Why I use Mab & Fab

Posted: February 1, 2010 in Troll Wars


beautiful boy – white T w/ skinny jeans

Feb 1 2010
I took this shot in the Castro in San Francisco. He shows how very subtle effects of eyebrow shaping and (i think) eyeliner can make a huge impact

@polly Well female at birth would just be female people and/or implies you can become female later.

I am taking an agnostic position about whether anyone is female or can become female. For me that is the beauty of FAB as Female At Birth. It points backward at origins but makes assumptions about current sex/gender/body. In queer SF FTM’s are a much more visible presence than MTF’s. I feel comfortable referring to them as Female At Birth but I would never hang the label female on them.
I have decided that the terms Male and Female are no longer useful for communication. There are three main definitions of the Male/Female duality
1) Traditional | Female = Female At Birth (this is an immutable essence)
2) Transsexual | Female = Female At Birth – Female to Male Transsexuals + Male To Female Transsexuals (Also an immutable essence)
3) Social Construction | Female has no ontological reality. A baby is female if it is assigned female. An MTF is Female when femaleness is projected upon them.


Most of the gender argument on the internet is between proponents of definition 1 and 2. They just talk past each other and make each other angry because they do not have a shared language. I come in with definition 3 and I cannot talk to 1 or 2.
My term Female At Birth can be used to communication to the rational elements of all three groups because it is agnostic. It has the added benefit of being unacceptable to to the extremists in group 2 and making their extremism visible. It may play a similar role with group 1 people who insist that Female is a timeless, ahistorical essence.

Personally I refuse the word Man. Being referred to as a Dude drains the blood from under my nails. Male bothers me but I do not say anything about it. Mostly because of the baggage of the term. It implies much more than the neutral MAB. The term Male is also represented by a Masculine Mab. It implicitly erases Mab Femmes like me. The term Male totalizes and universalizes MABs in the mold of the Patriarchal Male. This has always been in the interest of Patriarchy.

When the opponents of Patriarchy uses universalizing and essentializing language about Males and Male Privilege they are unknowingly in collusion with a patriarchal system. They help to universalize Masculine Male as the only face of Mabness.
I think you will find that if you use Mab instead of Male. You will find that a lot of the privilege that you ascribe to Male is only actualized by Masculine Mabs. The relative prestige difference between Masculine Mabs and Feminine Mabs is huge. The term Male and Male privilege erases that difference in the interest of a totalizing class politics.

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Comments
  1. necessarilyn says:

    Language is funny. Your previous use of the term “male lesbian” annoys me (but only in a trivial way – I don’t then start thinking we need to have an argument about it) because you seem to be using it to describe what I would want to call a perfectly normal and reasonable sexual experience for a man. If I have sex with “male lesbians”, what does that make me? A “non-same-sex-attracted female lesbian”?

    And I often call men “dudes”, which I mean ironically and affectionately. Eg, I was waiting for a friend on a city street the other week and when he arrived I said to him “I’ve been having a good look at all the dudes, because I suspect I underestimate how many of them colour their hair”. This was in the financial part of town, so all the “dudes” were wearing their corporate suits, although commonly jacketless. My friend was worried he was late, but I was having a great time.

    I don’t adhere to any of your definitions of female. I’m female because I have female sexual organs (not an “immutable essense”) and here I’m referring to a lot more than “having a vagina”. I’m a woman because this body is the vehicle through which I negotiate my relationship with modern civilisation.

    When you have said (I’m not sure what your current position is) that you are in some way woman-like, it does appear to elide my womanness and femaleness. But I’m not really upset by it, because it’s just a byproduct of your attempts to describe something when words are not readily available to you – you’re in a sense borrowing them from me. It’s not as though you have the power to linguistically maneouvre my ovaries out of existence. Your huge male privilege notwithstanding 😛

  2. necessarilyn says:

    That smiley is meant to be a tongue poke, although the image looks to me just like laughing.

  3. polly says:

    Well I’m going to resort to my standard answer and say yes females exist and males exist because otherwise I wouldn’t exist and neither would anyone reading this.

    I’d say you are correct however Jasper that the meaning of female (above and beyond physical sex) is a type of gendered construction.

