Guest post: The existing chains just get doubled

Originally a comment by Your Name’s not Bruce? on Just a reminder.

Apart from the sting of invalidation, how are transmen and enbies hurt if abortion is treated as a women’s issue?

I think the real pushback against the framing of abortion as a women’s issue is from TiMs. Campaigns for “inclusive” language that erase women by reducing them to body parts and functions is not equally applied to men. That tells you all you need to know about the politics and optics of this “movement.” Men are the Standard; women are the Other. The Other is defined by, and in contrast to the Standard. Can’t go messing with the Standard now, can we? There’s no telling where that might lead!

Who is it that benefits from the disconnection of the definition of “woman” from material reality? Men who claim to be women. Decoupling the material facts of female embodiment from the definition of “woman” (not all women have a uterus, some women have penises, men can get pregnant, etc.) dissolves that material definition, and removes it from a straightforward state of being, into an amorphous laundry list of attitudes, proclivities, and preferences. This allows men, who embody none of the material facts, to claim womanhood (and femaleness) through the idea of womanhood, by performative mimicry of some or all of this laundry list. Note that the performance is partial and often exaggerated; you’re going to see more glamourous, dolled-up, hypersexualized performances than those that take on the role of the underpaid, scut-working charwoman.

Notice how the fight for abortion rights is now often subsumed into a general fight for “bodily autonomy” that is the focus of TiMs (!) invited to speak at pro-choice events. They can never get pregnant, but such opportunities make a great platform to centre their own needs, whether it’s wrong sex hormones or ramping up the transing of kids to recruit the next cohort of fully committed trans activists. At some point this redirection and dilution will see nominal “abortion rights” campaigns that fail to use the word “abortion.” There are already plenty of such campaigns that have stopped using the word “woman.” See above. If you stop using the word “woman” it’s harder to see (or correct) the fact that bans on abortion target women. If it targets “all gender identities” then it’s no longer about women at all, and the underlying sexism and patriarchal power go unaddressed. Which is the point of the operation. Struggles focused on “gender identity” liberate nobody. The existing chains just get doubled, and painted in pink and baby blue.

No one has meltdowns when breast cancer-related activism frames breast cancer as a women’s health issue, even though breast cancer also affects actual adult human males, albeit in far lesser numbers. In fact, men could conceivably make the case that they are ill-served by the branding of breast cancer as a women’s disease.

It’s not uncommon to see online threads about Female Genital Mutilation get mobbed or trolled by men wanting to include or shift the focus to circumcision. So much easier to take over someone else’s campaign than it is to put in the hard work of launching one’s own. (See: forced teaming of T with LGB.)

TiFs and enbies are useful tools and camouflage, but the campaign isn’t really for their benefit. If this were a movement exclusively by and for them, it wouldn’t have got very far at all. They’re just convenient pretexts for dismantling “woman” and rebuilding it in Man’s image.

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