If Your Feminism Requires a Vagina, It Is Bullshit

I’ve been seeing some supposed feminists engage in an awful lot of transmisogyny for people who claim to give a shit about trans people. And I’ve seen entirely too many feminists claim or act like they’re intersectional, then go off the rails when it comes to trans women. Ophelia Benson is the prime example of late, but there have been others. Far too many others. And I am bloody tired of it. So we’re going to have some real talk today.

This is not how you go about intersectional feminism. And it makes me really fucking uncomfortable when someone claims to give a shit about women and does a little public posturing about how much they care for trans people, too – and then goes off on a trans woman. In one recent episode, I saw a self-righteous feminist argue with a trans woman (who is also a biologist) about the trans-misogynist term “female-bodied.” When you run roughshod over another woman because she does not have the same genitals you do, you are fucking up badly. When you argue that there is such a thing as biologically female with a biologist who is telling you it’s more complicated than that, you are fucking up spectacularly. And there are far too many cis women who are doing shit like this.

So, as a cis woman, I’d like to say this to all y’all who think that being “biologically female” or “female-bodied” – meaning having a vagina and a uterus – is crucial to the experience of being a woman:

You are not helping me when you tell my trans sisters that their bodies aren’t female. You are not helping me when you reduce the totality of being female down to whether or not someone was born with a vulva, vagina, and uterus. You are doing me no fucking favors at all when you insist on erasing trans men and non-binary people from reproductive health discussions involving uteruses and ovaries and suchlike. You are harming me when you tell my trans sisters they aren’t female enough. You are reducing me down to a set of organs and a hole. You are considering me only as a baby-making machine. You are treating me as a piece of meat.

You know who else does that? The religious right. Misogynists. All those men and the women they’ve bamboozled, the ones who strip my humanity away because I was born coded female by their standards. You cast your lot with everyone who’s ever told me I cannot do X because of my sex and gender, which they considered to be the whole of me. You stand with everyone who ever made me hate my cis female self and wish and pray I’d been born a boy. You stand with everyone who made me disdain anything and everything coded feminine. I am only just now unpacking that baggage, ridding myself of that internalized misogyny, and discovering how to be a woman – thanks to my trans sisters and their intersectional allies.

And all that harm you do to me pales beside the violence you do to my trans siblings by insisting that our genitals define us.

I see you. I see you pretend you care about trans people, but I see you treat trans women as less than women because you are convinced that a woman must be able to bleed and breed in order to be a real woman. I see you reducing us down to our genitals. I see you pretend to be oh so inclusive and enlightened as you force us into the same tattered fucking gendered boxes.

I fucking see you.

And I’m sick of your bullshit.

Stop pretending you care about women when all you really seem to care about is a set of reproductive organs. Stop pretending that including trans people is somehow erasing women. Stop pretending you know more about feminism than anyone else in the universe. Just. Stop.

Start educating yourselves. You can begin right here and right here. Read every word. Shut up and listen for a change. Listen to trans people and intersex people and women of color, and listen to the cis white women who are telling you that listening to others makes us stronger, not weaker.

I can’t say it any better than Agenderagenda did:

“If your feminism is cissexist, racist and transmisogynistic it ain’t feminism, it’s fucking garbage.”

And if that’s your feminism, if you are happy that way, kindly fuck off forever. I am done stumbling over you on our way to equality.

Image shows a transgender flag flying, rippled in the breeze. Above, in dark blue, is a quote by Flavia Dzodan: "My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit."
Flag image by torbakhopper (CC BY 2.0). Quote added by me.
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If Your Feminism Requires a Vagina, It Is Bullshit
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26 thoughts on “If Your Feminism Requires a Vagina, It Is Bullshit

  1. rq
    1

    You’re going to get it for that ‘shut up and listen’ bit.
    Behind you all the way, though. With you. Whichever works best for you. :)

  2. 4

    Everything of this!
    Those people are taking the most patriarchal definition of womanhood and then they run with it.
    They are also, I have to say it, uneducated clowns when it comes to feminist literature and philosophy.
    Remember when de Beauvoir said “one isn’t born a woman*”? They go stamping their feet, throwing a tantrum and go, “yes, yes, yes you are and this is how it works!!!!”

    *Though the context of that quote is socialisation

  3. 6

    Thank you so much for this. It baffles me how someone who thinks they’re a feminist can then turn around and smugly state that the totality of womanhood is the appearance of one’s genitals, which thereby mean that you are forever going to be a socially lesser being to be oppressed by everyone with a different set because this is the destiny and birthright of humanity, and never realize that they are etirely indistinguishable from the religious right, or MRAs. The aggressive refusal to accept the realities even of the biology they pretend to understand, no matter how many times and how gently it’s explained, is honestly just sad.

  4. 7

    The ‘Well you might be a woman, but you’re not a real female’ line reminds me of a few years back when the anti-gay bigots were saying ‘well I support civil unions, but not gay marriage’.

