Are the cis supremacists winning?

Content note: this post discusses transphobia

Last week, an awful New Statesman column was published which featured a cis woman whining about being called cis. Me and Cel West wrote a takedown of it.

Things haven’t died down since then. In fact, a lot of cis women seem to have become empowered to spout utter nonsense. I will not link to specific nonsense, lest I get accused of being Big Mean Stavvers Bullying The Poor Defenceless Women, but suffice to say there’s rather a lot of cis women who agree with the the original assertion that they don’t like the word cis.

And it gets worse. Today, I have had nakedly transphobic hate speech tweeted at me, and tweeted at me from corners I would have never expected. It came from people I had previously thought to be all right, but it was that same old nasty cis supremacist line which has never quite made any sense to me about how trans women are really “males”.

It strikes me as particularly sickening that this comes in a week where Lucy Meadows had been disrespected in death by the mainstream media, the same mainstream media that may well have played a role in killing her with their violent lies, replicated again and again by people who think themselves feminists.

Yesterday, over 200 people mourned Lucy Meadows, standing in the cold with candles, outside the Daily Mail offices. Over 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for Richard Littlejohn to be fired for his tirade of hate. A part of me wondered–as it did in January when Julie Burchill and Suzanne Moore went on transphobic diatribes to mass outrage–that perhaps the tide was beginning to turn. That maybe, just maybe, we were overcoming the seething cissexism of society.

But we have not. If anything, these vile sorts are gaining traction, crying about being silenced. It is defended by women who do not think they are bigots themselves, finding that calling out any woman spouting hate speech to be far worse than the hate speech itself.

It isn’t.

It really, really isn’t. It is utterly vital that we reject transphobia wherever it exists–even where it is within our backyard. Especially when it is in our own back yard.

I am fearful that we have hit a pivotal point in the discourse, one where the bigots have effectively managed to neutralise any attempt to point out that they are bigots by complaining of bullying. They wave their hands like a stage magician, diverting attention from the very real bullying they themselves are perpetrating, the structural violence that they perpetuate, the things they say that can very easily kill people.

And I don’t quite know what to do about this. I’ll keep on fighting where I can, but suddenly it feels far bigger, far more daunting. As a cis woman, I am not personally affected by transphobia. This is precisely why I fight it, because I know I have more strength and more resources to do so. But it’s a thankless task, and some are such severe bigots I believe it is impossible to reason with them.

So cis feminist readers, I ask you to join with me in fighting the rising tide of cis supremacy. It is not acceptable. Be a fucking ally. Stand with your trans sisters in solidarity, and don’t let this slide. We have a huge struggle ahead of us, against a structure many of us have internalised, but if we are to win anything, we must first attack the problem within our ranks.

15 thoughts on “Are the cis supremacists winning?”

  1. Disgusting. There was the same backlash when the word “heterosexual” was coined as as a counter to using “normal” as an antonym for homosexual. I have always hoped that ‘cis’ would become as everyday as ‘heterosexual’ is.

    The Pollyanna in me hopes this backlash is an extinction burst, the realist in me fears it isn’t.

    I’m so sick of feminism ignoring anyone who isn’t white, straight, able-bodied, cis, neurotypical, and middle-class. I’m the words of Flavia Dzodan:

    “My feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit”

    I’m sickof being pushed aside, sick of my trans sisters and WOC being ignored (at best) or abused. Sick of being talked over and mocked when I object to outright ableism and the concept of mental illness being used as a slur, the latter being incredibly common in transphobic rants.

    A woman is a woman, regardless of the sex she was assigned as birth. How can our trans sisters be held responsible for a system that traumatised them too, a system that they did not create. They had to listen to naked, unfettered misogynist hate-speech during their early lives, because of the assumption that the speakers were addressing a group of cis men, language rarely used in front of women but unleashed in ‘male’ spaces.

    Fuck the haters. Twisted, sad people scared of losing a tiny piece of their privilege, unable to admit they even have it. The kyriarchy can only be dismantled if we all accept the unearned privilege we have, and take down the system piece by piece. The haters need to be reminded that by basking in privilege and attacking anyone they deem “other” they are supporting patriarchy, enabling kyriarchal structures, sleeping with the enemy.

    I do not want them on my side. My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

    1. Oh my god… this is so true..

      ” They had to listen to naked, unfettered misogynist hate-speech during their early lives, because of the assumption that the speakers were addressing a group of cis men, language rarely used in front of women but unleashed in ‘male’ spaces.”

      The shit men say when they think its “safe…” No one ever mentions that but its fucking horrible. Thank you for calling attention to that in your comment.

