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Here you will find the journal of a Queer, Mormon, Transhumanist.

Feminism Meets Transhumanism

Feminism Meets Transhumanism

There is much that feminism can learn from Transhumanism, and much Transhumanism can learn from feminism. Today, I have a lofty goal to convert all feminists to adopt transhumanism, and all transhumanists to adopt feminism, AND I have 15 minutes to do it. I’ll start by walking you though a brief history of US feminism that, when engaged in constructively, should lead to transhumanism. This will include a post-feminist critique of feminism. Dispensing a critique of my feminist community could be seen by the most orthodox and dogmatic of feminists as the sort of apostasy which condemns me to the fires of feminist hell. This will also include a mild critique of the Transhumanist movement. Essentially, this means that I run the risk of offending everyone in the room. The most important thing to do is listen, keep an open mind, and reach the conclusion that I am right. Before I go further, I offer a brief disclaimer. Post-feminism is not anti-feminism. I value women’s liberation. The purpose of criticism is not a public flogging of feminist thought, but to point out room for improvement, specifically in relation to science, technology, and philosophy. Though I offer a heretical critique of my feminist community, I will still defend anything within feminism that is virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy.

My intentions are genuine gender liberation, and Transhumanism offers bodily liberation beyond even the queerest of contemporary gender theorists. When I say gender liberators, I am suggesting a view of feminism, or perhaps post-feminism, that moves beyond gender equality. Gender liberators seek to create an existence where gender does not mandate unnecessary expectations or limitations of what a person is capable of.

 

First-wave Feminisms

First-wave feminism roughly occurred during the 19th and 20th centuries, though its origins have roots in the 18th century, specifically in the Enlightenment. Political philosophy encountered controversies over gender differences. The critical discourse at hand was one of women’s participation in state governance, also known as women’s suffrage. [1]

In the Utah territory, Mormon feminists were at the forefront of the women’s suffrage movement. Utah women were the first women to vote in the U.S. [2] Emmeline B. Wells, Eliza R. Snow, and Zina D.H. Young, all of whom also served as General Relief Society Presidents [3] of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are among some notable women’s rights advocates and participants in the suffrage movement representing Utah territory as polygamist women.

Liberal feminism was born during first-wave feminism. Liberal feminism is concerned with ending sexism within the existing system of governance, and abolishing laws prohibiting female participation. Liberal feminist philosophers Harriet Taylor Mill and John Stuart Mill would argue in The Subjection of Women and The Enfranchisement of Women: (1) for the legal equality between the sexes, (2) for the independence of women, and (3) against social theories biological determinism. [4] Biological determinism suggests that human behavior is determined by one’s genetics often at the expense of recognizing social and environmental influences.

Liberal feminist views did not specifically seek to challenge other systems of oppression that were intimately connected to economics, race, and sexuality. The narrow scope of liberal feminism, though useful, did not accomplish genuine gender liberation. Even though the feminist movement was in some regards correlated with the abolitionist movement, wealthy white women were often the face of the movement.

One of the most egregious sins of contemporary liberal feminism is women adopting the role of the patriarch and calling it their own. Many liberal feminists today, have demonstrated women can be patriarchs just as much as men—and that’s not a compliment. This makes the patriarchy a multi-gender oppressor, no longer limited to men, but also the women who adopt the role of “oppressor.”

 

Second-wave Feminisms

Second-wave feminism began in roughly the 1960’s and was primarily concerned with widening feminist objectives beyond government and legal obstacles. This included issues such as: reproductive rights, sexuality, workplace attitudes, and de facto inequalities. Second-wave feminism drew attention to sexual violence, domestic abuse, and marital rape. [5] Second-wave feminism made positive contributions to deconstructing myths about women’s roles in society.

Radical feminism, birthed during the second-wave, is concerned with eliminating male supremacy in social and economic contexts, beyond the legalities and political process. However, radical feminist views also assert that men are the oppressors of women. This men vs. women, battle-of-the-sexes approach gender equality, pitted one gender against the other in a symbiotic game of identity politics, arguably doing more harm than good.

