The end of “women”

There’s a piece by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha about emotional labor. The title is


I have no idea what the second line, the one in parentheses, is supposed to mean.

Whatever it’s supposed to mean, I’m staggered before the piece even begins, by a throat-clearing that prefaces it:

Editor’s note: In this piece you may notice some departures from Bitch’s house style. This piece was edited according to the author’s specifications.

Femme: A person who has one of a million kinds of queer femme or feminine genders. Part of a multiverse of femme gendered people who have histories and communities in every culture since the dawn of time. A queer gender that often breaks away from white, able bodied, upper middle class, cis ideas of femininity, remixing it to harken to fat or working class or Black or brown or trans or non-binary or disabled or sex worker or other genders of femme to grant strength, vulnerability and power to the person embodying them. A revolutionary gender universe.

In other words…a person who for some reason thinks the word “woman” is some kind of obscenity or blasphemy or admission of guilt, and is therefore to be shunned…in favor of the word “woman” in another language. That’ll fix it.

But French – my dear, isn’t that terribly elitist? It’s only snobby people who sip their lattes in coastal bubbles who know French. Surely it should be mujer.

But more to the point – fuck that.

I’m so sick of this constant drip-drip-drip insistence that actually women have to be kicked out of feminism now because women are not oppressed at all but rather the source of oppression, because they’re such white cis able-bodied upper middle class bitches. There’s no such thing as “femme gendered people” who are a category apart from women, and being fat or working class or black or brown does not make you not a woman. I’m so sick of this stupid malevolent woman-hating bullshit. There is no “revolutionary gender universe” that excludes women – that right there is just plain old vanilla patriarchy, and I say the hell with it.

But she goes with it. Everything is femme.

The thing about being a working class or poor and/or disabled and/or parenting and/or Black, Indigenous or brown femme is that people are going to ask you to do stuff for them. Oh, are they ever…And because: your life as a working class or poor and/or sex working and/or disabled and/or Black or brown femme person has taught you that the only damn way you or anybody survives is by helping each other…It’s maybe what hippies mean when they talk about the gift economy, it’s just a million times more working class, femme, Black and brown, and sick in bed.

Do not say women; never say women; women are the enemy.

We live in a white capitalist colonialist cissexist ableist patriarchy that oppresses in many ways, including by reviling all that is femme. In the queer communities I’ve been part of since the ’90s, I’ve witnessed how femmephobia, sexism, and transmisogyny act together to view femininity and femmeness as weak, less than, not as smart or competent, “hysterical,” “too much,” not worthy of praise or respect, enforcing rape culture and political, economic and social disenfranchisement of femmes. Forget femme invisibility; the thing most femmes I know are impacted by is lack of femme respect. Femmephobia and transmisogyny infuse queer and mainstream cultures in a million ways, from the ways in which femme genders are seen as inherently less radical (i.e., assuming money spent on makeup or femme clothing is somehow more capitalist than that spent on bowties and butch wax) to the ways in which, as writer Morgan M. Page notes, “Any minor slip of language or politics and [trans women] are labeled “crazy trans women,” resulting in trans women being expelled from queer communities.

Yeah. It’s all femmephobia and transmisogyny; no sexism or misogyny at all. Women are shit; it’s only femmes that are any good.

Generations of femmes have written and organized about misogyny and transmisogyny in queer and trans communities, and I’m alive because of this work. But I remain, with many other femme/feminine people, harmed by misogynist ideas about care labor, where endless free emotional labor is simply the role our communities have for femme and feminine people. As a newly physically disabled, working class femme of color in the ’90s, I often felt how the queer and prison justice communities I was part of looked down on my gender, especially when I was sick and broke and surviving abuse and needing support. Then I really sucked—I was just another needy, weak girl, huh? The one place femme people could receive respect in those communities was if we were tough, invulnerable, always “on,” and never needing a thing.

And if they carefully said “femme” instead of “women” because…no, I still don’t know why. To be better than those bitches, clearly, but why she sees that as somehow an advance on feminism I do not know.

11 Responses to “The end of “women””