The Sexist In My French Class

I sometimes forget that many of my classmates are probably sexist dudebros. The following is a transcript from my French class today:

Teacher: What does it mean if I say I will eat at chez Amanda?

Sexist: Wouldn’t happen.

Teacher: What? Why?

Sexist: ‘Cause a woman can’t be a chef.

Me and some other people: That’s super sexist.

Sexist: Come on guys, it’s a joke.

Me: Sexism isn’t funny.

Sexist: Come on dude* it was a joke.

Professor: That is a sexist statement since women have historically been viewed as less capable in the profession as men, just as it would be sexist to say a woman couldn’t be a firefighter.

Sexist: Well if I’m in a burning building I don’t want a woman who can’t lift logs off of my trapped legs trying to rescue me.

Other student: That’s super sexist, I know women who are firefighters who could break you in half.

Army vet who served in Afghanistan: There are women in the infantry now, you know.

Sexist: And I disagree with that too, they aren’t strong enough to do the job.

Professor: So if I say chez Amanda (…..)

As I’m leaving class I overhear sexist explaining to the army vet why women shouldn’t be infantry and the army vet patiently trying to explain reality to him, ending with

Sexist: I’m not a sexist, I’m a realist.

And much French was learned by all…….

*don’t call me dude. don’t call me bro. it isn’t fucking rocket science.

I’m inherently suspicious of the language of identification

I almost feel more uncomfortable when someone says I “identify as a woman” or asks me if I “identify as a woman” than I am with someone who calls me a man. (Remember: I said almost.) The reason is simple: identification is an act. There’s an implicit reflexive action in the statement: she identifies as a woman; she considers herself a woman; she says she is a woman. All of these are weaker statements than she is a woman or I am a woman because all of these statements contain verbs not copulas.

Cis women get to simply be women. I should too.

pronoun introductions are for cis people

For those unfamiliar, a pronoun introduction is a relatively new thing (afaik) in queer culture where people at a gathering go around saying their preferred pronouns. From what people who like these have told me, the point is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for trans people to share their preferred pronouns. But I’ll be honest: I think the point is more about making life easier for cis people and making cis people feel better about themselves.

To a trans person who is not out a pronoun introduction says hey, hey you. you there. either come out now to everyone here, or give us your explicit endorsement to misgender you. There’s no good answer to this question.  When I was first coming out to selected people as trans, I had to come out all at once to a whole group of people (including strangers) because I refused to be complicit in my own misgendering.

The fact is that there is a perfectly simple way to avoid misgendering people without forcing them into this paradox: just avoid pronouns or other gendered language in reference to them unless you know what their gender is.  The decision to pursue pronoun introductions instead of this strikes me as maybe just a little bit more about making (cis) people feel good about their pronoun use instead of actually trying to make safe spaces for trans people.

This is a common feature of this sort of thing though. Things ostensibly intended to be for trans people in queer culture tend to end up being more about cis queers. Which is also why so often in pronoun introductions I hear cis people say “use [gendered pronoun] or they/them, I don’t care!” Maybe because they want to feel more queer or something, I don’t know. But the point is that cis people have that option in pronoun introductions: a cis person can feel perfectly comfortable that (a) people will probably use the correct gendered pronoun and (b) even if they don’t, they aren’t calling into question the actual gender of the cis person being referenced. Trans people don’t have that option, which is why, in yet another way, pronoun introductions turn into a place where cis people are privileged over trans people.

Let me be clear: if you can’t be bothered to avoid gendering people whose gender you do not know, then you aren’t a trans ally. And if you can’t be bothered to consider the ways in which your theoretically-sound Butlerian social activity actually affects the people with whom it is ostensibly concerned, you aren’t really doing it for them.

Brothers and sisters? Bah!

Every single person who says “our LGBT brothers and sisters” needs to stop, like, yesterday.

  1. You see that T there at the end? Here’s a clue: some of those people cannot be accurately described by either of the gendered terms “brother” and “sister.”
  2. As a society, we should be able to empathize with other people without them being or being considered family.
  3. If you absolutely must turn people into family in order to empathize, there’s a great word that isn’t gendered. Its “siblings.”

So Trans* People Exist

In Lewis Carroll’s, “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles,” (the origin of my tagline) Carroll points out the problem of infinite regress in the foundations of logic by arguing (via the tortoise) that in order to propose the following as a logical inference

P implies Q.
P is true.
Therefore, Q is true.

one must first propose that the principle

If P implies Q and P is true then Q is true.

is true. But then before one accepts that as true, one must accept the prior principle

If P implies Q and P is true and P implies Q and P is true implies Q is true, then Q is true.

and so on and so on ad infinitum. The solution to this problem, in logic, is the axiomatic system, whereby we simply assume certain logical formulas to be valid, and then proceed happily from there to prove others. And of course this applies to aspects of life beyond logic: we must always make foundational assumptions, or we would simply have to continue justifying our statements in an infinite regress as above (and, as the name might suggest, that would never end.)

So in my first post here I want to say the following:

  1. Trans* people exist
  2. People are the gender they say they are
  3. Gender is probably not what you think

These are foundational assumptions here (ok the third is kind of a joke (no it isn’t (yes? (no?))). That is not to say that I don’t think one can make strong arguments for them from simpler assumptions, one can and perhaps (if I’m in the 101 mood sometime) I will. Nor is it to say that other assumptions (e.g. the negations of these) are equally reasonable: they are categorically not. Merely to say that most of my writing will be assuming these, and building forward.

‘Til next time!