Raymond: A Proponent of Myths

Most of us would probably agree that Janice Raymond is crazy.  To put it pretty bluntly, and not to oversimplify the issue, but it is probably true!  Her radicalism makes her crazy.  Most can often see two sides to every issue – I consider myself a pretty open-minded person, as I can usually understand the dissenting opinion to my own pretty well, even if I don’t agree with it.  I can even understand crazy at times.  There are some points that Raymond tries to argue that I can honestly actually understand where she is getting them from, but for the most part really, anybody who reads this chapter can probably see that her reality is a little off from everybody else’s.  Her radicalism is just so extreme and it is shocking and a little hard to understand how she had such a loud voice and influence in society.  I would argue that it is probably her radicalism that gives her a sort of… charisma.  But besides that, we need to talk about, what I consider, her dysfunctional schema of the way the world is supposed to be run.

After reading her article and thinking about it, I was reminded of a video from a youtuber, Laci Green, that covers pretty elementary ideas concerning gender and society that we discuss in Gender Studies classes that Raymond most certainly would not agree with.  Oftentimes, people share a general similar idea of the way the world works, with details being nitpicked at times and disagreements developing that way.  But for the most part, usually people can agree on general ideas.  I feel that it is these basic and pretty general ideas and beliefs that she does not share that leads to her radicalism.

In her video, Laci talks about “three myths” that she says need to be debunked.  Here is the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sHBAVjahp8&list=UUJm5yR1KFcysl_0I3x-iReg

Myth #1:  There are two rigid genders.

Her little segment about boundaries exemplifies this idea.  Although later she complains about people posing the question about gender differences, she encourages the idea herself.  She believes that there is a special feminine energy, as she puts it, which I can understand and I believe does exist, but she feels that, “These women also fail to recognize that accepting transsexuals into the feminist community is only another rather unique variation on the age-old theme of women nurturing men, providing them with a safe haven, and finally giving them our best energies” (137).  She seems to think that “feminine” energy only applies to women, and the idea that biologically born males might understand stereotypically “feminine” feelings or energies is lost to her.

Myth #2:  Sex=gender.

Clearly, Janice Raymond supports this myth as she constantly refers to trans women as “male-to-constructed-female transsexuals,” and talks about them in such a way as if it is a farce and a mere attempt to “infiltrate” and “invade” female spaces.  She also refers to numerous trans women with the pronoun of “he” rather than “she.”  Even though she acknowledges the socialization of gender, she seems to reject the idea that it is much more complicated than she seems to imply and does draw bigoted opinions on how one defines gender.  Which brings me to the last myth discussed in the video.

Myth #3:  Others can define YOUR gender.

On the issue of defining gender, she acknowledges the socialization of it, but also rejects the idea that gender is fluid and that one can choose for oneself.  Her idea of gender is the gender that one is raised being called by others.  In discussing intersexed babies, she says that, “Thus those who are altered shortly after birth have the history of being practically born as male or female and those who are altered later in life have their body surgically conformed to their history.  When and if they do undergo surgical change, they do not become the opposite sex after a long history of functioning and being treated differently.”  While she brings up a good point, as the way one is raised is highly important, but her opinion seems to lie in what one is called throughout childhood, not what one calls oneself based on his or her own experiences or feelings.  Sometimes one is raised as one gender but has much more complex experiences and feelings.

These are all basic ideas and values which we probably all share, but not Janice Raymond, and that is what makes her so crazy!  While calling trans women rapists, she overlooks the fact that trans women are not in fact trying to “steal” the feminine energy, but rather are putting themselves in the position of being treated like second-class citizens.  So instead of continuing the marginalization of trans folk, she might want to consider trying to understand another person’s viewpoint, even if it differs from her own.

-Chrissy Goss

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What a Drag!

By: MK Worthington

Janice G. Raymond’s chapter “Sappho by Surgery: The Transsexually Constructed Lesbian-Feminist” is filled with reactionary rhetoric to unsubstantiated ‘facts’ about transsexual women who identify as women– and even as lesbians. Her biggest claim seems to be “As one woman put it: “A man who decides to call himself a woman is not giving up his privilege. He is simply using it in a more insidious way.”” (137) In Raymond’s point of view, transsexual women are in fact men masquerading as women in an attempt control them and gain access to female spaces and privileges they otherwise could not experience.

While this assertion is damning and false for transsexuals, the entertainment industry has frequently cashed in on straight male characters who did just that. Consider Robin Williams’ character in MRS. DOUBFIRE, for example, a man who transforms his outward appearance to that of a woman to gain access to a traditionally female job. Also, in SOME LIKE IT HOT, Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis portray men who disguise themselves as women in order to join an ‘all woman’ big band. Cartoons are full of examples as well. Disney, Warner Brothers, Dreamworks—they all periodically feature characters in drag who use their ‘feminine appearance’ to their advantage in some uncouth way.

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 In the beginning of the chapter she goes so far as to make the claim that: “It is not accidental that most male-to-constructed-female transsexuals who claim to be feminists also claim to be lesbian feminists. In fact, I don’t know of any transsexually constructed feminists who do not also claim to be lesbian.” (132)  In her position as a leader of the ‘lesbian feminist’ movement it makes sense that she wouldn’t personally know any heterosexual transsexual feminists; such individuals would, by definition, belong to broader Women’s Movement. This little detail, however, is not mentioned in her argument.

Later, Raymond goes on to imply her vague and wild arguments are unquestionable truths, and she furthers her argument with the claim: “At this level of analysis, it might seem that what men really envy is women’s biological ability to procreate.” (135) This, just a few short sentences before she contradicts herself by pointing out the idea that overpopulation is fast making women obsolete, their ability to procreate their downfall rather than something men covet.

This line of thought brought to mind scenes from the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, JUNIOR.

In the film, Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito play a pair of male doctors and scientists who are working on an experimental new drug that would improve the chances of a high-risk pregnancy lasting through term. Right off the bat it is a tale of ‘men’ trying to fix a problem that is exclusive to ‘women.’ Their efforts are blocked by laws and regulations – written by ‘bad men’ – and, in order to circumvent these barriers, our two heroes, two ‘good men’, must use a ‘male’ body to carry out a task exclusively achieved by the ‘female’ body. They, of course, are acting for the good of women. They are taking it upon themselves to improve the lives of heartbroken women the world over. How on earth could anyone be critical of that? (That last was written sarcastically.)

In Junior, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character is anything but feminine. He is quite the opposite actually, the epitome of masculinity, but during the course of his pregnancy he develops a softer side and a distinctive feminine quality. By becoming pregnant, during the course of his pregnancy, Schwarzenegger’s character essentially becomes a ‘female man’- ruled by irrational mood swings and the urge to nurture. To my mind, Raymond’s argument is that ‘female transsexuals’ are the first step leading to this very outcome—men replacing and eliminating women altogether.

But let’s back up a minute. I thought society was ruled by ‘white, heterosexual, males.’ …seriously, why on earth would they want that?