An open letter to cis feminists

August 2, 2008

Read this post by Queen Emily (Sexual Ambiguities):

An open letter to cis feminists

See also Belle (Fetch me my axe) and Lisa (Questioning Transphobia)

Oh, and Rebecca (Burning Words)

And Drakyn (Monster’s Creed)

Did I mention Ren (Renegade Evolution)?

Also Queen of Thorns (Ideologically Impure)

And, please, leave your various privileges at the door.

Thank you.


On the list of bloggers who have linked to Em’s post, perhaps the biggest eyebrow-raiser most welcome addition is Debi (The Corvid Diaries)

…forgive my scepticism, but just maybe there is hope for those <insert> others <end insert> whose feminism is generally to be found under the tag of cultural feminism. Time will tell, no doubt.

And before anybody starts on the same old tired old thread-derailing won’t-someone-think-of-the-radfems (if only they were) (radical, that is) – then please bear in mind a comment of Belle’s on her post, for it is truly Teh Ossom and speaks volumes in a handy 10-point summary of why certain cis women think they are “hurt” by trans women claiming equal status as them:

1) Men Oppress Women

2) I am a Woman

3) I am of the Oppressed Class.

4) Life is simple. Grim, but simple.

5) …but, here is a Man who -wants- to be a Woman; this fucks with my idea that there is anything desirable about being a Woman in this our Patriarchal Patrix;

6) which means I might have to rethink my whole everything again, and that gives me a headache.

7) also, well…they’re MEN. they MUST be Men; if it were THAT easy to cross over, um, uhhhhhh…dammit! You don’t get off the hook that easily! And you certainly don’t get to come into MY SAFE SPACE, you MAN, you.

8) We are STRONG! We are POWERFUL! WE are WYMYN! WE can make BABIES and YOU CAN’T neener neener uhhh not that that means we’re essentialist because essentialism is bad mkay mumblesomething about socialization. anyway, you CAN’T COME IN, you jealous jealousertons!

9) lalalalalalala not listening to a word you say about yourselves, trans people and especially trans men, lalalalalala

10) NO! Women are the most miserable and beaten down and oppressed people in the -world,- and if you boyo upstarts think you’re going to take that away from us, you’re crazy!


After that I kind of tend to get lost.


Edited to add (Monday morning): Drakyn has linked to three separate LJ posts and I’ve also spotted that Caroline at Uncool has also linked to Em’s post. I’ve added them all here for ease of clickage. FWIW, this blog saw its highest hit count yesterday; so I guess that, if nothing else, people are taking the time to check out what Em is saying.

Well, apart, that is, from the occasional sub-bridge dwelling bully, whose Pavlovian reaction to any word prefixed by ‘trans’ (and consequent failure even to read Em’s post) prompts an outburst of hate speech, hastily selected from their standard range of transphobic thread-derailing templates.

Unfortunately (for them), said trolls no longer have any credibility and are now simply irrelevant, both to this topic and to feminism as a whole. Give it up, why don’t you? Really. You’re just making fools of yourselves now and it’s a little embarrassing to see.

Okay then. Additions:

Caroline (Uncool)

LiveJournal commentary:

Monday evening: D’oh! How could I possibly forget to include my link at The F Word? I only posted it 24 hours ago…

I mean, like rilly, y’know?…


28 Responses to “An open letter to cis feminists”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Oh, Helen – you do crack me up sometimes.

  2. Helen G Says:

    …*curtseys politely*…
    Always glad to be of service ;)

    Seriously though, it has to be said that Em’s post is an absolute tour de force. She says things which really needed to be said.

    Of course, she’ll be prime troll food (when/if the dozy buggers wake up) – but we’ll all just circle the wagons and make a stand together.

    Don’t know about you, but I’m tired of having to put on my hard hat and flameproof undies whenever I want to make a post about anything even vaguely trans/feminist related…

    The buck stops here, I think – and not before time.

  3. Helen G Says:

    Debs posted a comment which I stupidly deleted… D’oh! Two accidental deletions in one night is Not Good… Thankfully I still had the email notification, so here’s Debs’ comment, faithfully recreated:

    You shouldn’t be surprised Helen, I had to click on the link to find out what “cultural feminism” is, and denounced “radical feminism” recently. I’ve been on a bit of a journey – have to say it’s been quite enjoyable.


  4. Helen G Says:

    Hello Debs and apologies for the accidental deletion…

    Thanks for stopping by – that’s the second time today I’ve been surprised by you!

