Blogaround: The Transphobia Brouhaha

I’ve been reading a lot about the problems with blogging feminists and transphobia/transmisogyny lately, and while there is a post percolating in my head, I thought I’d catch you all up with what I’d encountered on the subject:

The Feministing/Feministe Boycott
[1] Men in Women’s Bathrooms: Is Your State Next?: the Focus on the Family transphobia post with errant comment thread on Feministing*
[2] By Any Other Name: transmisogyny post with errant comment thread at Feministe
[3] Bathroom panic, it’s totally feminist: Queen Emily’s response to errant comments on Feministing.
[4] Very Necessary: Voz Latina’s call for a boycott of Feministe/Feministing.
[5] It’s Always About The Cis Women: Lucy’s post about both Feministing and Feministe.
[6] On Cis Supremacy, Feminism and Feministe: Cara’s response to all of this on Feministe.

The Dust-Up at Bitch, Ph.D.
[1] Teabag Me: the original post at Bitch, Ph.D.
[2] Ann Coulter Really Is A —-**, People: the response at Bitch, Ph.D.

Related to all the above
[1] Coordinating Body and Mind: Transphobia and Feminism: Miriam Heddy

Unrelated in theme, but good thoughts anyway
[1] The Art of the Apology

I have a few nebulous thoughts about all this, although I’m processing them (and checking my privilege several times over) before I get too long winded. I can, however, jot down a few things already:

  • Using misogynist language to insult anyone is never okay.
  • No one is perfectly feminist.
  • We live in a patriarchy, and it can poison all our interactions.

This post may be updated with new links, as I find them. I’ll note the last update of the post, thus:

Links last updated 7:03 EDT 4/17/2009.


*Which I apparently missed the first time. I have read the post but not slogged through the comments yet. Much work to be done before I can post on this.

** Yes, I censored this. It’s a triggering word for some folks. I’m still not 100% inured, myself.

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7 Responses to Blogaround: The Transphobia Brouhaha

  1. eloriane says:

    Thanks for putting this together, Jo. I’ve been following along, too, but not saying much because, well, it’s important and I want to learn.

    I’m going to follow in Cara’s footsteps, though, and create a separate tag for trans issues, to use for this post and any of our previous posts for which it would be relevant. It’s a start.

  2. dirtyrose says:

    I’m not really sure how to formulate my thoughts here because talking about it makes me angry. I can’t really begin to put into words how both BPhD’s original post AND her apology offended me, and there are plenty of people in her comments who said it better than I could.

    Suffice to say that when misogyny comes from other women, it makes me even angrier (whether or not THAT’S okay, who knows), and when an apology reads as “I’m sorry if YOU were offended by things that OTHER people think are fine,” it doesn’t really strike me as an apology. It reads more like a superior, snobbish nose-thumbing, even if she didn’t intend it that way.

    And I think that BPhD is also missing the point about why people are upset. I wouldn’t call her boyfriend an asshole and certainly wouldn’t expect her not to defend him – but I also don’t think her defense OF him is why the majority of commenters are upset.

    It’s all about context, you know? When we try to make it “okay” to joke about an already highly victimized/minority group , we’re only making it harder for them to assert their worth in a society that has a real stick up its backside about anything different.

  3. eloriane says:

    Yeah, I’m in a similar place. I feel like it’s really critical for me, as a feminist, to fight misogyny everywhere I see it. I mean, that’s kind of the point of feminism. And I just don’t believe that it’s possible to use misogyny to fight misogyny. It just doesn’t work that way. Not even when it’s transmisogyny.

    I understand reclamation, even for words that can be painful, like the C-word (which, by the way, let’s refrain from using in this thread out of respect for Jo) but there are two things necessary for reclamation to work. First, the person reclaiming it has to be someone traditionally put down by the word or stereotype. Bitch PhD qualifies on this count for the C-word, though not for any of her transphobia. Second, the word has to be used with a meaning opposite to its usual, derogatory meaning.

