Is Political Space Necessary, or Unnecessarily Divisive: #RadFem2012

By Malkia Charlee NoCry
Feminist Philosophy Editor
20 May 2012 19:03 GMT


“Dear #radfem2012 – as Simone De Beauvoir said, “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman”. Transwomen are as women as all women.” Various tweets on Twitter relating to the hashtag #RadFem2012

The great thing about social networks is the urgency in which issues are brought to the fore. The recent angry tweets relating to the hashtag #RadFem2012 is the best example of the current dialogue surrounding the role of women, womanhood and femininity in modern feminist struggles; and of rationalising past feminist philosophies with that of the current mainstream. ‘Women only spaces’; the idea of areas occupied and dominated by women without the presence of men; is constantly under analysis by certain feminist camps and transfeminists for the role of men-to-women (mtw) transsexuals within feminine separatist gendered spaces; and the supposition that women-to-men (wtm) transsexuals assume their exclusion.

“The fact of the matter is that space is not neutral territory; it is highly politicised in class and locational terms”. Patricia McFadden, Why Women’s Spaces are Critical to Feminist Autonomy

The Role of Separatist Space and RadFem2012

Women have a right to their own spaces; all feminists know this. Indigenous Women’s Conferences, Black Womanist Conferences, Young Women’s Reproductive Rights Agenda and the like are met with celebration within the global struggle for women’s rights. And apparently, the organisers of RadFem2012 presumed women biologically born as women could be considered able to seek autonomy within their own designed space. Yet, the angry tweets with hashtag’s #RadFem2012, #RadScum2012, and other similar plays on words indicated quite profoundly that this issue is far from essentialist. The callous way in which transwomen were excluded from the July Conference RadFem2012 spurred a cacophony of anger and activism within the twittersphere and blogosphere.

Femficātiō as a philosophical ideology (not the blogsite) finds no difficulty in accepting the transwoman fully endowed with all aspects of womanhood, particularly the Transwoman of Colour within separatist spaces, for the very reason that RadFem seems to have excluded her –

“We respect that discussion spaces are needed free from oppression and dis-empowerment, and we assert our right as women to organise a women only space. As Radical Feminists we recognise that patriarchy dominates personal and political spaces across the globe. In turn we ask that RadFem 2012 be respected as a space where women born women living as women are able to meet and share information in a peaceful and safe environment.” RadFem 2012 website.

All femininity requires and deserves a space separate from masculinity, as humans both integrate and cluster for learning and growth. In Femficātiō, womanhood is defined by two separate and unique strata, biology being an important aspect of one, but additionally the social-psychological (the “living as a women” RadFem was speaking to); and these two hemispheres are both fueled by experience and create the activity of femininity. The nominal length of time you ‘experience’ being femina, whether it be from birth or once you’ve completed a course of hormone therapy participates in the development of the Femficāta, which exists in all women.

Womanhood is like a scale; more weights could be placed on either side (biology v social-psychology); yet it still remains a scale. Like manhood, it exists in a constant continuum, and can be aspired to.

“Only within that interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters”. Audre Lorde‘s Speech/Essay, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, The Crossing Press Feminist Series (1984)

And importantly, as a Femficātiō Feminist, I do not minimise either side of the scale for its need to be focused or prioritised. I do not subscribe to the post-structuralist ideology of biology playing no role in womanhood as that is physically and psychological untrue. I do not minimise gender dissociation, the aspiration to womanhood and the ability to be a woman without the anatomical organs. Each side of the scale, whether you are cis or trans, is essential in creating the necessary feminine activity to be justifiable for womanhood, because each side will dip lower and higher in some degree irrespective of perceived birthright. Therefore, I find difficulty in seeing where RadFem 2012 was bigoted in her desire to focus a feminine space from a biological standpoint, as it would be far from bigoted for there to be a TransFem 2012 if such existed. It was the generality, the stating that it was a conference for all Radical Women Feminists where they perhaps went wrong, as Radical Feminist women should de facto include transwomen.

