International Women’s Day & The Erasure and Exclusion of Trans Women
The super hot and smart manybothans (follow asap) and I were discussing how this weird 007/International Women’s Day/Equality video had some seriously transphobic undertones, and I wanted to write a little bit about it. Our discussion brought me to a place where I felt I could write about this, so this writing is as much mine as it is hers.
More often than not in my queer communities, experiences of trans women are erased and devalued. We can call bullshit and pay that fact a disgruntled lip service as much as we want, but perhaps we should get some dialogue flowing about this huge, destructive, misogyny ridden problem.
Okay, on to the problems I have with this video. First of all, it makes invisible the multiple ways that femininities are embodied, centers this problematic and simplistic narrative of ‘equality’ around cis women, and is inherently misogynistic towards trans women. In her wonderful book Whipping Girl, Julia Serano notes, “mass media images of “biological males” dressing and acting in a feminine manner could potentially challenge mainstream notions of gender, but the way they are generally presented in these feminization scenes ensures that this never happens…thus the media is able to depict trans women donning feminine attire and accessories without ever giving the impression that they achieve “true” femaleness in the process” (p. 44-45). The way this clip takes up ideas of “gender equality” is extremely cissexist and totally devalues and invisiblizes the experiences of trans identified women.
This particular depiction keeps the ciscentric systems and interactions that separate us from one another through ‘male’ and ‘female’ sex assignment intact, and posits trans women as inauthentic women. It does this by perpetuating and sensationalizing a certain narrative of trans experience, and then leaving it totally unaddressed. This misogynistic depiction of ‘007 in women’s clothing’ functions to erase trans women from the equation of who is considered a ‘real’ woman. I think it is really important to make these processes of erasure and exclusion visible so we can begin to challenge the misogyny trans women face and look critically at how that is reproduced in our lives and communities. To again quote Julia Serano, “once we recognize how media coverage of transsexuals is informed by the different values our society assigns to femaleness and maleness, it becomes obvious that virtually all attempts to sensationalize and deride trans women are built on a foundation of unspoken misogyny”. (p. 47)
In the spirit of international women’s day, I am filled with a fiery desire to continue combating the misogyny present in my heart, my relationships, and my communities. To end, I would like to employ another quote by Julia Serano, because it touches on how vital it is to address the hatred of women, and the scapegoating of femininities: “by challenging both oppositional and traditional sexism simultaneously, we can make the world safe for those of us who are queer, those of us who are feminine, and those of us who are female, thus empowering people of all sexualities and genders” (p. 20).
* I’d also like to note the total blatant LACK of acknowledgment of the multiple differences present in women’s lives, and how that disrupts and complicates notions of ‘equality’. OF COURSE WE ARE NOT EQUAL, but ‘men’ and ‘women’ are not homogeneous groups either. What about a discussion of the increased discrimination and violence trans folks, queers, poor folk, racialized individuals etc. face? Next time 007, i’ll have my intersectional analysis shaken, not stirred.
XOXO. Majestic Legay
i’m always so grateful for Erin’s beautiful mind and heart….and body