ok so. here are the (main) things (for now) I don’t get about this “womyn-born-womyn” and “socialised women only” shit:
how, exactly, do you think socialisation works?
I was brought up by loving, responsible, pro-feminist atheists. From the earliest age I can remember, everyone around me told me I was smart and capable. I usually got tools and books for Christmas. For most of my childhood and early adolescence I was a tomboy and that was cool with everyone except, um, some of the girls. I realise this is not everybody’s experience but it was mine. Basically, it was extremely rare for somebody to say to my face that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl.
But they did say “girls don’t do that” and they did talk about how girls should be and what should be done to them. And books, TV, Parliamentary proceedings all backed them up. Nobody told me in person that I was too angry or too fat or too stupid or too ugly. Nobody said to me, ourcatastrophe, personally, that I didn’t deserve control over my body. But I still believed all those things, because that was what they said about girls and women, and I was a girl.
In short, most of my experience with misogyny came about because I identifed as a girl/woman, not because people told me I was one.
and of course this is an oversimplification and of course there are people who think less of me or treat me badly because I’m a woman. But I have to ask myself: would it affect me that deeply if it didn’t tap into a wellspring of internalised misogyny? I mean, I’m tall. When I cut my hair short and wear pants, I get “faggot” from passing cars on a semi-regular basis. It scares me for a second but then I keep walking. When I get a catcall or a gendered slur, I obsess about it all day. I feel like it’s my fault. I worry that they’re right.
Do you think all women have the same girlhood? Or even vaguely similar ones?
I was extremely privileged in many ways growing up. I was surrounded by girls can do anything messages. I was also white and English-speaking-at-home and culturally middle-class in a working-class migrant area; looking back, I can see that my cultural capital is a big part of why my intelligence and capability were so highly praised. (It totally went to my head. You should have met 12-year-old me, I was the most arrogant pretentious little shit. But whatever, we learn and grow. I’m still pretty pretentious, though.)
I have never been excluded from a feminist space on this basis. I have never been told that I don’t belong because my parents were anti-sexist. Nobody has ever tried to quantify my experience of sexist oppression or oppression generally. It wouldn’t make sense.
Nobody has the same experience of childhood, and every woman experiences sexism differently. Lots of women experience racism, fatphobia, classism, transphobia, and other things I don’t experience directly. They experience the world generally, and sexism in particular, in a totally different way to me. Even looking outside issues of structural oppression — we are all different. She’s monogamous; I’m not. You study engineering; I don’t. She is young and she is old. I mean, feminism has a pretty bad history of being dominated by white and middle-class, as well as cis, women. But this domination and exclusion has not usually taken the form of denying that women who aren’t white and middle-class are women. (This is not to say that transphobia in feminism is worse or more present than other oppressions, just that all oppressions work differently.)
I have heard people say that trans women can’t get pregnant or menstruate, and that they therefore don’t have a place in women’s spaces or movements, because women’s health and reproductive rights are such important, core, feminist issues. They are. But I’ve never heard anybody say that women who’ve had hysterectomies, or women who don’t sleep with people who can get them pregnant, don’t belong. I’ve heard people say that trans women are “too manly” and their presence might be triggering to cis women who’ve experienced violence from men; I’ve never heard anyone say that butch or androgynous cis women should be excluded from women’s spaces.
Difference between women can’t be erased by the exclusion of trans women from women’s spaces. Nor should it be. That’s false solidarity.
Finally: do you actually, seriously, think that trans women don’t experience sexist oppression?
Trans women experience extremely high rates of homelessness, sexual violence, violence generally, depression and anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, sexist objectification, poverty, and a whole bunch of other things. When it comes to cis women, we have no issue seeing these personal problems as directly linked to patriarchy. When it comes to trans women with very similar problems, heaps of people have no problem arguing that they brought those problems upon themselves.
Sheila Jeffreys argues that trans women are actually masochistic men who fetishise the rape of women to the extent that they construct women’s bodies that they can control, that they can arrange to be raped. If you don’t find this argument absolutely nauseating and some of the worst rape apologism ever committed to print, then I have no idea what the fuck is wrong with you.