Brokeback radfem: sometimes the metaphors write themselves

Did you know that a teenager can break her back, but not know it until after her 40th birthday when a neurosurgeon spots the break on an MRI? It’s true!

This means I traversed high school, college, and grad school; was married and divorced; came out; worked 23 consecutive jobs in a half-dozen careers; lived in 19 different apartments and houses; emigrated to Canada and back; and spent five years on a six-day-a-week Crossfit schedule – all with a fractured spine. Which is horrifying, but also…kinda metal, if I do say so myself.

My surgeon is going to take the vertebra in question and bone-graft it into a spinal tea cozy to protect the new manufactured vertebra, then attach the whole shebang together with screws that look oddly like what you get at Ikea. He said the break happened when I was between 10 and 16. A childhood spinal fracture is a bit like tree rings – you can pinpoint its age by the bone growth around it – and most people never feel the injury if the vertebrae settles far enough away from the nerves.

You can walk around with a broken back for a long time.

I didn’t start limping until about six months ago, but I always had a sense of some essential wrongness about my back. A crunched-up feeling; an urgent desire to pull the tiny bones apart and let air into the spaces. One doctor said it was a bulging disc; another said it was a too-pronounced S-curve, and both these things were true, but didn’t explain the abject dread I felt when pondering my own spine. A dissolving sort of feeling, as if one day I’d wake up in a pile of tiny ivory shards dust-layered upon one another. My back and I, our very own anthropological site.

It’s an easy feminist metaphor: All women know something devastating happens to us between the ages of 10 and 16, if not before. The culture tells us it’s because of this or that – sexual abuse; not enough access to sports facilities; bullying; dating violence, cyberstalking, too many magazines with skinny cover models – and as correct as all this is, it doesn’t go deep or far enough.

Patriarchal culture (and liberal feminism) obsessed with individual stories and solutions, never says “broken.”

Patriarchal culture (and liberal feminism) calls it all a misunderstanding that can be ironed out if men and women just listen to one another, the way my middle school headmaster was sure the bullying would stop if the bully and I just “talked.” As through the power structure was equal; as though the kid wouldn’t punish me tenfold the minute headmaster’s back was turned.

Patriarchal culture (and liberal feminism) never admits that men as a class do not see women as a class as fully human.

Patriarchal culture (and liberal feminism) maintains that the theft of our labor, resources and bodies is a thing that…just sort of happens. The thief usually goes unnamed, or defended, because “not all…”

Radical feminism says: This situation is intentional: Men as a class benefit from our oppression in ways they really like.

Therefore, unless women find the right language in the right books (or on the right screens or in the right company) we don’t have the words to unlock and translate the WHY of what’s systemically as well as individually happening to us, as a class, in the world. That’s why there’s such an effort to obfuscate and control our language as well as our spaces.

We know something is wrong but we don’t know (or want to know) that it’s an honest-to-God break, so we limp along to chiropractor after chiropractor. We buy special pillows to align ourselves. We curl up into quiet balls, or we keep empowerfully deadlifting and squatting and taking fistfuls of painkillers to get by.

You can walk around with a broken back for a long time.

We live like this, and then we die without the language we need to say what’s true; to use a clean scalpel to rebuild ourselves and each other. We die quietly, like my grandmother Tess, who knew what a husband’s fist felt like, or angrily like my great-grandmother Toula, who was never allowed to learn to read.

We can only fix the break if we have the words to describe it. Only then can we walk without a limp.

OutLIARS (or menmenmenmenmen)

*This piece was a joint effort with the ever-genius Hypotaxis.

Unsurprisingly, Dana McCallum, a man who identifies as a woman, was given a little slap on the wrist after pleading guilty to spousal abuse and rape. Most males, like McCallum, do not receive sentences that are in any way proportionate to the trauma inflicted upon their victims.

Also unsurprisingly, LGBT media outlets have been clumsily and desperately trying to lionize poor Dana McCallum as a troubled soul with a drinking problem, instead of naming him, accurately, for the abusive man he is despite his lady presentation. “But she Tweeted in support of rape victims” one LGBT publication lamented. So? So that means what? He’s not a rapist? He’s not an abuser? Because he thumbed out 140 characters in support of abused women? The logic of the modern-day LGBT “movement” seldom approaches anything resembling a sane and rational thought.

Frankly, I am now firmly of the conviction that not only is the current LGBT movement anti-woman, but actively hostile toward women, particularly lesbians. As a dyke, as a feminist, I see nothing in the LGBT “world” that in any way benefits me (rather, I see much that is blatantly harmful to my existence).

What I see is a batshit insane assemblage of males wringing their hands and whining when women don’t speak and act in a way that conforms to their delusions.

But I digress. Back to McCallum. An incident like this, where a public figure like McCallum assaults his wife, illustrates precisely why words must mean things; why language – despite all queerifying to the contrary – matters, and why the linguistic tools we have been given as human beings have real-world implications for women.

