Articles Blog

#FreeTheFemme: The aesthetics of survival | Hari Nef | TEDxConnecticutCollege

#FreeTheFemme: The aesthetics of survival | Hari Nef | TEDxConnecticutCollege


Translator: Sara Pellicer Vidal
Reviewer: Denise RQ Remember when Caitlyn Jenner revealed
herself on the cover of “Vanity Fair”? Yeah. (Laughter) I’ve got a lot to say about her conservative politics
and her bumpy advocacy, but this, this was cool. Most of you agreed with me. Not all of you, however. Like any woman in the public eye, Caitlyn’s appearance in particular
came under scrutiny. “Caitlyn Jenner’s idea of a woman is a cleavage-boosting corset, sultry poses, thick mascara, banter about hair and makeup; nail polish does not a woman make.” “I feel slammed by the decision
to portray Ms. Jenner on the cover of ‘Vanity Fair’, as the stereotypical
male fantasy of a woman. It’s sexist, no matter who does it.” “I fully support Caitlyn Jenner, but I wish she hadn’t chosen
to come out as a sex babe.” These quotations
source from Elinor Burkett, Barbara Cohn Schlachet, and Susan Ager, non-trans women with roots
in the second wave feminist movement of the 70s and early 80s. Their, perhaps dated, aesthetic
preferences of feminist Liberalism clash with femme aesthetics; in this case, trans-femme aesthetics. But if you ask me, hair, makeup and nails
don’t make trans women like me or any women for that matter,
bad feminists. Sure, what if Caitlyn had appeared
on the cover of Vanity Fair in a pantsuit with no makeup, her hair pulled back, arms crossed? I think she would’ve looked really cool, but would we all have accepted her
so readily as a woman? Would she have appeared on the cover
of Vanity Fair to begin with? It’s time for the aesthetics of
upwardly mobile feminist respectability to make room
for the aesthetics of survival, particularly trans survival. It’s time to revise
what a feminist looks like; especially if hair, makeup, and nails
allow her to get jobs, make friends or ride the subway home safely at night. It’s time to free the femme, because some of us
need it or just like it, and that’s OK. This charming 1979 text is called, “The transsexual empire:
the making of the she-male.” It was written by Elinor Burkett,
a second wave radical feminist. The thesis of this text is essentially
that: one, trans women aren’t women; two, trans women are bad
for feminist progress. Raymond confesses
in the conclusion of the text that she hopes that with enough work,
transsexuality – as she calls it – will eventually be
morally mandated out of existence. In 1979, shortly after
this book was published, Johns Hopkins, the first US
medical institution to offer life-saving, gender confirmation surgery, phased out the procedure and dismantled
its Gender Identity Committee after coming under fire in this text. Raymond hypothesizes, “If the transsexual merely exchanges
one gender role for another, and if the outcome
is to endorse a femininity which, in many transsexuals,
becomes a caricature of much that feminists have rejected
about man-made femininity, then where is the challenge,
the transgression, and the breaking of any real boundaries?” I believe that Raymond’s call
for women to break real gender boundaries is a call we should answer. But do we we have to answer
with our bodies? Is it our fault, if the dominant,
man-made beauty ideals exclude the bodies that most of us
were born with? And, is it bad, if we want to do
something about that make a couple of changes? Because men are scary pigs,
and patriarchy is real. (Applause) If hair, makeup, and nails, hormones even, If those things keep us strong and safe, then, I don’t know. Does that make us sell-outs or survivors? Speaking of hair and makeup,
I love Lana Del Rey! (Laughter) I love her so much. In a 2014 edition of The New Inquiry, my good friend Sarah Nicole Prickett
analyzes the pop-star’s image. “Two years ago, the prevailing male establishment appeared
to not like Lana Del Rey one bit. The New York Times’ John Caramanica
called her a poser, a meme, and a has-been suggesting that she could only try again after washing off that face paint
and mussing up that hair. In other words, Lana Del Rey
should have done a better job of passing, of being a ‘natural woman.'” One, I relate. Are there any trans girls in the room? No? Ah, my stats were wrong. Passing as a natural woman can decide
whether I have a good day or a bad day. It sucks, but it is what it is. Number two. Wow. Thirty-five years after the publication
of “The transsexual empire,” Raymond’s preferred femme-free aesthetics
