Trans Feminism: There’s No Conundrum About It

Aviva Dove-Viebahn’s recent Ms. blog post, “Transfeminism and Its Conundrums,” framed trans feminism* as a controversial and debatable submovement within feminism. I strongly disagree, as did a number of commenters, and here’s why:

Trans feminism—that is, transgender perspectives on feminism, or feminist perspectives on transgender issues—is one of many so-called “third-wave” feminisms. Its origins are closely linked with other feminist submovements—specifically, sex-positive feminism, postmodern/poststructuralist feminism, queer theory and intersectionality. These strands of feminism  represent a move away from viewing sexism as an overly simplistic, unilateral form of oppression, where men are the oppressors and women are the oppressed, end of story.

Instead, these feminisms recognize that there are numerous forms of sexism—that is, numerous double standards based on a person’s sex, gender, or sexuality. In addition to traditional sexism (where men are viewed as more legitimate than women), there is heterosexism (where heterosexuals are viewed as more legitimate than homosexuals), monosexism (where people who are exclusively attracted to members of a single sex are viewed as more legitimate than bisexuals/pansexuals), masculine-centrism (where masculine gender expression is viewed as more legitimate than feminine gender expression) and so on.

There are also other forms of marginalization prevalent in our society, such as racism, classism and ableism.As feminists of color have articulated, these do not act independently of one another but intersect with and exacerbate one another. A woman of color doesn’t face racism and sexism separately; the sexism she faces is often racialized, and the racism she faces is often sexualized. This concept of intersectionality is now very well accepted among many contemporary feminists (albeit not by those who continue to adhere to a unilateral men-oppress-women-end-of-story approach to feminism).

Trans feminism is rooted in this idea that there are multiple forms of sexism that often intersect with each other and other forms of oppression.

Although some feminists have historically framed sexism in terms of patriarchy, early trans feminists forwarded the gender binary—being nonconsensually assigned a female or male sex at birth—as a way to describe the myriad forms of sexism in our society. Those assigned a male sex are expected to grow up to identify as a man, to be masculine in gender expression and be exclusively attracted to women; those assigned a female sex are expected to grow up to identify as a woman, be feminine in gender expression and be exclusively attracted to men.

Anyone who fails to conform to the gender binary—whether an intersex child, a tomboyish girl, a gay man, a transgender person, etc.—is marginalized by society, albeit in different ways. The gender binary concept was an attempt to create a synthesis between feminism, queer and transgender activism, and it has become quite popular among many feminists and LGBTQ activists since its inception.

Trans feminists have also focused on how trans people are impacted by institutionalized cissexism—forms of sexism that construe trans people’s gender identities and expressions as less legitimate than those of cis people (those who are not trans). Cissexism—or as some describe it, transphobia—can be seen in how individuals, organizations and governments often refuse to respect trans people’s lived experiences in our identified genders/sexes; in the discrimination we may face in employment or medical settings; and in how trans people are often targeted for harassment and violence.

While some examples of cissexism are quite trans-specific, others have strong parallels with what women face in a male-centric society. For instance, trans people and women are routinely objectified and deemed incompetent to make informed decisions about our own bodies, and our perspectives and lived experiences are often not taken seriously by cis people and men, respectively.

Of course, cissexism does not occur in a bubble. It occurs in a world where other forms of sexism and oppression exist. For instance, trans feminists such as myself have articulated the concept of trans-misogyny—that is, the way cissexism and misogyny intersect in the lives of trans women and others on the trans female/feminine spectrum. Trans-misogyny explains why the lion’s share of societal consternation, demonization and sexualization of transgender people is concentrated on trans female/feminine individuals. Cissexism also intersects with other forms of marginalization—for instance, victims of transphobic violence are overwhelmingly trans people who are poor, who are of color and/or on the trans female/feminine spectrum.

So basically, that’s it: Trans feminism is not a conundrum. Rather, it is simply one of numerous third-wave feminisms that take an intersectional approach to challenging sexism and oppression. The only thing different about trans feminism is that it extends this feminist analysis to transgender issues, which have been largely overlooked or misinterpreted by feminists in the past.

Dove-Viebahn’s post gives credence to those feminists who refuse to acknowledge cissexism or intersectionality, and instead frame trans issues solely in terms of male privilege. In the past, such feminists have dismissed trans feminism, depicting trans men as being “female” traitors who transition to attain male privilege and trans women as being entitled “men” who transition in order to infiltrate women’s spaces. While this rhetoric has mellowed somewhat over the years, some feminists still argue that trans women have no right to participate in feminism because we were not socialized female, or because we may have benefited from male privilege in the past.

Of course, male privilege is a real phenomenon. In my book Whipping Girl, I discuss my own experience with male privilege—and losing it post-transition—at great length. However, trans people’s experiences of male privilege vary greatly depending upon the direction of one’s gender transgression or transition, the age one transitions (during early childhood, as a teenager or at various points in adulthood), one’s sexual orientation, whether one “passes” as cisgender, one’s race and so on. It’s impossible to talk accurately about male privilege—or any aspect of sexism—without framing it in terms of intersectionality.

The myth that there is some kind of universal women experience was debunked by women of color, among others, long ago. All of us have different life histories, sexism impacts each of our lives somewhat differently and each of us is privileged in some ways but not others. Some feminists may obstinately insist that cis women have it far worse than trans women, or that traditional sexism is far worse than cissexism, or heterosexism, but the point of feminism is not to engage in this kind of Oppression Olympics. Rather, the point is to challenge societal sexism and other forms of marginalization. This is what trans feminists are focused on doing.

When trans feminism is reduced to a debate about whether trans women “count” as women or as feminists, it’s a disservice not only to us but to feminism as a whole.

*Many trans feminists prefer spelling “trans feminism” as two separate words, where trans is an adjective that modifies feminism. The single-word version—“transfeminism”—looks somewhat alien, and seems to suggest that this is not actually a strand of feminism but something else entirely (just as the single word “transwomen” suggests that trans women are something other than women). Along similar lines, we do not describe people as Catholicwomen or lesbianwomen.

Photo of transgender symbol from Wikimedia Commons

 

Comments

  1. Sunflower says:

    first of all, I love Julia Serano. Whipping Girl was incredibly helpful book in helping me come to terms with my partners gender identity and transition. I went from confusion, frustration and even anger about my partners transition to being their biggest ally in the process of reading that book. My partner is neuro-atypical so communicating complex and often intangible feelings is difficult for them, and while I don’t assume all trans* experiences are the same, it helped me to better understand the struggles my partner had gone through and why it took so long for them to be able to open up to me about who they truly are.

    And Ms., thank you for publishing this. I had stopped reading your blog for quite a while after that cissexist garbage. Linking to that transphobic blog was horrific, and the things I read there had me completely shaken for a couple of days actually. I hadn’t been aware that there remained feminist spaces that were so full of hatred and bigotry. I guess that it was cis privilege that allowed me to think cissexist feminists were few and far between.
    Anyways, I feel like I may actually be able to enjoy your blog again.

  2. Rather, the point is to challenge societal sexism and other forms of marginalization.

    No, the point of feminism is to liberate women. If you want to make it toothless and irrelevant by turning it into a political correct shadow of itself be my guest. But then the “feminist” movement will have to do without me – a lot other women who despite your and your ilks ramblings about “intersectionality” do not actually have the academic background to understand 90% of what you have written now and what bascically amounts to the vocabulary of a certain in-group. (I don’t think it is too bad that I have my own corner where I talk about academic/theoretical concepts to my liking. However, my opinions are probably irrelevant to a massive number of women. And so are yours, Serano – do not pretend it is otherwise.)

    When we do not put women’s concers front and center the most marginalized women will not have anywhere to turn to for their very real experiences of very real discrimination based on their sex alone. Individual experiences are individual. I do not need anyone to tell me that because I am not stupid or otherwise mentally impaired. However, as human beings we are social animals and need each other’s social reactions to make sense of what we are. We need commonalities, we need community. There is no community were everyone is a completely unique individual. That is not essentialist because people with things in common easily discover that they are reacted to in similar ways. This is a political movement’s base. Keep the base, build on it. Focusing on how everyone experiences oppression differently is all fine and well – however, if this becomes the entire point people will end up policing and concern-trolling each other all the time and nothing will be done.

    albeit not by those who continue to adhere to a unilateral men-oppress-women-end-of-story approach to feminism

    So there are instances in which women oppress men? Tell me more about this exciting new concept of bilateral or multilateral oppression where everyone oppresses everyone else. Must be really nifty to gloss over structural violence and group-based power differences which make this bilateralism/multilateralism no more than a fairytale you tell yourself before you go to bed because you cannot accept that large-scale differences exist.

    • Wow, the willful ignorance and stubborn resistance to intersectionality in some corners of feminism is truly disappointing.

      “When we do not put women’s concers front and center the most marginalized women will not have anywhere to turn to for their very real experiences of very real discrimination based on their sex alone.”

      The whole point is that “the most marginalized women” are often NOT facing discrimination based on their sex alone, but rather a confluence of oppressions–often race, class, and gender identity. To deny that, or to say “we’re not talking about race/trans issues/class here, we only want to hear about your oppression as a cis woman” is to silence people and deny their lived experience based on your academic experience. Do not pretend it is otherwise.

      And the idea that you “reduce something to meaninglessness” (baddyke) by identifying the larger structures that oppress lots of different people in lots of different ways (especially and including all kinds of women) is completely steeped in privilege. White women hate being called on their racist, anti-queer, or transphobic shit, that is for sure. Sorry, ibleedpurple, but with your attitude and unwillingness to challenge your own privilege I would be pleased to have you and “your ilk” out of my feminism so we can actually move forward, instead of reducing the number of women who “deserve feminism” to the people whose lives look like yours.

      • hear, hear!!!!

      • Hell ya!

      • Kate O'Brien says:

        YES!!!

      • The whole point is that “the most marginalized women” are often NOT facing discrimination based on their sex alone, but rather a confluence of oppressions–often race, class, and gender identity.

        *fierce applause*

      • The whole point is that “the most marginalized women” are often NOT facing discrimination based on their sex alone, but rather a confluence of oppressions–often race, class, and gender identity.

        The most marginalized women are precisely so marginalized because they are women: they are the ones stuck with childcare and birth control, they are the ones disproportionally affected by male violence. Although you are able to discuss the differences between women, you seem to inable to discuss why women are worse off than men no matter in which class or society. I relate to women as women first, then I try to figure how she is structurally disadvantaged additionally. When a woman thinks that being a woman is not the most salient characteristic I have absolutely no problem with this – however, I think she might be better off focusing her energies in another movement or ideology, e.g. marxism. There is not One Movement to rule them all. We all have limited capacities.

        Sorry, ibleedpurple, but with your attitude and unwillingness to challenge your own privilege I would be pleased to have you and “your ilk” out of my feminism so we can actually move forward, instead of reducing the number of women who “deserve feminism” to the people whose lives look like yours.

        No problem. Care to tell my how my life looks like?

      • THANK YOU

    • “And so are yours, Serano – do not pretend it is otherwise.”
      That sounds a lot like “Nothing you say matters because your class does not matter.” Hypocrite much?

      “So there are instances in which women oppress men?”
      False rape charges, family law, anti-pornography and anti-prostitution legislation, but I do not participate in pity parties. I’m a trans woman, and advocate equal rights for all.

      Poor are oppressed by rich, blacks by whites, women by men, men by women, and so on dependent on many and variable factors. The idea that all ____ oppress ____ is a FALLACY. Get over it. :)

      • “False rape charges, family law, anti-pornography and anti-prostitution legislation, but I do not participate in pity parties”

        Toni, this is a shockingly anti-feminist, even misogynistic thing to say. I hope that readers will keep this in mind as they read the rest of your comments.

        • So women oppress men by trying to get male-dominated legislatures to pass even the feeblest laws controlling porn? That a few false rape accusations (PEOPLE make false accusations of all sorts of things BTW) is to be compared to the vast numbers of female rape victims who never even report it, because even if it does get to court, the likelihood of a conviction is ridiculously small?

          And the statements about porn and prostitution — your socialized male privilege is showing, I think.

          ” I’m a trans woman, and advocate equal rights for all.” Well, bully for you, but that’s just basic HUMAN rights, and not feminism……….

          • Yes, because in doing that you are oppressing all men AND women involved in the industry. Actually, boys and men are raped all the time, too, but the fact of the matter is just that rape and false rape are BOTH problems.

            And the statement about male privilege — YOUR privilege is showing, I think. Because if you knew me, then you would know that I am transitioning young, and that if you have ever had a father or a brother, then you have enjoyed more male privilege than I have.

            Humanism > Feminism, and being a Feminist means nothing if you turn a blind eye to every form of oppression that does not fit your agenda.

        • Sunflower says:

          I agree with Julia Serano and with you. False rape charges and anti-porn and anti-prostitution legislation (even if my opinions on these things are complex) are not ways in which women oppress men. False rape charges are extremely uncommon, and the spector of false rape claims is so open used to silence discussion of epidemic rates of sexual violence and to silence feminist discourse on that epidemic. It is an anti-feminist scare tactic.

          Oppression is a system, cis men are never oppressed by women because individual acts of prejudice does not qualify as oppression. Women may participate in oppressive systems that harm men that are classed as “lesser” in a patriarchal privileging of certain masculinities (ie: those farthest from any behaviours deemed “feminine”), but they are not the oppressors in the same way men are.

          cis women can oppress trans men, and white women can oppress black men, and this is wherein some of the complexity lies. Also, men oppress men all the time. I think what Serano is pointing to is more that oppression is a complex process. Patriarchy and other forms of oppression intersect in each of our lives in nuanced and seemingly contradictory ways. I think most feminists wold now acknowledge that intersectionality exists, and that feminist analysis does create space also for the liberation of men from heirachies that privilege certain (straight, white, cis, “masculine”) men over others and certain men over certain women. I am a white, cis, queer, poor-come-middle-class woman of metis heritage- privilege and oppression interact (and have interacted) in my life in ways that are very different from how they would for a white, trans, straight woman, or a black, cis, poor, man.

          Intersectionality is a tool for understanding these complexities. What trans feminism advocates is the inclusion of cissexism as one of those intersecting forms of oppression- and one very closely linked to traditional sexism. I didn’t even know that trans-exclusive feminisms existed until relatively recently, and I was quite shocked because it seemed so second nature for me that feminism would include this analysis. Perhaps this was a result of the exposure that I had with trans folks growing up queer and reaching out to the queer community for support, but it just seems logical and natural that trans rights are a feminist issue- for many of the reasons Serano points out in her peice.

          part of the work that we need to do as feminists is examine these complexities in our own lives, and never turn down the opportunity to ask “how does patriarchy affect this? how does kyriarchy shape this?”

        • Agreed, this comment is off-base for sure. The idea, for example, that anti-prostitution legislation is an oppression of men or even primarily an oppression of men is just reprehensible. Anti-prostitution laws, almost without regard to how they are written (even if they specifically target the “Johns” so to speak) make life difficult if not dangerous for sex working women (cis or trans). And such issues should be approached with that thought in mind.

        • Old Music says:

          Not only shockingly anti-feminist, and most definitely misogynist, but also non-sensical: Nobody would suggest that the poor can oppress the rich, or a minority/marginalised ethnic group can oppress the dominant ethnic group, but apparently, women can oppress men at the same time as men oppress women.

          This is the problem with trans/queer theory, it doesn’t allow for any structural analysis of how systems of power and control work, it’s all just individuals, having unique, isolated experiences.

        • Alright, and the incarceration gap, the workplace-related death gap, the education gap, etc… those are all just figments of the imagination?

          There’s nothing misogynistic about saying that men often find themselves on the wrong side of double-standards in an objectively harmful way. Nothing anti-feminist about saying that it’s no more right that a man be shunted into dangerous jobs than a woman be shunted into lower-pay jobs, and it takes a special level of willful blindness to assert that.

          • Men are incarcerated more often than women because men commit more crimes than women.

            I’ll worry more about the “education gap” and the “workplace-related death gap” when men aren’t paid more than women, even when the woman has a higher level of education.

        • No, it is not. Note the quote: “instances.” The message, overall, is that to say all ____ oppress all ____ is always a fallacy. Those who deny this fact are not out for equal rights, but out for more rights for themselves even so should their rights foster inequality.

