Women-only space

by Laura // 11 March 2008, 22:42

Michelle at Lonergrrrl has a great post up explaining the importance of women-only space:

Because it is in women-only space that a woman’s voice can be heard on her own terms. In women-only space she is free of the ‘male gaze’, free of the spectre of patriarchal judgement, that in mixed space- aka the ‘real world’- threatens to denounce, silence, talk over, appropriate, or ridicule her voice.


Women have made many important gains into previously ‘man-only’ space, most notably governmental politics, but because these gains have been made in a world where male privilege still remains, where male values continue to dominate and hold the most credibility, women’s voices are still mainly deemed subordinate. Where men’s voices and values dominate, a woman’s voice is often only given credence if she appropriates the male voice and values, if she tows the patriarchal line.

So while this continues to be the case, women-only space remains relevant because women need space free of male influence and control in order to forge our own politics on our own terms. Otherwise those dominant male voices and values will worm their way in, leaving us where we started.

Sorry for the lazy posting, I'm currently in grant application hell, but I will add that those women who think that there is no issue of male voices drowning out women's, or of male presence affecting what women say and whether they even say it at all, might want to consider that not all women are as confident or comfortable in mixed space as they are. Try attending a mixed leftie group and come back and tell me where the loudest voices (and often those least likely to listen to others) come from...

After reading Laurie's speech I feel I should also point out that my highlighting the issue of dominant male voices does not mean that I think all men are innately domineering and purposely seek to drown out or ignore female voices. Far from it. They are socialised into that role just as women are, as general rule, socialised into a more passive one. But in order to deal with the underlying gender issues here, we need to name the problems they cause and the way they manifest themselves, and that's all I or anyone else who supports women-only space for the reasons outlined above is doing.

Comments From You

Tazia // Posted 12 March 2008 at 00:49

The philosophy of proprietary space is a double-edged sword, it is perhaps better than talking to 'the other', it is a must have for group-think futures.

To be smaller, more exclusive, is to be stronger ideologically, the selection isn't important, the distinction doesn't even have to be true.

At a queer only meeting, in Amsterdam, we passed a resolution, 'homosexuality doesn't exist'. The solidarity of the supposedly non-existing franchise, wasn't perturbed by the irony. It was an argument against integration and normalization.

Alex Corwin // Posted 12 March 2008 at 03:23

Ooo thanks for posting that Laura, only the other day I was trying to explain the importance of women only space to some friends and was interrupted by a man who thought he could describe it better then me!
(But he did also shut up when I told him to!)

Good luck with grant stuff too

Helen G // Posted 12 March 2008 at 09:17

From Michelle's post:

"[...] I can even get my head around the fact that some men define as ‘woman-identified’.
But excuse me for not being postmodern or ‘queer’ enough, but these are side-issues for me."

As a trans woman - why yes, i am post-op and thank you so much for your interest in the state of my genitalia - I'm deeply uncomfortable with the way this remark dismisses out of hand the reality of gender variance, particularly wrt trans women.

This is the Michfest argument all over again; it's discriminatory and it's tired.

Trans women are here and we're not going away just because certain cisgendered women can't deal with our reality.

Get a grip.

Laura // Posted 12 March 2008 at 09:49

Helen,

I didn't read Michelle's comments a assertion that transwomen should not be welcome in women-only space (although she may well believe that, I can't speak for her, obviously), rather that she is fed up of the constant attacks on women-only space which prevent us from action, one of which is the accusation that the concept of women-only space supports the gender binary and that transwomen are by default not welcome. At RTN Manchester, for example, there was a small queer and trans block "protesting" against the supposedly exclusionary nature of RTN, despite the fact that the organisers had made it abundantly clear that transwomen were welcome on the women-only march. I agree with this policy - transwomen will face discrimination as women and need to reclaim the night as women.

As Michelle pointed out, many of the problems women face come as a result of the gender binary, and so we need to deal with these problems with this fact in mind - for the purposes of ending violence against women, for example, we need to recognise that this is a gendered issue of men attacking women within a society based on a hierarchical gender binary. I LONG for the day when this socially constructed binary no longer exists and we don't have to identify ourselves by sex or gender, but right now if we simply view everyone as individuals we hide the problems that women face and make it impossible to deal with them. Women-only space enables us to do this, and once we have, it will no longer be needed.

