This is fucking outrageous.

14 Sep

I generally refuse to discuss the “trans question,” and I won’t be doing so here, but there’s a serious problem with this story (which I found out about via a post of Witchy’s).

Apparently, a person who is in the process of transitioning from male to female has been ordered moved from a men’s to a women’s prison in the UK, because the final stages of the process (surgery to have the penis removed) can only be carried out at the women’s prison. She’ll then, because the state has deemed her a woman, stay at the women’s prison. Now, normally I’d just sit around and ponder this for a few minutes. I’d think, “Well, the state has recognized this person as a woman, and she presents as a woman, so I suppose living in a male prison wouldn’t be safe for her. But what issues does that raise for the women in the prison she’ll be going to?” And then I’d go back to thinking about names for my new cat (who I’m calling Steve French and/or Samsquanch for the time being) without having taken a stance either way. You know, because I’m still weighing my own views on gender, sex, sexuality, and the relationship between them and have yet to decide how I think society can best cope with people who don’t fit into the gender binary while that binary is still hegemonic. I’m still working on how I’ll conceptualize and argue about the relationships between the different types of oppression the gender binary and the male supremacy that begat it create.

That’s what I’d normally do, ponder a bit and let it go. But in this case I can’t do that, because the individual in question is in prison for the attempted rape of a woman. Does anyone else see a problem here?

The prisoner has of late been kept in a private cell at the men’s prison. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the state to continue that arrangement after the operation has been completed? Or at least to keep this individual separated from the other inmates at the women’s prison? I understand that the prisoner’s rights and safety need to be taken into account, but what of the rights of the women who’ll be locked up with an attempted rapist in their midst? Oh, that’s right. Those don’t matter.

This judge has weaseled out of an awkward position by forcing already disadvantaged women to take on the burden of dealing with this prisoner that our social and legal systems have no means of coping with. Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Magistrate. I almost forgot the number one principle of democratic patriarchy: women’s right to not be raped comes last; anyone else’s right to anything they want to lay a claim to matters more than women’s right not to have their bodily sovereignty and human rights violated.

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53 Responses to “This is fucking outrageous.”

  1. Clare September 14, 2009 at 8:14 PM #

    They should deal with it in the same way that they would deal with a cisgendered attempted rapist in prison.

    The answer, sadly, is probably “poorly” in both cases, and I expect that there are more instances of rapists of male victims being incarcerated in male prisons than rapists of female victims in female prisons, but I don’t think that being trans is the cruz of this issue.

    • Nine Deuce September 14, 2009 at 8:17 PM #

      I don’t disagree at all that there are probably more male rapists of men in men’s prisons than there are cases like this, but I think this case is interesting in that it gets at how we deal with these issues. I’d like to see this case handled by the offender being isolated. And really, I’d like to see all sex offenders isolated and given longer terms. If we’d quit putting people in jail for having drug problems, maybe that could happen.

  2. Andrew September 14, 2009 at 8:35 PM #

    Wow. This really is a great story. I think the most equitable solution would be to treat the prisoner as they would a female who attempted to rape another female. This is surely not an exact example as the violence was committed when he was a man, and solitary confinement is definitely a viable alternative under either framework. I won’t even say that the lack of the penis makes another attempted rape out of the question. I think solitary is the best outcome. He made his bed and he can lie in it. Changing his sex should not change his punishment.

    • Nine Deuce September 14, 2009 at 8:40 PM #

      Of course the lack of a penis doesn’t mean there’s no way another rape could occur. Any MRA could tell you that, am I right? But seriously, all that’s required for a rape is the desire and willingness to rape, and let’s be honest, that desire presents a lot more often among men than among women.

      • Andrew September 15, 2009 at 4:04 AM #

        Yea, but the difference between keeping him in the women’s or man’s prison is nill if he is kept in solitary, which is the real issue. I would be hard pressed to find serious misogyny here. The state probably has no idea what the hell it can do that won’t result in some sort of Constitutional violation and they figure if he’s kept under lock and key there would be no problem.

