Change Your World-NOT your Body

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In lieu of Michfest Week

Exploring the Value of Women-Only Space by Kya Ogyn

 from the article...

 There is a male pattern of violence towards womyn which is well documented. It is a common, every day occurrence in every country in the world. While it is true that not all men are violent, it is also true that almost all violent acts are done by men. It is also true that this level of violence could not exist without the tacit consent of all men. Even men who are not violent benefit from womyn's fear because most womyn have learned to be wary of angering them. At Michigan Festival and other womyn-only space I have learned what it is like to live without that fear and I want that for all womyn all the time. I think it is difficult to create a new way of living if one has not experienced at least a taste of it, and womyn-only space provides that taste.

In general womyn have been trained to center our lives around men. Male supremacy means that whenever all other class rankings are the same between womyn and men, men will be considered superior. Girls grow into womyn with the experience of being automatically subordinate to men of similar circumstances. While boys grow into men knowing they are privileged in relationship to some men and subordinated to others, they experience being properly superior to girls and womyn. This reality influences every moment of each individual's life. Womyn-only space allows womyn to experience living without that deeply trained deference to men. Womyn only space is something like a science experiment.

A foundation of heteropatriarchy is the male right of access to womyn. Historically, men have sometimes accepted that some womyn are off limits because they belong to other men, but only rarely have womyn claimed the right to exclude all men. While males have reserved to themselves the right to gather in male only spaces they have used rape, physical assault, pornography and economic dependency in a pattern of insistence on access to womyn. As Marilyn Frye wrote in The Politics of Reality, "It is always the privilege of the master to enter the slave's hut. The slave who decides to exclude the master from her hut is declaring herself not a slave."  

Humans are born, with very few exceptions, female or male, and trained by societies into femininity and masculinity. While there are cultural variations in how these sex roles are expressed, in general certain constellations of characteristics are seen as masculine and certain others as feminine. In almost all societies masculinized males are considered to be properly dominant over feminized females. I think dominance is central to the concept and practice of masculinity as submission is to femininity....some Mtf's have said that although they were born with male bodies they feel like women. They believe there has been a mistake and sex reassignment surgery is a reasonable way to redress that mistake. I think it probable that when anyone, male or female, says they "feel" like a womon or a man they are actually saying that what they feel corresponds with feminine or masculine sex roles. I think the world and all individuals are better served by the elimination of masculinity and femininity than by the surgical and chemical mutilation of healthy bodies in an attempt to conform to them. Feminism's response to those who find their assigned sex roles limiting or just a bad fit is that all human characteristics are properly available to all individuals regardless of physical sex.

Womyn only space is time and place where the welfare of the class of womyn and its core constituents, females who were raised as girls and perceive themselves as womyn, are the primary concern. In this space the desires of others are secondary. If even one womon's perception of safety from male violence is diminished by the presence of individuals who are or were or claim to be members of the class of men, those individuals should be excluded. If any womyn find it easier to try new things or to explore their lives without the presence of non-womyn, that should be allowed. 

 dirt

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9 comments:

  1. I think it probable that when anyone, male or female, says they "feel" like a womon or a man they are actually saying that what they feel corresponds with feminine or masculine sex roles. I think the world and all individuals are better served by the elimination of masculinity and femininity than by the surgical and chemical mutilation of healthy bodies in an attempt to conform to them

    This is so true. Thank you Dirt for posting this.

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  2. I don't think we need to eliminate femininity or masculinity. In fact, I don't think we CAN eliminate femininity or masculinity. We need to get rid of the idea that male and masculine is better than female and feminine. We also need to get rid of the idea that these can only be paired together. There is nothing wrong with a feminine male or a masculine female. And if we lived in a world that assumed nurturing and connection and female ways of interacting are as good and often better than the well-tried and flawed male, competitive, hierarchical, possessive model, then we would all know this. Then people could truly be themselves and wouldn't have to violate womyn's space to validate false identities.

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  3. This powerful article states one simple thing -- women only spaces frees women. This is never negotiable, and it is rare!
    Women are very nervous about this, and often are afraid to say WOMEN ONLY. Michgian is about creating a world where men don't exist, and it is exposing women to a new life of freedom. YOU HAVE TO FEEL free...to be free! You have to be male free self supporting to gather more power. All men are a threat to all women because they bring male domination into every space women are. So anytime women have space, they are free to think of the new.