The existance of women-only space does not prevent mixed gender or queer activism on feminist issues, it does not prevent people from attacking the gender binary, it is simply a necessary PART of the fight for women's liberation, a practical response to the binary, not a perpetuation of it.

Helen G // Posted 12 March 2008 at 10:05

Laura,

I don't disagree with anything you say.

But I do object to being othered and defined as a "side issue" when in fact trans women and feminists are (or should be) on the same side - we both want equality and freedom from patriarchal oppression don't we?

Tazia // Posted 12 March 2008 at 10:06

I thought the original post by Michelle at Lonergrrrl, was Queer enough, and as zero-gendering is as she says it is, then changing it, in the scheme of things, doesn't matter, or is a side issue. On the other hand, if feminism, is also sexual liberation, then, one needs cash, organization, leadership and a script that works.

Britain didn't really have NVSH, COC et alia. There is a history missing maybe.

i don't want to deprecate anybody in Britain, but when Mary Zelden­rust-Noordanus said something didn't exist, then it didn't, that was the point of ideology & leadership, the other part, was money, that was made via bars, pornography, narcotics and prostitution. It is not possible to have a revolution without cash.

That was the way it was handled in Holland, more recently, some groups are arguing against clandestinity and against religion, against faith, in a way that is unmistakable. The strategy of infiltration, that upsets 'them', or 'the others' who made the same journey via the re-organization after Hitler.

Two sections did better during the Nazi occupation than the other, Hitler shared at least some of the views of Queen Victoria. So lesbians, and 'them' were able to survive and to take charge of the archives which were scattered across much of Europe.

By the late Sixties they were complete, that coincided with the homophile leadership deciding that the financing sub-culture was going to stay.

Laura // Posted 12 March 2008 at 10:22

Yes indeed, Helen, and I can understand how that's objectionable to you - after all, women's issues are also often viewed as "side issues" by men.

Helen G // Posted 12 March 2008 at 10:46

Laura: Yes, they are indeed.

But please reassure me that I'm not seeing a subtext in your comment, that you're not saying you think I'm one of those men you mention, who sees womens' issues as a side issue.

I publically confirm for the umpteenth time that I am not a man, I don't identify as a man and in fact legally, medically and, in any other ways the world would care to define or judge me, I am a woman. Yes, my background and much of my life experience is from the viewpoint of a diagnosed gender dysphoric MtF transsexual but I will maintain until the day I die that this does not make me any less of a woman.

And I categorically do not see women's issues as a side issue.

Sorry for my paranoia, I mean no offence to you or anyone.

Yeah, I know, I should grow a thicker skin.

Tazia // Posted 12 March 2008 at 10:51


I wasn't knocking Helen. I apologise if I gave that impression. I was kind of agreeing with her.

The other argument, is that alliances, become corporate, the longer the multi-acronym, the more likely, that disparities in esteem become obvious and something or somebody gets left out.

I left Amsrerdam for Berlin (DDR), I found the DDR had something in common with my Dutch comrades. What they said, didn't have to be true, fair or consistent. It just had to be.

That again goes back to the central committee aspects of sexual revolution Dutch style.

The aboli­tion of coupledom, gender and sexual dicho­tomy, tended to eliminate a lot of feminist possibilities.

I wasn't selling a prospectus that delivered a prize that was worth having by anybody's standards.

Laura // Posted 12 March 2008 at 10:51

God no!! Sorry, I added that because I know how irritating it can be for people who are not in your (one's) position to claim that they 'understand' - I meant that while I obviously don't know what it feels like to be marginalised/seen as a side issue specifically as a transwoman, I have experienced this as a woman. And there's no need to apologise for your "paranoia" - you must get stuff like what you perceived as my subtext all the time.

Denise // Posted 12 March 2008 at 14:44

This post and the comments made me think of what Germaine Greer wrote in 'the whole woman':

"No one ever asked women if they recognised sex-change males as belonging to their sex or whether being obliged to accept MRF transsexuals as women was at all damaging to their identity or self-esteem....cruel and unsympathetic though it may seem, women should not automatically accept all those who do not wish to be male as being ex gratia females...".

