An open letter to cis feminists

// 3 August 2008

In my opinion, every non-trans person who calls hirself a feminist should click over to the blog Sexual Ambiguities and read this post and its comments:

An open letter to cis feminists

The article has been reposted in full at Fetch me my axe

In addition, further commentary can be found on these blogs:

Thank you.

Comments From You

Debs // Posted 3 August 2008 at 6:42 pm

I’ll second that, Helen. *Everyone* should read it, especially, as you say, non trans people who identify as feminist (and especially, dare I say, radical feminist)

Laura // Posted 3 August 2008 at 6:56 pm

Thirded. Also on the every cis person must read list: The Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. I’m telling everyone…

Anji // Posted 3 August 2008 at 7:27 pm

It’s good to see this here where a lot of people will notice it. :o)

Anne Onne // Posted 3 August 2008 at 8:10 pm

Definitely worth reading. There’s never enough times you can reconsider just what being an ally means, what listening to others’ experiences means, and what owning what part of the problem you may be.

Thanks for this ever important reminder.

Rachel // Posted 4 August 2008 at 5:51 pm

The blog linked to by Queen Emily is not written by someone who many people would define as a feminist, whatever zie calls hirself, – claiming to be feminist whilst descriminating against a group of people because of their gender is like claiming to be pro-choice whilst being Nadine Dorries. M Andrea’s post is despicable – it’s bigoted, arrogant, ignorant, and contradicts itself in several places – and I don’t really think it’s fair to hold it up as a demonstrative example of the attitude of cis feminists towards trans women.

Queen Emily undoubtedly makes an excellent point, and one which I am guilty of, – there are quite a few feminist and/or liberal blogs I read pretty regularly, along with several national newspapers, and until I’d read this post I would have struggled to come up with any specific examples of violence against trans-gendered women and this is, of course, to some extent my own fault for not going out of my way to find them, and I’ll certainly make more of an effort to do so in future.

However, I do think that Queen Emily’s post is somewhat self defeating – by adressing hir post to cis feminists, every cis feminist, zie is setting up an “us vs. them” situation, not a situation in which all feminists give equal weight to each others points of view. I know zie says “if this doesn’t apply to you, then it doesn’t apply to you”, but the suggestion that all cis gendered feminists should read it purely on account of their gender identity undermines this.

The real problem I have with this post is that it seems to misunderstand the point of the blogsphere – blogs are not news outlets, and thus do not have a responsibility to represent the opinions or concerns of anyone other than the person who writes them. I’m not saying that they should not, and I’m certainly not suggesting that bigotry of the kind displayed by Miss Andrea is acceptable or should go unquestioned, I’m saying that there is no responsibility to do so (represent other people – I definitley think there’s a responsibility to question the ignorant.) People set up blogs in order to write about things which affect them, their own problems, thoughts and experiences. By suggesting that feminists should write about trans* concerns (I’m referring to the second part of the post here, not claiming that cis feminists have the right to centre all discussions around cis concerns) or be taken less seriously as feminists, perhaps even partially blamed for the problems facing trans women is unfair.

No-one has the right to tell other people what should and should not be important to them. If a cis feminist wants to use hir personal (and I stress personal – if we were talking about a reporter then it would be a different situation) blog to write only about things which zie has come across in hir own day to day experience, and are therefore likely to be cis related, then zie has a right to do so. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that some people’s suffering is intrinsically more important than others, which can never be right.

I’m sorry that this post is so long, I’m categorically not trying to silence Queen Emily or belittle hir main point: it’s one which needed to be raised, and I second Anji that it’s great that so many people will see it up here. I’ve been trying to get this across while writing which has perhaps made me a little too verbose.

P.S. Laura, I’m a little confused by your response – you blog very regularly for one of the largest feminist websites in the country and must therefore be guilty of marginalising trans* points of view if you think that this is going on. If you do think this, then you should hold your hands up, admit to it, and blog about it more in the future. If, however, you think that this is not happening, you are not guilty of it or that you are right to blog about what you do, then you should defend yourself. Simply agreeing whilst failing to admit your own complicity (if you are indeed complicit) seems a tad glib.

Stephanie // Posted 4 August 2008 at 7:47 pm

Cis feminist here, thankyou for this post! I went to the FAF trans/intersex learning exchange last month, it was an amazing day and i think cis feminists and trans people can be strong allies. Glad to see it posted and hopefully provoke some discussion.

drakyn // Posted 4 August 2008 at 8:49 pm

Rachel, I don’t think you read Emily’s post very well. Perhaps you should read it again as well as more than just the first link.

Moreover, well-respected and/or famous feminists have said things in a similar vein. Sheila Jeffreys, Mary Daly, Janice Raymond, Julie Bindel, Karla Mantilla, and Germaine Greer to name a few. Feminism, has a history of transphobia.

Feminism, also has a responsibility towards all womens issues; this include trans* women as well as other minority women like women of color or women with disabilities or queer women.

Emily was saying that feminists should be covering womens issues; like women such as Angie Zapata getting murdered because their genitals are not shaped exactly like what a man wanted.

Rachel // Posted 4 August 2008 at 10:17 pm

Drakyn,

I don’t think you read my post very well. First of all, why the list of well-respected and/or famous feminists who think the same thing? Do you think that I disbelieved Emily? If you reread my post, I’ve tried to make it clear that I do think it’s a problem, one which I’m glad has been highlighted. Even if I didn’t think that it was an issue, why would I automatically believe Shiela Jeffreys or Germaine Greer if I didn’t believe Emily?

I did click on all the links, the others are not examples of cis gendered bloggers but a trans woman’s blog and news reports. I mentioned, several times, the fact that the press has a different set of responsibilites partly for this reason.

I never claimed that feminism does not have a responsibility towards transgender women, women of colour, disabled women, any woman, and I resent the implication that I did. You realise that by suggesting that, you’re pretty much accusing me of transphobia, homophobia and racism?

I made two claims (I realise that this not being clear is partly my own fault – it was a convoluted post)

1) the content of anyone’s personal blog is completely up to them – while feminism (the movement) certainly has a responsibility to represent all feminist concerns, individual feminists on personal blogs do not.

2) the only example of a cis gendered blogger is Miss Andrea, as I have said – the other links are a link to a trans* authored blog and several newspaper articles which have been reposted. Emily is undoubtedly right to criticise Miss Andrea, but by including only this example of cis gendered blogging in this post it does seem that zie is implying that this is how cis women view trans women. It is not. It is how some cis women view trans women. I read the comments to Emily’s post and followed a few of the posters’ links to their blogs, one of which was yours, and I read your response to the article. In my post I have in no way condoned the actions of the sort of person you are talking about, which you seem to be suggesting that I am doing. I have not demanded that trans* people justify their existence to me. I have not said that I have a problem with trans-gender politics. People who do so are wrong, are bigoted, and I’d certainly hesitate to describe them as feminists. There is a difference between being a cis femist who blogs about her own concerns, and being a bigot of the kind you are describing.

In your blog, you say “Why do I have to have a disclaimer so that I don’t hurt the feelings of some poor cis*person?” I hope I’ve made this clear by now, but I don’t think you do, and would challenge anyone who suggested otherwise. My feelings were not hurt by Queen Emily’s post and if they had been, I realise that this is my problem, and I certainly would not expect her not to raise her concerns on that account. What I did object to was an entire group of people being conflated with cretins like Miss Andrea, purely on account of their gender identity, and now your accusations that I think feminism should serve only one group of women.

drakyn // Posted 4 August 2008 at 10:50 pm

“By suggesting that feminists should write about trans* concerns (I’m referring to the second part of the post here, not claiming that cis feminists have the right to centre all discussions around cis concerns) or be taken less seriously as feminists”

Suggests that trans* women’s concerns are not women’s concerns (which are what feminists are concerned with). If a feminist writes extensively on women who are beaten or killed, she shouldn’t exclude Duana Johnson or Gwen Araujo. If you write on how forced or survival prostitution affects women, you shouldn’t forget how many trans* women are forced into survival prostitution.

Tran* women’s issues are women’s issues.

