Or, better yet, FemmeMarch

Jacob Tobia’s tweets about how we need to stop talking about women and feminism were a short version  of an article he wrote explaining that we need to stop talking about women and feminism. It’s good to get his full article in all its profundity.

This month is Women’s History Month. From Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes, to the fervor of the #TimesUp movement, to Women’s Marches across the country and around the world, women’s power has been growing and spreading and amplifying like whoa. Which is, obviously, something I am thrilled about.

Obviously. But. We can tell there’s a “but” coming. We’d be able to tell even if we hadn’t read his tweets.

But amid all of this pussypower, I’ve found myself struggling to communicate with feminist allies, organizers, colleagues, and friends about something that’s been putting me off: the word “woman” itself.

That’s one hell of a “but”! Weeeeeee I’m thrilled about all this women’s power only there’s just this one tiny thing…the “women” part. Other than that I’m over the moon!

I don’t want to be difficult or anything, but I’m just not sure that the word “woman” can hold all of the political weight that we need it to in 2018. Try as I might, I can’t shake the feeling that organizing solely around “womanhood” is also organizing solely around the gender binary. In an era when so many genderqueer and nonbinary young folks are throwing off the idea of manhood and womanhood altogether — the idea that people can be reduced to one of two gender categories in the first place — “woman” as a sole identity around which to organize feels, I dunno, retro? Counterproductive? A touch off-base?

When many of my organizer friends use the term “woman,” I know that they don’t mean it in an exclusionary way. They use it as an abbreviation for a more complex, nuanced set of identities. In their minds, “woman” is just shorthand for “transgender women, cisgender women, and feminine-of-center gender nonconforming/nonbinary people.” But the trouble with this shorthand is that, in the public imagination, it can quickly feel like erasure.

Whereas getting rid of the word that names half of fucking humanity is the kind of erasure that is A-ok.

Though contemporary, enlightened, intersectional feminists understand the term “woman” as a wide and all-inclusive net, that understanding gets lost more often than not.

If it’s “all-inclusive” then what does it mean? And why isn’t Jacob Tobia yammering at men about being inclusive and intersectional? Why does Jacob Tobia take it for granted that it’s women who have to move over and shut up and stop talking about their rights?

Most people don’t realize that the term “woman” could even be shorthand in the first place. We have to face the fact that, to most people, the term “woman” doesn’t paint a rainbow picture of all people on the feminine spectrum. When the average person hears “woman,” they hear only “person born with a vagina.” So when we say “woman,” they assume it means the same thing as “female.”

Again – what about men? Why aren’t men being rebuked and lectured for using the word “men”? Why aren’t we being splained how rainbow and spectrumy the word “men” is? Why aren’t we being told that when the average person hears “man,” they hear only “person born with a penis”? Why is it only women who are told to make way?

As much as folks want to claim an intersectional approach, organizing that occurs solely under the label of “woman” always feels to me — a genderqueer, male-assigned, feminine-of-center cutie with facial hair and a bold lip — like something of a fuck-you.

Well you know what, Jacob? Your eagerness to get rid of the word “women” feels to us like a massive, calculated, impudent, entitled, male-centered fuck-you.

I look around a room full of Women’s March supporters and I wonder to myself, “Do they understand me as a woman? Do they really get how much I belong here? Or do they just think that I’m some sort of cute ally?” I look around a room full of celebs proclaiming time’s up and I wonder if they really see me in their movement. I listen to Oprah talking about “every woman who chooses to say, ‘Me too.’ And every man who chooses to listen” and I wonder: What doesshe mean by “woman” and “man”? How does she understand those terms? What do they mean to her?

Is she thinking about me enough? Is she thinking only about herself and the other women? How can I stop her?

Naturally, it’s scary to bring this up. As a nonbinary trans person whose femininity is invalidated and attacked at every turn, I often lack the courage to talk with cis women about the way that their language feels to me.

Because he realizes how outrageous it would be?

I’m afraid (and reasonably so) that the moment I open my mouth to critique language used by the women’s movement, I’ll have my femininity attacked all over again.

Oh. I see. It’s all about his “femininity,” and the women’s movement has a hell of a nerve not putting him first.

He offers the “elegant” women and femmes solution.

Think about it. What if, in her Golden Globes speech, Oprah had instead said, “I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women and femmes who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.” What if she’d declared loudly and for all of America to hear, “For too long, women and femmes have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.”

Everyone who watched her speech would’ve been productively challenged, perhaps even confused. There would be questions, sure: “What does femmesmean?” “Why did she say that?” but those questions would be a good thing for feminism. Overnight, the entire Internet would’ve exploded with essays about what “and femmes” meant. It would prompt an outpouring of discussion, the likes of which we have never seen, about exactly what it means to welcome trans women and gender-nonconforming femmes into the fold.

If, as trans-inclusive feminists, we stop saying “women” and start saying “women and femmes,” I think we might be able to ensure that our message is no longer lost in translation. I mean, “The March for Women and Femmes” has a nice ring to it, no? Or, better yet, FemmeMarch. Now that is a sexy, overtly-trans-and-nonbinary-inclusive title I can get behind.

There it is. In the first post I said it would happen next year, but there it is already – no more women, just “femmes” – and not real femmes, not girly lesbians, but men appropriating the word for themselves.

You couldn’t make it up.

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