMS OF THE CANDY LABEL.”

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How do I know he's a witch-hunter? He is dressed as one!

250 thoughts on “How do I know he's a witch-hunter? He is dressed as one!

  1. 151

    @144:

    I just wish that the gender-critical folks weren’t so obsessed with destroying gender per-se and thus attacking anyone who dares want to perform it

    That’s ironic, because I often wish the alleged gender-inclusive folks would stop turning the gender-binary into a one size fits all solution and thus erasing the existence of people like me.

  2. 153

    @Jason #149: The same way that secularism and pluralism are very different beasts. The binary – or gender constellation, for that matter – is not just a personal identity preference, it pervades all of our social institutions. “Everyone do what they want” is fine for the personal identity issues, but it ignores the systemic problems. Cis people and trans people and genderqueer people (if any such self-antagonistic genderqueer people exist) who actively want to maintain the binary as a social system (and a pervasive, important one at that) are actively perpetuating the marginalization of agender people, the genderqueer, etc. in exactly the same way that pluralists who insist everyone adopt some religion marginalize atheists. I mean, you do it right in your comment there: “all genders to exist without acrimony” either mistakenly assumes that a sense of gender is universal or that only people with a gendered sense of identity get to live without acrimony in that scenario. In the second case, you’ve answered your own question, and in the first, you’ve erased people like freja or me.

  3. 154

    So unlike “religion”, “gender” is already about identity as opposed to ritual or dogma. You can say “religious identity” to mean having a religion, being agnostic, or not having a religion at all. If you’d like to say that I should from now on only say “gender identity” so as to be inclusive of people who would like to abstain from performing as man or woman, as opposed to calling you “agender” which is already recognized as part of the gender spectrum, you could make that argument. But I’m not sure how I’m erasing you by saying “all genders” in any way similar to erasure of atheists by virtue of saying “all religions”. Unless that’s expressly what you mean, that those of us who’d like to be the opposite of gender-prescriptivist or gender-essentialist should say “gender identity”, I’m really not sure what you’re trying to say here.

  4. 155

    @149

    (Sorry for the length, but there didn’t seem to be any short way of saying this that wouldn’t have an even higher chance of offending people).

    Please elaborate, freja. How does allowing all genders to exist without acrimony erase yours?

    Enforcing a binary is that exact opposite of allowing all genders to exist without acrimony. To begin with, my native language doesn’t even have a word for gender, or rather, it uses the same word for gender and sex. I’ve never thought of myself as having a gender identity, only a body, and a set of (sometimes wrong) assumptions, implications, and generalizations that came with it.

    Before I was old enough to give genitals (or gender-organs, as they’re called in my native language) any thought, I considered for a while that I was probably a boy, because of all the things I had in common with boys. When I expressed this, I was corrected and told I was silly, and it hurt for a while, but I grudgingly accepted it, because I never had this burning certainty about my gender identity that trans people describe, quite the opposite. I questioned, explored, hung out with boys, and felt a lot of ‘female’ culture was alien to me. I’ve seen trans people say that this is just cis privilege, and that without it, I would immediately realize that I felt female deep down inside, but I can’t see how they would know, since they’ve never been me.

    And the thing is, I’m pretty sure I’m also not gender-queer or non-gendered. It took a while, but I settled for being female relatively early and unproblematically (except for almost everything that went with it of standards and expectations), accepted that for good or bad, this was the group I was born into, and this was the framework people would use to interact with me and judge me on. ‘Woman’ to me is a combination of my biological type, and my cultural role and experiences growing up female. I identify it the gender I belong to in the same way as my nationality and my family. I might not have identified with it if I hadn’t been born into it, but since I was born into it, I’ve come to relate to it and see it as the group I belong to.

    My sex is incredibly relevant for me in relation to the way I perceive and feel my gender. I don’t claim to be more of a woman than a trans woman, it’s just that my way of being a woman, what being a woman means to me, seems to be fundamentally different than what I means to most trans women, and it includes things that per definition excludes trans women, such as my body and the way I was raised, just as what being a woman means to the trans women I’ve talked to about it with seems to include things that per definition excludes me (and from what I’ve gathered, several other cis or cis-per-default women).

    But I’ve never said this on any forum even remotely related to social justice before, because it borders on heresy to say that the concept of womanhood for you entails outer circumstances. And you can’t make distinctions within womanhood either, which is essential to me because there are so many ways in which being female in the conventional way simply doesn’t work for me. I’ve been accused of third-gendering a trans woman that I didn’t even know was trans, because I’m so used to thinking of myself as atypical for a woman that I regularly talk about gender issues I’ve experienced in a way that doesn’t encompass all other women, just as I sometimes talk about the category of ‘women’ in a way that excludes myself.

    I understand that the trans woman in question was simply hurt and lashing out, and that she wasn’t privy to my internal gender identity, the struggles I’ve had with it, and how I cope, so I didn’t mind that she got angry, but there was no room in the absolutist either/or gender-binary that she had constructed for people like me to exist, so she insisted there could be no other reason for my choice of words than bigotry. But the thing is, if I don’t get to have my ‘bigotry’ (my perception of gender as manifesting along different axes, as meaning different things in different contexts, as being informed by society as much as being inborn, etc.), I have no way of making sense of myself in relation to my sex/gender, and no language to talk about it in.

    I usually solve this by just not saying anything related to gender identity in social justice spaces, and accepting that I will never have anyone who’s interested in gender issues with whom I can discuss these things, and that I will always be alone in dealing with the majority of the gender issues I experience and the way they intersect with other aspects of my identity. This didn’t use to bother me as much, but recent events (including this one) has left me a bit frustrated with the way certain groups insist that that they’re the world’s most tolerant and openminded people when it comes to gender, and yet descend aggressively on anyone who suggest that maybe gender means something different depending on the context it’s used in, and that maybe that could one day be OK.

    It’s especially frustrating because Ophelia’s writing on gender have been enlightening to me, and has actually helped me make sense of my gender and reconcile the conflict between my perception of trans people and my perception of gender, in a way that didn’t entail expelling any of us from the definition of the gender we’ve chosen. And if people had just said “Trans women have it worse, their lives are harder, and therefore they must be put front and center of every discussion relating to gender, even if it means other women will have trouble with their gender identity and nowhere to talk about it, because the consequences of even the appearance of transphobia are simply not worth it” I actually think I could accept it. I’ve shut up about things before because I realized my need to talk about them didn’t outweigh someone else’s need not to have them brought up, and you don’t need to convince me that the misogyny trans women face is usually miles above what other women face.