I don't think transwomen should be discriminated against in any way or excluded from women=only spaces. But the fact is they were not born and grew up as females and they can't share all those common experiences, that history. It's just a fact. Lots of people can't share history and/or experience for various reasons. And I admit that I do feel uncomfortable and threatened at times when it seems to me that some transwomen are trying to shout down women exactly the way some men do. That's what I value about a women-only space, not being shouted down or told to "get a grip", "get over it", "deal with it".

My Mum joined a woman-only space recently, a widows group, for support. She left because some men who insisted on joining (protesting sexism on the part of the women) completely took over and made her and some of the other women there feel they had lost their voices. She was left wondering if there is any space women can have just for themselves without men wanting to muscle in. Haven't men got most of the space already?!

Last thing - why do we (or me, anyway) hardly ever hear of female-to-male transsexuals?

Catherine Redfern // Posted 12 March 2008 at 15:50

I personally think there is a place for protected spaces for any group of people and it is important that such spaces are protected. This could be (for example) a protected space for trans folks who want to discuss things with other trans folks in a safe environment - or for any other oppressed group. In the same respect I also think there is a space for cissexual/women-born-women (choose your preferred term!) spaces as well. It is just a matter of *which* events or meetings are appropriate to be defined in a very restrictive way and which in a more broad way.

I think the issue is to be clear about how any particular event or membership of a group is defined, from the beginning. For example I ran into problems when a feminist group I helped set up had not decided whether to allow men to join or not - and this caused massive problems within the group as we all disagreed - it should have been sorted out at the beginning.

Denise - there is a book called "Whipping Girl" by Julia Serano (hope I remembered the author's name right) which covers the issue of why FTM folks are rarely seen or mentioned. Basically the argument is that because of sexism and misogyny the media focusses on MTF trans people in a very sensationalist and sexualised way. Its a very interesting read for all feminists.

Steph Jones // Posted 12 March 2008 at 16:39

Denise said:
"I don't think transwomen should be discriminated against in any way or excluded from women=only spaces. But the fact is they were not born and grew up as females and they can't share all those common experiences, that history. It's just a fact."

But is it that simple? This appears to assume that all transwomen are 50 year old, with a broken marriage and kids in tow. Trans-people are coming out younger and younger, so it seems to me that actually some transfemales are growing up as females and thus can share common experiences.

I can only offer some common experiences - that I was attracted the attention of a man one evening, who wouldn't say no for an answer. Upon violating me and then discovering I was still 'pre-op', he then turned nasty. Does this not make me 'woman enough' for some?

Jess McCabe // Posted 12 March 2008 at 16:41

I think what is happening here is an unfortunate conflation of what are two seperate issues:

1) Whether women-only spaces are trans-inclusive, and
2) Whether men should be excluded from these women-only spaces.

By talking about both these issues in conjunction, it does give the probably unintended impression of conflating trans women with men. Given that some feminists do vociferously hold the view that trans women are not women, I think it is important to make a clear seperation of what are, as I said, two different issues.

I also recommend Whipping Girl. And this.

Steph Jones // Posted 12 March 2008 at 16:46

In regards to Catherine's reply re. FTM's. The fact is that I have met, on my travels through transitioning, many many FTM's - enough to accept that the way in which society always seems to think that its only ever Male to Female is simply not true. It just doesn't make the 'red top' media froth at the mouth.

Their visibility is certainly less than MTF's - I wonder whether this may be partly due to many FTMs being also aligned to, and able to explore such identity through Lesbian subcultures such as boi/dyke identity? I also think that there is a certain mysogyny at work too between such visibilty of MTF vs FTM - as Serano's book does explore.

Anne Onne // Posted 12 March 2008 at 17:30

I think we ciswomen have to remember our cis privilege, because it seems to be soemthing we forget. A trans woman might not have had the exact same experiences as a cis woman growing up, but she will have had plenty of problems to deal with, feeling the way she did, knowing the chances other men get violent with her, knowing how society looks at and treats trans women. They may start off physically outwardly male, but that doesn't mean they experience any less pressure than a closeted gay man. We wouldn't dare to tell a gay man that he wasn't oppressed, so why do we ignore the oppression of a woman who has always known who she is, but has always known how people might see her because of it? It's not a simple issue, and I can't say that I always check my privilege when I should, but I will try.