          There’s no misogyny or misandry to it.

      • Excuse me? How are men are oppressed by anti-porn and anti-prostitution legislation? Toni doesn’t even bother to argue for the “agency” of female sex workers but actually claims that MEN are oppressed if they don’t have access to the commodity of female bodies. Am I on a feminist website, or is this a Men’s Rights Activism or Pick-Up Artist forum?

        Somehow I doubt that Toni preaches this “everyone oppresses everyone” gospel on UAW or NAACP forums.

        • “How are men are oppressed…” Yet you go on to answer your own question, in that anti-pornography legislation violates a female porn star’s free agency. You are blind to the fact that it violates the free agency of ALL consenting adults involved.

          Naturally, this applies to prostitution, too, but on a smaller scale.

      • melittophily says:

        “False rape charges, family law, anti-pornography and anti-prostitution legislation, but I do not participate in pity parties.”

        From a fellow trans woman, please take your MRA shit out of here. This is grosser than anything the radfems have posted.

      • Women can’t oppress men based on gender. The examples that you gave are (even if we were to accept them all as real problems) are not examples of women oppressing men, because the power structure for that form of oppression doesn’t exist.

        But men can be oppressed by patriarchy, and they can certainly be oppressed by women on the basis of sexuality, race, class, etc.

      • That sounds a lot like “Nothing you say matters because your class does not matter.” Hypocrite much?

        What? Serano writes this incredibly academic article in which she uses funny concepts like “unilaterial oppression” and I am supposed to pretend she is relevant to anyone outside of queer and gender studies?

        False rape charges, family law, anti-pornography and anti-prostitution legislation, but I do not participate in pity parties. I’m a trans woman, and advocate equal rights for all.

        MRAs do not belong in the feminist movement. Oppression is always “unilateral” – that Serano implies that it’s otherwise is a neat trick to create similarities where there are none.

        Poor are oppressed by rich, blacks by whites, women by men, men by women, and so on dependent on many and variable factors. The idea that all ____ oppress ____ is a FALLACY. Get over it. :)

        I see what you did there. Would you also say that the poor oppress the rich and that blacks oppress whites, too? I am mentioning this because you omitted these examples and I cannot figure out why.

        For all people who are of the opinion that everyone oppresses everyone: oppression utilizes hierarchies. There really are people who are more oppressed than others because they are situated differently when it comes to social status. Get over it.

        • Neither “unilateral” nor “oppression” are exclusive terminology to a class, and therefore you are disqualifying on the basis of your assumed ignorance of yourself and others.

          So you deny all of the examples in every instance of the human experience?

          I certainly would with Blacks oppressing Whites, because majority racism is region specific, and it happens. The rich, however, are by definition a minority, because where the majority are rich, the majority are poor. As to why I did not reverse and restate every example, only one is the subject of this article and to go into Whites, Blacks, Asians, Latinos, etc. would be to filibuster.

          Thank you for confirming an argument for my side: that trans people are more oppressed via a bigger hierarchy composed of a larger majority, but like I said, I do not participate in pity parties and therefore oppression vs. trans is just as important to me as oppression vs. Gay or oppression vs. women. No form of oppression is a beautiful and unique snowflake, honey. Get over it. :)

          • Neither “unilateral” nor “oppression” are exclusive terminology to a class, and therefore you are disqualifying on the basis of your assumed ignorance of yourself and others.

            No, I am not and your sentence does not make any sense at all. Unilateral is a term used in political theory to describe that a state acts completely autonomously without any regards to the well-being of other states. It has nothing to do with class at all. And I was not arguing that oppression is limited to certain classes.

            I certainly would with Blacks oppressing Whites, because majority racism is region specific, and it happens.

            Keep talking.

            Thank you for confirming an argument for my side: that trans people are more oppressed via a bigger hierarchy composed of a larger majority

            I have not confirmed anything you’ve said.

            No form of oppression is a beautiful and unique snowflake, honey.

            Keep your paternalism to yourself. And yes, every oppression is different.

    • Xiao Mao says:

      SPOT ON.

    • How do women oppress men? Of course women can’t oppress men based on gender, but if a woman’s privileged over a man in some other way, she can still oppress him based on that. If she is white and he’s of color, or she’s straight and he’s gay, she can still be racist or homophobic to him. He can still be sexist to her, but she’ll still enjoy certain privileges he does not.

      Gender matters, but it’s not the only thing that matters. And while not every person can understand and write about every oppression, it’s the least feminism can do to make space for people affected by more than one thing to discuss how both of these experiences are together.

      As a gay woman, for example, my experiences of sexism are going to be different than a straight one’s. I don’t relate to a lot of the discourse about gender relations in feminism because of this, but I’m still discriminated against for my gender. Do you think it’s unreasonable for gay women to talk about how dealing with both of these oppressions changes them, or share our own perspective on the issues?

      And if that’s alright, then what’s the problem with trans feminism?

      • How do women oppress men? Of course women can’t oppress men based on gender, but if a woman’s privileged over a man in some other way, she can still oppress him based on that. If she is white and he’s of color, or she’s straight and he’s gay, she can still be racist or homophobic to him. He can still be sexist to her, but she’ll still enjoy certain privileges he does not.

        If you are a black man or a gay man the chance that significant damage will be done to you by a woman is all in all negligible when compared to what straight men and white men are able to do. Some women have power and use it to other’s detriment. I am not arguing with that. However, hate crimes, economic deprivation, disenfranchisement, violence and rape are not stereotypically female activities by way of women’s oppression by men alone.

        Do you think it’s unreasonable for gay women to talk about how dealing with both of these oppressions changes them, or share our own perspective on the issues?

        No. However, Serano actually does not think that your experiences are salient since oppression is an individual experience that cannot be negotiated. Oh, wait. They are salient – but only if you do not say that lesbians are more oppressed than straight women. We are all supposed to be equal in our differences. See what the problem is?

        Btw, to all: it’s not true that Serano is opposed to Oppression Olympics. That is only true when she doesn’t win.

        • Significant damage can absolutely be done to black men by white women and to gay men by straight women. Regardless of whether those things above are stereotypically female, it’s not like women never do them. And oppression can come from things like discriminatory laws getting voted into practice, people passing their own prejudices down to their children, and people just carrying things on like they’re business as usual- and all of these things are pretty gender neutral. A hate crime is a very bad thing, but it’s that normalization of inequality that creates the necessary environment for the hate crimes to happen.

          Serano probably also meant by “unilateral men-oppress-women-end-of-story approach” that women can oppress other women. Whether or not sexism cancels out racism or homophobia and how much, a white woman can oppress a black one, a straight woman can oppress a gay one. I’ve experienced homophobia from straight men, sure, but the homophobia I’ve experienced from straight women isn’t magically not real. It was one of the things that directly led to me getting raped, so.

          It’s actually an interesting question whether gay women have it worse than straight women- we experience homophobia that straight women do not, but because we’re partnering with other women, we experience some of the most sexist situations at a lesser rate than straight women do. I’m not sure we’re having that discussion, but it would be an interesting one to have.

          I’m not sure that’s even what Serano is trying to say, though. I haven’t gotten around to reading her book yet, but I didn’t take the article as saying that oppression can’t be at all ranked? She just said that if someone is both a woman AND oppressed in another way, her experience will be different from someone who’s a woman and privileged in every other way. There are things that help all women. There are things that only help some women, and as long as the activism for those causes aren’t working against the women those causes do not apply to, then that’s nothing wrong. Actively excluding women who are outside of the common experience is not progressive at all, though. I see the problem in it, but I think you’re taking “transphobia is a thing” and reading it as “we can’t say one person is more oppressed than another”, and that’s also a problem.

    • if you’re not interested in supporting any woman who is not just like you, then get thee gone.

    • if you think that feminism is only for people who identify as women, then please get out, we can do without you. the more we refuse to be intersectional, the more people are going to be left out in the cold. white cis middle class women are not the most marginalized, not under any definition of the word.

      • I am so thankful for all of these encouraging comments. *haha*

        I have no problem not being part of the feminist movement if it’s Serano’s our yours, for that matter. In time, opposing views might blossom. That I would not support women different from me is absolute bullshit. However, for me women are human first and female second – they are not defined solely by the ways in which they are oppressed. So, yeah. There are some women I could not support. There are many women who do not need my support to begin with. And there is nothing wrong with that.

  3. “these feminisms recognize that there are numerous forms of sexism—that is, numerous double standards based on a person’s sex, gender, or sexuality. ”

    Except this is just a linguistic trick, to try and subsume discrimination based on gender or discrimination based on sexual orientation within ‘sexism’. Makes ‘sexism’ an almost meaningless umbrella term ( such as, say, sexism is about oppression based on stuff like sex/gender/sexual orientation that you can’t or shouldn’t have to change).

    Sexism is specifically about discrimination based on biological sex, and feminism is an analysis of HOW and WHY oppression based on membership of the sex class women acts and maintains itself. That isn’t saying that oppression based on gender or oppression based on sexual orientation don’t exist, or don’t interact in damaging ways with SEXISM, but subsuming them all under the same label (and then leaving us without a specific label for discrimination based on membership of a sex class), then leaves members of that sex class un-named, without a way to TALK about sexism specifically. Imaging the furore if the article had instead claimed that racism was just another form of sexism, hence we don’t NEED a specific label for racism, cos it’s all just sexism anyway.

    So, why be surprised if women get annoyed when the specific meaning of sexism is appropriated and swallowed by those concerned with other forms of oppression.

    • How dare you reduce women to biology? The feminism I learned was meant to help us all transcend assigned roles due to birth status. I am sick of so-called feminists using the master’s tools to pick and choose which women they support.

      • “How dare you reduce women to biology?”

        I don’t dare, the patriarchy DOES, which is the problem. If you don’t understand the significance of women as a sex class to the patriarchy, then what you’ve learnt isn’t feminism.

        Helping us all transcend ASSIGNED roles due to birth status? Sex is MORE than birth status, it’s a simple fact. And the problem isn’t assigned roles (which implies that all you want is a broader choice within the set of such), but the roles themselves — invented by the patriarchy and applied to both men and women based on SEX. Gender and gender roles is a tool of the patriarchy used to oppress women, why should we keep ANY of their constructs?

        • Patriarchy doesn’t give two shits if you were born with a vagina, XX chromosomes, present a female gendered appearance or just momentarily choose the “incorrectly feminine” response on occasion– sexism hates on Things Coded Feminine regardless of the body said things are applied to.

          Ergo: Patriarchy doesn’t care about your biology, it cares about finding ways to oppress you that use gendered themes.

          • “Patriarchy doesn’t give two shits if you were born with a vagina, XX chromosomes,..”

            Nonsense. Utter and absolute nonsense, no other word for it, however much it may be a tenet of the trans creed………….

            Womens history now required to go straight out the window.

            Even in genesis, the role of biology is pretty clear (note the line about giving birth and it being painful), it wasn’t gender roles they were talking about here. And then the centuries of oppression loaded onto women as less than human because of the christian ideas of original sin. It’s rare that I have to use quotes from the bible to support my position, but really, you have to be pretty damn delusional to claim that the patriarchy thousands of years ago wasn’t making a big deal about SEX, and then carried on that way.

            If you don’t understand that what mattered ABOUT women and what mattered TO women historically was their reproductive role and childbirth, then you’ll understand almost NOTHING of womens history.

            Plus (I might add) biology MATTERS a whole damn lot to non-western women forced to bear children year after year, or dying in child-birth. It’s not their GENDER as female that is the problem, but the biological facts of their SEX that determines their fate.

      • How dare she reduce women to biology?
        “Woman” is a term that denotes adult human females which is our biology. I don’t appreciate people implying that women are women because we consume particular things or because we wear certain things or because we like certain things. To reduce us to an idea is utterly misogynistic and erases our biology which is the basis of our role in society. We aren’t earmarked for oppression at birth because of our “identity”.

    • “Sexism is specifically about discrimination based on biological sex”

      Biological sex is unavailable to people you meet on the street, and most people you interact with where sexism is an issue. I mean, to the extent it is even possible to determine biological sex as a binary at all. There isn’t even a good definition of it. Ref. Anne Fausto-Sterling for instance.

      Secondly, as Julia Serano explains well in her book, people assign you a gender based on cues. It doesn’t matter if you’re what you call a “biological” woman or a trans woman or intersex, androgynous or whatever. Sexism is going to affect you in the same way in all those circumstances. “Biological sex” is irrelevant. This IS about gender.

      Now, realising that there are complicated, intersecting issues, doesn’t make sexism itself less important. The point with trans feminism as I understand it is to extend the definition of feminism to include trans issues. A lot of the issues we as trans women face, as Serano points out, are directly linked to sexism in the first place. For instance the position of femininity as inferior to masculinity (across the gender spectrum), the objectification of women, which trans women experience an added element of in relation to the idea that a woman is lesser for lacking an extra lump of flesh between her legs – let alone choosing to fix that lump.

      I think you are missing what Serano is actually saying.

    • “Sexism is specifically about discrimination based on biological sex”

      No. Sexism is about discrimination based on perceived gender and adherence to gender norms. If sexism was just about biological sex, then trans men would not gain male privilege as they transition.

    • actually, i think that i lot of people would agree that this is a very sexist message, you’re essentially reducing women to their genitals.

  4. melittophily says:

    despite the link to a transphobic blog and a kind of admitted laziness, i actually think the original article is semi-reasonably thoughtful in coming from a material angle, though both it, and this one, are reductionist. and perhaps the author wouldn’t have linked to fabmatters if the current state of trans politics weren’t so resistant to internal critique.

    while it’s true that socialization is not this hyper-individual process and i as a trans woman have pretty much the same internalized misogyny as the next woman, when we get to denying the fact that babies begin being discriminated against as soon as they’re assigned female in spite of the evidence, we’re going ourselves a disservice. on the personal level i feel i’d be cynical and dishonoring the hell out of my sisters to go into denial about our differences in treatment as children. we’re doing ourselves a disservice when we buy into the “waves” framework of feminist herstories. we’re doing ourselves a disservice when we habitually put trans issues alongside queer theory, “sex positivity,” and postmodernism – there are major problems with all three of those, including w/r/t trans issues, and we don’t NEED to get all pomo to show who is dealing with concrete oppression under patriarchy. nor do we need to diminish in any way that, largely, patriarchy IS about men hating and controlling women… to also take into account the heterosexist proxy war, or white supremacy and class struggle.

    i guess my point is – intersectional feminism is supposed to /complicate/ our discourse, not simplify it.

    it’s also passed time for us to stop using intersex people to make our arguments.

    • Thank you for saying this, “patriarchy IS about men hating and controlling women”.

      Serano doesn’t seem to think so.

    • musefuldoubts says:

      “intersectional feminism is supposed to /complicate/ our discourse, not simplify it”

      that makes total sense and is amazing. Serano is simplifying something very complicated to fit it in the space of a short article. But I totally think it’s worthwhile to think about how we’re uncomfortable with uncertainty and unclarity in our feminism and our trans feminism and our other -ism, and how those feelings can lead us to make decisions that end up flattening people’s experiences

      “it’s past time for us to stop using intersex people to make our arguments”

      This is really a powerful comment – thanks! I do actually think that intersex people are one among many many groups Serano mentions in this particular piece and not a key piece of the argument, but I do feel like I see many other trans pieces that rely on “what about the intersex?” as an important argument.

      thanks again for this.

    • Sunflower says:

      Actually, I sort of agree here, if not completely. Definitely in terms of the aspect of adolesent experience. Anybody that reads a lot of cis privilege in this, I invite you to call me out. I am still learning to be an ally, and I am still far from perfect.

      I have talked about this with a couple of trans* friends a bit. Obviously it depends on individual experiences of childhood and adolesence, and this needs to be acknowledged. But my experiences as a cis woman have been very deeply shaped by the constant looming threat of sexual violence that entered my life before I even reached puberty, including being molested by a friends older brother. Of course, some maab kids are sexually assaulted, obviously, but the idea of sexual violence isn’t used to limit their mobility in the same way it is for some faab kids. Other smaller things, too- For example, my partner, who is at the beginning of their transition, was given kinects and lego to play with as a child- I was given a kitchen set. It seems small, but if these things are worth including in feminist discussions, which they clearly are since they ARE included in feminist discussions, I feel like it is a complexity that is worth exploring.

