The vulnerable cis woman

One trans-excluding argument is that cis women need space for cis women only, because of male violence. If the cis woman sees a trans woman in women’s space, she will see her as a man, and will have the same fear reaction that she would if there was a man there. I am mortified at the idea I could terrify someone. The argument arouses my sympathy with my potential victim, leave alone a feminist or someone who has not thought of social justice issues. How can we counter it?

It was put to me like this. Young women may suffer continual sexual harassment and occasional extreme experiences such as sexual assault or a man demanding sex who will not brook refusal from whom she has great difficulty escaping. She seeks refuge where only women should go, a toilet, and then I come in. She reads me as a man, and her refuge is penetrated. More, almost all loos have only one door, and as I am nearer to it, I prevent her escape. Her trauma is redoubled.

The argument appeals to some feminists particularly. I wondered why a woman would be revolted by chest masculinisation surgery, yet insist on vaginoplasty? She could tolerate a “Post-op transsexual” in a women’s loo, but not a “trans woman”. Others argue against all surgery, such as Green campaigners claiming that just as we should not mutilate the rain forest we should not mutilate healthy bodies. That feminist’s position made sense to me if she sees solely from the cis woman’s point of view, thinking that the trans man is a woman victimised by society into imagining she wants to be mutilated, who is then mutilated. The answer is reducing the oppression of women and the shame inflicted on women. But the trans woman is a potential threat to women. If the trans woman has no penis the threat is slightly less.

The argument plays on my feeling of being conditionally tolerated. I will be permitted if there is no problem for anyone else. I am wary of angry dismissal, and want to avoid it, so am alive to reasons to exclude. This is internalised transphobia. Other trans women take a stand on their rights asserting trans women are women, and this may be an overreaction/ rebellion against internalised transphobia.

Anyone else, either a social justice warrior or an ordinary person who hardly thinks about such things might say, thoughtlessly, either that trans women are men and should not be in there anyway, or that trans women are also vulnerable and need women’s space. The argument particularly appeals to someone who places women’s needs above those of other vulnerable groups, which raises the question what is a woman?

Groups subject to oppression will succeed when we work together and support each other. BAME people, LGBT+ people, working class people, disabled people, have the same interests in tearing down structural injustice and implicit bias. Conservatives and oppressors have an interest in setting oppressed groups against each other and creating out-groups whom all of society can look down on. When cis women exclude trans women only the Patriarchy wins.

One is not born a woman, but becomes one, and the kind of woman may depend on skin colour, class, and disability. Talk of general women’s experience applies to more privileged women. Our socialisation is not primarily based on gender, but on all these factors. White middle-class feminists talking of the particular problems arising from feminine socialisation are placing their own problems first, ignoring those of other women, and defining what womanhood means, when feminism requires womanhood to have no stereotype at all. Judith Butler says identity categories are always normative and exclusionary. They mean that there are women these feminists’ campaigns ignore.

Trans women are oppressed as other women are. Like all women, we are required to spend a great deal of time on our appearance, or suffer from being treated as invisible. Any woman performing gender in conventional ways reinforces those conventional ways. The goal is to end these gender stereotypes, but we all succumb. Trans women have women’s experiences of sexual harassment and violence.

Taken from the NYT: When a cis woman complains that trans women haven’t had the same experiences as “real” women-born-women, then, what she’s really saying is, “Trans women haven’t had the same experiences as women like me.” If 30-plus years of intersectional feminism has taught us anything, it’s that this is precisely the move that feminists need to stop making. See also Gal Dem.

What about Judith Green’s argument? She says in her sex abuse survivors’ group, the women needed a single sex group as they had been socialised to look after the men. Had men joined, the women’s implicit bias would have stopped them caring for their own needs and placing the men first. However, trans women are also socialised to put ourselves down, ignore our needs and feelings, and cover up our real selves.

Let us be allies. Anything else is the conservatives’ work.

2 thoughts on “The vulnerable cis woman

    • My daughter is a woman victimised by society into feeing she wants to be mutilated, who is then mutilated [her FFS] which has since enabled her to be less victimised

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