    But the idea that there’s nothing to talk about, that it’s just all an excuse to attack trans women and exclude them from the category of women… Yes, call me a transphobe or a TERF or whatever you want, but I think that’s wrong, and my lived experiences as a (kind of) woman bears this out, even if few people here seem to accept them as valid.

  5. 156

    @152

    I feel you, but I think – frankly – even though there are certainly instances where someone was called out unfairly or due to stepping into “whistle language” they didn’t understand the connotations of – the idea that trans activists are not “allowing” cis feminists to discuss gender is frankly sometimes a smokes screen.

    As it is, to be very frank, in this case. Ophelia isn’t getting a negative reaction because she was discussing how *she* personally experiences gender – this conflict blew up in direct response to her making a really transphobic JOKE.

    “Enforcing a binary is that exact opposite of allowing all genders to exist without acrimony.”

    Which binary are you talking about? male/female binary? trans/cis binary?

    Ophelia argued against a proposition that was never posed. https://sinmantyx.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/we-need-to-talk-about-something-you-never-said/

    Who is saying there is nothing to talk about when one of the bloggers on this network has an entire webseries discussing gender? There is plenty to talk about.

    But, as many people attempted to explain: “Trans women are women” is a phrase specifically attempting to dismantle hierarchies of authenticity – not pigeon-hole anyone or dictate to anyone how they perceive themselves. It is not necessary to define “woman” or “gender” to answer the question. http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones/2015/07/trans-ient-amnesia/

    IF “trans woman” is an accurate description of someone then “woman” is also. The term “trans” does not invalidate “”woman”.

    But that’s exactly what Ophelia said it did in the gender crit group so – here we are: https://twitter.com/MAMelby/status/626120018300764162

  6. 157

    OK, new here, but thought this worth commenting on. The most substantive argument here appears to be the following:

    ‘Ophelia’s reaction seems odd to me because the question has a very obvious answer that, as long as you recognize gender for the social construct that it is and are not trying to police what “counts” as womanhood while also demanding that we be critical of the gender binary, works entirely logically and equally with every other adjective you might add to “woman”. The phrase “are trans women actually women”, when you replace the adjective with another like “white”, or when you remove it altogether, has an obvious answer.”

    This is a really bad argument. Presumably, discussions like this are about ascertaining the meanings of terms like “woman.” If it were a simple matter of semantic assignment, there’d be no discussion. In cases like this, we ask all kinds of questions. One of those questions, which you seem to find obvious, concerns the meaning of the “social construct” underlying gender. Waving that question away (“recognize it for the social construct that it is”) only postpones the question. It does nothing to address it.

    Similarly, calling something a “social construct” does no work at all. Chess is a social construct, but it has objective rules. Vampires are a social construct, but they function in different ways in different narratives. Laws are social constructs, but a lot hangs on their content and how the’re interpreted. And on and on.

    You basically give this away in the next sentence, because you make clear that you’re not interested in discussing the supposed construct. What that means, in effect, is that far from “recognizing” any construct (even the use of that term makes it clear that the rules of recognition do not depend on any solo observation or authoritative declaration), you’re simply dictating a rule for your use of the term. But that’s a total non-starter when it comes to any substantive account of what “woman” means, whether we’re talking science, social concept, or whatever. But it gets slightly worse, because, were we to take it as a substantive move, it would be *precisely* what you disclaim doing: policing the borders of a term. Arguing for broader semantic borders is still insisting on a rule; it’s still making (or here, attempting to make) a substantive claim about the scope of a term, and of course, any move of this sort is a form of linguistic policing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but let’s be honest about what we’re doing.

  7. 158

    @128. oolon :

    @StevoR, you are not getting this are you.

    You sure don’t seem tobe getting what I’m saying either – given you have not actually addressed any of what I’ve said, not answered my questions to you and are just straw-monstering & talking past me instead.

    What part of “listen to trans people”, means sit back while one of their cis allies explains all the years of instances of trans antagonism while you hyperskeptically dismiss them all? All the evidence is out there for you to educate yourself.

    My words don’t say what you seem to read them as saying. Did I say what you claim I said? No I did not & you must know it.

    Its hardly being “hyperskeptical” to note that Ophelia Benson and someone who knows her best and is one of those responsible for running FTB is strongly denying the false charges she’s being accused of by you and others who are piling on against and abusing her.

    But when it comes down to it your position is either believe what trans people are saying or construct some elaborate conspiracy theory to explain why they are universally saying she’s in the wrong here.

    No it isn’t. My position is that Ophelia Benson is a good person and a good blogger and that when she says (and those who know her best also say) that she is NOT a TERF I believe her and them and that I trust her and that I see no good evidence at all to support the abusive allegations that she is because there is no good evidence to actually support that extraordinary claim. I do not think for reasons already explained in #69 that fb “likes” are good evidence and I see no actual evidence to truly support the slander against Ophelia Benson. That people (not necessarily trans* and yes I’m looking at you) have lied about her and created a misleading impression here is something fairly obvious and also terribly sad and wrong.

    As to me, what have I done to Ophelia that makes me a douche? I defended her as not a TERF and assumed all her missteps over the last year+ were mistakes and she’d catch up and get it. I still don’t think she is an out and out TERF, ..

    Well that last part sure isn’t the impression that I and many others including Ophelia Benson herself are getting here.

    I think as do many others that you have been slandering Ophelia Benson and well-poisoning against her and she has called you out on it. Please just stop it. Please now listen to what she (& others actually say) then ideally be big enough to admit you’ve got things wrong and apologise profusely to her and everyone else.