On the subject of women-only spaces, I think they would be very useful. As a teenager in an all-girl school (albeit a relatively kickass one that encouraged all interests), I found it very, very comforting to know that I didn't need to deal with the kind of teenage boys who whistled at me, or who bullied me in primary school, every day, and that I wouldn't be as pressured to have sex young when I didn't feel at all ready. It wouldn't be the option for every person, and gender-segregation is a tricky topic, but for me, it allowed me to form strong friendships with my peers, have the self-belief to try for anything, have the guts to stick with it, and believe that girls could acheive anything.

chem_fem // Posted 12 March 2008 at 19:03

Anne-

But then should the gay man be allowed/invited to come to the women only space, because he doesn't have hetero privileges and may also have suffered violence in the same way - which definitely happens.

We have violence in common with many groups of people who share a lack of privilege.

I'm not arguing against the inclusion of trans women but I think that Denise has a point. Surely it depends on the type of group you are setting up, if it is about rape then transwomen have as much to share as cis women, but on the issues of growing up female from birth and feeling at odds with feminity then I would have more to share with cis women and FTM trans men.

Tazia // Posted 13 March 2008 at 01:43

Any precedent for exclusion is going to have legal significance, golf clubs, schools, car parks. It's that simple, legalo-positivism will look at contradictions and expand upon them.

You can't go forward on a campaign expecting to turn entire legal systems on their head, unless of course anarchy and the destruction of societal infrastructure is the objective.

If one argues for women only car-parking in Sweden or Germany because of the perception, proclivity etc. or for schoolgirl only trains in Tokyo because of fact the schoolgirl is Japan’s foremost sexual signifier (also Britain?),

THEN, one can't complain if parents opt for schoolgirl only trains in Tokyo or zero male recruitment to kindergarten in New Zealand. The rationale of percieved threat works as well for one as the other.

A working argument for A or B will also work for C. If the police in England were given the choice of (having the right) to ban the BNP or the Liberal Democrats from being school governors they'd pick the latter, because they cause more problems.

So, the police like the idea of prohibiting the BNP because they want to ban other specific people. The BNP are already banned from police colleages.

In meetings with the Dutch police, relating to Keith Hudson, the English police asked for details of Partij voor Naastenliefde, Vrijheid en Diversiteit meetings with English affiliates.

The British police were looking at members of a large British political party. They'd therefore be happy to ban the BNP and the sixty or so Lib Dems they have their eyes on.

(At that point the British police theory is the Lib Dems will break thir links with the PNVD)

When proof of male sexual violence was requested in relation to female only car parking (floors), in Germany, data on sexual photography (children) revealed that the female credit cards used (out of many thousands) were stolen.

( a 100 percent bad-gender score)

So right there, the feminists had made the same precise point the British police were exploring in Holland (as were others in New Zealand).

On the other hand, it is difficult to organize a viable flat earth society if globalists can join.

A male golf club, isn't a male golf club if the local Women's Institute scale the fences with a legal solution to the rule-book.

Pragmatic feminists in the US, resolve such issues, by querying the motives for validating the archaic by personal subscription.

Groucho Marx once quipped, "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member". and 'groucho-marxism' will solve some problems for many of us.

Lara // Posted 14 March 2008 at 04:33

So, Helen, do whites then have the right to grumble and complain when black people want to form "black only" groups and events? Let's say, even, that said whites perceive themselves as "non-white" or feel outed from their own white race. You know what? They still don't have a right to intrude upon black-only space.
Why don't MTF trans people fight against what their REAL enemy is?: the Patriarchy! Stop trying to target radical feminists (albeit an easy target since everyone in the freaking world hates them) and blame them for the exclusion and oppression that the Patriarchy has caused you. Had you really seen the connection between homophobia, sexism, and heterosexism, you would respect the fact that there are women who want women-born-women only spaces. Jesus Mary and Joseph, is that so much to freaking ask??? That women-born-women, who have been branded a sex class from day 1 of their BIRTH, be able to form just one or two measly spaces of their own? Is that so much to ask? If this comes off as a rant as well as an argument, so be it. I am just getting really tired of the way these MTF trans arguments about having the right to every freaking women-only space (the very few that are left) smack so much of male privilege.

