Why I don’t agree with the article – ‘Becoming a Woman: Trans Women and Male Violence’.

First of all I want to make it clear that this is not a personal attack on Caroline Criado-Perez. I just don’t agree with many aspects of her article:

‘Becoming a Woman: Trans Women and Male Violence’. https://weekwoman.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/becoming-a-woman-trans-male-violence/

Though our views may vary, I understand that feminism encompasses differing views and strategies. I do however believe in healthy debate within feminism on subjects and a right to differ. I do understand her views were based on personal experience and respect that. However, as an influential writer, I also find they somewhat endorse an existing dangerous and damaging precedent.

As I’ve said before where ever you stand on ‘the trans issue’ within feminism, you cannot deny difference. Women and transwomen ARE different, whether in terms of socialisation, health, biology, social/political history and so on. The experience of being a woman is not something transwomen will ever know, nor vice versa. It is biologically impossible for someone born male to ‘become a woman’ no matter what is done to a body or outward appearance. Unless of course if you believe, in what my view is, very worrying ideas about ‘innate gender’ and ‘female brains’ etc that is …..

Actually being a woman is a particular experience and as women we have a basic right to own this.

Even using this article’s title therefore, in my opinion, really undermines the reality of womanhood. It projects the oppressive notion that womanhood is something which may be synthetically imposed and dismisses it as an actual valid experience. Yes, women are different too and it is important to define ourselves by these hugely impacting differences. But all women share basic aspects of being female and all women as a class are still universally oppressed by the misogyny embedded in patriarchy.

When those born male transition, they do not experience womanhood as a result, but that of being a transwoman. This may provoke abuse and violence, but as transwomen have said themselves, this is not (straightforward) misogyny but often linked to oppression such as homophobia (- and there is obviously a complex debate about how this manifests). Transwomen therefore simply can not  ‘reveal …. what it means to become a woman’’. They can only ever reveal the experience of transwomen.

To state otherwise is to add to a world already intent on erasing the reality of actual womanhood.

For me and many others, it is a basic imperative of our feminism to acknowledge the people who actually and truly can relate this reality. From the complexities of female socialisation, to living within patriarchal societies, to particular oppression, health issues, education etc etc etc…….we learn from ourselves and other women. We learn from the women who came before us. We learn from women from many cultures.

We learn from women.

No one born male can do that for us and this is particularly important in a world where ideals of ‘womanhood’ are continually, oppressively, destructively ascribed to us – by men.

I personally abhor all forms of male violence and have stood up against it in many forms, for many years, for many different people. There’s certainly nothing wrong with empathy. However it’s also imperative to view the bigger picture in feminism and the impact of our individual voices for women as a class.

In a world in which those socialised in male gender roles are themselves responsible for most of the violence towards everyone, this is not an issue of personal compassion. It is about basic survival for women and protecting a recognised, valued state of actual womanhood.


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42 Responses to Why I don’t agree with the article – ‘Becoming a Woman: Trans Women and Male Violence’.

  1. oopster74 says:

    Reblogged this on oopster74 and commented:
    Thank you for this. While I do t agree with it all, you put your arguement in a respectful way (I mean not wanting to offend anyone).

    Yes women and transwomen are different, we have different beginnings, histories and different issues. If you take as literal what some transwomen say about their experience, then of course you may feel upset or offended, but when we have the limited vocabulary that we currently do, how else can you describe what you’re feeling?

    I am a transwoman (before someone outs me to your blog). I’m not going to introduce myself as Sarah the transwoman, anymore than I would introduce myself as Sarah the woman. When people see me, I hope they see me as a woman, and treat me as such. If they treat me otherwise, well it depends how they treat me, but if they treate badly, then I respond in an appropriate way, the same way is expect anyone to respond.

    I can’t tell you that I “feel like a woman”, anymore than any woman can. I can tell you I feel better being percieved as a woman, living as a woman, and the rest that goes with it, but isn’t feminsm about being able to be who you are, without someone telling you what you can and can’t be?

