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'Transwomen are women' and the irony of intersectional feminism

(24 Posts)
smellfunny Sun 11-Feb-18 11:48:08

Does no-one else find it interesting that the same people who declare 'transwomen are women' also claim to believe in intersectional feminism?

The irony is that by erasing the word 'trans' from 'transwoman', these self-declared intersectional feminists are obscuring how the lived experiences of transwomen inherently differ from those of (cis)women. It obscures their unique struggles by conflating them with (cis)women.

Transwomen and women are both oppressed. However, whilst transwomen are oppressed solely on the basis of gender women are oppressed through both gender AND their sex class.

Thoughts, anyone?

GuardianLions Sun 11-Feb-18 12:02:30

Well.. I agree, but really 'transing' as a concept in itself it totally at odds with the idea of intersecting oppressions.

You can't 'trans in' and 'trans out' of oppression, but intersectional feminists have been bamboozled by postmodern word salad* into saying 'yes! I see it! I see it too!' - a 'transwoman' is oppressed both as a woman and as a trans - just as I am WoC am oppressed according to my perceived 'race' as well as my sex.

When in fact, a trans identifying male has male privilege and is oppressed for his gender non-conformity like gay men. 1 axis of oppression only.

*I am shamelessly stealing this term from other mumsnetters and my deep apologies for having no recollection of who it was.

smellfunny Sun 11-Feb-18 12:18:15

I both agree and disagree with your statement GuardianLions.

I think that a man expressing 'femininity' or behaving as a 'woman' does face a very real oppression from those who have a very binary view of gender. This is rooted in sex-based discrimination and upholding of gender stereotypes, I do not see how it is at odds with it.

To a certain degree, I think you can 'trans out of oppression' - that is, by conforming to societal expectations of gender norms you are more likely to be included, whereas by expressing yourself as (say) a man who likes dresses you are excluded.

I'm going to say something somewhat contentious: I don't think men have inherent male sex-based privilege. What I do believe is that, unlike women, men have the ability to gain sex-based privilege through conforming to male gender norms. The problem is, women can't opt into that sex-based privilege. Therefore men (trans or otherwise) are, indeed, to some degree in a position of power in that respect.

GuardianLions Sun 11-Feb-18 12:41:11

All males are socialised into a patriarchy that benefits males and those with male socialisation (whilst collectively disadvantaging and exploiting females with female socialisation).

A lot of aspects of socialisation into sex roles is harsh, punitive and unpleasant for both sexes, but on the bigger scale even the most gender non-conforming men exhibit male-entitlement consistent with their social privilege eg- mansplaining, applying for jobs they aren't 'fully' qualified for, anticipating higher pay, greater social significance, etc than women.

LangCleg Sun 11-Feb-18 12:48:31

I think it's rather convenient that they always omit class - thus doubling down on the faux oppression faced by white middle class males at elite education institutions just because they like a bit of lippy.

smellfunny Sun 11-Feb-18 12:57:28

Just out of interest GuardianLions with regards to children being transitioned as young as 3, or even if we take children who transition before puberty, to what degree is a biological male in that position afforded male privilege?

HairyBallTheorem Sun 11-Feb-18 12:59:11

Smell I'd say that the oppression (and threat of very real violence) a trans person faces from some men is a product of two things, one of which is connected with male attitudes towards women, but is subtly different from the misogyny directed at women.

This first is to do with male attitudes to women. But not because the men literally think the trans person is a woman, but because they see women (biological women) as lesser, therefore a man who voluntarily adopts that role has made themselves weak and feminine in their eyes and lesser. So it's a double whammy - a sense of "why would you choose to make yourself lesser unless there was something wrong with you?" It's rooted in the same attitudes towards femininity as misogyny, but is not actually misogyny.

The second reason is of course homophobia - a certain type of homophobic man thinks of trans as a form of homosexuality (regardless of how the trans person sees themself) and reacts accordingly.

So although it's all rooted in the same toxic cocktail of attitudes towards sex, sexuality and sex-stereotyped "allowable" roles for the two sexes, the motivations for attacks on transwomen are different.

GuardianLions Sun 11-Feb-18 13:07:36

It is very hard to know how it plays out, because they are being headf*cked by their parents and the school/whoever plays along. I don't think it is quite female socialisation they are getting - Cordelia Fine proves the socialisation begins from birth and perhaps there is part of all those colluding that knows he is male and subtly favours him in certain ways.
Thinking about it- the gender he is being socialised as, is more a modern eunuch.

GuardianLions Sun 11-Feb-18 13:09:38

Sorry I was responding to smellfunny

BigDeskBob Sun 11-Feb-18 13:18:21

The women more likely to be able to speak out about feminism, certainly in this country, are white, middle class and well educated. There's nothing wrong with being any of those things, but it's important to remember that not all women face the same barriers to liberation. That's why intersectional feminism is so good - it helps us to remember that women face race, class, religion, disability discrimination too.

The problem with it, isn't what it is, or the women involved - it's the men taking it over. It's white, middle class men telling white middle class women to shut up.

Any problems, discrimination or oppression MIT may face is nothing to do with feminism. Nothing.

I think it's unfair to single out intersectional feminism, when so many other areas have also been invaded by MIT. I would criticise politics, the health service and education in their attitude to women before any sort of feminism.

terryleather Sun 11-Feb-18 13:25:26

I don't see how TIMs or non binary males can be oppressed by my understanding of the term - by that I mean who is benefitting from their oppression and/or what rights do they not have?

It's without doubt true that they can be disadvantaged & discriminated against but not oppressed as far as I can see and that would come down to homophobia and a form of misogyny that sees anything feminine/womanly in a male as unnacceptable & lesser.