    The point about male privilege – though I agree it can be lost by a MAB who appears feminine – as far as the rad fem position goes is that it kicks in even before birth (I’ve used the example of sex selective abortion which is almost always of females). A male can discard femininity if he wishes, but a FAB cannot. That’s the difference as far as I’m concerned. So a feminine male will always potentially have male privilege in a way a FAB cannot.

  4. Jasper Gregory says:

    @necessarilyn … describe what I would want to call a perfectly normal and reasonable sexual experience for a man.
    Which experience? Wanting to be “thrown around in bed”? I recently read a DSM like definition of AUTOGYNOPHILIA which implied that any Male-Born individual who fantasizes about being fucked by a woman with a strap on is an Autogynophile. (btw Autogynophilia is an interesting topic that I have not blogged on.)

  5. Jasper Gregory says:

    @necessarilyn And I often call men “dudes”, which I mean ironically and affectionately.
    Dude has many meanings. For me it is the most stereotypically, macho designation for the Male-Born. The term is incredibly loaded with gender in 2010 San Francisco. Representing Mab-Femmes with ‘dude’ (“It’s a dude in a dress”), casts us as illegitimate. In addition, I have heard many young San Francisco lesbians use it as a term of derision. Dude, like Republican is incompatible with the Queer marker.

  6. Jasper Gregory says:

    @necessarilyn I’m a woman because this body is the vehicle through which I negotiate my relationship with modern civilisation.
    I don’t see the big difference between your position and my own. You are woman because everyone in your life has projected ‘woman’ on you and acted accordingly. They have projected woman upon you because your female body is your vehicle. That projection leaves a sediment of gendered artifacts and social practices which eventually come to take the place of your body (the wardrobe in your closet, your emotional skills, your sexuality).

  7. Jasper Gregory says:

    @necessarilyn Your huge male privilege notwithstanding
    Privilege is another topic I have been meaning to get around to.
    My position is that their is to reexamine Lorde’s statement that “There is no hierarchy of oppression”. Privileges accruing to Sex, Class, Race, Education, Country of Origin and everything else get mixed mixed together. Acting like gender is the “One ring to rule them all” is intellectual laziness.
    In addition the term male privilege confuses privileges of Male-bodiesness with privileges with accrue to internalizing masculine culture.

  8. Jasper Gregory says:

    @polly So a feminine male will always potentially have male privilege in a way a FAB cannot.
    Potential privilege is a pretty sticky subject. I mean a butch lesbian can always dress femme and go into the closet and gain ‘gender normal’ privilege. But, she won’t because of her sense of self. If a Male-Born, Femme’s sense of self does not allow a straight seeming or masculine self expression, we should not attribute gender-normative privilege on them. Privilege is individual. I believe that ethnography and biography are the tools for understanding an individual’s “Privilege in the here and now”. Statistical correlation like sex selective abortions tend to mix up too many intersecting variables, like wealth, education and national culture.

  9. SheilaG says:

    Well actually no Jasper, sex selection is done in China and India with the specific intent of aborting female foetuses. There are huge demographic differences between male and female birth rates in certain parts of the world that are so uneven, that this is the explanation. That and just plain killing of girl children, abandoning girl children at birth. But there is also malnurishment, lack of education, all of this assigned at birth or before birth.

    Statistics going back 700 years document that women have been paid less for even the same work men do. I see this blatant discrimination in my industry all the time, whether the men are on the femme side or not. And I think we all know that had Scott Brown been Sally Brown, the nude photo past history would have assured she would not have gotten elected as the new Senator of Massachusetts.

    So male priviledge is real, is demongraphically and statistically documented, and it is assigned before birth. To not acknowledge the human rights attrocities committed against girls and women AS girls and women I think reveals a certain kind of willful ignorance.

    So whether men are femme or not, macho or not, they are still paid as men, they still have a greater chance of survival as children, and they were awarded more attention and seriousness than girl children. I would say that the entire structure of jobs in America (the good jobs that is) are designed for the aid and comfort of men, and for a duplication of heteronormativity in the work place. Men still treat secretaries like office wives, for instance.

    And I don’t think “butch” lesbians have the option of “pretending to be femme” at all. We are actually born with more physical strength than the average woman to begin with, and you can’t pretend to be less strong than you really are very easily. Men just seem to know that I can and will be able to bash their heads in should they try anything. It usually comes as a surprise to gay men, however. They sexually harass women too, and I settle their hash in the few times they have attempted breast grabbing with men. It’s called the turkey neck wring manoeuver.