    • Thanks for the comment. We should be able to talk about this respectfully and I’m not personally attacking anyone individually. What I aimed to do is highlight the experience of womanhood as being unique to women, something that is really basic and being erased at the moment. The implications for women on this issue are actually huge, concerning our spaces,our voices, our well-being, our safety and our lives. Women have fought long and hard for our human rights and this erasure is detrimental to that.
      I think perceiving yourself as a woman is a different experience. I support safe space for anyone who is oppressed, but you can’t do that at the expense of others who also need their own autonomy and to define themselves by/for themselves.
      Feminism is about the liberation of women. I don’t think I’m personally telling anyone what they can and can’t be – the facts of biological, cultural, social difference already determine that. This is my view and I hope it makes some sense to you.
      Again, thanks for the comment.

      • Blef says:

        I totally agree. Again without wanting to appear disrespectful to anyone, I, as a woman born woman, cannot inform anyone as to what it is like to be transwoman and therefore believe a transwoman can not tell me what it is to be a woman. I am not trying to exclude anyone. I believe everyone has a right to be who they perceive themselves to be.

        However I do not think it is unfair for those of us born female to want to have a space for ourselves, to have services that are for us, to share lived experiences that are unique to those born biologically female. It is as unfair to erase these things for those of us born biologically female as it would be if those of us born female were to demand access to services and spaces that are provided exclusively for transwomen.

      • Thanks for the comment and totally agree.

      • oopster74 says:

        Makes sense to me, even though we disagree on certain things, we’re all human and should treat others with respect.

    • grammaticalgender says:

      “I can’t tell you that I “feel like a woman”, anymore than any woman can. I can tell you I feel better being percieved as a woman, living as a woman, and the rest that goes with it,”

      I don’t have a problem with this at all. I think the sexist justifications that many transpeople give to explain why they have “female brains” are what annoys most trans-critical feminists.

      “but isn’t feminsm about being able to be who you are, without someone telling you what you can and can’t be?”

      Not really, no. Feminism is about liberating the female class of people from the oppression the suffer under patriarchy.

      • Nice comment. Thank you.

      • oopster74 says:

        Well you’ve got to remember / realise that language isn’t perfect, so when I tell you that although I was born male, I feel like a woman, that’s the best explanation I can come up with to explain things. Why I feel the way I do God only knows, but I spent years of teenage years already be trying to figure things out, years wasted when if the situation had been better, I could have gotten proper help, but I was too scared of what if.

        Whatever feminsm is meant to achieve, I think it’s goal should be “be you, and be the best you you can be”.

      • Lucie Orsted says:

        I don’t think you can tell women what a feminist’s goal is. Feminism is not about “you” or “be the best you can be”, feminism is about women and the truths they speak. Men ask from women to “validate” who they are, to tell them that they’re good boys, like their moms used to do. Feminism don’t do that, it tells men : fucking time to grow up ! And leave women alone, they’re not meant to live their life mirroring your own “fabulous” self.

      • oopster74 says:

        Lucie, I wasn’t trying to define what feminsm is, I stated what I thought it was, if I’m wrong, then please correct me. What you’ve done in your reply, is exactly what you say men do to women, and if it’s not right for one, it’s not right for either. Me saying “be the best you you can be”, well, do you really need me to explain that? What I meant by it was be you, whoever or whatever that is, do a good job of it, do the best you can. When I do or make something, it might be rubbish, but I’ll try my best at it, and that’s what I was trying to say.

      • Lucie Orsted says:

        you stated “what feminism was” to your opinion, how is it different from “trying to define what feminism is” ? I thought you were wrong, so I corrected, that’s exactly what I did.
        I don’t understand your answer, how my reply is “exactly what I say men do to women” ? I would say you do exactly what men do, gaslighting.
        I never asked you to explain what you meant by “be the best you can be”, I got it right the first time. You can try, all right,but it’s not because you tried that I should give you a medal. I think what you need is coaching, not feminism.

      • oopster74 says:

        I think you need to stop looking for criticism which isn’t there. Read again what I wrote please, I tried to clarify what I said and you seem determined to pick a fight which I’m not going to get into.

        I thought feminism was about freeing women (and men don’t forget) from the controls of society is if you’re a man you have to do this, if you’re a woman you have to do this.

      • Lucie Orsted says:

        I think you should read again what I wrote, rather than telling me that I’m seeing things that do not exist. That’s what men do.
        And feminism is about women, it’s not synonymous with “freeing all people who suffer from oppression”. You’re mistaken if you think it is.

      • oopster74 says:

        EVERYONE, should be free of oppression.

