Tag Archives: transgender

The next evolution of Feminism? Taking aim at the Kyriarchy

Today a friend of mine made the comment (one that I would have very much agreed with him on a year ago) that he doesn’t like feminists/the term “feminism”, because it implies that one side is more important, or should be better off than the other, it doesn’t speak to equality. I wasn’t in a position to easily correct him, but I have since told him I don’t agree.

Last year I felt the same way, mostly because anti-feminists have been so successful at bastardizing and vilifying the term and making feminists out to be raging, hairy, fat, man-hating people. Perhaps it’s a bit similar to how in America, the media has made efforts to vilify the term “liberal”, as out-of-touch hippies who want to give everyone participation medals and welfare for nothing. But I’ve realized that feminism is very important, and it is important to wear the label proudly and defend it whenever and however necessary against these malicious naysayers.

Feminism is definitely misunderstood, something it took me a while to figure out and understand what is really going on. I won’t get into it here (I already dealt with this on my podcast), but I did come across an article a couple of days ago that I do want to highlight and share because I think it will better help make the distinction between what feminism is fighting for and striving to accomplish, vs what the naysayers think/claim it is.

From Everyday Feminism, “Kyriarchy 101: We’re Not Just Fighting the Patriarchy Anymore”:

If you’re familiar with feminism, you’ll have heard of the term patriarchy – the social order that privileges men and oppresses women. It’s a useful term as it gives a name to the institutionalisation of male privilege.

But feminism has moved on from being purely concerned with male privilege.

Intersectional feminism tells us that oppression comes in many different forms. Someone is not simply oppressed or privileged: we can be simultaneously privileged and oppressed by different aspects of our identities.

For example, somebody can be privileged by the fact that they are cisgender, thin, and white, while being oppressed by the fact that they are queer, disabled, and female.

Because of this, we need a word to describe the complex social order that keeps these intersecting oppressions in place.

Kyriarchy is an excellent word for this concept – it is more in line with intersectional feminism, and is not as problematic as the word patriarchy can be.

Kyriarchy 101

The term kyriarchy was coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza in her 2001 book, Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation. In the glossary, she defines kyriarchy as:

a neologism…derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination… Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression.

In other words, the kyriarchy is the social system that keeps all intersecting oppressions in place.

Many anti-feminists argue (and complain) that feminism is wrong because it only fights to help women and ignores other problems in society, but they make this claim based on incomplete information and improper understanding. Feminism started as a women’s movement, but once they started fighting social injustices that affected them, surprise surprise, they noticed other social injustices that affected others as well, and since they were already fighting the system, they just expanded that fight. (Note, this is not to say I am a scholar on feminism, but I know a few people who pretty much study this stuff constantly because they live it, often being part of several oppressed groups simultaneously, and I listen to what they have to say, and read the articles they share)

An example:

To extend this example, let’s imagine two people: one is a white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied woman. Another is a black, transgender, pansexual, disabled man. According to the theory of patriarchy, the woman would be oppressed and the man would be privileged.

Sure – the woman will experience oppression as a woman, and the man might experience forms of male privilege. But it’s a whole lot more complicated than that.

In this situation, the man would not have control (or economic, social, and political privilege) over the woman. To merely call the man dominant and the woman oppressed without taking any other factors into account would be to erase all the other aspects of their identities.

This is not to say that male privilege can be totally erased because of certain factors. Rather, it means that the way someone experiences male privilege is dynamic and dependent on other identities.

These complexities are something I wasn’t able to see right away, it has taken years of reading, listening, pondering, starting to have the blinders come off slowly but surely to start actually being able to see and recognize this for myself. I had a pretty big personal epiphany about a year ago, that I wrote about because it hit me so hard when it slammed into my awareness. It’s complicated, and that’s why a lot of people have a hard time ‘getting it’.

Oppression is not simply about discrimination. It is about being institutionally and systemically repressed.

Gender-based oppression, for example, is not just about someone making a joke about women belonging only in the kitchen. It’s about women being denied equal access to education, the job market, equal pay, reproductive health services, and legislative equality for centuries.

It’s about women being presented as weak, overemotional, lacking sexual desire, irrational, and superficial by institutions such as the media, education system, politicians, legislation, and commercial groups.

It’s about socializing people to believe one gender is superior while the others are inferior. It’s about the social, political, and economic repression of women.

