Rant’O’Rama #01

February 13, 2009

“I’m not finished yet, I’m under construction”

20090213Although I really appreciate the kind words and supportive comments I’ve received, in comments at my earlier post, as well as in emails, messages at Facebook and DMs at Twitter, a couple of replies make me think I need to set out still further clarification of my current thinking.

I’m not denouncing feminism as an ideology; I believe I’ve been quite clear about that when I said:

Although, at the time of writing, I still subscribe to many of the basic principles, I’m increasingly at odds with the interpretation and application of those principles by various members of the UK online feminist community.

But – as I said here:

[A] feminism which only includes trans women as long as we stop self-identifying as trans women, as long as we do as we’re told and question nothing, is an exclusive and conditional feminism, in which equality is defined by the oppressors – and I have a big problem with that.

Furthermore:

And a cis woman feminist, any cis woman feminist, who can’t – or won’t – accept me as the trans woman I am, effectively bars me from identifying as a feminist – even though that decision is not hers to make. From where I stand, she is not espousing any kind of feminism I can support. Her primary concern, and that of others like her, would seem to be the perpetuation of an ideology which is so grounded in an insidiously toxic transphobia that it creates, by its very existence, a space so hostile to me, that I do not feel able to spend any length of time there. It is not a question of whether or not she will ‘allow’ me to be a trans woman (or a feminist): that’s not her decision, either. Nevertheless, on the one hand, she tells me I am a woman, but on the other hand I’m apparently not woman enough to be a feminist. On my planet, we call that trans-misogyny.

And if that’€™s what a feminist looks like, it’s not a face I would want to see in my mirror…

But…

That’s only part of the story. There’s a much, much bigger issue at the back of all this, and it’s that which is currently enraging me most of all. It’s not about any particular, individual cis woman feminist – rather it’s about a prevailing attitude in UK online feminism, that of a dangerous apathy.

My anger is focused on the way in which a minority of transphobic cis women bigots appear never to be called to account by the majority.

It seems to me that UK online feminism can be divided into three parts in the ratio of roughly 10%-10%-80%. The peddlers of hate speech account for the first 10%. In pursuit of their selfish and short-sighted aims they are damaging feminism, perhaps irreparably.

There is another 10% of cis women feminists who I would call allies – they have proven themselves to be allies of transsexual women in this fight. They don’t hesitate to speak out against the bigots, and their understanding of what it means to be a feminist shows up the transphobic bullies for the nihilists they are. I have a lot of respect for this second 10%, I am proud to know them and consider them my sisters and my friends.

Which leaves the 80% majority who, by their refusal to speak out and support their oppressed transsexual sisters, seem to me to be little more than shallow camp followers who wear their feminism as a fashion accessory, and whose claims to wish for an egalitarian society, free from oppression, discrimination and prejudice aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on.

Their silence, their lack of support, and their apathy has created the conditions for the haters to gang together and rampage virtually unchallenged around UK online feminism for far too long.

And this is why I’m hurting so much right now. This is why I’m so damned angry. And this is why I no longer call myself a feminist. Because being a feminist is so much more than calling oneself ‘radical’ when one isn’t. Because being a feminist is so much more than signing a petition, or blindly supporting the rantings of the figureheads of the old guard. Because being a feminist is – amongst other things – about actively working to bring about a society in which transphobia, cissexism, trans-misogyny, hate speech, discrimination, prejudice and the oppression of transsexual women by cissexual women is no more acceptable than racism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, you name it.

“Radical is fighting for all of those who are oppressed by our warped system of values”

Until that 80% climb down from the fence, stop the hand-wringing, the pearl-clutching and looking the other way, the endless repetition of empty promises and meaningless protestations of solidarity and finally start to give a damn; finally take a stand against the haters; finally show some real and active and vocal support; finally stop running scared of the bullies – then there can be no place in feminism for this transsexual woman. I will not be tokenised, marginalised, interrogated about my existence, sidelined or erased by this non-feminism any more.

To see the whole sorry state of affairs that is UK online feminism pains me almost as much as the endless attacks and sideswipes from the transphobes – but right now, I need to find a way to begin to heal myself. From here on out my priority is my well-being and my online safety, in whatever way it takes – because feminism sure as hell isn’t looking out for me. I’ve said this before – and I say it again:

I just don’t see how anyone, trans or cis, can honestly say that what passes for feminism online is anything other than fucked. Totally fucked. And I’ve had enough of it.

