by Earth First! News
Rarely do comments to internet posts warrant much attention. In many ways the comments section is where people go to blast their most anonymous and ugly thoughts. However, a recent comment posted on the Earth First! Journal collective’s statement regarding Deep Green Resistance offers a great deal of depth and striking analysis of the issue of trans struggles, feminism, the police state and the ecological resistance movement as well as a brief account of oppressive thought and action within the Earth First! Movement. It is included below, unedited, for discussion. We hope that organizers of DGR will include these discussions in their future meetings and gatherings:
Thank you for taking this stance EF! folks. I used to be a part of more eco defense stuff back in the day in Katuah – am now more involved in anti prison struggles with prisoners on the other side of the state…..Regardless, its nice to come across this and see people keeping it real. EF! has had a long series of internal battles, crises of identity if you will, over the years, trying to preserve the best of its roots while working past the xenophobia and latent racism and nationalism and sexism of some of its founders (abbey, foreman, etc.), and its fully in line with that struggle to take this stand. Dont listen to DGR defenders who say this “divides the movement” – these kinds of moments may be painful, but they are absolutely necessary. There are some divisions worth having. (And if you dont believe me, read a history of the popular front in spain!)
Feminism, particularly the non-liberal, anti-capitalist varieties, has also had to go through those internal struggles in the US. Much of it has a history of middle class bourgeious irrelevance, and even the radical and materialist varieties have struggled since the 70′s to get beyond certain issues in their own perspectives. One of these is essentialist notions of gender which, uncritically and without reflection, treat women as a “class” in and of themselves, with little qualification. Personally, i don’t think feminism or the struggle against patriarchy is losing anything to admit that the women who are struggling against rapist prison guards ARE NOT in the same “class” as the women politicians and women police who put them there. From my correspondence and conversations, im pretty convinced these prisoners dont feel “on the same team” as such women! Aside from this 2nd analysis that tended to universalize the vastly different experiences of different women, this perspective has fueled anti trans diatribes for years.
The irony here is that some of the most badass feminists I know are trans – both trans women, trans men, and genderqueer. The fact that people like Lierre Keith refer to these transmen as “traitors” seeking to “obtain male privilege” is unbelievably insulting, and shows just how few transmen she’s actually close to. I’m reminded in particular of a badass group of folks called the country kings, a drag troupe i used to co organize anti prison events with, constituted by transmen and women and who are all badass feminists to the core. They have taught me so much – and i cant help but hear Keith’s words in my head while thinking of them, and just…..laugh.
The other irony is that, even among the ‘ciswomen’ i know, many are attacked or face hate crimes or homelessness or unemployment precisely because they look “too masculine” or “dykish” – in other words, for being gender non conforming. TONS of lesbians im friends with have faced this, people who Keith would probably want to call comrade. Could it possibly be more clear that the violence used in our culture to police boundaries of gender is connected to the violence used to police our sexualities, all of which is connected to the violence used to police women? Could it be any more clear that for some women oppression means not getting to become a head of state able to start wars and hire cops and destroy the earth, while for other women it means a life of prison or abuse or wage slavery or cancer? Are radfems incapable of a more nuanced feminist analysis, beyond “women as a class?”
No one I know is arguing that trans women don’t grow up with certain kinds of privilege that other women wont experience. (For that matter, I dont know any transwomen who would say their experience is identical to a ciswoman’s, in part because there IS NO universally identical experience of ‘womenhood.’) If some people are arguing this, then theyre flatout wrong, but this hardly justifies the position taken by DGR and radfems, nor is it something one is likely to find in the pages of any well known radical trans or gender queer type authors, be it judith butler, leslie feinberg, or kate bornstein.
Ultimately, history has moved on; its no longer the 1970s. The burden of proof is now on radfems and DGR to demonstrate how feminism actually benefits from not recognizing trans men and trans women as the gender pronoun they choose, as people who face all kinds of discrimination and oppression, alongside queer and LGB folks. If they fail at this, as they are, they will be left behind. If their strategy is to police the boundaries of “woman” as a category, then they need to demonstrate how that actually helps the struggle against patriarchy. In part this bumps up against an inconvenient fact that most other, more recent waves of feminism (3rd wave, anarchafeminists, 4th wave, etc.) have explicitly recognized: ‘Woman’ is not a universal, consolidated class, nor is patriarchy a system of oppression disconnected from other systems of control and exploitation. Patriarchy exists, but it cannot do so without the other systems of capitalism and state power and white supremacy alongside which it has co-evolved. Patriarchy has no particular problem in the 21st century hiring women politicians, women CEOS, women cops, and women prison guards to keep these systems going. There are women who imprison other women for fighting back against their abuser. Being a woman does not automatically make you a comrade, or even someone on our side of the barricades. This does not undermine the basic foundations of feminism, but it certainly gives pause when considering the strategy of DGR and radfems of policing the boundaries of “woman as a class.” In such a context, why would we want to police the label? Why would we insult potential friends and comrades with an absolute refusal to recognize trans people, all in the name of policing “woman?” For that matter, why would we want to police at all?
Personally, given the choice between a transman co worker as a comrade or a born-female cop, ill choose the former. But thankfully i dont have to make that choice, because there are all kinds of badass anarchist women and trannies and queers and men and kids and old folks on our side, who are loving and worth all the respect and recognition we can give them.
So thanks EF! journal, for keeping it real.
(PS with joining the likes of chris hedges in hating on our peeps, did we even need another reason to drop DGR?)