      I feel like an analysis of how these differing experiences of gender shape our subjectivities are create differences in experience between trans and cis women could be illuminating. Some trans* people in my life have described the complex way in which they absorbed both male and female socialization and internalized misogyny in ways that are different from both cis boys and cis girls. Others convey a different narrative. So obviously there is no monolithic trans experience any more than there is a monolithic cis experience. But I do feel like this could be a strong area to explore how patriarchy functions, and that it is impossible without both cis and trans voices. I feel like part of what makes it so hard for these conversations to happen is the aggression on both sides. I understand the tension for many trans* people who face so much cissexism when they attempt to engage in feminist spaces, but I wish this weren’t the case. I also get very frustrated with the resistance of some cis feminists to include trans women in feminist discussions, when gender oppression has functioned in all of our lives in complex ways.

      I suppose because of these tensions I feel a bit reluctant to bring these ideas forward. I have so much privilege as cis, and that is undeniable- I can see it function in the lives of the trans people I love, and I can see it function as my exploration of these issues illuminates my own privilege. I will inevitably be clumsy. I am almost certain that I was clumsy even in this post.

      Do you mind if I ask you how you think these dialogs can be fostered respectfully and inclusively?

      • Sunflower says:

        Sorry for the rant. I do that sometimes (all the time.)
        To clarify- I suppose I just feel frustrated that these conversations cannot occur reasonably. I feel like a big part of that is that some cissexist feminists refuse to even acknowledge the terms of the conversation. I imagine that having a discussion like this would feel like losing ground for some trans feminists, when so many cis feminists refuse to even acknowledge the legitimacy of their womanhood or the reality of their oppression. I want these conversations to happen, because I believe they are important and can help build solidarity and understanding /because/ of our differences and not in spite of them. But how can they happen? I get really angry sometimes, and I know this means I can come across as rude- which is not conducive to discussion. And I am not even the one having my identity invalidated. Maybe you learn to deal with that anger better as you grow, I am only in my early 20s and am still learning to engage without getting overwhelmed, but it seems so impossible when you are emotionally invested in something.

        • kinigget says:

          You’re taking the time to try to learn, and that in itself is huge. You have a valid point too, You’re talking about the gender binary and how it affects us all from birth. It’s not just trans* individuals, anyone who falls outside the expectations of what it means to be “male” or “female” are scorned as well.

  5. Sargasso Sea says:

    “The myth that there is some kind of universal women experience was debunked by women of color, among others, long ago.”

    Is that so?

    Women of color do not have uteri? Women of color are not forced to bear unwanted children? Women of color are not forced to abort wanted children? Women of color are not expected to conform to expensive “beauty standards”? Women of color are not trained from birth to cater to men’s needs and sexual desires? Women of color are not discouraged from breastfeeding their offspring at all, let alone in public? Women of color are not looked upon as sex objects from a very early age? Women of color are not overwhelmingly sexually abused as children because they are female, but because they are *of color*? Women of color are not routinely discouraged from math and the sciences? Women of color are not expected to do double duty working in and outside of the home?

    It is not surprising that you and the M2T community have difficulty acknowledging that these female-based oppressions are “universal women (sic) experience” when they do not effect you personally. How can you possibly *get* something that you have exactly zero experience with, and further to then feel free to tell females that we have no universal realities in common?

    It is noteworthy that the first people to listen to, and take seriously, WOC’s diurnal concerns were other WOMEN. Other FEMINISTS, specifically, because we could relate to each other based upon our “universal women (sic) experience” that you willfully deny to suit your own purposes.

    • Wonderful article. More please, Ms.

    • Yeah, guess what: No, there aren’t. Because not all women bear unwanted children, not all women abort wanted children, not all women get a period, and not all women have a uterus, and not all women are raised to cater to men. Your perspective is based on atiquated, nuclear family nonsense.

      You mean M2F, F2M, or all around trans. It is not surprising that you and the oppressor community have difficulty acknowledging anything outside of your own pity parties.

      As proven above, your experiences are not universal. Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

      • “antiquated, nuclear family nonsense”?

        If you are actually a woman, then there is an extremely high probability that if you are raped just before or during ovulation that you will become pregnant. All born women grow up knowing this risk and organize their lives around avoiding it. Almost all of us go through menarche and have periods thirteen times per year for approximately forty years. All born women grow up knowing this and organize our lives around dealing with it. All born women know that we were ALL chattel not very long ago, if we’re not living in a country where we are still chattel, and that even in countries where we are no longer legally chattel we are still treated as chattel by some infuriating percentage of men.

        Only a man or a woman utterly lacking in common sense would deny that there are biological-sex-related experiences that are UNIVERSAL female experiences. These do not become obsolete due to the fact that a teeny-tiny minority of natural-born women are born infertile and know it young enough to be relieved of all fear of unwanted pregnancy or else have a hysterectomy in late childhood.

        There’s nothing “antiquated” about the FACTS of biological womanhood and how these shared experiences color our lives and the lives of the women around us and in the world.

        • “an extremely high probability that if you are raped just before or during ovulation that you will become pregnant. All born women grow up knowing this risk and organize their lives around avoiding it.”

          Except the ones that don’t ovulate.

          “Almost all of us go through menarche and have periods thirteen times per year for approximately forty years. All born women grow up knowing this and organize our lives around dealing with it.”

          Except the ones that are outside your “almost”.

          “All born women know that we were ALL chattel not very long ago, if we’re not living in a country where we are still chattel, and that even in countries where we are no longer legally chattel we are still treated as chattel by some infuriating percentage of men.”

          Except the ones that don’t actually know that because they haven’t been allowed to gain consciousness of it, or willfully deny it. And even the ones that do certainly aren’t born with that knowledge.

          “Only a man or a woman utterly lacking in common sense would deny that there are biological-sex-related experiences that are UNIVERSAL female experiences. These do not become obsolete due to the fact that a teeny-tiny minority of natural-born women are born infertile and know it young enough to be relieved of all fear of unwanted pregnancy or else have a hysterectomy in late childhood.”

          So, there are universal biological sex related female experiences. Well, except for the women who don’t have them. But they’re still universal, you see, because the number of women who don’t have them is “teeny-tiny”, a “minority”. They’re still women, somehow, because a doctor said they were when they were born, but they don’t have these universal female experiences.

          Curiously missing from this post is an explanation of what makes these women “women” without these universal experiences.

          • If there aren’t uniquely female experiences why do you actually bother with feminism?

            Also: I hate to say it but often times your characteristics will disqualify you from emphasizing and bonding with people, sometimes your interests will not be front and center because you do not belong. I say: we should all learn how to compromise ourselves and learn to go away when our input is not wanted. Also, what is advantageous to the many can be advantageous to the few. Example: it is advantageous for infertile women to de-center their experiences to give space to fertile women because all women are perceived as being able to give birth and the problems of infertile women are born precisely out of this. A woman’s infertility only becomes problematic because the vast majority of women are fertile. So, yeah, universal experiences really do exist.

        • Kate O'Brien says:

          Biological essentialism is a tool of oppression, period.

          Not all women fit into your “universals,” period.

          Not all women have the same social/cultural experiences of these “biological universals.”

          THERE IS NO UNIVERSAL “WOMAN.” period.

          your analysis is centered on white, cisgendered, middle-class, able-bodied, Western women and it excludes and oppresses many, if not a majority,” of “women.”

    • I am a cisgender woman who has never been forced to bear a child she didn’t want to carry to term. So am I then no longer within your universe? Your argument fails as soon as you start making it. And you clearly did NOT read the article with more than your bigot glasses on to respond in this fashion.

      • Old Music says:

        Gee, I’ve never been forced to either, that’s the intersection of my white, middle class privilege with being female. But, I still recognise the distinct possibility that it could happen, and that I live on a planet where this does happen to women (and only to women, no trans women ever died in child birth or needed an abortion), a lot, all the time.

        ‘Woman’ is a political and social category, based on the outward appearance of our genitalia at birth (and please don’t derail with a ‘what about intersex’ argument, being intersex is a real biological thing, not a ‘feeling’ in ones head) – being assigned female at birth matters.

        • Sunflower says:

          but trans* men do experience pregnancy and may require abortion. I personally know a trans man who has given birth. All that adding cissexism to an intersectional analysis does is allow us to examine the complexities in the way patriarchy functions. It does not weaken or dilute feminism.
          No one is calling for the assertion that trans and cis women have identical concerns or experiences. Furthermore, on a daily basis, when I am treated as a woman, it is on a basis of the social and political category I inhabit as determined by my appearance, not by my genitals. I don’t have to be pants-less to experience gender based violence and oppression. The only people who have seen my cunt and my family members as a child, my sexual partners, and the man who victimized me. The oppression that shapes my daily life is based on assumptions about my biology and my identity.
          also, trans* women experience disproportionate rates of sexual violence. So it is not something that effects *only* cis women.
          Yes, being assigned female at birth matters. I am cis and those experiences I had because of this assignment have mattered. The inclusion of trans* women in feminist discourse does not negate the discussion of these experiences or stop us from talking about them.

          Also, gender dysphoria is more than just a “‘feeling’ in ones head.”

          • Old Music says:

            “The inclusion of trans* women in feminist discourse does not negate the discussion of these experiences or stop us from talking about them.”

            The whole problem is that that is exactly what’s happening. I have been told, on a popular feminist blog, that saying that being born female matters is ‘transphobic’ and my comments were censored.

            Trans women say they don’t give a shit about reproductive rights, that their unique problems as trans women are far more important (funny how all this talk of ‘Oppression Olympics’goes hand-in-hand with the ‘truism’ that trans women are the most oppressed people on the planet)

            Patriarchy is pretty simple to define, it’s a hierarchy that places men over women and men over each other. If trans women are oppressed, it’s either because they ‘pass’ as women, so they are treated like shit, because women are treated like shit, or they don’t ‘pass’ so they’re seen as ‘defective males’, and treated like shit. A woman who can convincingly ‘pass’ as a man, won’t be treated like shit.

            “Furthermore, on a daily basis, when I am treated as a woman, it is on a basis of the social and political category I inhabit as determined by my appearance, not by my genitals.”

            I’ve heard this argument before, and it’s a strange one really, as if in the real world people have such a difficult time distinguishing adult males from adult females – as if it were genuinely the case that we just couldn’t tell without checking genitalia. If it really were as simple as changing ‘gender behavior’ there’d be no notion of ‘passing’ and no need for hormones or surgery, yet (some) trans people say this is what they really need to ‘be themselves’.

            The whole ‘pregnant man’ thing just shows up how ridiculous identity politics are, and how superficial ‘gender reassignment’ really is, trans men are not giving birth through penises, they are giving birth through female reproductive organs, that’s biology, not ‘transphobia’.

          • liberationislife says:

            Trans men and all other female-bodied people don’t need women-blaming analyses of ‘cissexism’ and feminist activists being scolded for referring to the ‘war on women’ (because yes, this silliness does ‘weaken or dilute feminism’). They need us all to unite for *female reproductive rights*.

            It’s a sign of the times that this basic fact has got obscured.

    • Danielle says:

      Pretending that feminism didn’t get its big head start by stepping all over women of color is revisionist history.

      Pretending that white women have to face the exact same struggles as women of color is just ignorant.

      Denying trans women their right to be equally concerned about the status of women of every color, class, and body in their culture is the trans phobic privileging of your own oppression.

      • YES a hundred times YES! The comments to this article are depressing as hell.

      • Thank you.

      • Sargasso Sea says:

        “[...]trans phobic privileging of your own oppression.”

        This makes absolutely no sense at all. Would you care to re-phrase?

        • kinigget says:

          Saying “my oppression matters more than yours”. Otherwise known as the oppression olympics.

          • liberationislife says:

            The ‘Oppression Olympics’ is about competing to prove who’s *most* oppressed (although just to note, I don’t think Sarg Sea did claim her oppression mattered the most). She was just saying there’s a pattern to female-based oppression (which is based on having been considered/assumed female from birth) – it’s a material thing (not denying the existence or importance of other oppression).

    • I am gobsmacked that you can’t see how a woman of color may have an entirely different experience of breastfeeding than a white woman. Or of beauty standards. Or of working double duty inside and outside of the home. I am disappointed that you appear to be so afraid of trans women that you are willing to negate an entire generations worth of work, education and unpacking. a shame really.

      • Sargasso Sea says:

        “I am gobsmacked that you can’t see how a woman of color may have an entirely different experience of breastfeeding than a white woman.”

        Can you point out to me where I said that WOC have the EXACT SAME experience as white women?

        My point is that only FEMALES have issues when it comes to breastfeeding in public.

        • kinigget says:

          *sigh* do white women experience oppression based on the color of their skin? No. do rich women face the same obstacles as poor women? No.

          Saying that there is a “universal female experience” is extremely ignorant and ignores all forms of oppression other than pure sexism.

          Why is that so hard to understand?

          • liberationislife says:

            Sarg Sea didn’t claim that the common female experience she spoke of constituted the *totality* of those females’ experiences. That’s a crucial difference.

            I feel that there’s a lack of intent to really look at what people are saying here in favour of writing them off as having committed the crimes others have told us they’re guilty of.

        • Kate O'Brien says:

          you do know that men can breastfeed too, if they want to? it’s an easy medical process.

          says something of how misogynist the world is that male breastfeeding isn’t even on the table.

    • So white women understand what it’s like to have their beauty compared to euro-centric beauty standards?

      Are white women just as likely to be viewed as terrible mother’s just as much as women of color? If you need an answer just watch as few episodes of a show like Law and Order, and pay attention to how WOC are protrayed on it.

      I worked for a Women of Color organization for years. The reason orgs like mine exist is because many WOC feminists feel they are were not represented during the 2nd wave, and are still not being represented in today’s mainstream feminist movement.

      Women of color have more unplanned pregnancy and abortion (percentage-wise) than white women. Are more likely to live in poverity than white women. And in this recession, women of color are having a harder time finding work than white women.

      I am a women of color with a black/white racial background. I spent many years during my childhood hating my crazy biracial hair. I often dreamt of having a head full of smooth, flowing, board straigt hair that could be caught up in the wind. I spent years believing my hair was ugly and nappy. It took me years to learn to except and love my hair.

      I recently gave birth to a little fair skinned, blond, blued eyed girl. Because I’m a lot darker than my daughter people assume I’m her nanny not the mother that gave birth to her. Black woman with a white baby, got to be the nanny right?

      These experiences are link to both my sex and my race.
      Beg tell, how are these universal women’s experiences?

    • ” Women of color are not expected to conform to expensive “beauty standards”?” Those beauty standards are often different than what white women are expected to conform to. In fact, those beauty standards are often “Look white, at the expense of all else”

      “Women of color are not discouraged from breastfeeding their offspring at all, let alone in public?” Women of colour are usually treated even more like shit for doing things like this, because it’s “ghetto” and “trashy” when they do it.

      “Women of color are not overwhelmingly sexually abused as children because they are female, but because they are *of color*?” Actually, interestingly enough, women of colour are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than white woman because, you guessed it, they’re women of colour! And when you deny that race has anything to do with it, well, that’s why so man WOC left feminism for womanism.

      Apart from that, holy shit, no woman is going to have the exact same experience as another woman. My experience having grown up as part of the underclass, being queer, having a mental illness, those make my experience of womanhood different from someone who grew up upper class and straight and mentally healthy. My experience as someone who has an abnormal menstrual cycle and might be infertile makes my experience of womanhood different than someone who has a completely regular cycle and is fertile. So get over your universal woman experience. There isn’t one anymore than there’s a universal human experience.

    • There is no universal womanhood. I don’t think my experience as a WOC is the same as that of a white woman. I don’t think my experience as a woman with able-privilege is the same as that of a disabled woman. The sexism I, and WOC before me (and other WOC now), experience is /racialized/. It’s not the same as white women’s experience.

    • I’m a cis woman, I’ve never been forced (or prevented) from bearing children I wanted (because I haven’t been having sex that could lead to babies), I’ve received very mixed messages about catering to men instead of unilaterally “that’s what you should be doing!” ones, I’ve been told never to become a mother because of a disability that runs in my family, and I was forced into math and the sciences instead of discouraged from it because my family didn’t want me to be THAT kind of woman.