Yet it is important that we note inclusion does not mean dissolution of self.

Audre Lorde goes on to state in that seminal speech, “Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist”.

The Difference Between Ciswomen and Transwomen

Take, for instance, child sexual abuse (one realm for which, unfortunately, identity is formed). Already there is a gendered difference in prevalence worldwide, with 20-50% of girls victimised and around 8-25% of victimised boys. As most gender reassignment does not occur until transsexuals reach their 20s (and most transgendered individuals do not fully understand their sexuality until late adolescence), that risk and sexualisation as a small child differs vastly. Through experience and a priori acknowledgment from peers and the femina heads of households, ciswomen experience a startling and profound activity forming their Femficāta; interpretations of safety, feminine identity and expected sexual roles created via the lens of a sexualised feminine body. Many queer, intersex and transsexual men may experience a form of objectification as children, perhaps because of size, stature and a perceived “softness” by others, and some child psychologists have noted an increased risk of sexual abuse – yet the experience of femininity exists in abstraction, and will create a different interpretation of safety and identity (perpetrator and victim psychosis, for which you hate yourself for being abused and fear you will become the abuser).

Depending on location, such as young Men of Colour in impoverished island, African or south pacific destinations, they may additionally use their femininity as a means of generating income from western/white sex tourists and paedophiles. (See the article Taboos). The Indian Hijra’s are often banished from their homes and reduced to sex-work due to their marginalisation in society. People of colour in western nations sometimes believe their gender-neutrality a product of white colonialisation. All of this plays a distinct role in engendering false assumptions surrounding identity and sexuality for Black transwomen, as they may even perceive themselves as Gay or without a distinct sexual/gendered identity. Being a woman, endowed with the full rights of womanhood becomes a complicated and difficult metamorphosis.

I am Black and femina (cisgendered). I grew-up being called a Tom-Boy, my dolls bored me and I preferred studying insects. My hair was unruly and I despised it being combed. When my mother pierced my ears at age 7 she decided that to save the both of us many tears she would shave my head. I remember, wearing my brother’s hand-me-downs, wrestling with some boy, pinning him down, and someone screaming out – in reference to me “that boy sure is strong”. I was startled. How on earth could I be perceived as a boy? What was wrong with them – with me? The assumption, no matter how far I strayed from the prescribed notions of femininity, was that I was a girl and it was obvious – my mother said so, my brother. I had to squat when I peed in the woods and I could never leave the house without a shirt. I was a woman.

For transwomen, societal laws currently dictate that with a penis you are a boy, man, which includes a script of behaviour and an expectation of desires. Manhood is often a very violent assumption, punished if deviated and punished if followed. Therefore the process of ‘becoming’ a woman is profoundly internal and is constantly challenged by the outside environment. And if we all, worldwide were sensitised to the issue of transgendered individuals tomorrow, there would still remain the stigma of difference for children as the consciousness of being outside your gender assignment would always be met with some form of confusion, as lines between imitation and gender dissociation are blurry before sexual maturation. For the transwoman, this creates a duality of identity that requires therapy, hormone treatment and a loving accepting community to reconstitute to wholeness. For women born women, this is not the case.

There is a duality of identity for a woman who subscribes to the dominant scripts of patriarchy, but Femficātiō asserts the shedding of patriarchy makes you more a woman, as you understand yourself, your scale in the same way men are allowed to solidify their masculine identities.

I would not want to speak on the plight of a transwoman, from the privilege and ease of that basic and fundamental right of womanhood; being considered a woman. And this is what creates the fundamental difference between ciswomen and transwomen and this is a powerful difference.