…*sigh/sigh*…

————

ETA, 19 February: I’ve just read Missing Words thoughtful response, On being an ally, and apart from being sad that she’s sad, it’s perhaps also worth restating that it’s not just a matter of cissexual women feminists speaking out for transsexual women, it’s also important that they stand up to the transphobic bigots. Coalitions and boycotts. Perspective, I gotz it; A Plan – feminism needz one…

9 Responses to “Rant’O’Rama #01”

  1. Alison Says:

    just wanting to say, that I’m taking this post as a reminder to do better

  2. Helen G Says:

    That’s good to know – let’s hope you can start a trend! I know there are many other issues that UK online feminism also needs to address but it makes me alternately depressed and angry that transphobia doesn’t seem to be taken seriously by the movement.

    But you only have to re-read my post, substituting – for example – ‘racism’, or ‘homophobia’, etc for ‘transphobia’ and you can see immediately how erased the voices of transsexual women are.

    The examples of racism and homophobia are only that – examples. I’m not saying that one is better or worse than the other, we each experience marginalisation, prejudice and oppression. My point is that those forms of discrimination are routinely called out by a feminism which then seems content to turn a blind eye to the hate speech spewing from the disproportionately loud mouths of a toxic minority of cissexual women who feel they are entitled to claim feminism as their own exclusive little club.


  3. […] Rant’O’Rama #01 « bird of paradox “Radical is fighting for all of those who are oppressed by our warped system of values” […]

  4. queen emily Says:

    Hmm I’m not sure I agree with that last comment, actually, given that the voices of WoC are so regularly erased and devalued in online feminism, similar strategies of legitimating violence etc. Given that and all kinds of ableism approving of medically-enacted violence against PWD, I think we’re not such a special case.

    Which is a sad, if not surprising, commentary on some forms of feminism.

    Anyway, I *do* agree with your post, absolutely. x

  5. Helen G Says:

    Yeah, I know… I was trying to say that there are similarities, really, not much more than that, I think. I dunno. But thank you for posting, you make a valid point and I admit that my personal negativity is mitigating against me at the moment.

    I should STFU til I settle down a bit :/

    Or should I? *mysterious flute sounds* :)

  6. Yuki Choe Says:

    People tend to make the mistake of having a fight for a certain right, but ended up only fighting for themselves. This rings true in the transphobic side of the feminist movement who only wants what they want as individuals and not as a collective. It is not the fault of feminists. It is an individual bias, that grows with other bigots feeding on the comfirmation bias about transgenders. I too am beginning to dislike the term feminist. How about the term peoplist or personist. THAT is equality.

  7. Helen G Says:

    A little while ago, I was considering using the term ‘transinist’ – where being trans meets feminism – but I think maybe I’ll stick with trans woman, or transsexual woman.

    That is the term that works best for me at the moment.

  8. timberwraith Says:

    I hear you. I’m a trans woman and last year, I too decided to let go of the label feminist—after identifying as one for 22 years. While I’ve seen a growing awareness evolve among feminists on transgender issues, the internet has revealed far too much hatred and ignorance to continue embracing the label.

    Lets look at the cold reality of the social dynamics at play: the vast majority of feminists are cisgender. Trans people are a tiny, tiny minority—and an intensely hated one at that. The sheer imbalance of numbers coupled with a widely held antipathy guarantees that feminism will continue to do a shoddy job of representing transgender issues. It has been four decades since the birth of second wave feminism and feminism is still doing a lack-luster job of representing the interests of women of color. People of color represent a far larger portion of the populace than trans people. Need I say more?

    Nevertheless, I can’t overlook the positive change that has been brought into the world by feminism’s adherents. Plus, I still find that feminism provides a useful—although flawed—analytical lens. Because of its flaws, however, I can’t rely upon feminism as the sole analytical lens that I use for looking at the world. Likewise, it’s fair to say that a lot of transgender writing draws its core ideas from feminism but transgender authors have to fill in a lot of gaps on their own. Feminism still serves as a useful starting point, in spite of its many shortcomings.

    So, I’m left feeling ambivalent about feminism as a whole: there’s both a lot of good and a lot of bad.


  9. […] being an ally Reading Helen G’s post the other night made me sad: It seems to me that UK online feminism can be divided into three parts […]


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