  8. 159

    freja
    I guess your native language is German, right?
    Being fluent in more than one language gives us insight in how certain words are constructed. It shows us that certain concepts may be no more right and wrong than other constructions, but simply be more appropriate in a certain context. I guess you know the situations when the word you want to use right now is not in the language you’re currently speaking in right now. My point is, yes, it is important to know with which construction of the term you’re working in which situation
    This means that concepts and discourses are naturally fuzzy. That’s why some people think they have a “gotcha” whenever there’s a discrepancy. But that’s just the nature of the beast.
    To me, when I first heard that gender/sex divide, it was like an epiphany: Finally something made sense. I had the body parts, and those were my sex and that was real and the whole gender crap could go where the sun doesn’t shine.
    THen I learned more about trans people, about gender in general, about sex and gender. I understood that my definition “having a uterus, vagina, tits” was transphobic and also simplistic as a general definition. If that’s a definition you use for you personally, there’s nothing wrong with it. It becomes problematic whenever people try to use this as a means to establish a general definition, when it’s used to establish a hirarchy of womanhood.
    There’s nothing wrong with questioning gender and sex and gender identity and why some people have a strong one and some have a weak one. There’s nothing wrong with turning the whole thing on the head and questioning the validity of the terms in the first place. There’s only something wrong with throwing a very vulnerable population under the bus while doing so.

  9. 160

    StevoR

    My position is that Ophelia Benson is a good person and a good blogger and that when she says (and those who know her best also say) that she is NOT a TERF I believe her and them and that I trust her and that I see no good evidence at all to support the abusive allegations that she is because there is no good evidence to actually support that extraordinary claim.

    1. Very few people have actually insisted she’s a TERF. That’s a term with a specific meaning. Most people say she’S transphobic and trans antagonistic. It’s like saying “X is racist” and the other person denying that X is a member of the KKK.
    2. “Somebody is transphobic” isn’t an extraordinary claim any more than “Somebody is racis/sexist”. The fact that you think it is shows that you are obviously putting the bar for transphobic very high when it’S actually the baseline of society.
    3. So you’re saying that the trans women who say that she is transphobic do not count as evidence that she is transphobic? That’s of course not even mentioning the stuff M.A. Melby linked to. That’S like saying “oh, all these women say he’s sexist, but I see no actual evidence for this”

  10. 161

    @153, M. A. Melby:

    I feel you, but I think – frankly – even though there are certainly instances where someone was called out unfairly or due to stepping into “whistle language” they didn’t understand the connotations of – the idea that trans activists are not “allowing” cis feminists to discuss gender is frankly sometimes a smokes screen.

    See, this is exactly the issue. It seems like everything immediately gets framed as being about trans women, and every question about gender as having some kind of sinister motive to exclude trans women. I didn’t say that trans activists weren’t allowing cis feminists to discuss gender, I said that my perception of gender and the way I’d prefer to construe gender is in conflict with the idea that gender can only mean one thing, which is what most trans activists insists on by postulating that gender=identification and that it exists on a spectrum with only two sides.

    On one of the comment thread at B&W a trans woman said that when saying she was a woman she meant that her internal gender was set to woman, female, feminine, or whatever you wanted to call it. Completely reasonable, but also completely unrelatable to me. Not just the idea of having an internal (and not internalized) gender, but also that woman, female, and feminine were somehow interchangeable and occupied the same slot on what had to be a binary.

    Based on her definition of what it means to be a woman, I’m not a woman (which, as I’ve said earlier, is fine by me as long as I get some other way to categorize myself). Maybe we can agree that being a woman means something different to all of us (again, fine by me), but the logical consequence of this is that there are multiple definitions of ‘woman/female/feminine’ and that different people mean different things when they talk about being a woman. In which case not all definitions of being a woman will include all women, or there are different subcategories of ‘woman’ (kind of like how there’s a difference between an ethnic Jew and a practicing Jew), which I have been told is explicitly wrong and transphobic.

    As it is, to be very frank, in this case. Ophelia isn’t getting a negative reaction because she was discussing how *she* personally experiences gender – this conflict blew up in direct response to her making a really transphobic JOKE.

    I have heard at least half a dozen explanations for why this whole thing blew up, but the way it appeared to me as a lurker and infrequent commenter, was that Ophelia had been getting accusations that she was insufficiently sensitive to trans issues for a while (similarly as how she’s been accused of having intolerant views of Islam) for what seemed to be a pattern rather than a single instance. Things seem to have blown up when she wrote about the problems she had with defining gender and the complexity of it, and was told she had to answer the question “Are trans women women?” with a yes or no answer without any qualifiers or clarifications, and that answering no would make her a transphobe/TERF, and she reacted negatively to it instead of just saying yes.

    Which binary are you talking about? male/female binary? trans/cis binary?

    Turning the whole male/female/man/woman/social gender identity/legal gender identity/feminine/masculine into a simple binary, male or female, yes or no.

    Who is saying there is nothing to talk about when one of the bloggers on this network has an entire webseries discussing gender? There is plenty to talk about.

    Gender as understood by trans people, trans women in particular (or rather, the subset of trans women who dominate the social justice discourse), and the cis women and genderqueers for whom this definition works. I can’t discuss a lot of gender issues because my way of talking about gender (as informed by my experience of gender) entails sometimes omitting people (including myself, but also sometimes several or all trans woman) from the definitions of woman/female I’m currently using, even as I include them in others.

    Asking questions like “What if people could/would change gender based on convenience or necessity?”, “Would the concept of gender be more accurate, practical, or inclusive if we added a third?”, and “Would it be better if we defined gender on 2 axes instead of 1?”, are too volatile in their implications. The first implies that transitioning can be just a way of obtaining some advantages specific to another sex, the second is quite literally third-gendering, and the third uses outward physiology as one of its markers of gender.

    I guess you can get away with it if you show that the terms originate among Muslims and POC, because most people in social justice spaces are sensitive to not acting in an imperialist fashion, but I’ve never seen anyone in a social justice space actually looking at the current social justice definition of gender (there are male and female people, as well as people who’re neither/both, and it’s all determined by what you feel like, and it’s the only distinction you need except perhaps for cis/trans, but you have to be careful about using that one too) and saying that it’s just not very accurate and leaves out crucial nuances. Except for Ophelia, the people who’re currently commenting on her blog to talk about what a relief it is to finally be able to talk about these things, and then myself a little bit before I got accused of thinking of gender wrong. And look where that got us.

