Read what others are saying about the Female Erasure Anthology.
'Female Erasure' sheds light on contemporary misogyny and the value of women-only space
in FEMINIST CURRENT, APRIL 6, 2017 by JOCELYN CRAWLEY
During a time when the popular focus on trans rights has led queer activists to question and ultimately condemn the concept of a biological woman, feminists need to pay attention. And this is exactly what the contributors to a recently published anthology, edited by Ruth Barrett, are doing. In Female Erasure: What You Need To Know About Gender Politics’ War on Women, the Female Sex and Human Rights, writers from diverse backgrounds and ideological milieus examine the impact of gender politics on the women’s liberation movement. The rise of trans activism has generated numerous ideological shifts in society, including the idea that gender is a personal identity as opposed to a social invention, imposed on people based on their sex. Within this line of thought, biological realities (such as a women’s wombs, breasts, and vaginas) become irrelevant to womanhood — simply stating that one is female makes it so.
Female Erasure highlights numerous problems with this supposedly progressive approach to gender, one of those being the impact on women-only spaces. In “Queer Theory’s Suppression Of Feminist Consciousness,” Carol Downer discusses the Obama administration’s decision to open women’s bathrooms and changing facilities to males who claim the gender category “woman.” Downer argues that denying women their own spaces will adversely impact women’s self-image and group solidarity. Extending the issue beyond the sphere of the bathroom, she explains that women’s inability to maintain their own spaces where they can organize against oppression will adversely impact feminist consciousness. This is because feminist consciousness can only exist once women begin to identify with other women and center women’s interests in their politics, instead of men’s — something that is compromised when women cannot gather amongst themselves to discuss their oppression under patriarchy or the unique particularities of the female body.
Like Downer, Ava Park identifies the attack on women-only spaces as a trend that will impede women’s liberation. In “Female Erasure: A Sampler,” she argues that we must maintain woman-only space because “women in a dominator-model society need a place to speak freely to recover from oppression and erasure.” In order to ensure that patriarchy continues to function effectively, men who wish to dominate women must break down women’s boundaries. Park shows how this process is aided through fairy tales that teach girls and boys about “evil queens,” which demonize women who set boundaries. This lesson is later linked to societal anxieties about women who insist on having their own spaces. The outcome is women who, through being socialized not to have boundaries (because this makes them cruel), feel compelled to accept males who identify as “non-binary” or transwomen in their formerly women-only spaces. This acceptance means that women are likely to feel bad or anxious about discussing experiences unique to their female bodies.
In her essay, “Why Women’s Spaces Are Critical To Feminist Autonomy,” Patricia McFadden offers a historical analysis of how men have used space to support patriarchy. She says that allowing men into women’s spaces under the guise of “inclusion” is heterosexist and “serves an old nationalistic claim that women need to take care of men, no matter where they are located and or what they are engaged with.” Because women who are not attached to or associated with a man are considered dangerous in a patriarchy, McFadden concludes that the attempt to deny women their own spaces constitutes “backlash against women’s attempts to become autonomous of men in their personal/political relationships and interactions.”
While much of Female Erasure focuses on the role that modern efforts to deny women their own spaces plays in maintaining patriarchy, the anthology also addresses what is behind efforts to erase the material reality of sex-based oppression. In “The Girls and the Grasses,” Lierre Keith provides readers with a clear, concise definition of a term that has centered in feminist discourse: gender. While some claim gender is a binary, Keith argues that it is a hierarchy that determines “who gets to be human and who gets to be hurt.” She explains that gender is ultimately a system of male violence — one that is enabled not only by individual men, but by institutions. She writes: “Behind the sadist are the institutions, the condensations of power that hand us to him. Every time a judge rules that women have no right to bodily integrity — that upskirt photos are legal, that miscarriages are murder, that women should expect to be beaten — he wins.”