      • That’s true – but feminism is specifically about freeing women from oppression and should make no apology for this, the same as US cvil rights, for example, focused on the rights of POC. Feminism is the only political movement continually expected to be ‘inclusive’ to everyone and this is pure sexism and damaging gender role assumptions.Women are expected to be and conditioned into ‘niceness’ – often at the expense of ourselves. We, as women however, do need to focus on the plight of women, to face the huge amount of oppression specifically oppressing us. There are certainly many reasons why feminism needs to be inclusive – to all women – something white feminists (like myself), for example, need to work on and often struggle to acknowledge. However equating this with acceptance of TW into feminism, to me, is simply not comparable. As I expressed in the above post- the experience of TW is not the same as women – as a class.
        No one can simply expect to latch on to another movement’s fight to sort things out for them – that’s inappropriate, lazy and derailing at best. However, the way much of trans-activism has manifested has unfortunately been to focus on attacking gender critical feminists, instead of focusing on the violence associated with male socialisation and the violence of men themselves, homophobia, destructive and limiting gender roles etc. So why not define a more constructive, positive and appropriate way to deal with that. This is something feminists shouldn’t be expected to do for you.

      • oopster74 says:

        True, but you don’t get equal rights / equality by making someone less equal or worse off. We should all have the same chances and opportunities, and all be treated fairly, this is one reason I really don’t like “positive discrimination”, as it’s still discrimination. There a very good cartoon that explains what trying to say with 3 men at a football match in the terraces, who are all different heights. What I find is that gender critical feminists are often the ones criticising and attacking trans people, but I think, one or the other must have initiated these attacks, and the rest are all retaliatory, when we should all stop attacking each other, it gets no one anywhere. I’m not a man, yet it appears you don’t consider me to be a woman, and without sounding rude, I don’t care how you see me, but we shouldn’t be disrespecting each other.

      • This isn’t about fairness, its about the fact that specific movement’s deal with specific forms of oppression – and mine and yours aren’t the same.In fact the way many trans-activists view gender is particularly harmful to feminism and women as a class-but I’m not getting into that complex subject here.
        Female socialisation and biology and history of oppression and social and cultural attitudes towards and health concerns as well as specific misogynistic oppression etc etc etc just can’t be simplified to people being ‘different heights’. History and lived experience are valid. There is a common shared experience of transwomen and a common shared experience of womanhood, and they are just different. Of course I’ll never fully understand the experience of TW – but this also works the other way around and that needs to be recognised.
        Maybe we won’t ever agree, so perhaps the best thing is to leave it there.

      • oopster74 says:

        I tried to find the cartoon I mention but couldn’t do bare with me while I describe. 3 football fans in the terraces (and I mean proper football with a round ball, not a rugby ball). All trying to peer over a wall to watch the game. The tall fan can watch without help, the Middle size fan can just about watch on tip toes, but the shortest fan can’t see a thing. That’s one way to look at equality, but, it’s not equal opportunities, the tall fan has an advantage over the 2 other fans, the Middle size fan is at a slight disadvantage, but the shortest fan is at a major disadvantage and can’t see anything! So, you give the middle sized fan a “leg up” but giving him / her a step to stand on, and you give the shortest fan, a bigger step to stand on, thereby ensuring that no one is disadvantaged due to something (in this case their height) beyond their control. Hope I’ve explained that so it makes sense, you might have already seen it on facebook, if anyone has it can they please post it, it’s a lot easier to get than my description.

      • BadDyke says:

        “so when I tell you that although I was born male, I feel like a woman, that’s the best explanation I can come up with to explain things..”
        Except it’s an explanation based on a concept ‘feeling like a woman’, that is antithetical to what feminists are saying. If anything, all you ‘feel like’ is the female gender role, and that is what we are trying to destroy. Except you insist on telling us again and again that we shouldn’t be striving for that, because you love what we hate. It’s as simple as that, and there is very little room for compromise whilst you insist on that concept. So stop trying to water down or project onto us your male concept of what feminist should be that allows you to have what you want……………………..

        So, I guess I DO have a great big problem with anyone who says they feel better ‘living as a woman’ — it might work for you individually, whether someone is male or female, but doesn’t do a damn thing when it comes to getting rid of the patriarchy, and more often that not, ends up just as ‘I’m HAPPY with ‘living as a woman’ as it is, so why do you insist on rocking the boat?

        But yet fine example of mansplaining! I particularly like the repeated I’m a GOOD girl who doesn’t intend to offend (so how DARE you disagree) line.

