Thinking deeply

Berkeley News headline:

Truly changing sex is possible, says Berkeley trans scholar Grace Lavery

No it isn’t. Next?

An associate professor of Victorian literature, Lavery first became interested in trans studies after reading the work of George Eliot, a 19th-century writer — born Mary Ann Evans, who went by a masculine pseudonym.

“There was this thread that I couldn’t stop pulling on,” said Lavery. “We know that Eliot was read as a male writer by many, many people and wanted to be read as a male writer. Those things are interesting and important. It was something that I thought very deeply about.”

She didn’t “want to be read as a male writer” as such, she wanted not to be dismissed as a female writer. She wanted to be taken seriously. She wanted to be understood as an intellectual as well as a novelist. None of that was available to her as a woman at that time. That does not mean that she wanted to be a man, much less that she was a man or thought she was a man.

Trust a man who thinks he’s a woman to fail to understand that.

After reading several unsatisfactory explanations about why Eliot used a masculine pseudonym, Lavery began to do her own scholarly research on the subject and is now one of Berkeley’s experts on trans studies.

That must have been some shit “scholarly research” then, because Eliot’s reasons for using a male pseudonym are pretty god damn obvious.

Grace Lavery: … There is a kind of conservative feminist position that argues that sex is set in stone, is assigned at birth. And I don’t agree with that. Most scientists I’ve spoken to seem pretty comfortable with the idea that sex, like any other biological category, is not a cast-iron law, but rather a sort of set of contingencies that can be played with and culturally reinforced or not culturally reinforced.

Nice manipulative choice of metaphors – set in stone, cast-iron law. Also nice unmarked shift from the reality of female and male sex to play and cultural reinforcement. Of course we don’t disagree that sex can be “played with” and culturally deinforced. We disagree that it can be literally swapped.

One of the things that I encountered in some of the literature when I was beginning to transition was that people would say, “If you want to be treated as a woman, speak less and ask more questions and direct comments more specifically to other individuals.” And I was like, “Well, to me, that feels fairly misogynist, actually” — that I was supposed to make myself smaller, and I’m not really prepared to do that. I do understand how these things work, but that’s not a deal I’m willing to make.

Good. Great. Now take that thought and apply it to women in general, and turn your energy to demolishing those stereotypes instead of trying to make them apply to you.

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