Is Janice Raymond Dead Yet? (Sadly not.)

While I’m sure we were all suitably disgusted with the Raymond piece, I think we would all benefit from a reminder that Raymond’s arguments aren’t dead. We all know that transphobia still exists, but having been educated in an inclusive Gender Studies Department we might not realize that Raymond’s arguments and the casual exclusion of trans* people and their concerns are still very much a part (if a diminishing part) of feminism. We talked about the exclusion policy of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in class already, so I went ahead and trawled around the internet for a few other relevant stories.

Recently a British news magazine, The New Statesman, published an article by the feminist writer Suzanne Moore. In the article, Moore “joked” that modern women simply can’t compete with the ideal standard of beauty embodied by the “Brazilian transsexual.” There were already echoes of Raymond in this “joke” (transsexuals as unreal women who conform to neatly to patriarchal beauty standards), but it was only when Moore was criticized that she let loose the full fury of her transphobia, claiming that she didn’t “prioritise this fucking lopping bits off your body over all else that is happening to women” among other transphobic vitriol. She has since issued several backhanded and utterly facetious apologies that do nothing to address the transphobic feminist discourse she was channeling. If you’re interested in a fuller summary of events with tons of links to direct sources and rebuttals, scope this article written by an internet friend of mine:

http://mediadarlings.net/2013/01/17/please-no-moore-a-snapshot-of-transphobia-in-britains-broadsheets/

Of course, feminist discourse isn’t confined to British magazines. A few years ago, the prominent feminist blog Shakesville posted a eulogy for Mary Daly, a feminist scholar and professor. You might recall Raymond approvingly citing Daly in our reading assignment, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Daly was herself a transphobe who used the term “Frankensteinian” to describe trans* people. So it caused quite a stir when Shakesville uncritically mourned her passing and when criticized responded with harsh counter-accusations before closing the comments section of her blog. You can find a fuller description of the incident, as well as one person’s personal story of struggling with feminist “allies” here:

http://genderbitch.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/rip-my-hope-for-feminism/

Now, these are just two incidents from the past few years, but they do demonstrate that the transphobic feminism we associate with Janice Raymond and her ilk is far from a thing of the past. We can’t afford to treat the battle as won or the discourse as salvaged. Raymond’s heirs might not be quite as vitriolic, and they might hide behind a thin screen of inclusivity, but we’ve seen that their real attitudes often emerge with little prodding. It’s a sad truth that too many contemporary feminists have still not realized that the liberation of all the victims of patriarchy is bound up together.

Aidan Crane

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