A few days ago the radical feminist and gender critical Sheila Jeffreys gave a talk for Women's Declaration International (WDI) entitled: 'We cannot save gender and abolish transgenderism'.
According to Jeffreys Until we rid ourselves of stereotypes of femininity and traditional canons of beauty, the fight against free gender identity is doomed to failure.
Also On the subject of beauty, feminism has always been a battleground, and continues to be so: a dialectic between those who, like Jeffreys, read the rules of beauty as mere patriarchal oppression; and those who, on the other hand, on less radical positions, intend to save female beauty by identifying other canons: as we wrote hereFor Iranian women, beauty is a weapon of struggle.
Does the fight against gender stereotypes entail the renunciation of what is now understood as female beauty, imitated by male transvestism, or the invention of another idea of beauty?
A stimulating discussion.
Here is the report of Sheila Jeffreys' talk.
According to Jeffreys, 'in the international feminist campaign against gender identity there is an important issue that is never talked about, namely whether we can effectively counter the men's rights movement if we do not recognise that the problem of men imitating women is integrally linked to practices of subordination imposed on women under male domination. These practices are called 'femininity' or 'gender', and it is those that are imitated by transvestites'.
Jeffreys uses the term transvestism -and not transgenderism-, "term that applies to men sexually aroused in a masochistic manner from engaging in what they call gender expression - or wearing women's panties. Transvestism is the term used by sexologists in the 20th century to refer to men with this sexual fetish, and it is essential not to use language that suggests that men can become women through some alchemical process. The vast majority of men who claim gender identity are turned on by things like shaving their legs in front of the mirror, a practice that for them is symbol of subordination'.
Enthusiastic about the large number of women who have joined the feminist movement because they are determined to fight fiercely against the gender identity rights movement, Jeffreys pointed out that many women are newly involved and do not know the true extent of the critique of radical feminism on gender. In other words, they see activism against gender identity as something different from the way women are expected to dress, shave, etc. "If the femininity 'that women do' is seen as separate, somehow more real than the femininity 'that men do', the problem of transvestism could be read as a male forcibly and unjustifiably making inroads into practices that naturally belong to women, and not instead as active participation in the sexual game of the oppression of women'.
The difference between men and women is not that men 'do the feminine' for sexual arousal while women do it naturally. Men, of course, do it for sexual pleasure, but women do it by cultural prescription. The constraints that girls are subjected to from an early age bind the body and bind the brain. They cripple girls in their thirst for adventure and their quest for comfort in movement.
Le practices of transvestite femininity are enumerated on various online sites. The resources are endless. They explain how to walk, place your hands on a bag, sit with your knees closed, and so on. There is a huge industry that serves the fetish of these meni. Femininity is understood as subordination. Men adopt these practices for the pleasure of masochism, voluntarily humiliate themselves and all this gives them delicious erections.
Nevertheless, continued Jeffreys, "there are women, even feminists, who do not see these practices as culturally imposed and as part of their subordination, and even consider them acceptable. This is not surprising, since women are indoctrinated throughout their lives. These feminists may not know that the critique of beauty practices lies at the foundation of radical feminism. In radical feminism, what is seen as natural and inevitable under male domination, i.e. the behaviour of masculinity and femininity, is instead read as a system of power relations'. Masculinity is the representation of male power and femininity that of female subordination, including what Jeffreys calls corvées sexual i.e. the practices that women have to perform on their bodies to demonstrate their second-class status and to sexually arouse the beholder, the dominant sexual class.
Women are required to devote time and money to these corvées (make-up, depilation, fillers, labiaplasty, etc.), something similar to the demands that oppressed the serfs in Europe during feudalism, all for free for the profit of the masters. According to Jeffreys, these practices should be referred to by the United Nations as harmful cultural practices. The paradigmatic practice is female genital mutilation, but our beauty practices while meeting the same criteria are not mentioned because they take place in Western societies and it seems that women can choose freely. But a higher standard of living and education does not relieve them of this duty.
Another example of harmful cultural practice is the request for nudity, probably the clearest indication of the difference in status between women and men: 'Look how any straight couple dresses when they go out. He is clothed, she is semi-naked. This display of inequality of power is so normalised that nobody notices it. It pains me deeply'.
All these beauty practices distinguish the members of the lower sex class. Since Andrea Dworkin wrote Woman Hating instead of decreasing, these practices increased, became more painful (labiaplasty) and were normalised. "Having the body constrained in this way has an effect on the way you think. This is crucial to understand. How can women be creative and imagine a future if their bodies are constrained?". I too, says Jeffreys, followed these practices and then abandoned them.
After the liberation movement caused women to start abandoning these practices there was a huge backlash in the 1990s with so-called Third Wave feminism, which celebrated prostitution and pornography as 'choices'. It is not feminism. Today we remember Dworkin, but not his analysis of beauty practices. They are not on the agenda for abolition'. Madonna, which Jeffreys showed in a slide with her ex-husband Ritchie, he dressed, she half-naked, played a crucial role in this backlash: "It is the perfect illustration of what heterosexuality is and that is a romance masochist in which power and subordination are eroticised. One wonders how heterosexuality can ever be a sexuality among equals.
Transvestism according to Jeffreys has always been a product of hatred towards women. It is exploitation of the oppression of women for the pleasure of men. But this is not something new. It has always been a practice deeply insulting to women. And often traumatic for the wives of these men. But the men were ashamed and for a long time it was illegal to dress up in public. It was It was only in the 1990s that transvestite activists created a liberation movement for the expression of their sexual fetish.
It is not possible to dismantle the edifice that transvestites have created unless one attacks the notion of gender as an expression of male domination. "The gender notion underlying the transvestite movement is that women and men are fundamentally different . Women like to be exposed in public and walk around with sore feet while men naturally do not. È the politics and culture of male domination that constructs transvestismand this culture must be completely overturned and transformed. We must destroy it as we know it and rebuild it as we imagine it. The word destroy is a strong word but it is a good one, it is a crucial word, let's not talk about repairing it, repairing it at the margins will not work. We must destroy the idea of natural masculinity and femininity.
Speaking of subordination practices, there are many women today who feel offended and say: 'why do we have to talk about these matters when we face existential threats? Can't we talk about more important things?". Others say instead that this is hating women. But mine is a political analysis. I don't think their sensitivities should be protected by feminist theory. The analysis of beauty practices is crucial. If the culture of misogyny is not overturned and as long as third-wave feminism continues to omit the critique of beauty practices, transvestism will continue'..
Report by Mara Accettura.
You can see Sheila Jeffreys' lecture here