Monday, January 30, 2017

Radicals

In any community there are radicals who bring about change, sometimes that change is for the good when it expands human rights and other times it is for the worst when it takes away human rights.
Rift in Women’s Studies Over Transgender Issues
Popular online discussion group sees resignations and call for boycott over comments some see as bigotry toward trans scholars.
Inside Higher Ed
By Scott Jaschik
January 30, 2017

WMST-L is like many online discussion groups for scholars. It features many posts in which scholars try to help one another. What would be a good book to add to a syllabus on a given course? What do people know about the content of a forthcoming conference? Who might be interested in joining a panel at a scholarly meeting?

And it was the response to a seemingly innocuous call for panelists and papers that has prompted scholars to quit the Listserv and call for a boycott. Those calling for the boycott say the list, a major forum for communication in women’s studies, gives voice to anti-transgender bigotry.

The call for panelists was for a session for this year’s conference of the National Women’s Studies Association. The session is to be called “Pregnancy Without Women: Representations of Reproduction in Art, Literature, Film and Culture.”

Organizers explained: “Almost 20 years ago, Jack Halberstam challenged scholars to consider ‘masculinity without men.’ At the time, this endeavor might have seemed perverse, but it ultimately challenged feminists to rethink the discourses they relied on to frame sexuality and sexual identities. In similarly counterintuitive fashion, this panel seeks papers that theorize pregnancy without women from feminist and/or queer perspectives …. We’re interested in how economics, race and ability complicate both ‘pro-choice’ rhetoric that relies on fairly narrow constructions of a self-reliant woman and also conceives of pregnancy (and abortion) as an issue that impacts more than just women. To paraphrase Halberstam, considering pregnancy without women ‘affords us a glimpse of how [pregnancy] is constructed as [pregnancy].’ Since pregnancy without women is not yet a biological possibility, we are particularly interested in papers that consider imaginative constructions of pregnancy through art, literature, film and so forth.”
But the discussion morphed into…
Some of those who responded on WMST-L then objected to the idea of discussing pregnancy without women, and some of those arguments suggested that being a woman should reflect biology alone. Transgender people and those who study them have a wide range of views on gender identity but generally reject the idea of a biologically driven gender binary. And they view those scholars who state such a binary as the only way to look at gender as hostile to the rights of transgender people.

One comment in particular angered trans scholars.

“We don't need supposedly progressive folks downplaying the importance of women's reproductive functions at this time. Let us stop this game now. Only women get pregnant and it serves women not at all to pretend this is not true!”

The comment was from Sheila Jeffreys, a professor at the University of Melbourne, in Australia, whose work criticizing the transgender movement has been controversial in other settings as well.
And this brought out the TREF and the discussion heated up online.

I believe in open discussion but when one side is denying the existence and their right to exist there can be no discussion. It is like “Black Lives Matter” versus “Blue Lives Matter,” there can be no discussion until both sides understand that it is blacks who are being killed just because of their color of their skin. While all most all the police officers who were killed was because they tried to mediate a domestic dispute, or they tried to arrest a robber, or stop a car, while only a few officers are killed because they were police officers. Most blacks who were killed by police officers were killed because they are just black, until you understand that you cannot have a discussion.

For trans people until you understand that we are born trans and it is not just on a whim that we decided to be trans then we cannot have a discussion. If you deny our existence and prevent us from living our lives then we cannot have a discussion.

The original premises of the panel, “We’re interested in how economics, race and ability complicate both ‘pro-choice’ rhetoric that relies on fairly narrow constructions of a self-reliant woman and also conceives of pregnancy (and abortion) as an issue that impacts more than just women.” seems like a good discussion but when it changed into “the idea of discussing pregnancy without women, and some of those arguments suggested that being a woman should reflect biology alone.” it seems like those who objected didn’t read the whole proposal and just went by what the others were saying.

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