Reproducing Patriarchal Power Structures in the Name of Feminism

By Katie Trinh

Dr. Imani Perry believes that feminists need to grapple with the complex structure of the patriarchy. Patriarchy includes the exclusion and suffering of women due to the domination of men. She claims that legal and economic relations in society are the foundation of patriarchy. There are three components that define patriarchy in the past and present: property holding men, legal personhood, and the privilege to appeal to the sovereign authority. Legal personhood refers to the fact that an individual is recognized as a right-bearing human being. One of Dr. Imani Perry’s main points is that women only have access to these benefits when they are attached to a patriarch. The system of the patriarchy is written into the law. Every aspect of feminist theory involves dismantling the patriarchy, and the patriarchy demonstrates how legal and economic institutions hold the most power and privilege. 

Perry also discusses how although entrepreneurial women signify female progress, these women are perceived to be successful because of their “masculine” traits. There is a narrative that men fail professionally or economically because of the economic success of women. According to Perry, feminism is a complicated concept that many people do not grasp. Many people believe that feminism means having women replace men as the dominating gender. However, Perry takes the stance that women, especially feminists, should not try to dominate men; instead, feminists should take on ethical positions that are based on their understanding of oppression. 

One of Perry’s main points is that patriarchy manifests as an entitlement that needs to be protected. She says that sexual allegations against men in power demonstrate how patriarchy is an entitlement. Many people argue that sexual allegations against men in power will “ruin their lives,” implying that their patriarchy and the privilege that comes with it needs to be protected. Perry also notes that any type of privilege acts as an entitlement for people. She provides the example of a white woman who accused a young black boy of groping her. Because the woman had the privilege of being white, she felt as though she was entitled to accuse a young black boy of sexual misconduct. Perry argues that we need to “read the layers” and look at how other factors besides gender, such as race, can contribute to relations in power. Perry’s point about adopting a language of intersectionality directly connects to Feminist and Gender Studies because this study revolves around the changing relationships between power and different factors of identity. 

Overall, Perry asks us to recognize our own positions of privilege. She acknowledges that none of us have “clean hands.” Everyone is at a certain position of privilege at the expense of oppressed and marginalized people. Sill, Perry asks everyone to examine how their position of privilege can play a role in affecting change. To Perry, feminism means looking closer at how economic and legal institutions enforce this patriarchal system, and how we must take ethical positions to address these systems of oppression. 

FGS Faculty Statement on the Transgender Memo

Photo courtesy Sean M. Haffey. Members of the TransLatin@ Coalition, an LA based non-profit protested Trump’s Trans memo with this Trans Pride flag banner drop at the World Series at Dodger Stadium this past weekend.Trans Flag at World Series.png

Photo courtesy Sean M. Haffey. Members of the TransLatin@ Coalition, an LA based non-profit protested Trump’s Trans memo with this Trans Pride flag banner drop at the World Series at Dodger Stadium this past weekend.

 

On October 21st, the New York Times released a memo containing the Trump administration’s plans to roll back civil rights and anti-discrimination protections for transgender and intersex people. The memo declared that it would adopt a definition of gender that is biologically determined by genitalia at birth under Title IX – the federal civil rights law that forbids discrimination in schools receiving government funds, as well as other contexts. It thereby threatens to write out the existence of transgender and intersex people from the policies and statutes implemented by the departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Justice, and Labor, allegedly for the sake of greater consistency and administrability.

Far from just another impulsive twitter tirade from Trump, this memo comes in a series of strategic anti-trans administrative moves, such as pushbacks on transgender inclusion in the military, denial of recognition for public school students’ gender identity and the right to use the bathroom of one’s choice, and so on. To be clear, the attack on transgender and intersex people is grave and ongoing. Here are a few possible implications of the memo on trans and intersex peoples’ lives –

  • The Department of Education’s redefinition of sex and gender as genitalia based and immutable allows for an erasure of trans and intersex people from education and public policy overall. This means, in addition to an increased susceptibility to trans antagonism, gender-based violence, and discrimination, trans and intersex people will face additional bureaucratic hurdles around ID documentation for admissions and financial aid.
  • If the Department of Education adopts this definition, it will become the basis for other agencies’ implementations. Once accepted by the Health Department, insurance companies will no longer be obligated to perform gender affirming procedures and treatments.
  • Coupled with Trump’s Religious Liberty guidance, Right-leaning corporations and businesses will be further empowered to deny trans and intersex people employment. This, much like all points listed above, will exacerbate the economic precarity of trans women of color, specifically Black trans women.

Although the enormity of the impact of this Memo cannot be overstated, we might find some relief in the fact that the administration cannot undo decades of case law protecting transgender people from workplace discrimination, hate crimes, and so on. In addition, a number of States, including Colorado, have already passed laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexuality, that can serve as stop gap measures.

We, the faculty at Feminist & Gender Studies, outright condemn the Trump administration’s use of trans and intersex people’s lives as pawns to consolidate a conservative agenda, and mobilize popular anti-trans sentiments to dismantle broader liberties. We acknowledge the ways in which such weaponization of “science” and “objectivity” in defining sex and gender emboldens the everyday erasure, transphobia, and hate crimes targeting transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming people. We understand the deep sense of vulnerability and fear that this memo has inspired among transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming people on and off campus.

We are committed to building our capacity as faculty and mentors to hold ourselves and Colorado College accountable to trans, intersex, and nonbinary students, faculty, and staff. We would like to offer the ID House as a space for students to gather in community, strategize, mourn, hold each other and hold space in the wake of the multiple white supremacist attacks on historically marginalized people this past week. And for the long term, we consider it our responsibility as feminist educators to amplify the work and voices of BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) transgender activists, revolutionaries, and intellectuals in our classrooms and beyond.

Transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming people will not be erased at FGS.

With love and solidarity,

Dr. Rushaan Kumar, on behalf of FGS faculty.

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Macho

Created by Colorado College students Kaimara Herron (Editor), Julian McGinn (Journalist), Sarah "Ingrid" Sundstrom (Journalist), and Nichelle Giraldes (Graphic Designer) during Block 6 2014

Created by Colorado College students Kaimara Herron (Editor), Julian McGinn (Journalist), Sarah “Ingrid” Sundstrom (Journalist), and Nichelle Giraldes (Graphic Designer) during Block 6 2014

Macho does not want to maintain the status quo. It does not reaffirm common notions of masculinity. It does not claim to speak for those who already have their voices validated. It is for the people on the fringes of [hegemonic] masculinity. It speaks to boys who do not fit into the traditional model. And it asks those who do fit that model to read through the pages and reflect on the ways in which they simultaneously benefit from and are restricted by definitions of masculinity.”
—Kaimara Herron, Editor

Click here to read Macho!