Sheila Jeffreys and the others have similar beliefs to mAndrea. She is not a single cretin whose beliefs have nothing to do with feminism. Feminism has argued many of the same things she has. mAndrea is merely stating what many cis* feminists have implied. She, and the others who are just as loudly bigoted, are simply more forthcoming about their beliefs. Looking at the less obviously bigoted beliefs of many cis* feminists (as Lisa and Emily and I have all done in the past), one can see that both come from the same place (trans* women are really men).

And Emily is not ordering people to do xyz, just that good allies do xyz and if you don’t do xyz you aren’t a good ally. Which is true.

Moreover, she specifically said that if her letter did not apply to you, then it doesn’t apply.

Furthermore, perhaps I was not clear. When i said you should read all the links I meant to include the links provided by Helen and Lisa. Lisa linked to more of her posts on cis* feminists (which quotes and/or links to cissexist cis* feminists), and I linked to similar posts of mine a well as other cissexist cis* feminists.

Rachel // Posted 5 August 2008 at 12:39 am

Drakyn,

I did misunderstand you when you mentioned other feminists – sorry about that. As far as my other misundestanding goes – it did sound, pretty unambiguously, like that was what you were suggesting. By the first link, I assumed you meant the first link, particularly as this link forms one of the main parts of both our arguments.

Anyway, I have not claimed that M Andrea is the only cis woman who thinks like this, I have claimed that hers was the only blog linked by Queen Emily, and also that just because some cis women think like this, it does not mean that all do – that other more famous women hold her opinions does not alter this. I have also not claimed that feminism as a movemet does not have a problem with transphobia, I have claimed that some feminists, all feminists, and feminism are three different things – it is an oversimplification to try and conflate the three.

If that is how you read the quoted part of my post, then I’m sorry, that’s certainly not what I was trying to say. I think the problem here is ambiguity around the term ‘trans women’s concerns.’ It could mean things which affect all women, trans women included (the sense in which you seem to be using it), or things which affect only trans women, the sense in which I am using it. I should have been clearer about this. You’re completely right – women who blog at length about murdered women (to use one of your examples) should include trans women. However, I don’t really think that this is what Emily is talking about.

“Try writing about the way that institutions collude with this violence – that medical professionals may willingly leave you to die, that police may not prosecute, that lawyers use “trans panic” as a defence to justify the death, and then to add insult to injury, the media effectively blames the dead person for their own deaths AND misgenders them.”

Based on this, I’d say that zie is talking about transphobic hate crimes – that is, crimes which are committed against women for being trans gender, and would thus not be committed against cis gendered women. By making this distinction, I am not trying to imply that I think a transphobic hate crime is any less important than any other kind of hate crime. Once again, I’d like to stress that I do not that think cis women should not write about these crimes, or should not be encouraged to do so, but there’s a big difference between encouraging someone to do something and attcking them for not doing it. I think that in a personal blog (again, I stress personal blog – the media which Emily is writing about – women in the (news) media and perhaps academia have a different set of responsibilities), people do not have a duty to write about subjects which do not affect them. One more time – I’m not saying they should not, I’m saying that they have no duty to, and thus it is wrong to attack them for it. If I’ve misunderstood Emily and zie was in fact using trans* women’s concerns in the same way that you were, then of course I apologise profusely and retract all my criticisms (such as they were, I really did try to make my first post primarily one of support, and I’m sorry if this didn’t come across.) But I was responding to the article as I understood it and even if I was wrong, based (partly) on that paragraph I don’t think it was unreasonable of me to read it that way. I’m more than happy to be corrected.

I don’t fully agree with your point that Emily is saying it’s alright if you do this, but you’re not a good ally – zie starts hir post by saying “stop fucking up”. Even if zie is, zie’s essentially saying “if you are not for me, you are against me” which is a pretty indefensible attitude within the blogsphere.

Rachel // Posted 5 August 2008 at 12:40 am

P.S. By indefensible I don’t mean despicable – I mean difficult to defend.

queen emily // Posted 5 August 2008 at 5:04 am

Yeah, that’s she. Not sie. But THANK YOU for third-gendering me from the start.

But oh my god, all I said, was stop ignoring the endemic violence against trans women.

I did NOT say feminism should be all about trans women, just that the violence and discrimination (legal, social, medical) shouldn’t be elided and erased by a movement supposed to be about addressing inequity against women.

When there’s a hate crime every month or so against a transgendered woman in the US do you think that *might* be something that just maybe feminism might want to have a think about?

It’s not just fringe people like mAndrea, there’s a whole host of rad-fem transphobia (you’ve *never* seen an argument about Michfest? Riiiight), and just general indifference. It’s not *just* personal blogs.

And personally, I’m sick of endlessly derailing every thread with trans 101, “it’s not that bad’ denying our experiences, and it’s ‘not that bad.’

Try reading http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com

The choice to get a clue is, of course, your own.

Helen G // Posted 5 August 2008 at 8:04 am

mAndrea and her ilk are internet trolls and transphobes.

They are neither feminists nor friends to women, trans or non-trans.

As we have seen on numerous occasions, they will invariably attempt to stifle discussion of any trans-related issues by posting confrontational, intimidatory and provocative hate speech in order to disrupt/derail the debate. I will no longer feed these trolls; they are irrelevant and their time is up.

Emily has stated that the topic of her post is about the endemic violence against trans women – and I would include transphobic hate speech in this category of violence. These are the matters this thread should be focused on.

It is clear to me that the subject of violence against trans women is violence against women; it therefore intersects and overlaps with feminism in similar ways. My reading of Emily’s post is that she believes that we all – trans and non-trans people alike – would do well to (re-)examine our own attitudes to this subject and call it out whenever we come across it. By this means, one would hope that, together, we can raise awareness of the underlying bigotry, prejudice and discrimination faced by trans women in the hope that we can begin to replace the prevalent culture of mute acceptance with a united display of zero tolerance to all and any purveyors of transphobic violence, whatever its shape or form.

Perhaps then we can move the debate about the links between trans and non-trans feminist women on to more useful and productive topics.

These are changing times and the old boundaries are crumbling. A period of realignment is in progress in this area of feminism and it is time we united against our common oppressors. We can make a useful start by aiming to stop all violence against all women, on every level and in every location.

drakyn // Posted 5 August 2008 at 8:22 am

I didn’t says that Emily said it is alright not to do xyz. I said she wasn’t ordering people to do xyz. Big difference.

And when a woman is attacked because her genitals do not match what a man wanted that is both a trans* activist concern and a feminist concern. When she is sexually assaulted and then attacked when her body does not meet a man’s criteria for being fuckable, that is both a trans* activist concern and a feminist concern. Because she is both trans* and a woman, it concerns both activist groups.

THAT is what we are saying.

Yes, womens concerns are trans* womens concerns. But I meant that trans* womens concerns are feminist concerns. Because feminism is devote to helping women and improving the lot of women.

You are ignoring the history Emily, Lisa, I, and other trans* people have with online cis* feminists–who this letter was directed at. Yes, Emily only directly linked to mAndrea. But, not only did Lisa link to her posts on other feminists (online and off), but the letter also directly and indirectly referred to years worth of interactions and flame wars. A trans* woman of color was accused of plagiarism by feminists as a front to attack her gender; she was accused of colonizing/appropriating the goddesses of her ancestors because goddesses are owned by real women only. A trans* woman’s account of sexual harassment was used, by those same feminists, to “prove” that she wasn’t really a woman because no woman would put herself in “that sort of situation” and then talk about it; not two days later they were talking about how horrible sexual harassment is in that same situation. Feminists chose to get offended at the use of ciswomen; deciding that if they couldn’t be “women” or “real women” or “normal women” they were therefore “FAB women” or “womyn-born-womyn.” Other feminists called trans* women Buffalo Bills and nutjobs while the feminist blogger ignored them. Another feminist allowed mAndrea to spread her hate and lies throughout her feminist carnival and comment thread; refusing to even step in and tell mAndrea to shut up or that she disagreed with her. Yet another feminist literally said “transwomen are the patriarchy!”