Helen G // Posted 16 March 2008 at 21:00

Lara - I refer to your recent comment ("So, Helen, do whites..."). I'm sure you realise that your remarks could be interpreted as being in breach of TFW's commenting policy no. 3 regarding the posting of transphobic replies, but you say certain things in a way that I simply cannot let pass without responding. Therefore a joint decision has been made with my co-bloggers to publish your remarks on this occasion. Please note that future comments in a similar tenor may not be approved for publication by this site's moderators.

The realities of gender and race cannot be conflated into the same thing. You cannot equate trans people's approach to gender with, for example, white people who claim to be colour-blind with regards to race. You don't destroy racism by acting more like the people with the racial privilege. Playing the race card as you have done has nothing to do with why trans people transition.

Transitioning isn't about denying anything, it isn't about targeting radical feminists and it isn't about supporting or ignoring the patriarchy. It is not a political act - it is an act of survival.

If you're born and raised white, then claim you're black, you'll still receive white privilege from society, even if you do your level best to reject that privilege. And you want to apply this principle to trans women: once a man, always a man. You are saying that, even though I look like a woman, dress like a woman, act like a woman, have an 'F' on my passport and a surgically constructed vagina, according to you I'm still receiving male privilege and my life is tainted by it forever. You have set yourself up as my judge and jury and you condemn me for what you see as a personal failing.

But one offensive stereotype just isn't enough for you. No, you then go on to imply that trans women only want access into women's spaces because in your world view, women aren't allowed to say no to men. Male privilege is an easy way for you to discredit everything about trans women's identities.

Trans women do not benefit from male privilege yet you perpetuate the myth in order to maintain the illusion of trans women being socially domineering 'blokes in frocks' who are unable to connect or relate to womanhood. By this method you seek to turn trans women into scary evil monsters in order to keep us out of women-only spaces.

And don't even start me on that biocentrist essentialist 'women-born-women' argument. Just what exactly is the common experience that all natal women share and trans women don't?

I say you are a transphobic feminist who is part of the problem, not the solution. You are as much of an oppressor as the patriarchy, possibly more so.

Tazia // Posted 16 March 2008 at 21:48

When I last looked, most gay orgs were opposed (via lobbying) to gay issues being legislatively defined or otherwise conflated with gender. It would probably suit conservative groups/countries if the opposite was the case.

The legal realities of gender are mandated by the UN, and that's the end of the resilient legal narrative. If it is a case of ECHR versus the UN, the ECHR has to lose or there's no point having the UN. It has to be that simple and that non-negotiable.

Denise // Posted 17 March 2008 at 12:36

I think it's insulting and unfair of Helen G. to label Lara "transphobic" and "as much an oppressor as the patriarchy, possibly more so". As Catherine Redfern writes in her comment, "I think there is a place for protected spaces for any group of people, and it is important that such spaces are protected". It seems to me that this is what Lara is basically pleading for. And yes, it does seem too much to ask!

Recently I've learned some new things from the f-word. According to Helen, I enjoy an "iniquitous advantage" because I happen to be white, able-bodied, hetero and - f.f.s! - "non-fat". But that's not all. I'm also supposed to beat myself up because I'm a "woman-born-woman" or a "cis" woman which, according to the definition of yet another stick-on label, implies that I may hold biocentrist, essentialist views.

And there was me reading the f-word because I thought I wouldn't be stereotyped and get labels stuck on me for an accident of birth, the biggest accident apparently to have been born female! If I want that any day of the week I can read the Daily Hate.

Quotes from Helen: "I am not trying to present a trans studies course". "It may sound as though I'm trying for the proverbial gold medal at the oppression olympics here, but I'm not".

You coulda fooled me!

I think Helen is the one with the 'ishoos', not some of the people she's shouting at. It's deeply and sadly ironic that there's such an argument over woman-only spaces on a feminist website!

