“For feminists who recognise gender is a hierarchy, playing with it cannot form part of a future that is friendly to women’s interests, because women’s freedom requires the abolition of gender.”
-Sheila Jeffreys, from her book Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism.
I did a radio zine on the Access Hour on WORT, 89.9 FM in Madison on November 3rd, to bring forward the silenced voices of women speaking out against gender oppression. Just like slavery is not something light-hearted and fun that we can “try on”, “explore” and “enjoy”, so is gender not playful and fun, but rather a brutal system of social power that subordinates women to men.
In case you have not heard the radio show with myself, as host, and Jeffreys, Hungerford and Jane Doe as guests discussing feminism and transgenderism, please follow this link to listen: Radio Show
It is a long story, but one I wish to tell here in ThistleSpace, in hopes of encouraging us all to further along discussions of gender oppression and what we can do to fight it.
In September of 2012, I was labeled “transphobic” by the Twin Cities Anarchist Book Fair organizers when I submitted a proposal to do a workshop on Anarcha-feminism. At that time, I was a long-time community activist and organizer with the Madison Infoshop Collective, an anarcho community resource space in my hometown.
After being labeled “transphobic” and denied entry into the book fair as a presenter for a workshop on Anarcha-Feminism, a male anarchist friend of mine (we are no longer friends) offered to post on my behalf to the Anarchist Book Fair event page. I said “sure” and what happened next was a really really long thread with threats of violence towards me and the appointed spokesperson for the Twin Cities Anarchist Book Fair organizing committee condoning those threats of violence, publicly. You can read about it in the link below to the zine Musings on Manarchy in the Midwest that was written leading up to and shortly after this experience. My thinking and terminology has changed quite a bit since then, but the story of what happened is the main reason I think you should read it. Also, because it is the zine Musings on Manarchy in the Midwest that Sheila Jeffreys took an interest in. I sent it to her for proof-reading, to see if I had good, solid theory in what I was writing and she told me that it did not need to be edited and proofed by her, that its value lies in it being a testimony to my experience as a female activist/organizer in male-dominated “progressive”, “radical” and “anarchist” circles.
So I published it — and by “publish” I mean I made print copies and distributed them among friends and activists in the Midwest in addition to sending it electronically to various inboxes and places on the internet.
It got wide enough distribution that it landed into the hands of a detransitioning woman who then contacted me and we got together for coffee since she was nearby geographically, and that got the ball rolling for me to attend the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in 2014 to bear witness to an historic gathering of detransitioning women that took place on the Land. I went to the detransitioning workshop focused on listening to their personal testimonies of how transgenderism has hurt them and was deeply moved. As an organizer/activist, not only was I moved on a personal level, I felt the healing circles/sisterhood and Consciousness Raising they are creating for themselves and each other, are tremendously important to political women’s liberation movement as a whole.
I invited Jane Doe to be on the show after meeting and talking with her at MichFest 2014. I sent her an email on October 6th, 2014, asking her if she would like to be a guest on the WORT Access Hour with Sheila Jeffreys and she accepted my invitation.
Before that, I had sent an email to Sheila Jeffreys on June 28th, 2014, asking her if I could interview her for an hour-long program on my community radio station in Madison and she accepted. I had secured the date, November 3rd, with the Access Hour manager at the station, prior to extending the invitation.
Since the date was so far off into the future at that point, I decided I would keep it under wraps and would reach out to feminists I know and trust online and in my community in Madison, to develop questions to ask her. I did that and by mid-October, 2014, I had a set of questions I was running by both Jane and Sheila leading up to the show for their input and approval.
Both of them immediately approved of the line of questioning, and it wasn’t until a few days before the show that they requested some changes, that I happily made. My goal was to make them as comfortable as possible about speaking out and using their own voices to do so. Jane wanted the line of her questions to be more open-ended and Sheila wanted to be sure there would be room somewhere in the interview to talk about how many men who transgender are aroused sexually by self-harm and fantasizing that they are female, to the point of their “gender” being a sexual fetish.
When I went to the station, one week before the show to record the radio promo ad, the News Director, Molly Stentz, put me in the hot seat and questioned me for over 45 minutes before giving me the green light to do the show. This was before Elizabeth Hungerford had been invited to the program, so there was no mention of her in the radio promo ad.