of second wave feminism have become the mainstream aesthetics expected by the bro-literati of women. Yikes. Prickett continues – Here’s another picture of Del Rey; Whoops! Should I have shown you that? – that, “Lana Del Rey’s rejection of upwardly mobile feminism
and/or high-class femininity in favor of fatalistic glamor makes her a gender deserter to some,
but a godsend to most. When girls and women are meant to choose
chic, studied effortlessness, Lana’s truth is an alternative,
a man-loving woman. Read ‘man’ unliterally, as something big
and impossible to get out from money, a whole damn country …” Under patriarchy, money and country
inscribe themselves on women’s bodies. We look in the mirror,
and we ask ourselves, “Do I look like a rich woman today?” We look in the mirror and say,
“Do I look like an American woman today?” We look in the mirror and say,
“Do I look like a beautiful woman today?” And if I don’t look rich,
beautiful, and American, Am I still a woman? Lana Del Rey and Caitlyn Jenner
merely fit the bill we were all charged, and I don’t blame them for that. If the aesthetics
of money and country are, as Prickett argues
impossible to get out from, then, why are we being shamed
for working it out underneath them? Here’s a picture of me,
before I started transitioning, or I had started transitioning but I hadn’t started
medical transition yet. At this point in my life, I wore a full face of makeup every day, I shaved my whole body every week
which covered me in these angry red spots. I stopped cutting my hair. I wore dresses to morning classes. I started hormones: pills twice a day
and a needle in my leg every week. I started going in for
a monthly laser hair removal appointments, procedures that were so painful, that I had to chug a flask of vodka
before every session just so I would feel it less. I starved myself and abused laxatives so I could fit the clothes
I wanted to wear. I did all this because I wanted a body that allowed me to do
the things I wanted to do in the way I wanted to do them. Things men in this country
aren’t really allowed to do. I tried to do them
in the body I was born with, but people told me, “No, you can’t. “You have to soften up your face,
get rid of all your body hair; get breasts, shrink
your waist, get a vagina.” Of course, I looked them right in the eye
said, “Fuck you,” turned around, and did pretty much all
of what they told me to do. (Laughter) It hurt, and it worked. If my story, or journey
sounds difficult or tough, I can guarantee you, it’s even
more difficult and more tough for the vast majority of trans women. In 2002, a trans woman named Gwen Araujo was beaten and strangled
to death by four men upon their discovery that Gwen,
despite her femme appearance, was not assigned female at birth. In 2013, Islan Nettles was slaughtered
under similar circumstances. In 2014, Jennifer Laude was slaughtered
under similar circumstances by a US marine. In 2016, January, Monica Loera was
slaughtered under similar circumstances. Worldwide, a trans person
is slaughtered every three days. The vast majority of these victims
are trans women of color, and the vast majority
of the discovered murderers are men, dissatisfied with
our embodiment of femininity, dissatisfied by trans femininity. Men who judge us to be not femme enough. It is so hard to gain access to hormones to jump through all the medical hoops. It is so expensive to buy cosmetics,
new clothes, healthy food, any number of means
towards body feminization. Even if a trans woman does manage
to look or seem femme, her race, her class, or her citizenship
can place further targets on her back. So, when it comes to trans women
with limited resources, their femme can be the difference
between life and death. So, I got to ask: why are we being shamed for our femme? Let femmes be femmes,
if they want to be femme, because some of us need it
or just want it, and that’s OK. When the aesthetics
of feminist respectability exclude and erase the women who need,
not just want, need to give them up, then the aesthetics of feminist
respectability need to change. Femme aesthetics aren’t bad or good. They just work. They just are. They work for some of us. So, chill out. (Laughter) Let us live. Free the Femme. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers) (Applause)

92 thoughts on “#FreeTheFemme: The aesthetics of survival | Hari Nef | TEDxConnecticutCollege”

  1. as a trans woman myself, I really appreciate the spotlight being on these more positive trans role models!

