Binarist Feminism

As a non-woman, I have mixed feelings about feminism. There are many critiques of mainstream feminism, some more legitimate than others. Cisfeminists frequently act like transpeople don’t exist. At the same time on the other hand, it sometimes seems it has become fashionable for transpeople to act like gendered discrimination against ciswomen is over, or that we get a free pass in ignoring or even dismissing it because we are More Oppressed.

I think that feminism, like many “female” spaces, needs to figure out if it is for women or all gender minorities. I also think that while cis, binarist, middle-class, eurocentric, able-bodied, neurotypical feminism ignores ALL those intersections, progress is progress, and women(??) need it. (When cisfeminists talk about “women”, they mainly mean “ciswomen, a varying amount of transwomen, and some AFABs”.) I’ve starting reading mainstream feminist material again, and I have been reminded that the fight is not over. Here’s a talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that I have mixed feelings about, on why we should all be feminists. She makes great points and past definitely-feminist cishet-female me would have enjoyed it very much. She talks about gender inequality between “men” and “women”. That’s definitely a problem that we need to address. But where does that leave everyone else? (Note that I am talking about trans-invisibility, not explicitly trans-exclusive feminism, which can fuck off.)

I want to demand that feminism be trans-inclusive, and some of it is, and that is very important and so needed. But so much of it isn’t, but is still so necessary for so many people. I am definitely making an effort to read transwomen and transfemmes, but I can’t just ignore everything being done by ciswomen. This article on how female pain is taken less seriously by the medical establishment, for example. You know who makes fun of feminists? MRAs and certain groups of transpeople. I feel like I cannot in good conscience not call myself a feminist, or ignore mainstream feminism, even if large swaths of it erase my existence.

Ideally feminists would perfectly understand and account for intersections of everybody’s experience all the time, but they don’t, and I still need to educate myself on things even if they are framed in annoyingly binarist terms. Feminism is uncomfortable because it is uncomfortable to be reminded of injustice, and I need to be reminded. I need to stand up for the rights of women and femmes, and I need to challenge my socialised misogyny.

On the other hand, feminism is also uncomfortable when it leaves me feeling invisible and invalidated, which sucks and is sometimes better avoided for mental health reasons. It is an annoying experience, quite like being an Asian native English speaker: media in my language is usually eurocentric and somewhat removed from my experience. The “mainstream” and our ability to relate to it will always be a measure of privilege.

I am glad that some things, like the book GASPP: a gay anthology of Singapore prose and poetry, and transfeminism, were designed by people like me, with people like me in mind. At the same time, I suppose I have to, and will keep trying to, participate as far as possible in things in which I am not represented, while challenging them to be better.

Binarist Feminism

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