Why farmpunk?

A farmpunk could be described as a neo-agrarian who approaches [agri]culture, community development and/or design with an anarchistic hacker ethos. "Cyber-agrarian" could supplant neo-agrarian, indicating a back-to-the-land perspective that stands apart from past movements because it is heavily informed by conceptual integration in a post-industrial information society (thus "forward to the land" perhaps?) The art and science of modern ecological design—and ultimately, adapting to post-collapse contexts—will be best achieved through the combined arts of cybermancy and geomancy. In other words: the old ways of bushcraft and woodlore can be combined with modern technoscience (merely another form of lore) in open and decentralized ways that go beyond pure anarcho-primitivism. This blog is an example of just that. Throughout, natural ecologies must be seen as the original cybernetic systems.

**What we call for at the farmpunk headquarters**
°Freedom of information
°Ground-up action + top-down perspectives
°Local agricultural systems (adhering to permaculture/biodynamic principles) as the nuclei of economies
°Bioregional autonomy
°Computers are optional but can be used for good—see peer to peer tech, social media for direct popular management of natural or political disasters (e.g. Arab Spring), or the mission of the hacker collective Anonymous
°You

"Municipal liberty is the first and most important [principle] of democratic institutions, since nothing is more natural or worthy of respect then the right which citizens of any settlement have of arranging themselves the affairs of their common life and of resolving as best suits them in the interests and the needs of the locality." - Emilio Zapata

Monday, March 14, 2011

The million dollar question: Is gender a social construct? My final answer: Not entirely.

The following is a cross post from my "personal" blog, in which I responded to a post that was submitted to another blog I follow devoted to "non-binary gender identity". I wanted to post it here because it touches upon some issues of identity politics that I think are in keeping with themes here on thatgreenstuff... (and that I think should be made more visible to people outside the transgender/queer community, because the dilemma posed by the 'original poster' reflects attitudes towards transgender politics at large). Thanks for reading!

Some terminology that you will need to know: "FAAB" means "female-assigned-at-birth". You can find the meaning of "cisgender" here.

Original question submitted to said blog:

"hi! first, i just want to say that you post some great and really helpful stuff here. i admit that i haven’t read through all of the back pages, so i apologize if you’ve already addressed this, but i’m wondering if you (and yr readers) could talk to me a little bit about why you identify with the label “nonbinary.” here’s some background info: i’m a queer person, was FAAB, and i have always identified, more or less, as a woman. that being said, i recognize the privilege that i have because my biology/physical presentation usually looks to other people like it matches up with my gender. i make a point of thinking about and challenge existing gender binaries every day. so, now that that’s out of the way, here goes: the way i see it, by referring to yourself and others as “nonbinaries,” you’re defining yourself in relation to “binary people,” and that, ironically, sets up a whole new binary - that of binaries versus nonbinaries. to me, this is similar to the problems behind people who talk about how there are cis people and then there are trans people - that way of thinking just perpetuates the binary system that is fucking people over to begin with. i don’t think there are “binary people” and “nonbinary people,” but rather “people who are okay with the binary system our society puts on us” and, well, everyone else. to me, calling a blog like this “fuckbinaries” would make more sense. so can you or any other folks speak to that, explain it out for me? should i just yank my head out of my poststructuralist theory books and stop getting so caught up in semantics? i’d be super thrilled if we could open up a dialogue here, but if you want to talk to me in private just send me an ask and we can exchange emails. thanks!"

My response:

To the person who wrote in asking about the politics of the "non binary" label, and whether it unnecessarily constructs a false dichotomy of "binary" and "nonbinary" individuals. First of all, it took guts to speak your mind -- word to that. I think this is something that is really worth discussing, and you brought it up in a much more respectful way than I've seen previously.

I get where you are coming from. I have had thoughts like that too...I'm also transmasculine/non-gender-conforming, and have had to struggle through a lot of my own internalized transphobia (a strong word, I know, but however veiled in theory it was, it was there) because basically, part of me didn't want to believe that…well, 'me' existed. That had to be remedied. I needed something to corroborate my actual experience with, and it was hard to find, but that does not mean it is not there.