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  4. "....some Mtf's have said that although they were born with male bodies they feel like women. They believe there has been a mistake and sex reassignment surgery is a reasonable way to redress that mistake." The logic tells me that the real mistake has been through the ages of assigning sex roles that are incorrect and passing on these errors through the ages. To correct a basic concept WILL change/alter one. Why try to look like an image that is "correct" based on age-old falsehood, by having some part of one's body cut away? These dear people are falling right into the same age-old pattern, unknowingly.
    From the first time I began reading your blogs, I saw, Dirt, that you are onto something very, very big. The extreme responses you have received only indicate that you are reaching and questioning the deepest beliefs of people. If one's beliefs have validity they will stand the test -if they don't then a raw nerve has been hit.
    I would venture this: 'I think the world and all individuals are better served by the [inclusion] in each person of both masculinity and femininity, as they are qualities, not quantities - not seen as physical assets/liabilities but as dual-aspects of each one of us. To me a whole new dynamic and balance can come from this.

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  5. Cassaundra, what you describe is the liberal approach, but radical feminism recognizes that masculine/feminine are social constructions analogous to dominant/submissive.

    Today is the last day of Fest and although there were some things about it that I disliked, it will be sad to leave womyn-only space.

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  6. I didn't know what it was like to be fully at peace in my environment until my first time at MichFest. What an incredible feeling to not be on guard continuously. I knew about the festival for over 25 years before I finally went to my first one. I thought I had an inkling of what it would be like, having been to other all-women events and having lived in lesbian central for years. But there is nothing like a week of being in the company of women who have come together to make community. I try to describe it to people and I just can't. But I have said to every woman I know: you must go at least once in your life to experience it for yourself. People are people, so there are things that aren't perfect. But the overall sense of freedom and "home" is like nothing else in the world. Coming out of there and seeing men again is another huge eyeopener. We put up with so much violence against and hatred of women out here. We deserve a space of our own, period.

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  7. this year there were considerable challenges to the WBW policy.
    there were confrontations in the line and hateful misogynistic literature handed out to those of use who dared to say out loud that we support the fest policy as is.
    there were acts of vandalism by a member of Camp Trans ... though CT later disavowed this person and (so I heard) turned him over to the police.
    there were a large number of women wearing Trans Women Belong At Fest t-shirts (Though many seemed to come off after the vandalism was known)
    there was a white European transwoman who invaded the WOC tent and was indignant about being asked to leave. this same person represented Holland in opening ceremonies and mooned the crown. also made sure he was photographed in very visible places like femme parade, getting autographs from performers, etc.
    one of the big name performers, Sia, welcomed trans-supporters up on the runway portion of the stage during her last song in what was obviously a pre-planned action. :( :( :(

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  8. I rejected femininity at a very young age, because I saw this inequality, and did everything to take up my space and to compete with boys/and/or men, and not be relegated to a 'less than' housewifey role.....classic hardcore Tomboy grow up to be Butch.

    Of course I was not rewarded for such behavior by family, peers, or anybody else, until I came out as a Dyke, and found I had a place.

    And that place is certainly on women's Land. I got my fill last week, shared my women's and Amazon mysteries, and felt so completely empowered and SAFE in those woods, just like I felt SAFE in the woods of Michfest, one year, when I got lost in them like 3am....in a long walk back to my tent....because I KNEW ONLY WOMEN were sleeping all around...NO MEN. If there was even one man in those woods, I would have felt that learned almost instinctual fear. My only fear was that I was lost...but I just kept going down hill..till I got to the Triangle, and there still were some women up at that late hour(about 5am by that time). At the Festival I went to last week, I did Security, to keep our space secure, and it was, walking in the woods around our campground till 1 am, feeling completely safe, with an Amazon Sister at my side....I NEVER would feel that if I was NOT on women's land!

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  9. Part two:
    There is NOTHING like women's land, to share our Sacred Mysteries, to open up to our deep psychic powers with one another, to shed that fear, even for a temporary period of time, and to bond very deeply with one another, in an unexplainable way, unless you've done it, away from the world of men...it is Sacred Amazon Land...our time with each other, surrounded by Mother Nature away from men..and so many of these youngsters, these 'queer girls' and 'genderqueers' and the gender confused bio females, many HAVE NEVER spent time in such intense women only space...they do not know the sacredness of that which we speak, and WHY we defend it so strongly.

    I do agree: it is the ROLES and the boxes those roles put us in that are the problem...and I too feel if folks could just be themselves, without that shaming of not being in the proper "box" much of the percieved need for these surgeries would be eliminated. Get these young women to women's land, and watch them become EMPOWERED by it.....
    -In Sisterhood,
    -M.A.

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