Vaginal Discourse

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[Trigger warning for rape, stalking, and other violence]

You might have heard that a cisgender attendee of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival posted pictures of trans women who attended this year’s festival, along with various personal tidbits that she was able to dig up. She also floated the idea of starting a website devoted to outing trans women at MichFest, along with suggesting that festival goers post pictures of trans women in order to be able to harass them.

I am so not going to wade into Ye Olde Michigan Wars any more than I already have. I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.

What I am going to do is talk about the use of the Internet to threaten people. In this case, hosts the blog in question. WordPress makes all users agree to terms of service, including agreeing that:

“the content [of your blog will]… not contain threats or incite violence towards individuals or entities, and [shall] not violate the privacy or publicity rights of any third party”

The blog in question is clearly outing people as trans, thus violating the privacy rights of third parties. The blog also refers to trans women as “predatory males”, and calls for them to be escorted off the festival grounds. This is clearly a threat, and in the context of the post I’d say is fair to interpret as inciting violence.

WordPress has refused to remove the offending blog, despite its being in violation of the terms of service. As far as I know (feel free to fill in the details for a writer who’s busy hunting for textbooks), WordPress effectively requires someone to get a court order before they’ll remove content from a hosted blog. I see this as, um, problematic.

Permit me to talk about cyber-enabled violence, notably violence against women, and to spell out why’s inaction horrifies me. Read more…

On Monday, I heard an NPR piece about the new, “less revealing” full body scanners TSA in rolling out. As a radical, queer, feminist trans woman who teaches environmental science, my ears perked up when I heard a TSA spokesperson say the following:

After someone comes through the machine, they see the very same thing that the officer sees. And that is, no image of a passenger but instead a generic outline of a human body indicating where the anomaly is. [Emphasis mine]

Anomaly, eh?

anomaly (plural anomalies)
1. A deviation from a rule or from what is regarded as normal.

Oh, the academic discussions I’ve had over what constitutes “normal” and/or “natural.” While I think I get what the spokesperson was saying (explosives are unacceptably deviant), I have to say the whole piece troubled me.

Yesterday, Bilerico reported on the scanners, citing the National Center for Transgender Equality’s concerns:

Pink and blue buttons appear to be used to commence scanning for travelers. It appears that TSA officers need to select a pink or blue “scan” button based on their perception of a traveler’s gender. The new software may identify “anomalies” based on gender-atypical anatomy, rather than only targeting foreign objects. This may be a security trigger which would lead to an invasive pat-down, potentially embarrassing questions and in some cases, biased harassment. NCTE urges the TSA to provide greater clarity for the public on how the new scans work.

Pink and blue buttons? Are you fucking kidding me? That’s not good at all.

The software changes also don’t address the concerns of other groups. It may help or hinder travel for people who carry medically necessary devices or for people of certain faith traditions. For example, questions remain about how the new software detects medical devices like urine pouches, or religious wear like the kirpan, an ornamental weapon, required to be worn by orthodox Sikhs.

Damn straight. I find our security state unacceptable, period. As is always the case, the oppressive burden of “protecting” society is falling on those of us whom society deems as unacceptably deviant. No amount of re-tooling is going to change that fact.

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