Anarchism and Language, Piece by Kristian Williams

47 posts / 0 new
Last post
Tom de Cleyre
Offline
Joined: 17-12-12
Aug 27 2013 09:10

Well, i am sorry to burst your bubble but yeah, trans anarchos use cisgender, but, more often cissexism and cissexist, in both britain and france, where the word is "cisgenre" (and on the internet, as you can check yourself) wherever ive come across them.

The operative word was "unnecessary" in my mention of "unnecessary name dropping".

Tom de Cleyre
Offline
Joined: 17-12-12
Aug 27 2013 09:12

Have you once considered that maybe they dont use that word around you because it triggers an unstoppable wave of hatred from your part? Maybe that's part of it.

Tom de Cleyre
Offline
Joined: 17-12-12
Aug 27 2013 09:21

Btw there ARE interesting discussions on the misuse and limits of the word cisgender, some of which are really interesting. Like, with actual reasonable thought-provoking arguments.

Tom de Cleyre
Offline
Joined: 17-12-12
Aug 27 2013 10:08

In case people get tired of their witch hunt and suspicions on the word cisgender, I originally visited this post to see if anyone had encountered Victor Klemperer's LTI (The language of the Third Reich, the title mocks the reich s tendency to acronyms and legitimacy through roman empire by use of latin). I thought it was very interesting, but havent heard much about it in anarchist groups. You won't find much in it to help with your crusade against cisgender though, I'm afraid.

plasmatelly's picture
plasmatelly
Offline
Joined: 16-05-11
Aug 27 2013 16:39

From the OP -

Quote:
Now, I just hope it doesn't turn into a shameless flame-war/cred-contest but then again this is the internet.

Pennoid's picture
Pennoid
Offline
Joined: 18-02-12
Aug 27 2013 16:45

@ Tom de cleyre My post wasn't directed at you, and if it came off in that way it was poorly worded. But Then again, it's being poorly worded was kind of the point. wink

The article wasn't even a critique of the particular word "cisgender" but rather a critique of it's use in a particular exemplary context. In this case, the author was attempting to clarify some guidelines political writers should consider before publishing a work, or even setting pen to paper. In a lot of ways, it's the proposal of an exercise, which Williams, in the vein of Orwell, hopes will clarify both the thinking of the author and the audience.

Perhaps in this way, this thread is a lot less about the political implications of abandoning a word like cisgender (or for christsake can we move on to another concept like "dictatorship of the proletariat" or "autonomy") in total, and more about re-evaluating their use in particular context, their clarifications, and how the written form itself expresses a political point (or in the author's case how particular writing forms muddle the point).

Maybe this is better suited for some kind of radical writing group, but I just thought I'd try and put this thread on it's course again.

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Aug 27 2013 17:45
Quote:
The language of the Third Reich

Aww... that's a deliberate foul, invoking Godwin's Law like that : cry

Okay, playing nicely now. I raise your cisgender to my reification. Again, a word that has its uses but a term that I wouldn't ordinarily dream of using.

Pennoid's picture
Pennoid
Offline
Joined: 18-02-12
Aug 27 2013 18:17

Re: Serge I've actually seen this word completely obliterated by Heinrich (and the english translator I suppose) into "objectification" as well as the metaphor Marx uses being better translated as "spectral" rather than "phantom-like". Note that wikipedia pretty quickly synonymizes (HAH! Chew on that neologistic transformation MOFOS) "reification" with "objectification." All Marx is saying is that totally invented rules and concepts become REAL for people because they act them out (which they must to indeed first satisfy the conditions for trade, and capitalism to exist). So the value of a commodity becomes seen as intrinsic to the commodity itself (fetishism) is essentially the basis for further "objectification" or reification in capitalism.

In this case, it's another example of, like you said, it having it's uses, but in many places being pure obscurantism. I struggled for a little while to grasp it's meaning, often in my head thinking "isn't this a lot like objectification? But it must be different, or surely they would just say: Objectification!". Heinrich's Intro to the 3 volumes of capital has helped clarify this a lot.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Aug 27 2013 18:32

Firstly, just a quick reminder to everyone to be polite (Serge…)

Tom:

Tom de Cleyre wrote:
Also, cisgender was not created by anarchists, and refusing to adopt it saying it is cliquey is simply telling all of the queer movement that, basically, you don't care about queer issues enough to learn one word. I am amazed that someone wouldnt see their refusal to acknowledge ignorance as petty and basically saying "if you dont translate it in my (dominant) anarchist language, I don't care about what you've got to say", but as some kind of defence of language and healthy intellectual ideas instead... Laziness is excusable, these poor pretenses are not.

I can appreciate what you are saying, however I still agree with the original article, and Orwell. (TBH, I think the original article just states the obvious, and the kind of anarchist writing it is addressing isn't really anything that I read, but that's another matter.)

I think the point is that if we are writing outwardly-focused material which isn't just aimed at our uber-PC activist friends then we need to use language which most people understand.

That article correctly points out that sentence which most people outside of the activist scene would not be able to understand.

You can say that activists should put in the effort to learn the vernacular of the queer movement, however you can't really say that everyone in the world should know it already.

I think we have basically incorporated this sort of thing into the libcom style guide already. Basically our policies that if you introduce a word or acronym or concept which is not common everyday knowledge by most people, then you explain it.

