Earlier today (depending on your time zone), the Insufferably Intolerant Science Nerd posted a follow up to events of the previous twenty four hours, two posts about bigots and those pretending they “protect women”. (IISN’s first post, and her second post.) Predictably, none of the attacks were about acting in women’s interests, they were cis heteros attacking LGBTQIA people, or worse, individuals within LGBTQIA peopleattacking Trans people.
Below the fold is IISN’s most recent post, complete and unedited with permission. If anything is altered, that was an accident on my part during formatting (e.g. wordpress’s handling of paragraph breaks) that I will amend if pointed out.
This is going to be long, so pay attention. If you make the adult choice to not read the entire thing, don’t whine to me about it. Also, don’t comment unless you have read the entire thing. I have no inkling to read half-arsed comments from people who think reading is hard.
My last 24 hours can be summed up as “the misogyny is coming from inside the house” sprinkled with homophobia. Sarcastic yay! There’s no misogyny quite like personally attacked straight women misogyny. Yikes. I had almost forgotten what seeing that felt like.
Most of you are fine. Some of you are not.
Some of you are not okay, and it shows.
Okay, fine. Let’s unpack this shall we.
Firstly, The Homophobia. I need to address that as it ties in with my overall post.
Homophobia from straight women happens for slightly different reasons than homophobia from straight men.
Homophobia directed towards lesbians (me) by straight men generally has a sexualised component to it. The common form is “Oh, you’re lesbians? Can I watch?”
Fuck off, Todd. Unlike you, I know where the clit lives.
Lesbians are treated as fetishes. We’re sex objects, because for the specific straight men who say this, they view women as only objects for their sexual desire. Obviously, not all straight men do this, at least not the guys I hang around because I only hang with guys who value me as a human being.* The idea of “all women are sex objects for my pleasure” stems from bias views around the role of women, which manifests in physical actions such as: the dumbarse questions like the one above, violence as a result of being rejected, or corrective rape.
Homophobia directed towards lesbians by straight women, however, is a vastly different kettle of fish. We’re not viewed as sexual fetishes, but as both sexual predators, and threats to a woman’s sense of womanhood. Because for these specific straight women, they wrap their idea of what it means to be a woman, in a very…heterosexual manner.
There is a word to describe this concept used in the LGBT community, we call this “heteronormativity”, which essentially means that for straight society, how straight people commonly live their lives is seen as a direct result of their straightness. There are unwritten rules which must be abided by in order to be deemed “an acceptable straight person”. Having a partner of the opposite sex, getting married to them, having babies, having the right amount of babies, only having babies via a specific form of sex, being a stay at home mum, looking and acting in a certain way.
Straight women call it “The Patriachy”, the gays call it Heteronormativity**, because it isn’t just men doing this. Just blaming “The Patriachy” fails to understand that being heterosexual is also a factor in whether or not you’re deemed an “acceptable” person.
Homophobia from straight women directed towards lesbians manifests due to internal ideas and bias around what it means to be a woman, and how women view people attracted to women. Because we’re women only attracted to women, the idea we’re predators comes from a fear of being hit on, that we will act the way a lot of men attracted to women act. Whereas the idea that we threaten womanhood stems from the fact, well, we’re not straight. We can be mothers without men. We marry each other. Our womanhood isn’t defined by having a guy in our lives, or procreation. We raise families, yes, but there isn’t the unwritten rule in the gay world that says we need to raise children in order to win at being a woman. To be accepted as women. We raise children because we want to, without the social and cultural pressure that says “If you choose not to do this, you won’t be a woman”.
Obviously, not all straight women. I know you know this, but some newbies might feel personally attacked. For those of you who feel personally attacked, you’re not going to like this next part.
So, a lot of the shit slinging directed towards irritable lesbos like myself is really around biassed ideas around women, attraction to women, and how to “successfully” woman. Lesbians threaten the status quo. If we don’t need to be heterosexual, or follow the heterosexual life script to still be regarded as women, oh no, what does that mean?
It means I’m going to talk about J K Rowling. It’s going to happen, just accept it.
I can’t believe I still need to discuss this.
What the fuck is happening here? I did not come out of a closet under the stairs for this shit.
To be clear: I do not give a shit about Joanne’s views. I do not care about saving her soul, or changing her ideas. I bring her up because she unfortunately, is the poster child for the specific type of straight woman I want to talk about. The type that has been riding my arse for not wanting to be a dick to trans people.
The frustrating thing about how people understand the views of one J K Rowling is that they think her ideas start and stop at the trans community. But they don’t, and it needs to be said. Yes, her transphobic ideas are terrible, however they’re a symptom, not the complete problem.
By far, the largest issue with women like Rowling is that they live within a demographic of women who identify as feminists but whose femininism stops short of wanting to dismantle the status quo. A feminism whose bubble only extends to people who look, and act like themselves. A form of feminism which only benefits them, and that flavour of feminism not only benefits a specific type of woman but actively rejects, and seeks to remove anyone else who doesn’t belong to their group.