  3. James September 14, 2009 at 9:27 PM #

    I meant the comments more than the post itself, btw. Esp.:

    Even those posting there who are horrified at the violence, and the threat to women prisoners, do not seem willing to look at the scam of transgendering: a man says he’s a woman? Bob’s your uncle. You’re a woman.

    Yeah…That kind of is how it works. If a man puts on a dress in many cultures he gets into a shit-tonne of trouble, perhaps exceeding that which a woman in a dress gets. Certainly puts a dent in the whole “privilege” thing. He might even get raped a few times, as hard as it seems to be for some of the commenters on the site you linked to to get their heads around.

    “But he’d get raped by a man!“, comes the reply. Which rather begs the question: would that man also be wearing a frock? Furthermore, if Withchy’s criteria is “Females understand what rape is, the powerplay involved and the trauma that results” then wouldn’t a male rape victim sort of have to become…Female? So much for the good ol’ XX…Is this kind of entirely nonsensical view of gender that common amongst radfems? Would explain a lot.

    As for the case, it’s certainly a tricky one. Slam ‘em in solitary, if that isn’t too much of a cop-out. Or a logistical impossibility, as mentioned above.

  4. Aine September 14, 2009 at 10:14 PM #

    Am I correct in understanding that a rapist committed this violent felony in order to get medical benefits in prison and that the powers that be are then permitting this rapist to transition at the expense of the public purse while housing said rapist among women? I’m sorry, what about the whole concept of people not benefiting from their own crimes- I’m pretty sure this falls under that heading. I’m just disgusted.

    • Clare September 14, 2009 at 10:40 PM #

      Aine, it’s a UK case, and as she doesn’t seem to have sufficient funds to go private, her transition would likely have been “at the expense of the public purse” in any event, on the NHS.

      I don’t really understand that part of the BBC story, and suspect (without any actual knowledge whatsoever!) that it may be part of a defence strategy rather than a deliberate motive.

      • polly styrene September 18, 2009 at 7:39 PM #

        Aine, it’s a UK case, and as she doesn’t seem to have sufficient funds to go private, her transition would likely have been “at the expense of the public purse” in any event, on the NHS

        Interestingly I know folks in the UK who are trying to get the same op done, who’ve not committed ANY crimes, and are being put through endless shit by the good old NHS. So SRS isn’t just available on demand, and as far as I know it’s almost unheard of for UK trans women to be able to get laser hair removal on the NHS. So even though, in theory, SRS is available on the NHS, it really does seem like some preferential treatment is being given here.

    • Laurelin September 15, 2009 at 2:17 PM #

      He committed his crime as a man. Let him live out his sentence as one.

      • Bean September 18, 2009 at 4:38 PM #

        She’s not a man.

        Jesus christ.

        • Laurelin September 18, 2009 at 7:07 PM #

          It was a human with a cock that tried to rape a woman.

          But I’m willing to compromise here with ‘He committed his crime as a male. Let him live out his sentence as one’.

          Happy?

          • Bean September 18, 2009 at 8:38 PM #

            Are you trying to be cute? You’ve changed virtually nothing which was objectionable about your statement, so why would I be satisfied?

            I agree with Nine Deuce that she should be kept separate from other inmates. As should all women who’ve sexually assaulted women.

            I do not, however, see why on earth her crime should be a justification for either a) referring to her by the wrong pronouns, or b) keeping her from receiving medical treatment deemed necessary for her mental health.

            While it’s unfortunately true that prisoners often are refused necessary treatments, that’s not exactly something I’d be encouraging.

            • Laurelin September 18, 2009 at 11:26 PM #

              One thing I never have been is cute.

              I changed ‘male’ for ‘man’ because ‘man’ signifies gender whereas ‘male’ signifies sex.

              I do not accept that this person one who has ‘female status’ (as he so charmingly put it), and I do not think that this person should be allowed to be in a prison with women, many of whom will be survivors of sexual violence.

              I do, however, believe that this person should receive all the health treatments that all prisoners receive, and that are their rights as human beings, and any mental health treatment this person (who is evidently a very dangerous individual) will need, and all the protection from inmates of whatever sex or gender.

              I do not believe that a person who as a man has attempted to rape a woman should be permitted sex-change surgery. Actions have consequences, and a man who commits violence against women should by no means be allowed to become a woman and thus have more access to them.