And most cis* feminists sit by and ignore these attacks as well as the very physical attacks on women who are trans*. Others tacitly encourage the feminist attacks by supporting or defending the attackers. Want proof, check out our blogs; we’ve spent more than enough time on these bigots.

No, cis* feminists do not have to focus on trans* concerns. But they cannot call themselves allies if they ignore them. They also are not good feminists if they stand idle as their friends or commenters bully or harass trans* people–especially trans* women.

You’ve done what Queen Emily ranted about in her letter. Re-centered a discussion on cissexism on cis* people’s sensitivities/concerns with trans* people rather than the very real effects of cissexism on people, no, mostly women who are trans*.

Thank you for illustrating certain forms of cis* privilege for us, though many are similar to other forms of privilege (“what about the men,” anyone?); “but we aren’t all like that”, “how dare you,” “here, let me disrespect your gender and experiences, patronize you, and then get mad when you aren’t nice,” “but what about me?”, and “I wanna focus on reeel issues” to name a few. I must say, that the first commenter on my post on LJ was a bit better. Mind you, she’s a trans* woman who pulled off a brilliant and realisic parody of folks like mAndera, so that was a tough act to follow. Honestly, the only clue that she wasn’t serious was her ending line (that excited the geek in me), “didn’t you get the memo?”

Yes, reading it again, her comment was far more entertaining and on point than yours were.

And I am quite done with you; this is exactly what is sapping our time and energy and I need to learn how to say no.

I need my time and energy to address real concerns; and to go camping with awesome trans* people.

Debs // Posted 5 August 2008 at 8:35 am

Helen said, “violence against trans women is violence against women”…

and it is, and it is therefore a subject which should be of concern to all feminists, and indeed all other people, feminist or not. That a post pointing that out is attacked in the way it has been just shows people up for the privileged, blinkered “feminists” they are.

Lisa Harney // Posted 5 August 2008 at 10:04 am

Rachel, do you want links to cis feminists who delegitimize trans identities, who describe trans people in dehumanizing, bigoted terms? mAndrea herself is obnoxious, bigoted, and ignorant, and she lacks the conviction to go after cis men, so she assigns all the worst sexist, misogynist traits that cis men might display to trans women, but she’s an extreme, obvious example.

She’s not the only one.

But it’s not just that there are cis feminists who say these things about trans people – mostly trans women – but cis feminists who feed into it. That the conversations about trans issues are centered on cis issues, on cis people’s attitudes toward trans people, on cis people’s prejudices, like what you’re doing.

I mean, from the start, you come into this thread disrespecting and denying Queen Emily’s gender as a woman by using pronouns that Emily herself has never ever said she wants used in reference to her. Why do that? What’s the point of doing that?

That kind of thing happens over and over again. Meanwhile, many of us are having a conversation about the fact that a woman was sexually assaulted and murdered and that her murderer is using the classic excuse to get a lighter sentence.

So is it more important to challenge Emily’s choice of an example? To get defensive on behalf of all cis feminists because Emily correctly points out that a lot of cis feminists are poor allies or even actual enemies to trans people, and that this dynamic sucks energy away from the real dangers and oppression that trans people face on a daily basis?

Helen G // Posted 5 August 2008 at 10:30 am

Lisa is experiencing technical difficulties in linking pages, but she tells me she was trying to linking to two pages in her comment. I copy/paste the following text from her message:

1) This conversation we’re having about Angie Zapata and how her murder (and other “trans panic” cases) are wrong and ultimately a feminist concern:

http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/roundup-of-angie-zapata-posts-plus-holly-at-feministe-trans-panic-defense-is-often-a-smokescreen/

And maybe if she wants to diss a trans woman for saying these things,

there’s always:

http://femmessay.wordpress.com/2008/08/05/a-radfem-on-transgendered-issues-message-received/

a cis woman agreeing that this is a problem.

Polly styrene // Posted 5 August 2008 at 10:41 am

Does the F word think ‘internet trolls and transphobes’ is acceptable language please. I thought the F word did not seek to define what feminism means? And can it please explain why it censored my earlier comment to this post and why Jess McCabe has ignored the e-mail I sent to her?

Helen G // Posted 5 August 2008 at 10:46 am

Does the F word think ‘internet trolls and transphobes’ is acceptable language please.

I think it’s acceptable in this context – but that’s just my view, not TFW’s.

I thought the F word did not seek to define what feminism means?

It doesn’t, and isn’t.

And can it please explain why it censored my earlier comment to this post

I deleted it – not “censored” – we’re not the government y’know – because it was offtopic. My previous comment stands.

why Jess McCabe has ignored the e-mail I sent to her?

Check your email before you make accusations like that, please.

Helen

Sean Jones // Posted 5 August 2008 at 11:12 am

I don’t want to engage with the issue itself being discussed but with the tone of the discussion that’s gone on here.

I’m surprised by the level of personal attacks that have descended on Rachel for her comments here. Regardless of whether you think she’s right or wrong, she seems to have tried to engage with the issue in a respectable and proper way – has voiced both what she agreed with and disagreed with (and it’s nice how everybody has conveniently ignored everything she said in support of you) – and hasn’t tried to personally belittle anybody. Disagreeing with her opinion doesn’t mean that you have to then belittle her – take issue with the substance, not the person expressing it.

In response to what she wrote, she has been accused of being patronizing, blinkered, stupid, unaware and, to top things off, not even a real “feminist”. There seems to be a certain degree of irony in people (legitimately) voicing concerns about bullying and victimization before then personally attacking someone else. I’m not, before anybody suggests it, equating violence suffered to being abused on an online message board. At the same time, it seems unfair to suggest that issue can’t be taken with the latter because the former is so important.

More specifically, accusing her of being patronizing and implying that she is condescending whilst telling her that she needs to ‘get a clue’ seems somewhat self-defeating.

But really, the concerns raised in the original post by Queen Emily are extremely important and need to be raised. When somebody tries to engage with you on those issues, responding to them with something close to bullying (certainly with unnecessary personal attacks) doesn’t seem to be the best way to further discussion. Or to persuade people that you’re right.

Rachel wasn’t questioning the legitimacy of the points raised by Queen Emily – she talks about how important and correct they are, which everybody seems to have missed, or conveniently ignored – but the tone of the original piece.

It also seems slightly unfair to accuse her of making it about her when she’s being subject to personal attack by you.

No doubt I’ll receive a reply to this post echoing what Drakyn said here: ‘You’ve done what Queen Emily ranted about in her letter. Re-centered a discussion on cissexism on cis* people’s sensitivities/concerns with trans* people rather than the very real effects of cissexism on people, no, mostly women who are trans*.’ All I can really say to that is that I’m not talking about the contents of the original post, but rather the nature of discussion on the F Word. And if you can’t bring up points of disagreement without ‘making it about yourself’, I don’t know what to say, really. Nevertheless, the point I’m trying to make is that as an occasional reader of the F Word I always thought the tone of the Comments Section was supposed to be one of candid and occasionally fractious discussion, not one of belittlement. Some of the comments made on here didn’t seem to fit within that spirit.

polly styrene // Posted 5 August 2008 at 11:12 am

My previous comment – which was not off topic because it referred to the post by M Andrea, and why I thought Queen Emily’s post was a non sequitur, can be read at my blog by anyone who is interested.

Abby O’Reilly was previously extensively criticised and Jess McCabe published an apology. The post above extensively trashes several bloggers (including me), but Jess McCabe has not reacted at all.

Why?

Lisa Harney // Posted 5 August 2008 at 11:15 am

Polly,

Stop attacking trans people for two seconds and read about Angie Zapata. You’re supporting the system that says that Angie and other women like her are disposable, that death is a justifiable punishment for trying to live a normal life. That it’s okay to sexually assault a woman just to determine whether she has a vagina, and kill her when she doesn’t measure up.

And if you think she’s a special case, I have some more names for you:

Ebony Whitaker, Sanesha Stewart, Simmie Williams.

Just this year alone, too.

These weren’t just murder, they were attempts at annihilation, to utterly destroy these women just for existing. And the men who committed these acts turned around and claimed that they were so upset by the idea of these women that they had to kill them.

