PDF In the Pink

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We want to make sure you're kept up to date. Please take a moment to review these changes. You will not receive KPMG subscription messages until you agree to the new policy. Ignore and log out. Also on home. Connect with us Find office locations kpmg. Want to do business with KPMG? Print friendly version. Then again, the pussyhat was not an artistic rendering of the female genitalia but a simple bit of costuming. Its most literal suggestion was not that the wearer was a woman but that the wearer was a cat. This ensured that the relationship between the hat and the sex organ was, whatever else it was, figurative: a verbal and visual pun that afforded demonstrators a sly bit of plausible deniability in matters of bourgeois decency.

Doubtless there were transgender women who really did find the hats alienating. In fact, trans women as a demographic had a variety of opinions about the pussyhat; some of us even had two opinions. Yet many cis women appeared to derive a disturbing sense of political satisfaction from projecting onto trans women their own ambivalence regarding the pussyhat not to mention their actual canals in the name of solidarity.

In reassuring one another that the vagina must be prevented from circulating metaphorically, these women were effectively arrogating the disputed organ to themselves. After all, the pussyhat could be arraigned on charges of biological essentialism only if one had decided in advance that the only possible relationship to the vagina was having one. Somehow, under the guise of inclusivity, cis women had given themselves the responsibility of reminding us of our dicks.

The pussyhats were silly and cutesy and looked like your mom made them. In this respect, the pussyhat came to signify youthfulness as distinct from biological age: a political youth whose identifying trait was a kind of embarrassing rhetorical childishness.

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The real problem with the pussyhats was that they offered up, with the winsome naivete of the recently radicalized, the promise of a universal category of womanhood, which feminism has long made a cardinal virtue of forgoing. It would not be fantastic to suppose that those feminists who criticized the pussyhat most fiercely did so in part because they saw in its blithe adopters a younger, warmer version of themselves, still ugly-sweet on the romance of political consciousness, not yet having learned to be frugal with their hopes.

Embarrassment is usually just pride, later. Two months before my operation, I dreamed I was a character in a video game.

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As sometimes happens in video games, I died. When I respawned, I had a new face, the face of another woman altogether.

I woke up in the recovery room delirious. The pain was intense and sharp, as if I needed to pee but had been forced to hold it for a week. Two rubber tubes slithered out of my bandaged pelvis.

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I eventually became coherent enough to grasp that one was a Foley catheter, to drain urine from my bladder, and the other something called a wound VAC, which was sucking out blood-red fluid and chunks of something dark. Me, presumably. But what slumbered then beneath those bandages, no one could have said. I began demanding food, petulant. Soon I was visited by a small parliament of blue scrubs who double-checked with the nurse that I was on a strictly liquid diet.

She confirmed this without missing a beat. Now we both had a secret. I was in the hospital for another five days. My girlfriend slept on the couch in my room. I tried watching a cooking show on Net-flix, but the glistening cuts of meat began to feel too close to home. On the third day, I successfully staggered from my bed to a chair. I was immediately nauseated, vomiting athletically into the oncoming trash can in a smooth parabolic arc. Friends stopped by with flowers and gossip. One brought me a garland of construction-paper vulvas she had crafted after getting high in Seattle.

Another brought me a pussyhat. The final morning, the surgeon arrived in high spirits to unbandage her creation, pulling a long bloody ribbon of gauze from my introitus like a magician showing off. With the canal clear of tubes and debris, she took out a teal rod lined with small white circles, gave it a dollop of thick lubricant, and slid it into me with the pomp of a woman at a gas station. It was a medical dilator, one of a set of three rigid polyurethane dildos. This was mama bear.

That night, in bed at my apartment, I wept. I wailed, actually, the way mothers do in ancient manuscripts.

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I felt exactly the same. This meant my vulva was alive, full of sensation, but it also meant that these sensations were the very ones I had gone under the knife to escape. I guess I should have known this beforehand. I did, intellectually. You can stand on the beach and spy a sandbar across the water; if you swim, you can stand on the shoal and look back.

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Your location will have changed, but your position will be identical. You will always be Here, wherever Here happens to be. The tide goes in and out, but distance as such—that is the unswimmable. There, there is only drowning. In the Metamorphoses , Ovid tells the story of Alcyone, queen of Trachis. As birds, they stay together. An old man marvels at their love, watching the pair soar across the waves. This is a happy ending, I guess. Still, I wonder about Alcyone, about the theft of her death. Ovid says she tries to embrace the body in her arms as they turn to wings. What kind of bird knows only how to be human?

What is it to be flying and yet unable to believe it? Feminism never succeeded in securing women as a collective subject of history, as the Marxist intellectual tradition once hoped to do with the working class. On the contrary, contemporary feminism is arguably defined by its refusal of woman as a political category, on the grounds that this category has historically functioned as a cruel ruse for white supremacy, the gender binary, the economic interests of the American ruling class, and possibly patriarchy itself.

This has put feminism in the unenviable position of being politically obligated to defend its own impossibility. In order to be for women, feminists must refrain from making any positive claims about women. The result is a kind of negative theology, dedicated to striking down the graven images of a god whose stated preference for remaining invisible has left the business of actually worshipping her somewhat up in the air. Perhaps the simplest solution to this paradox has been to quietly shift the meaning of the word feminism.

In popular culture and especially online, feminism has become the go-to signifier for what the legal scholar Janet Halley calls convergentism: the belief that justice projects with different constituencies have a moral duty to converge, like lines stretching toward a vanishing point.

This is weird. In this arrangement, feminism describes not a concrete political project but the moral imperative to do politics in the first place. In other words, a feminist is a good person. The irony is that feminism, having some fifty years ago introduced the radical idea that the personal was political, has today ended up with the laborious task of making politics feel personal.

In a punishing twist, feminism has become both the preferred name for this desire and the very politics which must not claim it. Indeed, the minimal definition of a feminist might be a person who, affirming that women will never constitute a political class, privately hopes it might happen anyway.

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Women explain things to me. They tell me that there is no universal experience of being a woman, except that no woman actually feels like a woman; they tell me that in fact, being a woman feels like nothing at all. I think they think they are being kind. When the king proposes cutting the baby in half, the first woman agrees, but the second woman, the true mother, pleads with him to give the baby to the first.