Your Interpretation Is The Problem

May 4, 2012 at 8:43 PM (Uncategorized)

I recently reminded someone that males aren’t women, and was subsequently asked for “beginner radfem” stuff to read. This person wanted to understand the “radfem reasoning,” but was bothered by reading stuff that “denies the realities of my friends and loved ones…” these friends and loved ones apparently being queer or trans.

So, let me explain this as clearly as I can for anyone reading this blog who doesn’t get the “radfem reasoning.”

NOTHING in feminism denies your “reality.” Unless you were hallucinating or something, no one in their right mind is going to try to tell you that whatever you saw or felt or whatever didn’t happen, certainly not under the banner of feminism. HOWEVER, there is a HUGE difference between what you experience, and how you interpret that experience. Your experiences are not up for debate, but your interpretations are. Your interpretations are up for debate because they are arguments, which are subject to being true or false. Your interpretations may be based on your experiences, but they stand independently, and the fact that someone criticizes them does not mean that they deny you had the experiences they are based on.

Here is a handy example of queer interpretation, from my own personal experience:

A young woman has PCOS. She is hairier than most other women. She has been told that, if she were to ever try to get pregnant, she would have more difficulty than other women. When she gains weight, it tends to distribute itself in a pattern that is more prevalent on male bodies than on female bodies. She also feels uncomfortable with her breasts.

This is her experience.

Based on the experience of having PCOS, the young woman says to me: “Maybe I was meant to be a man.”

This is her interpretation. Notice that she could legitimately adhere to this interpretation without even having had the experience; she could say, “maybe women who have PCOS and don’t like their breasts were meant to be men.” Thus, the interpretation is logically independent from the experience, and this ridiculous idea that those of us who don’t experience dysphoria aren’t qualified to criticize how people interpret dysphoria is bullshit.

Also, notice that, even if I outright reject the interpretation (by saying “no, your experiences do not imply that you were meant to be a man!”), I have expressed no attitude whatsoever, least of all denial, of the reality of her having PCOS and feeling uncomfortable with her breasts.

And besides all that, everybody’s interpretation of everything is going to get analyzed and possibly criticized by feminists. Turns out that damn near everyone on Earth has been interpreting their lives without the conscious knowledge that they live in the context of misogyny! And once the misogyny context gets factored in, maybe your interpretations need to be revised. No one escapes analysis, even if they get their feelings hurt or experience a relatively rare and poorly understood condition such as dysphoria.

So, the short answer to this person’s question is this:

Learn to tell the difference between your reality and your interpretation of it, accept that your interpretations may be wrong, and, as for that radfem reasoning, it flows from the fact that everything gets analyzed through the lens of whether or not it perpetuates and/or is a product of female oppression.

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