  2. I'm conflicted, I agree with most things Hari said and disagree with others (I'm not a scary pig Hari! i'm kosher tbh) but the end was sad and in respect to those ladies that died and so many others I'll skip the criticism and say this: I wish you all love, strength, safety, health and a beautiful life. Always love and protect yourselves!

  3. had me crying when she started listing names of victims.

    and overall such an outstanding presentation. really solid. it's got me fired up & inspired to do my senior final presentation on the scrutiny of the female aesthetic

  4. Incredible. Hope she does more public speaking, she's so charismatic. And this talk is so important.

  5. I love this talk. A further step in the transgender discussion and not a basic explanation of what trans is. More of this please. 🙂

  6. IM CRYIN SO HARD. I felt like I was there in the audience and when you asked ''Any Trans girls in the audience?'' I just wanted to scream so hard '' Me! I am!''.
    Thank you Hari for creating something that made me let out so much greef about the beutiful souls of Gwen, Islan, Jennifer, Monica and every soul that has expirienced this. As well for Helping me let out so much demons of My own expirience.
    You go Girl!!
    #freethefemme

  7. Awesome as allways! Hari is so talented yet seems like such a genuinly NICE person. I am sure we will see more of her soon! If you are interested in gender and gender presentation: Jacob Thomas also has a really great Ted Talk about the (r)evolution of gender that I can highly recommand!

  8. this is such an important topic that not enough people speak up about, you have created a platform and used it so well to adress major issues commonly ignored in the media. #freethefemme . i love you and i wish you to be happy and heathy. jade xxx

  9. Interesting talk, this made me think what is normality? the society change and history is the proof, what was label as wrong in 60 years ago, now seems "normal" and the braves ones was and are the ones that move up the "normal" standards and so what is normal? a shitty word to conform all in some shitty standards that are not in our nature as species, diversity and uniqueness is the treasure of humans. Thanks to Hari Nef for the Braveness!

  10. Omg that statistic about a trans person getting slaughtered every 3 days…wow. It's like you think you know but you don't

  11. One of my male gamer buddies said it best: "There's nothing feminine about feminism." Do not apologize for who you are. Live your life and be happy!

  12. Birthed women are just threatened with these wildcards (Trans Women) in the competition of keeping/getting Mr. Right's attention and affection. Personally, I think we should be thankful for these sisters because it lessens the burden on birthed women to be all what a men wants and envisions. But I guess that's the problem. Women sometimes can be greedy and narcissistic, they want to be all. They want to be perfect. Freeing the femme could allow men to live truly how they are — those who want to settle down and raise a family and those who want a bachelor lifestyle of parties, social events, satisfying their desires, but as well as love and companionship from a feminine standpoint. As a birthed women, I accept I can't have it all but this is a win-win situation where we can all be truly happy. #freethefemme

  13. Excellent talk! I will make a quick comment about Janice Raymond's assertion. I transitioned shortly before she put out her screed. As a second wave feminist I fit in as a "dyke." Looked, dressed, and acted the way I was expect to to match the feminist eidos of a liberated woman.

    But was I having fun? True, I met a lot of cool women and so long as they weren't TERFs, I was open to romance. It is possible to conform to the second wave view. Yet, as I observed as the years went by, that the uniform (by which I mean clothes, presentation, and affect) of the second wave was just as rigid and formulaic as those they decried. Yet it was a way we identified one another.

    But then I began to realize that much of the desire to escape the so-called stereotypes was because the advocates themselves were fighting their own programming. I recalled from <i>Hamlet</>, "methinks the lady doth protest too much." I would be at a wimmin's bar and some lipsticks (lesbians) would walk in, dressed to the nines, and did they ever get derisive looks. What was going on? The conformity required of non-conformists!

