You can find the original conversation here. As this appeared on tumblr I’ve taken some editorial liberties with correcting spelling and grammar and adding titles to the speakers. I’ve had versions of this conversation before and of course, I was not nearly as eloquent as the final response was.
POMO: Terfs are always demanding a definition of womanhood– and its like… Idk what to tell ya. Its all made up. The only reason they demand a definition is because they think womanhood is based solely around genitalia… which is ironic because who else does that? Misogynistic cis men…👀
Material Reality: This is so incoherent lmfao
POMO: is it incoherent to you because you are uncomfortable that your politics line up with misogynists…? 🤔
MR: I don’t really care if you believe me or not but gender is made up. Its fake. Pretending there are “biological truths” to gender is not only illogical but hurts women.
MR: Also frankly I don’t give a fuck what you think of this post. It’s rather short and straightforward and you not understanding kind of seems like a personal problem. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
MR: Gender isn’t real, any radfem can tell you this lol we invented that just so you know. What’s incoherent is that if gender doesn’t exist, which is doesn’t, then the only way to define a woman is an adult human female :)
POMO: And here we get to the major issue.. which is that you seem to think that the (also fake, also constructed) “biological” naming of gender is somehow the “valid” version… is that it? Because if we are being honest here, what you just wrote is incomprehensible and laughably hypocritical.
POMO: If you want to continue putting people in boxes based on the shape of their genitalia (which i wouldn’t advise because quite frankly its reductive and insulting) then you should just use the technical terms. Acting like you believe and understand that gender is fake while simultaneously and desperately clinging to biological essentialism is inherently contradictory.
POMO: The thing is, you are still assigning gender to people, you’re just using different words. and to be quite honest, the only people who reduce women to their genitalia and call women “human females” are misogynistic cis men, which brings me back full circle to my original point which is to say that you lot have more in common with misogynists and there is really no way around it. You can keep trying to deny it but you simply cant make the above statement insisting that it makes any kind of sense. it just doesn’t. The fact that you refuse to see the faulty logic says more about your stubbornness and ignorance than anything else.
POMO: Now, since I’ve made my points and reblogged this ridiculous response, I will be disengaging from this conversation. Kindly read my words and do some thinking before responding, thank you.
MR: Postmodernism is a plague.
Okay. Let’s do it like this:
My female body is a reality, yes? I really have breasts, I really bleed once a month, I really have ovaries and a uterus and a cervix and a vagina and a clitoris. Those are undeniably real. I’ve even been karyotyped – my XX chromosomes are most certainly real. I’ve seen my own cells under a microscope – the Barr body (which, to simplify, holds the extra X chromosome) is definitely there. These physical realities have a word used to describe them: female.
Now, let’s review what words are and what they are for. A group agrees that a certain combination of sounds and/or letters will refer to a Thing. The whole group must agree somewhat on the meaning, or the word is functionally useless. Can you imagine trying to order food in a restaurant if the word “cheeseburger” meant something unique to each person? You would order a cheeseburger, and they’d bring you out a bowl of lettuce tossed with dressing and say “well this is what cheeseburger means to me, and you have no right to impose your definitions on me.” And then you’d have no cheeseburger. So, words are important. They represent a thing – a reality or an idea – and everyone in the group (usually, the speakers of that language) agrees on a meaning.
Got it? Good. Moving on.
So, I am female. Being female in a patriarchy comes attached to a certain kind of experience or set of experiences, among them, the experience of misogyny. These vary between time periods and cultures (we’ll come back to this) but all human females who are share similar experiences due only to their female bodies, and the more similar the context, the more similar the experience. There is a word for this: womanhood. That is the word that the vast, vast majority of the English-speaking world has used for hundreds (thousands? I’m not a linguist) of years to describe the experience of being a human female. Words have meanings. They do not get to mean something entirely different to each unique person because that defeats the purpose of language.
Now, let’s touch on how “womanhood” is different across time periods and cultures. 18th century British womanhood is very different from 6th century Chinese womanhood. Now, both these women are adult human females, and they will likely have some experiences in common. However, what it means to be a woman – how a woman looks, thinks, behaves – is drastically different in each context. That is due to a difference in the culturally imposed set of roles and behaviors deemed appropriate for a member of a certain sex. There is a word that sums up that nice long sentence: gender.
Gender is socially constructed. It is a tool of the patriarchy, designed to mark a certain class of people (males) as superior and the other class of people (females) as inferior. Across many different cultures and time periods, womanhood is associated with submissiveness. That is because women (females) are “”“supposed”“” to be the submissive class. Submissive to males. Femininity, the gender assigned to women, is almost synonymous with submission in the western world, and masculinity with dominance.
So you’re starting to see a system of domination and submission, of privilege and oppression, take place. To maintain this system, people are taught to occupy their gender role literally from birth. Because children are largely passive sponges for information, we internalize these roles, and, as children at least, understand the world in the context of them. By preschool, children already have a solid understanding of gender roles (girls do this, boys do that) and are usually very resistant to things that challenge this schema. So what I’m saying is, by preschool, boys (males) understand that their role is to dominate, to rule, and girls (females) understand that their role is to submit, to sacrifice.
No amount of playing around with language is going to change this system. All it is going to do is obscure it. So that brings me to my final point.
By this point in the argument, we can accept that females are an oppressed class. You seem like a person who is passionate about justice, so I’m sure you want all oppressed peoples to gain their liberation. But how does an oppressed group gain liberation? It’s a multi-step, multifaceted process, but there is something so crucial, so fundamental to the process that it’s often forgotten – the oppressed group needs the language to talk about their oppression. They need to be able to identify who is a member of the oppressed group, and who is an oppressor, a dominator. They need words for these things.
When you attempt to redefine words like “woman” to the point where they are meaningless, when you conflate gender with sex, you take these words away from an oppressed class. You erase their oppression. You place yet another obstacle in the way of their liberation.
So I guess I only have one question for you: Why would you do that?
I look forward to your answer.
Why would you do that indeed? It would seem to me that attempting to gain membership into an oppressed class, it would behoove those doing so, to learn about the fundamental oppression facing that class, and not further complicate the struggle.