    But, as many people attempted to explain: “Trans women are women” is a phrase specifically attempting to dismantle hierarchies of authenticity – not pigeon-hole anyone or dictate to anyone how they perceive themselves. It is not necessary to define “woman” or “gender” to answer the question. http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones/2015/07/trans-ient-amnesia/

    It just doesn’t work like that for everyone. The way Heather McNamara insists that because gender is apparently a simple concept for her, anyone who thinks is more complicated is just hiding their transphobia, is actually pretty hurtful to me, because I, and plenty of other nominally cis women I’ve talked to, have never treated it as easy or fitting into a simple yes/no dynamic. I just didn’t say that on the blog because I didn’t want to come across as transphobic. I relate better to Miri’s concept of competing needs, and as I’ve already said, I’m ok with my needs not always (or even hardly ever) being given 1st priority.

    What I don’t like is people pretending there is no competing need, because the current binary has taken care of all that. I use different definitions of gender depending on context because I don’t make sense otherwise, but that doesn’t fit into a lot of people’s (cis or trans, conservative or social justice activists) binary. I like to play around with gender and treat it irreverently, because anything else would probably be the death of me, but that comes across as transphobic to trans people whose gender is a prime component of their identity.

    I have to temper my needs to perceive gender as fluid and to some extent undefined, with the needs of many trans people (particularly trans women) to have their gender affirmed in their day-to-day lives in a way I don’t need to, and I see that as a price I need to pay to share a space with many of them, just as I pay different prices to share spaces with other different people. That’s OK. But I does mean I have to suppress part of myself and my gender identity to do it, and the older I’ve become, the more difficult I find it to do that 24/7.

  11. 162

    freja

    See, this is exactly the issue. It seems like everything immediately gets framed as being about trans women, and every question about gender as having some kind of sinister motive to exclude trans women.

    Like the gay agenda? Sorry, but every serious discussion about gender necessarily involves trans people. The only other options are talking strictly about personal experiences or being exclusionary and cisnormative. Nobody needs a sinister motive to exclude trans women. It’s the default status of society.

    Based on her definition of what it means to be a woman, I’m not a woman (which, as I’ve said earlier, is fine by me as long as I get some other way to categorize myself). Maybe we can agree that being a woman means something different to all of us (again, fine by me), but the logical consequence of this is that there are multiple definitions of ‘woman/female/feminine’ and that different people mean different things when they talk about being a woman

    You’re again trying to turn personal definitions and identifications into general definitions. The fact that “holiday” means something very specific to every person does not mean that their personal definitions are suddenly incompatible and that they exclude each other.

    I can’t discuss a lot of gender issues because my way of talking about gender (as informed by my experience of gender) entails sometimes omitting people (including myself, but also sometimes several or all trans woman) from the definitions of woman/female I’m currently using, even as I include them in others.

    Of course you can. Make your terms clear. Say what you mean in each instance by “woman”. What you cannot do is to expect that others don’t criticise your discussion.

    I guess you can get away with it if you show that the terms originate among Muslims and POC,…

    You know, this is getting really close to “reverse racism”. You’re insinuating that people simply accept everything that comes from marginalised groups but that you would get unfairly criticised.

    the current social justice definition of gender (there are male and female people, as well as people who’re neither/both, and it’s all determined by what you feel like, and it’s the only distinction you need except perhaps for cis/trans, but you have to be careful about using that one too) and saying that it’s just not very accurate and leaves out crucial nuances.

    This is getting ridiculous. It’s a strawman phrased in absolutes. If you want a critical and nuanced discussion, you should try to represent arguments accurately.

    Except for Ophelia, the people who’re currently commenting on her blog to talk about what a relief it is to finally be able to talk about these things, and then myself a little bit before I got accused of thinking of gender wrong.

    Thank goodness, finally cis women are able to talk about gender. Do you even notice how you sound?

    What I don’t like is people pretending there is no competing need, because the current binary has taken care of all that.

    What a good thing nobody’s been doing that.

    I like to play around with gender and treat it irreverently, because anything else would probably be the death of me, but that comes across as transphobic to trans people whose gender is a prime component of their identity.

    While there are trans people who insist on the binary as the end of all things, it’s simply not true that trans people in general do so. Gender fluid people are very much part of the trans spectrum.

    I have to temper my needs to perceive gender as fluid and to some extent undefined, with the needs of many trans people (particularly trans women) to have their gender affirmed in their day-to-day lives in a way I don’t need to, and I see that as a price I need to pay to share a space with many of them, just as I pay different prices to share spaces with other different people.

    That’S only competing needs if somebody thinks that their experience is more relevant to the true definition of gender as the other ones. Gender is fluid, but not for every single person. Needing to see everybody’s gender as fluid is entitled.

  12. 163

    As an afterthought, I find it pretty interesting that you start your comment by complaining about how everything needs to be about trans women and in the end frame your needs as being opposed to those of trans women as if the need to have their gender recognised was unique to them and not something they share with tons and tons of cis women.

  13. 164

    I think the largest part of the conflict we keep seeing here is the definition of “woman”. One can recognize that people have different experiences of their gender and still count as woman — that some people might have experienced their “woman-ness” as having some aspect that is distinctly tied to their genitals. But that’s more like the intersection on the Venn diagram called “cis woman”. And that may take the largest chunk of the definition of “woman”, but it shouldn’t be exclusive any more than “cis man” getting exclusive rights to the term “man” just by virtue of being higher-population. Nor should someone assigned male or female at birth be forced to stay in the section of the Venn diagram that they were assigned because of their genitals. That’s, I think, the actual problem people have with your attempting to talk about your (very common) relationship between your biological sex and your gender, freja.

    As long as you don’t universalize your experience, it’s perfectly fine to talk about it. When trying to create a trans-inclusive atmosphere, you don’t have to mute or deny own experience just because it’s common. You just have to recognize that it’s not UNIVERSAL, is all. And you have to not talk over discussions about trans issues with your experience as a cis woman. That’s it. You can have discussions about what it’s like to be a cis woman — and you don’t even necessarily have to specify “cis”, though that certainly helps people understand where you’re coming from and helps prevent erasure of the trans woman experience.

  14. 165

    @157. Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk : The extraordinary claim there was that Ophelia Benson is a TERF.

    Although I do NOT think she is transphobic either.

    Haven’t followed the links. I like and trust and believe Ophelia Benson.

  15. 167

    StevoR: Let me make one thing perfectly clear because people keep getting this wrong.

    I like, and trust, Ophelia Benson. I do not think she’s a TERF.

