Tools for the Struggle


This a bit of an experiment. Though I have not been posting to this blog for some time–issues around available time, particularly in relation to keeping up full time work, and my penchant for doing rather involved pieces that have much thinking and drafting to do.

I have, nevertheless, been posting comments to various lists and sites over the months, finding the motivation of responding to be very helpful in getting something worthwhile, I believe, out.

This is one such response to this.

There were no other comments. I debated whether to post this because after an interesting and necessary discussion to a previous post, there was silence. There remains silence.

This is an ominous sign.

Over the years, I have read with interest, great respect and admiration the work of catkisser whose contribution includes not only this blog, but others and a body of advocacy I can never hope to emulate.

I regret from this point our paths diverge.

To abandon the tools of privilege and power relations analyses is to voluntarily give up what is most effective in the struggle for empowerment.

The need for one to “own one’s womanhood,” to posses one’s self-esteem, are certainly foundational pre-requisites for ANY struggle, including the struggle for equality–which remains a struggle.

The vision of anarchism in the Spanish Civil War was not limited to women, but was one shared by all those, Spanish and not Spanish alike, who answered the call–forever changing them.

The challenges faced by those men and women were different at least in degree from those we face today–I would even argue the degree of difference we face today passes the threshold to difference in kind.

The most visible collective of women in Canada, with a long and respected, by some, history of working for the benefit of women, is the group that founded Rape Relief and the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective and Pharmacy, called Lu’s, which have SUCCESSFULLY excluded those women not born women–those of use who DO NOT BLEED.

I have myself been attacked by those who wield “horizontal” beliefs–white, middle-class, gay men who argue there is no difference between either our status or struggles.

This, when gay and lesbian people have have had explicit human rights in Canada for more than a decade, hate crime protections for almost that long, and same-sex marriage–called in Canada “equal marriage”–for more than 5 years in most parts of my country and everywhere since.

And MANY other administrative law and collective agreement benefits.

There is no explicit human rights protection in Canada–except North West Territories–for transgender or transsexual people, no hate crime protection, nor FORMAL equality anywhere.

There is a Rainbow Health Ontario agency that seeks to improve health care in Ontario for ALL of us whose adherence to the social
determinants of health does not move them even to acknowledge that this FORMAL exclusion from society has any effect on transgender and particularly transsexual people.

Once, this very much upset me on a deeply personal level until I worked out my own grief and despair, finding my own healing path,
taking ownership of my womanhood and finding my self-esteem.

While my transition has completed, I continue on my healing path.

The tools you declare should be abandoned are those I see put to good use, by the women I admire, in the empowerment of those oppressed by the primary structures of oppression–race, age, gender/sex, sexual orientation, class, etc–and all their intersections in the lived lives of all of us.

Without these tools, there is no way to answer the charge that there is no difference between the struggles of those excluded from the mainstream of society and those closer, nor able to gauge this exclusion and what maintains this–the simple exercise of raw power.

And more importantly, to challenge it.

The time has long since past when we can withdraw into our communes and communities and celebrate the Goddess in each other and ourselves to the exclusion of this struggle–balanced with what we need to keep ourselves healthy in the world, which DOES include celebration and mutual recognition.

The Spanish Civil War, among its MANY lessons, gave us this very painful and very bitter one.

Regardless of my own yearnings for the glory of the past–and my grief for being forever excluded from it–there is nothing I can do to resurrect what WAS right and good.

All I can do–merely contribute, really–is to build for the future with all the tools I can muster in the face of the ever-perfecting
machine, maintaining my balance along the way as best I can.

It saddens me more than I can express that the two of you, whom I admire for what you have endured and accomplished, call on us to abandon the very essence of the consciousness and empowerment that it is to be a woman.

UPDATE: When I wrote about silence, it was not in reference to the posts, but to the absence of comments to them.

The comment refers to a discussion in response to my comment.

I do not see a discussion, of the sort that was in response to this post. I just wonder where the discussion in comments is to the more recent posts.

UPDATE II: Another comment to the original post.

I believe the starting point of feminism–well, maybe second wave feminism–in North America–one in which few “women” actually had a part in–were the ‘bitching’ or consciousness-raising sessions.

Out of these came the awareness of power-relationships on the one hand and privilege–male privilege–on the other.

Cultural differences are the inevitable result of, well, different cultures.

One of the goals of social work is to work at cultural competency–not always succeeded or even understood. Feminism is very much a part of the practice and theory of social work.

But my point, which I don’t believe you have addressed, is that out of one’s taking ownership of being a woman and coming to one’s self-esteem–a difficult process given the oppressed state of being a woman, and yes, being a woman of transsexual history–comes empowerment.