You don’t have the right to demand that we justify ourselves, that we engage your specious, fallacious, bigoted arguments about our existence. That’s your privilege talking. You don’t have the right to recenter any trans conversation on how our existence supposedly inconveniences your theories about gender. Live in the real world: Trans people exist, and we have to deal with oppression on a daily basis.

Your theory is irrelevant when trans people have to wake up to learn that another Sanesha, another Gwen, another Angie, is dead. That another Robert Eads was denied life-saving medical care. That another state or federal ENDA bill has had gender identity protections stripped from it (thus leaving it legal to discriminate against trans people with regards to housing and employment). That another Duanna Johnson was beaten and maced by police. That another Tyra Hunter was denied emergency medical care while paramedics laughed at the fact that she still had a penis.

Can you justify yourself? Can you justify attacking a minority that is so relentlessly assaulted? murdered? dehumanized? That when we’re murdered, cis people blame us for getting murdered in the first place? Can you justify why you think it’s fine to attack trans people? Can you justify why you think your political beliefs are more important than lived trans experiences?

Can you justify these things?

Helen G // Posted 5 August 2008 at 11:16 am

Jess McCabe has not reacted at all. Why?

She’s probably busy elsewhere.

Next question?

Ellie // Posted 5 August 2008 at 11:22 am

Hey there,

I don’t want to get insulted or anything but I just wanted to say that my reactions were very much like Rachel’s and I thought she was being reasonable, and while I understand some people’s frustration at the change in focus to cis people’s perceptions/ignorance/etc., I think this is a place a lot of cis gendered women naturally start from.

For a lot of people there are real questions they have, real issues to be discussed, regarding transwomen. Are you saying that if we try to discuss certain issues we are not allies?

The majority of women are cis gender, and like most people who have privilege of one sort or another, it usually takes a kick up the arse for to reflect on your privilege and consider other people’s experiences. This is a gradual process and one not fostered through hostility from the transcommunity.

I’m probably going to get ripped to shreds here, but I’m not trying to deny transwomen anything, all I’m saying is thatt o move forward, to bring transissues more into the sphere of feminism, we need to discuss, introduce ideas to people, allow individuals to express opinions or ask question without being called a bigot or acccused of not being an ally, just get people to a place where they actually want to listen.

Does that make sense?

Polly Styrene // Posted 5 August 2008 at 11:32 am

When have I supported or advocated violence against transpeople please? I have talked about gender and the need for women born women spaces. Violence against transpeople is committed by men. Not radical feminists.

I was obviously already aware that transpeople experience violence and discrimination before I read Queen Emily’s piece. In fact I have referred to it many times on my blog, if you read carefully. I have never supported or advocated discrimination or violence against transpeople.

What I am objecting to is being told that women born women are not entitled to safe spaces, but that these spaces must include biological males who identify as female, because otherwise that is ‘transphobic’. A view that you yourself have expressed Lisa.

The post by Queen Emily refers to the piece by M Andrea on the topic of transgenderism reifying gender and on the topic of women only spaces. Hence these are relevant to the discussion. The fact that transwomen suffer violence (which many other groups do, in fact you are most likely to suffer violent crime, according to crime statistics, if you are a male aged 16-25)does not mean that I or M Andrea should not be allowed to discuss these topics.

However that is what Queen Emily’s post appears to be saying as far as I can see.

Helen G // Posted 5 August 2008 at 11:36 am

Ellie: …while I understand some people’s frustration at the change in focus to cis people’s perceptions/ignorance/etc., I think this is a place a lot of cis gendered women naturally start from.

How many more trans women must die violent, needless deaths while we wait for those who should be our natural allies – non-trans women – to join us in speaking out and taking a stand against it? How long are we expected to wait?

For a lot of people there are real questions they have, real issues to be discussed, regarding transwomen. Are you saying that if we try to discuss certain issues we are not allies?

Which issues are you thinking of?

The majority of women are cis gender, and like most people who have privilege of one sort or another, it usually takes a kick up the arse for to reflect on your privilege and consider other people’s experiences. This is a gradual process and one not fostered through hostility from the transcommunity.

Which is it – a kick up the arse or a gradual process? If it’s one followed by the other, then perhaps you could consider this a kick up the arse.

I’m probably going to get ripped to shreds here, but I’m not trying to deny transwomen anything, all I’m saying is thatt o move forward, to bring transissues more into the sphere of feminism, we need to discuss, introduce ideas to people, allow individuals to express opinions or ask question without being called a bigot or acccused of not being an ally, just get people to a place where they actually want to listen.

Trans issues are already in the sphere of feminism, if only non-trans people would look around them. This is why we are frustrated.

Lisa Harney // Posted 5 August 2008 at 11:56 am

Yes, it makes sense, but not in the way you think.

The F Word won’t let me post links, so I’d like you to google some phrases:

“The tone argument” race

“The drowning maestro” and look at The Unapologetic Mexican’s description of how it works. Read the other “wite-magik attax” in the glosario with the same idea in mind. Read about the white lens, and imagine the possibility of a male lens, a cis lens, a heterosexual lens, an able-bodied lens.

Replace references to “white” with references to “cis” and references to “brown” with references to “trans.”

You’re saying that you’d listen to us and try to understand us if only we’d accommodate you and take a friendly tone. This is a privileged thing to say – you’re basically telling us that we have to talk to you in a particular way, or our issues aren’t worth hearing. You’re making any particular trans person stand in for every trans person, by implying that Drakyn, Emily, and I being “too mean” makes you not want to care about trans issues in general. Why is that? I know men play this trick on women all the time because I’m a woman and men play this trick on me all the time – that I’m being a bitch, and that if I were nicer, they’d give a damn about what I was saying – and it’s not that I’m not being nice enough, but that I’m not being subservient enough and not privileging their voices over my own and those of other women.

You’re saying that you have the right to ask us to educate you at any time that trans is the subject of conversation. That since trans issues are difficult for cis people to understand that we should be prepared to educate at a moment’s notice.

I don’t think an ally demands that. Allies are capable of educating themselves – looking up information on trans people online. Reading Lynn Conways site or Andrea James. Or looking for the many many blogs written by trans people. The information is out there. Or asking at a different time or in a different place, when emotions aren’t charged because of the most recent atrocity.

I don’t think an ally especially demands that when the topic of discussion is, for example, the oppression that trans people have to deal with. An ally doesn’t privilege their desire to understand everything trans over all trans concerns. For example, it shouldn’t require special education or understanding to agree that murdering trans people is wrong. Or that discriminating against trans women wrt employment, housing, medical care, or even domestic violence shelters is wrong. These shouldn’t require extensive justifications, and an ally wouldn’t request that justifications be made in order to support treating trans people with human decency.

The point being that requests for education happen in the middle of conversations about the fact that trans people are getting murdered, or forced out on the streets and turning to sex work to survive, or get arrested and abused (battered) by police officers. And that is why we are not nice about being asked to educate – because it’s not the time, because the person asking can use google and look it up.

Google “trans 101” feministe and go to the top link. You can find a discussion specifically set up for educating people. I also have a category in my blog roll called “Trans 101” which links to a few posts, including the Feministe post.

I think it’s specifically unfair to say that anything here is belittling. I think that’s a pretty patronizing – privileged – thing to say, you’re belittling our voices and our objections to being trivialized and attacked. You are implying that it’s petty to object to dehumanizing treatment. Is that your intention?

There’s something that happens in feminist conversations – someone asks “But what about the menz?” That is, centering the discussion on men instead of women. Asking to be educated in the middle of any trans thread on any subject without regard to that subject or its intensity is asking “But what about the cis people?”

Lisa Harney // Posted 5 August 2008 at 12:10 pm

You advocate keeping trans women out of domestic violence shelters. You mock trans women who dare to speak out with long lists of privileges we supposedly have.

You want to establish (where it doesn’t exist) and maintain (where it does) discrimination against trans women to keep them out of women-only spaces on the fallacious basis that trans women are somehow going to bring male violence along – or, perhaps, that our very existence makes cis women uncomfortable, and that their discomfort should be more important than trans women’s personal and collective safety.

