I’m Watchin’ Tumblr, Ma!

I was researching Current Trends in Feminism a few years back, and came across a furious blog entitled 4thWaveNow. Now, I knew that so-called Third Wave Feminism was a mess—a doggy dinner of warmed-over Communism, race-mixing, and Jewish palaver—and I was pleased to find someone else reading its beads. Except that’s not really what was happening. The whole blog is focused not on feminism, but wacky, marginal social trends.

The lady writing the long comment below tells a story that is oft repeated at that blog. Not only oft repeated, but jam-full of the same clichés. “I’ve marched against war, racism, for health care, for women’s and gay and lesbian rights”…that sort of thing over and over. You never see testimony from anyone who claims to be “a based race-realist and supporter of traditional Christian values.” No, they all want you to know how screaming-mimi Lefty they are, and want you to share their belief that it is somehow ironic that their fever-swamp ideas have brought them chin-deep into the Big Muddy.

Of course there is no irony there at all.


It ain’t a liberation movement

Like most good liberals, I was totally on board with transgender “liberation.” After all, it’s the next civil rights struggle, right? I’ve marched against war, racism, for health care, for women’s and gay and lesbian rights.  In the 1980s, I surfed  the Second Wave of feminism, loving who I chose, dressing as I chose, speaking my mind, and living the life of equality first wavers like Susan B. Anthony, Charlotte Gilman, and Emma Goldman fought so hard for. I was a two-time election worker on President Obama’s campaigns. In the past couple of years, I celebrated as homophobic laws toppled, state by state, and gay marriage morphed into mainstream reality. And until recently, I’ve had the unexamined, vague conviction that the “T” in LGBT was part of the same good trend: more inclusion for the marginalized.

But that has all changed. I’ve shifted from the cookie-cutter progressive vantage point I inhabited only a few months ago. It’s not a 180 turnaround. I believe in civil rights for all people, and I don’t think trans people should face job, housing, or other discrimination. But I no longer see transgenderism as a liberation movement. From where I now stand, I see it as a profound and fundamentally conservative undermining of the gains of the Second Wave of feminism. It’s the Third Wave, a tsunami of narcissism, of post-modernist relativism run amok…a hall of mirrors, wave upon wave of shiny, YouTube transition videos and Tumblr confessions… where subjective feelings and ideas always trump physical reality.

Something has gone wrong. Very wrong. I’ve been asleep for 20 years, but now I’m waking up…because my own teenage daughter is being churned and tossed in this very turbulent sea.

When my daughter announced to me that she is transgender a few months ago, my initial reaction was basically positive—even though she had never before expressed the tiniest inkling of any such identity. In fact, she had always talked about how glad she was to be a girl. I’d raised her to feel that, like me, she could dress, act, or be anything she wanted to be and until very recently, that’s exactly what she did.

The change was abrupt. She admitted to binge-watching triumphant and ecstatic FTM transition videos for days on end. She started using jargon like “genderqueer.” But despite this turnaround, despite misgivings, I made an appointment with a gender therapist, ruminating on what it would mean to welcome a son into the erstwhile form of a daughter.

A researcher and scientist by profession and by avocation, I dived deeply into the Internet and medical literature on FTMs. And the more I read, talked, and emailed (and I delved a lot), the weaker my kneejerk-liberal “trans ally” position became.

I learned that everything I had taken for granted about women’s liberation has changed. A dislike of pink and traditionally (think: 1950s norms) female activities and interests now means a girl, a teen, is “actually” a boy.  Instead of acceptance if a girl wears denim and button-down shirts, that’s called by the archaic term “cross dressing” and the girl is pressured to “transition.” Gender role conformity is more rigid than ever, which is the great irony of transgenderism. Girls who used to find their home as “butch” lesbians don’t have anyone to identify with or look up to anymore. Women’s or lesbian bookstores, discussion groups, bars seem to have vanished from the face of the earth. Everything has been subsumed under the “queer” label.  And while nearly all FTMs start out as lesbians, they disavow it after beginning “transition.” They were never really lesbians, after all. They are “really” just crossdressers who yearn to be male.

And when it comes to “transition,” the holy grail, the magic elixir, is testosterone. It would be one thing if “T” could be used experimentally, then abandoned, with only temporary and reversible changes to the mind and body. Then you could say: Why not? Give it a try. But even a few weeks on “T” usually results in forever-thickened vocal cords, forever-thickened body and facial hair, and—by some accounts I’ve read—even brain changes that are hard to undo.  If a girl or woman transitions and changes her mind, she will forever live in a modified, altered body, whether she likes it later or not. Sterility is another risk. And many FTMs on long term hormone treatment are plagued by chronic infections, heart trouble, high blood pressure, premature aging.

That the frontal lobes of teenagers’ brains are not fully developed is now settled science, no more controversial than gravity or evolution.  We now know that executive function—judgment, impulse control, planning, and self monitoring skills—don’t reach maturity in young people until at least the age of 25. Yet the medical and psychological professions are allowing—no, they are pushing—surgical and pharmaceutical transition as the “answer” for teens who are questioning their identities. There’s a huge cognitive dissonance here: If adolescence is a time of limited executive function, how on earth can we be encouraging, let alone celebrating, such life-changing decisions being made by teen (and much younger) people?