Practical examples of how the violent gender system operates are imperative in terms of understanding its real life consequences for women and girls. Keith points to female genital mutilation (FGM) as an example that acts both as violence and a means for male boundary-breaking. She writes: “In the most extreme forms of female genital mutilation (FGM), the labia are cut off and the vagina is sewn shut. On her wedding night, the girl’s husband will penetrate her with a knife before his penis.”
The idea that women exist “for men” is harmful in numerous ways, but one, Keith points out, is exemplified in the fact that “There are entire villages in India where all the women only have one kidney… because their husbands have sold the other one.” The only solution is to abolish the gender system entirely, she concludes.
Female Erasure demonstrates how the ongoing war against women and the “progressive” attack on female-only spaces has become an integral component of the patriarchal project; something we must understand in order to address the particular misogyny operating within our contemporary landscape.
Jocelyn Crawley is a 32 year old radical feminist writer in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Carolyn Kost's Review Female Erasure: What You Need to Know About Gender Politics’ War on Women, the Female Sex and Human Rights
Carolyn Kost's review published in Good Reads
Nov 06, 2019
it was amazing
This is an essential and comprehensive anthology for any Women's Studies course and would be an engaging read for discussion groups. The diversity of the voices is superb: varied ethnicities, sexual orientations, profession, attitudes toward trans normativity, areas of focus (spiritual, medical, political, athletic, social, etc.), neuroatypical, gender non-conforming, etc. Janice Raymond's ovular classic, The Transsexual Empire (1979, 1994), provided a comprehensive analysis but pre-dated contemporary dynamics and uncritical acceptance of gender theory and its egregious consequences that threaten to erode and eradicate female identity, safety, private spaces, athletics, representation, and on and on. This provides a powerful counter-narrative to the transgender lobby which is at its core a colonialist and anti-intellectual defense of male rights to women's spaces, women's bodies, women's experience.
First, we must recognize that sex cannot be changed. While the overwhelming majority of these gender dysphorics (>80%) remain intact physically, the surgical removal or alteration of the genitals and internal organs cannot change the XX or XY chromosomes in every cell of the body. It is profoundly ironic that society promotes the notion that there are no differences between the sexes at the same time medicine is finding greater biochemical differences like metabolic rates and reaction to drugs, prevalence of disease, etc. Gender dysphorics have a disordered emotional and cognitive state and their claim to be a sex other than the one determined by chromosomes is not a biological reality. Male is male; female female; there simply is no such entity as a transmale/ transfemale or MtF/FtM, etc. and hence those terms must not be used; male to trans is acceptable. It appears far too complex for people to understand the difference between sex and gender, so the latter word should just be abandoned.
Second, we must comprehend what is at stake when we capitulate to the trans lobby. Chapter 5, "Transgender Rights: The Elimination of the Human Rights of Women," lays the issues out succinctly. The trans lobby is already causing a) a moratorium on the collection of data regarding "sex-based inequalities in areas where females are underrepresented" and the sex of criminals, among others, b) the dissolution of scholarships intended for women (https://www.latimes.com/california/st...), c) the loss of the right to female only spaces like shelters, dressing rooms, locker rooms, restrooms, prisons, hospital rooms, etc. (scores of cases recorded of assaults in such places by males claiming female identity) and c) the right of females to compete against only female bodies in athletic competitions (male bodies won 1st and 2nd place in CT GIRLS' Track State Championship, among many other cases). Title IX was supposed to ensure sexual equity for females in sports but now it is undermined by enabling physical males with greater body mass and strength to claim female "gender" and triumph handily over females in athletic competitions, often the basis for scholarships. The level of testosterone should not be the qualifying factor; it does not change the bone structure, body mass, etc. This is a gross misapplication and misunderstanding of the difference between sex and gender.