    I think she said particularly impolitic things in particularly impolitic ways, regurgitated damaging arguments handed to her by TERFs that rightly got peoples’ hackles up, and I think she personally does not understand that at least some of the vitriol thrown her way is because some of those positions she’s taken are, actually, expressly damaging to trans folk. And the way she finally acquiesced to saying yes was so loaded with “but but gender is weird” — as though anyone was arguing gender WASN’T — is further damaging and undercuts her yes in a way that looks like a YES-BUT, which always reads as a NOT REALLY. And I am aware that she keeps saying over and over that she’s answered “yes”, but she’s doing so much lashing out at the genuine, nuanced criticism, and so much cozying up to the TERFs that everyone ELSE recognizes as having it out for trans folk, that it is perfectly reasonable for trans folk to want to steer clear even where people who are not trans might want to continue to engage.

    To modify my first sentence though, I think my like and trust for Ophelia Benson is eroding the more she refuses to acknowledge that she might have done wrong and that anyone is at all legitimately hurt here. And every clarification — even if a step in the right direction — is loaded with paranoia about snakes in the grass and poisoners and witch-hunters who just want to attack her, that no amount of nuance in the argument is going to get through to her.

  16. 168

    And, on further reflection, I draw a big bright red line under posting people’s undirected rage (e.g., they’re not sending this rage TO Ophelia specifically), on her blog. Especially where some of these people have this undirected rage (or even just existential sighing) set to Friends Only, though she’s already made it clear that looking at interactions on PUBLIC spaces is “stalkerish”; and especially where the balance of power lies squarely on her side of the equation. I think that’s unequivocally bad behaviour, and it speaks to her paranoia that she thinks literally everyone upset with her has it out for her or is some sort of false flag or Channer or Pitter out to get her.

  17. 169

    StevoR

    Although I do NOT think she is transphobic either.

    Haven’t followed the links. I like and trust and believe Ophelia Benson.

    Where would we be if we examined evidence provided instead of sticking to our pre-formed opinions? But in case you’re worried, it’S mostly links to what she said herself.

  18. 170

    @156: Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- says

    I guess your native language is German, right?

    No.

    Being fluent in more than one language gives us insight in how certain words are constructed. It shows us that certain concepts may be no more right and wrong than other constructions, but simply be more appropriate in a certain context. I guess you know the situations when the word you want to use right now is not in the language you’re currently speaking in right now.

    Yes.

    To me, when I first heard that gender/sex divide, it was like an epiphany: Finally something made sense. I had the body parts, and those were my sex and that was real and the whole gender crap could go where the sun doesn’t shine.

    I guess not being used to words being gendered I like understand they are in German made the whole sex/gender divide seem muddled and arbitrary to me instead. I was more used to thinking of gender as age, ethnicity, or height, something that people would group you based on, which might correlate (on a group level) with certain characteristics, but which was also littered with prejudices and untrue assumptions.

    I guess I could see why talking about the physiological aspect and the cultural aspect separately made sense, but words like gender roles and prejudices did the work well enough for me. I never got any clarity, just the realization that some people perceived things differently than I did, would talk as if that definition was universally right (e.g. correct people who used sex and gender interchangeably, and tell them how it really works), and would be offended in turn if I ever used my definitions like that.

    THen I learned more about trans people, about gender in general, about sex and gender. I understood that my definition “having a uterus, vagina, tits” was transphobic and also simplistic as a general definition. If that’s a definition you use for you personally, there’s nothing wrong with it. It becomes problematic whenever people try to use this as a means to establish a general definition, when it’s used to establish a hirarchy of womanhood.

    Where exactly is the difference between using it personally and establishing a general definition? If I said, to paraphrase several trans women “I’m a woman because I have a uterus”, or to paraphrase you, “The definition “identifying as a woman” is simplistic as a general definition”, without qualifiers, the way statements like that are routinely used without qualifiers from trans activists, would that be OK?

    There’s nothing wrong with questioning gender and sex and gender identity and why some people have a strong one and some have a weak one. There’s nothing wrong with turning the whole thing on the head and questioning the validity of the terms in the first place. There’s only something wrong with throwing a very vulnerable population under the bus while doing so.

    And again, it’s unclear to me, as a foreigner, a foreign speaker, a non-neurotypical individual, probably genderqueer by some definition, struggling with mental illness, and without an abundance of spoons, exactly how you avoid doing that and also avoid getting more depressed in the process. The part about using the right names and pronouns is easy (though the part about noticing and remembering them is less so), as is the part about not claiming that trans women are intruders into womanhood. But that’s because it relates to trans people, not to me. Their domain, their rules. But when it comes to statements like “A woman is a person who identifies as a woman”, that’s a different animal entirely.

  19. 171

    @159, Giliell, professional cynic:

    Like the gay agenda? Sorry, but every serious discussion about gender necessarily involves trans people.

    Several allegedly serious discussions of gender haven’t involved me. If you tell me that trans people are a uniquely vulnerable group, and that the casual exclusion of some people as belonging to a certain gender simply isn’t OK when that group is trans, because it’s too hard to distinguish from transphobia or because trans people already get more exclusion than they can handle everywhere, I’d get it.

    But M. A. Melby declaring it a “smokescreen” to point out that there are different definitions and that those definitions will result in different answers to the same questions depending on context, or Heather McNamara declaring that the concept of gender is among a group of “culturally established simple, broad concepts” which “suddenly become completely absurd once queer people want a piece”, rather than something which has been completely absurd for many of us before we even knew there was such a thing as trans people, is an entirely different discussion.

    You’re again trying to turn personal definitions and identifications into general definitions. The fact that “holiday” means something very specific to every person does not mean that their personal definitions are suddenly incompatible and that they exclude each other.

    But what if I need to use my definition of “holiday” because it describes my experiences, and someone else demands of me that I switch to their definition of the word, and that I’ll be considered a bigoted nationalist if I use the meaning of my native language instead of theirs?

    Of course you can. Make your terms clear. Say what you mean in each instance by “woman”. What you cannot do is to expect that others don’t criticise your discussion.

    In my experience, it’s nowhere near that simple. And it completely ignores that people in social justice spaces routinely use definitions of “woman” that exclude me, with no caveats or clarifications, but nonetheless with the expectation of full acceptance. (And please don’t give me that “If you don’t identify with the definition of the term “woman” which we use, it’s just because you’re cisnormative and transphobic”).