As Laverne Cox, Huffington Post blogger, wrote about the beginnings of her transition:

“I wasn’t passing as my true female self very well. I often was called a man as I walked down the street. I didn’t think I would ever be accepted as the woman I always knew I was, and I wanted to end it. In the note I was going to write to accompany my death, I was going to have explicit instructions about the pronouns that should be used to refer to me in death.” Laverne was writing about the misgendering by the New York Times of Lorena Escalera, a transwoman who died in a fire. They quoted a man saying she was very attractive “for a man”

Women born women are called many names, but if anything in the fight for women’s rights our gender is made abundantly clear, as something to be degraded, excluded and subjugated. And this, the transwoman experiences as well during the process of transitioning, particularly the disgusting over emphasis on anatomy and a misogynistic sexualisation (as Lorena experienced with comments around her sex appeal “for a man”). But I will welcome you back to the metaphor of the scale – for ciswomen, there are quite a few weights placed in her own external struggles of biology and the perceived limitations and expectations from said biology; for the transwoman, those issues of perceived limitation and expectation is internal. The issues affecting the internal struggles of femininity are a priori, as ciswomen experience a reactionary stance against age-old role expectation, stereotypes and caricatures. It is not the transwomen’s womanhood that is experiencing this, it is important to remember it is her manhood.

Saartjie Baartman’s bodily remains (including her vagina) were kept for ‘anatomical study’ and scientific history in a French museum and not repatriated to her homeland of South Africa until 2002 (she died in 1815). During the Islamic slave-trade Black Men were castrated to ensure they were unable to reproduce. The Ku Klux Klan often cooked Black men’s testicles after lynching them. The freakish quality in which Black femininity (Venus Hottentot) and Black masculinity (the burning of black men’s penises and testicles) has been displayed in art, culture, science and social societies constructs historically and still remains an aspect in which white colonialist, imperialist and supremacist ideologies continue to objectify and oppress Black peoples. As the Black transwoman is invisible and seen within segments of the Black community as a product of white male oppression and the white community as another freakish anomaly of African diaspora peoples, her identity is a powerful product of her own self-creation and bravery. I would think this importance of historical and undiluted presence would be important to all transwomen, irrespective of race, but I know that it is of great significance in weighing the transwoman of colour’s scale of social-psychological and political femina expression.

What is a Woman Only Space

But let’s further discuss this idea of women only spaces from a standpoint of seeking political autonomy. Not since Nixon v Rape Relief has there been such a heated debate on transwomen’s role in traditionally women only spaces, particularly in gender-segregated shelters and sexual assault support centres. The reason this case so aptly fuels this discussion is as it relates to why Kimberly Nixon, a transwoman who sought training in victim assistance from Vancouver Rape Relief, decided she was well equipped to deal with the issues concerning battered ciswomen. Nixon herself had previously experienced the most common and humiliating aspect of heterosexual interaction with men – being battered by a male partner. Surely, that garners the female stripes, and proves that all women, irrespective of sexual history experience the same traumas? To assume otherwise is the sexual objectification of another sister. Yet, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter turned her away, stating that trainers should be women, which subsequently led to a lengthy legal battle. The term “transphobic” was mentioned quite frequently. In defense of their stance, Lee Lakeman of Rape Relief stated:

“Yes, [women’s only spaces are] critically important. I mean, not everyone needs to be a fan of separatist spaces and you don’t need separatist spaces to do everything or every kind of revolting but you do need to do separatist organizing if you want to fight back as a group of Aboriginal people, for example, which this [anti-discrimination] law has affected; if you want to fight back as a group of women, you need, at some point, to say ‘men can’t join the group’ and you need to, at some point, say – ‘even though sex and gender may be on a continuum, where are you marking the line on the continuum for who’s in your group?’ You still, at some point, have to decide where is the boundary around your group and the group that you’re trying to work for or work with.” Meagan Murphy interviewing Lee Lakeman of Rape Relief for The F Word

Its true, separatist spaces are essential for gendered activism, ensuring safety for vulnerable people, and ensuring political autonomy within a group.

But we won’t understand Ms Lakeman or the detractors of women only spaces until we briefly analyse the difference in 2nd and 3rd wave feminism; Lee Lakeman from the 2nd Wave constitution. This is where we enter the heart of the discussion; previous feminist philosophies and the current mainstream 3rd wave predominant.