This empowerment is entangled with understanding privilege and power relations.

This is the gift of feminism to all those who struggle against oppression. What has been absorbed into what is called anti-oppression practice and theory.

Feminists work in all parts of the “woman’s movement,” including those we both have challenged. These women do the Goddess’s work in their lives and in living their lives.

What they–we–do with our lives after taking possession of our empowerment is not for another to say.

This just gets us back to where we started.


7 Responses to Tools for the Struggle

  1. catkisser says:

    There has hardly been silence in response…..both Maura and myself have written additional blog/essays addressing your comment and will continue to do so.

    And my feelings about the Lu’s pharmacy thing are quite mixed. I am long past the point I will join in any “fight” for the inclusion of someone simply because they claim exclusion for being a member of a specific class, especially when that class is trans anything. I’ve been a victim of exactly this sort of forced “inclusiveness” myself. And I find myself somewhat sympathetic with their stance because the very first customer was someone challenging them..not coming to help, coming to take and demand. And this is precisely why I dislike those tools you are talking about, they bypass people as individuals for models of vertical oppression politics and provide an excuse for being a lousy human being overall unexamined.

    Further, I have put all the remaining resources I have into one of those “communes” you dismissed using the horizontal model I learned from ancient history……that’s what I do, that is my day to day life.

    If our paths have diverged, so be it….I wish you well on yours but I found myself grouped/allied with those who did not want me or my religion or my sexual orientation. It was eye opening and liberating.

    Women’s strength comes from our nature to cooperate, work socially and naturally reject hierarchies in favour consensus building……the ten thousand years of history prior to the eruption of Thera prove this. The re-emerging over and over of this afterwards give testimony to it. My personal experiences confirm it.

  2. dyssonance says:

    Personally — that is, as an individual, outside the sometimes thin veneer of objectivity I enforce with great effort on myself (and failing miserably of late, lol) — I find the outright prejudice at Lu’s to be extraordinarily offensive on multiple levels.

    Especially because it seeks to cater to an *underserved minority population*. Iirc (and I might not), they seek to provide assistance to women who are poor and in need of such services.

    On *that* basis, their argument fails, as they are not meeting the needs of the target group they seek to help.

    Their chief excuse is that we don’t have the same medical needs. This is not a lie — but it is an exaggeration of the truth. It is the same exaggeration we see in a lot of areas.

    “you aren’t like me because you don’t have enough of what I see as important”.

    Although I’ve recently gotten into an argument on a certain position I hold, their argument boils down to a true and lasting error:

    They define women by their bodies.

    And, in so doing, they submit and reinforce the oppression and social subjugation of women.

    That they are unwilling to accommodate transpeople (ostensibly — and pretextually — due to a a lack of familiarity that they are unwilling to place effort into) is merely a sign of capitulation to that power.

    CK has left trans efforts in much the same way I let IS efforts years ago. After a point, the arguments become too damn much.

    She has taken the faith she has worked hard at giving birth to again and has allowed the present into it — that’s a hard thing to do in religion, any religion.

    She and I don’t always agree, and in the past I’ve had my fair share of fights with Maura as well.

    I learned from both of them, and its vaguely possible they in turn may have learned something from me.

    But what you saw in that thread is people who are still trying to come to terms with what it means to be part of that system that maintains an oppression that is unseen and unfelt and seems far too academic in the process of their living their lives.

    And they don’t like it — on a level that is emotional and raw and not fully delved into.

    The silence you note is due to the internal “behind the scenes” stuff that is happening right now in that small group — which, despite their claims, truly is a small group. Not because they lack some aspects of truth, but because they shroud that truth in something other…

  3. Shannon Blatt says:

    I was the first person to attend at Lu’s Pharmacy. and I certainly did not seek to take or demand anything. my first words were of congratulation and to express my desire to support the pharmacy by moving my prescriptions there. and my intention was to try to begin dialogue, and avoid a litigation confrontation that I was quite certain would be commenced by others, a litigation confrontation that would serve all women as poorly as it did the last time this issue arose (the Nixon/Rape Relief matter.) the goal was to approach this as feminists and women should do…constructively, seeking to communicate and understand each other. So…I take absolute exception and offense to catkisser’s irresponsible, inaccurate, self-indulgent and self-congratulatory nonsense. and for the record, your bullshit on Bilerico on the topic really hurt me (first comment to the update post by Mercedes Allen.) you may claim that you are a feminist, but check yourself for whether you’re actually acting as one, rather than just patting yourself on the back and being a trollish and oppressive crank who thinks she’s more woman than the rest of us.

  4. catkisser says:

    Shannon, your response to me indicates my impression was correct. Full of personal insults.