    Back then it was plainly obvious they opposed both, but they knew the culture had shifted to the point where opposing any legal recognition made them look like bigots. By pretending to support civil unions they got to claim they supported gay rights while advocating against them.

    In the same way the anti-trans bigots know that nowadays, in more progressive spaces at least, it looks bad to bluntly declare that trans women arent real women. So they claim to accept us as women and pretend they’re on our side while still demeaning us as less-female-than-thou at every opportunity.

  5. 12

    In one recent episode, I saw a self-righteous feminist argue with a trans woman (who is also a biologist) about the trans-misogynist term “female-bodied.”

    Dana, could you point me to this exchange? If it is not private, I would like to read it.

  6. 13

    Sorry, but I’m not going to link it here. The person who was the target can do so if they wish, but I’m not going to subject them to the possibility of further attacks. This kind of bullshit is so common in feminist spaces that a particular incident isn’t needed to make the broader point, and if you haven’t seen it, you’re either very lucky or you’re not paying attention.

  7. 16

    Note to Ophelia Benson fans: you’re welcome to read, but your JAQing off and disingenuous bullshit is not going to be tolerated in this establishment. You have plenty of other places to play your games. If you genuinely want to learn, you can sit back, shut up, and listen. You’ve had plenty of chances to ask questions, and you’ve blown them.

    I am not kidding when I state in my comment policy that bad behavior elsewhere will get you banned here. And the shit I see you spew at trans people elsewhere makes you persona non grata here, even if you do try to behave so you can slip inside. When I find you, I’m kicking you out.

    So please, if you’re one of those people who thinks Ophelia’s right, if you’re one of the “gender-critical” crowd she runs with, if you cheer her on while she treats trans people like shit, take yourself the fuck out right now. Because I am done with you.

    If you realize you done fucked up and want back in, you are welcome to leave me a comment explaining so. I’ll see it. And then I’ll decide if you’re sincere or just playing silly buggers.

    You probably think this is harsh and mean and unfair and all that, but I am so bloody serious right now. The shit you do damages people who are already shat upon by just about everybody in society. You are making difficult lives even harder. And I am done hoping you can be talked around by arguing with you in a comments thread.

    Get. Out.

  8. 17

    Where does the “female-bodied” concept leave people with XY chromosomes and androgen insensitivity?

    Those I have met whose chromosome counts I was familiar with were definitely “women” by the social standards of the day. And I was working in a genetics lab, so we saw quite a few CAIS patients.

  9. 18

    In the battles over ‘gender critical’ feminism, intersex people – some of whom are trans, many are not – unwillingly become collateral damage of the regressive ideas that are being proposed and publicised at large in attempts to further marginalise trans people, so to focus the discussion onto the distinctly different issues faced by intersex people would be something of a derailment. I can however suggest you read Dr Cary Gabriel Costello’s occasional blog The Intersex Roadshow, since he is both transgender and intersex, and tackles in his two most recent posts areas of direct relevance to this issue, and to your question about the status of women with complete androgen insensitivity.

    In reverse chronological order they are:
    When Intersex People are Collateral Damage in Transphobic Battles – February 2015
    Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists and Intersex Experience – September 2014 (this one answers how TERFs would classify CAIS patients, and in brief, the answer is: as though they were men, when almost entirely without exception, they do not identify so).

  10. 19

    Dana, thank you.

    Your post and follow-up comment give me a tiny sliver of hope. I’m not prepared to fight for my life, not at all. No one in school taught me how to carve out a niche in a cisnormative world. I’m taking a lot of injuries for doing so. I had taken for granted that I had a place in society and so much of the bullshit that has happened on this network has taught me that I was brutally wrong. There’s no place in this world for me. At least, no place that isn’t under siege from the outside. So I have no choice but to build a fortress to weather the storm. I have to face a reality that putting myself out like this means I’m creeping closer to becoming another statistic, another casualty claimed by the shithole kyriarchy and the stooges who unknowingly enforce it, but I can’t pretend I don’t exist for their benefit. I can’t leave my trans brothers and sisters in the cold after knowing what it’s like to freeze.

    I can’t fathom choosing this. Yet here you are.

  11. AMM
    20

    Actually, I kind of get why cis women might be resentful of memes like “trans women are women.”

    In our society, it seems like everything’s about “the men.” Men’s perspectives dominate, women are ignored except as they impact men’s needs and desires. The angst and fee-fees of men are considered subjects of Real Literature(tm), the concerns and experiences of women are relegated to the “women’s” or “society” pages and to the “chick lit” (or “chick flick”) ghetto. It’s “what about teh menz?” everywhere, 24/7.

    Now, along come trans women, and the buzz and the press is all about them (whether “it” is positive or negative doesn’t matter), and it can seem like even among “women”, it’s the AMAB’s who are real and the AFAB’s are at best scenery.