    You know, this is getting really close to “reverse racism”. You’re insinuating that people simply accept everything that comes from marginalised groups but that you would get unfairly criticised.

    I know that it’s customary when dealing with issues of social justice to prioritize marginalized groups above privileged groups, both because marginalized groups are believed to have a better understanding of prejudice, and to compensate for how the situation is reversed in the rest of the world. It’s a useful rule of thump, but in my experience, it’s not unusual for it to be taken as gospel. This creates its own set of problems, which are then exacerbated by outside attacks (e.g. trolls), to a point where I’ve often given up expressing disagreement, even when I’m part of the marginalized group.

  20. 172

    Jason:

    I think that’s unequivocally bad behaviour, and it speaks to her paranoia that literally everyone upset with her has it out for her or is some sort of false flag or Channer or Pitter out to get her.

    You think that because literally everyone upset with her has it out for her or is some sort of false flag or Channer or Pitter out to get her, that speaks to her paranoia?

    Heh.

  21. 173

    Thank you for pointing out I missed a clause in what might be the most smug and self-satisfied way imaginable, John. I’ll edit that in so you don’t get the wrong idea that I somehow think literally everyone criticising her is a 4channer or a pitter.

    Jackass.

  22. 174

    Jason, I responded to what you actually wrote, and do so again:

    I think that’s unequivocally bad behaviour, and it speaks to her paranoia that she thinks literally everyone upset with her has it out for her or is some sort of false flag or Channer or Pitter out to get her.

    You seriously think that because she thinks that literally everyone upset with her has it out for her or is some sort of false flag or Channer or Pitter out to get her, she suffers from paranoia.

    OK.

  23. 176

    anteprepro, your acumen must exceed mine, since I don’t think I repeated myself at all.

    Much as the amended admission was different to the original (“I missed a clause”), my response to the amended version was different to the original.

    BTW, do you share Jason’s rephrased opinion regarding Ophelia’s beliefs and her paranoia?

  24. 178

    Why can you never speak plainly, John? Why must it always be smug condescension and picking at the edges of language in a way that completely shows your stripes, but such that you’d never admit to it? You’re just trolling, aren’t you?

    For instance, you ignored the premise against which I made the assertion that she’s being paranoid: that she’s violating people’s privacy left and right because they dare vent privately in their private spaces about her.

    If looking at interactions on a public forum is a witch-hunt, what the living fuck is posting private interactions on your blog?

    And why do you attack the conclusion without addressing the premises that led to it, except that you have no way to do so?

  25. 179

    I’m not anteprepo, John, but… I don’t know how I feel about all this right now. I very much want her to not be, but since my job as an ally is to shut up and listen, and a holy hell of a lot of trans women (and men) have explained how and why what she’s saying and doing is exclusionary to and bigoted towards them… well…

    I haven’t decided if I agree or disagree with Jason, but I think it’s possible he’s being a tad too charitable.

    But then we’ll see… if it’s not too late.

    I would like to second Jason’s question, though:

    If looking at interactions on a public forum is a witch-hunt, what the living fuck is posting private interactions on your blog?

  26. 180

    Jason:

    Why can you never speak plainly, John? Why must it always be smug condescension and picking at the edges of language in a way that completely shows your stripes, but such that you’d never admit to it? You’re just trolling, aren’t you?

    (sigh)

    I genuinely think that I’ve taken what you have written at face value, rather than misrepresent you by “picking at the edges of language”.

    Are you suggesting that you didn’t mean to express that you think that
    (1) “she [Ophelia] thinks literally everyone upset with her has it out for her or is some sort of false flag or Channer or Pitter out to get her”; and
    (2) “it speaks to her paranoia that she thinks [1]”?

    (I can’t read what you wrote any other way)

    For instance, you ignored the premise against which I made the assertion that she’s being paranoid: that she’s violating people’s privacy left and right because they dare vent privately in their private spaces about her.

    I accept that you have made the assertion that she’s being paranoid, whatever the premises that led you to it (you think she’s violating people’s privacy left and right).

    If looking at interactions on a public forum is a witch-hunt, what the living fuck is posting private interactions on your blog?

    She has yet to claim it was (or is) a witch-hunt. Her actual words were: “Ew. Now they’re monitoring what comments I like on Facebook, and blabbing about them on Twitter.”

    Claiming her commenters’ words as hers is about as useful as claiming my words as yours on the basis I have commented on your blog.

    (And it’s selective, too: I myself commented on that post and repudiated that concept)

    And why do you attack the conclusion without addressing the premises that led to it, except that you have no way to do so?

    To what attack do you refer? I’ve accepted that it is your conclusion.

    anteprepro:

    How very much like an Inquisition of you, John. I thought that was frowned upon.

    Witchfinder General, that’s me!

    <snicker>

  27. 181

    NateHevens:

    I haven’t decided if I agree or disagree with Jason, but I think it’s possible he’s being a tad too charitable.

    Fair enough, you think that asserting that she is paranoid and that she violates people’s privacy left and right because they dare vent privately in their private spaces about her is possibly a tad too charitable.

    PS

    If looking at interactions on a public forum is a witch-hunt, what the living fuck is posting private interactions on your blog?

    If the interactions were private, how did she gain access?

    (Is she a hacker, too?)

  28. 182

    Oh John, you are as much of a dissembler as ever.

    Try this then:

    “If looking at interactions on a [publicly viewable facebook group] is [wrong], what the living fuck is posting [facebook content viewable by friends only] on your blog?”

    I await your continued, incessant word games.

  29. 183

    Jason says that he’s sure she’s not a TERF. I… am ambivalent right now. I would like to agree with him. It would be fucking amazing to agree with him, because, frankly, the list of people I admire is getting tiny, and it’s starting to hurt.

    As for how she got those private screenshots…

    First off… those things she’s shared WERE private. It’s talked about in the very comments! It’s happened multiple times. Now, in one case it may perhaps be a tad ambivalent, because it’s a private conversation between her and another person she chose to make public (without his permission, however) and then make fun of him with it. In the next two cases, no one knows how she got her hands on the screenshots, which has a lot of people actually paranoid that one of the friends they share with her are going through their private timelines and screenshotting shit, which has a lot of people on Facebook blocking everyone that’s a mutual friend between them and her.