How can it be that surgery and testosterone are now seen as the only viable solution to the feeling that a female doesn’t fit conventional gender stereotypes? What happened to: women can be anything they want to be? Shave your legs, don’t, cut your hair, don’t….love who you want, work on cars, have a child, don’t….that’s liberation as I’ve always understood it. But Second Wave feminism is considered stodgy and old fashioned now. Despite its fundamentally liberating message to women.

A 4th Wave of Feminism. We need it. We need it NOW.

This entry was posted on June 27, 2023, in Cocoa Marsh.

Reprise: This Much I Know

An entry from 2008.

Twelve years of Internet and six (?) of Wikipedia have made me very flabby mentally.

Once upon a time, if I wanted to know something, I would gladly scour libraries’ card catalogs for many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. Now I just Google, and if it’s not there, it’s not there.

Nevertheless there are at least a couple of things NOT found in Google or Wikipedia or YouTube:

1) The mid-1950s M&Ms TV commercial. I know I’ve seen this, years afterwards, possibly at the Museum of Broadcasting.  It starts with a live-action shot of a little girl with a dirty face. A male voiceover goes, Susie! You’re a chocolate mess! You should eat M&Ms chocolate candies! Switch to an animated cartoon of the talking Plain and Peanut candies. The Peanut is lying in a chaise longue by a swimming pool, sunning herself and talking in a Southern Belle voice. I’m an M&Ms Peanut. Fresh roasted to a golden tan, then drenched in creamy milk chocolate—whereupon she jumps off a diving board into the milk-chocolate swimming pool.

2) Conjecturism. This was a somewhat cranky mail-order art-history course, advertised in places like the NY Herald Tribune Book Review, circa 1960. Don’t Learn About Art This Way! was the hed, above a Fitzpatrick-style heavy-ink-style editorial cartoon showing the rear view of a big thug wielding a club before a cowering little man and saying, Now look, I’m an Authority on Art, so you better listen to me—or else. The National Lampoon or some other publication did a parody of this back in the 70s, when it was still fondly remembered. But you can’t find any reference to Conjecturism on the Net these days. At least I can’t.

Possibly 1) was plunked down the memory hole for reasons of taste and political correctness. Ive written the M&Ms people for the whereabouts of the commercial, but have received no reply. Even the Prelinger Archives have no record of it. But what happened to 2)? Surely Conjecturism was no flakier than Esthetic Realism.

Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

*** ***

POSTSCRIPT: Well whaddya know? I Google again and there in the December 1964 issue of Commentary magazine—in amongst the ads for self-help books, flash cards, and Bank Leumi—we have an elaborate two-page spread for Conjecturism! Alas, the double-truck does not include the thug with the club. But fascinating.

Mr. Theodore L. Shaw, it would appear, had a certain amount of money and an unlimited grudge against some long-departed art-history teacher he crossed swords with around 1923. Surely there’s a book in this.

The Future Is for Robots

There will be no jobs in the future. Robots will do it all. That delivery boy who brings your groceries and adult beverages—he’ll soon be replaced. You’ll like that, because you won’t have to tip anymore. If you try to tip a robot a couple bucks, the robot will probably just make a grindy-sounding sneer, then eat it.

Your doctor and dentist. They’ll be robots too. The upside is they’ll make housecalls (and you won’t have to tip them, either). The downside is, no arguing with them. They know best, and when they refuse to write you a prescription for that really swell anti-depressant/painkiller everyone’s doing these days, you’ll just have to grin and bear it, and maybe find yourself a somewhat more expensive Dr. Robot-Feelgood.

Your cosmetologists and makeup artists will all be robotic. The Sephora chain is already planning for this, by staffing its shops with low-grade hominids. Sephora wish to find out the bare minimum of intelligence needed for working in the makeup field. The way things look now, your Sephora robots will be powered by two flashlight batteries.

All lawyers, judges, paralegals and court clerks will be replaced by robots. As with the medical trade, your excellence of service will be dependent on the type of robot-attorney you can afford.

Travel agents will be replaced by robots, too. Or they would be, if there were any more travel agents to replace. (When did you last call your travel agent?) But the real change in the travel industry will be replacement of travelers themselves.

Instead of spending a week on a business trip, or two weeks on a pleasure trip, a robot will do it for you. Every day they’ll email you memos and upload photos of exotic locales you no longer need to visit. If you wish, they’ll even drop you a postcard, to be delivered by your robot-mailman the old-fashioned way. “Having time, wish you not here, love kisses.” Only then will you realize how lucky you are, no longer having to pack your bags so the airline can lose them, leaving you to stroll down the Rue de Faubourg St-Honoré wearing magenta jeggings and a Université de UCLA sweatshirt from the airport souvenir shop.

It’s a hard life, but somebody has to do it. And since the robots are doing it so well, maybe it’s time to ring up that gilt-edged Dr. Feelgood automaton everyone’s using these days, and have him drop by with a vial of suicide pills. They’re vacuum-sealed for your safety. By robots.