    And conversely, I guess it’s no surprise that I, like a few others, have been keeping a weather eye on some of your recent changes… I know you’ve had a hard time of things recently and part of me feels bad for watching/waiting to see if you’re going to revert to some of the more transphobic values that you’ve espoused in the past, rather than leaping in and engaging with you straight away…

    I realise that it’s entirely unfair of me to take this stance and, well yes, “I want to believe”… But, you see, I, too, have been on a bit of a journey… I doubt you know anything of me, so forgive the background history: I’m now 52, and over the past couple of years I have been coming to terms with my transsexuality. At the end of this month it’ll be the second ‘anniversary’ of my attempted suicide; and I’ll reach my first “rebirthday” (one year post-op) in September. “What a long strange trip it’s been”…

    Also, I suppose I’ve been used to thinking of you as part of a group of internet feminists who hold some views which I have found, well, quite upsetting, to be truthful… I found the best way to “cope” was simply to stay away from the various blogs which I found particularly toxic, even though it’s impossible to avoid all contact with the cultfems…

    But I do understand that you’ve been through some bad times, and the less suspicious side of me is actually glad to see you ‘out and about’ and seemingly willing to engage with those of us whose existence I know you find problematic.

    And I hope that we can all begin to understand each others’ views a little more clearly – I don’t expect you to suddenly say you consider yourself an ally of trans people – any more than I’m likely to say that I’m in complete agreement with the views of the cultfems… But at least if we can begin to build bridges rather than burning them, well, I think that can only benefit all of us who take part – not just as humans, but also as women and feminists…

    So thanks for stopping by Debs; it’s good to see you and I look forward to being able to talk to you, with you, and to discuss subjects of mutual interest. Even if we do end up agreeing to disagree, it’s got to be better than, well, you know…

    Take care, talk soon

  5. queenemily Says:

    Thanks Helen.

    So far, surprisingly troll-less. We’ll see I guess.

  6. Daisy Says:

    Helen, I think it is women like you who will turn the tide. Most radfems have never talked to real live transwomyn, they have been sold a bill of goods.

    I always repeat that I worked with a transwomyn for 5 1/2 yrs and didn’t even know it until much later… well, that made a huge impact on me. She didn’t act any different than any of the rest of us, and that’s the point. I found it hard to reconcile these supposed Evilll Agents of Patriarchy I heard tell of, with the polite, sweet woman I had known and worked with.

    And YOU are always so sweet and willing to dialog. St Francis said “preach the gospel always, if necessary, use words”–and I think your kindness, fairness and accessibility are far more FEMINIST than some of the feminists doing the compulsive gatekeeping. Actions really do speaking louder than words.

  7. Debs Says:

    “I think your kindness, fairness and accessibility are far more FEMINIST than some of the feminists doing the compulsive gatekeeping.”

    I agree Daisy, and thank you Helen for that lovely comment, and for being so welcoming. There is really nothing feminist about the way ‘radfems’ on the net jealously guard their space and cast out anyone who so much as speaks to someone they don’t like. I am not part of that ‘crowd’ anymore, and very glad of it too! Did I jump or was I pushed? A bit of both, really. :-D

    And, yeah another good point from Daisy, it will most likely be women like you Helen who will turn the tide, with your work on the F Word, and this blog, and everything.

    Well, I don’t know what to say now so I’ll shut up, but I’ll get you on my blogroll, and just keep listening. :) xx

  8. Helen G Says:

    What a start to a Sunday – three amazing comments from three amazing women!

    Absolutely bowled over by your generosity of spirit.

    Thank you.


  9. drakyn Says:

    wft, did my comment get eaten? It disappeared and I didn’t see any awaiting moderation” message.

  10. Helen G Says:

    This is the only comment of yours I’ve seen – Blog usually emails me too, and I only got this message. Weird. You want to try re-sending?

  11. drakyn Says:

    Okay, internet must hate me.

    Link round-up?
    Shemale and Snugglebitch also posted on Emily’s letter. I also crossposted to LJfeminist and there were some nice comments (and only one person going “but you needs to educate me! I like studying yous”).
    I think the first comment by sable_twilight is bril.

    I <3 Belle.

    Debs, I’m glad you’re happier now.
    I always like the proverb that went something like, “The journey is more important than the destination.” ^.^

  12. drakyn Says:

    Did it go through?

  13. Helen G Says:

    That is weird – your latest got through but the other one was about to drop into the jaws of the spam-eater… Wonder if it doesn’t like hyperlinks? Will investigate and see if it’s possible to ease that down a little…

    But thank you, will check them out and update my OP…

    And Snugglebitch is the bestest name I have ever heard…

    …After drakyn, of course ~_^

    Thank you for the update Mister!

  14. drakyn Says:

    Feministe’s spambot hates hyperlinks too sometimes; last summer it was eating a ton of people’s comments.

