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.


  1. oh christ, i knew i didn't read feministing in particular for a reason. they're basically co-signed FotF, is what you're saying. besides the usual cissexist fail. #!@#?@

  2. i left feministing almost two years ago specifically for this shit, along with an incredibly high level of racism on display there. when i saw that link, i did not even want to visit, even in my most self-hating moods, i'd never want to subject myself to that level of hatred.

    feministing can go to hell. feministe is a *little* better, but i'm really getting tired that, time and time again, a whole bunch of trans* peeps have to call out transphobic / trans-misogynist comments b/f any of the moderators will take action.

    s'like -- cara, i've a lot of respect for you, but if you claim being an ally, then you gotta do the work.

  3. @GG: Yes Yes, and Yes, with a heapin side of Yes.

    Cara is not *too* bad, but then again, its sad just how low our expectations are for allies. She copped to shitty moderation, and we ended up having to do her job for her.

    New boss, old boss, a few guitar riffs.

    Did you all catch ssusurro's lil MEMEME rant over at QT?

    Yet another cis woman makin it all about her.

    Thanks, Lucy, for this post.

  4. I think Cara will be amenable to an open conversation on protecting trans conversations Real Soon Now.

    U all might want to ping her and let her kno this is needed.

  5. voz,

    You're welcome. I tend to hold on to my frustrations but what's the point of a blog if I can't vent somewhere? I'm just so frustrated with liberal feminists who apparently can't be bothered to get an education in trans issues, who can't be bothered to listen to trans voices, who keep fucking up the same ways over and over again (as I mentioned with regard to Womanism), who regard us at best as some kind of movie-of-the-week issue for feminism, something to mention offhandedly every once in a while to show they care but otherwise ignore. I'm not expecting that our issues will ever be at the forefront of feminism, but it'd be nice if they dealt with them in a mature fashion.

  6. Oh, and I have hope for Cara. I'm just not holding my breath.

  7. Oh gawd. I regret reading either of those.

  8. I tend to avoid the big name feminist blogs, although initially this was for other reasons than mentioned here.

    I guess, I hadn't quite thought of it like that... but it makes perfect sense, of course changing the subject is derailment...

    I suppose, I expect sometimes as in conversation, you would naturally go off-topic at times... but then surely it is the job of the moderator to create a new thread to discuss that new topic and then bring the thread back to the original topic (iyswim)?

    Especially when the OP is about something so important that doesn't get nearly enough air time in the feminist blogosphere in the first place?

    And as for the stupid commenters on the toilet thread - purlease can they fuck off already?

  9. http://voz-latina.livejournal.com/3949.html

  10. Feministe is not a for-profit blog. Moderating is not Cara's job.

  11. um, genius, "being paid" has fuckall to do with "moderation" on a blog. no one's obligated to do -any- of it, but the POINT is, yer audience/readership isn't obligated -either-, and a portion is herein responding with "hey, if you want continued participation, moderate this shit."

    and I doubt that Cara particularly would appreciate your "help" at this juncture from all I know of her, frankly.

  12. Tooootally beside the point; but I could've sworn that I saw something on Feministe about how they contributers sometimes got some of the ad revenue as payment. And making a point that it's not Cara's job? Is that you, Jill? If you run a blog big or little, it is your job to moderate comments. Not disavow all responsibility for what you started.

  13. I really doubt that was Jill.

  14. I will say that I have noticed a tendency on the part of feministing to just link to questioning transphobia or TransGriot and rarely to never write any trans related issues. I am not a huge commenter over at Feministe so I really have no comment. I do believe that if you are going to be an ally you should do your best to continually educate yourself about the issues, apologize when you screw up, and advocate from the heart. I recently did a count on my blog and realized that trans issues only accounted for 5% and this after being accused of over focusing on trans issues on the blog. What it made me realize is that I can and will do more.

  15. The blog owner or post author is creating a space, and plays a large part in determining what kind of space it is.

    This is why the OP at both places are 100% responsible. They made the space, they nurtured it, they have a responsibility for what they create.

    A lil ownership of what is said, and its effects will go a long way here.

    Not that I expect (wite) cis feminists to do jack shit about the harm they inflict on poc communities.

  16. Please don't all go away. I am a ciswoman (I only just learned that term) and I need educating. We won't improve if you don't help.

  17. "We won't improve if you don't help."

    And isn't that the problem!!!

  18. That is exactly the problem, Ruth. There are plenty of resources on the web for someone to get their Trans 101 on without trans people have to actively guide yet another person through them. Here's a hint: Google "Trans 101". I particularly like Questioning Transphobia, but they don't show up high enough in those results.

  19. I haven't read the second link (it is making too angry to even get that far) but the comments in the first are enough to make anyone, who can think for two seconds about privilege, pissed off.

    I couldn't get past the conversation on how laws that would make it so transwomen and transmen can use the restroom without harassment (hopefully) will result in rapist being able to attack cis women easier. It's ridiculous! The door isn't locked people, if a rapist wants in; all they have to do is enter (and attack anyone who is there, cis, trans etc). And this focus on the rape of cis women also completely ignores the fact that transpeople face sexual and other violence on a regular basis. How many transpeople have been raped or otherwise attacked when trying to do something as basic as use the restroom? In fact, I am sure that this is something that a transperson would have to be much more concerned about, since merely using the restroom may open them to attack from cis people.

    This whole line of conversation also misses the point of the letter. When they said "men in restroom" what they really meant was transwomen. They are not concerned about “men” they are only concerned about limiting transpeople’s access to basic rights and necessities.

    In reality they don't care who goes into what restroom, so long as that person expresses the socially accepted gender performance for their physical sex. So, really what this means is that anyone can go in any restroom, unless that person is a transwoman.

    The whole point of the message was to continue the ostracization of transpeople.

  20. Please don't put all cisgendered women in the same basket. I know there are a lot of ignorant people out there, but some of us *are* aware of transgender issues and make an effort to know more about them. I can't say I'm perfect or I know everything about what you go through, but I do make an effort. I'm sure there are other cisgendered feminists out there that feel the same as I do.

    That said, rage on and get your issues heard.

  21. Can you add Jezebel to the boycott?

    Jezebel is the worst at including gay, queer, women of color, people of color, trans people ... basically anyone who's not a white middle+ class heterosexual cisgender woman.


    Because it's all about your cunt, not about the young trans women the article was supposed to be about.