06 April 2009

It's Always About the Cis Women

Not all women's issues affect all women equally, or even, sometimes, at all. Issues can vary by class, race, sexuality, and so on. But feminism has recognised that just because an issue may only affect a small number of women it nonetheless is a feminist issue because it is a women's issue. Feminism also has recognised that it is important to foreground the women for whom it is an issue and let them lead in dealing with the issue. Feminism has not always succeeded in this. Womanism came directly out of the failure of second-wave feminism to engage with its own racism, in refusing to see issues for women of colour as women's issues. But, things have gotten better now that we're in the third wave, right? Not so much for trans women. Two recent discussions at major feminist blogs demonstrate this.

In the first case, we go to Feministing where Miriam posted a letter from Focus on the Family (FotF) which scaremongers about "men in the women's room" when anti-discrimination laws are passed. Cis women comments there started out the comments already falling for the meme. When allies, other trans women, and myself actually arrived and tried to bring the conversation back to reality, we were effectively ignored. The conversation continued to be about the dangers of having men in the same restroom as (cis) women and girls, how uncomfortable it would be to have men there, and how trans women were OK there as long as they didn't look too much like men. [Note: Comments have now been completely scrubbed at Feministing such that you will find none of what I talk about.]

Next, came Feministe with "By Any Other Name" which Cara wrote in response to an article by a cis man about what he learned from a trans woman student. The comments started out actually engaging the article and what Cara had said about it. However, the discussion then turned into a conversation about birth control methods which was neither in the OP nor a trans women's issue at all seeing as how we can't get pregnant. Voz and Galling Galla complained about it which finally led to Cara stepping in to say she would moderate heavier for derailing. However, prior to Cara's statement, one commenter actually had the gall to say "Not all discussions that crop up will be concerns to all women. Isn’t that bound to happen?". In a thread that specifically addresses an article about a trans woman, we're expected to see the discussion turning to exclusively cis-concerns as something that's bound to happen?

But maybe the Feministe commenter is right. Any discussion that crops up about trans issues is bound to not include the concerns of trans folk. It is always about the cis women. With a few (wonderful) exceptions, it seems as though cis women can't be bothered to consider any experience outside their own. At least not the cis women found at major online feminist sites. Way to include all women.