    For example… there’s one post where she makes fun of one person because they took a shot at her (in a context I will not reveal because that person is a friend and unlike some people I won’t violate their privacy; you can read it on the particular blog post). This was within the last few days, BTW. Ophelia did indeed remove the screenshot when it was pointed out to her (the screenshot also said “visibility: friends and acquaintances”, which was also obvious by the Facebook symbol for “friends only” on the post; but she claimed to not realize it was a private post) but she kept up the quote. The post, BTW, was not accidentally posted to the public. I know, because it showed up in my feed and I could see what the visibility was set to because I happen to be on the list that could see it.

    So how did she come by the screenshot?

    Nobody knows, and that’s the point.

    So now we’re not even allowed to rant in private. Ophelia has been rightly complaining about that for years, as it’s happened to her in the past, so she knows why it’s wrong. Yet she still did it to two of my friends. I am actually willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she did not know, as the person who supplied her with the screenshots did not tell her they were private posts. But once she found out, she should have deleted the entire post.

    But of course, that’s a suggestion. I’d never dare demand that she do anything with her blog she doesn’t want to do, of course.

    On the flipside… everything of hers that’s been screenshotted and saved has been stuff that’s publicly available. No one’s hacking her account or infiltrating her private spaces. The stuff that’s been saved is stuff that was always public. And yes, the Gender Critical group was public… the founder even told her that. No one has any idea what she’s saying in private, and nobody… or at least nobody I know… is very interested in that. They only care about documenting what’s already publicly available.

    FYI: for the sake of my friends’ privacy, I abjectly refuse to discuss the private stuff made public beyond what I’ve said here. Sorry. Search Ophelia’s blog in you want to know what I’m talking about. As far as I know, those posts are still up.

  30. 184

    anteprepro:

    “If looking at interactions on a [publicly viewable facebook group] is [wrong], what the living fuck is posting [facebook content viewable by friends only] on your blog?”

    If looking at interactions on a [publicly viewable facebook group] is [wrong], then posting [facebook content viewable by friends only] on your blog necessarily requires having looked at interactions on a [publicly viewable facebook group], and so is accordingly [wrong] on that very basis.

    I await your continued, incessant word games.

    Word games, very good.

    (Channeling Wittgenstein?)

  31. 185

    NateHevens:

    First off… those things she’s shared WERE private.
    […]
    … no one knows how she got her hands on the screenshots …

    I get you; you think that what is said behind Ophelia’s back should stay behind Ophelia’s back.

    So, as you note, how she got access to that information is obscure if one presumes she was herself excluded from it.

    (There is an obvious answer, and it doesn’t involve hacking)

    … which has a lot of people actually paranoid that one of the friends they share with her are going through their private timelines and screenshotting shit
    […]
    So how did she come by the screenshot?

    Nobody knows, and that’s the point.

    Well, I know. Either she is one of the “friends”, or one of them forwarded it to her, or a hacker did it.

    (You sure terms like “paranoia” are helpful, here?)

    So now we’re not even allowed to rant in private.

    Really? Are you suggesting that, because Ophelia might become aware of your ranting, you therefore aren’t allowed to rant in private?

    (If not, why aren’t you allowed to do it?)

    On the flipside… everything of hers that’s been screenshotted and saved has been stuff that’s publicly available.

    I know you’re trying to intimate that those who take screenshots and save stuff from her are more virtuous than her, but I hope you realise that there are other interpretations.

    I am actually willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she did not know, as the person who supplied her with the screenshots did not tell her they were private posts. But once she found out, she should have deleted the entire post.

    Why should she have? It was about her, so I think she is a stakeholder.

    FYI: for the sake of my friends’ privacy, I abjectly refuse to discuss the private stuff made public beyond what I’ve said here. Sorry. Search Ophelia’s blog in you want to know what I’m talking about. As far as I know, those posts are still up.

    I have read every post on her blog and every comment therein for the last few weeks.

    (And you might be surprised to know how many degrees of separation there are between your friend and me)

  32. 186

    [erratum]

    If looking at interactions on a [publicly viewable facebook group] is [wrong], then posting [facebook content viewable by friends only] on your blog necessarily requires having looked at interactions on a [publicly viewable facebook group], and so is accordingly [wrong] on that very basis.

    in my previous should read:

    If looking at interactions on a [publicly viewable facebook group] is [wrong], then posting [facebook content viewable by friends only] on your blog necessarily requires having looked at interactions on a [facebook content viewable], and so is accordingly [wrong] on that very basis.

  33. 187

    For the Inquisitorial record:

    me:

    BTW, do you share Jason’s rephrased opinion regarding Ophelia’s beliefs and her paranoia?

    respondent:

    How very much like an Inquisition of you, John. I thought that was frowned upon.

    (And Jason thinks I am the evasive one!)

  34. 188

    @164-5. Jason Thibeault : Fair enough. That’s duly noted. As I originally said in my first post here, I have great respect for both of you.

    @ Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- : Okay, ditto as above but if its what Ophelia Benson said directly why aren’t we getting direct, simple quotes of what she supposedly said that was so bad rather than what I’m gathering which is people inferring she’s bad based on company, fb likes etc ..? Why just have a link if you can also add an actual quote from spoken by Ophelia Benson herself as well as a link to where she said. Perhaps I’m just odd here, but when I post a link I generally (not always true but often esp. with this type of thing) like to include an excerpt of, for me, the key lines from that link. The links I have seen have been pointing to fb posts from a TERF associated group which, yeah, not something I see as proof positive of anything much for OB personally. Not a great look for her sure, but also not really convincing me shes actually guilty of anything more than looking at or participating on a nasty fb group.I’m certainly going to give her the benefit of the doubt and listen to what she says about this.)

  35. 189

    Here’s a radical idea. It is possible to celebrate and respect a person’s self held gender identification while personally holding more nuanced and complicated views.

    This would make “is a trans woman a woman – yes or no” a blunt and intellectually bankrupt question.

    Show me any instance where Ophelia has disrespected the personally held identification of a trans woman. Nope. Didn’t think so. Sounds like OB is simply grappling with the complexities of gender – issues that transcend the ‘with us or against us’ certainties of a star chamber.

    Save your attacks for those that use such contemplations as an excuse for actual prejudice and vilification.

  36. 190

    StevoR

    Why just have a link if you can also add an actual quote from spoken by Ophelia Benson herself as well as a link to where she said.