Oppression is not about isolated incidents. It’s about a number of incidents, habits, culture, and tradition enforcing the domination of one group over another.

Effective anti-oppression movements will view oppression as systemic. These movements take into account the fact that oppression can only be eradicated through radical, holistic change.

We therefore need a name for the institutionalisation of oppression. Feminists often call the institutionalisation of sexism “the patriarchy.”

Mainstream feminism has been traditionally concerned with gender inequality. Intersectional feminism, however, is concerned with all types of inequality. The term kyriarchy is useful as it is therefore more in line with intersectional feminism.

The tricky thing here is that some people will say (and honestly believe) that this isn’t true, because they don’t think anyone is inferior just because they’ve been told so, but it’s not nearly that obvious. There are a lot of subconscious biases that form, and are reinforced over the years, to the point that for many of us (yes, I include myself since I am still working on weeding these biases out), we act on them even if we don’t actually want to, or know we’re doing it. I know I’m particular bad with this when it comes to people who are overweight. The media would have me believe that anyone who is “fat” is lazy, unhealthy, and not a valuable human being. That’s the message I’ve been given my whole life (and it doesn’t help that I’ve had family members who reinforce the validity of that idea). The right thing to do is assess each and every person on an individual basis, but that’s very time consuming and energy intensive, so a lot of us don’t bother. And since many of us have been socially programmed in very similar ways (if we grew up in the same culture), if we get lazy, and fat shame, it’s very unlikely that someone is going to speak up and tell us we’re being inconsiderate.

Anyway, getting back to the article, what does this new term help with?

1. It acknowledges that gender-based oppression is not the only type of oppression that exists.

2. It acknowledges that one can both benefit from and be oppressed by the system.

3. It could suggest why so many oppressed people are complicit in their own oppression.

4. It does not erase people who do not identify as men or women.

5. It acknowledges that oppressions are interlinked.

I remember being dumbfounded earlier this year, when just before the annual Toronto Pride Parade, news broke that festival organizers were giving transgender groups grief and wanted them to have their own separate celebration. Yes, that’s right, the gay community felt it was separate from, and arguably more important than the trans community. Both groups are oppressed, and one is acting to further oppress the others. Similarly, as the fight for gay marriage and rights has raged on in the US, I’ve seen people remark at how the black community hasn’t come more to their aid, since the black community knows what it’s like to be held back by the system.

I happen to be “lucky” (if you want to call it that) that I was born a white male, thin (easy to get and stay “in shape”, though I have been thin-shamed many times), able-bodied, though not completely cisgender (at least not anymore), so I benefit from a lot of privilege. But I’ve always had a social justice spark in me, it has only grown much stronger as I’ve learned about feminism and the various isms of oppression (sexism, ableism, classism, ageism, etc). It has been my goal to learn and to know better, and to try to contribute as minimally as possible to existing systemic oppressions. It’s definitely not easy, especially when a lot of my peers (other white, thin, hetero, cis, middle-class, able-bodied people) haven’t learned to see or understand this stuff, and thus when I raise issue, they react to me as if I’m either “being too sensitive” or worse, “out of my mind”. I’ve had people unfriend me on facebook (at least one anyway) for posting too much about this stuff, and I’ve toned it down, but I can’t be silent. I’m just trying to find better ways to express these ideas and be less militant and radical. Really, it’s just about trying to be a better, more kind human being, and it’s bizarre that some people view efforts to do so, as going unnecessarily out of their way for something they don’t think matters. But it does.

I’ve still got a lot of work to do for myself, but the more I learn, the harder it gets to be complacent. The more I learn to see the ever subtle forms this oppression takes, the more it pains me to be in the minority of people even coming close to acting to stop it. That’s part of why I share these articles on here as well, because I want to pass on the wisdom that helps me know better, so maybe you can too.

One last quote from the article:

It also reminds us that since different oppressions exist, we can fight one form of oppression while perpetuating others.

So, I hope you consider this. Take aim at the Kyriarchy and fight to help everyone. We’re all in this together.