Helen G // Posted 17 March 2008 at 13:45

I actually find it very encouraging that the intersection of trans* and feminist issues is being more widely debated. TFW isn't the only place where the issue of trans-exclusion is discussed; here are two links to pertinent posts on other blogs. I hope you find them, and the associated comments, interesting, insightful and informative:
Transphobia and Radical Feminism - a challenge (via Touchingly Naive) and Responding To The Feminist Anti-Transsexual Arguments (via Alas, a blog).

Lara // Posted 17 March 2008 at 13:50

I'm sorry to point this out, but there are experiences that the majority of natal women share and trans women don't, e.g.: periods, pregnancy (as in actually carrying the child inside ones body), being brought up as a girl.

But obviously, there are also some experiences that trans women share and natal women don't.

I don't see why there can't be natal women-only spaces for discussing experiences only they share, and the same for trans women. There are some experiences that one only wants to discuss with people who have experienced the same, for a multitude of reasons - safety, respect, empathy. But if they go beyond the limits of those experiences, there is no point excluding people, and I think for any political discussion, it is best to be open. Closed, limited groups seem more appropriate for group-therapy type spaces.

I hope this makes sense, I'm struggling to put my thoughts into words a bit this afternoon.

Lara // Posted 17 March 2008 at 13:53

Um, comment just posted is from me, a different Lara from the one that previously posted in this discussion. Just so you know.

Steph Jones // Posted 17 March 2008 at 14:29

Its a bit dissapointing to see so many of the aged issues still being used again and again from either 'side' in some sort of fruitless point scoring. It tends to neither do wider Feminist or Trans people or politics any favours. And all the time, the real issues that affect us all are forgotten.

Whilst clearly male privilege persists in being the greatest proponent of inequality, I think that when we consider Helen's point:

"Just what exactly is the common experience that all natal women share and trans women don't?".

We do have to sometimes ask that question. How many times, is actually class privilege a bigger divider of experience (be it women or transwomen), than sex/gender based privilege?

Cath Elliot wrote an interesting piece in the Guardian a few weeks ago:

"What sisterhood?"
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/cath_elliott/2008/03/what_sisterhood.html

Which really made me think about how critical class privilege is to this day.

Steph Jones // Posted 17 March 2008 at 14:36

I totally appreciate some of the comments that Lara does suggest above - periods, pregnancy, and for some parts being bought up as a girl. I say, 'some parts', because as trans awareness is much greater than it was even 5 years ago, I know of at least one 'boy' who has been bought up by her parents as a girl since aged 6. Therefore, I think we have to consider that the 'having not been raised as a girl' argument is simply not always true anymore.

We also need to be careful do we not in regards to say periods, pregnancy, abortion 'experience'? What if a born-female has say a health condition that means that she could never experience any of these things - rare, I realise, but not impossible? Where does that leave her in certain women-only spaces?

Helen G // Posted 17 March 2008 at 14:39

Lara, thank you for the clarification.
Earlier I linked to a couple of other blogs and would suggest that you visit the Touchingly Naive post in particular (re-linked here). I believe that comment #33 and comment #43 both touch on the point you raise.

Alicia // Posted 17 March 2008 at 15:03

I notice Helen G. completely ignores points that she clearly doesn't feel able to argue. You could hardly call that "debate".

Helen G // Posted 17 March 2008 at 15:10

Which points are you thinking about?

Jess McCabe // Posted 17 March 2008 at 15:22

Denise, I find your comments mind boggling, I really do.

Male privilege isn't the only game in town - I think that these issues of homophobia, racism, transphobia, etc, are deeply engrained and connected to patriarchy.

I find the hostile tone of your reaction to the suggestion that you might benefit from white privilege, in our racist society, etc, to be blinkered, at the very least.

Alicia // Posted 17 March 2008 at 15:46

I'm thinking of the points the (Different!) Lara made. And the comment by Denis earlier about being stereotyped. And chemfem's comment.

Oh, and can Tazia please tell us what drugs s/he's on? I want to make damn sure I never take 'em. Thanks.