    Because itw as an ugly, deeply hurtful thing and I don’t want to plaster it all over the internet. But “it’s just a link” is the silliest objection to looking at evidence I’ve ever heard, as if it were any less real because you have to click a fucking link
    Nate
    No, I don’t think that Ophelia Benson is a TERF because TERF has a specific meaning. It does not mean “very transphobic”. Just like “very racist” does not mean “KKK member”. I think that many people are now using TERF to mean “transphobic”, but it doesn’t and I don’t think it helps.

    JOhn Morales

    I get you; you think that what is said behind Ophelia’s back should stay behind Ophelia’s back.

    That’s basically what “privacy” means. There are, of course, exceptions, like criminal activity, or when you become aware that somebody s playing false. Nothing in this particular case suggests that. The person expressed sadness and hurt, in private. Somebody passed it on to OB who made it public AND made fun of this person hurting.

    freja
    Before I answer to any of what you’ve written I really need to ask you two questions so i even know if we’Re talking about the same thing:
    1. Which discussions on gender exclude you?
    2. Which definitions of “woman” exclude you?

  37. 191

    Giliell,

    John Morales

    I get you; you think that what is said behind Ophelia’s back should stay behind Ophelia’s back.

    That’s basically what “privacy” means.

    Um. Intended privacy is not actual privacy.

    The person expressed sadness and hurt, in private.

    To paraphrase a fictional character, “Whoever would keep a secret should keep it secret that they have a secret to keep”.

  38. 192

    Cartimandua

    Here’s a radical idea. It is possible to celebrate and respect a person’s self held gender identification while personally holding more nuanced and complicated views.

    Agreed!
    Only, I get a bit suspicious when those “nuanced and complex views” only ever appear when it is about trans women. Personally, I hold a very complex opinion of sex, gender, discourse and perfomance. I just wrote a 110 page thesis on the subject. I have read a lot, discussed a lot and hold myself therefore to be kind of competent in the feminist discourse on sex and gender. And as such a person I don’t see much nuance. What I’ve seen is blatant misrepresentations of scholars like Butler.

    This would make “is a trans woman a woman – yes or no” a blunt and intellectually bankrupt question.

    That’s
    A) Your judgement, not a logical conclusion.
    B) a question a trans woman asked when she got worried about OB’s position on trans women. So you’re saying that a trans woman trying to find out if she could trust somebody or not is intellectually bankrupt?

    Show me any instance where Ophelia has disrespected the personally held identification of a trans woman. Nope. Didn’t think so. Sounds like OB is simply grappling with the complexities of gender – issues that transcend the ‘with us or against us’ certainties of a star chamber.

    THat horrible joke M.A. Melby linked to. That’s a very blunt example.

    Save your attacks for those that use such contemplations as an excuse for actual prejudice and vilification.

    I think I have a “bad arguments people are suddenly making” bingo.
    You know, I’ver heard this argument a lot in recent years, usually about how we shouldn’t criticise Dawkins or Harris because there are worse sexists out there. I’m wondering if it’s a sub-tcategory of “dear muslima” or not. “Dear muslima” is about shutting down debates because there are “people who have it worse”. Maybe we could call it “Poor Richard” when people try to shut down a debate because somebody is a god person* and there are worse offenders.

    *Usually as judged by anotherm ember of the dominant group in question-

  39. 193

    John Morales
    So, the person only has herself to blame, right? No need to ask whether it was ethical to pass the screenshot on or whether it was ethical to publish it with full identifying information. The person said it where she thought it was between friends so she should be OK with having it plastered all over the internet.
    I guess you’re also ok with revenge porn, right? If a woman didn’t want her nudes all over the internet, why did she make them in the first place?

  40. 195

    @187. Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- :

    ..I don’t want to plaster it all over the internet. ..

    Bit late for that if true!

    Linking to it without citing it directly is better how?

    I’ll look at the evidence and make my own mind up.

    But if you are going to say that someone said something, is is it really the silliest this to say exactly what that someone said?

    This whole situation is all so … (feces) .. Not directed at you, Giliell. Just hating this whole thing…

  41. 196

    @ 186. Cartimandua :

    Here’s a radical idea. It is possible to celebrate and respect a person’s self held gender identification while personally holding more nuanced and complicated views.

    That. Agreed and seconded 100% by me.

    I fully support trans humans.

    Hell, I’m human and unconventional and messed up and so much more.

    I not judging anyone, I’m not transphobic and not TERF and, yes, I’m going to support someone who is one of my favourite bloggers here who has been good to me, who writes well and compassionately and who I like and trust and believe in. Why wouldn’t I? Ophelia Benson is a good person and I will stand by her. Loyalty is a value I hold dear.

  42. 199

    StevoR

    Linking to it without citing it directly is better how?

    Because it’s not directly visible, duh?
    Like, you know, putting spoilers/sensitive content below the fold and giving people a heads up?
    Like having an opt in when something is NSFW?

  43. 200

    @187:

    Before I answer to any of what you’ve written I really need to ask you two questions so i even know if we’Re talking about the same thing:
    1. Which discussions on gender exclude you?

    Discussions based on the assumption that gender=identification, or that physiological sex or socially perceived gender doesn’t make you a woman (as it did for me). Discussions that equate woman=feminine=female. Discussions where you’re supposed to accept that gender is a simple and easy concept, and that the only reason for thinking otherwise must be transphobia. Discussions where people don’t feel the need to specify what they mean, but reserve the right to call you a bigot for getting it wrong (from Trans-ient amnesia on Zinia Jones’ blog “somebody posed the question “is a trans woman a woman? Yes or no.” […] What they were asking was: shouldn’t trans people be allowed the same degree of self-determination as cis people?”. I wouldn’t have been able to figure that out, because I didn’t know you needed to believe in a non-social concept of “woman” to also be in favor of trans rights).

    There are a lot of other discussions which just feel unwelcoming and alien and make me afraid of participating or just make participation not worth it, but the above either start off with a premise which excludes me, or are so dependent of in-group jargon and the need to confirm your belonging to the in-group that I can’t get anything out of it and would be bound to make people angry if I tried.

    2. Which definitions of “woman” exclude you?

    As I’ve already said, the definition “identifies as a woman”. Especially when it’s used as a catch-all, e.g. “Women are people who identify as female” or “It’s very simple, the definition of a woman is someone who identifies as women”.

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