Category Archives: Gender

Afraid of the Woman in the Mirror

When I was a kid, I was terrified of the woman in the mirror. Say her name seven times in a dark bathroom while spinning. She’ll appear. Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.

I never did it.

I also, for a good chunk of my childhood, wouldn’t close the door to the bathroom.

I almost saw her, every time I passed the mirror. In my mind’s eye, she was old. Almost beautiful, almost ugly. Long dark hair framing her face. Confidence, terrifying confidence, in her eyes.

In fact, she looked a lot like me.
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In the Shadow of Bluebeard’s Castle

“Those who make revolution half way only dig their own graves.”
—Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, 1793

“No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time.”
—Emma Goldman, 1910

content note: non-graphic description of misogynist violence

There’s this fairy tale, maybe you’ve heard it before. Bluebeard’s Castle. It’s sort of a feminist parable, in the old school way where a lot of traditional folklore is basically “hey women, don’t trust men. They will murder you.”

There are ways in which accountability processes and other attempts at restorative justice in radical communities just empower abusers and assaulters. Whenever I think about that, I think about Bluebeard’s Castle.
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Some Viking Warriors Were Probably Men

The TV show Vikings, one of my all time favorite shows, is plagued by historical inaccuracy. The armor worn by everyone is more or less absurd. The steering board on all the longships is on the wrong side. The representations of viking government are pretty flawed. But there’s one thing that I assumed was inaccurate the first time I watched the show that might not necessarily be such fantasy after all: it turns out that some viking warriors may have in fact been men.

I know that sounds absurd, like PC culture gone amuck. Men are, on average — and I don’t mean to disparage the capability of individual men here — less competent on the battlefield. Their higher center of gravity makes them less stable. Their voices are too guttural and low to carry well across the din of battle. Testosterone makes them prone to irrational behavior and leaves them poor candidates not just for leadership roles but even subordinate roles. Their larger body mass makes them easier targets for missile weapons and less capable of the sorts of guerrilla tactics that vikings favored on their raids. To say nothing of how men are socialized to constantly bicker with other men.

Men, with their upper body strength, are remarkably well suited to the simple labor of farm work.

In an agricultural society like viking-era Scandinavia, men are simply too valuable to be risked in warfare. While raiding was a prominent part of the culture, it was farming that served as the lifeblood of the community. Men, with their upper body strength, are remarkably well suited to the simple labor of farm work.

Despite all of that, male anthropologists have been insisting for decades now that some men participated in the warrior culture of the vikings. I’m starting to be convinced.
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Let Me Tell You What A Good Job My Friends Are Doing of Destroying Gender

There are a handful of fights going on in contemporary feminism right now, and one of the most heated is about the issue of trans-acceptance. Like any good fight, we can rudely simplify it down to two sides. On one side, you have trans-inclusive feminism. On the other, you have what are generally known as TERFs: trans-exclusive radical feminists. For context, I am a transwoman.

TERFs claim they want to destroy gender. The thing is, though, that us trans-accepting feminists are doing a better job of it.

The fight between these two sides is, fundamentally, incapable of resolution — we both use the same words but we mean different things, so each of our viewpoints is all but absurd to the other party.
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I’m Not Even Going to Try to Pass

I walked into the activist meeting feeling good. I had on my short shorts over tights and my makeup was good. I took my seat next to a stranger, a transwoman.

“Are you in transition?” she asked me. Like, within thirty seconds. I genuinely think this was the first thing she said to me after maybe telling me her name.

“Well, I, uh…” I stammered.

“Have you started hormones yet?”

I stammered some more.

I get it. She was new to the group and excited to see another transfeminine face in the crowd. But goddam is that some personal shit to ask a girl within a minute of meeting her.

I didn’t really answer her in the moment, but let me answer her first question more concretely now: I am “in transition” in the same way that I used to be a baby and one day I’ll be dead.
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