You support mAndrea’s arguments that trans women are really men. The justification many murderers use for killing trans women is that they were “really men.”

You support the system, the status quo. You’re part of the problem. You’d deny safe space to a trans woman who was in danger of being harmed or even killed by a boyfriend or husband.

You should know that you don’t have to actively commit violence to support the system that engenders it. You know that many many men support rape culture without actually committing rape. I know that many many cis people support the system that supports treating trans people as if they’re not and can never be members of the gender they say they are, and that system supports the violence committed against trans people. I know that every time you make the distinction that trans women do not belong in “women born women” spaces that you’re drawing a line that says “these are valid women and those are not valid women” and you’re justifying the people who attack us, kill us, fire us, refuse us homes, compare sex with us to rape.

And the simple fact is, as long as trans people exist – and we’re not going to stop existing – there’s no justification for political theory that insists we must not exist. Theory that says we can’t exist because gender’s not real is categorically wrong, simply because we do exist. The theory has to account for us, or it’s complete bull.

For that matter, can you justify why the theory doesn’t insist that cis men and cis women can’t possibly exist when 999 out of 1,000 people are cis men or cis women? Why does the theory only target trans people for non-existence?

And I don’t care if you’ve talked about the violence trans people suffer. That doesn’t negate the fact that you politically try to justify that same violence, whether you think that’s what you’re doing or not.

Also, I noticed on your blog that you tried to say that your views on “women-born-women” spaces were validated because Kate Bornstein and a commenter who is also a trans woman agreed with you: I suggest you look up “Appeal to Melanin” in The Unapologetic Mexican’s glosario. By trying to say “They agree with me, thus trans people agree with me” you’re trying to silence the real and valid disagreement that a large number of trans people have with the policies you want to see enforced.

I’m not going to respond to you again.

Shev // Posted 5 August 2008 at 12:18 pm

Polly styrene: “Violence against transpeople is committed by men. Not by radical feminists.”

I think you’ll find that actually, yes, transphobic violence is committed on a regular basis by radical feminists – by denying transpeople the right to self-identify, by continually calling into question their right to exist, by placing them squarely in the camp of ‘men appropriating female culture’ – Janice Raymond, I’m looking at you) all the fems who say “but gender is a concept and anyone reinforcing that concept is anti-fem”, anyone who refuses to recognise these women as our sisters because one form of oppression can’t POSSIBLY be linked to another (intersectionality anyone?) – all of them are doing the same kind of violence that the physcially aggressive people (mostly male) who decide that they are the ones to determine a person’s gender – and mete out punishment according to their abilities, whether this be writing hateful commentary or beating a woman to death for *not being the right kind of woman.*

I consider myself firmly an ally. Often I wouldn’t comment on stories like this , because I think that often my place is to listen to others’ experiences to learn from – but women, our sisters, are dying here, all the frickin time, for “not being the right kind of women” – and this has to descend into a personal war, and arguing about whether one kind of oppression is more worthy of notice? I mean, ok, I had some issues with one of the comments on queen emily’s post (about transmen giving transwomen their thoughts on being a woman – ok, their experiences are poles apart, but transmen too have the experience of growing up gender non-conformant – and relevantly, growing up being read female and non-conformant), but she’s right. We need to confront our privilege, whether that be white privilege, hetero privilege, cis privilege, or class privilege, and stop getting so damn defensive when someone points out that maybe we’re not the centre of the universe.

Sean Jones // Posted 5 August 2008 at 12:20 pm

Lisa,

Are you referring to my post in particular in any of your paragraphs? Some of what you’ve said seems to be a response to what I’ve said specifically, but I don’t want to respond unless I know that it is me you’re referring to, rather than Rachel or Polly.

If you are responding to me, could you please point out the specific paragraphs in which you are? As in, use ‘Sean’ rather than ‘you’ throughout your argument.

Thank you.

Soirore // Posted 5 August 2008 at 12:33 pm

Polly it says very clearly on this site that transphobic comments are not acceptable. By saying you want woman born woman spaces you are being transphobic.

Although there is a variety of feminisms, one that actively promotes the exclusion of a particular group of women is alienating to many feminists, cis and trans. The FWord doesn’t endorse any other hate group so why should they make an exception for you?

Lisa Harney // Posted 5 August 2008 at 12:37 pm

Whoops – I’ve been specifically replying to Rachel, Ellie, and Polly. The comment with “You do this, you do that” was directed at Polly, and I forgot to put her name at the top.

Sorry about the confusion.

In response to your post: Rachel came into the discussion immediately ungendering Emily by using thirdgender pronouns, without actually acknowledging that Emily is a woman and identifies as a woman. That’s the first signal that a person talking to a trans person does not respect her gender.

The tone argument is a common strategy used to demand that minorities and women communicate in “acceptable” ways, which is to say, “you’re being too mean” somehow becomes a valid rebuttal to a valid point. That we don’t have the right to anger over being mistreated over and over again.

Look up the Drowning Maestro and the tone argument, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Danny // Posted 5 August 2008 at 12:51 pm

I wonder how many people are no longer reading TFW or posting comments (I may shortly join their ranks, picture anyone giving a toss) because they know that what they write will be either deliberately misinterpreted, not read properly, or showered with vitriol if they ask a question or express an opinion that someone else considers they have no right to express.

Friendly space? I don’t think so.

And if TFW doesn’t seek to define feminism, then maybe it should. To me, feminism is about trying to get equal rights and justice for all women, including transwomen, and fighting discrimination. Not each other.

queen emily // Posted 5 August 2008 at 12:53 pm

Awesome. Thread de-rails into Trans 101. Let’s re-centre your feelings, shall we.

No, Polly, radical feminists don’t kill trans women. But your constant belittlement of our identities–questioning “politics” or “ideology” when what you simply mean *being* transgendered (identification, medically transitioning etc) has a REMARKABLE CONTINUITY with the rest of this transphobic society.

That you have the gall to post this stuff apparently KNOWING how often every time a trans woman is killed is beyond appalling. How very radical of you.

I’m tired of reading people like Polly devote blog entry after blog entry, or book after book in Sheila Jeffreys case, to philosophically deconstructing REAL PEOPLE’S LIVES through some bullshit abstract theory that ignores the very real oppressions we face.

I’m tired. I’m tired of seeing people like me die. I’m tired of physical violence, of being on my guard 24/7 against it. I’m tired of being discriminated against by every possible institution you can remember.

And I’m tired of the liberal concern troll feminist arguments that say, oh I see what you’re talking about, if only you’d been more polite about expressing that, then maybe I might do something. Or begin to care. Or something.

Vague good intentions are so helpful in a political movement you know.

Yes, I’m angry. I have a right to be, and I’ve had enough of this shit, month after month, year after year.

I’m out.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 5 August 2008 at 1:38 pm

I consider this article to not only be offensive but also blatant bullying. Since when have radical feminists ever promoted male violence against transgendered individuals. There are two separate issues and one is the right for all women born female to have single sex spaces made available for them. This is vital since many women born female who have experienced male violence in whatever form need to know they will be able to discuss these issues with a woman who is born female and therefore because of her biological sex will understand more fully how a woman born female will have been subjected to the pressures and societal pressures of adopting and accepting the so-called ‘appropriate feminine role.’ Individuals who transgender from male to female cannot possibly have undergone the same life experiences as women born female, This is because like it or not, males are still socialised via various ways with regards to what supposedly comprises masculinities.

By all means discuss issues of transgender but do not use the Fword in order to promote a decidedly biased and one-sided agenda.

I do not see why Polly’s original email was deleted. Could this be an instance of power being misused? As regards claims feminists who oppose the issue of transgender are ‘transphobic?’ This is a deliberate attempt to collapse two totally different aspects into one. Namely if a feminist opposes ‘transgender’ because it essentalises and promotes belief gender is innate and cannot be challenged or changed then we might as well pack our bags and not try to challenge patriarchy.

