Intersectional feminism is not a choice

Like all newborns, I came into the world with an empty memory bank. I knew only that I had to feed and poo. Loud noises came as a bit of a shock but as long as there was warmth and I was wrapped up secure; life was good, people were love and being alive mostly pleasurable (I assume). Being a twin, in my earliest memories she felt like a shadow, always there, never far behind.  There was a oneness and it was a comfort, I’d never feel alone. But then the labels society slaps us with are inevitable.

By the time we were three, I was the sensible one. My parents and grandparents had wanted the first born to be a boy, instead they had me AND another girl. I was desexualised from a very young age, my twin not so much. I could walk around the house in a skirt barely scraping my bum and they wouldn’t bat an eyelid. My sister was made to go change out of her pedal pushers. She was pretty, I was smart. She was graceful, I was solid. We were identical twins.

Struggling with my identity, I conformed to the tomboy stereotype. I liked rolling around and jumping off things. I put on a brave face and got my jabs first. We’d play ‘follow the leader’ in the back garden and I’d order them about and they’d fall into line. In role play I was the cowboy, the bus conductor, the gladiator. The doctor to her nurse. I thought girls were pathetic. Yes, it hurt when I fell and grazed my knee but the positive encouragement I got for being such a ‘brave lion’ meant I rarely expressed any pain. I wouldn’t question my appearance again till the menz began to compare us too.

Puberty came early. My emerging curves were too much for the family and I noticed a huge shift in their attitudes towards me. Suddenly I was a woman and they treated me as such. We could entice boys by merely reciprocating a glance. It was an oppressive environment, being a woman you were instantly less important and there to be ordered about. I would slouch forwards so that my chest wasn’t so prominent. I would wrap scarves around my barely there breasts when I was alone in my room, maybe I could slow down this premature transformation. But I also popped down the two halves of a kinder egg to see what I might one day look like. I decided that I’d rather keep the mounds because that is what seemed ‘normal’ for me. In fact, I felt happy. I felt powerful. I felt like me.

Imagine what it must be like to come of an age when it is made clear to you that who you feel you are (know you are) is not ‘normal’ but weird, that you cannot under any circumstances feel like yourself, in fact if you choose to ignore the threats and warnings, you could be murdered for standing by your person. Fems, imagine feeling and thinking “I am” and being told “you’re not”. Repeatedly. How does it feel to being born into the wrong body? I have thought a lot about this and I have had my own mental health struggles but the body is a constant reminder of your perceived identity and if you are treated in a way that is alien to the way you feel?

When my body started changing, I wanted it to stop. I noticed the embarrassed looks on the men folk’s faces and the worry on my mother’s. I didn’t enjoy the accompanying growing pains, I resented that boys seemed to get away scot free. For their part, teenaged boys can be cruel and I was mocked for sounding like one myself. As a child, I was taunted. As a young adult, I was sexualised for having a ‘dirty’ husky laugh. I’d even convinced myself I wouldn’t bleed; being as I wasn’t like the other girls. I began to self-harm, in various ways, cutting to disfigure my ugly skin, binging and purging to shock my body into submission. BUT I had the privilege of owning the body I would grow into. My hormones would eventually settle, I would realise my own capabilities, I would be granted the support to embrace who I am. This is what happens when you are cis gendered and society wants you to fill a role. They will actively encourage it.

Trans* people suffer from the minute they can verbalise and are able to disagree with the labels put on them. I cannot begin to imagine the depression one would suffer; it is no surprise that almost half of all transgender people have attempted suicide. When our brothers and sisters are already suffering, what kind of evil are we perpetuating when we deny them their bodies, their choices? How does a trans* person’s bodily autonomy affect us? Simple answer: it doesn’t. Much in the same way that abortion does not affect the religious and political menz up top, even though they seem to be the most vocal about it. It’s patriarchy that decides what happens to women’s bodies. It is patriarchy that dictates the differences between the two genders, as if there are only two. Their versions of masculinity and femininity are suffocating and ultimately come down to control.

I cannot stress enough how patriarchy keeps you apart to keep you down. Caitlin, Suzanne and the Jools’ are perfectly acceptable to patriarchy, that’s why he’s given them the platform they have. Well, they’re women and they say they’re feminists and because they have money and power, they must be right. But 100 years ago, they’d have been abused the way trans* people are now. Bent and shaped into a desirable figure, speaking only when spoken to. They certainly wouldn’t be allowed to raise their voices or react in an honest way. What a privilege it is to have a voice. And now that their struggle is over, they’re using their powers to silence others. That’s not feminism. THAT’S PATRIARCHY.

“Your feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”

YES. THIS.

As a feminist, I would ask that all my fems question their attitudes towards women who are the ‘other’; disabled women, WoC, trans* women. That was the point of feminism right, equality?

Equality doesn’t mean ableist cis gendered white people living happily ever after (to the detriment of the rest of us). For equality to stand a chance, we need the peoples with the most privilege to humble themselves and share some of their good fortune. And fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

My Top Tip for the commentariat: Do the exact opposite of what you’re doing right now and STFU.

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4 comments

  1. Right on! We had training at my old job for how to assist trans(and all non-hetero) victims who came in for help. It was eye opening. I had no prior prejudice thanks to my diverse family, but I never comprehended how much crap they have t put up with. I can not imagine growing up in the wrong body. It sounds terrible. That training, like most of them, really pissed me off at the widespread societal pressure to fit in a single mold.

    I just read a post that has the body conundrum in it so what a coincidence that yours is on the same topic. You might enjoy it. http://poletosoul.me/2013/01/18/love-and-the-internet-is-blind/

    Like

  2. Thats a very good article.

    The transphobia of (some of) the radfem community is deeply disappointing because it means that there cant be a proper dialogue around the differing types of oppressions, and the issues that transfeminism raises

    There are people who are pushed into transurgery, thinking that it is the only solution, only to encounter difficulties later, there are biological issues which only affect females (both ciswomen and transmen), such as access to abortion, and there is the issues with male privilage that some transwomen, particularly those who have transitioned later in life, have internalised.

    I’m not a fan of the “born in the wrong body” trope, more that people should be free to express themselves however they choose, and I value the transfems who seek to make new meanings out of gender, which ironically is not all that far away from the radfems who want to eliminate it.

    But the transphobia is a barrier to constructive progress within feminism because it divides women, and also pushes transwomen away from feminism towards transactivism, which IMHO has some deeply sexist assumptions.

    Transwomen are potential feminists and we should not be alienating women from the movement

    Like

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