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Isn't It About Time for 'The Penis Dialogues'?

By Michael Rectenwald

Some feminists have recently betrayed a surprising naiveté by inaugurating the #VaginaChallenge to raise money for Planned Parenthood. This is the same Planned Parenthood that Feminist Current criticized fiercely when Planned Parenthood began to refer frequently on Twitter to women having periods as #peoplewhomenstruate. Other feminists lambasted Planned Parenthood for referring to those undertaking breastfeeding as engaging in chestfeeding -- so as not to exclude transmen who may still deliver milk to babies vis-à-vis their nipples.

These feminists do not appear the least bit cognizant that this #VaginaChallenge will, if it has not already, incur the wrath of transgender activists and some transwomen. The implication of the challenge is that women necessarily have vaginas. Those without vaginas are being denied womanhood. Further, some people with vaginas may actually be men. How short-sighted could these feminists be?

The feminists have resuscitated an anti-shaming vaginal rhetoric at a very inopportune time. They and other participants will soon be called transphobic, trans-exclusionary, guilty of discursive violence, and perhaps as participants in something like "anatomical hegemony." (Can this phrase be far behind?)

In short, they will be deemed "TERFs," and the turf that they stand on will be pulled from beneath their very feet, or other ambulating/non-ambulating prostheses. The academic feminist Left will likely condemn, if they recognize them at all.

Have these feminists no memory? How, for example, could they possibly have missed the transgender movement's shaming of Eve Ensler? With her "The Vagina Monologues" scheduled to run the at "all-women's" (whatever that means) Mount Holyoake College, the performances were cancelled "because [the play] is not inclusive enough."

Ensler felt compelled to defend the supposed lack of inclusiveness in her play, confessing humbly:

"'The Vagina Monologues' [was] never intended to be a play about what it means to be a woman. It is and always has been a play about what it means to have a vagina. In the play, I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina."

Ah, good girl! That’s right -- don't recognize the vagina as a sexual organ of women, one that relegates them to all manner of sexual oppression given that they apparently cannot so easily elude it.

At this advanced stage of the "TERFs'/transgender battles," some feminists still seem unable (or unwilling) to learn the rules of gender, or the terms of feminism itself, which are now dictated by the transgender movement.

Thus, I will list a few of the (somewhat overlapping) inviolable tenets:

            1. In the epistemology of the social justice and transgender communities, the material world does not meaningfully constrain beliefs about it. The material world does not or should not impose any significant constraints on beliefs about it -- especially those related to gender or "sex." Something material may surely be "out there," but whatever it is, this material reality does not necessarily bear any correspondence to the relevant ideas about it, and vice versa. Most importantly, in the social justice/transgender epistemology, subjective statements about the material world, however seemingly divorced from the reality they are meant (I suppose) to represent, are the only sources of knowledge. Nothing else counts. The statements of the transgender activists or transgender persons represent the final truth about gender, period. Got it?

            2. The transgender conception is that gender -- or even, as the story currently goes, "sexual difference" itself -- if the phrase any longer has a social justice license to exist -- is a social construction. Gender identity is determined not at all by genetics, anatomy, or physiology. It is determined solely by beliefs regarding (or in denial of) these sometimes inconveniently non-conforming phenomena. Gender identity is ultimately determined by names and words. That is, social justice and transgender epistemology is a radical social constructivism at base. Social justice and transgender ideology constitute an absolute linguistic relativism, a position that the structure of language is the constitutive stuff of reality. The language of transgender people and activists supersedes all other factors in defining gender -- but only if the language is used by the (transgender!) person whose gender or lack thereof is at issue. The language of others, including specialists and physicians, has no bearing on gender reality, at all. These specialists may as well refer to the sizes of asteroids approaching the Earth from a great distance.

            3. It follows that sexual anatomy -- unless suggested otherwise by the transgender persons -- is deemed utterly meaningless. (Although transgender persons retain the perfect right and prerogative to have surgery either to add, remove, or otherwise modify sexual anatomy.) This belief that biology is ultimately meaningless, coupled with the contradictory practices of altering it when desired -- underscores another of the many incoherences of transgenderism/social justice ideology. Material reality both does and does not matter. The status and meaning of material reality depends entirely on the statements of the affected persons. Imagine other forms of medicine practiced under these terms! 

            4. Transwomen are women and have as strong (if not stronger) claims to womanhood than "cis-gendered" women. And there is nothing for "cis-gendered" women to lose by admitting the former: not protected spaces, not admissions spots at women's colleges, not scholarships set aside for women, not athletic competitions for women. Nothing. What's the problem?

I come now to my rejoinder to the egregiously mistaken #VaginaChallenge and its theatrical precursor, "The Vagina Monologues."

I herein announce the inauguration of an analogous play entitled "The Penis Dialogues." I know I will be called out for titling such an androcentric, phallocentric play as this, but I am prepared to answer the objections, without fear:

I echo Eve Ensler: I never defined a man as a person with a penis. How transphobic of my critics to suggest that a person attached to a penis is a man, a male, or any gender whatsoever! With this play, my goal will not be to hear more from men! Quite to the contrary, I want to hear from penises, penises which are no longer to be regarded as "men's" property as such, nor to bear any necessary relationship to men, males, masculinity, gender, or lack of gender. Penises may exist (or not) but their meaning as such is utterly determined by the penis holder, or, more likely, the person held hostage by the penis, or, by the person whom the penis confronts in some way.

"What might penises have to say to each other," you ask?

Some may lament their possessors' attempts at making them complicit in rape culture, for example. Some may complain that their presence in connection with particular bodies has caused others to presume the bodies attached to such penises have represented "men." Some may decry the measurement system, the short-shaming to which they have been subjected during their entire lives. Some may even boast of having penetrated x number of vaginas, anuses, or other orifices. Such penis bravura as this will provide an opportunity to challenge the sexual orifice hierarchy, to set these penises straight that a knot in a tree is every bit as desirable and legitimate a sexual orifice as the anus of a rhinoceros. And opportunities will arise (please pardon the pun) to show that the orifice-centric obsessions of penises have ruled for far too long! In short, "The Penis Dialogues" will represent the deconstruction of the conceptual penis, en toto.

It's time to let penises speak! Let penises declare their liberation from orifice-centric behavior and compulsions! Let the conceptual penis unravel before our eyes!

Penises of the world, unite -- or disunite -- it doesn't matter! You have nothing to lose but being called "dicks."