Living in a heteronormative society as someone who isn’t straight, is like being in a play where everyone else knows the lines. It’s like being in a game where everyone else knows the rules. Many LGBT people question ourselves and our identities throughout our lives. When most of the world is cis, and straight, you start to question yourself. Self-discovery as an LGBT person starts from the ground up. We’re only now starting to get representation in the media. When I came out, there was no one on my TV screen I could call a role model, there were no gays on my TV screen at all. We were punching bags for straight people to use to feel better about their lives, both metaphorically and literally. Many of us barely survived to adulthood, we were kicked out of home, or forced to remain in the closet. Life for LGBT folk has only now started to improve.****
Visibility is a double edged sword. Yes, the LGBT kids of today have less of a chance of going through what I went through, but the visibility is also dangerous. The people who need to see us can see us, but so can the people who feel threatened by us.
And the Joanne’s of the world have their sights laser pointed in our direction.
– – –
Let’s talk about transphobia.
It’s really easy to paint trans people as the modern day boogeyman when we as a society already have ingrained social myths around men and women to piggyback off. It’s easy to paint trans men as “confused young girls” when the social idea of a teenage girl is a fragile, mindless damsel with no autonomy, who needs saving from herself. Which is unfair to teenage girls. Not all of them are damsels in distress, the Regina George’s of the world deserve some fucking respect.
Likewise, it’s easy to paint trans women as sexual predators if you can make the world believe trans women are men who want to hurt women, because, well, there are a lot of men who are sexual predators who have hurt women. Using these sorts of social misunderstandings means there’s less work to do if a group wants to propagandise against another group. Notice how discussions around trans men only focus on teens? whereas discussions around trans women focus on adults? Despite the fact that many trans men transition in adulthood, and many trans women transition as teens.
Why does this happen? It happens because it’s easier to paint a teen as clueless and in need of help, than it is to paint them as a predator, and it’s easier to paint an adult as a predator than it is to paint them as clueless and in need of help. And the J K Rowlings of the world, who have very narrow ideas of how men and women should work, are easy targets for radicalisation in a world that is increasingly leaving heteronormativity as a relic of the 1950s.
There is a misconception that radicalised people are gullible, trashy, unsophisticated, and uneducated. When we think of conspiracy theorists, or white supremacists, or homophobes, we think of rednecks, and bogans. People we can point at and say “They aren’t me”. We don’t think of middle class suburbia, or the wealthy elite.
But that’s just not true. The most dangerous, radicalised people in the world are vulnerable people who we don’t think of as vulnerable. They have power, influence, wealth, and status. They have connections. They are as far from the archetype of a radicalised person as they can get.
Some of them even wrote books about Wizard School.
We think of radicalised people as guiliable and unsophisticated in order to delude ourselves into thinking it can never happen to us. But it does. I doubt Joanne thinks of herself as radicalised, yet she has been.
Like many women, including myself, she has been sexually assualted. She’s had her vulnerability stemming from her assault exploited, weaponised, and misdirected. Her want for the status quo to remain as is, is being used against her. She is constantly being retraumatised by scare tactics around trans people, under the guise of “protection”, “vigilance”, and “safety”. This is why “concerns” around fertility are a common weapon of radicalisation, or the fear of rape. Black men raping white women, the “white race being replaced”, or women or womanhood being “erased”. Genocide is the talking point of bigots who are afraid that minorities are becoming..a little too accepted in society for their tastes.
Not to mention, that people like Joanne can experience trauma, while still not wanting to dismantle the systems that allowed that trauma, and which dismissed that trauma. The status quo favours them too much as white, wealthy, straight women. There are just too many advantages. So, that trauma gets redirected at acceptable targets.
The brutal truth that no one wants to acknowledge is that your trauma is your responsibility to fix. Yes, it’s fucked up that victims need to be the ones to fix the damage they never asked for, nor wanted, but if you don’t fix yourself – you will forward that pain onto others. Hurt people, always hurt people. Bigotry as a result of a trauma, isn’t any less bigotry just because it has a tragic backstory.
In my last post, a woman frustratedly said that a person can want to exclude trans women from women’s sports without being transphobic. I disagree. Can you advocate for making it illegal for gays to marry without being homophobic? Of course fucking not. The desire to exclude gays from marrying is based in homophobic ideas of what it means to be gay. Homophobic bias leads to homophobic actions.
Most people don’t think of themselves as a racist or homophobe or a transphobe or biphobe or misogynist, hell, they don’t think of themselves as being homophobic, or having homophobic ideas. The social idea of a homophobe is a person who beats the crap out of gay men, not a person who has “concerns” about them marrying. A woman who says “I’m fine with lesbians, just don’t hit on me” will never think of herself as homophobic, or as having homophobic bias.
But she should.