              I was being flippant about the penis, obviously. A man doesn’t need a dick to hurt a woman.

            • Laurelin September 18, 2009 at 11:37 PM #

              I’m going to reiterate again, in case I’m not being clear (although I’m pretty sure I am):

              I do not think a male-born person who has shown significant signs of violence towards, and hatred of, women should be permitted to ‘become’ one. I cannot see how that is appropriate on any level, and how it is anything other than a huge insult to the women at that prison who may well have been on the receiving end of such treatment meeted out by arseholes like him.

              And no, before you ask, I have no idea what the reaction of the women in that prison is to this- no-one does, since no-one has asked them. They may be perfectly happy with this. Let’s hope so, eh.

  5. redmegaera September 14, 2009 at 11:25 PM #

    For me, whether female inmates are at risk is a secondary issue; it’s the symbolic violence and contempt for women on the behalf of the State that really gets my blood boiling. I don’t have comparative statistics from the UK, but according to statistics published by the Australian organization JusticeAction,

    • 85% of the women in prison in NSW are survivors of sexual abuse or incest.

    • 70-90% of women in prison have a drug addiction and need support to deal with the issues that resulted in these addictions.

    • 73% have been admitted to psychiatric or mental health units.

    • 70% experienced physical violence as an adult.

    • Half the women in prison are also the mothers of young children and most are the sole carers for their children.

    • 39% have attempted suicide.

    • 30% of women prisoners come from Sydney’s three most disadvantaged suburbs.

    • At any one time at least 30% of the women in prison are indigenous women.

    • Most women in jail are there for non-violent offences.

    It continues to be the case across the industrialized world that female offenders show higher rates of childhood and adult abuse than the population at large. According to a US Bureau of Justice Statistics special report released in 1999, nearly six in ten women in state prisons have experienced physical or sexual abuse in the past. Over a third of incarcerated women have been battered, just under 25% have been abused by a family member and women inmates are almost four times as likely to be physically or sexually abused prior to entering the criminal justice system than men. Women prisoners also experience high rates of revictimization. When women are admitted to prison they are often retraumatized since the experience of incarceration replicates many of negative experiences and challenges to personal autonomy experienced during the abuse. Routine proceedures such as strip-searching, pat searches, cavity searches, shackling women during pregnancy and more serious examples of assualt, rape and sexual coercion by prison authorities prolong or exacerbate undiagnosed psychiatric illnesses, such as PTSD. But nobody’s asking about these women’s human rights.

    Compared to other studies, these estimates are very conservative. According to Australian organization Sisters Inside, 80% of women are incarcerated for poverty-related offences, 9o% of Indigenous and 82% of non-Indigenous women in prison are survivors of incest, rape or physical assualt, with the majority of perpetrators being men. Furthermore, women in prison are beset by multiple disadvantages including low education and literacy rates, limited employment skills, inadequate housing, and low or limited income. To allow a male-to-female transsexual and sex offender into a prison population comprised primarily of victims of male violence and sexual abuse is, to me, an act of complete and utter contempt. That the transfer was granted on the basis of “human rights” when the women’s prison system exists as a punitive institution to regulate and control the victims of men’s abuse and to camouflage the failure of the state to ensure women’s rights to physical integrity, social inclusion and economic security makes me sick. I don’t think prisons are safe for anybody and I don’t think they fulfill their objectives of rehabilitating criminals, preventing crime and protecting the community. But the fact that the women’s interests weren’t treated with sensitivity in this case really pisses me off.

    • Undercover Punk September 15, 2009 at 1:04 AM #

      This bears repeating.

      To allow a male-to-female transsexual and sex offender into a prison population comprised primarily of victims of male violence and sexual abuse is, to me, an act of complete and utter contempt. That the transfer was granted on the basis of “human rights” when the women’s prison system exists as a punitive institution to regulate and control the victims of men’s abuse and to camouflage the failure of the state to ensure women’s rights to physical integrity, social inclusion and economic security makes me sick.

      I hope everyone can see where the state’s PRIORITIES are: NOT with WOMEN.

