The Indelible Bonobo Experience

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philosophy and donuts

philosophy and donuts

Unlike the emphatically inclusive congregation in the park, the RadFem conference maintained a strict “womyn-only” policy. And by “womyn,” they meant “womyn-born-womyn,” i.e., not trans people. (via Us vs fem | NOW Magazine)
To say the very least, this is a point of contention.
Radical feminism is a somewhat older strain of feminism that views the issue of gender through a fairly straightforward lens: there are men and there are women; the patriarchy which permeates all of society situates men firmly on top; and that is a fundamental problem. 
Perhaps useful up to a point, this model does not function quite so well when confronted with trans identities and gender fluidity. Liminality doesn’t have much of a place in an ideology premised on a binary understanding of the world. (It’s a similar situation with radical feminist understandings of sex work and pornography, which begin from the idea that the women who take part in such things are necessarily subject to oppression.)
While the organizers of RadFem Rise Up! explained on their site that “as feminists, we would like to reiterate that we support full human dignity and rights for trans people,” at least two of the people speaking at the conference have a history of statements and presentations that proudly dismiss, mock and/or erase trans people altogether. Unsurprisingly, people do not take well to being explicitly excluded from an event at which their very identities may be a subject of vitriolic discussion.
For the RadFems, the “womyn-only” rule was a necessary step to claiming space – free from “the threat of violence or harassment” –  for discussions that they believe could only be truly understood by women who were “female-assigned at birth.” For trans folk and their allies, this is an expression of bigotry, or at least  an example of discrimination.
Because those on each side were certain that their identities were being rejected by the other, things got ugly. And it probably says something that it’s easier to write about this conflict on an abstract, cerebral level than it is to attempt to untangle the unholy mess of accusations and counter-accusations and alleged threats and general paranoia.
I emailed Trish Oliver, one of the conference’s organizers, with a request for a phone interview. She replied with a statement instead, alleging that Rise Up! was subject to “intimidation” and “threats” that “can only be described as ‘extreme terrorism.’” A spokesperson for the counter-event, with whom I talked at the park (but who later requested her name not be used due to safety concerns), stressed the peaceful nature of the assembly and the intersectional values it was celebrating. But she did describe the RadFem’s anti-sex-work views as “a form of extremism.”
I asked Tera Mallette, who was at the park shooting the event for a documentary on the broader subject, whether she thinks radical feminism never really went away or if it’s something that went away and then came back. “Well, like most things, I think it’s always been around, but it has grown a little bit lately,” she says. “There’s just a lot of women-consciousness coming around again in the mid-2010s. And so some people are jumping on one bandwagon, other people are jumping on another. It happens. Philosophies go in and out of style. Maybe we’ll be existentialists next year.”

Unlike the emphatically inclusive congregation in the park, the RadFem conference maintained a strict “womyn-only” policy. And by “womyn,” they meant “womyn-born-womyn,” i.e., not trans people. (via Us vs fem | NOW Magazine)

  • To say the very least, this is a point of contention.
  • Radical feminism is a somewhat older strain of feminism that views the issue of gender through a fairly straightforward lens: there are men and there are women; the patriarchy which permeates all of society situates men firmly on top; and that is a fundamental problem. 
  • Perhaps useful up to a point, this model does not function quite so well when confronted with trans identities and gender fluidity. Liminality doesn’t have much of a place in an ideology premised on a binary understanding of the world. (It’s a similar situation with radical feminist understandings of sex work and pornography, which begin from the idea that the women who take part in such things are necessarily subject to oppression.)
  • While the organizers of RadFem Rise Up! explained on their site that “as feminists, we would like to reiterate that we support full human dignity and rights for trans people,” at least two of the people speaking at the conference have a history of statements and presentations that proudly dismiss, mock and/or erase trans people altogether. Unsurprisingly, people do not take well to being explicitly excluded from an event at which their very identities may be a subject of vitriolic discussion.
  • For the RadFems, the “womyn-only” rule was a necessary step to claiming space – free from “the threat of violence or harassment” –  for discussions that they believe could only be truly understood by women who were “female-assigned at birth.” For trans folk and their allies, this is an expression of bigotry, or at least  an example of discrimination.
  • Because those on each side were certain that their identities were being rejected by the other, things got ugly. And it probably says something that it’s easier to write about this conflict on an abstract, cerebral level than it is to attempt to untangle the unholy mess of accusations and counter-accusations and alleged threats and general paranoia.
  • I emailed Trish Oliver, one of the conference’s organizers, with a request for a phone interview. She replied with a statement instead, alleging that Rise Up! was subject to “intimidation” and “threats” that “can only be described as ‘extreme terrorism.’” A spokesperson for the counter-event, with whom I talked at the park (but who later requested her name not be used due to safety concerns), stressed the peaceful nature of the assembly and the intersectional values it was celebrating. But she did describe the RadFem’s anti-sex-work views as “a form of extremism.”
  • I asked Tera Mallette, who was at the park shooting the event for a documentary on the broader subject, whether she thinks radical feminism never really went away or if it’s something that went away and then came back. “Well, like most things, I think it’s always been around, but it has grown a little bit lately,” she says. “There’s just a lot of women-consciousness coming around again in the mid-2010s. And so some people are jumping on one bandwagon, other people are jumping on another. It happens. Philosophies go in and out of style. Maybe we’ll be existentialists next year.”
According to Camus our lives are rendered absurd by the no-knowability of whether or not there is a god; whether or not our lives have meaning (same question, different spin, not necessarily dependant on god). The question is then what to do when faced with this absurdity? Should we embrace nihilism or continue as if our lives have meaning? The conclusion of Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus is that “we must imagine Sisyphus happy.” It is not just that we must make this choice but that we can make no other. Choosing nihilism would be a meaningful reaction to conditions of absurdity because it would be our human choice. In Mearleu-Ponty’s phrase, we are condemned to meaning. (Here you can see the radical difference between Camus’ and Sartre’s Existentialism. For Satre we are condemned to be free. No such luck with Camus.) Pascal argued we should, logically, wager on God. Camus demonstrates that we have no choice but to wager on meaning. What that meaning might be we are welcome to fill out for ourselves.