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1. Male privilege isn’t a thing. You can’t possess it or have it as an attribute of your person. No one is actually carrying around an invisible knapsack of privilege.

2. What male privilege is first and foremost is a concept: a machine for thinking with that performs a certain function in relation to certain kinds of problem. What the concept of male privilege does is allow us to identify a broad tendency across society, and to think the particular dynamics of a variety of distinct situations as instances of that tendency. It joins the dots between a bunch of different things that tend to happen in the world by allowing us to say that together they constitute a particular phenomenon.

3. The way the concept of male privilege accomplishes this is by referring all these instance to a single abstraction that stands in for the actual relations and processes that link them in reality. It is not a theory of anything. It doesn’t tell us anything about what these relations and processes actually are. It’s a placeholder for when you don’t want to map out the whole reality in order to talk about it. It’s a concept that problematises rather than explains, and that’s fine. It’s important to have concepts that compose problems for us to think, as long as we don’t confuse that for the thinking itself.

4. What Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wants to do with the concept of male privilege is altogether different. She wants to take it as the principle of a logical system that allows her to deduce things about the experiences of others. We are no longer using it to relate things we know about experience, but to directly produce knowledge out of abstractions. The work it’s now supposed to do is to allow her to infer the experience of another by virtue of how that other’s body signifies its sex to her. It’s a way of not thinking the complexity of the world by imposing a pre-constructed image over reality. It’s not just trans women’s experiences, but everyone’s, that disappear in this kind of thinking.

5. This deduction requires her to have an account of gender socialisation that uniformly attaches privilege to bodies according to sexual difference. Historically, feminists have strongly opposed this kind of functionalist thinking about socialisation precisely because it invites the kind of conservative use to which Adichie puts it: overwriting experience, denying agency and variability, and justifying the status quo. Socialisation is not a pressing plant. We are not all of one uniform human substance stamped into universal binary forms. It requires the dismissal of basically every significant contribution feminism has made to our understanding of gender socialisation to think this way.

6. There is no automatic relationship between sexual difference and gender socialisation. Rather it depends on the enactment over time of symbolic roles that gradually shape us. These enactments are situational, and do not necessarily map onto the differentiation of bodies by sex. Bodies marked male can be and are made to occupy feminine positions in particular dynamics and vice versa, and our relationship to ‘privilege’ is contingent on this positioning. Our gender socialisation is a complex mosaic of impressions that form us over time, not a simple binary categorisation.

7. Even the raddiest of radfems have historically been sensitive to the enormous harm done to ‘male’ children in the process of making them men. Children are trapped by absolute dependence in the relations of care into which they were born, and enclosed within various repressive authoritarian institutions (family, school, community, church, state). The processes by which those children marked to be men are by those environments brutalised and taught to fear emotion are not privileges, they are kinds of violence, for which no one should be told to be grateful.

8. Adichie’s women are defined by a lack in relation to men: the lack of male privilege. And moreover, given what she has to say about privilege and socialisation, this maps exactly onto the way women are traditionally defined by lack in relation to sexual difference: by the presence or absence of the Phallus. The thing about the Phallus is: it’s a fantasy, specifically, a male supremacist society’s fantasy about the virility of masculine agency that is not commensurate with the reality of anyone’s actual existence (men’s actual social dominance is considerably more fraught than its representation in fantasy). Adiche’s imaginings about the lives of trans women (it’s very obvious she hasn’t actually talked to any of us about it in any depth) are projected fantasies of phallic agency: we are deemed to have what women lack because we are deemed to have an experience of agency structurally barred for women as a correlate of how our bodies are sexually differentiated from those of cis women, and therefore are disqualified from being women. One way of responding to this is to simply show empirically how the fantasy diverges from reality, by describing all the commonalities in how we are hurt and subordinated by patriarchal society. But I think the more important point is: we should not have to parade our lack in order to be accepted as women because we should not be accepting this phallocentric model of agency in the first place. Woman is not simply what you get when you take away whatever gives men power, and Man is not the fully empowered humanity denied women. Both are ways of being divided against and alienated from oneself by the system within which we are trapped. Both are impoverished forms of human existence. One only benefits from either role in relative terms.