    Snugglebitch is awesome; but she needs to update moar.

    And no prob’, I figured that since most people don’t read LJs I should link them. ^.^

  15. Helen G Says:

    Dammit! That’ll teach me not to keep up with the paperwork.

    Comment of the week, sable_twilight’s, no question!

  16. Debs Says:

    Well, apart, that is, from the occasional sub-bridge dwelling bully, whose Pavlovian reaction to any word prefixed by ‘trans’ (and consequent failure even to read Em’s post) prompts an outburst of hate speech, hastily selected from their standard range of transphobic thread-derailing templates.”

    I can’t imagine who you mean! ;)

  17. Helen G Says:

    …*innocentl expression…
    …*whistles tunelessly*…

  18. drakyn Says:

    Gah, theres already a concern troll over on the F word. I commented.

  19. Helen G Says:

    Yeah, just seen… Thanks for your reply; I got the feeling she’s still seeing trans issues through cis-tinted spectacles, so hopefully the references to Famous Feminists will help… OTOH, strangely, I can almost empathise with her. Sort of. Ish. It must be hard trying to get a grip on it all – transphobic violence is such a HEOWGE subject and the only people who ever seem to write about it are trans people – and why is that, we wonder…

    But I think your post at MC was spot on, you really caught the sense of impatience and frustration; certainly I find I’m feeling that way more often… It’s tough to find the patience sometimes; one of the LJ comments got it, something about you end up deliberately oversimplifying, even though you know you shouldn’t, just because all you want is for them to nod and move on, because you’re just plain tired of going over the same old ground for the eleventy zillionth time today…

    Then I start beating myself up for being unreasonable and sweary when I should be patient and smile and hand out the cookies…

    I have endless admiration for the way people like Lisa and Zoe can stick with it and just go through it step by step, it’ll take as long as it takes…

    Takes all sorts, I guess…

  20. drakyn Says:

    I think she, like the first commenter on Emily’s post, just read what they wanted to read and went off of that. Emily never said cis* feminists have 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.

    I actually like answering questions and pointing people towards resources. Its the constant “justify yourself!”, “well, my theory says you think/say/do this and if you don’t you are lying”, and all the other bad faith posts and comments.
    I’m getting really fed up with both the obvious bigots like mAndrea, the ones that hide it like Heart, and the ones that nod and agree with them while attacking us like Thebewilderness. I’m getting tired of them deliberately mis-reading our words. But they are so loudly horrible its hard to ignore them. Then when we do manage to, they troll our blogs (hi Carol/Heart) or get put in feminist carnivals or start concern-trolling general feminist blogs posts on trans* issues(Polly on the Fword).

  21. Helen G Says:

    I was just feeling really bad that any of my non-trans friends reading my last comment might have thought I was having a go at them – I wasn’t!

    But you got it with this: “Its the constant “justify yourself!”, “well, my theory says you think/say/do this and if you don’t you are lying”, and all the other bad faith posts and comments.

    I’m so frickin incoherent sometimes.

    As for the trolls themselves, like I said above, I’m reaching the point where I’m just indifferent to their little temper tantrums. They are irrelevant and, really, they’re just embarrassing, how is it possible to be that blind to their own privileges?

    Their fifteen minutes is up, I think…

  22. drakyn Says:

    I’m better at ignoring the obvious trolls. I keep trying to engage the subtle ones though. >.<
    If only to change the minds of anyone reading.
    Though I am tempted to type up some stock responses and just c&p my answers…

    And I got what you meant by your other comment, but then I’m not trying to irritate you. ^.^

  23. drakyn Says:

    I love how trans* people have so much privilege and obviously reify gender. We have so much privilege and reify gender so much governments are trying to use eugenics to make sure we don’t breed.
    This is the type of stuff that’s important; not bigots like mAndrea.
    Sorry for the rant, but I just saw the news. I can’t help but wonder if the next law will disallow us from saving embryos/sperm or mandate that our kids (if we have them) are taken away. Already, in many states and countries, we cannot adopt and often have our kids removed at the slightest provocation.
    I don’t even want kids and this pisses me off.

  24. Helen G Says:

    Cross-posted from TFW:

    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.

  25. Debs Says:

    “It is clear to me that the subject of violence against trans women is violence against women.”

    Exactly. Well said, Helen. x

  26. Anji Says:

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read so far on this issue. :)

  27. Helen G Says:

    Hello Anji – I agree, I think Em has done a brilliant job in articulating something that I think many of us feel.

    Welcome to BoP, by the way!

  28. Anji Says:

    Hee, I’ve been reading for quite a while but I don’t do much commenting most places, thanks to the Munchkin. Thanks for the welcome. :D

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