Many second-wave feminists, ignorantly or not, reinforced a gender essentialist approach to feminism that would result in trans-exclusionary radical feminism (TERF). This gender critical view of what it meant to be a “woman” further supported the gender stereotypes, roles, expressions, and oppressions that radical feminists claimed to be dismantling. Under this view, trans* women were seen as the total appropriation of women’s bodies. If that is the case, consider this: First-wave feminists who sought the right to vote and wear pants were once accused of appropriating men’s roles. Yet, according to liberal feminist views this practice was not only acceptable, but also encouraged. Why then, is it permissible for a woman to adopt the roles, performances, and expressions of man, yet a man is unable to adopt the roles, performances, and expressions, even the biological expressions of woman? The entirety of the question alone assumes that there were essentialist roles to even begin with. This view of radical feminism continued to enforce gender essentialist views that prescribed performances against genuine gender liberation.

Meanwhile non-feminist women were “othered” by many second-wave feminists. Feminism failed to acknowledge that not all women shared liberal or radical feminist goals, such as capitalist gains or marginalization of caregiving and childrearing. Though childrearing is not a generally monetized occupation in a capitalistic economy, it is a vital and essential base that capitalism depends on. Feminists who devalue childrearing as a lesser occupation because it’s not paid, play into the oppression of capitalism that puts the worth of human contribution in dollar signs.

For example, the feminist asked the stay-at-home-mother, “Why are you a stay-at-home mother?” The mother replied, “Because that’s what I want.” The feminist condescendingly sneered, “Sure you do, because that’s what capitalist patriarchy told you that’s what you wanted.” The mother questioned the feminist, “Why do you work?” The feminist replied, “Because that’s what I want.” The mother condescendingly sneered, “Sure you do, because that’s what capitalist feminism told you that’s what you wanted.”

Each was convinced the other was brainwashed by either patriarchy or feminism, and both unwittingly broke the most cardinal of feminist rules: the disrespect and dismissal of woman’s autonomy and volition. Instead of feminist and non-feminist women being willing to participate in a mutual acceptance of the other’s desires, they patronizingly framed the other as the enemy of women’s liberation. Women effectively divided each other by asserting that a woman’s desires, unlike men’s, were a product of coercion. Men’s volition was not in dispute, but women still insisted on disputing each other’s volition in a game of girl-on-girl misogyny. Thus, in this context, it was woman who stripped woman of her autonomy by painting her desires as the product of the oppressor’s brainwashing abilities on an unwitting victim. Woman will never be free until she is respected and treated as an autonomous being by her peers. In this regard, it is woman who must liberate women.

 

Third-wave Feminisms

Third-wave feminism emerged around the early 1990’s and is commonly recognized for its concerns with intersectionality. Intersectionality is recognizing the layers of discrimination in various social categories such as race, class, ability, religion, gender, orientation, mobility, or marital status. Feminist discourse began to more fully acknowledged that social categories played a significant role in how people experienced oppression. [6]

While previous feminist movements claimed to liberate “us,” there was much dispute over who “us” was. What is woman? Under what political context can a person call themselves woman? Is she white? Is she rich? Is she cis or trans*? Is she brown? Is she biologically ambiguous? Does she have a penis? Is she bisexual? Let’s not delude ourselves to believe that there is any single type of woman struggling to define the illusive “us.” What if “us” is everyone? Instead of seeking unity through homogenization, many third-wave feminists sought unity through diversification.

Trans* feminism has gained popularity in the third-wave of feminism and has been generally defined as an “approach to feminism that is informed by trans politic.” [7] Trans* feminism is essential to the feminist movement in that it called for freedom to identify and perform according to one’s own desires—this called for a new episteme of actualization. Not only has trans* feminism challenged sociopolitical norms of gender, but also biological adaptations. Science and technology have advanced to a point where a person may perform their identity in unprecedented ways. Hormonal treatments and gender conformation surgery are only the beginning. Cis women are already receiving uterus transplants which allow them to gestate and deliver children. It is likely only a matter of time until these technologies allow trans* women access to these experiences. With enough science and technology there will likely be a point where there is literally nothing a man can do that a woman can’t do, nor anything a woman can do that a man can’t do. Trans* feminists armed with new technologies are hacking gender social codes with their biology.