        And I resent having to, yet again, waste effort pointing all this out to yet another male, but not because I think (or even care a fig) about whether YOU change your mind, but because I want the women reading this to not be conned into falling for the whole trans con trick. It’s just the same ole patriarchy in a different costume……………………

      • Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading the post.

      • pauliapaulia says:

        I think this is the picture oopster74 was thinking about http://kathyescobar.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/equality-vs-justice.jpg

      • Stephie Smith says:

        No. Feminism is NOT about “being able to be who you are without someone telling you what you can and can’t be.”
        Feminism is about recognizing that women are human beings who MATTER just as much as men do.

  2. jacobetta says:

    Excellent. I just wanted to add that I saw the original tweets Caroline quotes and I also saw the same person make it clear that he considers himself a male who is adopting female gender and does not consider himself a woman. Caroline left that out of her blog.

    • Thank you. Yes, interesting that.I think some recognition of these basic issues could have been highlighted in her article and perhaps the points she was making might have been clearer-my opinion.

  3. stchauvinism says:

    Reblogged this on Stop Trans Chauvinism.

  4. australopithecene says:

    The argument between transactivists and feminists is, at its centre, claiming the definition of womanhood. The reason for this is,once transwomen are accepted as women, every demand they make can be acceded to. They can direct the course of feminist activism, they can publicly speak about women’s interests, they can access women’s spaces, they can define us.

    And they will speak for and over us, because they are men. And they will be listened to, unlike us, because they are men. If we let them claim to be women, we don’t have a basis on which to oppose them. How will it be possible to talk about the silencing of women, when women are being silenced by their own “spokeswomen”? How is it possible to talk about male violence, when the aggressors are “women”? How can we talk about the impossibility of advancing in certain industries, when our “spokeswomen” have no such difficulty? How can we talk about oppressive gender stereotypes, or sexual exploitation, or pornography, when the “women” who speak for us love all those things? Their interests are antithetical to ours, and I find the prospect of them calling the shots on public policy and social mores really frightening.

    Accepting “transwomen” as women isn’t a small gesture. It’s the means of transactivist ambitions, not the end.

  5. Lucie Orsted says:

    I respect her views too, but I mainly agree with you ! Transwomen may have experienced “the shift from one gender to another”, and it could be that “their experiences provide empirical evidence of that difference.” Good ! really good. I’m looking forward to hear about it. Very interesting. Now, and you say, it simply is not comparable. Even if womanhood was something that could be “synthetically imposed” upon someone, one cannot say that trans-women had been « imposed » anything. They totally desire and embrace their ideas of what a woman is, rather a “synthetic femininity” than womanhood. This is certainly why we end up with some of them saying that they have a better understanding of “femininity” than women themselves. I believe them. Sure I do. Men have a way to know what femininity is all about, and make sure to inform women about it (in case we wouldn’t know).
    As you say, their experiences are radically different. Women never had the privilege of “shifting from one gender to another” but just had to adapt to what was required to be regarded as “women”. Their own selves were erased to become right representatives of the “female gender”. What about this empirical evidence ? I need to hear more from women, more than I need to hear from men transitioning to women- Sorry guys. I don’t believe in gender. As you say it isn’t “biologically possible” for someone born male to ‘become a woman’, but moreover, it is MENTALLY impossible for a man to know what a woman was before she was “genderized” ! That’s what all this trans-story is erasing. Women never were given the choice of “being of their preferred gender”. They were forced into it. Their experiences matter too, even if they had the so-called privilege of being born with a gender “aligned” with their assigned sex ! I’m still more interested to know about these so-called mundane females experiences, than knowing about trans. I want to hear about their experiences, there are plenty of them who still need to be voiced !! Trans advocates make it sound as if the shift they experienced was more valuable than anything women experienced. Because females, as they said, have a “narrow experience of what it means being a woman”. (feel that, that I’m becoming a little bit angry ?) I don’t agree with them, to put it midly. And it’s not because a woman questions their claims, that she “takes leave of her sense of humanity”.Always these generalizations…Why are women always the ones asked to show some “basic human decency” when men just don’t give a fuck ?
    Now, maybe Caroline Criado-Perez had her fair share of harassement and just don’t want to deal with more of this shit. Just a thought.

  6. Henke says:

    This is a very brilliant reply and post. Thank you for posting.

  7. Pingback: How to live & not die, debate & not hate | KJ (Katy Jon Went)

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