Curiosity Recap (Jul 20, 2014)

Outside of the blog, new episode of the Noise in my Head Podcast released today – a very special episode. I interviewed a Career Counselor!
Also, this past week I released my Ebook “Why can’t I stop thinking so much?”, a collection of written pieces (all published on Medium).

recapsmallThe result of a little late night inspiration Re: Polymathism – Some thoughts and insights from a fellow polymath friend of mine
Neurological explanation for creative genius (sort of) – Meet our friend, the precuneus
Productivity Software Quick Review – Mindmapping and to-do list software is explored
How animals eat their food – A humorous video with depictions

Dyslexia illustrated – Better understanding leads to better acceptance and support
Audio Engineering visualized using bunnies – For the visual learners, curious about the concepts
Euphemisms and the evolution of language – Some history and food for thought
How to escape the Death Valley of Education – Sir Ken Robinson’s latest TED Talk, video and transcript
So you want to learn to program? (Part 1) – After a sometimes frustrating week long stint of researching computer programming information and resources, I do a bit of a quick run down. Not sure when I’ll be writing part 2 but this is a quick primer
What’s the difference: Vigor vs Rigor – These words are similar and somewhat related, but not the same things
A closeup of the human eye: literally eye opening! – Don’t worry, this post features no puns beyond the title, just a really cool picture and some commentary
40 Helpful travel tips – As the name suggests, I linked to the original article because all the tips were captioned images
Moore’s Law and How Processors Work – A bit of computer history, where we’re at now, and where the future might take us
A clever way to reduce food waste – French company finds a way to sell “ugly” (but still perfectly good) fruit and vegetables
10 ways you are making life harder than it has to be – I highlight two in particular, but this is good life advice
Listen to a Conservative Republican mother tell the story of her transgender daughter – Understanding and acceptance, they are beautiful things
Kacy Catanzaro: Superhuman Woman (amazing athlete!) – American Ninja Warrior contestant Kacy Catanzaro does what no woman before her has done, and blows away everyone in the crowd (and the commentators) in the process
Why you should not support Autism Speaks – Celebs who endorse them mean well, but have not done their research
Most common language spoken by state, after English and Spanish – Can you guess?
Ever wanted to see a tattoo being done in slow motion? Now you can!
The BS Machine – I found a written piece that provides insight into where we are probably going off the tracks as a society
All-Star Animals: The Octopus – Did you know just how much they can do? And they don’t even have any bones!

Previous recap.

Listen to a Conservative Republican mother tell the story of her transgender daughter

You know, often the most compelling and convincing stories are ones that are truly personal and genuine perspective changes. I’ve been fortunate enough to have several in my life, and when I come across them, I try to share for the benefit of others.

Here’s a really beautiful story from a mother defending critics of her Transgender daughter. Politics be damned, the phrase “unconditional love” comes to mind.

For your convenience, I’ve typed out the transcript as well:

I’m the mom of a little girl called AJ, who was recently profiled in the Kansas City Star. As surprised as I was to find my family in the paper, I’m also incredibly proud.

My daughter is six years old. She transitioned, which means she changed her outward appearance from male to female, and started living full time as her true gender, when she was four.

Until that point, she was quite a rough and tumble little boy with a buzz cut and a shark tooth necklace. But when she was three, she asked her dad and I if we could buy her a princess dress.

We didn’t buy the dress.

We thought she might be going through a stage of liking bright or sparkly things, and didn’t want to waste money on something she would grow bored of in a week. But she kept asking, and I found out that she had a favourite princess dress she wore at daycare.

What the heck we thought, and we took her to the store to pick one up. Things didn’t stop there. Over the next few months she started to wear that dress every single minute that she was at home. And then she asked for more. Dresses, nightgowns, headbands, sparkly pink shoes. And eventually, even girl’s underwear.

We allowed some of those things, but we drew the line at the undies. There were just some things we weren’t comfortable with during this phase.

But then I noticed her pushing down on her genitals a lot, and I asked her what was wrong. Not having those parts, I assumed she might have a rash and was itchy, but her answer shocked me.

She said that they bothered her, and were in the way. She wanted them gone.

Thank god for google, because I immediately jumped on the computer and typed in a search “four year old boy says genitals should be gone”. What came back was a very short list of results, but they all pointed to one thing. My child might be transgender.

I had never even heard the word transgender before and really didn’t know what to think. We made an appointment with our pediatrician. She recommended a child psychologist. But before we could even get an appointment, my daughter, then my four year old son, said these words to me: “Mom, you know I’m really a girl right? I’m a girl on the inside”

That moment changed my life.

