Expect light posting from me until 2006 – I’m just too busy to spend a lot of time on “Alas.” But I wanted to point out this excellent discussion of transwomen and feminism, which took place in Feministe’s comments, mostly between three writers I respect a lot: Piny, Emma of GenderGeek, and Tekanji of Shrub.com. Tekanji, in particular, did a wonderful job of arguing that a definition of “women” that includes transwomen is compatable with, and desirable for, feminism.
From Tekanji’s final post on that thread:
But, part of what I see as a gender democracy is that it focuses on adding to existing definitions, not taking away. Just because I choose to work outside of the home and not have children does not make some other woman’s choice to become a stay-at-home mom any less valid, right? In that same regard, the ability for a transwoman to call herself, and be seen as, a woman should not invalidate the womanhood of women-born-women.
Also, on the “helping our cause” area, I disagree. I think that in order to get society* to a place where the transgendered (et, al) are accepted – be they woman-identifying, man-identifying, neither or both – is to get to a place where a person’s choice is not seen as genderdized. In that way, I see the struggle of women-born-women and the transgendered (et, al) to be one and the same: we all want the same opportunities, rights, and freedoms as men-born-men have traditionally have, as well as the ability for the traditonally “feminine” to be seen as something of equal value so that men-born-men can aspire to it, too. If “masculine” and “feminine” were seen as equal, then I am quite sure that the gender binary wouldn’t be nearly as important as it is now. [...]
I don’t believe having a less strict (more mutable, more inclusive, etc) definition of “woman” necessitates the eradication of the subtleties of the current defintion. We already have a diverse set of people who fit under the word “woman”, we already need specific subsets to deal with their distinct needs, so what’s adding yet another subset onto that in order to help alleviate the oppression of some of our sisters?
That last paragraph in particular does a wonderful job of putting into words something I’ve thought about this question for years. Like Tekanji, I’ve long been disturbed by a strong streak of transphobia among some feminists; that was a major reason I grew disenchanted with the late, great Ms. Boards.
There’s more good stuff in the discussion at Feministe, so I’d recommend reading the whole thing.