I am a real woman, entitled to be in women’s space. I have been paying too much attention to TERFs, but here is Tigtog, who is cis and feminist. She argues that people can have a gender identity discordant with biological sex. Because of that, I should be accepted as a real woman.
After reading and thinking about this, my headline may be premature. Tigtog was dealing with a particular TERF argument. I am well behind the conversation, as Tigtog’s post was written before I started blogging, and the trans spectrum comes up- from only post operative trans women, living permanently as women, to every AMAB person who ever tried on a skirt- not all those people are necessarily included. I need to do more work, and more reading, but this is as far as I have got now.
The argument is an ideology. The liberal position that anyone AMAB who wants to wear skirts, or to have a vaginoplasty, should be able to, does not mean that feminists should call that person a woman, admit us to women’s spaces, or take notice of our issues. But that ideology does not have to convince every single person determined to refuse it, only the majority. I have been accepted in women’s space, as well as rejected.
The basis of it is that gender identity makes me a woman. Is that idea feminist, or destructive of feminism? The basis of feminism is that sex or gender should not restrict life choices, and is not a reason for judgment: being unfeminine is not wrong. Feminists observe that women have been restricted, not voting, going to University, or owning property, and are still restricted: women as a whole earn around three fifths the earnings of men as a whole in the UK. Caring for children, old or disabled people is seen as women’s work, and unvalued. Equality would liberate the gifts of everyone for the good of all, but how to pursue it?
Feminism rejects hierarchies of race, gender and class and asserts our equal value. The hierarchies of patriarchy are socially constructed. The sole physical difference is sexual dimorphism. The gender binary is constructed on that, and can be changed.
I call myself Abigail. I accept the social construct of gender in how I dress so that I can express my innate femininity in how I wish to relate to other people. The two go together for me. I would like my ways of relating to be valued more highly. This subverts the gender binary, so supports the feminist project.
Feminists should accept me because I further their interests.
Tigtog writes, Miss Andrea argues that “guys in frocks” are merely buying into gender essentialism, but I don’t see how arguing that only those born with ovaries can ever be regarded as “real” women isn’t doing exactly that. It’s treating gender as inalienably aligned with biological sex, whereas those who have a trans* history are those are saying that their biological sex has not been sufficient on its own to make them feel comfortable in their assigned gender role. That strikes me as the very opposite of biological essentialism; even in cases where a transitioning individual adopts genderised dressing stereotypes, because the whole point of gender being a social construct is that those stereotypes are artificial rather than essential in the first place.
The contempt of TERFs for trans women is phobic. In the comments, Mindy writes, I think my attitude comes down to – there’s a woman in there, what does it matter what package she comes in? I don’t understand the idea that a man would voluntarily choose to live as a woman and give up his rights in the patriarchy simply as a way of getting at women. That idea is irrational, indicating phobia.
Does Gender identity make me a woman? For Mindy, it does.
For me, gender identity is inextricably linked to my femininity, and that might be seen as anti-feminist: people with ovaries should not be judged as wrong- “harridans”, “viragos”- for being unfeminine or restricted to roles fitting feminine people. Possibly, I need to find a feminism valuing femininity. Is that what the third wave is about?
It is a paradox. Trans women affirm gender stereotypes: we assert femininity is female. We subvert gender stereotypes: we reject our upbringing to express our true selves.
Anyone who knows more than me about this, and has the spare time to educate me, is welcome to comment.