So if you need to use the word cisgender in a text, then you explain what it means the first time you use it. For example "transgender people face many problems which non-transgender (or 'cisgender') do not."

Otherwise we're just talking to ourselves.

We try to do this with our introductory guides, so it would be interesting if people would let us know if they think we are successful in that?

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Aug 27 2013 19:31

Funnily enough, Pennoid, if my memory serves me correctly, I don't think that term is actually in the Moore/Aveling translation but uses objectification instead. I think it is in the later Ben Fowkes version though.

Quote:
Firstly, just a quick reminder to everyone to be polite (Serge…)

Huh??? Wha da faa.???

Ally_S's picture
Ally_S
Offline
Joined: 14-07-13
Aug 27 2013 22:56
Steven. wrote:
So if you need to use the word cisgender in a text, then you explain what it means the first time you use it. For example "transgender people face many problems which non-transgender (or 'cisgender') do not."

Yeah, I can get behind this. I do this quite often, and I've never received any complaints or confused anyone.

I'm trans*, and I fully support the usage of the word 'cis', but it wouldn't hurt to be clearer about what it means when using it in front of people who have never heard it.

Pennoid's picture
Pennoid
Offline
Joined: 18-02-12
Aug 28 2013 02:51

Good point, Serge, the Moore and Aveling translation is the one I got, and reification is nowhere in it I think. Nevertheless Heinrich's book is a hell of a clearer guide than either Harvey's lectures or Cleavers texts. Or maybe it's the third introductory text being the charm that is making it such a joy.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Aug 28 2013 07:32
plasmatelly wrote:
But what comes with this word and a whole load of other world from queer ideology that you read on anarchist boards is a sort of presumptuousness about the language, this is how LBGT people talk and think. The reality as we know, or the reality I know very well for that matter, is you're every bit as likely to find a complete lack of politics and sociological language as you are outside the LGBT scene. And this is crucial, IMO. If even the people that are assumed to be using this language, don't use it... then why the hell is anyone? Look, we done cis to death here, it's about all those strange other world words that serve to exclude others.

Exactly, it's the self-centredness. Just because you belong to a particular groups does not mean that what you say represents that entire group.

Tom de Cleyre wrote:
Also, cisgender was not created by anarchists, and refusing to adopt it saying it is cliquey is simply telling all of the queer movement that, basically, you don't care about queer issues enough to learn one word. I am amazed that someone wouldnt see their refusal to acknowledge ignorance as petty and basically saying "if you dont translate it in my (dominant) anarchist language, I don't care about what you've got to say", but as some kind of defence of language and healthy intellectual ideas instead... Laziness is excusable, these poor pretenses are not.

You are not the queer movement. It did give me a laugh that you said this to serge though. I also find it amusing that you think that not using an obscure technical term is being in thrall to dominant language when you are trying to impose a word on a discourse yourself (and as useful as that word may be that is what you are doing).
The first time I came across cisgender I remember looking it up and thinking that it was not a bad term, but I came across it so rarely and used it even less that I had forgotten it.
I've never seen the word in French myself, but I am pretty inactive politically these days.
To be honest this kind of speech is something that I only seem to encounter in academic or anarchist circles though.

hellfrozeover
Offline
Joined: 27-07-12
Aug 28 2013 19:38

I remember seeing the article and liking it a while ago. There's interesting discussion to be had around it, this focus on cisgender is the least of it.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Aug 28 2013 20:34

Yeah I think cisgender is possibly a bad choice of example as it isn't really a synonym for anything (though it should still be explained the first time it's used imho). I think the wider point of the article is fair enough, with one caveat: i think we should make provision for different audiences.

That is, a lot of the time jargon is shorthand. If all the people having a discussion share certain understandings then the jargon saves a lot of unnecessary explanation. Of course as the article points out, if the parties don't share the same understanding the jargon term can just serve as a marker of in-group identity distinguishing those in-the-know from those not. It probably does that anyway, but I don't think that's unique to anarchism. All in-groups from friendship circles to workmates to musical subcultures develop their own jargon. The problem with anarchism doing this is we have pretensions to class-wide relevance.

So I dunno, I basically agree with the thrust of the article, but I think there's a place for more specialist terms in more in depth discussion. I guess there's a range of texts from slogans of a few words, to street pitches of a sentence or two, to leaflets of a paragraph or two (they really shouldn't be much longer!), to newsy pieces of 300-800 words, to opinion pieces of 1000-1500 words, to pamphlets/journal articles of up to 10,000 words, to popular books, to in-depth theoretical books. My instinct is that jargon is more permissible the further you get towards the end of that list. And the advantage of longer-form writing is you can precisely define your terms.

I guess the problem comes with stuff like forums, where the main participants often use jargon while a lot of the readers may be far less familiar. I know when I've been reading a given book it comes across unintentionally in my forum posts (sometimes I read old ones back and shudder 'I must have been reading Butler/Marx/whoever). I guess the thing is for people to ask for explanations of anything that isn't clear, and call bullshit if people can't paraphrase themselves clearly. I agree that the tendency to show off with big words has a lot to do with insular scene dynamics, and would add that a more outward orientation forces you to break those habits, or embarrass yourself regularly.

rat's picture
rat
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Aug 31 2013 23:01

Just walked past a bar in Holborn called kyriarchy.