04 February 2012

Once A Bully, Always A Bully?

What is a bully?  Most people, I think, would agree that "people who beat up on people who have less power than themselves" is a pretty good starting point for a definition.

Of course, the beating and power don't have to be physical.  In fact, the non-physical variety can be even worse, and is as often as not what underlies abusive relationships.  Trust me, I know something about that, and it's fresh in my mind!

Anyway, most people would also agree, I think, that bullies act as they do because they know, deep down, they have so little power themselves.  That is why so much domestic violence is done by men whose lives are on the edge:  the ones who've lost their jobs and way of life, or who are about to.  Or, they may simply fear that they are about to lose those things, or that they will be revealed as not having them.

But I don't want to simply rag on men who beat women.  Anyone who doesn't have the soul of a cockroach deplores such things.  Besides, the victims of such people can at least begin to recover from the damage they've incurred--a process that, admittedly, can be a project for the remainder of the victim's life--by getting out of the abusive relationship.  Also, the aftermath of such abuse is usually limited to the victim and his or her loved ones, as well as those of the abuser.

On the other hand, there are other kinds of bullies who can cause untold damage to large numbers, and entire groups, of people.  Such people usually pick some of the most disenfranchised people as objects of their hatred.  

One such person is one who, rightly, is vilified by the trans community and our allies is one about whom I, to myself, swore I would never write or speak.  She is none other than Janice Raymond.

To attack The Transgender Empire at this late date is almost pointless.  The damage she caused with the baseless claims she made in it is finally, I believe, being reversed simply because more people know they know someone who's transgendered, and because, thankfully, only a relatively small number of people see feminism as something that includes hating all men or anything that has ever--willingly or not--worn a male guise.

In other words, more people understand that people like me actually are women and that trans men are really men.  Or, they simply think of us as living a "different" way--one that they,perhaps, wouldn't want for themselves, but that is ours by both necessity and choice.  

And then, of course, there is a whole generation of people who's come along not having read or even heard about Janice Raymond, "radical feminism" or the sexual politics of the 1970's.  They don't think much, if at all, about feminism because they take it for granted that women can be bank presidents and airline pilots and judges rather than just "girls" who serve them.  They see sexism and hit glass ceilings, but know that feminism, as defined by such as Raymond, will not help them to overcome those things.  In fact, some have even come to realize that radicals, in the end, objectify them just as much as men, in the minds of those radicals, objectify women's bodies.

Still, people like Raymond, Cathy Brennan and Elizabeth Hungerford simply can't be ignored out of existence.  Their real motivations need, as much as the flaws in what they try to pass off as arguments, to be not only fought against, but dismantled.

It seems that, as a friend of mine has pointed out, Raymond has found a new group of people to bully:  sex workers.  She argues against legalizing sex work and wants to end to "the sex industry."  

On the face of it, those are legitimate positions--and I say so as someone who doesn't agree with them.  One can make valid moral arguments against legalizing sex work, and I really wish that the world was a better place so that people wouldn't feel the need to become sex workers or their customers.  However, as cynical as this may seem, unless the human race changes radically, there will always be a market for what sex workers offer.

It would be one thing if Janice Raymond were merely ignorant of this fact, or even if she ignored it.  (Actually, either would make sense had she remained the nun she once was.)  However, as I read her Ten Reasons For Not Legalizing Prostitution, I realize that her real motivation is not concern for exploited sex workers--most of whom are young women from difficult backgrounds--but her hatred of their customers and those who control their industry, most of whom are men.  Instead of going after the johns, the pimps and those who make it easy for them to operate, she picks on the sex workers themselves.

Perhaps Janice Raymond is at too late a stage in her life to change.  Does her example tell us, "Once a bully, always a bully"?  Perhaps. But, I'm happy to say, plenty of people recognize a bully when they see one and will either fight them or simply keep them out of the way.  Most bullies back down or slink away when faced with people who have courage and integrity.  Janice Raymond may not do that, but those people, and others who recognize her for what she is, will consign her to Marx's infamous dustbin of history.


Sophie said...

Janice Raymond, like Mary Daly before her, seems to be letting it be known through proxies that she has regrets. 'Too little and far too late' might be the normal response too.
Brennan and the few activists and their adherents are a declining rump of doctrinaire second wavers whose anti sex, anti trans diatribes are bywords for exclusiveness, lack of compassion and paranoia, the living embodiments of 'straw feminists'.
On the other hand I can't help giving them one point. Transsexuality does potentially predicate a recalcitrant female identity, in my view, and indeed I think it's hard to talk about being neurologically intersex and not posit such. That is quite antithetical to radical feminism,and to approaches to gender based purely on sociological analysis, though not necessarily to the broad stream of contemporary feminisms. That's how there is, for me, some actual sense in their rejection of the reality of transsexuality because it does threaten the basic doctrine of this remaining rump of second wave pharisees.Not sure whether that adds up to bullying as much as desperation at becoming irrelevant leading to flailing out at any handy target. But I suppose the effect is the same either way.

Freya said...

Janice Raymond has made attacking the most marginalized and helpless members of society her life's work.

Justine Valinotti said...

Sophie--You make very interesting points about their views of transsexuality. If they have made any contribution that might endure, that explanation of transsexuality could be it. In a strange way, they are examples of what Marx said about every system having the seeds of its own destruction.

Freya--I suppose that if I were a better person, I'd feel sorry for her. She must have had a horrible, empty life if she's dedicated it to attacking the most marginalized members of society.

It's as if her hatred for victimizers makes her incapable of any compassion for victims.