2nd and 3rd wave

2nd wave (late 1950s to late 1980s) feminist philosophy sees erotic sex-play such as bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM) detrimental to women and an extension of patriarchal constructs in addition to pornography, sex-work, and other forms of sexual subjugation. In a broad generality 2nd wave views the male presence as oppressive and dangerous, and sometimes the exclusion of male-children from female spaces from as young as 9. There is a gender boundary for which women are subjugated within due to men’s perpetuation of inherent supremacy. Additionally, there is a gender binary and it exists for women’s protection. More radical contingents of the 2nd wave movement subscribe to political lesbianism.

Politically, the 2nd wave actively campaigned for a reduction of working hours, equal pay, more subsistence for mothers and families, were adamant around maintaining options for reproductive health, and increasing female representation in science and politics. 2nd wave activism led to an impressive change within American culture; rape crisis centres, battered women’s shelters, more equitable changes in custody and divorce laws, right to abortion, integration of women’s sports and workplaces, anti-stalking laws and marital rape laws. In the UK, rape laws were dramatically changed, in addition to further subsistencies for working mothers, increasing the number of mother’s in the workforce. Black Feminists in addition to participating within the equal rights agenda mentioned earlier, produced a wealth of literature and philosophical thought, worked (and continues to work) diligently within the prison-industrial complex, workers struggle and internationally on issues of female-genital-mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage. Critics challenged 2nd Wave’s inclusion of Black Women – yet, during the period of the 1960s – 1980s there was a concurrent and strong Black Feminist/Womanist movement focusing issues of inclusion in Black Power Struggles, forced sterilisations, lesbian acceptance and the safeguarding of Black household with the rise of single mothers and male incarceration. Combahee River Collective with Barbara Smith and others represent the somewhat separate and distinct Black Feminist Movement during 2nd wave.

The 2nd wave movement is wrought with a plethora of many activists, scholars, philosophers and artists, changing the face of feminine history. This is only a snapshot of the movement.

3rd wave (Transfeminism/Riot Grrrl/Modern Radical Feminism) tends to have a post-structualist approach to femininity and sexuality. Encourages the creation of a woman’s own feminist identity and champions diversity (race and gender). Unlike 2nd Wave, Black Feminist and Radical Feminist thought which finds pornography and sex-work degrading, 3rd Wave and transfeminism finds that it is another mode of sexual self-expression, and to dismiss it limits full exploration of female sexuality. 3rd wave has been criticised as 2nd wave backlash. Femininity is largely mental, and feminism is in constant transformation – nothing is a given.

Politically, 3rd wave has worked to reduce media stereotypes and de-stigmatise sexuality. The goal was to build a movement around popular culture. The Slut Walks and Lesbian Kiss-Offs are popular activist actions from the 3rd wave. A key feminist icon of the 3rd wave is Rebecca Walker, daughter of Alice Walker, who stated:

“I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations”. Rebecca Walker

Riot grrrl feminism is a largely artistic movement (music dominant) which is part of the 3rd Wave, yet the ideologies are thought to be more closely aligned with 2nd Wave.

Radical Feminism is a continuum of 2nd wave, but for the purposes of this greater discussion on space, I am taking modern radical feminism and separating it from that of the 2nd wave. Radical feminism is well known for its distrust and disbelief in transsexual and transgendered individuals, with particular focus on mtw transwomen. This comes from its origins in 2nd wave, in which radical feminists were often criticised for being one-tracked in their assessment of men being the “root of all evil” in terms of female subjugation. New radical feminist contingents have a much greater scope of struggle, and have adopted some of the diversity elements of 3rd wave. Yet, as many feminist scholars such as Alice Echols would argue, radical feminism ended in 1975 and that this is modern neo-conservatism and narrow-mindedness within the feminist radical struggle is simply an opposition movement to 3rd wave.

“The reason why I oppose the diagnosis of transsexualism is that there is no such thing as an essential man or an essential woman. The idea that you can actually use surgery to make you become something that is a social construct is ridiculous. For example there are white people who feel they have a black identity or gentiles who feel they have a Jewish identity. If they then affected the stereotypical appearance and behavior of a black person or Jewish person and went along to a social grouping fighting their oppression they wouldn’t be accepted. They would be told they hadn’t had the life experience of being black or being Jewish under racism or anti Semitism. No one who is political and fighting against racism would accept that white person blacking themself [sic] up and saying ‘this is me I am really black I was born in the wrong skin’. Race is a social construct too, its all a social construct, in that case how can there be a male brain and a female brain? How can you be born predisposed to liking pink and Barbie dolls when what feminists say is that is imposed upon us? The last thing that we want therefore is people born male turning that completely on its head and saying ‘oh yes there is something inherent about being female where we like pink and we like Barbie dolls and we want to teeter around on high heels’. It flies in the face of feminist notion that feminized behavior and masculinized behavior is a social construct.” Julie Bindel, British 2nd wave radical feminist and writer and co-founder of the group Justice For Women, Q&A with the Oxford Student

Both camps, “2nd” and “3rd” wave feminist take a hard line on domestic abuse and choice. Girls rights are also championed, and inclusion in male-dominated spheres such as politics and science. Neither grouping, from a Black Feminist standpoint, has taken a proper look at diversity or classism, as pop images and arguments surrounding accessibility still centers around western women of a certain socioeconomic disposition.

But as Jennifer Baumgardner said “If you think too hard about the criteria for each label, the integrity of the waves disintegrates rapidly and they eddy into one another, the way ocean waves do.” Excerpt from F’em: Goo Goo, Gaga and Some Thoughts on Balls by Jennifer Baumgardner.

Femficātiō and a New 4th

For clarity of purpose in this essay, Femficātiō feminism is one which focuses the burgeoning philosophical, political and economic concerns of the post-technological age. Femficātiō first focuses on the acceptance of difference. This has been discussed in previous waves but not fully illuminated – the differences between people – gender, ability, sexuality – will not be fixed by saying there is no difference – but by saying this difference is not without its place.
Native American Two-spirits are people who were thought to carry the spirit of men if born women and women if born men. They tended to dress gender-neutral and they participated in society as they felt free to. Sexuality was not in question with Two-Spirits, as only those who were not Two-Spirits concerned themselves with labels. It shows the desire to label and the desire to not-label co-exist with non greater than the other. As feminists, there is a deep need to return to inclusion politics, breaking free from the fear that if we accept the mother with children we weaken the perception of the woman without. That if you choose to label your sexuality, that is an affront who those who choose not to.

Femficātiō focuses the elimination of all methods whereby humans are oppressed, asserting the subjugation of femininity is a key element to maintaining supremacist structures, but that a myriad of other tools are used to dominate people within society. There is an increase of spousal abuse when financially male-headed households lose work. In situations such as this, yes, patriarchy must be dismantled as it feeds the idea of his sole obligation and that he is financially entitled to abuse his spouse – yet concurrently we cannot ignore the fact that there are unnecessary job shortages that apply unnecessary pressure to family structures. The feminine is holistic.

The environment will be key in our struggles, as we face not having a home and quality of life on Earth for our societies children and grandchildren.

Global perspectives are essential, understanding that there can not be any further isolationist politics or policies, as this mindset has caused global economic and political catastrophes affecting the safety and sovereignty of all nations.

BDSM, pornography and sex-work is degrading as these are all objects of commodification of human flesh, an example that we are as much property as purchased things.

Paradigms of subordinance feed paradigms of political subordinance and classism. Yet, like 3rd wave, sexuality is to be explored and the gender binary flexed. Difference acknowledged, but not ameliorated.

There is little known about what a general ‘4th feminist wave’ could birth, yet already there is a much active engagement in feminine centred politics for under 30s. What we do know so far is as Jennifer Baumgardner pointed out:

“In place of zines and songs, young feminists created blogs, Twitter campaigns, and online media with names like Racialicious and Feministing, or wrote for Jezebel and Salon’s Broadsheet”. Jennifer Baumgardner

So What to Make of Nixon v Rape Relief?

In keeping with a philosophy of things being done with good governance, practicality and purpose, the need for women only spaces, in order to set agenda, protect women and children from perpetrators of abuse, safeguard the rights that were achieved from our mother architects of feminist struggle and quite importantly raise the living conditions of women worldwide by battling sex-trafficking, FGM, forced marriage and religious repression – remains politically necessary. There has been no argument to say otherwise.

Women victimised by domestic abuse and rape require counseling and safe-haven, and all feminists will agree. For the 2nd wave, there is the additional belief that there are biologically intrinsic aspects of femininity that can not be “faked” or “mimicked”. 3rd wave feminism acknowledges no difference in women, and believe that the aspiration to womanhood is the same as biological womanhood, as they are both creations. 3rd wave find any assumptions that transwomen are not full biological women to be bigoted, and that exclusion of them in women-only spaces to be both illegal and immoral.

Femficātiō feminists find both arguments overly essentialist. We believe womanhood and the femina force is the keeper and creator of society (see Mother’s Under Siege). In less existentialist terms, we believe men’s desire to assault causes them to assault on all perceived vulnerabilities, as there seems to be a need to destroy all reminders of Man’s and Earth’s mutability (the ultimate vulnerability). This is why white hegemonic structures create poverty, and assault alterity cultures – poverty creates a security that you are more immortal to another human being, and difference creates paranoia that there are not beings aspiring to your prescribed way of life (a form of death).

Most have used the argument, including Lee Lakeman, that with victim-assistance shelters the necessity for biological women is that if confronted with transwomen victims may become afraid; that for a split second transwomen could strike them as a source of danger with her ‘inherent’ masculinity – but I’m not so sure that’s the issue. The major issue would centre around appropriate bonding in situations such as this. Humans require in trauma a sharing of similar experience and culture in order to grow and embrace wider philosophical principles. Ethical constructs must apply within comfortable scenarios for there to be appreciation of the universality of application. In essence, ciswomen who have been assaulted due to their gender were only allocated the scale by random selection – she may not even understand how it should be weighted. Her mind may not be able to see the similarity of women if her assault stemmed from guilt surrounding a very biological aspects of herself (e.g., refusal to bear more children). This also applies for the transwoman, whose assault could stem from a discovery that she wasn’t born femina.

Women must continue to insist on the appropriateness of sister-spaces, as it is essential that they are effective in their ability to accomplish the goals as set forth. If women are at all put ill-at-ease, unable to connect, it diminishes both the respondent and the victim, and compromises the overall status of the organisation. Transwomen seek support from transwomen, and ciswomen from ciswomen, and by strengthening the working connections yet allocating appropriately, women will be able to effect greater acceptance as we’ll be able to effectively politicise women into feminism. The argument is for truly diverse rape crisis and victim shelters that understand the myriad of ways people are abused, and the myriad targets of sexual victimisation.

The Trans Debates

“Poor show if trans-women have been specifically excluded #shame” tweet of Christopher Clarkson, Centre-Right Conservative Councillor for Worsley, City of Salford tweeting to Conway Hall, the host of RadFem2012

Wtm transmen were additionally excluded from RadFem 2012, yet I heard little upheaval from that camp. I think it is because there was acknowledgment of a gender boundary in women’s spaces by wtm.

“…female-to-male transgendered people are not generally understood to be as remarkable as male-to-female transgendered people, because in male dominated culture as we know it, it is ‘normal’ when women want to become men”. Annalee Newitz in her reconsideration of her 1993 essay “Gender Slumming”

Though I don’t want to delve too deeply into the ins and outs of the trans movement, for which I am an inquisitive spectator, this form of minimalisation of the wtm transman to be the biggest form of transmisogyny seen within both the feminist and trans movements. Though wtm transmen are within a small percentile (largely due to the cost and inefficiency of the transitioning surgery for female organs) the amount of Black transmen and transsexuals living with male identities should not be marginalised within feminist struggles if we are to be accepting of trans-identities within the feminist movement. It does indicate that masculinity, even when discarded, garners more sympathy than masculinity assumed if previously feminine.

