“I’m not finished yet, I’m under construction”
Although 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.
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…
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.
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…