Because McCallum identifies as a woman, his male aggression is being contextualized as a women’s issue and has fostered some discussion of woman-on-woman violence in liberal publications. In a world where male aggression and violence is epidemic, where women, the whole globe over, are killed (by males) every fucking day (even as I write this blog post), and in a world where women are not allowed to name this problem, a discussion of woman-on-woman violence is patently absurd.

Sure, we can talk about violence on an individual level – some women are violent and some men are not violent – but that defeats the whole fucking purpose of addressing a problem that impacts a CLASS OF PEOPLE. The queer/trans/LBGTWHATEVERTHEFUCK loves their precious individuality, loves taking into account the myriad anomalies of each and every person and using those as evidence to contradict every socio-political (and biological) FACT in existence, but this kind of discourse is not productive. This kind of discourse does not lead to any sort of meaningful or beneficial change. This kind of discourse is the intellectual equivalent of running your brain through a goddamn wood chipper.

The Daily Beast, yesterday, published a marvelously stupid article in which the author (a woman) argues that McCallum’s abusiveness provides us with an opportunity to discuss “woman-on-woman violence.”

Let’s have a look-see, shall we?

“What is surprising is that the alleged rapist is a well-regarded feminist and LGBT advocate, Dana McCallum, a transgender woman who was named by Business Insider as the fifth-most important LGBT person in the tech world.” 

This is not “surprising.” It is not surprising that a male has risen high in the tech world ranks, given that the tech world (like virtually every professional corner of the economy) is dominated by males. And no, it is not surprising that the alleged rapist is a male. Males rape. They do that a lot.

“Unfortunately, the relative silence around McCallum’s trial, let alone the issue of woman-on-woman rape and sexual assault, is deafening and disturbing. In researching for this article, I posted queries in multiple forums for female journalists for resources or recommended experts for female-on-female rape. I received only one response. I’ve seen only a handful of articles reporting on the McCallum case and they are generally absent of any criticism.”

There’s so much in this little passage that makes me want to beat my head against a wall. 1) As a class, women do not rape. Period. End of story. If someone doesn’t want to have sex with us, we feel sad and go home and write about it in our journals. 2) Dana McCallum is male. 3) “I posted queries in multiple forums . . . I received only one response” – yeah, you know why, genius? BECAUSE WOMEN DON’T RAPE EACH OTHER. Are there outliers? Sure. There are outliers for all sorts of things – some guy in Morocco can run a 3:43 mile; and it snowed eight inches in Tucson, AZ on Christmas Day, 1987 – but outliers do not negate reality. Outliers shouldn’t distract from the central mass of data, and in statistics, they don’t. In trans and misogynist politics, however, outliers become the North Star pointing us straight into disingenuous territory.

One popular trans/queer trope goes: “What about intersex? Huh? Huh? Huh?” – Yeah, a very small number of people born with ambiguous genitalia. That does not mean that female is a feeling in a man’s head, or that female is something you can buy – but the trans/queer circular logic jump has been made: Transwomen are women transwomen are women transwomen are women.

Consequently, because a man who “feels like a woman” rapes his wife, women have to be scrutinized and discussed as though they, too, are attackers. This insulting nonsense serves to arm MRAs and misogynists who say, “But women rape, toooo!” – thereby distracting from the central mass of data, which has always been mathematically clear: Rapists are men, not women.

THIS is the fuckery we are being sold by the trans/queer movement, ladies. THIS is why words actually do matter. If he is a woman (and he’s not) and he is a rapist (and he is) then in keeping with the gender-sick zeitgeist, you, my sisters, are now potential rapists because HE (pronouns, pronouns) raped his wife. Transwomen are women transwomen are women transwomen are women. Got that?

We are now going down this road. If we weren’t allowed to name the problem of male violence before, it’s going to be ever more difficult now that males can decide they feel like, and therefore are, females – while continuing definitively male behavior such as rape. I can assure you in the coming years we will see a proliferation of discussions around “woman on woman” rape and violence, not because females are running around raping and beating one another, but because males with super-special identities are doing it.

And it won’t matter, sisters, that we are not perpetrators. There will be no distinction made between our behavior and that of the men who buy accessories to parody us through their misogynist lens and call it “reality.” Does that sound harsh? Does that sound histrionic? Read the fucking Daily Beast article. Do a Google news search for this case. It’s already happening.

Oh, and this will also, no doubt, be positioned as a lesbian issue. Males who feel like ladies will be totally off the hook for their brutality, because women will have to accept the blame. Lesbians will have to shoulder the stigma of being “rampant abusers.”

“The fact that there is pushback against discussing female-perpetuated assault, especially by women whom we hold up as progressive role models, is disturbing.” 

