Some Thoughts on Bruce Jenner.

bruce jenner abc interview

I’ve been loath to contribute my feelings about Bruce Jenner’s coming out as a trans woman to a feminist/humanist/trans rights sphere because, as a cisgender person, the last thing I’d want to do is cisplain.

However, as probably the most well-versed person on human rights in my immediate circle of friends, colleagues and family members, I’ve been throwing my two cents out there whenever the conversation inevitably veres Bruce’s way.

Because the people I’ve been talking to about him* are espousing predictably ignorant views. Things like “what’s his deal?”, “is he a she-he” and “tell me about this Kardashian who now thinks he’s a woman”.

I try not to get angry when explaining that gender is a spectrum, being transgender is a legitimate gender identity, and that it’s not for us to judge a person who’s spent 65 years keeping this secret, but I can feel my expression change as the fury bubbles up inside me.

One person I was actually able to have a tempered conversation with about Bruce wondered whether ignorance to trans issues (and, by extension, race, gender, sexuality, disability, class issues) could excuse such bigoted reactions: “You can’t fault people for not being aware,” she said.

Except you can. How do you think anyone who’s sensitive to minority issues came to be that way? Because they listened to people who are from these communities and actually deal with these things on a daily basis. Read about them in books like Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness and online. Follow enlightened people on Twitter. Watched Bruce’s interview with Diane Sawyer to understand that not everyone who falls under a certain umbrella wants to be addressed in the ways that are generally accepted as politically correct. The information is out there and ripe for the picking so ignorance is not an excuse. I actually have more respect for bigots who are informed about the issues they choose to be so bigoted about, even though I fundamentally disagree with them and think they’re horrible people.

My friend agreed, saying that watching shows like Transparent (which is problematic in it’s own right) has opened her up to trans issues. The problem she has with Bruce’s coming out though, she said, is that he lied about it: “You don’t have to come out, but when he was asked whether he was a trans woman in the past, he said no.”

Sure, there are ways Bruce could have framed his answers to be more ambiguous, but the media still would have spun it to service their agenda. It’s not Bruce’s job to make us more accepting of people who don’t fit our preconceptions.

Imagine the weight on his shoulders being a trans woman whilst also being a) held up as an American hero as an Olympic gold medalist in a sport that women can’t even compete in (thanks, Alice Eve!); and b) a member of a family comprised of some of the most famous women in the world who, whether we agree with it or not, are the epitome of femininity in many instances. (And for all the Kardashian haters who’ve made comments such as those in the third paragraph of this piece, Bruce’s family has actually come out in support of him—a low barometre of decency, but I digress—in his transition which makes them better than you.) No wonder he didn’t feel safe or accepted to come out. (Props to Bruce and ABC for mentioning the very real violence trans people face, especially trans women of colour who aren’t protected by the security Bruce has.)

Maybe it’s just because I try to surround myself with progressive people (at least online if not IRL), but the reaction to Bruce’s interview has been overwhelmingly positive. Those who actually took the time to listen to his experiences can take into account the obstacles put in Bruce’s way that have prevented him from living his truth in public. Maybe it will open their eyes to the obstacles put in the way of other trans people who haven’t been #blessed with the privileges Bruce Jenner has.

*I’m referring to Bruce by his birth name and using male pronouns as that is what he’s stated a preference for at this time and is in line with GLAAD’s guidelines.

Elsewhere: [Slate] Jill Soloway Apologises for Joking About Bruce Jenner on Facebook.

[The Mary Sue] Why Transparent Has Lost the Trust of the Trans Community.

[Jezebel] Alice Eve is Sorry She Said Bruce Jenner is “Playing at Being a Woman”. 

[GLAAD] GLAAD Responds to ABC News Interview with Bruce Jenner, Releases Tip Sheet for Journalists.

Image via ABC News.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

On radicalism and porn. I fall somewhere in between the spectrum of questionable, debased porn for freedom of speech’s sake and alarmist anti-porn rhetoric. Where do you your views sit? [Deep Green Resistance News Service]

Dissecting the unreality of Her. [NPR]

The 68th Down Under Feminists Carnival is here, with lots of great year-end articles, and some from me, as well. [Ideologically Impure]

A trans man weighs in on the “boys will be boys” debate. [Rookie]

What Will Ferrel’s career shows us about men and masculinity. [Think Progress]

TV: Witch Trial—Burning at the Stake on Charmed.

 

2009: The year Michael Jackson died, 173 people perished on Black Saturday, and America’s first black president, Barack Obama, took office.

However, in Charmed’s imagining of a futuristic 2009, 1999’s flashforward episode “Morality Bites”, witches have been exposed and are now being burned at the stake.

Phoebe is set to burn for taking justice into her own hands and using her powers to avenge a friend’s death, “seeking to defy human nature with her way of life”.

Fastforward two years to 2011, and it’s not such a different place.

Uganda tried to push through the Kill the Gays bill, women still have to march in (Slut)walks to exert freedom of sexuality and reject blame for sexual assault, and Australia is still floundering over a carbon tax.