Helen G // Posted 17 March 2008 at 16:21

Alicia - I have nothing more to say to "earlier Lara" right now. With regard to "later Lara", Denise and chem_fem's comments, I see no point in going over the same old ground here as has already been discussed in great depth on many other blogs. The arguments have all been made many times before and the information is out there. Please, at least go and read the Touchingly Naive post; it answers all the points raised here, and quite a few more besides.
The link is here.
And I really don't know what you're trying to say about Tazia.

Later Lara // Posted 17 March 2008 at 17:37

Alicia, I don't feel that Helen G. ignored any of my points, actually.

Helen G., thanks. That comment 33 is pretty much what I was trying to say. I don't see the point of excluding trans women from events that don't specifically address experiences that only people who had been designated women from birth would have (and as Steph Jones points out, those experiences are very limited and don't even apply to all cisgendered women).

I think this is perfectly reasonable. I don't think anyone would challenge events being closed to them unless they felt like they should have a place at those events. I mean, I'm a "natal woman" and I would never even think that I should be allowed into an event for people who had abortions or had been pregnant unless they wanted me there - I haven't had either of these experiences - just because my birth certificate says "female" on it. But an event about violence against women, for example, should be open to everyone who lives as a woman and has been a victim or could be a victim of such violence. I can only imagine how ignored and hopeless it would make me feel if I was left out of something I felt would help me.

I need to get off The F-Word and get back to work, so last post, probably.

Denise // Posted 17 March 2008 at 17:43

Jess, I know male privilege isn't the only game in town and yes, OF COURSE homophobia, transphobia and racism are all connected with patriarchy. I would also never dream of saying I'm not more privileged because of being white, although I wouldn't say I take "iniquitous advantage" of it . What my "hostile reaction" as you call it, was about, what I was trying to say, was that I sometimes feel that I'm getting hostility and being stereotyped for being white, hetero and born female. A feminist website is the last place I would expect to experience this. And when I try to articulate it my feelings I get called racist or transphobic.

My view is that every oppressed group, including women born as women, should be able to have their own protected space if that is what they want. And I do think it was unfair of Helen to label Lara "transphobic". If you find that mind-boggling, I'm sorry. But you don't need to worry; if there's such controversy about women-only space, I don't want to even read the f-word any more, let alone post comments.

Men's Rights must be laughing their heads off at us all.

chem_fem // Posted 17 March 2008 at 18:51

My comment wasn't directed at, or in reply to Helen so i didn't really expect a to reply to it.

Steph - What if a born-female has say a health condition that means that she could never experience any of these things - rare, I realise, but not impossible? Where does that leave her in certain women-only spaces?

I can understand why a woman who had gone through this would want to talk to other people about periods and the anxiety of them not 'turning up'. I was quite a late starter and there was definitely some anxiety while I was waiting, similarly I risked loosing my ovaries last year and would still have wanted to talk to others who menstruate about how I felt if they had been lost. Women who are interested in gathering to talk about periods, would be more likely to understand the relevance of not menstruating, and how hard it might be. I think it is quite sad that there isn't really a forum for this kind of discussion.

I actually had a think about how the women-only groups I am involved in work after I post my last comment on this thread. None of them are really 'women only' but rather because they are centered around traditionally female interests only women turn up. I think that if you set up a group or place around a common interest that is only really shared around the experiences of cis-women then it is likely that it is only cis-women that will turn up. The issue of exclusion would probably only occur if an individual or group of individuals spoiled the atmosphere for everyone regardless of gender.

Steph Jones // Posted 17 March 2008 at 19:02

Denise: if its any consolation, despite my discussion in this thread which might be misconstrued to the contrary, I do support womens-only spaces - I understand rape/violence support being born-women spaces, and I do agree with Lara, transwomen are simply not able to share certain experiences as born-women such as abortion, pregnancy support - I respect such intimate spaces, etc.

As a transsexual female, I also believe in working for rights and inclusion in such spaces, not demanding them. I have total sympathy with those that have experienced this from certain transpeople in the past. But, as is the problem with such discussions that become so emotive, there is a tendency to start to 'tarnish all with the same brush'.

After all, I have been a member in the past of some very exclusive trans-oriented spaces - I've heard plenty of trans-forums wanting to restrict their membership to strictly trans only - so the very thought that other spaces should not be respected elsewhere rather annoys me.

Let's not tax spaces!

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