Third-wave feminism, at large, also exploded with the introduction of advanced technologies. Techno-feminism[8]  arrived during the third-wave and explores the intersections of technology and gender, particularly woman-and-machine that gave rise to feminist techoscience. Feminist technoscience focuses less on the interpersonal relationships of men and women, but instead on broader issues concerning the production of knowledge, how bodies manifest realties, and how they are actualized in societies. [9] Feminist technoscience is integrating intersectionality with technology, and giving birth to fourth-wave feminism.

 

Fourth-wave Feminisms

Fourth-wave feminism, though still in its infancy, is defined by technology.[10] The internet, most notably, has connected feminists across the world in way that first-wave feminists likely didn’t fathom. Fourth-wave feminist goals are mostly characterized by cyber-feminism and expressed most commonly through social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumbler, or Blogger. Some notable examples of fourth-wave feminism include the #MeToo campaign, Everyday Feminism, Mattress Performance, and 2017 Women’s March.

Unfortunately, seeping into fourth-wave feminism is some of the same flaws and shortcomings of previous waves. Some argue that by the feminist movement being led by technology, feminism work will benefit wealthy, white, abled-body women with access to expensive technology. Some also argue that cyber-feminism has created a “mean girl” effect, where feminists can participate in public floggings. It can sometimes feel like cyber-feminists are lined up to take a digital whip the back of the next person that steps out of line in our “calling-out” culture. Though she is in pain, rightfully so, this is not an effective way to promote gender liberation. Instead of “calling out,” let’s start “calling in.”

Fourth-wave feminism doesn’t need to be characterized by its faults or limited to social media. Arising out of fourth-wave feminism is xenofeminism. "Xenofeminists debate over how existing technologies could be re-purposed to be more useful to society and – over all – not be used as a tool of gender discrimination." [11] Xenofeminists affirm that biology is not destiny, and advocate for post-capitalist forms of government, similar to Marxists feminists. Also notable, is that xenofeminists advocate for a proliferation of gender difference. Taken from the Xenofeminism Manifesto is a vision of a “future in which the realization of gender justice and feminist emancipation contribute to a universalist politics assembled from the needs of every human, cutting across race, ability, economic standing, and geographical position.” [12] With this universal view of feminism, xenofeminism begs the question, if the aim is to liberate all humans from various intersectional forms of oppression, why is it called feminism? Is feminism even feminism anymore when it concerns are no longer limited to women?

Post-feminism is a term used to “describe reactions against contradictions and absences in feminism.” [13] Like xenofeminism and various versions of fourth-wave feminism, post-feminism strives toward deconstructing expectations and limitations of gender. Genuine gender liberationists move beyond feminist goals into interpretations and transformations of the human body that transcend contemporary sociopolitical and biological limitations. Those who seek gender liberation might find what they are looking for in transhumanism. Like wise Transhumanism can learn from both the progress and pitfalls of feminist movements.

 

Transhumanism

Transhumanism is an intellectual, social, and philosophical movement aimed at transforming the human condition through the development of sophisticated technologies. One important aspect of human enhancement is making technologies widely-available to improve intellect and physiology, this also includes overcoming sociopolitical limitations. Transhumanists consider the risks and benefits of emerging technologies, as well as ethics. The prevailing transhumanist thesis is that humanity, with the use of science and technology, can overcome human limitations by directing their own evolutionary biology to become post-human. Post-humans are those so far evolved from humans that they would require a new label. Pre-humans are to humans, as humans are to post-humans.