      Gendered discrimination affects every woman differently. There aren’t any damn universal female experiences.

    • Actually, not all WOC have uteri. Some women have penises. Deal with it.

    • Ponytime says:

      um, i’m pretty sure the first people to take woc’s concerns seriously were woc. my understanding is that woc created intersectionality to communicate these realities to everyone else. for which we others are ALL REALLY GRATEFUL. correct me if i’m wrong. i’m white, thus forever catching up – no sarcasm, i’m serious.

    • “these female-based oppressions are “universal women (sic) experience””

      Except that they aren’t. Some women never start menstruating, some women go through medical procedures because of illnesses that remove their ovaries and/or uterus before their child bearing years. Some women are simply infertile.

      Women of color can look from the outside at “beauty standards” which they grow up knowing they can never truly obtain. All women of all backgrounds do not experience pressures to be sexualized in the same way. Women of color have a distinct advantage to obtaining gainful employment than their male cohorts (while at the same time men of color are still likely to earn more) because of gendered ideas of race and behavior.

      White middle and upper class women were not forced en mass to be sterilized because their fertility was valued, not viewed as a threat. While white women were battling to gain control over their reproductive capacities to choose NOT to have children, women of color, women with disabilities and women of lower classes were robbed of their reproductive functions. “Forced pregnancies” is not a salient issue for ALL WOMEN.

      “Universal woman experience” is not as universal as some feminists like to think. Maybe if you use enough “most”, “many” “almost all”s in your statements, it will be general enough, but its arrogant to assume you know everything about another woman’s experience because you happen to share the same gender.

    • Saying that WOC their struggles are the same as white women ignores the many other struggles they face (for example racism).

      Plus not all women have an uteri, but I guess because of your cissexism you fail to realise that and also have difficulty acknowledging that your experiences are not universal.

  6. Men DO oppress women every day. Denying this, as Serrano does, is anti-feminist.

    Ms. Magazine, I am very disappointed in you for publishing this article.

    • And women oppress men every day. And whites, blacks. And blacks, whites. And these, those. All forms of oppression are to be quashed and no form of oppression is a beautiful and unique snowflake to be valued above others.

      Who’s denying what? I am very disappointed in you, period.

      • Naming the agent is important. 85%-100% of people convicted of assault are men. And 90% of murders are committed by men. (source http://www.offourbacks.org/malepat.htm)

        Women are not the oppressive class- men are. Denying this is anti-feminist.

        Of course there are overlapping oppressions. That doesn’t mean we should place our heads in the sand regarding male violence against women.

        That’s what men’s rights activists want us to do. Apparently, trans feminism has quite a lot in common with them.

        • It is anti-feminist to deny the circumstances of lesbian violence, violence against women in first nations communities, how class contributes to violence, etc.
          Well, at least in the 21st century it is anti-feminist.

        • Kate O'Brien says:

          trans women, esp. trans women of color, have the highest rates of violence against them of any group.

          • Cait, I didn’t deny anything that you’ve mentioned. Please re-read my comment.

            Kate, the violence you’re talking about is for the most part committed by men. Not by women. So you’re actually agreeing with me.

      • It seems that you don’t understand what the word “oppression” means. Oppression is structural and group based as opposed to based on individual actions.

        To give but one example of how this operates: Sure, they are women who are abusive towards their male partners. However, men do not experience the same *fear* of unknown women that women experience towards unknown men. This is because we live in a society that not only condones but celebrates male violence towards women. Women know this from our lived experiences. The fact that some people will say, “women do it too!” simply points out that women are not the majority of the ones behaving in a sexually abusive manner towards the opposite sex. If we were, men would be afraid of women and there would be no need to point this out.

      • Old Music says:

        Wow, you are actually claiming that black people oppress white people! Perhaps you could explain what structures and institutions exist that allow black people to oppress white people in white-dominated countries with a legacy of the Transatlantic slave trade?

        Then, perhaps, you could explain how poor people oppress rich people, disabled people oppress the able-bodied, and children oppress adults!

    • Danielle says:

      wow, please point out the part of the article where Serano is dismissing the oppression of women by men. I see no such section.

      • “This concept of intersectionality is now very well accepted among many contemporary feminists (albeit not by those who continue to adhere to a unilateral men-oppress-women-end-of-story approach to feminism).”

        • Did you stop reading there? Because she is not saying what you think she’s saying.

        • Are you deliberately misconstruing what she wrote or are you really just this willfully ignorant? The statement quoted is not claiming that women don’t experience oppression on a daily basis, but rather that our experiences of oppression are impacted by other factors, including race, religion, class, socioeconomic factors, and whether the woman is trans or cis.

        • musefuldoubts says:

          I don’t think you’ve read the words here correctly at all. Serano is arguing that feminism is about how men oppress women AND ALSO about a lot of other social things, not that men don’t oppress women.

        • Hi,
          What that sentence means is that there are many types of oppression that are all interconnected that we have to simultaneously approach. By just focusing on men oppressing women, we are ignoring the complexity of the lives of women of colour, differently-abled women, poor women, trans women, immigrant women, etc etc etc.

        • Sunflower says:

          sorry but I don’t really see how you are reading it that way? the rest of the article does go on to elaborate on what exactly that means. It doesn’t mean that women oppress men, it means that certain women are capable, in some cases, of oppressing certain men, in certain circumstances- for example, white women routinely engage is racist discourse. This is oppressive. Intersectionality invites complexity. All women are disadvantaged in a patriarchal system, but the embodiment of that disadvantage is complicated in its intersection with other forms of privilege, such as racism, classism, ablism, and cissexism.

        • Sunflower says:

          I don’t really know how you read it that way? Oppression and Privilege intersect in complex ways, and oppression as a cis woman does not mean privilege as white, cis, or able-bodied.
          Intersectionality invites complexity, and so it should.

          • Sunflower says:

            are white women in capable of racism because they are oppressed as women, for example?

        • If your feminism can’t handle intersectionality, then chances are you’re replicating oppression and are afraid to be called out on it.

        • Danielle says:

          wow, you’re just plain not listening. Maybe there’s trans-phobia so thick that you’re just hearing what you want to hear, or maybe you really haven’t caught up.

          Serano is NOT saying, at ANY juncture of her article, that men don’t oppress women. You can’t even take that sentence out of context and portray it to mean that.

          Serano is saying that the people who don’t embrace intersectionality are the feminists who see feminism in a more simple way, with men JUST oppressing WOMEN, and women as JUST the victims of oppression. “a unilateral (as in one-sided) men-oppress-women-end-of-story approach to feminism (men as the only oppressors, women as the only victims).” I don’t know how you could have misinterpreted Serano’s point this way, unless you perhaps didn’t read the rest of the article.

          Men oppress women, yes. duh. Men also oppress trans people, people of color, people with disabilities, and queer people. WOMEN also oppress trans people, people of color, people of disabilities, and queer people. This article argues for the complication of these issues, not that they don’t exist.

        • You do realize that white women oppress black men, asian men, latino men, men of color, right? This is demonstrable and visible. This is that whole intersectionality thing that you aren’t getting. White women may be women (and thus oppressed by men) but they are also WHITE, which means they have full racial privilege over ALL people of color. Their whiteness is utilized, both by white women themselves and the white men above them, as a means to oppress people of color. Why do you think the white patriarchy’s ultimate rape bogeyman is the black man? White women have used and continue to use their whiteness AND their status as a white woman (the most valuable kind of woman who must be protected by white men from rampaging rapacious men of color) to destroy black men and boys. Women of color were not “accepted” by white women because of “universal sisterhood” or some “shared experience” or some “female socialization.” Women of color were explicitly telling white women that their universalist, essentialist ideas were complete hogwash because the experiences and lives of women of color DO NOT ALIGN with those of white women. They are oppressed by white women, their sexuality is suspect, they are most often the targets of rape and violence at the hands of white men while the purity of white women is to be protected (as long as they stay in their place). You decry intersectionality as some kind of weapon that the evil trans women are going to wield against feminism, all while women of color, trans women, queer women, women with disabilities, are all trying to yell over the cacophonous sound of your privilege to get you to recognize that their lives are not the same as yours.

        • o.o

          really? wow. just… wow. you think that says “men don’t actually oppress women, you silly girls?”

          you do? you really do?

        • Your reading comprehension is subpar. By adhering to an intersectional framework, it says that women have the ability to oppress men. A white woman is fully capable of oppressing men of color men. A straight woman is fully capable of oppressing a queer man. A cisgender woman is clearly capable of oppressing a transgender man or a non-binary individual. It’s not a hard concept.

        • And what Serano is saying is that there are other dimensions to oppression, such as racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. NOT that woman are not oppressed by men.

          Reducing all the problems to “men are always dominant, women are always subjugated” is not accurate when you’re dealing with multiple things going on at the same time. She’s not dismissing patriarchy as much as she’s pretty much pointing out that other things affect who has power too.

        • hi, there are more people and genders than just women and men. men oppress women, yes, but everyone oppresses trans* (who are not a separate gender, but can be if they aren’t binary) people. and please, don’t talk about violence against women while ignoring trans* women. what cis women face is terrible, but you are not allowed to equate trans* feminism to patriarchy, and then pretend that violence against women only happens to cissies.

        • Ponytime says:

          yes. but white women (i am one) ARE in a position to oppress men of color – we are. we have always been, ever since there was such a thing as ‘white women.’

        • The fact that you mistook that passage for dismissal indicates that your approach to the article was pre-judged and biased to begin with. Serano does not say that men do not oppress women, or that men oppressing women isn’t extremely prevalent. What she said is that men oppressing women is not the be-all-end-all of oppression. Men oppress Women. Women Oppress Women. Christians oppress Non Christians. White people oppress People of Color. Rich people oppress poor people. And yes … Women have assaulted men, women have murdered men, women have been prejudiced against and viciously hateful towards men … Women have oppressed men. It is not the dominant mode of our society, but to deny the existence of different forms of oppression is to go through life wearing blinders

        • What Serano is referring to is that the men-oppress-women story is not a complete story. There are other bits in there for true intersectional feminism. For me, as a disabled female bodied person with a service dog, I experience a lot of oppression from able-bodied people, men and women alike. The whole point of intersectionality is to call out these interlocking forms of oppression. Example-people literally walk into my service dog all the time because they don’t see me as a slight female bodied person worthy of taking up that much space walking down a hallway. Male bodied service dog handlers do not experience this nearly so much, as they are not expected to be small the way females are all the time.
          Does that make sense?

    • kinigget says:

      Where did she deny this? Because I didn’t see her say anything like that.

  7. I am so glad that Julia Serano posted this piece. I am a feminist in my mid-thirties. As a queer woman with both an activist and an academic background, trans feminism best describes the kind of feminism that I practice (along with so many of my friends and colleagues). Recognizing cisgender privilege is important in helping me understand how my own actions may inadvertently contribute to the oppression of trans women. Though I am a woman and queer, I am also white, economically privileged and generally comfortable in the body I was born with. Many are not as fortunate. Recognizing this fact doesn’t undermine feminism or erode the “traditional” definitions of sexism or misogyny. In fact, it strengthens our movement by bringing more women into the fold and creating more opportunity for solidarity against the forces that harm us all.

    • Sargasso Sea says:

      “In fact, it strengthens our movement by bringing more women into the fold and creating more opportunity for solidarity against the forces that harm us all.”

      Here is, in part, what Julia (“sex-positive”, “pro-contraception”) had to say about a very important female issue very recently:

      “…but I have to say as an infertile woman, all this contraception-centric feminism over the last month has been alienating for me…”

      As a woman rendered infertile by cervical cancer, the very last thing I felt was alienation from fertile women. If Julia were a woman, fertility notwithstanding, she would understand that access to contraception is the ONLY link to female bodily *autonomy*, weak as it is. Keep in mind that access to birth control is extremely difficult for every woman who is not white, at least middle class and situated in a Western country.

      I doubt you’ll ever see Julia marching for choice or insisting on breastfeeding rights in the workplace or even advocating for the use of condoms (instead of oral contraception) to prevent infections of the cervix, for example. Why? Because none of these things have any personal meaning to Julia. And if it doesn’t have any personal impact on Julia it’s not important. Sound familiar?

      • Julia IS a woman.

        As for her comment about contraception access, I don’t believe she meant that it’s not important. I feel sort of the same way, I guess? I can probably get pregnant, but I definitely can’t with my current partner. Barring something terrible happening to me, chances are that I’m never going to get pregnant unless I’m going out of my way to accomplish that. Do I still think contraception is important? Absolutely. It’s just not relevant to my life, and seeing it framed as the one big woman’s issue absolutely can feel alienating. Heterocentric and all.

        And I’m someone who’s always speaking out in favor of contraception, and would definitely go to a protest/march if there were any in my area.

        “Even though this is a really important issue and I support it, it’s not universal to women and seeing it framed as such feels erasing” is not the same as “ME ME EVERYTHING HAS TO BE ABOUT ME”.

      • Kate O'Brien says:

        Julia said it’s “alienating,” NOT unimportant. If those conversations had any acknowledgement of the reproductive concerns of trans women, trans men and non-binary gendered folks, perhaps they wouldn’t be so alienating.

        Trans women can breastfeed. Trans women get STIs that can be prevented by condoms. these things are concerns for people of all genders and sexes and we need to start talking about them that way. otherwise the most vulnerable folks will continue to get the short end of the stick.

  8. Alyssa Kwan says:

    I’m glad that Serano’s voice is at least here to challenge the cissexist crap previously published. Yes, it’s full of problematic stuff too. But it’s far less problematic than the previous post.

    To reduce feminism to the concern of a sex-based-class ignores how patriarchy ultimately has its tentacles in everything. Yes, we need to be able to name the oppressions. But not binding them together pretends they’re not related. The goal of my feminism is to fight patriarchy. We may triage affected groups, but in the end we have to help everyone affected. But if we don’t rip out patriarchy by its root, whether it manifests as sex-based, gender-based, or orientation-based oppression, then we fail.

    And of course large-scale differences exist. But the point is that the distance between cis and trans women is smaller than believed by those who prioritize sex-based oppression first. Sexual assault affects trans women *more*. So does intimate partner violence. Let’s do an honest analysis of the array of oppressions members of sex-based and gender-based classes face. The point is not to erase or subsume, it’s to draw strength from alliances, and where appropriate, join together communities.

    Oh, and my parents *don’t* now see me as a grandchildren machine now that I’ve transitioned. Oh, I guess I was dreaming that. Don’t make assumptions about my lived experience and use those to piss on me.

  9. This is an excellent article and I’m really glad to see it here.

    As a disabled cis woman, I am constantly frustrated by the myth of one female/ feminine experience. Like trans women, I am frequently treated as if I have no gender at all – I just don’t count as a woman. Despite this, just like trans women, I am more vulnerable to certain kinds of sexist oppression, including abuse and violence, than non-disabled women.

    But unlike trans women, no feminist would ever explicitly lock me out because my life experience is atypical and there are certain sexist pressures which I have evaded. Feminists are by no means immune to disablism, but nobody would dream of that.

    I don’t see how talk of intersectionality can water anything down. Sexism is a simple thing, but with complex mechanisms and effects. It is not the same for me as it is for my sister who is a much wealthier, non-disabled, straight cis married mother. It is not the same for me as for someone who was once treated as if they were male. But my experience of sexism probably has more in common with that of many trans women than it does with my own sister. My feminism is for all of us.

  10. “When trans feminism is reduced to a debate about whether trans women “count” as women or as feminists, it’s a disservice not only to us but to feminism as a whole.” Indeed, trans feminism is intrinsically part of feminism and it should serve to help illustrate and illuminate the issues at hand rather than be viewed as somehow less and/or worthy of debate.

  11. Ms Serano, obviously many of the readers of Ms mag have a long way to go in terms of understanding the impact of trans-phobia in our culture. I thought readers of this platform would be more understanding of queer issues. Your article is well-written and VERY clear to me, as a queer cis-person with very little theory under my belt. SHINE ON. Thank you.