I’ve written on this here blog before that sometimes I get the feeling the world is regressing, especially in terms of the environment and reproductive rights.

We still vilify those who dare to lead a lifestyle outside the norm, whether it is viewed as a “choice” or not. In Charmed’s fictional world, witches could be seen as a metaphor for the “other”: people of colour, the gays, people with disabilities and, most pertinently in 2011, transpeople.

The episode could also be a metaphor for the death penalty.

When Phoebe kills baseballer Cal Greene for killing her friend, she takes the law into her own hands, and is therefore sentenced to death. An eye for an eye.

Before Phoebe accepts her fate and submits to burning alive, she tells her executioner, Nathaniel Pratt, that while she’s paying for her crime, there will come a day when he’ll have to pay for his, too. While the death penalty isn’t an issue in Australia (if it were I’d be—controversially, perhaps—for it. However, there seems to be something sickly satisfying for victims and their families to see a perpetrator rot in prison for life… Jaycee Duggard’s abductors, anyone?), the question of who decides if a person dies and who administers the lethal injection (or in this case, “gathers the kindling”) remains. And how can a person live with that on their conscience.

Charmed may be all fluff, unrealistic demon-fighting outfits and “nipple fats”, as my friend Eddie noted, but every now and then it does deal with the big issues, consciously or not.

Related: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Rihanna’s “Man Down”: Revenge is a Dish Best Served in Cold Blood.

Images via Wikia, Gamespot, PPP The Power of 3, Hopeless Obsession.

Event: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Ralliers outside the State Library on Swanston Street.

Best. Sign. Ever.

Last Saturday the highly anticipated SlutWalk occurred in several Australian cities, and I attended the Melbourne event with my fellow anti-slut-shamer friend Laura (both of us below).

We rocked up in our sluttiest outfits, which you can see above, complete with permanent marker declarations of our proud sluthood to boot. Some of the other outfits we noticed were short skirts with knee-high skull print socks and customised Doc Martins, worn by event organiser Clem Bastow (below), lace dresses and gym gear, the latter of which adorned a short-haired tattoo fan with a body Tracy Anderson would envy.

Clem Bastow.

Monica Dux.

As Bastow commented when she gave one of the opening addresses, along with fellow event organisers Karen Pickering and Lauren Clair, and noted feminists Monica Dux (above) and Leslie Cannold, amongst others: “thank you, God, it looks like you’re going to rain on me”. But no one was gonna rain on our parade and, despite the chilly temperatures, we still walked tall and proud in whatever get-ups we chose to wear.

Dux said this is the beginning of a movement, which I have to disagree with. SlutWalk is not the beginning of a movement; it is part of the reignited battle to stop victim-blaming and slut-shaming based on one cop’s archaic musings on rape and how much a woman was “asking for it”. Here’s a fun fact: WE’RE NEVER ASKING FOR IT! (See Bastow’s sign, above). No matter how we are dressed, where we are, how much we’ve had to drink, or what we do for work.

Speaking of, I was really proud to see the representation of sex workers at the event, and president of the Australian Sex Workers’ Association, the Scarlet Alliance (represent!), Elena Jeffreys (above) spoke about her sexual assault and that even though she was paid for sex, she was not consenting to assault. Her opinions on the SlutWalk were really interesting and I hope they receive as much publicity as the negative perceptions of the rally have in the media.

In the days leading up to SlutWalk, I was embroiled in a heated debate on Facebook with a friend who disagrees with the SlutWalk. I think he confused—like a lot of people—the meaning of the SlutWalk with an excuse to get gussied up in a very risqué manner when, in fact, that was not at all what it was about. That didn’t stop protestors on the steps of Parliament House at the top of Bourke Street brandishing their “rape is horrifying, but so is immodesty” placards (above). Like one of the speakers (whose identity escapes me: should have used my BlackBerry voice recorder!) said: it’s not up to us to curb our behaviour (and that includes how we choose to dress) at the risk of potentially being sexually assaulted; it’s up to those who sexually assault to curb their behaviour!

I think most people against the SlutWalk had a problem with the use of the word slut. As Cannold said, “words matter…: … we won’t stand for one, the same one, being slung at us over and over again to demean and degrade us.” Lori Adelman, in a post on Feministing, said she didn’t agree with the term “slut” and that she “would much rather have attended a ‘Do Not Rape’ Walk”:

“I find that the term disproportionately impacts women of colour and poor women in order to reinforce their status as inherently dirty and second-class, and hence more rape-able.”

To me, “slut” is just a word. It meant as much to me to be called a slut when I was 12 as it does today; as they (and Rihanna) say, sticks and stones will break my bones but names can never hurt me. It’s not about the term “slut”, it’s about the backwards and extremely offensive views that go along with that word. As coordinator of the first SlutWalk in Toronto, Sonya Barnett, told Rachel Hills: “if he [the policeman] had said something else, we would have called it something else.”

The speaker who garnered the most attention, though, was transgendered man, Cody Smith (above), who had been raped both as a biological female, and as a trans man. There were tears a plenty during his speech!