9. What I’m trying to get at here is that there are problems with overextended concepts of male privilege such as Adichie’s beyond that they exclude trans women from being women. They confuse the social function ‘man’ with the actual humans that enact it, and so empty out our understandings of those experiences by reducing them to the dimension of privilege. Being seen as a man allows contingent access to social privilege, but it also quite often involves being hurt a lot and having to pretend you’re not. The kind of feminism that makes a theoretical system out of privilege, and therefore dismisses men’s expressions of dissatisfaction with their gender as the whining of the privileged, adds to the social repression of men’s vulnerability and closes off possibilities for the expression and politicisation of the dissonance of men’s humanity to their expected social function. Drawing an arbitrary line to protect trans women from that kind of treatment isn’t good enough. There are all kinds of experiences of male existence that don’t fit the model of what’s implied by ‘male privilege’ that are not trans experiences, and the concept shouldn’t be deployed to invalidate these either.

10. Personally, transition has helped me to begin to understand the gendered dimensions of some of the ways I have been victimised during my life, and to integrate these with my understanding of myself. But this is not what I value about it. What matters is that in femininity – or rather particular kinds of femininity: feminist femininity, queer femininity, punk femininity – I have found a model for my own agency that is authentically mine and that feels like agency. Adichie’s Woman is a passive effect of the accumulation of sufferings: all history no futurity. Who the fuck wants that? What does it matter how my miseries stack up next to hers or anyone elses? My womanhood is an active creative potential immanent to my being. It is not my shitty childhood nor does it have to answer to anyone else’s. There is nothing positive in defining yourself by victimhood because there’s nothing good about being a victim. Slave morality feminism is politically useless and personally corrosive.

Context here. In his latest response (link) Michael denies that he has supporters:

“Some people seem to think that I have ‘supporters’ on my blog. I don’t. People choose to comment on my blog based on their own agency. Sometimes they support things I say, sometimes not.”

According to this standard, people could only be said to be supporters of Michael if he was in some way in control of their minds, an absurd and implausible defence.

The below material largely speaks for itself and I encourage people to disseminate this information as widely as possible. I encourage those involved in Atheist Ireland who are concerned by my treatment to raise the matter internally within Atheist Ireland. A folder containing all of the screenshots I have taken relating to this situation can be found here: (link)

(My pronoun is ‘they’, the individuals below are aware of my trans status and correct pronoun)

Harassment on Slymepit.com

Note that tina, Shatterface and Steersman have been commenting persistently in Michael’s defence on his blog since this post.

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(full size images here)

On MichaelNugent.com

Note that all of the below material remains on Michael’s website as of 16:00 22/02/16 Some of the more egregious material seems to have been deleted at some point in the last 24 hours, which would imply that the below has been read by Michael and remains on his site regardless.

 

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Note: since Michael is fond of throwing around defamation threats, let me make clear from the outset that “support” in the title is intended in the sense of “provides material support”. I do not allege that Michael agrees with the hate speech he allows to be spread via his website. (dictionary definition)

He did

He did

On 15th Feb 2016, Atheist Ireland chairperson Michael Nugent published a piece titled “The outrageous smear that I am using homophobia to defend misogyny” (link) where he published publicly friends-only posts from the personal facebook page of queer writer Aoife Fitzgibbon O’Riordan. Aoife had described Michael’s reference (in a publicly available article) to a gay man (whom Aoife and I know personally) as having “flounced” away from the Atheist Ireland stand at the GPO as “dog-whistle homophobia”.

