Presumably along with most feminists, I was delighted when The Women’s Room was launched. For those who don’t know, The Women’s Room (TWR) aims to address the under-representation of women in the media by providing a database where females can sign up to be listed under their respective fields of expertise. The idea is that this increases their profile and brings them to the attention of the people who might be looking to hire, such as the BBC or any other media outlet.
So far, so good. In fact, so impressed was I with the ethos and aims of TWR that when they called out for volunteers to tweet from their Twitter account, I offered my services. Their volunteers work in shifts – morning, afternoon and evening – and I figured I could do a couple of mornings a week. I was told that tweeting from TWR account entailed responding to queries via tweet, and tweeting out to raise awareness of TWR. As a semi-literate person I thought I could manage that ok.
As it transpired, TWR thought differently. After being given the brush-off for a time whilst nobody seemed to be available to respond to my messages, I was told that my services were not required – yet, I saw they were still asking on Twitter (with some urgency, it has to be said) – for volunteers. I was confused. They needed volunteers; I was offering. What was the problem?
The problem, I was told, was that they were concerned for my safety if I was to tweet from TWR account. As a known radical feminist, I was told, whatever I tweeted would be overwhelmed by people attacking me for transphobia. TWR didn’t want to put me in that position, I was told, and nor were they willing to jeopardise the work TWR has done so far.
It’s quite possible at this point that you’ll be wondering whether TWR’s fears were justified. I am considered by some to be transphobic. This is apparently due to the fact that I strongly believe women-born-women have the right to female-only spaces, that I believe girlhood to be significant, and that I believe gender to be a social and cultural construct. I believe biological sex cannot be changed and that gender roles constrict us all. I have never said that I wish any individual transperson, or transgender people generally, any harm. I have never said I wish anybody to die (despite having had death threats myself). I have never said that transgender people deserve to be treated with less respect than others, or that I consider transgender people to be of less value than any other human being. I have never said any of this because I don’t believe any of this. I suppose it all depends on your interpretation of ‘transphobia’.
Consider this: TWR welcomes – and has always welcomed – transwomen. Its database of experts includes transwomen as well as born-women. I have personally witnessed tweets asking transwomen to volunteer to manage their Twitter account. Not one radical feminist of which I am aware has objected to any of this – either to the inclusion of transwomen on the database of experts, or to transwomen tweeting from TWR account. I posit that this is because radical feminists do not wish to adversely affect the existence of such a valuable, feminist resource as TWR. We need more women in the media. It is shameful that we make up 50% of the population yet are still not seeing this reflected in the media (as, of course, in many other aspects of life). What I mean to say is that *true* feminists put the needs of the whole before our own individual feelings. This is what it means to be a feminist.
I wish TWR every success and I am sure it will flourish. The women on its database should be recognised for their expertise and not overlooked because they are women. That we actually need such a resource is shameful. That radical feminists are not ‘accepted’ in TWR is a blow and gives the title of the project an ironic twist. We should stand up to patriarchal bullies, not let them dictate to us what we can and can’t do – after all, isn’t that precisely what feminists are fighting against?