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Some Thoughts on Riki Wilchins

Shlomo's picture

Hi.  My name is Ann, and I'm a junior at Haverford.  I'm a Biology major, but I'm minoring in Gen/Sex.  I wasn't really sure what to write about for this post until I delved back into Queer Theory, Gender Theory.  It's an interesting and readable text, but one thing that bothers me is the author's obvious, slanted perspective.  Riki Wilchins frequently makes cynical observations about feminism and the lack of care that the discipline has toward other advocate groups.  Her statements could be true (I suppose I don't know enough about the history of feminism to deny her claims), but her repeated hammering in of the fact that feminists aren't supportive enough of gender rights makes me feel like I'm not reading a very balanced account.  On the other hand, the clear opinions are somewhat helpful, because they serve as a reminder to me that I can't accept everything I read as the absolute truth.  I know this sounds cheesy, but it is important to always remember where the author is coming from (which I often forget to do).  Riki Wilchins's perspective and her arguments are inextricably linked.


Shlomo's picture

Riki, Thanks for your


Thanks for your surprising, but very welcome, response.  I think it helped me gain a better understaning, both of where you are coming from, and of the various movements you discuss.

Even though my own post reinforced the importance of perspective, I had forgotten to really take my own perspective into account.  I'm 20; I'm from the Midwest; I'm a straight white female; I went to a Catholic high school where many of the groups marginalized by gender differences (gays, lesbians, transgenders, women, etc.) found empowerment in each other.  It was almost as if we lived in such a rule-driven, oppressive place, where so few people were accepting, we had to join hands in order to have anyone to hold on to.  I know that sounds melodramatic and perhaps even silly, and I know that the forms of oppression we faced were nothing compared to many of the mainstream oppressions faced by millions of marginalized people throughout history.  But I think my words are truthful nonetheless.

Anyway, that's where I'm coming from, and that's where my love for gender and sexuality studies was born and where my formative experiences with the discipline took place.  So it is easy for me to forget that at times, women and gays and transgendered people, among others, are not the best of friends.

Thanks for your response.  I always try to be self-aware, but that doesn't mean I'm good at remembering to look for my own prejudices.  It's a valuable thing to remember.


Riki Wilchins's picture

Some Thoughts

I agree. The author *is* prejudiced in her views. In part, my perspective is informed by my own experience as a young genderqueer struggling for acceptance within the les/fem community -- and often being drummed out. You have to remember the times. In the 70s, the lesbians (the "Lavendar Menace") were ejected from a NOW conference (see Rita Mae Brown on this).

In the 80s, trannies were the threat. I came of age at a time when the ur-text of contemporary feminism was Mary Daly's GYNecology and her student Janice Raymond had just published a book called The Transsexual Empire that accused all MtFs of being creatures who pirated women's body-parts at the behest of male surgeons intent on invading and raping the female political body.

What I'm trying to say is that both feminist theory and political feminism have harbored deeply reactionary and hostile feelings on issues of gender (see Of Catamites & Kings by Gayle Rubin for an excellent take on this). It was not until the queer theorists led by folks like Judith Butler and Eve Sedgwick married gayness and feminism with a theory of difference that this tension was largely resolve - at least theoretically. Politically, I still think most feminists (my age at least) grind their teeth whenever they see a cross-dresser enter the room.

But thanks for the close reading. You might want to try READ MY LIPS for a more autobiographical take on my brand of feminism. And no -- don't ever assume anything you read is value-free holy writ. :-}

Best of luck!