I KNOW, right?! It sucks that we never had an open, honest, culture-wide conversation about how Oprah beat on Steadman. Or about how Ellen is a serial rapist. Or about how Eleanor fucking Roosevelt was routinely clocking her admirers. Oh, that’s right, those things NEVER HAPPENED. Next.

“This type of argument is based on fear—fear that when we admit that famous or powerful women can be aggressors, it will disempower other women, namely female victims of male domestic violence.” 

Yeah, you know what? Blaming women for male aggression does disempower women. Blaming lesbians for rape committed by males does erase the victims of male violence, and it does allow the real perpetrators to hide.

This is the current state of LGBT affairs: Dana McCallum – male, rapist, abuser – is a “well-regarded feminist and LGBT advocate” who gets to keep his high-status job, while women who dare to state that penis is male and that men rape are “bigots,” “transphobes” and “TERFS.”

Sisters, is this what’s to become of everything we’ve built? Is this the sad, twisted final chapter of the book of us, written out by Sappho and Jane Addams and Gertrude Stein and all those badass ladies in the WACS and on The Ladder? Did the Daughters of Bilitis envision being classed one day with rapists? Is this the harvest of our lobbying, our marches, our art and music; our coming-outs with trembling hands?

Think hard.

Is this the ending you want?

Why I don’t own a gun

If you visit me in Arizona, I’ll collect you at the airport and tell you: Remember, you’re never more than a few dozen feet from a gun. People here keep guns in their homes, their cars, strapped to the insides of their boots. If we stop at the grocery store for popcorn, strawberries and beer (that’s what we’d have for dinner at my house) at least one man will be casually wearing a handgun on his belt. Twenty others will be carrying concealed weapons. You do not want to get into it with a stranger in this part of the country. He wants to cut in the checkout line? Let him.

Yesterday at work, a couple of ladies were happily discussing their personal arsenals.

“I have four guns right now,” one said. “The biggest one is Czechoslovakian, and I keep it right on my nightstand.”

I allowed as to how sleeping with a gun that close might creep me out a little.

“Well, it’s not gonna get up and shoot someone all its own SELF,” she told me. “I’d be scareder of sleeping with a clown doll on the nightstand.”

Can’t argue with that! It’s not gonna get up and shoot someone all its own self! But what if:

(a) I accidentally exercise my Second Amendment rights and blow my own foot off? (I’m a woman whose pens inksplode all over her fingers at the slightest provocation; who’s afraid to own a gas mower because of what happened that time with the rocks and the anthill). What if one of the cats knocks it off the nightstand? I don’t even have any decent drinking glasses left; that’s how much those goddamned cats knock shit off my nightstand) OR

(b) I, sleepy and afraid, uphold the Founding Fathers’ inimitable American vision by shooting one of my idiot friends who decides to make me a surprise visit (when I brought this up, the the work ladies said, in unison, “They should call first!”) OR

© Some unarmed nutjob breaks into the house, sees the gun, and is inspired to take his ordinary burglary up a level?

Talking to the work ladies about their guns, I picked up on a lot of fear – specifically, fear of rape.

I’m not afraid of rape. I’ve cut down on my risk by not dating men – it’s usually a guy you know – and I’m over 40 and I stay alert and sober in bad neighborhoods and I walk like a woman who benches her own bodyweight (because I can) and all of this stacks the deck in my favor. Not, of course, that hundred-year-old ladies haven’t been raped in their own beds, but I choose to look at the larger statistical picture. And I decline to live in fear.

The only rapist I’m afraid of is one with a gun. If he’s got a gun, it would behoove me to have one as well. I could decide to become one of millions of Arizonans who feel the need to have the means of lethal force on their person at all times, even at goddamn Panera Bread or Lucky Strike Lanes. But there’s an emotional and mental cost related to owning a gun, and to being surrounded by firearms in casual, everyday contexts. This is a dangerous world, you’re saying with your very own personal gun. I need this weapon to protect myself and my family so we will be safe. 

It’s a simple individualistic response to a complex, growing, shared social problem. You hear the same argument for breast implants: I’m doing it for me! It’s empowering! 

This is when you know people have given up on looking for root causes. This is when you can be sure no analyses are forthcoming re: the whys and wherefores.

If you look at NRA and other gun-marketing materials directed at women, you’ll see a lot of pink; a lot of fashion-oriented concealed-carry items; a lot of fear-based Mama-bear stuff. What you won’t see is anything remotely honest about who women are protecting themselves from (again, your rapist and/or murderer is usually a man with whom you share a home) or about the ingrained sex-class system that allows and encourages men to make women afraid because men stand to gain a lot from women’s fear. They stand to gain lots of money (guns are spendy!) and power (the NRA is, well…the NRA).

Men who do not cherish women’s interests stand to gain when women think the solution to male violence is to be found within the violent male power structure.

You can’t paint that shit pink and expect me to buy it.