Challenging the ideology of transgender is not the same as ‘labelling a person who has become transgendered or wants to be change their sex.’ I have yet to read of feminists calling for the destruction of individuals who change their sex. However, I do read frequently critiques of how gender continues to be constructed and defined as innate, biologically connected and therefore unchanging.

These are the real issues – not pseudo ones claiming there is a ‘war against transgendered individuals.’

Shea // Posted 5 August 2008 at 1:55 pm

I am in absolute agreement with Helen G and with Queen Emily’s (honoured by the greatness) letter.

“aiming to stop all violence against all women, on every level and in every location.”

Lets stop all intolerance and prejudice everywhere shall we, instead of splitting hairs? I know Godwins law applies and all that but in these situations I’m always reminded of that poem by Martin Niemöller: “First they came for the Jews”.

Eventually no one will speak up for women, feminist or otherwise because we will have stayed silent whilst other women, transwomen, women of colour and queer women have suffered and paid the price. This is the poverty of radical feminism writ large.

If feminism is to avoid being redundant we have to recognise the intersectionality of violence and oppression. That violence is violence and hatred is hatred and no amount of status, or disclaiming changes that. That no one, of colour, cis or trans gendered, queer or hetero, immigrant or native deserves any of the oppression and injustice thrown their way, then we can start to reclaim alot of the legitimacy lost and a place to put our passion and our fight.

I would say this to Queen Emily- don’t despair, don’t get despondent. It took a long time for me, a woman of colour and someone with enormous privilege to see what I have and to own that privilege. Its never easy undergoing a process of self examination especially in a world so desperate to deny the uncomfortable reality of the marginalised and brutalised. But it has been as conscious raising a process as discovering feminism in the first place.

Yes you should be angry, so should every feminist who reads what is happening. But you are winning allies in even the most unlikely quarters and we all know the racists and misogynists won’t quit, so we don’t have that option either.

Ellie // Posted 5 August 2008 at 2:14 pm

Helen: “How many more trans women must die violent, needless deaths while we wait for those who should be our natural allies – non-trans women – to join us in speaking out and taking a stand against it? How long are we expected to wait?”

I certainly wasn’t meant to imply I don’t stand against transphobia and violence towards transpeople and honestly, I presume most feminists think murder is awful and indefensible, that kind of goes without saying I thought. We can’t stop murder specifically, what are you suggesting we do except try and change a few people’s minds at a time?

Issues I’m thinking of relate generally to gender fluidity, identity, women only spaces. I was mainly presuming other people would have questions rather than I do. Like what I meant in my post wasn’t ‘educate me’ but it was people who do seek out self-education are not the norm and you can’t just go around saying “well people should damn well listen to me” cus even if you’re right, it doesn’t mean that people will listen, so if you want to communicate with peope who don’t question their views of trans people or anything you have to seek them out really.

And yes I did mean a kick up the arse to realise things aren’t how you thought they were, followed by a gradual process of analysis, discussion, opinion change, etc.

“Trans issues are already in the sphere of feminism, if only non-trans people would look around them. This is why we are frustrated”

I get that they’re already in the sphere, thats why i said ‘more’. And yes, ‘if-only’, but hoping for it doesn’t mean it will happen, of course its frustrating, challenging the status quo always is. Thats not meant to be a justification but i think its realistic.

Rachel // Posted 5 August 2008 at 2:30 pm

Lisa – I was referring to Emily as ‘zie’ becuase I did not know what gender she was and was under the impression (someone please do correct me if this is wrong) that zie/hir was non-gender specific as in it could refer to someone of either gender, not only someone who does not identify with a particular gender. If you read my posts you’ll see that I also referred to Miss Andrea as zie – and it’s pretty reasonable to assume that she’s a cissexual woman – because I wasn’t completely sure. Show me where, in her original post or the description of herself at the side, Emily says she likes to be referred to as she, and then you can accuse me of ignoring her.

As far as what you said to Sean goes – “You’re saying that you’d listen to us and try to understand us if only we’d accommodate you and take a friendly tone.” “I think it’s specifically unfair to say that anything here is belittling.”

These are pretty obviously references to his post, what with neither me, Ellie nor Polly having said anything about that at the time. Why are you now claiming it’s not?

Other than that I’m out too. The comments of Ellie’s post in particular have been deliberately misrepresented – she has said, pretty explicitly, that she realises she is coming from a place of privelege and wants to engage with trans* concerns on a non-priveleged platform- I though that this was what Queen Emily’s post was about. But judging on the responses to her post, it’s not, apparently. A person who is, or is trying to become a trans* ally is being shouted down for not knowing everything already. Several commentors on this post are not responding to any arguments forwarded by anyone who doesn’t wholeheartedly and unquestioningly agree with everything that they say. Instead, they are building these commentors up into straw men before burning them down for things that they haven’t said or even implied. If you want to have an actual disussion – i.e. people reading and responding to other people’s claims, then great. If however, you just want someone to level accusations at, then you can go and find someone else. I’m off.

v // Posted 5 August 2008 at 2:39 pm

“How many more trans women must die violent, needless deaths while we wait for those who should be our natural allies – non-trans women – to join us in speaking out and taking a stand against it? How long are we expected to wait?”

I think that its quite sick to say something like that among feminists who have spent lifetimes beaten and raped by male violence. It shows a total lack of empathy or understanding of what women go through in terms of male violence.

sparks // Posted 5 August 2008 at 2:44 pm

Fwiw I object to the word Cretin being used as an insult as it is ablest. Cretinism is a recognised condition of severely underdeveloped physical and mental development. This is caused by congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones.

http://cancerweb.ncl.ac.uk/cgi-bin/omd?cretinism

Sean Jones // Posted 5 August 2008 at 3:01 pm

Lisa,

Thank you for responding to me directly, and for pointing me in the direction of the Drowning Maestro and the tone argument.

I assumed you were referring to me because I was the only person who had mentioned ‘belittling’ in the conversation.

In response to your first point – I think Rachel has responded to the criticism of her ‘ungendering’ in her post above. Even if she had been doing what you are saying – making a personal attack on Emily by not respecting her gender – I don’t see how that makes it okay for everybody else to make explicit personal attacks on her, which was the point I was making. But I’m not really a believer in ‘an eye for an eye’.

In response to your second point – I want to quote from the Drowning Maestro in a second, but I first want to say that I don’t believe that ‘‘you’re being too mean’ is a valid rebuttal to a valid point’. I was trying to make a point about hypocrisy, really. And I wasn’t trying to impose any sort of restrictions upon acceptable communication. I can best explain what I’m trying to say by quoting from the Drowning Maestro:

“The person hurling the Wite-Magik Attak fixates upon the TONE of the complaint or insight. Because what really bothers them is that a brown person has the nerve to speak with such self-confidence and passion. This, in fact, scares them.”

What ‘really bothered me’ wasn’t that those who attacked Rachel (and Ellie now, come to that) have the nerve to speak with such self-confidence and passion about this issue – that’s great. My problem was that their righteous anger about the general issue was directed into crude personal insult – and thus thoroughly debased in the process. I don’t think the point expressed in the Drowning Maestro applies here, really, certainly not in regard to what I was saying at least. I’m not scared by self-confidence or passion about this issue – I admire it. I was bothered by the fact that something that I should be admiring was descending into bullying.

To quote what you said, of course you have ‘the right to anger over being mistreated over and over again’ (who on earth would suggest otherwise?). But that doesn’t give those people who feel that anger about being mistreated the right to then mistreat others. Which is what was essentially happening.

Finally, in response to Queen Emily saying: ‘And I’m tired of the liberal concern troll feminist arguments that say, oh I see what you’re talking about, if only you’d been more polite about expressing that, then maybe I might do something. Or begin to care. Or something.’ Thank you for hugely misrepresenting what I was saying (I seem to be the only person, Danny excepted, who brought up politeness as a complaint. He posted only a minute before you did, so I assume you’re referring to me). Thanks also for putting words in my mouth, and for linking together something I was talking about (politeness) with something I didn’t even mention (doing something).

But really, point number 6 of the guidelines below is ‘Be nice’. Which was what I was trying to encapsulate in the final paragraph of my first post.

