Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sexism, androcentrism and misogyny in women's communities, oh my!

This rant is brought to you by one of those posts of a friend-of-a-Facebook-friend who took the oh-so-brave stance of being against trans womens' inclusion at Mich.  She posted this though she knew she would be misunderstood and denigrated, the courageous soul!  SHE HAS TRANS FRIENDS, YOU GUYS!  Admittedly, though, it's the same crappy arguments/apologism/excuses I hear everywhere (which is why I'm not singling her out by linking to it), and this latest post was just the proverbial straw. Let the completely unedited, rambling ranting commence!

I'm tired of it. I'm tired of the continued attitude that trans women are less-than – which is really what you're saying if you say you don't think trans women belong at women-only events. I'm tired of queer communities that get all up in arms over the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, but don't look at their own, day-to-day communities and the way trans women are excluded and made to feel unwelcome. I'm tired of being part of the problem myself. I'm tired of the fact that we can talk about this, shout about this, but not about sexism in queer women's communities. I'm tired of the androcentrism (definition: centered or focused on men or masculinity) in my culture, that continually glorifies masculinity at the expense of femininity. I hate the fact that we can't talk about it without being accused of being anti-trans or anti-male. Asking our queer communities to look honestly and deeply at sexism, androcentrism and misogyny is NOT anti-trans or anti-male.

Sometimes, I 'd like to take the language of excluding trans women and replace it with class-based language or the like: “I just want one week with other rich people to heal and celebrate. Is that too much to ask?”
Yes, actually, it is. Unless you plan on having the focus of that week being on your privilege as a rich person and how you can work to support poor people in their work for justice and equity – then, by all means, take a week with your rich community to work on your shit.

And yeah, y'know – maybe there are a few trans women who have some vestiges of entitlement from socialization as male. Let's just entertain that thought for a moment. It could be true. It's also true that I have seen plenty of dude-bro attitude and sexist bullshit from queer women, especially in butch-femme communities (of which I am a member). So let's not pretend that by excluding trans women, we are somehow magically protecting ourselves from misogyny, sexism and androcentrism.

Let's talk about how many queer women identify as fags and/or think gay men and gay male culture is hot. Now let's talk about how many queer men do the same with dykes (and I'm not talking about joking how they are lesbians because they like to garden and listen to the Indigo Girls)....


...Yep, that's what I thought. This is a telling discrepancy, and what it tells me is that androcentrism runs deep, even in queer feminist communities, even when we don't think it does.

I think many of the anti-inclusion arguments are missing the important notion of interconnection. Without an understanding of how cisgender (non-trans) women can also have privilege, of course it seems fine to have “their own space.” I read many anti-inclusion arguments that repeatedly assure the reader that they love and support their trans friends, and really, truly, no really, don't misunderstand me! I believe they are sincere, but...if they really believed that their trans women friends are women – not just “identified as women” - then they would see the contradiction of their position. And I think they are confusing “safety” with “comfort.” I'm really tired of that conflation, especially when I see it most often from privileged, non-trans white women like myself. But I'm also thankful for it in a way – it's a good reminder to check myself, to try to work through my own discomfort whenever and wherever it arises and get to the root of it.

And yes – actually, I do think there is value in women-only space. We do still live in a misogynist world, and I've experienced for myself some of the relief, joy and healing that many speak of in attending this event, though it was marred by the knowledge that my trans sisters were not welcomed. I think most trans guys should self-exclude from events like Mich – because they are guys. I also embrace the fact that gender is often complicated and gloriously messy, so I'll support trans-masculine folks who also hold a female identity in some way in attending women-only events. Basically, I'm going to trust folks to know their own genders, lives and identities. 

Can we just do that – trust people?