      Thank you, 92 and redmegaera.

  6. isme September 15, 2009 at 2:24 PM #

    I wouldn’t say that this was particularly an example of misogyny in the prison system, rather a symptom of the failures of the prison system in general. In most countries, it’s been obviously broken for quite a while now…but then nobody cares too much, because the people it’s failing tend to be convicted criminals.

    I remember listening to a MtF transexual talking on the radio about not being recognised as a woman and being incarcerated in a male prison, with predictable results. I don’t think there’s any real solution to the problem.

  7. polly styrene September 15, 2009 at 8:28 PM #

    Just to clarify. The judge in this case didn’t have any wiggle room legally. The current state of the law in England and Wales is this:

    Once you have a “gender recognition certificate” that says you are a woman/man you are LEGALLY a woman/man with very few exceptions. The exceptions include inheriting peerages, and playing sports. They don’t include going to prison, or getting a job that is confined to one sex. So someone who has a gender recognition certificate legally has to be transferred to a prison for people of that sex. End of.

    It’s noteworthy you don’t see the process happening the other way round much though. Which is not to say that I think generally male prisons are a good place for transwomen who’ve committed credit card fraud. However you don’t stick a fox in a henhouse. There needs to be a completely separate facility basically. Oh and this is a report of the ‘anonymous’ prisoner’s crimes….

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/3161209.stm

    Committed fairly close to where I’m sat now, nice. Note that this is a very dangerous individual who has been placed on the sex offenders register for life.

  8. polly styrene September 16, 2009 at 6:42 AM #

    PS I should add that there are a lot of people whom prison isn’t suitable for, and who will be victimised in prison. For example Gary McKinnon, who has Aspergers, who the US are currently trying to extradite and stick in a US prison for a very long time because he hacked pentagon computers.

  9. buggle September 16, 2009 at 3:38 PM #

    Polly, why’d ya go and delete your blog? Now what am I supposed to do at work??

    • polly styrene September 18, 2009 at 6:49 AM #

      I left this explanation as to why I deleted my blog elsewhere at the time

      the latest round of “You must not publish this person’s comments because they have done something unspecifiedly evil and they may well be a man and internet feminism will be destroyed for sure if you do so, but we have not actual proof of any of this you understand” put the tin lid on it as far as I was concerned.

      I have always made it clear that if I put stuff up on the internet, anyone can read it, and if I have comments on said piece, to just publish the comments that agree with me, is not only shabby behaviour, but it means that I have no confidence in the validity of what I’m saying. And I do, and I’m prepared to argue it with anyone. Hence I deleted about 3 comments out of over 7000 at my blog.

      I’m really not prepared to spend any more time of my one and only precious life, engaging with fools who seem to have confused ‘feminism’ with ‘petty authoritarianism’. People who are so sad they think I actually give a flying fuck what people I don’t know on the internet think of me to the extent that I deleted my previous blog so that they couldn’t see evidence of me *attacking* people (as if they couldn’t look here for that eh damagedoor?). People who seem to think that I’m so desperate for *friends* that I must be best buddies of anyone whose comment I publish on a blog. Dunno about you folks, but I have real life friends, sorry.

      I am not interested in being part of a cult otherwise I’d go and join one. So the don’t read this, don’t let that person comment petty authoritarian fuckwits have won their battle as far as I’m concerned. I’ve had enough of them, and unlike previously there are no XML files of my blogs, so they’re gone forever.

      I hope they’re happy now and they can celebrate having protected radical feminism yet again and kept the faith pure. All 5 of them. Can I suggest they obtain a DVD of the Life of Brian and watch it?

      As your teachers used to say, there’s always a few who spoil it for everyone else.

      And that still applies oh internet police. Wind your necks in.

      • James September 18, 2009 at 9:32 AM #

        Ah, Monty Python. It still amazes me how many issues they decisively nailed (the far-left’s tendency towards endless schism in TLoB, the difference between Catholics & Protestants in TMoL…).

      • buggle September 21, 2009 at 1:34 PM #

        Ah, sorry polly. I enjoyed your blog. Didn’t always agree with you, but I always enjoyed reading and thinking.

        sorry for the derail 9-2.

