An Open Letter To My Fellow Feminists
My sincere thanks to John at TheSliverParty for calling out my use of “transwoman” in the original draft of this. I’ve edited it to include the space and I will steer away from it in the future. #TheExactKindofShitI’mTalkingAbout
(I originally posted this on Tumblr, Saturday, when I was tearing my hair out over transphobia disguised as feminism at Ms. and elsewhere.)
My fellow self-identifying feminists,
It would be nice if — when you considered oppression — you included those systems that privilege you. If you recognized that it’s not enough to take issue with oppression on the basis of gender or sex. If you took issue with cissexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, sizeism, classism — in short, with those systems of oppression that are made possible by your privilege. This is not about asking you to quit whining about sexism. It’s about calling you to recognize that the systems perpetuating sexism disproportionately affect trans women, women of color, women with disabilities, fat women, poor women, etc. It’s about calling you to recognize that sexism interacts with these “other” forms of oppression in ways that make them practically inseparable.
It would be nice if you recognized the ways that mainstream, capital-F Feminism has consistently advocated for the most privileged women, at the expense of women who are queer/ trans/ disabled/ of color/ poor/ fat/ etc. That Feminism has committed and supported some serious wrongdoing, and that it is vital for us to recognize the ways Our Very Own Feminism works to support the oppression of women. Certain women. Specifically. It’s about demanding consciousness about the ways Feminism has done this historically and that it still does this today. It’s about those of us who defend feminism stepping up and saying, “no. No, no, no, no. We will not continue to operate this way. Our feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.”
It would be nice if you understood that oppression does not operate in a universal way, that a woman of color is oppressed in different ways than a poor woman with a disability is oppressed in different ways than a fat trans woman, et cetera. And that privilege is not all or nothing. “Straight privilege” can be experienced as bi-erasure. “Male privilege” can be experienced as cissexism. It would be nice if you allowed things to be complicated. Because things are complicated. And people’s lives are at stake.
It would be nice if you resisted the urge to define anyone else’s gender. To police who is woman enough to benefit from feminism. Who is woman enough to be in women-only spaces. Who is woman enough to decide that they are a woman. It would be nice if you understood that other people’s bodies, including their genitals, are not in your jurisdiction. That, when you call for people to get their rosaries off your ovaries and the government out of your bed, you must resist the urge to police the bodies, expressions, and sexualities of other people. Including other women. Including women you refuse to recognize as such.
It would be nice if you started recognizing them as such.
Actually, no. It wouldn’t be “nice.” It would be HUMANE.
It would be humane to respect how a person self-identifies. It would be humane to stay accountable for the ways Feminism has fucked up and does fuck up and will continue to fuck up. It would be humane to call out those wrongdoings whether or not they harm you, personally, and to take responsibility for your place in facilitating them. It would be humane to extend human rights to your fellow humans, to do your activism in a way that does not terrorize whole populations. To not call for violence against members of those populations, not actively facilitate that violence by — for instance — releasing their personal information on the Web. It would be humane to educate yourself about the different ways oppression can look, especially those that your own experience has failed to teach you. To ally yourself with movements that are also geared toward ending oppression, and to stop oppressing people in the name of ending oppression.
It would be humane. And it would be radical. And I would love, some day, for it to be Feminist.
Another Self-Identified Feminist With a Shit Ton of Privilege