A person who claims to support trans people while still wanting to exclude them from everyday life is paying lip service to the idea of support. Anyone can claim to support others, but that’s just talk. Actions matter.
Being an ally is not something you are, it’s something you do.***
– – –
The way we talk about misogyny is incomplete. Misogyny doesn’t only happen to women. It’s not about chromosomes. It’s not directed first and foremost at women, but at femininity. Many women happen to be feminine. The understanding of misogyny is that it only happens to women. And when we only ascribe womanhood to humans who have a certain set of biological features, or biological functions, we greatly miss the mark on what misogyny is.
There’s a reason why misogyny at myself only kicks in after people know that I’m a woman. There’s a reason why people deny that trans women experience it. There’s a reason why feminine people who aren’t women (namely feminine cis men, and feminine AFAB non binary people) experience it. Misogyny isn’t only the reality of women because they are women. It is born of not only a devaluation of women, but of femininity as a whole, of female bodies, and of everyone who embodies femininity.
This is me pontificating, I might be full of shit here, I am after-all a D-grade homosexual with a caffeine problem, and a Lego habit which is rapidly getting out of control.
I suspect that for a lot of women of the Joanne variety, they feel like they’re in an abusive relationship with their own sense of womanhood. They have defined womanhood as inherently about suffering, and they haven’t needed to question themselves, their identity, their place in the world, their sense of self like many LGBT people have. They don’t know how to deal with the reality that if you wrap your identity up in biological functions, if your idea of “woman” starts and stops at your uterus, that’s a fragile position to be in. That house of cards will come crashing down as soon as it’s threatened.
I often feel that many women like Joanne forget that the universal experience of womanhood isn’t a thing. The Venn Diagram between straight, and gay women for instance is not a circle. I’ve never had to figure out if my date wants to murder me, nor have I feared pregnancy as a result of a drunken hook up. I don’t have to convince my partner to wear protection, or teach her how to wipe her arse. I’m not expected to fulfil an unequal amount of unpaid labour around my house since my wife understands that she lives here too. I am not bound by the enforced gender roles that those of the heterosexual persuasion demand. That is not my reality.
On the flip side, straight woman can’t claim that their relationship is viewed as a fetish, or that they are viewed as sexually threatening based solely on their sexual orientation. Or that they have been fired for being straight. My reality is losing my job because of my orientation in a time where it was legal to do so. My reality is the fear of a sexual harrassment allegations from a jaded non-gay woman. My reality is a series of safety considerations based on my gayness that a majority of women will never need to think about.
Similarly, the Venn Diagram between black, and white women isn’t a circle. White women will never know racial profiling, “walking while white” isn’t in our wheelhouse.
And despite those clear differences, I feel that we still give far too much leniency to our fellow women even when their ideas and actions aren’t in our best interests. J K Rowling’s support of Maya Forstater, a woman who wanted a specific set of subjective belief systems around trans people to be protected by law, sets a dangerous precedent for society as a whole, yet many women dismissed this either because they couldn’t see how it was relevant to them, or they didn’t care.
Wanting personal subjective belief systems protected under the law is code for wanting to legalise discrimination. Belief is built on bias, and actions are motivated by beliefs. This is why Australia largely does not want the Religious Discrimination Bill to pass into law, because it would make discrimination against anyone legal as long as you call that action a part of your religious beliefs.
Why do you think it was illegal for my gay arse to get married for so long? Because people believed that marriage was only between a man and a woman, and the action based on that belief was that gays couldn’t get married.
This is why we have anti-discrimination laws, to protect people who are a part of stigmatised, and margalised groups from those who want them to disappear.
So ladies. Fellow human beans of the woman variety. I’m not a woman because of my uterus, or my ovaries. I am not a woman based on the fact that I bleed like a waterfall. I am still a woman despite people disagreeing with me based on first glances. I’m still a woman despite trans exclusionists screeching in my inbox about me being a man. I’m still a woman despite sharing very little in common with the average white, cis, middle class woman.
To the Joanne Rowlings of the world, my butch gay arse is tall enough to ride the womanhood train. And so are my trans sisters. We are stronger together than we are divided.
My answer to the eternal question “What is a woman?” is this:
I don’t care.
– – –
*Short side note: I do believe there is a difference between straight men who say “Can I watch?” to me in real life, vs straight men who are sexually excited by the idea of two women together. *I’m* excited by the idea of two women together. You can get excited by the idea of two women together while understanding that the role of a woman is *not* to be sexually available to men. In other words: Shut the fuck up and stop asking “Can I watch?”
** Trans people use the concept “Cishetnornativity” which takes this concept one step further because not being trans is also a factor in whether or not you’re an acceptable person.
*** Like not kicking me out of women’s toilets because I’m not feminine enough to shit in peace.
****Two decades of homophobia has me side eye claims of wanting to “protect lesbians” from trans people. Just saying. You haven’t protected us from homophobia.