Trans and non binary are not classes like sex and race as at any point TIMs and male non binarys can go back to being at the top of the sex hierarchy (although I'd argue they never left it) and avoid oppression if they so choose - unlike women or POC who can't identify out of their oppression.

It's seems that with classes you can only really identify downwards e.g a rich person can identify as poor but how could a poor person identify as rich, it would be laughable. The same with Rachel Dolezal identifying from white to black.

smellfunny Sun 11-Feb-18 13:27:18

I'm not necessarily singling out intersectional feminism itself. More that I'm singling out the predominantly younger generation of feminists who use intersectionality in order to dismiss gender critical feminists.

I'm arguing more against how intersectionality is being invoked in order to rebuke women for questioning whether transwomen are the same as biological women, without the consideration that the term 'transwoman' would be a more beneficial means of analysing the experiences of MtF persons.

Not sure if I'm making any sense - haven't had my lunch yet!

terryleather Sun 11-Feb-18 13:33:29


I'm not an kind of expert on intersectionality but from what I understand it was for use in feminism to help identify the different axis of oppression women faced as you explained in your post.

However the idea & meaning has been co-opted and bastardised by libfems/SJW/TAs to try and get anything to do with women & feminism to intersect with penis.

I'm pretty sure that wasn't Crenshaw's original intention...

DonkeySkin Sun 11-Feb-18 13:58:52

Men who take on a femme identity or appearance are not oppressed in any coherent sense. They are also never treated like women; they can't be, because you need a female body for that, and women's oppression is based on what resources men can extract from our female bodies. Oppression is always about resource extraction - there are no resources that men want to extract from femme-presenting men. They may be discriminated against, as gay men also sometimes are, but as Guardian and Hairy pointed out, this is homophobia, not misogyny.

Even in countries where femme-presenting men are severely discriminated against, such as in Pakistan, where the 'third gender' Hijira are forced to live on the margins of society and have to rely on prostitution to survive, 'third gender' men never experience anything approaching the oppression of women and girls in those countries, which includes being denied education, being sold into marriage as children, being considered the property of one's husband after marriage, rape, beatings, mutilation, acid attacks, being burned alive and being killed at birth or in infancy for being girls.

Although they are considered very lowly compared to other men, Hijira have more freedom and autonomy than most women in Pakistan, which includes the freedom to opt out of their sex class in the first place. Note that almost all 'third genders' - historically and across the world today - are for gay men: women and girls cannot escape the things that are done to them for being female by declaring themselves a third gender.

If you look at the West, where trans-identified men are mostly heterosexual and not in the marginal position of homosexual 'third gender' men, I think the argument that TIMs are oppressed becomes even more absurd. No doubt they experience discrimination and sometimes even violence for flouting masculine appearance norms. But they are also coddled and fawned over to a truly incredible degree. They regularly get away with behaviour that non-trans-identified men would be censured or fired for. Their wives and kids are expected to reorient not only their lives but all their memories and perceptions around their husband/dad's 'brave gender journey', and suck up abusive and narcissistic behaviour. TIMs are put on every women's power list, promoted above actual women no matter how non-existent their achievements (hello Liam Madigan), declared brave and stunning, simply because they are men who have dared to put on makeup. No woman gets treated like this, ever.

It really says something about how people view women, that they think men are heroic for taking on our appearance norms. That's why some people have such a hard time grasping the dangers of self ID. When they say that no man would 'go through all that' just to get on an election short list, I think they aren't thinking of medical transition specifically. They are thinking of how degrading it is for a man to assume a 'woman' position. That what 'go through all that' means. Look, a member of the fully human sex caste has degraded himself by mimicking the sub-humans! What an act of courage, surely no man in his right mind would do that without a deep and meaningful reason! Praise him - I mean 'her'!

GuardianLions Sun 11-Feb-18 14:05:07

Regarding the posters talking about how it conveniently sidesteps class..

There is something SO UTTERLY RIDICULOUS for a white, middle class male, putting on lipstick and 'calling out' females for being white and middle class (therefore should STFU and let the more oppressed women speak).

Also - I (sorry I am being too lazy to read back and say who said what) - agree people are not 'oppressed' as homosexuals - there is no relationship of exploitation there - in fact some of the most powerful men in time have been closet cases.

BigDeskBob Sun 11-Feb-18 14:06:00

Terry, I agree. The words have been bastardised, but by men.

What I mean when I say I don't blame feminism, is that in reality, feminism is lots of small groups trying to achieve things, not one big organisation. If MIT can get a major political leader to say 'transwomen are women', what chance do small groups of (often young) women have?

Wanderingwomb Sun 11-Feb-18 14:08:54

Amazing post donkey skin

GuardianLions Sun 11-Feb-18 14:11:52

Seconded . great post DonkeySkin

terryleather Sun 11-Feb-18 14:18:10

Agree BigDeskBob

terryleather Sun 11-Feb-18 14:19:32

DonkeySkin Brava!

smellfunny Sun 11-Feb-18 22:51:29

Thank you DonkeySkin for your post, it made me read up a little more on the issue.

I came across this fantastic article which has really helped me clarify my thoughts and understanding of the gender identity debate:

No1IronGirderRS Mon 12-Feb-18 00:20:09

I too am just posting to say excellent post by DonkeySkin!

thebewilderness Mon 12-Feb-18 01:00:02

Kimberle Crenshaw has made it quite clear more than once that her work on intersectionality of the oppressions of black women did not address males. There is no intersection of oppression with the penis since they are found on th oppressor classes.

AngryAttackKittens Mon 12-Feb-18 03:32:39

I agree with everything DonkeySkin said, and it's why I find the "but it's so hard for them!" arguments so unimpressive. Structural analysis, it's what's (or should be) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

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