Transmisogyny is still misogyny

I think most feminists would do a double-take if they had received the endorsement of evangelicals, but not Meghan Murphy. Undeterred by the fact that the Conservatives have selected her to share the limelight alongside evangelical pastor Paul Dirks, Murphy has the privilege of taking her transmisogyny to a national stage as a “witness” for the Senate’s third reading of Bill C-16.

The sad part is that there are legitimate critiques of Bill C-16. Advocates pointed out (and I’ll admit I was a bit late to the party on this one) that trans women are already disproportionately targeted by police and are therefore more likely to be represented in prison–the same prisons that would house hate crime offenders for longer periods of time thanks to Bill C-16’s hate crime provisions. But that’s not the argument Conservatives or Murphy are making.

Not that I’m particularly surprised that the same cisgender asshats who march in lockstep with the evangelical talking points from our esteemed southern neighbour decided another clueless cisgender asshat was qualified to talk about trans rights. Historically, the anti-trans party has had to resort to deception and manipulation to invent some semblance of credibility for their positions precisely because the evidence isn’t on their side. But what I find particularly odd is that despite claiming to be a feminist, Murphy is more than happy to invoke the same misogyny that has been used to dismiss women for decades, re-purposing it for her animus against trans women.

For instance, Murphy reiterated her steady stream of trans-antagonistic vomit for the National Observer, once again bringing up the spectre of male socialization for why trans women are a threat to cis women:

Women are socialized, from the time they are born, to prioritize the feelings and comfort of everyone else but themselves. We learn that our boundaries will not be respected by men, as we are talked over, leered at, cat called, groped, and raped. Girls’ images are constantly being shared electronically by boys and men alike, against their will. There is a real fear that images of our bodies will be put online in order to exploit and degrade us.

But, as was the case with Chimimanda Adichie and Jenni Murray, socialization cannot be both something that is possible to reject–as these feminists do with feminine gender roles–and also inevitable destiny. These are obviously mutually exclusive states. That women buck against the subordination expected of them by patriarchs is plain evidence that these socialized experiences are not fixed points of references but experiences that can be continuously and willfully re-contextualized. And if that’s the case, so-called “male socialization”–the standard idea of which does not map neatly to trans women’s experiences–is not as useful if one’s intention is to drive a wedge between cis and trans womanhood. That this observation is seldom accounted for in the TERF mythology speaks to its importance in these kinds of narratives.

Of course, a pernicious hypocrisy of Murphy’s can even be found mere paragraphs prior to her above statement. In one paragraph, she expresses fear that “images of our bodies will be put online to exploit and degrade us,” but does that exact same thing to trans women in the same article:

After Brittney Remington was prevented from entering the women’s change room at a pool in Victoria, asked to change in the first-aid room instead, the self-identified transwoman [sic] submitted a formal discrimination complaint. The City issued an apology and the head of the parks and recreation department explained to the media that the policy is “to let transgender people use whichever change room they identify with, and that in Remington’s case, a serious mistake was made.”

There’s two parts at play here. The first is that Murphy is mischaracterizing the complaint Remington lodged against the pool in a bid to delegitimize it–the complaint included mentions of mockery by staff, not merely denial of access to the change rooms. In erasing this vital detail, Murphy has made herself a handmaiden to the second part of the complaint–the body mockery that was inherent in the incident made salient by directly naming an easily Googleable person. Now she can cloak her mockery in the general characteristics of a strawmanned, non-existent all-purpose “male body,” after serving up images of Remington herself to invoke the “horror” of what she perceives to be masculine characteristics.

This is to say nothing of how conceiving of violence as a property of “male” bodies is a slap in the face for survivors of domestic violence outside the standard heteronormative relationship. This inflexible ontology denies the existence of lesbian domestic violence–which is actually proportionately more pervasive than heterosexual violence–and conveniently absolves women of their ability to inflict harm on others. In fact, theorists specializing in queer domestic violence have suggested that the internalized misogynistic belief that women can’t inflict harm is a causal factor in woman-on-woman domestic violence. It isn’t difficult to see how this also contributes to the erasure of domestic violence victims who are men. This belief fundamentally misconstrues how power is actually constructed, denying that it may be seized from its default allocation.

And Murphy is just fine with that. More than that, she defends this belief in the name of feminism. Are we really empowered if we’ve internalized a belief that women are delicate and defenseless? It sounds like the sort of chauvinistic nonsense I’d expect out of r/theredpill.

It’s a question I hope the Senate asks of itself. Bill C-16 is a bit of a flawed package, but it should not be defeated by invoking the very misogyny that Murphy claims to fight. That would be, in her own words, “regressive.”