“Not all men” is misogynist. “Not all trans women” isn’t.

Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by men: in every place of work, on the streets, in shops, in pubs and in places of entertainment, a drink in their hand, their inhibitions loosening and their boisterousness getting louder. Out in the countryside you have to be somewhere remote before you are unlikely to see a man, and particularly remote before you have no chance. So, “Not all men” is derailing. It is irrelevant, and a way of picking away at a woman’s complaint, a false way of painting her as unreasonable or shrill. There may be a man, somewhere, who has never pushed a woman’s boundaries after a clear no, never used power wrongfully against a woman at work, never dehumanised or objectified a woman, but men do, it is women’s universal experience, and any man may be that boorish or worse.

“What about the men” is a similarly misogynist derailing tactic. Yes, men suffer from patriarchy, and from the hierarchies neoliberal capitalism creates; but women’s suffering needs to be acknowledged. There is time for discussing men’s problems, and women’s problems deserve time too.

These slogans, “Not all men” and “What about the men?” are useful to name and identify these derailing tactics. We will not let people move us on to other topics, the sufferings of men or even the (un)acceptability of derailing.

Trans women are not like men. We are less expansive, generally, because we try not to be noticed; we are not as loud; and particularly we are not ubiquitous. You may go for weeks without seeing one, and months without talking to one. So the problems cis women have with trans women are different. You may be reading trans stuff on the internet, and disagree with some of it. You may even overhear a trans woman saying something you don’t like. But you and your IRL friends will not have a great deal of direct, personal, unpleasant experience of trans people.

Patriarchy gives men privilege, but not trans women. We go from approximating to the default acceptable person to being visibly weird. So we are laughed at, attacked, and discriminated against. We don’t have the power at work.

So if someone complains about a trans woman who has directly affected them in a bad way, that should not be derailed. That is, to an extent, my problem- knowing nothing about trans women, some people might generalise from their first experience of one of us, so I have an interest in that experience being good. I want that complainant to process the experience and get a good experience from the next trans person. But if someone complains about a trans woman behaving in a way she objects to, but has only read about, that is entirely different. Not all trans women are like that, and what is the problem with it anyway? Many people behave badly, but that does not mean you should choose some characteristic of that person and hate everyone with that characteristic, for ever after.

3 thoughts on ““Not all men” is misogynist. “Not all trans women” isn’t.

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