    Hari Nef is right about how women are able to navigate the patriarchy through an understanding of how to present themselves and we all learn this from our mothers–and certainly not from men–or we learn it from a lipstick (lesbian) who decides you are very pretty and just need to get with the program and who takes you under her wing and gets you to start wearing a skirt. And guess what? It was far more fun. More effective.

    <blockquote>I come home in the morning light
    My mother says when you gonna live your life right
    Oh mother dear we're not the fortunate ones
    And girls they want to have fun
    Oh girls just want to have fun</blockquote>

  14. Beautifully said. When I'm out in society, it's horrible how some men constantly make suggestive quips of their manhood and placing women just knowing that they can sell it. No more.

  15. the only "scary Pig " is this evil man hating bitch not men. also don't just assert that patriarchy is real because its not and you have no proof for it.

  16. What exactly are these things you you couldn't do with a penis that your new appearance allows you to do? Examples please.

  17. This is literally everything I've been trying to explain to people as I start my transition. I want to be fairly hyper-femme, but I also need to be. It's not much of an option as a black trans girl. Love love love Hari Nef

  18. Hi there. Thank you that you share a powerful messengers on video. You are a very beautiful person inside and out. Thanks for your Gifts to share. You are truly making a difference to people life. Accepting to be who you. Be happy, know yourself Be the person you want to be. Love yourself. You are a bright person , wonderful lovely smiling, compassion to be who you are. Admire, respect. Much love. Peace. Pray, may all the best and happiness for you.

  19. I have a pet theory that  explains the male violence directed toward MTF women. I suspect the males doing this violence are in fact primitively TG and  are in denial from within. They are terrified the secret will get out to the world. So instead of being happy for those who come out and transition, their true emotion is extreme envy. This leads to extreme hostility. This also helped me understand why I was so possessive of my first wife and the sullen attitude I held toward any of her success or independence from myself.

  20. 'Katelyn' Jenner is not a woman. Neither are you. Trans 'women' aren't women no matter how many clever words you use. It's sooo simple. As for 'passing,' you might think you 'pass' if no one 'misgenders' you. But, you don't pass, it's obvious to most people what you are. Because you don't get abuse or comments on a 'good day' is probably because people are ignoring you or being polite.

  21. Hi that was great, Iv'e been transitioning for almost 2 years, I don't think women now would like how I feel a woman should be, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Genesis God makes man out of dirt or say clay, things out of clay are handy and useful things. God makes woman from bone, sculpted, carefully designed, thought out, like a sculpture, something to admire and behold, a pleasure for the eyes. We women are like sunrises and rainbows, we can bring awe and pleasure to the heart and eyes. We need to let the beauty God put in us to come out and reveal the creativeness and beauty that He has put in the world. Also watch what comes out of our mouths, don't stoop down to the level of dirt, we are made better. Remember we are God's last creation and He said it is very good. So wear the sweats and baggy clothes to clean the house, The rest of the time let your beauty shine out to give the world something to be in awe of, be the sculpture God made to be admired, Show the world we are better then dirt. Tiffany

  22. If we lied in a society where no one wore makeup, everyone had shaved heads, and we all wore jumpsuits, would there even be femmes, or transgenders for that matter?? That just proves that it's superficial.

  23. Thanks Hari. I am so inspired. As a woman, as an actress too. Thanks your for strenght and for making sense in a kind human natural way.

  24. Listen Hari, I saw that Assassination Nation 🎥. I was curious to learn whom you were because I wanted to make sure I wasn't tripping. I thought you was a woman, for a brief moment. But then, I learned that you actually was a guy that transformed himself into a woman. Listen, I may not agree with the path you have chosen for yourself. However, I just wanted to say I liked the 🎥, be safe, and keep getting 💰. I wish I can encourage you to choose the Lord. But, that would be a waste of time because you already have your ❤ set on the path you are on. Before you transformed your self, I wish I could of met you and shared with you how the Lord saved my life, along with changed my ❤.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *