Monday 6 March 2017

Clickbait hate and feminism which makes us proud

Feminism that includes trans women - and indeed trans and non-binary gender people all across the spectrum - is not a "nice to have".  It's not just a matter of having a jolly conversation about whether pussy hats exclude women without vaginas, clitorises and vulvas. 

Getting that stuff right matters, if we're serious about our feminism tackling power around gender.

But actually, this last week should have reminded cis people in Aotearoa that feminism that includes trans people is vital.

Look here quickly, if you have the stomach, at Rosemary McLeod, who says she doesn't like being intimate with strangers in relation to public toilets.  She calls a girl "the transgender".  Really?  Quick tip, Rosemary, not a good look when you're aiming not to look like a bigot.

Rosemary also tells us a story about a man watching women going to the toilet.  Which is horrible, gendered violence is real and disgusting.  But this violence has nothing to do with trans women, and including this little anecdote in this particular "opinion" piece is code for nothing more than transphobia.  Because trans women are not men, and there's zero evidence, anywhere, that trans women are going to the bathroom to hassle other women.

So here's some steps for Rosemary to consider:
  1. Fight against gendered violence by fighting against rape culture and other ways victims are blamed for sexual harassment and other kinds of sexualised violence.  This will mean not blaming trans people for transphobic attacks against them.
  2. If intimacy in toilets bugs you, don't use public ones.
  3. Stop misgendering trans women.  It's disgusting.  The high rates of violence towards trans people are enabled by these cultural attitudes (see point one). 
Much as the continuing transphobia of Rosemary McLeod is troubling, what's maybe more troubling is the "mainstream" media in Aotearoa continuing to publish such bigoted nonsense.  Traditional news outlets seem to be seeing gender diversity as a clickbait opportunity, where the more bigoted their coverage is, the better.

Contrast NZ Herald covering Laurel Hubbard being selected for the NZ weightlifting team with the coverage over at Newshub.   The Herald article includes comments about the "huge advantages" Ms Hubbard has, as a trans woman, over her competitors.  This is farcical - Ms Hubbard has jumped through all the hoops necessary.  The mounting evidence about hormones and sports performance shows what most people intuitively know anyway - that there is far more overlap than binary difference across genders when it comes to athletic performance, and some of this is about hormones and more is about other factors.  I am prepared to say that I can hit a cricket ball better than most men I meet, because I spent years practicing.  Some of this is old-fashioned sexism - boys are better - some is bad science
It's not even clear whether natural testosterone boosts performance to the same degree that synthetic testosterone does. Holt, the UK-based endocrinologist, told the Court of Arbitration for Sport that "the current state of evidence regarding testosterone's effects on athletic performance is 'rudimentary.'" He said natural testosterone may affect a person's lean body mass, but other things do, too, like high levels of human growth hormone in the body. What's more, he says, plenty of other physical traits give advantages to athletes, and those aren't regulated like testosterone is. Some basketball players are blessed with height, for example, while some swimmers are born with higher lung capacity and large hands and feet.
And most is transphobia, because trans women are not boys.

But the Newshub article is interesting - because it's just factual:
She says it's gone down about as well as can be expected - and while people have voiced concerns, most are supportive once they understand the protocols the organisation must follow.
Ms Pilkington says Laurel Hubbard meets all the criteria to compete as a woman.
Reporting on gender is becoming a place where there are some disappointing and predictable generational issues.  Newer media gets it, understands that in New Zealand one young person in every secondary school class identifies now as trans or unsure of their gender.  Knows that gender diversity is real, an ordinary spectrum of human behaviours that has been restrictively shackled by gender norms feminists railed against and young people are leapfrogging over.

Mainstream media - the Herald and others - are still using trans issues as clickbait.  Still aligning themselves with conservative forces of hate, despite this being just bad reporting in terms of evidence, to say nothing of socially irresponsible and ethically bankrupt.  This is yet another death-knell for them frankly, because newer media are just doing it better.

So folks, in an explosive week of an explosive month of an explosive year of an explosive decade in terms of trans rights, let's make sure feminism is on the side we can be proud of.  When it comes to the pussy hats, let's stop using genitals as shorthand for gender.  Most of us don't believe in this as feminism.  The defensive mantras "this is just fun, stop taking it so seriously, it's not transphobic" reminds me of nothing more than the ways some men react to being called out on sexual harassment.

It's a bit of a laugh, right?  Why are you getting so bothered?  Because it matters, our feminism matters, in a world so consistently treating trans identities and lives with such little respect.