It was nice to see such a welcoming, non-judgmental turnout of everyday men, women and children of all walks of life, wearing all sorts of garb, not just the fishnetted and cut-out body con dresses that certain attendees chose to wear (guilty as charged!). After all, rape is not about what you’re wearing, what you look like, what size you are, how old you are, what your sexual orientation or gender is, or any other denomination that you happen to belong to as a person. It is about the perpetrator, and nothing you can or cannot do will stop them from attempting to rape you.

As Smith said, it shouldn’t be the victims of sexual assaults’ responsibility to educate the general public on sexual assault and victim-blaming. And I thought the sexual revolution happened several decades ago: it shouldn’t be up to members of a fringe movement to educate the general public on the sexual rights of women to express themselves however they please without the threat of retaliation. In fact, feminism—which is what the SlutWalk was all about—shouldn’t be considered as on the fringe in 2011.

Related: SlutWalk.

So a Tattoo Makes Me Public Property, Huh?

Has Feminism Failed?

Rihanna’s “S&M”: Is it Really So Much Worse Than Her Other Stuff?

Elsewhere: [Feministing] SlutWalk: To March or Not to March.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Ask Rachel: What Are Your Thoughts on SlutWalk?

Black and white images via Ali Ryan Photography.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Just a short one this week, as I haven’t had a lot of time for reading. L

Rabbit White ponders the things she learnt about her own sexuality from the men at Mr. International Rubber:

“It is being put in a sexual situation when you are non-sexual. It’s being introduced to a new world all at once. But it’s not long before I feel comfortable here, basking in male sexuality that is totally not directed at me. I think I finally getting the draw to being a ‘fag hag’or ‘fairy princess’. I get to gawk and join in the lust without fear of being pulled in or anxiety of protecting myself. In the view from here, human sexuality is a celebration and male sexuality is valid and uniquely cool.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve read advice columns where girls write in, worried about their smell or unable to enjoy sex because they are self conscious. Perhaps it’s because girls are taught to please everyone else, putting themselves last, but there just seems to be something in female sexuality that is uncomfortable with receiving pleasure. Look at all the women’s mags, obsessed with ‘how to please a man’.

“But maybe the ‘pig’ concept could lessen fears around receiving pleasure. What if your partner liked you sweaty, smelly, just the way you are right now? And just wanted more and more and more of that.”

Sady Doyle, of Tiger Beatdown (lots of feminist goodness from them this week) discusses “The Fantasy of Girl World”:

“The fantasy of girl world often feels like the feminist imagination taken to its most self-indulgent, hypocritical extremes. We stand for tolerance and egalitarianism, whereas the people who disagree with us are IGNORANT WIFE-BEATING MONSTERS. Women, if left on their own, would eliminate war, poverty, heartbreak and pets that are not cats. But, here’s a question for you: Why shouldn’t it look like this? What’s wrong with a wish-fulfilment fantasy that tells women they could do well with power and without oppression? What’s wrong with girls geeking out over the idea that they’re special?”

Glee’s Rocky Horror episode failed to touch-a, touch-a, touch-a, touch Garland Grey at Tiger Beatdown:

“Early on in the episode Mike volunteers to play Dr. Frank-N-Furter, but a few scenes later he says his parents won’t allow him to play a ‘tranny’. Mercedes takes the role, delivering a show stopping version of ‘Sweet Transvestite’, but the word ‘transsexual’ is replaced by ‘sensational’. For Glee, transpeople are punch lines, not anyone the show needs to fucking think about. While doing Rocky Horror Picture Show, a musical whose entire message is about accepting people’s sexuality and gender.

“Can we just cut out losses and rename this show Chord Overstreet in Tiny Gold Shorts? Clearly, he is fanservice and I don’t even care… However, as much as I appreciated seeing his abs, I didn’t care for the oddly-specific diet regimen he blurts out before showing them or the comically small weights Artie was holding. Artie’s a paraplegic, pushing himself everywhere in his wheelchair, lifting himself in and out of it dozens of times a day, and THAT is the biggest weight he’s lifting? That weight is a clear signal to the audience that Artie doesn’t belong in the locker room and is only there to provide comic relief…”

The four types of Facebook friends, according to Susan Orlean.

The Pervocracy on the “Slut, Deconstructed”:

“I’m 25. I lost my virginity at 15. So 26 partners is only two or three a year. It’s hardly going home with a new guy every night. To break it down further, 6 of those partners were serious romantic relationships, and you can’t call a girl slutty for sleeping with her own boyfriend, right? So now it’s 20 casual partners over 10 years—a raging, wild, man-eating two per year. I’m so cock-crazy I need it every six months, baby…

“Oh, and a woman in ‘my god, you can see her everything’ clothing dancing on tables and flirting with every guy in the bar might be a virgin for all you know about her.”

It’s the wrong time of year here, but there’s not many things I love more than trawling through the gossip magazines in summer, style-stalking the celebrities in Aspen and New York, longing for cool weather again to break out the beanies, woollen cardigans and shearling coats (okay, wrong continent for shearling!).