In realizing how controversial the program was turning out to be at the station and in the community, we decided it would be best to NOT allow the phone lines to open up for questions coming from the public to be aired directly on the Access Hour. Here is what I posted on October 28th on the private FB event I created for the show:
“I went to the station last night to record the promo ad that will air all this week. The news director disagrees with my feminist analysis of gender, but she said she has to allow for equal access to the access hour. She conceded that even nazis could sign-up for a show if they wanted, to which I replied “well ‘transphobic’ is the new ‘feminazi’ so there ya go.” She recommended that I go to the station in a car with a buddy the night of the show, instead of riding my bike there alone in the dark. She said the station has been flooded with angry calls and emails for the last two weeks and she is concerned for my safety. I called up my male ally friend who is black and into black power organizing and prison abolition. We share a similar way of looking at social systems of power and agree that women are oppressed by men and male supremacy and that blacks are oppressed by whites and white supremacy. In my regular conversations with him, we note the similarities and differences between white supremacy and male supremacy and try to understand how racism and sexism operate to keep people subordinated to white male authority and rule. This male ally/friend will accompany me to the station and back. We are going out for a beer after the show. The show will not have an open phone line so I apologize to those of you who had wanted to call in and be on the air. You can still call during the program though, to talk to the receptionists. They are putting an extra receptionist in the lobby the night of the show to field all the anticipated calls. They will be keeping careful track of those caller comments so it would be GREAT if you do still call and just let them know how much you are enjoying the program and how glad you are that WORT would allow Jeffreys and other women air their points of view. The number for the station is 608 256 2001 or toll free at 866 899 9678.”
I noticed that Elizabeth Hungerford had shown interest in calling-in to the show to comment, I assumed, in her capacity as a lesbian feminist lawyer who co-penned with Cathy Brennan, the infamous “Letter to the UN on the Status of Women” in 2011. I was interested in adding more legitimacy to the program by adding her as a guest. I asked Jane and Sheila first, if it would be okay with them to add Hungerford and they both said it would be fine. I spoke with Hungerford on the phone before the airing of the show because I knew she had some philosophical disagreements with Jeffreys and I did not want those disagreements to be brought up in the hour-long program. She agreed to answer my questions just about the letter to the UN and how gender identity laws are playing out to harm girls and women. I told her I was especially interested in her talking about their application to male incarcerated sex offenders who transgender and wish to be housed with women prisoners. She kept her word and stuck only to those questions. Our philosophical differences came out later on, on my FB wall where she promoted her “Discussing Gender Critical & Gender Identity” FB page where “preferred pronouns are used and differing viewpoints are encouraged.”
In my opinion, the use of “preferred gender pronouns” closes down discussion, rather than opening it up, but the radio show was over and it was time for some of our differences to come out — which they did. Hungerford even went so far as to say that women “…can’t fuck our way to liberation from men” when a discussion of political lesbianism was started. Political Lesbianism is not a widely publicized topic, but generally speaking, when I have seen it discussed, participants usually make sure that it is not about “fucking”, but is rather about a choice women can make to love women and refuse sex to men. But I also understand that political lesbianism risks desexualizing lesbians and making lesbianism solely a political choice or a step in recovery from sexual abuse. There is a lot to discuss about how sexuality and attraction are experienced and about the ways women can awaken sexual attraction for one another, without just dismissing the discussion with a crude statement such as Hungerford’s in that moment. If women, en masse, refused sex to men and became lesbians, that most certainly would have a political impact, in my opinion, and would be a step towards our liberation from male rule.
Finally, I just want to say that it was a great experience to speak out, even though I received a personal threat of violence to my FB inbox and was accused of “hateful bigotry” and aligning myself with “hate speech” publicly.
Women who speak out will be demonized. We must not let this stop us from speaking out, but rather, allow it to encourage us to fan the flames of True Feminism that promotes the well-being of all girls and women as a group. When they begin to demonize you, you are tapping at the root of male social power and control in our society. This is a good thing. Let’s dig up the roots of male domination and re-plant a tree of life that nourishes our growth as women.