    • All of the commenters who are critical of Serano have plenty of experience reading the volumes of things written by, for, and about trans people and “trans-phobia.” The difference between them and all the pro-Serano commenters has been that the latter have been too afraid to read all the trans-critical material that is out there now, lest they have to deal with some very painful truths. They think it’s enough to call it “transphobic” or claim that it’s just radical feminists who think that way and no one else will read it either.

      To the contrary, a lot of people are waking up to the lie of “cis” (which is a putdown of men and women who aren’t trans) and calling “phobic” anything critical of trans* ideology.

      • kinigget says:

        Oh? What “painful truths” might you be talking about?

        (p.s. “cis” is simply the opposite of “trans”, in no way is it a “put down”)

      • Is “straight” a putdown of people who aren’t queer?

      • Kate O'Brien says:

        cis is not a put down. it’s a value-neutral and, imo, very useful term to indictae congruence with one assigned-at-birth-gender/sex.

      • Yeah. Sorry to rain on your parade but cis isn’t a putdown for people who aren’t trans.

      • Many trans feminists have read ‘trans critical’ works such as Jan Raymond’s *The Transsexual Empire.*

        Many ‘trans critical’ feminists obviously haven’t, or if they have, they have picked up on the insulting language and the ‘suggestions for change,’ without following up on the loose ends where her arguments and her conclusions don’t match up. For example, Raymond criticizes the gender clinics and the way they enforce sex stereotypes during the ‘real life experience,’ yet her proposals strengthened the gatekeeping system, instead of weakening it.

  12. “In my book Whipping Girl, I discuss my own experience with male privilege—and losing it post-transition—at great length.”

    Good gravy, as if “male privilege” is limited to social/safety privileges only, and you can just eliminate it by “not looking male.” If you’re going to bash feminist theory, at least get it right!

    And it wasn’t trans theory that posited a “gender binary.” That’s just a rephrasing of the term “sexism” – ie, the classification of people into categories on the basis of biological sex.

    Is this article a joke? I mean, it is April….

    • if you are not male, as trans* women aren’t, you do not have male privilege.

    • melittophily says:

      you know, it’s striking. part of what i admire about radical feminism is the staunchly material focus, something i think we have lost in the “third wave” party of identity politics up its own ass. but then on this issue some radical feminists end up talking about privilege like it’s some kind of mystical taint rather than a concrete set of conditions affecting how we interact with institutions.

      you are right though that trans politics didn’t come up with the concept of “gender binary” – i mean this was a huge part of dworkin’s life work.

    • Kate O'Brien says:

      trans women have less privilege than cis people of either gender. look at violence against, homelessness, un/underemployment and other metrices of well being for trans women and it’s very clear.

  13. Eagle Eye Smith says:

    “When trans feminism is reduced to a debate about whether trans women “count” as women or as feminists, it’s a disservice not only to us but to feminism as a whole.”

    This is the perfect end to the post, and I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I very much appreciate seeing Ms. Serano’s response here.

  14. Danielle says:

    Wow, I really can’t respond to any of the negative comments here because I really don’t even know where to start, but I just wanted to balance it out. Julia, thank you for this very excellent rebuttal. As a relatively young feminist, it’s really hard for me to see these two groups of people so close to my heart portrayed in opposition.

    I just wonder,in reference to the strangely angry comments, since when are only women allowed to be feminists?

    Feminism isn’t, despite the insistence of critics, a gender war. It’s not us-vs-them, or us-vs-anyone, it’s about gender equality vs. inequality. People FOR equality, on a basic level, are feminists. It’s not about women vs. men, because not all men are part of the problem, and gender is obviously not that simple.

    In the first place, it’s not an exclusive club you get into by virtue of possessing a uterus. We get nowhere by this “you can’t understand what it’s like to be me” argument, or more simply referred to in your article, “Oppression Olympics.” Trans women can be feminists, trans men can be feminists, cis men can be feminists.

    No matter what gender you identify as, gender inequality both concerns and hurts you, even if those ways are not readily apparent.

    • Feminism is about seeking equality FOR WOMEN. It is not about seeking equality FOR MEN because the patriarchy already hands each male a HUGE load of male privilege at birth. For example: women had to go to prison, get sexually assaulted, get beaten, have their kids taken away from them, be disowned by their families, get locked up in mental hospitals, go on hunger strikes, work tirelessly and still die in poverty to get the VOTE for women over 140 years after the American Revolution gave American men a say in their own government. We’re still working and fighting to have anything even close to 50% representation in self-governance and our gains are under constant attack by reactionaries and conservatives. Is this news to young “feminists”?!? Feminism isn’t about making men feel comfortable and happy with their “choices” vis gender — it’s about SMASHING the patriarchy and ending the sexist oppression of females based on our sex — an oppression in which we HAVE NO CHOICE.

      • Erm, wouldn’t “equality for men” and “equality for women” mean… equality for both genders? Are we using a new definition for “equality?”

      • Danielle says:

        Apparently, to everyone who’s not a “young feminist,” feminism is about trans phobia. I’ll guess I’ll just wait till the rest of you are done with it then. I’m not big on hate.

      • Do you think trans women are never sexually assaulted, tossed in jail, disowned, or die in poverty?

        Do you actually even know anything about trans women?

      • Ponytime says:

        growing up, perceived as male, but identifying feminine, i was assaulted physically in public. often. i have nightmares about stabbing people, often, because i was forced to defend my life, as a middle-class white person, daily as a child, with improvised weapons. whatever was at hand. on a tuesday or whatever. now, not everyone like me has these memories and experiences, but some do. not all women had to grow up like this, but many had it worse. my ‘male privilege’ helped me excel in many areas of my life, but i also suffered for my femininity, in ways that some women never had to. but many women had it much worse. the whole point is that its complicated. i have fought and fought, and i will FIGHT for my sisters. all you have to do is accept me and my help.

      • And you would have us lock transwomen out of the discussion becuase, what, they aren’t female enough to help us agitate for equal rights for all women? Is it more important to you to define the strict definitions of what does and does not make a woman so that you can exclude ‘pretenders’ who want to join your club or to agitate for an end to the oppression that ALL women face?

      • Kate O'Brien says:

        bullshit. look at how men of color are in prison in the US. look at gay bashing statistics. look at how men with disabilities–vets, for instance–are treated.

        SOME men–white, heterosexual, cisgendered, Western, middle and upper class, abled bodied, college educated–are at the apex of privilege.

        everyone else gets fucked, in some way. Sexism hurts everyone.

      • Are you honestly this delusional that you believe transwomen don’t go to prison, get sexually assaulted, beaten or die out of poverty too? Jfc.

  15. I will never understand why females are expected to show absolute solidarity with trans women, including having every discussion siderailed into the needs of this group, when they show so little concern for the needs of born females.

    During the ’80s, lesbians began taking care of gay men dying of AIDS, and the feminist movement suffered for it. Today, we see lesbians jumping to take care so that transsexuals don’t get their feelings hurt. The concerns of women globally are again being railroaded.

    • “I will never understand why females are expected to show absolute solidarity with trans women”

      So you deny that trans women are female? On what grounds? Do you somehow own the right to define other people?

      “when they show so little concern for the needs of born females”

      So in your world people are defined by their genitalia alone? Isn’t that sexist? In what way do we not show any concern for other females than trans females?

      I am concerned with LGBT rights when they are LGBT issues. When they are issues of sexism against women, it is completely irrelevant what adjective you put in front of “women”. That is the case for every trans feminist or non-transphobic feminist I’ve ever met or read. And it’s starting to become quite a few these days.

    • Every. Discussion. Siderailed. Wow. Somehow I’ve been watching wall-to-wall coverage on the War on Women without a single reference to my trans sisters, and yet you perceive the same media coverage and discussion as being co-opted. Every one, as a matter of fact! Every one. Breathtaking, truly.

      • The “War on Women” is about specific legislation that impacts women’s reproductive reality. It’s about limiting access to abortion; why would that reference your “trans sisters” since they have no ability to get pregnant? The War on Women is about limiting women’s access to birth control. Not the condoms that some of your trans sisters need because they keep their penises intact and impregnate females. No, it’s about the birth control pill that females take to keep from getting pregnant. Why would your trans sisters be part of that discussion? EXCEPT to openly and loudly support their non-trans sisters.

        So, the way that your trans sisters COULD be in that discussion is front and center supporting their non-trans sisters against the rampant misogyny of male legislators. I have yet to see that anywhere.

        What is breathtaking is that women demand other women care about transwomen without once demanding that transwomen care about all other women.

        • Trans men.
          Trans men.
          Trans men.
          Trans men.
          Trans men.

          Got it yet? TRANS MEN can get pregnant, need contraceptives, access t abortion, etc, etc.

          One more time: trans men.

    • Xiao Mao says:

      WELL SAID. Agreed.

    • “During the ’80s, lesbians began taking care of gay men dying of AIDS, and the feminist movement suffered for it.”

      Woah, just noticed that quote. Wow.

      • Were you there? There was a THRIVING lesbian culture before AIDS. All the coffee houses and bookstores and collectives and support groups were decimated by women dedicating thousands upon thousands of hours and all our money supporting our gay brothers with AIDS. We’d do it again tomorrow, but what did we get in return? We got thrown under the bus by gay men for “trans women”.

        • Yeah, those ‘orrible trans women have never done anything for gay and lesbian rights! Especially not during pivotal moments in LGBT history, like the Stonewall riots.
          And no one EVER throws trans women’s rights under the bus to get concessions during talks for gay and lesbian rights! What kind of person would do that?!
          /sarcasm

    • Gus Allis says:

      Well trans women are women so their issues an struggles are women’s issues.

    • You seem to be under the impression that all lesbians are cisgender women who have cissexual bodies? What gives you that impression, exactly?

    • Yes! How dare people care about women who are subjected to disproportionate amounts of structural violence? How dare anybody choose women who were assigned male at birth over the poor straight cisgender white women?! I couldn’t possibly imagine why anybody wouldn’t adhere to a social movement that has historically not fought for anybody aside for cisgender, straight, white women in the middle-class or above. Oh the agony! The sheer horror of it all!

    • It’s talk like this that’s made me not want to call myself a “lesbian” anymore.

    • hey, i’m not sure if you understand this, but trans* women are women. therefore, thinking about the needs of trans* women won’t set back feminism, if feminism is still about having equality for women, because they are women. and you are expected to show solidarity with them because you are expected to be a decent human being.

    • tarariot says:

      You forgot the part where transwomen ARE women, and we’re not just talking about their feelings getting hurt here. They are getting killed for being who they are. Every. Single. Day. Do you get it? Women are being killed every single day. Feminists who fail to fight for ALL people oppressed by patriarchy (yes, that includes women that are not cisgender, white, and middle class. They count too) are in my eyes the worst kind of feminist, and the reason why I have started to distance myself from that label. Feminism is being run by people unwilling to examine their own privilege within their community, and it is incredibly alienating. Being intersectional is crucial. Examine your privilege please. Trans women are not required to show concern for your cisgender needs as long as we continue to oppress them.

    • melittophily says:

      i don’t like a lot of trans politics, particularly on the internet, but this is bizarre. caring for gay men dying with AIDS isn’t the reason feminism suffered in the 80′s, it was because of a lot of factors, particularly the wave of right wing backlash, not to mention internal divisions from sex wars.

      and sure it’s obnoxious and potentially harmful that a lot of self-involved teenagers on tumblr want us to stop and have a debate with them about calling the war on women a “war on people with uteri” instead and ignore how misogyny drives it, but there’s kind of a much bigger fish to fry when you’re engaged in real life work around these issues.

    • teenmachines says:

      By your logic, if some white females feel they shouldn’t be expected to show solidarity with WOC because they don’t show enough concern for the needs of white females, then the WOC should be excluded? Um, excuse me? And what exactly is so wrong with not hurting a transgender persons feelings? What’s so wrong with trying not to hurt anyones feelings? I thought feminism was about making the world a safer space for ALL womyn, INCLUDING WOC and transwomen. The “concerns” of womyn are being derailed by people LIKE YOU because you refuse to be concerned about ALL womyn. How did lesbians taking care of gay men who were dying from HIV/AIDS cause the feminist movement of the 80′s suffer? Being caring and compassionate about other people in the LGBTQ community who were DYING caused a problem for the movement? What kind of fucked up movement is the feminist movement then? Nothing I’d want to be apart of.

    • If you think transwomen show no concern for the concerns of ‘born females’ – cisgender women, I assume, since I can’t see you including intersexed individuals in your exclusive club – then you don’t know transwomen.

      And for the record, ‘transwoman’ does not mean drag queen, cross-dresser, or female impersonator. Transwomen – transgender women – are not men who play at being womene, but female-gendered individuals who were born with other-than-cisgender-female sexual characteristics. I’ve never known a transwoman who wasn’t concerned with the struggles of other women. The transwomen I know agitate for feminist causes more actively than many cisgendered women I know, and they do so because they are women. Why are we so intent on cutting people out of our club?

      • I actually laughed at this comment. You think I don’t know trans women? Wow, just wow. Has it ever occurred to you that some of us with an analysis of the trans movement know, and know well many, many FTM and MTF folks??

        Do you know many people IRL with a radical feminist critique of trans genderism? Just curious.

        • Kate O'Brien says:

          YOU DON’T GET TO CRITIQUE “TRANS GENDERISM”!!! it’s a state of being that is value neutral, indicating that someone’s sex and/or gender does not match their assigned-at-birth sex/gender. you might as well critique someone having brown eyes or curly hair, that’s how little sense this makes.

          You want to take issue with the politics of some people who happen to be transgendered? fine. But saying you’re allowed to critique the state of being transgender is a kind of fascism–cissupremacy, to be precise. you’re treading perilously close to a path that leads to things like forcing trans folks to undergo repartive therapy, mandating the sterilization of trans folks, not allowing trans folks to marry, or have jobs…oh wait that already all happens. Maybe you should join up with the far Right? y’all have some things in common.

        • So tell us. Did you meet the douchiest possible trans women? Did you have incredibly high standards for their behavior, and anything less than perfect read as awful and lesser? Did you bring in that double standard where if they’re feminine-acting they’re just fetishizing women and if they’re not then it’s their male privilege showing through, and absolutely anything they did was a reason to discount them?

          Or did you think that they owed it to you to treat you like you’re better and more deserving?

          Inquiring minds want to know.

  16. Thank you, Julie Serano!

    • JULIA. Not Julie. And then I got cut off and couldn’t finish. Here’s what I want to say to the maddening hardline second wave feminists on this thread (and running Ms.): you are not going to succeed in turning me against other women like Julia Serano with your divide-and-conquer rhetoric. You are not going to succeed in fighting the patriarchy if you refuse to listen to other women (trans women, poor women, women of color, disabled women) and keep instead shouting WE ARE ALL OPPRESSED IN WAYS THAT ONLY I AM QUALIFIED TO DESCRIBE TO YOU IN THE IDENTICAL MANNER! You are just going to continue to isolate yourselves, sounding more and more defensive, out of touch, and irrelevant.

  17. The claim that there is no universal female experience because not all biological females menstruate or have uteri is like saying that humans are not bipedal because some people are born without legs. Whether or not individual females menstruate or reproduce, it is women’s reproductive capacity that men exploit as the basis of patriarchy.

    Millions of women the world over suffer without help from “silent epidemics” including fistula, pelvic organ prolapse and the terrorism of forced pregnancy. Besides using females’ reproductive biology to keep them in line, medicine continues to treat women’s bodies as alien, inferior territory. Despite this, trans women like Toni and Julia Serano would have us believe that biological females as a sexual class do not exist. They would not dare to erase the physical reality of the male sex as they do that of women.

    Their pomo gibberish is anti-feminist and misogynist in the extreme.

    • “The claim that there is no universal female experience because not all biological females menstruate or have uteri is like saying that humans are not bipedal because some people are born without legs.”

      No, it’s like saying that the experience of having legs is not a universal human experience, because some humans don’t have legs.

      • Wrong. Walking is a universal human experience because it is biologically normal to walk. The human body is designed to walk on two legs; 100% of normal humans can walk on two legs. The term “universal human experience” can describe what is normal, even if some fraction of people are disabled or injured. Similarly, 100% of normal biological women have a uterus, a vagina, ovaries, can menstruate, etc. 0% of normal biological women have a penis. Biology is not erased by the occasional, rare genetic injury or accident.