  2. Allies, please also read this conversation (roughly paraphrased) I just had w/Stavvers on Twitter:

    stavvers: (in response to an ongoing conversation about gender): Well, perhaps that’s your external gender. And perhaps internal gender is the thing cis privilege stops you noticing.

    radtransfem: When you say this @stavvers it sounds like you’re speaking for all trans folk. But many of us are at least internal-gender-essence-agnostic!

    radtransfem: As you know from my recent comments! When you speak ideas relating to trans*-ness as dogma, you freeze/damage trans* thought. Ally duty is to support us strongly, yes, but to preserve complexity and diversity of our positions, and never use us to win!

    stavvers: You’re right, and thank you for pointing this out to me. I’ll admit I haven’t been following that comment thread hugely closely, been quite snowed under these last few days!

    radtransfem: 🙂 I understand that you have good intent, but I often see our thought objectified/instrumentalised in these arguments w/radfems.

    stavvers: Absolutely. It’s one of these things which i’m trying to counteract to be a better ally, but fuck up. Cheers for mentioning.

    radtransfem: I want all cissexual non-radical feminists to scour their souls for every trace of possibility that they use us as radfem repellent.

  3. “This is precisely why I fight it, because I know I have more strength and more resources to do so. But it’s a thankless task”

    I know you are not doing it cookie, but thank you! There are so many fights that I do not have the strength or the time for, so thank you for fighting them where you can!

  4. I’m not well read enough about feminism to wade into discussions on twitter but I don’t really get a lot of it. Everyone seems to be going on about oppression and how everyone needs to realise they’re oppressing someone else but where does that get us? I’m a young black woman with no money who lives in social housing in south london. But I guess I’m “cis” so you’d say I oppress? But I suffer sexism every fucking day and racism exists a lot too? So I’m being oppressed? But because I oppress in other ways I’m an oppressor? I don’t get it does that mean no-one can say they’re oppressed if they oppress someone else? I’m against transphobia but what can I do to fight it when I’m getting shit and suffering all the time for what I am myself? Wouldn’t it be better to unite together than arguing about who’s more oppressed or who suffers more? I mean every woman I know suffers white black Asian able disabled working not working trans cis…….what good is it to say who suffers more so basically just say everyone’s oppressing someone else so we’re all oppressors so let’s attack eachother…don’t get it….

    1. Hi Sho, thanks for replying.

      I’m glad you fight against transphobia, and what I’m saying applies a lot further than this.

      There is a big problem with oppressive bullshit in the feminist movement in general, with a lot of racism and class hatred going on, too, as well as the transphobia. In every instance, the privileged women, those who have a lot of power anyway, often try to shut down any attempt to address what they are doing with cries for unity.

      Now I’m all for unity, but it must be on a basis of not perpetuating any of the other oppressive behaviours in society–be it transphobia, racism or anything else. Within our own movement, this needs to be challenged or we won’t be able to get anything done as so many people will be alienated.

      So yes, this means standing up to it, even when it comes from women, and feminists.

      I hope this clears my point up for you, and I stand in solidarity with you x

      1. Thanks for the reply…I admit I won’t know as much about the movement as you but have gone to some events when I’ve been able to and I’ve found the women I met inclusive but I guess I don’t know enough about the background to say for certain…but have to be fair to what I experienced. I guess to someone who isn’t well read about it and doesn’t know all the terms it seems confusing that so much feminist debate seems to be women having a go at other women for saying something wrong which then makes you too scared to say anything or get involved. I want an end to sexism trainsphobia and racism…and I hope one day we can all unite together to get it x

        1. I hear you. It hurts so much more when I see it happening within our movement. I suppose I expect better.

          One day we’ll win, when we all stand together in solidarity!

        2. You are oppressed. Your gender, race and socioeconomic status are used against you daily. I feel that pain. I’m poor, like you, subsisting on disability benefits. I’m mentally ill, physically disabled, gay and female. But, as a white person, I still won’t ever be judged as inferior because of my skin tone. That isn’t fair, so I’ll fight against it, call out racism when I see it, try to unpack my own white privilege so that I can fulfill the minimum standards of human decency, in helping tear down the system that hurts us all.

          I don’t have any great links (stavvers maybe?) but look up concepts like ‘intersectionality’ and ‘kyriarchy’. They are really helpful to understanding that privilege isn’t one thing, that everyone has differing privileges and suffers different oppressions.

          Hope it helps, and that your situation improves.

    2. I’m very willing to be corrected on this – these are just my thoughts at the moment. I understand the act of oppression and of having privilege as being separate, if related. Having privilege is down to the social structures we inhabit and to be a decent person I need to be aware of my privilege and be responsible with it (since I can’t disown it). However I can have privilege without being actively oppressive if I can use my privilege to amplify the voices of those without, if I can own my mistakes and make an effort to educate myself.

      I strongly believe that intersectional feminism is a growing force and that there are some high profile intersectional feminists (including Stavvers) who are helping these ideas reach a wider audience. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that a way of viewing the world which gives no-one a free pass is not always getting a warm reception.

  5. @neverdefiled: ‘Extinction burst’ – love this. And Stavvers – it really is this I think. The discussion/debate is just beginning. And it will get nasty. And you will keep on keeping on. And so will we.

  6. Well said Stavvers. I’ve got a lot in common with a lot of radical feminists’ views, but this whole transphobia thing makes me extremely chary of describing myself as one. (Not that I’m suggesting that all radfems are transphobic for a moment, but unfortunately the association exists and I want no part of it.)

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