In my earlier response to Lucy’s comments (links here and here) on my posts “Cis Feminism in London 09” and “Reclaim The Night (For Cis Women Only) and the London Cis Feminist Network”, I said that I wanted to write a little more on the subject, and that’s what I’m trying to do in this post.
Additionally, I would recommend that anyone interested in following this thread also reads Laura’s post, Feminism in London workshop, at The F-Word blog.
Before I start, I want to make my own clarification. The views and opinions I express here are mine alone: I do not claim to be representative of transsexual women. Neither is it my intent to invisibilise, marginalise or silence the voices of other transsexual women.
Late on Friday afternoon, the organisers of the Feminism In London event updated their website with the following information:
On the website’s home page:
This event is trans-inclusive and transwomen are welcome in the one workshop that is women-only. The Feminism in London organising group would like to apologise for not making this clear from the beginning.
On the workshops schedule page:
This workshop is for women (including transwomen) only.
Whilst I consider this to be a positive outcome overall and I welcome the clarification, there are a few points I’d like to make.
- The whole situation need never have arisen in the first place. The term “women-only” is cissexist, and has been since it was first coined by cis women feminists. That a supposedly progressive and egalitarian movement continues to use it makes it clear that the overwhelming majority of its members have simply not checked their cis privilege.
Had the original publicity material (and let’s remember that it was only the website that was changed, not any posters/flyers, etc) been clear from the outset that the entire event was open to all self-identified women (for want of another clearly inclusive term), then the risk of misinterpretation could have been eliminated.
- I wonder if there would have been any clarification at all from Feminism In London if a member of the FIL organising committee hadn’t seen Laura’s post at TFW (the situation only began to turn after the comment initiated further discussion between the organiser and TFW bloggers).
And I know this will make me (even more) unpopular in some people’s eyes, but I cannot understate the contribution my TFW co-bloggers made to precipitating FIL’s clarification. The positive outcome is, I believe, due entirely to their input. As well as being my co-bloggers and my friends, I’m more than happy to call them my allies.
- I’m not comfortable with the term “transwomen”. It carries its own meanings of objectification and othering and I would have preferred to see trans used as an adjective. We don’t refer to (for example) Lesbianwomen, or Jewishwomen, or diabeticwomen – so why say transwomen?
- The FIL event was still strongly biased against sex workers, and that is another aspect which needs to be addressed.
I realise that to some cis women feminists I still sound like Angry Trans Harpy™ – which I’m not. Well… not completely. I am pissed off that this whole discussion even needed to take place, but perhaps that’s just a measure of how deeply entrenched transphobic views still are within cis women’s feminism. And although I’m glad that the organisers of Feminism In London clarified – albeit only at the eleventh hour – that their event didn’t exclude trans women, I remain sceptical that the London Feminist Network is any less transphobic.
So now this transsexual woman waits to see if the lesson learned by FIL will be applied to next month’s Reclaim The Night march.