        • my infertility is not some rare things. I’m a woman dammit, despite the fact the I’ll never need contraception or experience pregnancy. This universal experienceis bullying because it’s erases and invalidate women’s experiences because they don’t live up to somesort of gender test. Hou do nit get to determine what’s ‘universal’ you do not get to police womanhood.

        • Ah, I see.
          Only ‘normal’ people count.
          Thanks for clearing that up. I must remember that next time a radical feminist (someone who exists outside societal norms) makes this point.

  18. It sounds to me from this post and many of the comments that the concept of intersectionality and mutual oppressions, especially given the “women oppress men too” argument, is very much a Humanist viewpoint. Why not call it that? Then we can let Humanists fight for equality for all and let the Feminists put women and girls first and continue on with the fight for female liberation without being told that they’re doing it wrong by people who are clearly not as invested in that particular battle?

  19. All it takes for trans activists and their supporters to show how little they understand of feminist theory, feminist history, and the work that WOMEN have done for their own liberation is for a trans activist to take everything feminists have done and pretend it’s their own ideas, with the twist that puts trans people at the center of feminism and pushes born women off to the side. Out come the supporters to clap and shout loudly.

    If, as Serano states in that piece, there is a “myth that there is some kind of universal women experience,” why does Ms. exist in the first place? Who and what does the title “Ms.” refer to? And why not just call it “Human”? How is it that U.S. Republicans are said to have a “war on women” if there’s no such thing as a collective group known as “women” who have a specific experience that legislatures can impact? What are all the posts and comments on this very blog page about if not the virtually “universal” experience of “women”?

    To back up this circular, self-referencing opinion piece, Serano refers to Serano at least three times, a wiki built by a handful of people who agree with Serano’s premises, and a few other opinion posts. All in the service of erasing women’s universal experiences, to be replaced with the brave new world of “sexism” as the collective experience of everyone on earth at some point in their lives. This is intentional. If women are unable to speak of their experiences and name them, real change will be diverted.

    If a white person decided that the concept of “racism” should be an umbrella term that included the experiences of white people by definition, I assume that the Ms. editors would realize what was being done and refuse to publish such a polemic. I assume that Ms. editors would see that as an affront to black people, people of color, and everyone else who use the concept of “racism” to name and address the very real harms that specific people the world over experience. It is ridiculous that the Ms. editors can’t see this as the exact same thing, in this case, used against women who organize for change in women’s lives.

    • Do you really think that? So my experience as a queer, disabled, woc is exactly the same as a white, non disabled woman? We may share experiences but our overall experience is very bloody different. Why are house threatened when anyone suggest feminism can be anything other that what you believe it to be. Feminism excludes a lot of women, yet anytime this fact is mentioned, it’s ‘anti feminist’; mention the racism in feminism it’s ‘distracting’, mention a lot of the ableist language used you’re thin skinned, and g-d forbid you be offended by the political lesbians by choice as a queer individual.

  20. Fionnuala says:

    The gains that trans women have made over the past 20 years are so are a microcosm of the gains that women in general have made through women’s rights movements. Respect for trans women = respect for women in general. One of the main reasons that trans women can have such a difficult time is a general lack of respect for “femininity,” and by “femininity,” I don’t mean stereotypically feminine qualities, I mean the state of being female.

    I think the fact that trans women are more accepted than they were years ago is a sign that society in general has more respect for women than it used to. More rights for trans women is a good thing for all women.

    Trans women should be celebrating the gains made by the larger group of women, and vice versa. At the end of the day, we’re all women, and we all suffer the same sort of discrimination to various extents. Certain subgroups of women suffer this discrimination more harshly or frequently, such as black women and trans women.

    I don’t know who the original source of this quote was, or even if I have the quote correct, but a society will be judged on how it treats its’ weakest, most vulnerable members.

    How are we treating black and trans women? Can we do better?

    • Every gain that “trans women” make is at the expense of natural-born women. Women need to wake up to this fact before it’s too late. They’re working day and night to reinforce the sexist, misogynist “gender” stereotypes that we’ve been working for decades to unravel.

  21. I find this article to be in the typical vein of Julia Serano’s work. The appropriation, mental masturbation and complete denial of what feminists have been saying for decades about gender is unbelievably privileged. Julia Serano seems to believe that we “denigrate’ femininity. No, femininity is DEGRADATION. Its the means by which we express our subordination to male power in society. The reason its looked down on is because femininity is a construct used to signify that some humans are “other” and deserve different treatment because of it. All the males reclaiming femininity won’t make a bit of difference to how women have to navigate this patriarchal society.

    I also am sick to death of watching the white, male, trans community appropriate the language and struggle of people of color in their work. Have you no shame? Being a woman of color is not the same thing as being a male who enjoys appropriating femininity and many radical feminists of color have called them out on this appropriation. JUST STOP.

    • except femininity is not degradation… challenge internalized misogyny.

      There is nothing wrong with wanting to wear a dress or heels or make up. And there is nothing wrong with men wanting to do these things. The problem occurs when people mandate that women are feminine and that men are not. The problem occurs when the gender binary is enforced.

      • Not buying it sorry. Heels are inherently bad for your body. They aren’t bad because they aren’t looked at in a positive light, they do DAMAGE to your body and make you physically deformed. Make up is full of toxins and chemicals that harm your body. As for dresses, well thats a grey area because some dresses can be functional and some are not.

        I don’t care if men want to do these things, what angers me is that they associate it with being a woman. It has nothing to do with being a woman, it has to do with the oppression of women which they benefit from.

        Feminism 101 Arielle. You seem to think the critique of femininity is just based in nothing and not the fact that it HARMS women.

        • Yes, heels are bad for you. I’m not sure if wearing them once in a while is that bad for you, but I agree that wearing them constantly is not a good thing and definitely shouldn’t be seen as an inherent part of being a girl.

          Makeup as it is has harmful chemicals, but “things you put on your face to make it look different” don’t necessarily have to have harmful chemicals, and many products exist that are better for you. There’s also nothing inherently weakening about putting things on your face to make it look different. The cultural meaning we’ve given it is not an absolute. Personally, I feel stronger when I’m wearing makeup. The ability to do something with my face instead of just having to accept its natural dopey childlike look makes me feel fiercer :D And when makeup’s gone, men still judge women by the way they look without it. Men pretty consistently say they don’t even like women to wear a lot of makeup. If someone’s using makeup to fit a beauty standard enforced by men, that’s a problem, but makeup does not inherently have to do that.

          If dresses can be functional sometimes and not functional other times, then they’re not a grey area. Any other clothing can be functional sometimes and not functional other times, and in some cases, dresses can be more functional than pants/shorts (less constricting, less hot). Function also depends on what the person has to do.

          I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t dresses and makeup, it would be something else. Turning women into decorative objects is a way that sexism happens. A system where sexism is enforced by making women drab is also theoretically possible. Decorating yourself is not the same as turning yourself into a decorative object, so please learn the difference.

          Things that are associated with the feminine are not beyond critique, but they’re also not inherently bad for being associated with femininity.

          Also, trans women aren’t men, they’re women, and many of them dress casually.

  22. I too wanted to lend my support for this article. I am baffled by the vitriol in the comments section. Why on earth are some people using feminism as if it’s The only ‘ism’ in the world. Oppressing other marginalised groups does not make feminism stronger, it weakens and divides us.

    • liberationislife says:

      Fiona, the ability not to swallow all aspects of trans politics does not mean any of the below:

      - failure to care about trans oppression
      - oppressing trans people!
      - blindness to any type of oppression other than female oppression
      - refusal to engage in any activism that doesn’t relate to female oppression
      - that one must be white and middle-class!

      It just means that one has studied trans politics quite carefully and developed criticisms of aspects of it, including its reification of ‘gender’ and its tendency to shy away from building actual campaigns around various manifestations of oppression affecting women, towards instead ‘naming our privilege’.

      3rd-Wave feminism (including the dominant line of current trans activism) has turned feminism in on itself. It is now much rarer for feminism to challenge the state. Instead the focus has become on women defining themselves in terms of all the adjectives we can apply to ourselves. (Eg are we white, ‘cis’, abled/disabled, etc.)

      This post-structuralist approach means action is much more seldom building grass-roots campaigns which include street protests. It is much more seldom about assessing and attempting to overthrow structural oppression. It is now more about thinking we fix ourselves (and maybe society, if we think about that too) via self-definition and analysis.

      This has manifested in the bullshit attempts by some trans activists to relate to the problems they can experience in accessing reproductive care (including terminations), not by engaging in public campaigns about this (which would actually be useful), but instead by criticising feminists for daring to use the phrase ‘women’s rights’ or anything similar in relation to abortion rights. ‘Transphobic’, apparently!

      [This despite the fact that reproductive vulnerability and being expected to engage in a life of child-raising is a central aspect of women's oppression. No, it is not ok for us to stop using the word 'woman' in relation to this! Requiring this of feminists is outrageous.
      However, I point out that the usual demand of these campaigns - 'free, safe legal abortion on demand' in no way suggests that trans men should not have this right as well.]

      As if the demands by feminists for free, legal abortion access could possibly prevent trans men from accessing terminations. But trans politics increasingly has major difficulty in identifying its oppressors, and has instead turned the heat on feminist females. I believe trans politics is largely unable to distinguish between institutional power and the oppressed who only have power through collective action.

      I urge all feminists reading this to consider that Serano’s brand of ‘intersectionality’ is not what many others consider intersectionality. Her politics weakens feminism and hence weakens the extent to which it can engage with the multi-faceted expressions of oppression.

  23. On behalf of cisgendered/nontrans women everywhere, I wanted to apologize for the vitriol and ignorance found in these comments in regards to women of trans experience.
    I am SO SORRY you have to put up with such hatred and contempt from self-described feminists.

    I just can’t believe I’m reading comments like this in the 21st century.
    While 3rd-wave feminism wasn’t perfect, the answer is NOT to re-trench ourselves in the worst aspects of 2nd wave feminism that minimized women of colour, disregarded class, vilified transsexuals, attacked sex workers, and did it with the supreme air of moral righteousness.

    Thank you Julia for your well thought out article, I think it should be read by everyone. Have patience with the women on here, people always get their backs up when their privilege is revealed to them for the first time, and it can take a lifetime to unlearn each aspect of our privilege.

  24. gender slayer says:

    “Not surprisingly, no aspect of my social transition has been more difficult for me to adjust to than the way I am treated by some (but certainly not all) men. Granted, this was not entirely unexpected. Before my transition, I had often asked my female friends about their experiences living as women in a male-centered world. On an intellectual level, I knew that I would sometimes be dismissed or harassed once I started living as female, but I underestimated just how frustrating and hurtful each one of those instances would be. Words cannot express how condescending and infuriating it feels to have men speak down to me, talk over me, and sometimes even practically put on baby-talk voices when addressing me. Or how intimidating it feels to have strangers make lewd comments about having their way with me as I’m walking alone at night down dark city streets. And while I had numerous run-ins and arguments with strange men back when I was male-bodied, I’d never before experienced the enraged venom in their voices and fury in their faces that I sometimes do now-an extreme wrath that some men seem to reserve specifically for women who they believe threaten their fragile male egos. It became more and more difficult for me to see the point in identifying outside of the male/female binary when I was so regularly being targeted for discrimination and harassment because I was a woman, when I so frequently had to stand up for myself as a woman in order to make sure that other people did not get away with it.” ~Julia Serano, “Whipping Girl”.

    In the passage from Whipping Girl, it appears that Serano, like her female friends and all women from birth, recognizes that men do indeed oppress women every day, in many subtle and more obvious ways that she ever could have imagined prior to transitioning, and this causes her to believe that there might just be a reason to identify within this whole “gender binary” thing (btw, second wave feminists “forwarded” this idea long before transfeminists did, so Serano either hasn’t read a lot of second wave feminist texts or feels comfortable blatantly ripping off feminist theories and taking credit for them here).

    But then she says :
    “The myth that there is some kind of universal women experience was debunked by women of color, among others, long ago.” ~Julia Serano in this article

    Presumably, Julia considers herself a woman too, oppressed along the same lines as every other woman in the world, so how are the multiple experiences she wrote about in Whipping Girl NOT examples of a universal experience among all women, trans or otherwise? Indeed, most women do experience these things, and females at birth experience additional oppression via our biological reproductive systems. It is all of these (nearly) universal experiences that have united women throughout herstory, to march alongside their sisters to gain various liberties (right to vote, right to privacy/abortion, right to divorce, assault & rape within marriage recognized, etc.), and why we continue to unite for ourselves and all women the world over to have these rights and more. Without our (nearly) universal experiences under patriarchy, there would BE no feminism. (Btw, just because *a small minority of women* do not experience *some* or *all* of these things does not disprove the rule that MOST do and have need of the recognition of such).

    And, what is this malarkey about “multiple sexisms”? Despite the title of this article, it seems like Serano is trying to introduce more confusion into her theory of what feminism is, not clear up the conundrum that very plainly seems to exist between it and transfeminism. There is only one definition of sexism, which is the oppression of women via the system of patriarchy (which favors men over women in all case where sex or gender is an issue). Period. “Heterosexism” is not actually a “sexism” as defined within feminism, but an oppression via sexual identity, or, as Adrienne Rich called it – “heteronormativity”. Calling it “heterosexism” and attempting to combine it with so-called “cissexism” and “masculine centrism” (wtf seriously???!!!) under the larger umbrella of “sexism” is complicating the very simple and distinct definition of sexism and its resulting oppression – misogyny.
    Cis-privilege IS a conundrum. For if we are to believe that women can be privileged because of their gender, then we cannot also say that sexism (men privileged over women because of gender) exists. Either women are not privileged because of their gender or they are. Can’t have it both ways. Indeed, many gender non-conforming women experience their own version of “gender dysphoria” for much of their lives, especially lesbians. We know perfectly well what it’s like to be “misgendered” or feel uncomfortable in our bodies, as if something isn’t “right”. We know perfectly well what it’s like to wish we had been born male, so that we could indulge in the pleasures of being able to do and achieve almost anything we wanted, with the support of almost everyone around us, even if it was to become president. Many of us feminists are skeptical of this “cis privilege” theory because it has NO basis in reality for us. It does not describe our experiences at all – it erases them. How dare Serano and other transwomen who believe in cisprivilege presume and explain to US what it’s like to be born in OUR bodies as if WE are the privileged ones because of our gender?

    This article is a big fat FAIL in feminism.

    • Please my goodness, tell me how a poor working class man who is unemployed is able to always and universally oppress a rich white woman living off of inheritance.

      “if we are to believe that women can be privileged because of their gender, then we cannot also say that sexism (men privileged over women because of gender) exists. Either women are not privileged because of their gender or they are. Can’t have it both ways.”

      Women can be privileged by class, by race, by sexual orientation over other subordinated groups (including other women.) Women can deploy their gender along with sexist assumptions about femininity to obtain certain benefits that patriarchy grants to women that comply to its standards. Women are not just “oppressed by men,” they experience sexism in complicated ways.

      Not all “stereotypes” are “negative” either, but they all limit the ways an individual can be a full person.

      • gender slayer says:

        “Women can be privileged by class, by race, by sexual orientation over other subordinated groups (including other women.)” You are purposely attempting to derail my statement by pretending that I was talking about ANYTHING OTHER THAN PRIVILEGE via A WOMAN’S SEX/GENDER (NOT class, race or sexual identity). Please re-read my statement and tell me how women are privileged BY OUR GENDER/SEX only.

        “Please my goodness, tell me how a poor working class man who is unemployed is able to always and universally oppress a rich white woman living off of inheritance.”

        Trigger Warning : A rich, white woman walks down the street and a homeless man asks her for some spare change, and the rich white woman says “Sorry”, and the homeless man says, “f*cking b*tch” and proceeds to chase her down the street, pushes her into an alley and r*pes her. The rich white woman survives but becomes pregnant from the r*pe. That’s two counts of oppression via gender (woman = 2), and one count of oppression via class (man = 1). This is how a poor working class unemployed man can always and universally oppress a rich white woman via SEX, but not class. Did I miss anything?

    • Kate O'Brien says:

      fat is not a pejorative, thanks.