After having time to sort through a lot of the sociological theory I was exposed to as an undergrad, I do not believe that to say "gender is a social construct" is completely correct. The truth is, gender does not exist in a vacuum, it exists in a coupled, reciprocal relationship with individual bodies and therefore, sexes (whether those sexes are ambiguous/intersex, or within the physiological standards that designate reproductively-capable males and females -- the point is there is flesh there). It is more correct in my opinion to think of the subject of said claim as a "gender-body relation". Such a thing can not be described by just using the word "gender" or just using the word "sex", because those are abstract, linguistic constructs that in reality are part of an interconnected, live process. A system. In this case, we are certainly missing something if we call that system completely socially constructed. The idea of gender is a social construct of course, but not what it refers to.

The way I see it, "binary" and "nonbinary" are not a classification system that has as much meaning for cisgender people as it does for transgender people. I guess you could call it a 'language of the oppressed'. It was born from the perspective of transgender or gender-variant people, and the experience of "trans-ness" or "gender-variance" cannot fully be extracted from the individual bodies in which that experience is located. Consequently, I imagine it would be easy for a cisgender person (and non-trans culture at large) to fail to keep in mind the context from which the language of "binary/nonbinary" has arisen in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, I grapple with these questions, too. Such questions are still in the thunderdome, in my opinion -- as well they should be, for the sake of trans visibility. I agree that it's never fun to set up "new binary" systems for classifying people, but in this case, where trans and gender variant people are concerned, I actually think that it becomes a question of "which course of action will cause less suffering". So which do we choose -- to have cisgender people suffer intellectually because they feel like the way they are classified by trans people is methodologically flawed, or have gender-variant people suffer emotionally and in potentially debilitating ways? It would be great if everyone was socialized to understand the fluidity of gender, but this is not the case, and it is potentially dangerous to enter into a discussion with a stranger assuming this. Thus, we must in effect "start somewhere". So, it cannot really be looked at as a philosophical or theoretical question, solely -- making disembodied/scholarly discourse on it into something potentially offensive if one is not careful. Although theoretically it is nice to imagine a world free of all vestiges and echoes of the "binary gender system", as one of my favorite sayings goes, "no battle plan meets contact with the enemy" -- that is, on the ground, where we have bodies and seek to classify things with language, lack of fixed reference points becomes *very* problematic. Just as anarchy cannot exist in a void (that would be chaos), it must exist in relation to a continuum, and so with non-binary-ism. To me, process-relational philosophy and discussions of 'embodiedness' fit quite well into poststructuralist theory, actually.

***

A while ago transpride posted a guide to types of transphobia that the person 'guilty' of it may not even be aware of. It may come across as a little harsh -- I definitely don't see the OP as deserving of 'harshness', because I get the fact that they were respectfully wanting to enter into a dialogue about this stuff. Anyhow, this point below strikes a chord with me regarding this particular discourse. I once had someone on facebook (a non trans person who, surprise, studies philosophy at the graduate level) say that my (read: trans people's, not MY) ideas about gender were "solipsist" and thus potentially "fascist". Although my response was duly and respectfully ass-whooping, I wish that I'd quoted this post to him, too. Take this in its watered down form, of course.

"6. Don’t "Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner".

Don’t try to justify your actions by claiming you’re opposed to transgender politics. Just don’t. You’re rationalizing your transphobia and imposing your worldview on trans people, by assigning motives and politics to them that they may not themselves have. Don’t say that the very existence of trans people is offensive and traumatic because they supposedly defy the idea that gender is a social construct, or something imposed upon you, or whatever your particular theory is. You’re not dealing with theory, you’re dealing with human beings, and their lives. To you, the question as to whether trans people have valid identities may be a matter of theory. For trans people, it’s a matter of life and death."

1 comment:

Jennifer McCharen said...

"In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is." --Yogi Berra