      • buggle September 21, 2009 at 1:35 PM #

        Oh, I didn’t mean that in a snarky way “didn’t always agree with you…” I don’t always agree with anyone, I don’t think :-)

        • polly styrene September 21, 2009 at 6:26 PM #

          Sorry to derail further. I didn’t mind people disagreeing with me (one reason I didn’t delete comments). I did object to witchhunts. And still do.

  10. polly styrene September 16, 2009 at 7:35 PM #

    Because I got told off for writing it at work. Among other things…..

  11. Nine Deuce September 16, 2009 at 7:42 PM #

    Polly sent me this link. http://jasperswardrobe.wordpress.com/2009/09/08/passing-and-stealth-are-bad-for-us/

    Check it out and discuss. I think it’s interesting, but I’ve got a lot of Japanese homework to deal with.

    • tor September 17, 2009 at 6:17 AM #

      I checked it out and followed a bunch of the links. ‘Twas like a car crash, I couldn’t look away.

      Seems like there’s a divide between those who wish to claim womanhood but still present as male (and keep their bits), and those who think surgery and “passing” as female maketh the woman.

      There is something incredibly absurd in seeing all these male-at-birth people battle each other over who is an authentic woman and who isn’t.

      Frankly, I’m so sick of identity politics. Class politics ftw.

      • polly styrene September 17, 2009 at 6:37 AM #

        Well I’m just revelling in the delicious *do as I say, not as i do* irony of it all personally. You see if I dare to suggest that maybe female assigned at birth people and male assigned at birth people are POLITICALLY different (and that’s all I’ve ever suggested, I don’t believe in gender, therefore I don’t believe binary sex has any independent significance other than who has babies and whose genital structure and individual may prefer sexually) I get called transphobic.

        Yet Jasper takes the *gender is the determining factor* argument to its logical conclusion, and gets told “You’re not a woman, but I am”.

        Hilarious. NO ONE is a woman in the sense of gender. Biologically, some people are female, some people are male, some people are intersex. End of.

        I think you’re transphobic people. Oops!

        • tor September 17, 2009 at 10:22 AM #

          Yeah, the irony did not escape me.

          Some of the arguments of the transsexuals against the transgenderists are almost word for word the same as radfems who maintain there is a need for things like female-from-birth spaces. So how come when the radfems do it, it’s transphobic?

  12. buttersisonlymyname September 16, 2009 at 10:25 PM #

    How is this any more outrageous than a man who attempted to rape another man/boy being in men’s prison? Isn’t that where they’ll go, anyway?

    Furthermore, as a female the rape-attemper will have a hard time raping, if you know what I mean. I’m not sure she’ll be more dangerous than other women in prison, including women who have committed murders (possibly of other women), or women who bully or rape other women in prison.

    • Nine Deuce September 16, 2009 at 10:38 PM #

      It’s not.

      • buttersisonlymyname September 17, 2009 at 2:21 AM #

        Ok.

        • Nine Deuce September 17, 2009 at 6:04 AM #

          Oh, but one more thing. Women are more likely to be in prison for non-violent crimes. And there are a lot fewer women raping other women in jail than there are men raping men. But other than that I agree. I just don’t like hearing about some violent asshole using the law/court system in such a way and I don’t like the court system putting this rapist in among a vulnerable population.

    • aladydivine September 25, 2009 at 10:46 PM #

      The problem is this man tried to rape the woman so he could go to jail to get the sex change…

      Let me repeat again, he was using rape as a means to get his sex change…

      He killed his boyfriend because he wouldn’t pay for his sex change…

      That is why it is “more outrageous than a man who attempted to rape another man/boy being in men’s prison.” To me at least… the only reason he didn’t rape that woman is because he couldn’t get it up…. I blogged about this at my blog, and posted the article as well.

      The danger and additional RAGE is that he used rape to get what he wants (a sex change operation). How typical of a man… women are ALWAYS just a means to an end.

  13. polly styrene September 17, 2009 at 6:41 AM #

    I think you’re correct Butterisonlymyname, a lot of men ARE at risk in prison, and there’s a fair amount of rape goes on. But then that kind of removes the argument for transferring this one prisoner only.