    Again, medical science is a double edged sword for women and girls. China and India are going to have serious social problems in the future as a result of their informal policies of female infanticide and abortion. It’s not an accident.

  10. necessarilyn says:

    Jasper, my remark about your “huge male privilege” was intended as tongue in cheek – you don’t need to debate it with me! Next time I’ll call it your HUUUUUUUUUUUGE male privilege and make a joke about privilege envy.

    I accept that I probably use the word “dude” wrongly according to accepted community standards. I suspect my meaning is clearer in person. If I were to describe someone as “a dude in a dress” anyone who could see my face would probably realise that I appreciate a well-fitting dress on a man. (They would then look at me with disbelief tinged with disgust, but I’m used to that.) Would you really object if I saw you in a dress and, clapping my hands with glee, said “Dude, nice dress!” You might have a moment of wondering what exactly my intention was, but that happens anytime anyone says something unexpected. I think it’s not the word so much as the attitude.

    That’s just being picky about a single word, but my broader point is that I don’t think you should cede your manhood so easily to some jerks who want to tell you what you can and cannot do. It’s not for me to tell you what to do either, so I say this with some caution. If I say “you’re a man” I don’t mean “you’re a man not a woman so stay within your alloted range of permissible behaviour”. I mean “you’re a man, and if anyone says that means you can’t feel certain things or do or wear certain things then they are wrong about what being a man is”. You’re a man and that means whatever you do is completely befitting a man and everyone else should shut up and mind their own business. They won’t, but they should.

    But this is just typical of my thought, where I think the world should just adjust to accommodate me. I’m a woman, and I want to do it in a way that doesn’t fit with people’s ideas of “woman”, then they’re mistaken about what a woman is. I would never accept that I am not really a woman, or that I’m some special variation or deviation. I don’t see how women whose sexual interests are about dressing up to attract admiring glances from men can be the norm for heterosexuality compared to women who take an active interest in actual men. I do object a little bit when you join the chorus telling me that “men” are not attractive and that therefore I’m only attracted to gender deviants.

    I don’t see the big difference between your position and my own. You are woman because everyone in your life has projected ‘woman’ on you and acted accordingly. They have projected woman upon you because your female body is your vehicle. That projection leaves a sediment of gendered artifacts and social practices which eventually come to take the place of your body (the wardrobe in your closet, your emotional skills, your sexuality).

    On this point, I think the difference is that I won’t accept that womanhood is simply projected onto me and then I become it. I’m an active participant in my own life, and I make my own negotiations with the status quo. As for my emotional skills and sexuality, most people would regard me as highly unfeminine, which is too bad for them because they’re just flat out wrong.

  11. Jasper Gregory says:

    The category “Male Privilege” has been on my mind. I find it a troubling construct, which is used to solidify the gender binary. Privilege is an interesting hypothetical sociology construct. A pop culture Identity Nationalism variant of the construction is used on the internet. There the term privilege is used to demarcate “The Enemy, The Other, The Impure.”

  12. Jasper Gregory says:

    @necessarilyn | re:Dude | Dude has many meanings. I have also heard an LA surfergirl use it as a term for both Mabs and Fabs. Yet whatever your relationship to the word, when you use it in speech to designate Jasper you are sorting me into one of two boxes, that is the function of having a dude/girl word dyad. They designate opposition and lack of overlap. Really I am a “Jasper in a Dress.”

  13. Jasper Gregory says:

    @necessarilyn On this point, I think the difference is that I won’t accept that womanhood is simply projected onto me and then I become it. I’m an active participant in my own life, and I make my own negotiations with the status quo.
    But why use the man/woman binary to make sense of your Self. Why talk about your womanhood instead of your Being-hood, or your Necessarilyn-hood?
    Woman hood implies an experience that is opposite of a “Man-hood” and the same as (interchangeable with) another “Woman.” It is in fact a theory of “human as two types” which I find completely unfounded.