In the following months she became more insistent. We saw the psychologist and an endocrinologist just to make sure there wasn’t a hidden medical issue. She became more determined to express herself by wearing those pink sparkly shoes to daycare. She wanted to go out for ice cream in a fairy dress and wings.

Eventually we couldn’t hold her back. She was showing signs of depression and refused to leave the house dressed as a boy. The day I let her go to school in girl clothes she was happier than I had seen in a very long time. The kids were great, and the teachers were awesome.

But then the kids went home and told their parents, and they weren’t so great after that. Adult bigotry had influenced them.

We lost most of our friends and some of our family. We basically went into hiding for about a year while my daughter grew out her hair to look like the girl she is. When we emerged again, it was with a very happy and confident daughter.

When I share our daughter’s story, I hear the same uninformed comments over and over again, so I’d like to address a few of those now.

One. We are liberals pushing a gay agenda.

Nope, sorry, I’m a conservative southern baptist republican from Alabama.

Two. We, or at least I, because they always blame the mom, wanted a girl, she we turned our child into one.

Again no, I desperately wanted boys. The idea of raising a girl in today’s world scares me to death. I’d *much* rather be responsible for raising a good boy who knows how to treat girls well, then to be responsible for raising a girl who might only be interested in dating bad boys.

Three. Kids have no idea what they want or who they are. My kid wants to be a dog, should I let him?

Well, that’s up to you but I wouldn’t. There’s a profound difference between wanting to be something in imaginary play and declaring who you are insistently, consistently and persistently. Those are the three markers that set transgender children apart, and my daughter displayed all of them.

Four. Kids shouldn’t have to learn about sex at such a young age!

Well, I agree, so it’s a good thing that being transgender has nothing to do with sex. Gender identity is strictly how a person views themself on the inside and is completely separate from who we are attracted to.

Five. Transgender people are perverts and shouldn’t be in the bathroom with “normal people”.

I don’t know what you go into the bathroom to do, but I know what my daughter goes in there for and it isn’t to look around. It’s to go into a stall, lock the door, and pee where no one else can see her.

Six. God hates transgender people. They are sinners and going to hell.

My God taught us to love one another. Jesus sought out those who others rejected. Some people choose to embrace biblical verses that appear to say transgender people are being wrong. I choose to focus on verses like verse Samuel 16:7 which says “what the lord said to Samuel, do not consider his appearance or his height for I have rejected him. The lord does not look at the things that people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the lord looks at the heart.

My daughter is a girl in her heart. She knows it. God knows it. And that’s good enough for me.

Artist Focus (Oct 25, 2013)

From time to time on this site I will do a spotlight on artists, whether visual, written or musical.

Today I have 3 visual and 1 auditory.

Tang Yau Hoong – I found this artist by accident last week, and in browsing through their works, there are several that I really like. They’re both very nice to look at, but in many cases also make you think! Here is one of my favourites.

Elija Montgomery “I Am a Monster” – I found this one on a random blog a little while ago and really liked the concept. It’s an interesting take on body dysmorphia as well as transgender issues through a photo series. My favourite image in the series (which is really the one that grabbed and held my mind) has a caption that read “I like my body until I put clothes on it”. While this isn’t necessarily the case for myself, I know many who can relate and I wanted to share.

Angelo Merendino Photo Journal of his wife’s battle with cancer – I found this one thanks to the Stuff You Should Know Facebook Page. While it is obviously very sad, it is also beautiful and can be said to have at least a sliver of goodness at the end. I recommend picking the right time to check this out, but the comments on the post on facebook were largely “very sad but glad you posted it”.

Cloudkicker is a (one-man) band I discovered several years ago, and that one man (Ben Sharp) has been a huge inspiration to me, for the complexity, diversity but also beauty he creates in his music. He does everything himself, and what’s even cooler is that he gives his music away for free (technically “pay what you want”, but you can choose $0). The project is fully instrumental and ranges in style from stuff in the vein of Coldplay or Arcade fire all the way to “progressive metal”. There’s a little something for everyone, and it’s really great productivity music. I do tend to be a fan of the heavier stuff moreso than the lighter stuff, but a good place to start is with “LA After Rain” from “Fade” as a middle ground and go from there. If you’re into the softer side of things, check out “Let yourself be huge”.