You’d think that ‘are you a feminist’ would be an easy question to answer. Enthusiastically, you’d say ‘of course, I believe in equality, don’t you?’ In fact, if asked, I do say yes, not least because it is important to acknowledge all the changes that have brought us to the position we are now in. The women who won votes for us, women who were firsts, who fought for whatever reason. And I do believe in equality. Obviously. Not just for women but for everyone.
And therein lies a problems with feminism. It isn’t inclusive. You’d think that being on the wrong side of prejudice might make feminism open its arms to all women who have suffered. This does not seem to be the case.
A recent example of this was Germaine Greer saying in her usual subtle way that trans women can’t be women. (Does this mean you’re only a real women if you have all the correct body parts. What if you have had a mastectomy? What if you are intersex? What if you happen to look rather boyish? Do you have to prove your female parts before you are allowed to have a voice?) I do not think that the entirety of my personality – or anyone else’s – resides entirely in their genitals. I do not look at someone else and think I wonder if they have the correct genitalia for the clothes you are wearing. Greer goes on to say that transwomen don’t always look or sound like women. The assumption is then what do women sound or look like. Is she suggesting you have to be suitably feminine to be a feminist? Surely not but clearly there are some rules. Whatever it is she thinks about women and what they are like, it is very narrow and confining.
If you are going to live as a woman, you are going to face female problems, regardless of what body parts you may have beneath your clothing. If you are going to face sexism in any form then you are surely allowed a voice within feminism. Of course, I am not the same as a transwoman, just like I am not a black woman and I am not a lesbian but that doesn’t mean that I think that feminism should be open only to those who are like me. Difference is important, probably more important than sameness.
Transfeminism exists, has its own identity and doesn’t need the likes of Greer to offer support or otherwise. But it would be nice if mainstream feminism – the view that the majority of people get of the movement – would be a bit more supportive. Greer is listened to and has an enviable position in the media. It is a shame she uses this position to be a bully. Maybe it is true that once you have some form of power, you can no longer relate to others who don’t, regardless of what sex you are.