Shev // Posted 5 August 2008 at 3:09 pm

V, that’s a really weird and horrible comment. The whole point of this thread is that (trans)women are being beaten to death ALL THE TIME for, well, being women. Much like, y’know, other women. Which is why we would be natural allies. How does that show a lack of empathy? The only way I can construe that is that you are saying that transwomen are actually men, and should therefore be punished for being the patriarchy (because clearly, they have so much male privilege).

Danny // Posted 5 August 2008 at 6:05 pm

Sean, I like your most recent post and agree with what you wrote. There’s just one teeny-weeny-hardly-worth-mentioning-at-all-really point, and I have to laugh:

I’m ‘she’, not ‘he’.

Oh, and possibly a “liberal concern troll feminist”, as no doubt is everyone who might not meekly swallow the dictates and lecturing, hectoring tone of Her Majesty Queen Emily or Helen G.

Defensive, moi?!

Sean Jones // Posted 5 August 2008 at 7:32 pm

Danny,

I can only profusely apologise for my mistake. I’m very sorry. And this is hardly the ideal context in which to make such a mistake. Forgive my assumption and thank you for taking it in good heart.

I absolutely agree with what you said earlier, too. Particularly the part about deliberate misinterpretation.

It seems that I’m, like you, a ‘liberal concern troll feminist’ too.

polly styrene // Posted 5 August 2008 at 8:01 pm

I’ve just heard elsewhere that Jess McCabe thinks the attacks in this post are justified because she thinks a post by M Andrea is offensive.(Maybe she can correct me if I’m wrong on that because I heard it third hand) So is she supporting this post because she wants to get back at M Andrea? Why not comment directly on M Andrea’s blog in that case? This looks even more like bullying. Using her position as the editor of a widely read blog to indirectly attack an individual blogger who has criticised it.

How does this justify the attacks on other commenters to this post though such as Rachel? And how does this fit with the F word’s expressed comment policy? (M Andrea is an individual blogger, who does not make all the high flown claims that the F word does). Does the F word think that two wrongs make a right?

If you read this post on my blog where I criticised an article on the F word (I’d given up contacting The F word by this point, you can maybe see why) and scroll down to comment 26 you can see some comments by Catherine Redfern the owner of the F word, on how the F word welcomes criticism.

http://newcowblog.wordpress.com/2008/05/04/different-class/

thebewilderness // Posted 5 August 2008 at 9:24 pm

“By saying you want woman born woman spaces you are being transphobic.”

Are you serious?

Failing to put other peoples needs ahead of your own is phobic?

Wanting women to be safe at a domestic violence shelter is phobic?

“I think you’ll find that actually, yes, transphobic violence is committed on a regular basis by radical feminists – by denying transpeople the right to self-identify, by continually calling into question their right to exist, by placing them squarely in the camp of ‘men appropriating female culture’ – Janice Raymond, I’m looking at you) all the fems who say “but gender is a concept and anyone reinforcing that concept is anti-fem”,…”

Are you seriously trying to make the argument that disobeying you and disagreeing with you is the same as beating you to death?

I have been both disagreed with and beaten, and I assure you that one of these things is not like the other.

The fact that women are not serving your interests instead of their own is being cast here as an abuse.

That is authoritarian asshattery of the first water.

Legible Susan // Posted 5 August 2008 at 10:34 pm

Coming in late; busy day.

Individuals who transgender from male to female cannot possibly have undergone the same life experiences as women born female

For instance, being beaten up at school for being a sissy is in no way comparable to being beaten up for being a girl. /sarcasm

Here are some of the many “life experiences” this particular “woman born female” has never had:

“third world” levels of poverty

being denied the right to show my face in public without a male relative

rape

growing up under Apartheid, Jim Crow or anything comparable

needing an abortion

seeking asylum

domestic violence

disAbility

having my relationships defined as invalid because of the genders of the people involved

being unable to buy a house because only men are allowed to sign the documents

being denied an education

[I can think of these faster than I can type them so that’ll have to do]

Everything all women have in common, is something all humans have in common. There are men – cismen, in the current context – who have more in common with me than some of the women I’ve only met online do. What, is that blasphemy? Who was talking about reifying gender, again?

Now I need to go back to reading the post from Femmessay linked above…

Jess McCabe // Posted 5 August 2008 at 10:43 pm

Apologies for coming into all this late – I am actually meant to be on holiday this week, both from work and The F-Word, with only intermittent internet access, so I’ve not been following the development of this thread closely. Polly – that is also why I’ve not responded to your emails yet.

Earlier in this thread, Helen said of a blogger called mAndrea and others: “They are neither feminists nor friends to women, trans or non-trans.” She was expressing her own, personal opinion. I must admit that if someone who wasn’t a blogger here had said something on those lines and I’d been moderating, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to publish their comment, because The F Word on principle (and I agree) is against the idea of sitting in judgement on who is and isn’t feminist.

That said, I could understand the frustration that went into her comment. In general terms Helen’s post was really just a link to a post on another blog she recommends everyone read. That post calls attention to that lack of feminist blogging bandwidth being used to talk about violence against trans women, while most debate on the feminist blogosphere on trans issues has been about topics such as what makes up gender identity, and has been extremely fraught. Within that context, for what it’s worth, I think it’s reasonable to get angry when the focus of the thread seems to be slipping away from the important issue of trans people being murdered, and otherwise targetted with violence and discrimination because of being trans.

Incidentally, I also think that a radical feminist analysis of why there are so many incidents of violence against trans people would be useful and illuminating.

Legible Susan // Posted 5 August 2008 at 11:02 pm

Sorry if I was perpetuating the derailment above.

The sentence beginning “Individuals” was meant to be a blockquote but I apparently got it wrong.

*shutting up now*

Lisa Harney // Posted 6 August 2008 at 12:07 am

Sean,

Okay – I’m embarrassed. I melded part of your post into Ellie’s post, so I was talking to you, but I thought I was talking to someone else.

That said, I think you’re taking a strictly literal interpretation of Nezua’s sarcasm, because the bit you’re quoting is sarcasm. The truth is that there can be any justification for saying “Your tone is wrong and you need to be nicer,” but the fact is that this demand is used by those with privilege against those without that privilege in every context – race, disability, orientation, gender identity, gender.

I also think that if Emily’s points are valid – as you say – then her anger is justified.

Rachel: Ungendering, thirdgendering, etc. are used routinely to discredit trans people’s genders as invalid. Whatever you intended, you actually wrote something that fits into a standard oppressive trope against trans people.

Also, not once did Drakyn, Emily, or I say that people have to come into discussions knowing everything about trans people. I said that it’s easy to find most of the information you want by googling and even gave a google search that would turn up a particular, informative thread. I also said that it’s really impolite to turn every trans discussion into a demand for education.

I also said that education should not be necessary to accept that oppressing, evicting, firing, not hiring, oppressing, killing trans people is wrong.

I think that’s pretty darned different from “allies need to come into the conversation knowing everything.”

Ellie: Sorry for misapplying Sean’s arguments to your post. It is my experience that education is too often demanded and too often at inappropriate moments. This hasn’t happened in discussions about Angie Zapata this time around, but is happening when Emily’s letter is quoted. It is privileged and entitled to ask trans people to educate in any discussion about trans, unless the discussion is specifically about education.

Jess,

“Incidentally, I also think that a radical feminist analysis of why there are so many incidents of violence against trans people would be useful and illuminating.”

I’d like to see this. Especially from a radical feminist who maintains the position that trans women are not and cannot ever be women, and justifies how that attitude from radical feminists in no way feeds into the institutionalized prejudice against the idea that trans people’s genders are valid, which is used to justify everything from not hiring us for jobs we’re qualified for, not letting us rent houses we can afford, and killing us. I don’t see much difference between a radical feminist saying that “trans women = the patriarchy” and Andrade saying that he “killed it” because he discovered Angie was trans (and thus, in his mind, “really a man”).

Kristin // Posted 6 August 2008 at 12:52 am

I would just like to note that several of the trans women and men who were participating in this discussion have now left because they were made to feel unsafe here, despite the fact the comment guidelines suggest that “this is a safe and friendly space for feminists and feminist allies.”