  14. Jasper Gregory says:

    @Sheila I am not doubting the oppression of those baby girls in China and India. My point is that this story and its related statistics can also be deployed to talk about white privilege, colonial privilege, class privilege, and American privilege. This is not only a story about gender (In which I have privilege). It is also a story in Which you and Polly also have privilege. There is no hierarchy of privilege in which Male Privilege counts for more than race, class, religion, and sexuality privileges. Privileging one form of oppression such as misogyny, racism or transphobia above the others is often a sign of identity group nationalism, a turf war if you will.

  15. SheilaG says:

    The only problem with the analysis is the apples to apples analogy. All men of a particular race or ethnic origin lord it over all women within the same group. Thus, Chinese men create a male patriarchy that lords it over Chinese women. Indian men objected to British colonization, but of course failed to overlook themselves as colonizers of women. So in every place in the world, somehow the patriarchy of that places oppresses the women of that place, and this goes on and on and on. That’s what the problem always is. Remember, you can watch North Korean men goosestepping, Spanish military men in their uniforms and salutes, and women in both countries are getting raped by, you guessed it, the men of those cultures. So how do women get freedom worldwide?
    That’s the central question, and culture is meerly a distraction. It is about what men do in the world, and patriarchy looks strikingly similar to me, no matter where I have traveled.

  16. necessarilyn says:

    Jasper, I’m confused and I think we’re now bickering about the definition of fairly flexible words. I’m not going to play a game of going to war to conceal my lifetime’s accumulated grief and alienation. You’re either going to accept me as I am or not, and I can’t beat acceptance out of you.

    Of course we are each humans, so it is correct to ask why I talk about my “womannhood” rather than my “beinghood” or “Necessarilyn-hood”. The real reason, totally abandoning argument here, that I talk about it that way is that I’m proud of how I’m handling both my female-bodiedness and my social existence as a woman, given that I don’t “feel” “like a woman”. I’m not perfect but I try very hard. I also know that most others think what I do is either shameful or meaningless, or even traitorious, so I think about it more than I would in a perfect world.

    How do I say this, then, in your language? If it’s not one of the many meanings of the word “woman”, then what is it that I do?

  17. Jasper Gregory says:

    @nec I totally accept you and your position. It is a problem of language. I was thinking about this. In a way, if we try to recognize one another we can talk about our Being-hood which share or our specificity, our jasper-hood and Necessarilyn-hood. We are existentially the same and we are also existentially not the same. Dichotomous language just obscures everything. I guess fundamentally my theories of selfhood are Buddhist.

  18. necessarilyn says:

    Jasper, maybe one problem of language is that all these words are nouns ending in -hood or -ness, and are about states or statuses, when they should be verbs. I resent the implication that I am the passive object of others’ projections of womanness because I think it’s something I am doing, not something that has been done to me and now I am rendered gendered – behold, A WOMAN.

    Re dichotomous language – I’m not sure you can pick and choose your dichotomies like that. What are you obscuring by stating so unequivocally that you accept me – what are you making unacceptable? (I’m teasing :-P.)

  19. Jasper Gregory says:

    @nec What are you obscuring by stating so unequivocally that you accept me This is actually an important point, that Judith Butler is busy with. If I say “we” about us I am obscuring difference. If I say you (plural as in y’all) I am obscuring sameness.

  20. Silona says:

    Dar Williams “when I was a boy…”

    always makes me cry… inherent to the state of us all and the duality that always exists.

  21. Schala says:

    “I recently read a DSM like definition of AUTOGYNOPHILIA which implied that any Male-Born individual who fantasizes about being fucked by a woman with a strap on is an Autogynophile. (btw Autogynophilia is an interesting topic that I have not blogged on.)”

    BS diagnostic invented by a quack. You can easily find critiques of it, in detail.

    The definition of autogynephilia is literally “love of oneself as a woman” and Blanchard made it so it apparently only affected male-borns (it doesn’t, he never checked…he assumed females never felt sexy as female).

    He, of course, made it a paraphilia, a weird fetish. And named it “the one true cause” of trans women transitioning (well the older subset anyways, the others are just gay men who changed to have more sex to him).

    He describes it as “being attracted to your own image as female”, to the point where it outranks any other attraction that person has (like to their wife, or women in general). He also compared it with transvestic fetichism, saying it’s more or less the same thing without the clothes.

    His data is bogus in more than one way. Read the critiques. It was never replicated.

    It’s presence in the DSM is just plain stupid and because he got friends working on it (he himself is on the panel making DSM-V now).

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