    However we are told that this individual is extremely dangerous, (see the news report) and is particularly extremely dangerous to women. Now given a likely difference in size and strength, it doesn’t make much sense to put such a person in non solitary confinement in a woman’s prison.

  14. hexy September 18, 2009 at 1:03 AM #

    Gods, what a mess!

    I don’t think we have even the vague base structures of a decent way to deal with the incarceration of rapists and those who commit sexual assault. It’s really something that needs to be addressed, and quickly. Male prison rape is a hideous phenomena of its own, and while women are already incarcerated with other women who have been sentenced for sexually assaulting female victims, that is only going to increase as recognition and destigmatisation of women-as-perpetrator sexual assaults occurs.

    The prison system is just fucked. :(

  15. GXB February 15, 2010 at 9:19 AM #

    Better late then never…maybe:
    “[...] a man who commits violence against women should by no means be allowed to become a woman and thus have more access to them”

    Why buy into the law-enforcers’ false dichotomy and equate “becoming a woman” (genitals determine sex? What about hormones?) with getting access to other women? In fact I checked: from the story it looks like this rapist stopped due to lack of an erect penis: if that’s her pattern then on a totally physical level, without a penis she’s less of a threat when on parole! That actually reminds me uncomfortably of Deuce’s Law.

    I understand that the point is that she should not then get the benefit of access to women because she needed surgery to “count as a woman” (ugh). So we all agree: she is a rapist who should be in solitary confinement. Thus her body is not the problem.

  16. Laurelin February 15, 2010 at 5:01 PM #

    GXB- a man doesn’t need a dick to hurt a woman. Men use other objects to rape women with as well. A dick doesn’t make a man do anything- rape is a choice, and does not have to involve a penis.

    The point is that this person is male, a rapist, and should have to live with the consequences of his actions: imprisonment with other males.

    I will never concede that a rapist has any right to ‘become’ a woman. (I don’t agree that there is a right to ‘become’ a woman or a man or anything else, for that matter; one’s rights are to be treated as a human being. If you wish to join a marginalised group (which, obv., men are not), then it is up to the members of that group whether they accept you or not. But this is by the by).

    “Why buy into the law-enforcers’ false dichotomy and equate “becoming a woman” (genitals determine sex? What about hormones?) ”

    Woman is a societal construct and is NOT the same thing as sex. Sex = male/ female. No-one can *become* any sex because no-one can change their sex chromosomes. One *can* undergo operations etc. to make one appear to be a man or a woman = gender roles.

    I think it would benefit you, GXB, to read up on feminist discourse on sex and gender, as you seem to have some of your wires crossed here.

  17. Laurelin February 15, 2010 at 5:04 PM #

    Also: if a rapist who is jailed with other males ‘becomes’ legally a ‘female’, then he has the right (according to law) to be jailed with other *females*. Therefore, his act thereby gives him access to females (whether or not that was his intention in transitioning). Even in solitary, he’s still being jailed *with* females.

    Many women who are in prison tend to be there because of such ‘crimes’ as being drug-addicted, poor, or prostituted, or for having fought back against abusive partners. It is an utter insult and complete betrayal of their personhood to house them with rapists.

  18. Andrew February 15, 2010 at 8:35 PM #

    I don’t think he should be allowed to undergo the procedure; for his own safety. Where he to be, I think he would have to be placed in solitary confinement. I can’t think of one good reason that he should be placed in a woman’s prison, regardless of whether he’s had the surgery or not. There are already lots of problems involving the fact they staff them with men. Having castrated sex offenders in the mix would not improve them.

    Dividing prisons based on the sex of the offender, regardless of how they might view themselves, is not something that’s hard to see the merit in.

  19. GXB February 16, 2010 at 11:09 AM #

    Laurelin,
    Re: the bit about necessary equipment. Yes, but it may not be true for this particular prisoner, I hypothesized. I do not want to upset anyone with further comments on this criminal’s possible future crimes, but if you and ND don’t mind I still want to discuss the theoretical morals you’re imposing here about sex changes.