    So a woman naming herself Bitch PhD is reclaiming the word “bitch” because she is directly affected by the use of the word and she is using it in a positive way to describe herself. But anyone, even a woman, who insults another person with the C-word can’t possibly be using it in a feminist way because it’s the original use of the word. You know, the use that suggests that woman-parts are terrible and nasty. The use that feminists are supposedly fighting.

    And to do this with transphobic jokes is, in my mind, even less justifiable. I am sure that trans folks tell jokes about the trans experience. Who knows, there might even be reclamatory jokes about the sort of experience Bitch described in her “joke.” It’s not that the topic itself is off-limits. It’s that a cis person insulting trans folks the same way they’ve always been insulted is, well, not funny, and not very feminist.

    But I want to distinguish between “that thing you said was antifeminist” and “you are Antifeminist” (like Jay Smooth suggests for conversations about racism— I love this video.) I really do think that if Bitch PhD is, generally, a person who gets it. So while I am unreservedly disappointed in the joke and her first non-apology, I do feel like it’s more than possible for this to turn around. I’m not boycotting the blog or anything yet.

    But then, is that my privilege, saying it can all be OK because it doesn’t directly affect me? I’m trying not to be an enormous asshole here, and I’m never totally sure how well I’m succeeding with that. I want to give her a little more time to, like Cara, at least try to turn things around.

  4. dirtyrose says:

    “So a woman naming herself Bitch PhD is reclaiming the word “bitch” because she is directly affected by the use of the word and she is using it in a positive way to describe herself. But anyone, even a woman, who insults another person with the C-word can’t possibly be using it in a feminist way because it’s the original use of the word. You know, the use that suggests that woman-parts are terrible and nasty. The use that feminists are supposedly fighting.”

    This is, for me, completely correct. And I think you have a point about comments being bigoted as opposed to PEOPLE being bigoted. I won’t boycott the blog because she’s said things before that I do agree with. However, I would like to see her admit the mistake and apologize in a way that actually addresses the problem, because I’m not sure that she’s really done that yet, even if she DOES understand (and she probably does, but might be too wrapped up in other elements of the situation to see it clearly). I don’t want to speak for her though, so obviously this needs more time and distance.

    I don’t think it’s unfair to objectively look at things from outside the situation (which may or may not be the subject of your last paragraph, so correct me if I’m wrong). I had this discussion in class and with my ex a little while ago. It is all well and good to be subjective when we are in the situation. In fact, we really can’t help it, because we’re only human and subjectivity is the very essence of the human experience. But when we’re outside a situation, it’s not to say that we have a RESPONSIBILITY to be objective, but that we have that ability precisely because we’re outside of it.

    Thus, whether others think we’re wrong or right, we should have objective discussions about the implications of a situation. It’s the only way to bring a logical view of things into consideration, and to really understand the world, I think that both subjective and objective assessments of experience must be considered.

  5. EKSwitaj says:

    Thanks for gathering all these in one place.

    Feministing’s comment threads have long been hostile places for people who don’t fit a white middle-class able-bodied neurotypical cis profile; a lot of the hostility I’ve dealt with there (which eventually made me leave) came about because people were trying to imitate the “sassy” style that many of the regular contributors there use. Honestly it seems that only surface-level efforts have been made to fix this sort of problem.

    On the other hand, I’m learning a lot from Cara’s publicly explaining the process she’s going through. As a cis woman, I don’t get to say what’s enough, but I do think it’s a learning opportunity for people like me who don’t get enough hits to always be called out.

    BphD needs to understand why people are upset before anything else can happen.

  6. Jo says:

    BphD needs to understand why people are upset before anything else can happen.

    I would say that’s the second thing: the first is that she needs to see past her privilege and realize that she’s not the one who gets to say what’s funny and what’s not to transfolks (and their allies). I mean, how many times have men who are supposedly feminist allies said things like “oh, I was just kidding” or “you just can’t take a joke”. Bitch Ph.D.’s ‘apology’ reads the same way.

    As a cis woman, I don’t get to say what’s enough

    Exactly.

  7. Amanda says:

    Thanks for this. The notes at the end are particularly helpful to keep in mind.

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