Second, I would like to point out that this thread was immediately derailed by people who completely misunderstood Queen Emily’s post and who used her legitimate anger as an excuse to become defensive and demand that they be educated.

Third, these defensive comments by various cis women were posted with *no* regard for the context in which Emily’s post was written. Angie Zapata, a Latina trans woman, was murdered, and the feminist blogosphere was largely ignoring it. Frankly, I think “stop fucking up” was an incredibly diplomatic way of expressing the urgency of the situation. Many people here showed complete disregard for this context, and I find that shameful.

Finally, why does this come up so often in the feminist blogosphere? Ahem:

It is NOT the job of trans women to hold the hands of cis women and teach us Trans 101.

Anyone who wants to be an ally can, as Lisa and others have pointed out, use google–and refrain from derailing every conversation and turning into Trans 101.

Kristin // Posted 6 August 2008 at 1:05 am

Also, you know… Lectures toward Emily, Drakyn, and Lisa about how they should engage you *are* condescending.

All too often, discussions like this *do* devolve into “You’re being too mean”–and, YES, that’s the subtext here even if no one *actually* said it out loud. And I have to ask: Why all the emphasis and insistence upon Middle Class Parlor Manners when *a woman has just been murdered*?

That’s condescending, and it’s something that any cis woman who identifies as a feminist should bloody well recognize: “You’re being too mean.” “You’re being too emotional.” “Do you have to be so ANGRY?” “You’re irrational, and I can’t deal with you when you’re this way.” Does any of that sound familiar? At all? Because it’s what you just did.

belledame222 // Posted 6 August 2008 at 2:13 am

I’m just gonna repost Lisa’s comment from the original post at QE’s, because I think that sums it up:

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Lisa Harney said…

What I posted about mAndrea on the Feminist LJ community, including something I posted at I Blame the Patriarchy:

n an earlier post on that same blog, one of the commenters actually said that trans women exist so that men can own female bodies without having to get female consent, and that we love being prostituted and raped to let men degrade our female bodies. mAndrea enthusiastically agreed and cheered her on.

mAndrea’s cissexism and transphobia is so entrenched, so ignorant, so hateful, so stupid it’s not even worth trying to address or untangle it.

Just cut right through it – why is anyone worried about the nonsense mAndrea’s saying when trans women are violently, brutally, murdered on a regular basis? When trans people are denied necessary medical care, even to the point of death, when trans people are denied the simple dignity of proper ID (at least in the US).

Also, like I commented on I Blame the Patriarchy this morning:

I suppose that’s convenient – use trans women to stand in for the patriarchy, because taking on the patriarchy takes work and effort, and may involve actual risk.

Taking on trans women, though? Pretty safe target by comparison – society largely doesn’t like us, doesn’t support us, cheers our murderers on and blames us for getting killed in the first place.

So instead of challenging men, real actual living, breathing men who engage in sexist acts, who perpetuate rape culture, who harm women every day, you attack trans women, slander and libel us, demonize our motivations and twist our lives to fit your prejudices, and then blame us for all of these prejudices you’ve imposed upon us.

Yes, that’s feminism. That’s advanced patriarchy blaming right there.

***

(me again)

I mean, yeah, no one is accusing a radical feminist of actually murdering trans women. It sure does seem like some people want the proverbial cookie for not -actually killing anybody,- though. And for that matter: trans women are worth all the virtual ink spilled in radical feminist circles, how? Turn that around: are trans women the ones killing other women? Are they the Patriarchy? No; they’re asking to be respected for who they say they are and, in the case of trans women, respected -as women,- not kind-of sort-of can-maybe-have-an-adjunct-somewhere; apparently this is a terrible imposition for some people. Fuck knows why. All I can think is that some people value their ideology as equivalent to or even more important than other peoples’ entire fucking lives.

polly styrene // Posted 6 August 2008 at 6:05 am

Jess, I don’t think you’ve taken my complaints or the complaints of anyone else at all seriously. This is in direct contrast to the situation with Abby O’Reilly recently when the F word immediately published an apology. You may be on holiday, yet you have posted comments elsewhere condeming M Andrea, and you explicitly defend Helen G above. I have now written an open letter to Catherine Redfern which can be seen on my blog. And I would like this comment published please.

Polly styrene // Posted 6 August 2008 at 8:31 am

Lisa Harney said:

“I don’t see much difference between a radical feminist saying that “trans women = the patriarchy” and Andrade saying that he “killed it” because he discovered Angie was trans (and thus, in his mind, “really a man”).”

One is murdering someone. The other is expressing a viewpoint – which is that the reification of gender upholds the patriarchy. If I say Nadine Dorries upholds the patriarchy, am I advocating killing her, or all women? No one ever died just because someone expressed a viewpoint. It takes an individual who wants to kill to kill someone. I dare say if Angie Zapata’s killer hadn’t killed a transwoman he might have killed any other woman, or a gay man, or a lesbian. He was just filled with hate and wanted to kill someone.

Now generally speaking the types of men who go round committing murder don’t identify themselves with, or read radical feminism. In fact they’re usually misogynist. Radical feminists don’t murder transwomen by analysing gender, violent men do. Most violence against transwomen is actually because they are associated in the public mind with gay men. So it’s homophobic violence.

Kristin // Posted 7 August 2008 at 4:48 am

Why weren’t my on-topic comments from yesterday approved?

ananswer // Posted 13 August 2008 at 9:35 pm

Incidentally, I also think that a radical feminist analysis of why there are so many incidents of violence against trans people would be useful and illuminating.

Misogyny and homophobia, particularly as outworked and policed through the insistence of assigning set gender roles to people based on their biology.

That is: you like “masculine” things, you have to be a “man” you like “feminine things” you have to be a “woman” !!

Rad fems say bullshit to gender roles. Let people be people.

Renee // Posted 14 August 2008 at 2:16 am

No-one has the right to tell other people what should and should not be important to them. If a cis feminist wants to use hir personal (and I stress personal – if we were talking about a reporter then it would be a different situation) blog to write only about things which zie has come across in hir own day to day experience, and are therefore likely to be cis related, then zie has a right to do so. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that some people’s suffering is intrinsically more important than others, which can never be right.

If you claim to right a feminist blog with the goal of advancing feminism then you do a disservice when you do not cover the issues of trans women. Even though the personal is political excluding large groups of people is othering.

atheist woman // Posted 14 August 2008 at 2:35 pm

“Rachel: Ungendering, thirdgendering, etc. are used routinely to discredit trans people’s genders as invalid. Whatever you intended, you actually wrote something that fits into a standard oppressive trope against trans people.”

All right, what she was doing is perfectly within her rights as a feminist.

Many feminists I know use gender-neutral pronouns because they believe that the world will be a better place without gender/or because they don’t want to assume the gender of the person they are speaking to/or because they don’t want the male usage of ‘he’ to be default. None of those reasons are transphobic, especially when she was using it on everyone! I can’t speak for Rachel, but if she was doing it for those reasons then it wasn’t transphobic.

atheist woman // Posted 14 August 2008 at 2:44 pm

Sorry if this is a double post, I think I might have accidentally deleted my comment

“Rachel: Ungendering, thirdgendering, etc. are used routinely to discredit trans people’s genders as invalid. Whatever you intended, you actually wrote something that fits into a standard oppressive trope against trans people.”

All right, there is nothing transphobic about gender-neutral pronouns. Many feminists do that with everyone because they think that a) the world would be better off without gender essentialism or gender all together, b) they don’t want to assume one gender or another for a person who they don’t know, or c) they don’t want the male pronouns to be default (example when you don’t know who the student is saying “the student picked up *his* book).

I can’t speak for Rachel, but none of those usages could possibly be transphobic from my perspective.

Helen G // Posted 15 August 2008 at 7:51 am

Note: This thread will be closed to comments from 8.00am tomorrow, Saturday 16 August 2008 (dates/times are for London, UK).

Thank you for your attention.

Helen G

Helen G // Posted 16 August 2008 at 8:05 am

This post is now closed to comments.

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