      • gender slayer says:

        actually, “fat” is an adjective here, describing the noun FAIL, where FAIL would be the pejorative. as in “your PC Policework and attempt at derailing this comment is a major FAIL”. (<– uh oh, do you think army majors are going to be offended for using their title to describe a negative word?)

        It's disappointing, but not surprising, how mauch *headdesking*, namecalling, and shaming of trans-critical feminists there has been on this thread by women who also call themselves feminists. The above "reply" is a prime example. Rather than engage in thoughtful debate, these replies have reduced otherwise sane and measured commentary to pithy baseless accusations of "transphobic", "vile", "hateful", "bigoted", with nary a real example to back them up (with the exception of Bev Jo, who does NOT represent ANY radical feminist majority). It would seem that transfeminism is more like McCarthyism than any feminism I know. Dare to criticize it in ANY way, and one gets accused of being an enemy of the state and banished from feminism.

  25. Thank you Julia. This article puts so many things in perspective. So many of the negatve comments in both articles have no basis in reality let alone truth. The saddest quote is this. “women had to go to prison, get sexually assaulted, get beaten, have their kids taken away from them, be disowned by their families, get locked up in mental hospitals, go on hunger strikes, work tirelessly and still die in poverty” because this is still happening to trans women everywhere (she left out being murdered). To the second wave feminists, whose hatred for trans women is palpable, oppressing others does not make you free.

  26. Thank you for this article. Thank you for being a sensible person.

  27. I would suspect that most of the negative commenters on this article have the privilege to not be concerned with replicating oppression, or the privilege to see their experiences as universal to all women. (Have you taken a good, long look at the people you organize with? Is it actually a diverse group, beyond token gestures?)

    The rest of us will be here, grateful to Julia Serrano for writing this response, and grateful to Ms. for giving her a platform.

  28. billie rain says:

    thanks for this article. it’s great to see a trans-positive perspective in ms magazine.

    take care,
    billie rain

  29. sisterhoodispowerful? says:

    I came to feminism as a young dyke who needed it badly. It taught me words to explain the misogyny that suffocated me and provided avenues for action that sustained my life. Feminism created who I am and it saved my life.

    This is why it disturbs me to my core to read the comments of faux-feminists who insist that there is a “universal womanhood” and that trans women are not part of it. For example, to say that women of color experience the same sexism that white women experience is not only ahistorical and misguided, it reveals that these people have never read anything (or interacted with) feminists of color/womanists.

    Trans feminists offer analysis of their complicated experience with sexism. As women, they are and will forever be my sisters. As women who experience a kind of sexism that I as a cis woman do not, I want their voices elevated. When “feminists” do not understand the need to think about trans-misogyny the result is not trans women’s “hurt feelings” – the result is that they are very literally dying because of this cissexist ignorance, selfishness, and hatred.

    You faux-feminists who critique them, who make the outrageous claim that they are not women, who say that they are railroading the “real” concerns of women – you are not my sisters. You are the people derailing the feminist movement. You are the people destroying what we could all create together.

  30. Thankyou for this article Julia, it is brilliant. I cannot sit and read through all these comments as it is upsetting for me a genderqueer person to hear feminists telling me my identity and the identities of anyone outside of the gender binary are invalid, especially when feminism is what brought me to this courage and comfort to begin with. I believe that everything in your article should be common knowledge among feminists, and I don’t doubt that those arguing against it have the privilege of being white and/or cis gender or middle class from the western world and don’t realize that they are actually a minority amongst women, percentage wise, but always have the loudest voice.

  31. I am a Lifelong Lesbian and have been a Radical Lesbian Feminist since 1970. One of our ongoing struggles has been to have a small bit of space just for women, away from men and their female-hatred, Lesbian-hatred and prurience. But some men found a very clever way of intruding and not taking “no” for an answer — they claim/appropriate/fetishize our identity.

    Now is the point at which the followers of the trans cult will start yelling “transphobic,” and use classism to say I need “educating.” But I am not “phobic” or afraid of men claiming our identity — I am oppressed by them. And I am well-educated in watching how they hate and try to define us out of existence for 42 years.

    Any oppressed group has the right to say no to the presence of their oppressor, yet somehow women are denied this. And our very few remaining resources in the vast female-hating patriarchy, such as women’s studies classes and now Ms. Magazine have been appropriated by men.

    For women who support these men, if it was that they truly were men wanting access to women and stealing our identity, what would it look and sound like? Would it be, to quote “Julie Serano:” “My penis is more powerful than the cocks of a million alpha-males, all put together.”
    (Can you get more male than that?)

    Would it mean being threatened to be raped, have your clitoris cut off, and be murdered? Those are threats I’ve gotten from men claiming to be women, and every single feminist I know who has written in defense of female identity has gotten similar threats. (I have NEVER been threatened by women). Would it be to have one of these men who is fully able-bodied, to also appropriate disabled Lesbian identity by using a wheelchair and going to the Dyke March with a sign saying “Differently-abled Dyke,” and making his wheelchair fall over to get sympathy from Lesbians? Of course his “trans-paraplegia” is real — he speaks of coveting his aunt’s leg braces when he was a boy.

    I know most women value men way more than other women, but to accept them as women when their male entitlement and hatred of women reeks from them is a mystery. At what point will women be horrified enough at these men and say no to them — say no to them threatening us, calling us “cis,” defining real women out of existence, telling us we are “transphobic” because we do not want to give them sexual access to us.

    At what point do you clearly recognize “trans women” for what they are: Not women in any way, but simply men who are more female-hating than most men and who fetishize and caricaturize women. Say no to them and see what happens. Seriously — try it and find out. And what do we call men who will not take “no” for an answer?

    • this reeks of internalized misogyny as the writer only speaks of trans women and makes no mention of trans men.

      also, there is a HUGE difference between men claiming to be women and trans women. No trans woman must “claim” to be a woman because she is one. However, I am sure that men will pretend to be woman just to get into safe spaces, just like many people “claim” to be nice, decent people, giving candy to children to ensure their trust…

    • kinigget says:

      You have *absolutely no idea* what you’re talking about. First, I am not now, nor was I ever, male, It just took me 20 years to realize that. Second, trans women are far more likely to be victims of violence, sexual or otherwise, than perpetrators. third, “cis” is a descriptor, not a slur. The term arose out of a need for simple way to say “not trans*”, that’s the whole story.

      I’d also like to know what your criteria for being a “real woman” are.

    • Kate O'Brien says:

      Disability is not your metaphor to use! That is an appropriation of the experiences of disabled women, of which I am one, that is in itself oppressive but becomes doubly offensive in this context.

      Stop it.

      http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/01/19/disability-is-not-your-analogy/

    • My clit’s more powerful than the cocks of a million alpha-males all put together. It’s small and nubby, so it got itself something of a Napoleon Complex and turned out all the more badass for it.

      Are you coming to take away my girl card now?

    • If you could be so kind, could you explain to me how living in the ‘burbs with my male partner and our two cats, working a standard 40 hours a week in an ordinary job, reading books, watching TV, having friends over for dinner and sleeping in on the weekends makes me a WOMAN HATER, and a LESBIAN HATER?

      Because I’m struggling with this concept. I really am. I would think that if I was a WOMAN HATER and a LESBIAN HATER that I would be y’know, doing something to profess my hatred other than going about my rather boring, ordinary life.

  32. I see the radikewl fauxminists are descending…

    Trans women are WOMEN. Plain and simple. They’re oppressed just as any other woman is. As a matter of fact, they’re one of the more heavily oppressed classes of women, like lesbians, women of colour, disabled women, and low-income women. They most certainly DON’T have male privilege.

    If you say that trans women are men on the basis of their genitals, you are saying biology is destiny. You are saying exactly what you fight against. You are being your own oppressors.

    It’s thanks to transmisogynist ‘feminists’ like you that many trans women have been raped, murdered, or had their lives otherwise ruined. Feminism is not hurting women, and by believing that trans women are not women, you are implicitly buying into the very gender binary that hates you.

    If you want to smash the gender binary, you need trans people on your side.

  33. wow, seriously disappointed in these commenters.

    If feminism isn’t intersectional, then it’s bullshit.

  34. I’m really glad to see this article here. We should check our cis privilege and remember to be inclusive of trans women in our activism.

  35. Loved this article; hated the comments. It’s nice to have a reminder that many feminists still only care about the oppression of white middle-class cis women.

    Relevant: http://radfemscorpion.tumblr.com/

  36. Julia, thanks for this very clear explanation that rather than contradicting feminism, trans feminism actually allows feminism to reach its full potential. Of course it’s sad to see all of the angry comments from anti-trans bigots, but then again some of these people are the same that have nothing better to contribute to the discussion than personal attacks, straw woman arguments, and outright lies that they convince each other are truth in their anti-trans echo chambers.

  37. Good article.

    The concerns of women globally are being railroaded by neoliberalism as well as patriarchy, and sometimes second wave feminism contributes to that, such as the “saviour” rhetoric used to justify the brutal invasion and occupation of Iraq; this occupation has spilled a vast amount of women’s blood. It also erases economic exploitation of women, a key factor in understanding the bloody global exploitation and degradation of women.

    Transphobic radfems need to stop blaming third wave feminism, and in particular trans women, for neoliberalism and global racism.

    As a trans woman I stand in solidarity with all my female sisters, worldwide. I go on demos, etc., the one thing I don’t do is mention my trans* status, because I don’t want our global struggle derailed by verbal or physical attacks from transphobic “feminists”. I work on the legacy my male privilege has left me. There are many forms of privilege. Many transphobic radfems need to work on their privilege as well. Their lack of knowledge of intersectionality is harming womens struggle globally.

    Radfems, stop caring so much about trans women. Many will be murdered by patriarchy, especially (almost entirely) trans women of colour. Many of you will celebrate that. What a waste of female energy!

    Many trans women will never deal with their male privilege and always be subject to abuse, depression, and to some extent always be outside society. Feel contempt for them if you must, but stop derailing womens struggle with hate.

    Feel free to attack me for my male privilege in daring to speak to you like equals, like feminists, like sisters. Go.

    • Sunflower says:

      I love you. These feminists need to check their privilege. An intersectional identity means we are all implicated in patriarchy and privilege even as we work against it. How is this so hard to grasp?

      • Sargasso Sea says:

        “An intersectional identity means we are all implicated in patriarchy and privilege even as we work against it.”

        Sunflower, are you actually taking some sort of *responsibility* for the existence of patriarchy? Why?

        • Sunflower says:

          We all internalize and enact patriarchy in our daily lives, even as we oppose it. I am a very flawed person, and I still struggle against the conditioning I have received that tells me to compete with other woman and denigrate them. As I lesbian woman, I even had to fight against the desire to sexualize and objectify other women. I am a feminine, relatively thin, white, middle class, cis, able-bodied woman, and this gives me tones of privilege. I am implicated in colonialism, ablism, racism, and classism, all of which are intertwined with and prop up patriarchy. I suppose a clearer way to say it is that I am implicated in kyriarchy in very complex ways.

          So, no, I am not *personally* responsible for patriarchy. But do I participate in it and at times benefit from it through the power I am granted over some of my fellow women? Yes. Am I simultaneously oppressed by patriarchy? Of course I am.

        • Kate O'Brien says:

          because patriarchy could not exist without women perpetuating it?

    • Old Music says:

      You need to get your understanding of feminism’s waves in order, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan had nothing to do with second wave feminism – a rhetoric of feminism was employed by those wanting to go to war, which is not the same thing.

      First Wave feminism (and these, of course, are western-centric definitions) got us the vote and started to change the law around property and divorce and child custody, basically challenging the idea that women where perpetual minors (children) the property of their father then their husband.

      Second Wave feminism broke the taboos of silence about violence against women; rape, domestic violence, harassment, child abuse, insest, pornography, prostitution. Plus continued the work of the first wave to increase women’s participation in the public sphere.

      Third Wave feminism gave us ‘power’ feminism, ‘choice’ feminism, ‘fun’ feminism, ‘sex positive’ feminism, queer/trans theory etc etc ad nausium

      Second Wave feminism still exists of course, in radical feminism.

    • Kate O'Brien says:

      thank you.

  38. eastsidekate says:

    After reading this comment thread, I am sad.

    • Sunflower says:

      me too. I feel like I have littered it with my ranting, but it is just so overwhelming to see.

      • No, Sunflower, you elevated it with your thoughtful opinions. Thank you for adding your sensible, kind voice to the mix. I am shocked at the hatred spewed by some of the people on this board. I’m gobsmacked at the vitriolic misinformation they still hold on to. Please, Sunflower, keep raising your voice. Feminism needs it.

      • Kate O'Brien says:

        I have greatly appreciated your comments.

  39. Normandie Wilson says:

    ugh. all the hatred of trans people from so called “feminists” is just vile and disgusting. you do realize that trans people and trans people of color, particularly, deal with issues every single day that you and I as cis women will never, ever, ever understand. Never. and yes there are chances and it does happen daily that cis women are murdered for being born cis women, but it happens WAY more often for trans people. the comments on this article are disgusting and vile and once again. people wonder why I don’t call myself a feminist anymore…

  40. Thanks for writing this, Julie, and thanks to MS for posting this. Cisgenderism oppression of transfeminists is a very ugly phenomenon that needs to be addressed more often. It’s quite sad to see feminists who claim to be in pursuit of an end to oppression deliberately try to exclude people from their club: “No, only >I< deserve not to be oppressed based on the fact that your birth sex/skin color/cultural or religious affiliation/sexual lifestyle differs from mine." It's the same argument used by white men.

  41. The feminists here are just recycling their biological argument to conceal the fact that both Gays and Lesbians can be throughly psychoanalyzed in terms of one thing and one thing only, what is between an individuals legs.

    Their real problem however is not with men, but with other women who historically and persistently have failed to embrace their feminists-misogynist ideology, to make women hate themselves and endorse manhood as superior.

    Against the Transsexual they show their misogyny by continuing to deny our experiences as being oppressed by men through beatings and rapes, particularly at the hands of their closest allies, Gay men.

    TS Trixi

    • Old Music says:

      This comment is practically illegible. He seems to be an MRA, since he says women not embracing misogyny, and not seeing men as superior is a problem.

      Either that or he’s trying to claim that feminism is actually misogyny, and that feminist want women to hate themselves – either way unintelligible!

      • not to mention his usage of “transsexual” and that he’s claiming that their/our closest allies are gay men…

  42. liberationislife says:

    Unlike Serano, many of us see no need to be a post-structuralist joker in order to recognise that female oppression isn’t experienced in universally the same way by all women. Some of us are unimpressed by her tactic of implicitly hitching feminist WOC highlighting of this fact to the anti-materialist politics (sex-positive feminism, postmodern/poststructuralist feminism, queer theory) Serano mentions. (“The myth that there is some kind of universal women experience was debunked by women of color, among others, long ago.”)

    Some of us much prefer not to adopt post-structuralism simply because of Serano’s attempts to fit up any disagreeing stance as being universalising. (And we know that the fact that most women experience multiple types of oppression means their experience of sexism is *aggravated*. They particularly need to have female oppression taken seriously, rather than have feminism watered into everything-ness. Serano’s brand of cooption actually precludes this, and actually prevents feminists from being strong enough to effectively oppose the many forms of oppression that females experience.)

    Those of us actually acquainted with other types of feminism know this charge (of supporting a universal, identical experience of female oppression) to be pure crap (I believe some feminism deals inadequately with racism, but that doesn’t mean it’s universalising). Sure no woman has exactly the same experiences as another, but that doesn’t mean it follows that females aren’t oppressed as a sex. Which is the big mistake that those influenced by postmodernism make. They get confused by individual differences in experience, and national/ethnic etc differences in the implementation of women’s oppression. So much so that they have trouble focussing on the structural oppression (deprivation of material rights and conditions accorded to other social sectors) of females. So if they even manage to acknowledge that the commonality that women have is that we are all oppressed as females, they still mistakenly conclude that there are no general dynamics of oppression that specifically target those thought to be female.

    A better way of looking at it, of course, is to look at what relationship the individual has had to female-oppressing structures and dynamics from birth (since infant rearing, childhood socialization and the education received in this period are what pretty much forms adult physical health, psychology and the access one has to various forms of employment). Does society hold a general expectation for that individual to be the reproducer, bearer and carer of the next generation, part of the sector whose job it is to provide sex. Does rape make them vulnerable to pregnancy and a life of child-rearing. Etc. [Structural oppression of females is not hard to identify.]

