Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blindel's Blunder

I'm a little late on this one which has stirred a certain reaction in some qaurters.

Julie Bindel's original article appeared in the Guardian and can be read here.

She also argued her case on Radio 4's hecklers programme (a lot tamer than the title suggests and very little actual heckling, which in this case is a pity).

Julie Bindel makes a number of points but boils down to (you'll have to forgive me for not reproducing her views in extenso - I can't be bothered) feminist theory puts a lot of stress on gender roles being socially constructed and therefore anyone who has gender reassignment is buying in to the idea that gender is a given thing and therefore reinforces this concept of gender which according to feminism (or at least one version of feminism) reinforces the oppression of women.

So many logical fallacies and so little time to deconstruct them.

Julie Bindel has also gone on to look criticially at the whole gender reassignment thing and has some major critiques of hte whole thing from which she deduces it's all some kind of antifeminist plot by the medical profession. Again som many fallacies, so little time.

The first thing to state is that Julie Bindle is a bit of a 'Jonny come lately' to the argument about gender reassignment and the argument has been taking placeover many years within the trans community and is at the root of the original use of the term transgender which originally referred to people who did not wish for gender reassignment (as an example see this article), a fact she conveniently fails to mention in order to make her own critique appear more powerful than it is.

Many of her criticisms around the way gender reassignment works have some validity - yes of course it should not be rushed into, there should the provision of therapy and counselling for those who wish for it both pre and post and of course there is no guarantee that people are happy after surgery - hence the need for counselling and support. Yes there needs to space to encourage more freedom of gender expression apart from gender reassignment.

The promotion of the concepts of gender expression and gender variance is something that's being promoted by trans communities who are alot more political and diverse than Julie Bindle portrays them as - it's always easier to combat people when you portray them as unified and monolithic where no internal debate or dissension occurs (the gay community thinks etc).

But it does in the end come down to whether you think gender reassignment is the right thing under some circumstances. Clearly there are many people who are happy after transitioning and who were very unhappy prior to this.

Of course I can also see that people should have the widest choices available to them and that it takes a political community of people who have made some of those choices to make them possible and the medical community is not often able to reflect or offer that.

Before wrapping up I should state that I don't think that gender is completely a matter of social conditioning (though of course it is in large part - or at leat how it plays out). If people have a clear sexual orientation of being attracted to one gender that means to me that I can have a gender identity myself and that gender means something - though is maybe more varied than the binary male/female divide we are trained to think in.

I think Julie Bindel does raise some interesting points but the manner of attacking people's freedom to make decisions about their lives in the name of a doctrine (albeit secular as opposed to religious) is unfortunate and unhelpful.

Rather than be opposed gender reassignment provision needs to be improved.