A good few years ago, I joined a well-known UK-based feminist website. I was hoping to find like-minded women, as well as keep up to date with current feminist issues.
One of the first comments I made on that site was about a pregnant ‘man’. I use the quotes because this pregnant person was not, in fact, a man, but a woman who had decided to live as a man, by which I mean she assumed the outward appearance of a man (if memory serves, she had had her breasts surgically removed and/or had hormonal treatment to deepen her voice and cause facial hair to grow, etc).
I have always had a ‘live-and-let-live’ attitude to life. As long as a person is not harming anyone else, every person has the right – in my view – to live exactly how they want to. Thus, if a man wants to live as a woman, that’s his business (and vice versa, although the number of women who want to ‘become’ men is nowhere near as high).
That’s my view. It’s also my view that when the tabloids were spouting off about a ‘pregnant man’, they got it wrong. Men can’t get pregnant. If a person has a uterus and ovaries and a vagina, she is a woman. Yes, she might be a woman who prefers to be called a man, she might be a woman who feels she is trapped in a man’s body, but if she’s pregnant, she’s a woman. This is the point I made in the comments section of this particular website about this particular story.
Well. The backlash that followed was unexpected, to say the least. I had people tell me that my comments were extremely offensive and that I was being transphobic. I honestly, to this day, don’t know what’s offensive about pointing out the obvious: the tabloids were screaming about a man being pregnant; I pointed out that the truth was actually far more mundane, i.e. that a woman was pregnant. (On that point, if a person identifies as male, why would they want to be pregnant? It’s such a female condition, after all.)
I remained a member of the site long enough to keep reading references to ‘ciswomen’. People would post a comment along the lines of, ‘As a ciswoman….’ At first – in my ignorance – I thought it referred to a different ‘woman’ (of what description, I know not). I had seen the phrase ‘transwoman’ used and I thought ‘ciswoman’ was something else along those lines. It took a good few mentions of this phrase for me to go and look it up. Lo and behold, I discovered that I am, in fact, a ciswoman. Not a woman, a ciswoman (that is, I was born a female). This was news to me. I didn’t realise it was now PC for females to refer to themselves as ‘cis’ to differentiate from ‘trans’. It was around this time that I left that site for good. These feminists were not of the same mindset as me.
It took me a long time to realise that I am actually a radical feminist. The term has such negative connotations when compared with ‘liberal feminist’. I am sure that these negative connotations have come about because we live in a patriarchal society and radical feminism is the feminism which most goes against the grain. Liberal feminism – the feminism which believes we should call ourselves ‘ciswomen’ and the feminism which believes porn and prostitution are empowering to women – is not for me.
I don’t condone hatred of any individual (with the exception of certain former politicians), nor do I condone hatred of any group of people, particularly minorities. I have never believed that I was born into the wrong body, I have never identified more as male than female, I have never ‘felt’ male, so I cannot imagine what that must be like. Some people call this ‘cis privilege’. Apparently, I am now meant to ‘check my privilege’ as a ‘cis woman’, a label which I do not accept.
As a female I am not privileged (as a working-class woman, even less so). As a female I have been subject to misogyny since the day I was born. This is the problem I have with transwomen wanting to share our spaces. If a person has been brought up as a male, he does not and cannot know what it is like to have spent one’s entire life at the mercy of the prevailing misogynistic attitudes. Yes, he might have suffered in other ways: he might have been bullied at school for being effeminate, or ‘gay’. He might have suffered in ways I cannot begin to imagine. But he has not suffered misogyny as a female being brought up in a patriarchal society. This is obvious.
What I do not understand is why some transwomen try to invade female-only spaces. You might identify as female, but I don’t see a woman, I see a man dressed up as a woman. Men have been responsible for causing me various harms over the years, including sexual abuse and violence. I therefore believe I have the right to enter a women’s toilet or a women’s changing room without worrying that one or more of the other occupants might be in possession of a penis.
I also firmly believe that females have the right to organise conferences of our own, such as the forthcoming Radfem 2013. For some reason, some transwomen (I will keep saying ‘some’ because I am sure they represent the minority of transwomen) feel the need to try to be a part of such conferences. The organisers of Radfem 2012 were forced to change the venue, such was the vociferousness of the cries of ‘transphobia!’ because it was stipulated that only ‘female-born women’ were welcome. The original venue, Conway Hall, eventually refused to allow Radfem 2012 to be held there (for a brilliant and comprehensive analysis of this situation, see here).
Why? If transwomen want to organise their own conference, I wouldn’t try to force entry. I wouldn’t cry ‘misogyny!’ because I was not welcome at such a conference. I would/do understand that I cannot possibly have encountered the problems and prejudice levied against transsexuals and I would not begin to suggest otherwise. It is NOT transphobic to want to have female-only spaces. It IS misogynistic to not allow females to have safe places in which we can congregate, discuss, and debate issues which pertain specifically to us.
Misogyny is the only prejudice which is still permitted in 2013. We cannot discriminate on the grounds of race, religion, sexuality or disability (at least not in polite company). Any perceived prejudice towards people who have ‘changed’ gender is now also frowned upon, to the extent that those females who do not wish to share their space with males-who-now-wish-to-be-known-as-female are castigated – even by other members of their own sex (liberal feminists) – as transphobic. Being ‘transphobic’ has now become one of those labels, like ‘racist’, which nobody – at least nobody who identifies as ‘liberal’ – wants to be associated with. To be transphobic is worse than being misogynistic; or, to put it another way, women lose out (again). The people at Conway Hall might as well have said: ‘You wimmin don’t want women-who-used-to-be-men at your conference, ergo, you are transphobic, ergo, we do not wish to be associated with you.’
I propose a new –ism: Radical Feminism-ism. Or radfemphobia. Perhaps then we will be listened to, and receive due protection from the powers-that-be. But as the powers-that-be are all men, I won’t be holding my breath.