    Given the Nixon affair, the years long drain on the Collectives resources and you, the very act of being the first customer regardless of your words would be taken as an act of aggression… came as a trans something. You might fool others with claims of “trying to heal” but you knew what the reaction would be…….and in their place mine would have been the same.

  5. Shannon says:

    And your comments have confirmed my impression of you was correct in turn. full of personal insults (can give’em but not take’em I gather.) The reaction was actually pretty positive on my first visit. It was the publicity around the planned demonstration and the staged attempt to generate a service refusal (in which I had no part) that came a few days later that seemed to get everything polarized again. I’ll just close by saying that if you wish to ungender people, ungender other women of trans or whatever you wish to call it experience, you are not a feminist. you’re playing the patriarchy’s game. and I suspect you’re doing so because you just need to lash out at others like you, due to some sort of unresolved feeling of having been hurt by others in the trans (or whatever) community. well, a lot of us have been hurt by other women, trans or not. it doesn’t give us leave and license to start bashing people and assaulting their gender. you will never be cisgender. deal with it.

  6. ariablue says:

    I don’t understand the quip about never being cisgender. I think that is something that those who move through transition learn doesn’t actually make sense after awhile. I do understand how a person can feel slighted when you are trying your best and get criticized. It’s hard to reconcile viewpoints when everyone feels so strongly.

    On the topic of feminism, I think it boils down to a question of generations. We had the 2nd wave awakening, the consciousness raising, and everything that went along with that. Time goes on, people are born, things change. Those who have been the core of the feminist movement have particular viewpoints and concerns. Those who came later don’t always see things from the same perspective.

    If feminism is in trouble, it is because those who occupy the positions of influence have so far refused to engage those who came later on, and instead dictate from a pulpit. The concerns of younger women, the thoughts, hopes, and dreams are not being recognized.

    Prominent feminists, rather than recognizing their own success and moving on to the next challenge are rehashing the same fights over and over. They tell women “You don’t seem to care about feminism”. But who’s feminism? Who defines what feminism is? Will the 2nd wavers grow and embrace change, or will they retrench and stand apart? At the most basic level, this is a problem of not passing the baton to the next runner.

    Every generation has a role to play throughout its common lifetime. Roles change with the phases of the life we live. There is a time for action, and a time to guide. Strong personalities have a difficult time changing roles, but change we all must. There is no stasis in life.

    As of now there are not one, but two generations in adulthood after the 2nd wave. And a third after them being born. Together with the generation before the 2nd wave who is passing on and a very few individuals born before that living their twilight years, that is all we have. That is all of humanity there is.

    We need to regain perspective as a society and as an extended family. These movements are not about philosophies thousands of years old, or internecine warfare, or struggles over resources. This endeavor is about raising up all people, everywhere. This is about rising above the base instincts that hold us back from true enlightenment.

    It is time for feminism to change and grow. All of us, both in feminism and in through the rest of society, must start working together. There are difficult times coming, and if we are going to continue forward to more enlightened times we need each other. I fear that if those with influence today do not embrace this new age, they will be left behind by those who come later. And we’ll all lose our most valuable resource; the wisdom of those who lived through adversity. I’m not sure any society can survive that.

    As much as I want to play in that forest and dream my childhood dreams, I can’t live there forever. I’ve moved from young adulthood and left space for others to experience that joyous time. As I enter the next part of my life, I hope that others will gracefully do the same for me. I also hope they will know they are appreciated and loved by those who take up their burden.

    When was the last time anyone talked about love?

  7. catkisser says:

    “I take absolute exception and offense to catkisser’s irresponsible, inaccurate, self-indulgent and self-congratulatory nonsense.”

    “your bullshit on Bilerico”

    “you’re actually acting as one, rather than just patting yourself on the back and being a trollish and oppressive crank who thinks she’s more woman than the rest of us.”

    “you are not a feminist. you’re playing the patriarchy’s game. and I suspect you’re doing so because you just need to lash out at others like you, due to some sort of unresolved feeling of having been hurt by others in the trans (or whatever) community. well, a lot of us have been hurt by other women, trans or not. it doesn’t give us leave and license to start bashing people and assaulting their gender. you will never be cisgender.”

    so I’m a troll, self-hating, not a real (cis) woman, arrogant, not a feminist, somehow in a position to “ungender” you despite never having met, abusive basher who assaults and have unresolved feelings of self loathing…….and all this is response to disagreeing with you about letting Lu’s and the collective alone…….this is why I am dropping this conversation.

    I did not insult you, you felt free to insult me. Communication between you and myself is apparently impossible, what could you possibly think would happen with them?

    Jessica, this is the result of using the “toolbox” of oppression.

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