Third, we must comprehend that, while feminists DECONSTRUCT the patriarchal assignation of femininity, male to trans CONSTRUCT that assignation and buttress feminine stereotypes with implants, cosmetics and hyper-sexualized appearances and behavior. Male performance of femaleness is the misogynist equivalent of blackface and should be regarded with equal abhorrence. It is estimated that at least one-third of the men claiming to "feel like a woman" are also autogynephiles, people who become sexually aroused at the thought of themselves as women. Many young wimmin have no experience of so-called Butch gender non-conformity and thus identify as trans because they accept the stereotypical construct of femininity, rather than rejecting it and accepting the broad spectrum that is female. It is irresponsible to unquestioningly acquiesce to and enable students to make a claim on trans or non-binary identity. Young women struggle to make sense of their changing bodies and their role in society, too often depicted as consistently oppressed as victimized. Who wants to be oppressed or a victim? They see males as strong leaders and therefore renounce their femaleness.
As feminist consciousness increases, so does the exodus of L from GB - TQ toward NBWHBL (natural born woman, heterosexual, bi, lesbian). There is a growing movement of L away from BG and T because it is becoming increasingly clear that the T movement is about male rights and effectively erases Butch L by compelling them to identify as non-female and blames females for our own oppression because we could simply identify as males to avoid it. We would do well to join with the esteemed Co-Founder of Stonewall, Simon Fanshawe, and oppose the assimilation of the T (and others) in LGB on the grounds they have no commonality. Alarmed by the violent rhetoric promulgated by the trans lobby against them, he supports the exodus of lesbians from the others and asserts that legal and biological issues must not be confused with social identity. It should be underscored that the oppressive regime in Iran leads the world in the surgical alteration of males in a misplaced effort to eliminate homosexuals.
Fourth, we must always ask cui bono, who benefits?, and follow the money. Big Pharma and the medical establishment see that this is a herd of cash cows that will require constant interventions, pharmaceutical and surgical. It is yet another indication of our alienation from and desire to control nature absolutely. The goal should be to bring the body into alignment with the mind. There will be eventual recognition of the horrific malpractice the medical establishment is wreaking through the use of people, especially children, as test tubes and subjects for medical experimentation with endocrine disruptors and puberty blockers. The majority of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria cease to desire to be the other sex by puberty, with most growing up to identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, with or without therapeutic intervention.
The turnabout in and lack of comprehension of child and adolescent psychosexual development is astonishing. Psychotherapy is indicated for children and youth with gender issues; it is imperative that it not be conflated with conversion therapy, as the two are as different as sexual orientation and identity. That requires education. Parents [and school staff] too often affirm whatever the child may state because we revel in the idea of our open-mindedness, liberal orthodoxy, and carefully curated diversity, despite the fact it may not be in the best interest of the child. Gender dysphoria is often co-morbid with a history of sexual abuse, dissociative disorder, depression, and other psychiatric disorders. Crucially, international studies conflict regarding whether transition relieves those symptoms in a majority of cases. The studies are too limited in sample size (15 or 30 cases is absurd) and time period to be conclusive.
This anthology is superlative, even though some pieces are more effective than others, as in any collection. The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and its dissolution due to the incursion of male bodies serves as a major touchstone and case study in the trans lobby's demands and prevailing misogyny (see Section Four). We hear the voices of those usually suppressed by the Left's and current feminists' co-optation by the patriarchy, like the woman whose husband decided to transition; instead of sympathy, her pain is derided as bigotry in Chapter 38. We read various anecdotes relating painful decisions to live in congruence with truth. However, the most often repeated argument herein is that males cannot claim to be women or females because they do not share in our oppression (genital mutilation, "sex selective female infanticide, rape, compulsory motherhood, billions of hours of unpaid domestic labor, ...the 'glass ceiling' in business and government" etc. etc.). That frames female experience too negatively and contrasts with so much of the book that is otherwise affirming like "Love Letter to Menarche" and "The Universe is Her Form." Males simply cannot lay claim to an experience that is not and can never be their own and we must not accede or facilitate such a claim. Read this book.
Thank you, Ruth Barrett. Were I still teaching Women's Studies and Feminist Theo/alogy, I would be using your resources.