Transhumanist theory has strong feminist and post-feminist undercurrents. After all feminism has been around longer than transhumanism. If one is to unmask transhumanist and feminist doctrine, at its core is you would find the desires, hopes, and aspirations of liberation—which is to create an existence where we transcend unnecessary expectations and limitations of what we are capable of—whether that’s liberation from sexism or liberation from death. For feminists, this includes expansion and access to advanced medical technologies which have the ability move procreation beyond heterosexual reproduction into diverse forms of multi-parent, [14] multi-gender reproduction. This also includes technologies which would enable a person to experience diverse genders. These technologies would allow for autonomy, flexibility, and fluidity. Technological advancements are providing worldviews which no longer mandate heteronormativity or cisnormativity as the only means of human reproduction. Medical technology such as surrogacy and in vitro fertilization allow a distinction between sexual orientation and sexual reproduction. Technology is changing the landscape of sexed bodies in unprecedented ways.

Thought transhumanist demographics are dominated my white males, there is nothing inherently sexist about Transhumanism. According to Nick Bostrom’s essay, In Defend of Posthuman Dignity, “We can work to create social structures that accord appropriate moral recognition and legal rights to all who need them, be they male or female, black or white, flesh of silicon.” [15] Transhumanist goals of morphological liberty include gender, but also extend beyond gender. Transhumanists have diverse visions of the future and the most prophetic and inspiring visions include diversity of not simply gender, but embodiment. Moving beyond gender liberation, transhumanist aims are concerned with influencing and directing human evolution. This means embracing human agency beyond both biological determinism and technological determinism.

I do not intend my remarks with any irreverence toward my feminist comrades, but the feminist movement needs transformations which inspire discourse toward a more constructive gender liberation. Just as first-wave feminism led to second-wave feminism, and second to third, and third to fourth, each wave gets closer to the shores of Transhumanism. The intersections of technology and feminism act as an invitation to adopt a new doctrine predicated on the reincarnated spirit of human liberation. Feminists and post-feminists alike are part of a collective movement that embodies the hopes and desires for an improved human species. In this regard, Transhumanism not only encompasses the spirit of feminism, but surpasses it.

 

Notes and Citations

[1] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “First-wave feminism,” (accessed December 2, 2017),  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-wave_feminism

[2] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “Mormon Feminism,” (accessed November 17, 2017),  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_feminism

[3] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “List of General Presidencies id the Relief Society,” (accessed December 2, 2017),   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_General_Presidencies_of_the_Relief_Society

[4] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “The Subjection of Women” (accessed November, 17, 2017),  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Subjection_of_Women

[5] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “Second-wave feminism,” (accessed December 2, 2017),  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-wave_feminism

[6] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “Third-wave feminism,” (accessed December 2, 2017),   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-wave_feminism

[7] Laura Erickson-Schroth, “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community.” (Oxford University Press), pg. 620.

[8] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “TechnoFeminism,” (accessed December 2, 2017),    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TechnoFeminism

[9] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “Feminist Technoscience,” (accessed December 2, 2017),    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_technoscience

[10] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “Fourth-wave Feminism,” (accessed December 12, 2017),   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth-wave_feminism

[11] Katarzyna Piasecka, “Xenofeminism: Let a Hundred Sexes Bloom!” Cafebabel. April 27, 2016. (accessed December 12, 2017) http://www.cafebabel.co.uk/society/article/xenofeminism-let-a-hundred-sexes-bloom.html

[12] Laboria Cuboniks, “Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation” (accessed December 12, 2017) http://www.laboriacuboniks.net/#zero/1

[13] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v “Postfeminism,” (accessed December 12, 2017),   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postfeminism

[14] Tina Hesman Saey, “Three-parent Babies Explained,” Science News, October 18, 2016 (accessed: December 13, 2017) https://www.sciencenews.org/article/three-parent-babies-explained

[15] Nick Bostrom, “In Defense of Posthuman Dignity,” (Philadelphia: Metanexus Institute, 2001), pg. 62

A  Neurodiverse Future

A Neurodiverse Future

I’m a Mormon Transhumanist

I’m a Mormon Transhumanist