Against my better judgement, I entered the ensuing comment thread to defend Aoife’s (and the man who was the subject of the statement’s) characterisation of the usage of the term as homophobia. The argument is in the comment thread and I won’t add to it here except to say that Michael’s insistence that the characterisation of a statement as homophobic is only permissible if the person making the statement can be shown to have a generalised ideological hatred of LGBTQ people would render it impossible to name virtually any homophobic speech – i.e. speech that transmits or lends support to negative attitudes towards LGBTQ people – as homophobic (a state of affairs that would suit the likes of the Iona Institute, but should be intolerable to genuine progressives).

Eventually, one of Nugent’s supporters, having presumably decided to Google me, came across a post by anti-trans bigot Cathy Brennan on a site she uses to attempt to associate trans people and their supporters with rape and abuse where I am accused of “harassing feminists online” and posted the link in the thread. My explanation of the link as coming from Cathy Brennan prompted this (now deleted) comment:

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Cindy then attempted to post a series of links in support of the thesis that trans women are men who pretend to be women in order to gain access to women’s spaces and rape women and girls (see image at top of post) but these were caught in the website’s comment’s filter. She then made a number of comments (1 2) alluding to the transmisogynistic conspiracy theory that trans women use accusations of transphobia to try and force lesbians to have sex with them. A number of Nugent’s supporters in the thread proceeded to misgender me despite my already having stated that I am AMAB trans much earlier in the thread and despite my repeated assertions that I am not a man and don’t want to be called “dude”, (1 2 3 4)

I contacted Michael Nugent first via Twitter to make him aware that his website was being used to spread anti-trans hate speech:

I then emailed him with the same request to denounce the transphobia of his supporters and/or delete the comments:

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Michael’s response was to do neither, but rather to publish the links provided by Cindy in support of her claims that trans women are rapists (1 2) which includes a slew of links to the anti-trans hatesite TransgenderReality. The only anti-trans post he deleted was the one I directly linked to him, claiming he would look over the comments tomorrow. At the time of writing all of the other anti-trans posts, including the links to the hatesite remain on his website.

He did, however, find the time to remove a number my posts referring to malicious false allegations made against me by Cathy Brennan, something I did not ask for and did not want. This would imply that Michael read all of the comments in the thread (how else would he have known which comments to delete?), decided to remove those that pertained to my experience of victimisation by a transmisogynstic bigot, but decided to leave in place those that contained hate speech directed at transgender people, while allowing to be published previously unpublished comments purportedly supporting claims that trans women are male rapists.

He emailed me back to say that he had done this and I replied to say that if he hadn’t the time to moderate the thread he should have left Cindy’s comments unpublished (at this point I had not yet deduced that he must in fact have read the thread and had no problem allowing hate speech to remain on his site):

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Michael replied to say “Feel free to explain what you mean by a hate site, and how the links posted support that description, and I will take that into account.” Clearly this meant he was still online, had been alerted to the content of the comments he chose to publish, and declined a second opportunity to remove obvious unambiguous hate speech from his site:

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Clearly then, Michael is aware that his site, a resource and platform that he controls, is being used to spread destructive lies about transgender women and has chosen to continue to make that platform available for the dissemination of those views. In other words, he has chosen to knowingly provide material support to transmisogyists. Why? Does Michael believe that the claim that trans women are male rapists could be anything other than a weaponised lie designed to make trans women’s lives less livable? How then can he claim an unimpeachable position as an LGBTQ ally that would allow him to speak over LGBTQ people and decide what does and does not constitute homophobia?

At least he likes my music though.

UPDATE 12:00 19/02/16: Michael has now written a blog post about me where he confirms he read the transmisogynistic comments, “spent an hour on the phone discussing [the thread]” and at the end of that concluded that the “allegation” that asserting that trans women are male rapists constitutes hate speech “required more serious reflection”. Again, why does Michael think this could be anything other than a lie designed to whip up hate, that it might potentially be a sincere legitimate contribution to public discourse? All of the hate speech and the links to the hatesite (which he made a positive  choice to publish) are still publicly visible on his site.