    There’s a lot more than one definition of “sex” out there, so if I’m “crossing wires” it’s because my recent reading has convinced me that sex is a matter of personal identity, distinct from gender roles, but also not necessarily genital or chromosomal. In my own readings on sex and gender I’ve simply come across too many definitions to make it possible to know what you meant, since I hadn’t read *your* definition, so I suppose I shouldn’t have expected you to come around to mine. Of course what I have read or been told hasn’t all been been from literature, workshops or friends that have proclaimed themselves feminist (though most are!), but I find it hard to believe that all feminists are at a consensus. Nevertheless I would appreciate a starting link to the specific feminist literature you reference.

    “If you wish to join a marginalised group (which, obv., men are not), then it is up to the members of that group whether they accept you or not.”

    I see what you’re saying there, because if a group is marginalized then it should be able to have solidarity without the mainstream group taking away by invading. But I think that a person can claim an identity that is in alignment with any group, without being accepted by the other members of the group. I also think that when the one group is marginalized, the fact that people may wish to be in the marginalized group (and meet with rejection) both reveals and challenges this hierarchy, and this is a side benefit.
    So, I fail to understand why

    a) a sex change operation means that this prisoner has “become a woman” and was not one already, since you just said that “woman” is not a physical thing. If you meant that “becoming a woman” is independent of any surgery, and is here a matter of official record that determines which jail the individual is housed in…then okay, yes, that is the main problem. But you SAID that the person should not be permitted sex-change *surgery*, and equated this with “becoming a woman”, and I disagree vehemently with this. Really, I usually find your comments on this blog to be intelligent and thoughtful, so much that I will probably look at your blog even if you’d rather I not comment there, but I think you have some logical inconsistencies in what you’ve said above. When I see someone with normally tight arguments appear to lump things together unfairly, then either I’m missing something (obviously possible) or she’s being prejudiced, or just angry, or at any rate I will obnoxiously ask for an explanation in hopes of getting one.

    And
    b) the non-physical definition of “woman” is a birthright-citizenship with immigration restrictions!

    I identify as a “woman” and claim the female pronoun. I have never been told that I could not call myself one, except when people told me I was just a girl. I presume that were I not cissexual and cisgendered I would have often been told/taught that I was not really female, or had people insist on using male pronouns despite my preference. So…there are immigration restrictions! Can’t have too many boys “becoming women”, it would get out of control! If I had XY chromosomes and male genitals and wanted to claim the status of woman, this would require a women’s membership card?!? I don’t see why womanhood is a membership rather than a thing of the individual, *even though* it is to do with how the individual sees her role in society. I suppose I am irrational on this point, because the very idea of identity-by-permission seems viscerally wrong to me.

    “if a rapist who is jailed with other males ‘becomes’ legally a ‘female’, then he has the right (according to law) to be jailed with other *females* [even if that means solitary confinement].”

    OK, that’s scary and I did not know that, and yay, I am on topic again. No disagreements there. That should be about being separated *from* one sex, not put *with* another.

  20. GXB February 16, 2010 at 11:29 AM #

    Sorry Laurelin, please ignore the part about not wanting my comments. I was of course being defensive.

  21. Laurelin February 16, 2010 at 11:47 PM #

    No probs GXB, I didn’t take offence. I’m an incredibly defensive person myself, so I understand the urge to be defensive! Feel free to take a look at my blog.

    I’m a bit tired right now (and full of pancakes!), so I’ll just address the ‘woman’ thing now: there is a lot of disagreement among feminists about what a woman is. Women, imo, are a marginalised group that is treated as less-than-human in comparison to males. Males who want to *be* women, as far as I’m concerned, can identify however they want, but they should *not* expect to be welcomed into the group called ‘women’. Females grow up and are treated in certain ways by males and females around them that socialise them into being ‘women'; the shared experience of oppression that women have is something that male-born individuals do *not* have. Male-born persons, no matter how difficult their lives, experience male privilege, and expect to be treated in ways which women do not.

    Maybe I am muddling up my terms here- there’s a distinct possibility that I am inconsistant, as I am very much thinking my way through this. My main argument against it being personal choice, is that this issue is much larger than the individual and impacts on women as a group; feminism is about (as far as I’m concerned) the liberation of women, not about individualistic values.

