Thursday, 29 May 2014

Misogyny is informing much of trans-activism in Brazil

It is with immense sadness that I'm writing this post today. I want to let the world know that misogyny has been informing (at least some of the) trans-activism in Brazil. I'm also hoping to touch some trans-activists with my text. 

No, I am not a radical feminist. Some people seriously look at me and wonder if I'm at all a feminist, to be honest. I for one like to define myself as a zen-feminist. I seriously believe in the power of inner balance to counter the discursive practices that dehumanize women since ancient times. 

The thing is, hatred disturbs me badly. Let me tell you that transphobia disgusts me. It really does. I feel miserable every time anyone tells a trans woman that she is not actually a woman. That for some reason, she is not entitled to womanhood, whatever that is. It breaks my heart, and I think feminism should be radically inclusive of trans-individuals. 

However, I do understand the sense of hostility between the two sects (radfems x trans-activists). And… I also comprehend the fact that trans-activists may get aggressive at times. I know it's not easy to have your choices confronted within activism, by and large by radical feminists. There is one thing about radfems that trans-activists in general don't get, though. To be clear, I'd like to speak precisely about the Brazilian radfems I know.

The radfems I know are NOT monsters that should be mocked and ostracized. The radfems I know are people with feelings, and they are extremely concerned about all women. The radfems I know are, however, suspicious. If we look at the way women have been treated throughout history, doesn't it seem reasonable for them to be cautious and distrustful of the new paradigms that have taken over the feminist terrain? I'd think so. 

I was aghast when a trans-activist I used to follow and hold in high regard got engaged in the discussion I expose below (translation mine).

Random woman (as far as I know, she's a teenager, but I've no confirmation on the age): I have nothing against you guys, but understand you will never be women, you'll never menstruate or bear a child, you'll never have to go through what women experience. 

Trans activist: Hi darling! There is one thing we call subjectivity. I am me, you are yourself. The only thing I strive for is to become a better version of myself, and in that you're failing, regressing. There's women who do not menstruate (by means of choice or not) as there's women who can't or don't want to have children. Take a look at some history books and you'll see that this general notion that a woman is BORN to have kids is wrong. During feudalism, the nobles did not raise their children, the task was given to a slave (wet nurse) as soon as the child was born. Where is the maternal love? This need for bleeding or having kids that patriarchy tries to shove down your mind only limits you as a woman. Did you know that a great deal of postpartum depression is derived from this feeling of frustration? From not loving the child like film/media/society preach? From not having had that "instant" shock of unconditional love? Free yourself from sexism and help liberate other women too, there is nothing wrong in not bearing a child/not desiring one. If nothing I've just said made up your mind, take your vagina from between your legs and have it framed on your wall! If your vagina is at the core of your completeness… or you could go vampire and drink your menstrual blood, as it makes you so happy as a woman. I go through all a woman experiences and I can tell you one thing… MISOGYNY hurts! 

One of her followers: Beautiful response. I must confess I wouldn't have had such patience, class and elegance. But you know what? I feel sorry for people who live trapped in a genitalized world. They understand nothing about gender and human subjectivity. This sexist girl will obliterate the freedom of her kids in the future. 

Trans activist: If there was an option like 'tear off her ass' I'd have just done that. 

Believe me, the above interaction took place on a page with 40k+ followers. If someone, anyone, is willing to engage in activism, then educating is paramount. I can't see any educational tone in the response given by the trans activist in question. Apart from the very flawed argument of 'look at the feudal aristocracy', that leaves like ALL my ancestors of color and their struggles behind (isn't feminism also about raising awareness on the erasure of unprivileged women from the history books?), it undertakes a very cynical type of misogyny. The trans activist ends up backfiring, as she couldn't get away with essentialism without engaging in hatred towards women. 

I'll take it as win that she did delete the thread. It gets me thinking, however, that she did that in order to protect herself from some lawsuit, not exactly because she regrets somehow. I don't wish to foster hatred towards anyone. It's just not my nature. It's not how I choose to function as a human being. But the moment I saw that conversation I knew I needed to voice my concern. 

I'm a cis woman (and so far have no problem with the designation). I obviously menstruate. The fact that I bleed in tune with the lunar calendar does not make me more entitled to womanhood than a trans-woman. However, I do believe women who experience femininity in terms of menstruation and bearing children shouldn't be ridiculed like that. This is a huge disservice to the whole cause of feminism, and I'd urge all feminists to actually love women. Like, for real, resentment won't take us anywhere. I'm all in for pointing how essentialism hurts us all. I'm totally supportive of highlighting privileges. I think it's counterproductive, though, to shame a woman. Any woman. 

Print of what happened

UPDATE: I received the following information from Giselle Alves, a radfem friend of mine: "The page exposed the name and picture of a 13 year old girl. This is a crime according to Article 18 of our Children and Adolescent Act. There is no excuse for such behavior. Especially when we consider that the page deletes/blurs names of men. Isn't it a coincidence that they are exposing a teenager? Secondly, I don't follow the page, but four friends shared the post. The girl has been exposed. The crime has had high proportions. This post served as a means for misogynous of all sorts to expose what they really think. Meanwhile, any comment or reasoning from women were promptly deleted and such women ended up banned from the page. This has a name, and it is silencing, and it is rooted in misogyny. The page admin not only said she wanted to "tear off" the girl's ass, a man followed her by suggesting they should spank the girl. This is hatred. Other equally violent comments have followed since. This is anything but pro-women activism". 


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