Transmen seem more willing to align their struggles within LGBTQ community, as they perceive their discrimination would be more on the basis of “gayness”, not their newly assimilated identity. The transwoman sees her struggles more in keeping with general feminism, as the perception lies with discrimination stemming from them being currently a woman; not formerly a man.

“FTM (female to male) transsexual embodiment of non hegemonic masculinity should be included in feminist discourses in order to strengthen the overall movement to end gender based oppression” Kai Peetoom’s paper “FTM Embodiment of Masculinity: Towards a New Feminist Politics of Incoherence” in the journal Sprinkle

This is true. But if transmen are included within separatist spaces, the arguments made by Lee Lakeman’s camp with regard to transwomen would very much apply. Clear masculinity, wrongly or rightly, is frightening in situations where ciswomen have been assaulted by men. Men commit the vast majority of hate crimes and rapes as well, and even within the LGB community (from the standpoint of victim assistance), masculinity can cause a lack of ease.

To shift gears a bit, there is a disturbingly anti-human transhumanist approach being birthed from perceptions that gender binary has limited human potential, and that it should be eliminated at birth through neurotechnologies, biotechnologies and reproductive technologies. Yet, to ignore transmen, continue legislation against women’s reproductive choice (when she needs it), and the steadfast belief in the commodification of feminine sexuality and exclusion of women from higher social spheres indicates if anything that the gender binary in its supposed deconstructionalist elements has strengthened bias within gender struggles – perhaps an undesired effect of the 3rd waves poststructuralist ideology of femininity. This is why it is so important to understand that difference is to be championed, not ignored or simply brushed off as non-existent to suit political whims. We must remember as feminists it is patriarchy and imperialism which brought hierarchies of being. These difficulties in interaction between men, women, elders, differing cultures, religions and sexual orientations is not organic within human beings.

It seems that many conversations surrounding the manipulation of the gender binary seem to negate the remaining political necessity to set agenda for feminist work without the interference from male dominated ideology. This is germane for both transmen and transwomen. Analysis of the source of oppression is as important as the outcome of struggle, and trans-politics is still quite an active struggle within itself.

Was RadFem 2012 Wrong?

The Radical Feminist Conference 2012 is aimed at radical feminist women, and to not include transwomen who are legally defined as women to attend was callous, particularly as there was no wider explanation.

The inclusion of transmen (though largely ignored) negates the idea of women-only-space, therefore there is no argument to be made for their inclusion. Kai Peetoom asserts that non patriarchal masculinity should be allowed within feminist struggles, but gender boundaries are not dismissed by wishful thinking, but an actual leveling of the social playing field between men and women within politics, science, religion, sports, working constructs etc. Yet, there is definite working required for all feminists across perceived boundaries.

But I maintain, RadFem 2012 was far from exclusionary. As feminists we celebrate all opportunities where women assert their right to deal with issues concerning them as women in a perceived safe environment (and safety is just as valid as any other mental construction).

Transmisogyny…? I think that the feminist movement is splintered enough than to fight amongst our ranks. We have a real enemy out there – and it is not people championing the rights of girls, women, LGBTQ – who are vehemently against subjugation and exploitation. Transwomen and transmen share a joint working agenda as found within transfeminism, which is quite a broad topic to just be adjunct to the end of issues pertaining to ciswomen; which I hope was RadFem2012’s intent.

This may be a bump in the road; an opportunity for further discussion; but calling for a feminist conference stopped by other supposed feminists is unnecessarily divisive and could potentially weaken the overall view of the feminist and transfeminist movement.

Another Simone de Beauvoir quote that has been forgotten in this bantering:

“Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.”

These women were not misogynist, patriarchal, bigoted or hateful. By expressing her right to discuss and grow in an atmosphere which she created is not a stance toward hatred – but a stance toward becoming. And all women know this, a knowing deep in her soul.

Malkia Charlee NoCry is a scientist and writer. She is also co-founder of Coal Feminist Review

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