    Hope that makes some sense!

  22. Alina February 17, 2010 at 12:38 AM #

    What baffles me is if he really feels like being born in the wrong body, because people that are born in the wrong bodies have a different way of thinking they have more female areas in the brain
    see a link here about that topic:

    http://www.iiav.nl/ezines/web/IJT/97-03/numbers/symposion/ijtc0106.htm

    then males therefor I wonder if any1 tested him for that.So then why did he rape a woman? is he a lesbian then or what?or is it just a very sick way of getting close to women wich otherwise he would of been locked away from for many years?

  23. Valerie M February 17, 2010 at 1:06 AM #

    @Alina

    Are you suggesting that it’s lesbians who rape women or that rape and sex are the same thing? I can’t tell.

    @ GXB

    Just because someone decides to redefine a word (like sex) does not mean the word changes. Many people claim that pole dancing is feminist. That claim however, does not render it a feminist act.

  24. GXB February 17, 2010 at 1:49 AM #

    Laurelin: cool, that does make sense, and I think I mostly agree with you about male privilege given that a lot of it is about childhood conditioning, thank you for making me see that more clearly. So if a person appears (to the public, and unambiguously) male as a young child, male-targeted messages are aimed at him, and so he will develop with male-type expectations, so will have male privilege regardless of later status. But I think the way society treats one /now/ is the other part of it: /full/ male privilege is only granted to people whose masculinity is not in question. I mean, that’s why chauvinist men see so much to be afraid of, isn’t it?

    I often find myself rethinking the question “what is a woman” and you just made me think more about “what is male privilege”. But I don’t feel qualified to evaluate the extent to which trans women are women as grouped by male oppression, as that’s theory for me but life for them: the mileage must vary according to when people have been pushed to conform to which standard, which I imagine depends on appearance/manner.

  25. GXB February 17, 2010 at 2:34 AM #

    [Warning: mostly-off-topic linguistic geekiness]
    @ Valerie: Concepts can be fixed, but words might stop describing them. Words are a matter of consensus: they depend on how people use them. Since people who say “feminist” might mean “sex-positive feminist”, or might even mean “man-hater”, when you tell people you’re a feminist, you may have to qualify your definition or explain your principles to make them understand (the first time). Language changes even when people use it incorrectly, of course, that’s *how* it changes most of the time. (Ugh, I sound like a linguistic descriptivist! I am a prescriptivist, as I try to get people to change language only in ways that allow for a wider range of precise meanings, rather than sloppily propagating mistakes and ambiguities.)

  26. Alina February 17, 2010 at 3:33 AM #

    @ Valerie M

    Are you suggesting that it’s lesbians who rape women or that rape and sex are the same thing? I can’t tell.

    WTF???? what the hell how can u misinterpretate me so bad?

    Did u read what I said???
    What I am saying is that I find it weird that this man had a sexchange surgery done even though he raped a woman,so and I assume he didnt just become transsexuall after the rape for reasons I explained in my post …….so therefor I wonder wether he is a lebian since he should of felt like a woman for most of his life.I dont really buy it so I think he might done the surgery so that he can be close to women again but I am speculating only.

  27. OutsideLookingOver April 23, 2010 at 6:44 AM #

    As one who has that gender issue, the most powerful message this site has given me is the concept of male privilege and the sense of male entitlement. I have become sensitised to this now and am fighting it tooth-and-nail, both in myself – which is incredibly difficult, since one is dealing with the subconscious – and when I see other males behaving badly. Dredging up each and every action and reaction for inspection against the matrix of entitlement has become an obsession, and sometimes it seems so futile, but I think I am “winning”. If nothing else, it is profoundly enlightening… but it has served to improve not only my relationship with my professional “sisters” – I’m a nurse in Australia – but has brought shuddering home this fact: just how horrible a place this world is for women.

    Interestingly, when I talk to women about it, they look at me pityingly, but also with that look of resignation: “you have no idea”. True, I don’t. I really need to walk in those shoes.

    It’s too easy to give lip service: it’s much harder to experience it, and survive.

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