    This is another problem with queer and post-structuralist analysis – it tends to forget that all these phenomena (suspicion of bisexuality and oppression of those perceived as transgressing the prescribed sex roles, whether they’re lesbians, feminists or perceived as trans women) stem from the requirements of maintaining women’s oppression. When anyone is *perceived* as transgressing the prescribed sex roles (whether they actually are or not), they get punished in order to deter others from doing so, because this transgression suggests that the sex roles aren’t natural, so it undermines the ideology maintaining compliance with women’s oppression.

    Similarly, this (Serano’s obliviousness to female oppression) is why she stresses the ‘gender binary’ rather than the ‘sex hierarchy’, which is what it really is.

    It is unfortunatley typical of Serano’s gall that she includes this – ‘Some feminists may obstinately insist that cis women have it far worse than trans women, or that traditional sexism is far worse than cissexism, or heterosexism, but the point of feminism is not to engage in this kind of Oppression Olympics.’

    As if a prominent part of trans activism right now weren’t insisting that every feminist discussion be derailed with accusations that cissexist feminists (such as pro-choice campaigners) are oppressing trans women, who are the oppressedest of all! (Seriously, some trans activists no longer want feminists to refer to ‘the war on women’ when discussing attacks on female reproductive rights.) Serano is gaslighting.

    Of course, this stuff can influence those who engage with these issues primarily via abstraction and the internet, but those who have seen how this plays out in action will be much less impressed.

    • Female oppression can be taken seriously even when it is included as a facet of other forms of oppression. By arguing that including trans women in the feminist fight would mean that female oppression wouldn’t be taken seriously, you are not taking their oppression seriously.

      The reason that trans activists no longer want feminists to refer to reproductive rights as a “women’s issue” is because it isn’t, plain and simple. It is not because they are the “oppressedest of all” but because they aren’t being included and their oppression isn’t even being recognized.

      Also, no group has made any kind of wide spread decisions because of Serano personally. Maybe because of some of the things that she argues, but not because of her. Try to differentiate between the writer and the issues they are discussing, as they are clearly not the same thing.

      • “The reason that trans activists no longer want feminists to refer to reproductive rights as a “women’s issue” is because it isn’t, plain and simple.”

        Keep saying this and more and more feminists and women who care about their reproductive health will believe that trans activists do not have their well-being at heart.

        Reproductive rights is a woman’s issue. And if women can’t say that — and mean it — on the Ms. blog of all places, women are the ones that are being oppressed and silenced.

      • liberationislife says:

        Hey :-)

        I think you are falling into the trap of acting on the basis of assumptions and what you’ve been told about anyone who is even slightly ‘trans-critical’ (critical of transgenderist ideology).

        For instance, you write: ‘By arguing that including trans women in the feminist fight would mean that female oppression wouldn’t be taken seriously, you are not taking their oppression seriously.’

        But I put forward no trans-exclusionary position. I never have. And I mean I have never tried to exclude trans women from involvement in real-life feminist activism. (As opposed to some who attack trans-critical feminists but have never worked with trans women themselves – I am not saying that’s you, but this is a problematic phenomenon. ‘Internet’ activists feel fine about attacking trans-critical feminists on the basis of things that have been circulated hundreds of times – as can happen on the internet – but have little relation to the reality of the history of trans-crit feminists working with trans women.)

        Furthermore, what I have been criticising is Serano’s brand of politics. She certainly has been influential (even this comment thread indicates this). I think you are trying to falsely portray my comment as personalising, although it’s her politics I’ve criticised.

        We do need to get back to basics, and acknowledge that reproductive vulnerability (the consequences most of us fear from het sex and rape) and being expected to engage (regardless of our individual capabilities) in a life of child-raising is a _central_ aspect of women’s oppression. So it is not ok for feminists to stop using the word ‘woman’ in relation to this.

        However, I point out that the usual demand of these campaigns – ‘free, safe legal abortion on demand’ in no way suggests that trans men should not have this right as well.

        As if the demands by feminists for free, legal abortion access could possibly prevent trans men from accessing terminations. But trans politics increasingly has major difficulty in identifying its oppressors, and has instead turned the heat on feminist females. I believe trans politics is largely unable to distinguish between institutional power and the oppressed who only have power through collective action.

        This has led some trans activists to relate to the problems they can experience in accessing reproductive care (including terminations), not by engaging in public campaigns about this (which would actually be useful), but instead by criticising feminists for daring to use the phrase ‘women’s rights’ or anything similar in relation to abortion rights. ‘Transphobic’, apparently!

        We have to reject the idea that acknowledging basic aspects of women’s oppression is either transphobic or non-’intersectional’. Acknowledging reality strengthens us. And it’s the most oppressed of all females, who have least access to reproductive care, who need this the most.

        Some of us have engaged in activism around numerous issues – abortion rights, anti-racism, anti-capitalism – and I can tell you that speaking the truth about the reality of oppression *assists* us in building bridges and *assists* us in building solidarity.

        We must not squander this legacy of feminist activism which could orient to reality and multiple manifestations of oppression at the same time, while staying clear about central aspects of women’s oppression.

  43. Fantastic article. I’m surprised to see such a great piece on this site.

  44. RubyFruit says:

    “Some feminists may obstinately insist that cis women have it far worse than trans women, or that traditional sexism is far worse than cissexism, or heterosexism, but the point of feminism is not to engage in this kind of Oppression Olympics.”

    It’s not (radical) feminists who say this but their opponents and, indeed, you have just said it. You are saying you subscribe to a “feminism” which is not about women’s liberation, it’s a wishy-washy, vague “anyone can be oppressed and I’m going to call it feminism”

    Other oppressions are important, are to be challenged, but feminism is very specifically about liberating a class of people, socially labelled “women”, from a class of people, socially labelled “men” who gain privilege and benefits as a result of patriarchal rule.

    • So what is the issue here? Trans women are “women” and trans men are “men.” They experience the same privilege and oppression that cis women and men do, but in ways that are so much more complex than you are willing to understand. In order to accomplish anything, one cannot simply tackle one issue. Feminism will NEVER accomplish anything towards ending patriarchy or any other oppressive social construct regarding gender roles unless you take into account all of the other factors. This oppression is not isolated from other forms, and statistics show that. Violence against trans women is substantially higher than violence against cis women. And trans women are targeted by terfs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) at an alarmingly higher rate than trans men, which can be explained by internalized misogyny.

      • Old Music says:

        “targeted’? Really? Anyone would think that all this violence wasn’t being committed by men!

        Your average misogynistic, homophobic thug isn’t conversant in radical feminist theory. They’re not, when they see a trans woman, thinking about intersectionality, liminal modes of being, genderqueerfucking or fuzzy boundaries, they are thinking ‘fag’ and that’s as far as their brain goes.

        No misogynistic, homophobic thug ever attacked a trans woman because he had an opinion on the WBW policy at Michigan Womyn’s Fest.

        No radical feminist has EVER denied that trans women are fully human and deserve lives free of fear and harassment. We are concerned about men calling themselves women and invading WBW/lesbian space, and men demanding that lesbians must be attracted to ‘female penises’.

        We are also concerned about the way gender non-conforming children are targeted by trans theorists, and self-described ‘gender experts’, to be put on puberty blockers and fast-tracked into ‘gender reassignment’ surgery, meaning a life time of hormones and medical ‘care’, given that there have been no long-term studies of the effects of ‘gender reassignment’ surgery and hormones. How come so many adult trans get to opt out of surgery, and ‘play’ with ‘gender’ but it is becoming near compulsory for gender non-conforming children to ‘transition’?

        The ‘gendered’ behaviour of children is being ruthlessly policed, and dissenters (who would mostly otherwise grow out of it) disappeared. But criticising that is ‘transphobic’.

        • Kate LBT says:

          “No radical feminist has EVER denied that trans women are fully human and deserve lives free of fear and harassment. We are concerned about men calling themselves women and invading WBW/lesbian space, and men demanding that lesbians must be attracted to ‘female penises’.”

          It must be fun to be agile enough to do a 180 on your argument within the same paragraph. If you treat trans women as if by our very existence we are lying to you, you are treating us as something subhuman. Stop it.

          • Old Music says:

            “It must be fun to be agile enough to do a 180 on your argument within the same paragraph”

            Really? Accusing someone of lying is the same as calling them sub-human? So what you are saying is that FAAB women must agree with every single thing any trans woman says or we are treating them as sub-human?

        • Kate O'Brien says:

          here comes the “OMG! WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?.”

        • Kate O'Brien says:

          also, referring to giving trans kids the medical care they want and request as “disappearing them”? Unbelievably gross and offensive. The slaughter of political dissidents is not your fucking analogy. I can’t even believe someone one would think that was ok.

          Oh, and hey, thanks for denying kids any agency and ownership of their bodies! I’m sure trans kids appreciate it. I’ll just ask my best friend’s trans son what he thinks of not being allowed to transition–I’m sure he’ll understand that you’re “protecting” him not oppressing him. It’ll totally reconcile him with being forced to present as the wrong gender/sex.

          • Old Music says:

            Your first comment here is very trite and offensive, as if caring about children is a problem?

            Children are very easy to manipulate, that’s why lots of countries ban advertising aimed at children.

            Children also want to fit in, and feel peer pressure very strongly, a child who can’t fit into one narrow gender role, may feel their only option is to fit into the other narrow gender role, because there isn’t anywhere inbetween to go.

            Children also want to please their parents, if their parents won’t accept them as they are (ie not fitting into sexist ‘gender’ roles), they may accept them as ‘trans gender’, which means they (the parents) get a child that conforms to traditional ‘gender’ roles.

            I don’t think any child should be forced to ‘present’ as any ‘gender’, trans theory presents ‘gender’ as something real, ‘in the brain’ and reinforces the pink and blue boxes; in a society without reductive ‘gender’ roles, no child would feel like they were ‘wrong’ because they didn’t want to play football, or wanted to play with dolls.

            Do you really have no problem with children as young as four being labelled this way? Do you really not see how reactionary it is? Do you really have no concerns about the long-term affects of ‘gender reassignment’ surgery, and a lifetime of hormones, none of which has been subjected to any long-term trials?

        • I think you’re misinformed about how medical care for trans children works.

          First, the kid has to persistently identify themselves as the gender they weren’t assigned. The kid is not the one deciding to go to the doctor, scheduling the appointments, or even consenting to treatment. The parent is. Most parents, even parents that are not transphobic, are not going to jump at the first declaration of gender dysphoria. Kids will be kids, and kids say stupid things. Those parents are going to give their child every chance in the world to just be gender non-conforming. Almost no parent is going to prefer their child being trans to being gender non-conforming. I don’t know where you’re getting the impression that would happen.

          Then, IF the kid goes to the doctor, that doctor is going to make damn sure that kid is really sure about their gender identity. The doctor is going to be looking for kids that are just gender non-conforming to screen them out and send them back home to just be gender non-conforming, to the point where a bunch of actual trans kids get screened out along with the just gender non-conforming kids.

          IF the doctors agree that the kid might be trans, what happens until puberty is just what they call “social transition”. Basically, that just means “treat the kid like their identified gender.” It’s stressed at this time that this is not permanent. The kid has every chance in the world to decide “this isn’t for me” and go back to living as the gender they were assigned. In fact, the doctors encourage the kid to keep that option in mind, and do not treat the kid as if their mind is made up.

          Then when puberty comes along, if the child wants it and the family consents, then the child is prescribed hormone blockers. Hormone blockers are not a trans specific medicine. They’re used all the time for precocious puberty. The kid can stop the hormone blockers any time and have their puberty normally. Again, the doctors don’t treat the kid as if any of this is permanent yet. All this does is make the kid appear to be just a late bloomer. And, you know, it’s not easy to be a late bloomer! If the kid does not really think this is the right thing to do, they of course will stop and not have to be a late bloomer. The kid has to stay on the hormone blockers without going on the hormones they want for a while, even if that kid is saying “please can I have the hormones.” The doctors are very, very serious about not giving hormones to someone who might not be trans.

          Then, after they’ve spent enough time on the hormone blockers without having second thoughts, estrogen or testosterone happens. But it’s a really long process and screening that kid will have to go to, and they’re given every opportunity to back out if that’s what they want.

          There’s a reason that this takes place in someone’s teen years, though. It’s not to push kids into something, it’s because that’s the most optimal time for the hormones to actually do what they’re supposed to. Which means, overall, less medical procedures that person will have to go through! Basically just continuing to take the hormones, and SRS if they want it.

          As for whether adult trans people “get to opt out of surgery”, it’s because SRS, especially for trans men, has a long way to go. Sometimes someone would prefer living with the junk they’ve got instead of taking a gamble that their junk might not work at all after. They might also have a medical condition that makes surgery riskier, or not have the money to spend on SRS (note: being trans makes it a lot harder to find a job). It’s also their bodies and it’s up to them to decide what to do with them, especially since the shape of their junk is not going to affect anyone who does not interact with their junk, which I’m guessing you are included in. “Transition” does not mean only “junk surgery” either.

          Also, it’s really insulting to people with disabilities to say that taking a pill every day or going to the doctor and getting a shot every so often is a horrible life of constant medical care. Or even anyone who takes a prescription medication.

        • And! Maybe you are not personally going around threatening trans women’s safety or outing them, but there are radical feminists who do. Not everyone in your movement is a perfect angel, and pretending that they are is really not a good thing to be doing.

          Misgendering is also wrong.

  45. I was deeply disturbed to see Aviva Dove-Viebahn’s give credence to cissexist arguments that frame trans voices as somehow outside the scope of feminism. Trans feminism is only a “conundrum” when those of us who have cis privilege fail to see that the feminism advocating for *us* does not, in fact, advocate for women, universally. There is no way to advocate for women, across the board, without embracing intersectional analyses. The radfem insistence that intersectionality “weakens” feminism ignores how weak *traditional* feminism is when it comes to advocating for women who are not cis, white, able, upper-class, Western, straight, etc. I am deeply grateful to see Ms. offer an alternative perspective, and hope that trans feminist voices will continue to be highlighted in this blog.

  46. Trans women are women. That’s why the word woman is in there. To those of you who think trans women are men trying to infiltrate women’s spaces… that doesn’t even make sense. Why on earth would a man give up his male privilege and be marginalized? Also, thinking about trans women can even bring up some new insights into feminism as it relates to cis women (not that it should have to…). For instance, a major reason that trans women in particular are marginalized is due to misogyny. The idea that a woman assigned male at birth might prefer to be recognized as female is really destabilizing to those who assume women are lesser. Trans women are women and as such should be advocated for by feminists.

    Thank you so much Julia Serano. I’m really glad you posted this piece. Your work has been very helpful to me as a cis woman learning to be a better feminist.

    • This is a fantastic and necessary piece – well said, Char. And I agree – Julia Serano’s work, as well as Monica Roberts’ work and the work of other trans women, has been essential to me as a cis woman learning to support her trans sisters.

    • Veronica says:

      Char:

      I am a transwoman, and what you have written definitely rings true.

      In my experience, much of the anti-trans animus has its roots in more generalized misogyny.

      That is not to say that every single transwoman is some sort of beacon of wisdom, or even that in the aggregate we have the same experience of marginalization as non-trans women.

      Nevertheless, people who lash out at transwomen are under the mistaken notion that women are lesser than men.

  47. Julia Serano, you are an inspiration and a beacon of hope to me. Thank you for your work, and for helping me discover a home in transfeminism that cis-centric feminism never afforded to me. You are beautiful and powerful and I only hope that I can make a positive impact on the world like you do, one day. <3

  48. This article is wonderful! Feminism needs to be helping ALL women.

  49. Michelle B says:

    This article is wonderful. Trans women are women, and attempting to argue the opposite is ignorance in the extreme. I’m deeply ashamed of those who identify as feminists who continue to be cis-sexist and oppressive. To trans women: I’m sorry.

  50. Great article. When I got to the paragraph about ways trans-sexism is dismissed, my eyes actually rolled at the inanity of the arguments of the opposition. So you are reaching not just my brain with your well-structured article, you are also reaching me at a visceral level. The rightness of your argument is very clear to me, even though most of this issue is new to me.

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