    It’s really bothered me, ever since I started to think about whether I’m trans and if so where I want to go with it, that trans men are simply invisible most places, and AFAB non-binaries and gender-fluids are erased. From what I can see, there are at least as many trans men and AFAB non-binaries as there are trans women, maybe more, but people assume they’re rare — because they are treated as non-existent, nobody reports on them, and if they do, they disappear from public discourse, from blogs and discussion groups.

    I mean, when you think of “trans people,” who are the first ones who come to mind? Who are the ones who make the papers, the talk shows, the covers of magazines? Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, maybe Janet Mock.

  12. 22

    That’s… a weird perspective, frankly. I’m AFAB and nonbinary, and if anything, my experience, as well as that of all the other trans people (of any birth assignment) is that trans men and conventionally attractive white abled young AFAB nonbinary people are centred to an alarming extent in trans spaces. Ruby Rose is a sex symbol. Trans men are idealized and treated as indisputably desirable, while trans women are desexualized or treated at perverted freaks. In our spaces. You even see TERFs happily letting trans men and AFAB nonbinaries into their little clubhouses! Trans women, especially trans women of colour are more vulnerable, and more often the victims of abuse and all forms of violence. I honestly wonder what universe you’re commenting from, because that sounds honestly unbelievable. Trans women and AMAB nonbinary people are vastly, vastly underserved by their own community, with fewer resources to help, outright exclusion from spaces, trans men speaking over then and taking “token trans speaker” spaces in groups for women. Look at how emergency fundraisers for trans women in crisis go vs. for trans men. Look at how few emergency resources or information there is.

    Trans women are mocked, fetishized, sexualized, and scrutinized in ways trans men really are not, institutionally speaking. The trans women you listed are asked about their genitals in their interviews, is that the privilege you want?

    As for your initial statement about cis women feeling resentful, if they do, they’re being shitty transmisogynists about the most vulnerable people. It’s not “about the men” because trans women aren’t men. Do you even hear yourself?

  13. 23

    Yah AMM you caught us. Our devious cabal of trans women, sorry, trans “women” have conspired to steal the spotlight from trans men.

    For example when major news outlets, even left leaning ones, regularly print op-eds bashing us as deluded impostors who will never be real women they almost never make any effort to attack trans men as well.

    Pop culture is unfair to trans men as well. They have to make do with only a few depictions of them which are almost universally positive or sympathetic while we get to enjoy tons and tons of depictions of us as either pathetic objects of ridicule or as deviant dangerous psycopaths.

    Why just a few months ago my city was flooded by tv/radio ads, election signs, and massive billboards demonizing women like me as sexual predators who’d abuse an equal rights ordinance to prey on women and children, but nobody made any attempt to demonize trans men as well.

    Of course we cant forget the greatest injustice of all, how every November 20th the list of murdered trans people is overwhelmingly dominated by AMABs. This year we mourned 22 trans people murdered in America and I don’t think a single one was a trans men. How callous of us to hog all the attention like that.

  14. 25

    AMM,

    You might have a point with your In our society, it seems like everything’s about “the men.” , but it’s the complete opposite to what you are suggesting.

    In a society where a small number of people are ready to acknowledge that trans people aren’t just “pretending” to be men or women, a person thought of as a woman saying she’s actually a man is considered going up (to compare this to class mobility) and a person thought of as a man saying she’s a woman going down.
    Sure, everyone would rather be a man *nudge nudge wink wink*, but a woman? Hah, why would anyone do that?

    My hypothesis could of course be completely wrong ,but there has to be something to the fact how demonized trans women are compared to trans men. (I don’t mean that trans men don’t face their own struggles, or that they have it easy, just that the general (hateful ,bigoted) public ignoring them seems like a blessing compared to how trans women are treated )

    So no, I’m not resentful that things are changing. No one is stealing anything from me. It’s ridiculous to suggest that acknowledging the existence and unique struggles of trans people is stealing anything from cis women. Like, has anyone ever given any examples of this? Actual examples, not fears of slippery slopes that might possibly happen sometime in the future if cis women don’t protect their womanhood from horrible attacks by hordes of trans women? (there’s sarcasm in this post)

  15. 26

    @Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    It’s ridiculous to suggest that acknowledging the existence and unique struggles of trans people is stealing anything from cis women. Like, has anyone ever given any examples of this? Actual examples, not fears of slippery slopes that might possibly happen sometime in the future if cis women don’t protect their womanhood from horrible attacks by hordes of trans women? (there’s sarcasm in this post)

    Step one: Use words like “McCarthyist” and “witchhunt” and “scalping.”

    Step two: Pretend it’s totally feminist to appropriate racist discrimination when you’re being called out AND you’re white.

    Step three: ???

    Step four: Profit!

    (there is also a heaping dose of sarcasm in this post, please do not consider this a playbook for being a good person)

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