Daily Archives: August 29th, 2014

QotD: “we need words that describe the position accorded to groups in the social hierarchy based on politically pertinent traits held in common”

There’s an interesting passage on the use of labels to define political classes in trans activist Julia Serano’s book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive – interesting, because while Serano rejects any definition of “woman” that she considers “essentialist” (i.e. that relates to human females rather than to a sense of individual identity), what she writes about the word “queer” actually tells us very clearly why we need words that describe the position accorded to groups in the social hierarchy based on politically pertinent traits held in common.

[…]

Women are marginalised under patriarchy, and they are marginalised because they are female. Trans women are marginalised under patriarchy, either because they are read as female and so subject to the same class conditions as non-trans women, or because they are read as male and penalised for failing to behave in what is considered to be an appropriately masculine fashion. Neither form of discrimination repudiates the radical feminist analysis of gender.

In order to liberate women as a class, we must be able to describe women as a class. And conversely, removing the analytical language that lets us identify the position of the human female in society guarantees that we are hobbled when it comes to changing that position. Serano can see this is true for the word “queer”: why, then, is she determined that any use of the word “woman” to describe human females as a class be dismissed as “essentialism”?


Sarah Ditum, read the full post here