Today, via Egotistical Whining, I got word of a conversation going on at Womensspace regarding the decision Canada's Supreme Court made to decline to take up the case where a transwoman named Kimberly Nixon was appealing a lower court's decision that Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR is an organization that purports to support victims of sexual assault) was justified in prohibiting transwomen from employment because such women were not raised and treated as women since childhood. In the post entitled "Woman (Born Woman) Only Spaces Protected by Supreme Court of Canada Ruling" Heart (the author of Womensspace) agrees with the lower court's decision and also felt that Nixon was wrong to even sue VRR because it meant the organization had to spend thousands of dollars defending its discrimination against transpeople and that's money that could have otherwise gone to helping people at the center. The court's decision and Heart's comments don't sit well with me for one simple reason: I am against discrimination and that is what this case is all about.
This is a response that I left on Womensspace in response to Heart's comments about the Nixon case:
Heart: "This lawsuit was not about defining who a woman is" it was about the right of equality groups, including females, to define the boundaries of their own spaces."
If a group discriminates against transpeople, then it isn't actually an equality group at all.
This idea about some supposed "right" you mentioned, sounds (to me) A LOT like the arguments posed by those who have sought to discriminate against other groups. What is the difference between a women's group that would like to keep out women with disabilities and one that seeks to exclude trans-women?
As a person who has lived with and without disabilities, I have seen how differently one is treated by the world based on one's perceived status as either "healthy" or "sick". Does that mean that I should be excluded from groups that are supposed to support female victims of rape? Isn't rape something that happens to disabled and trans-women too?
Heart: "So she brings this lawsuit, costing the shelter thousands and thousands of dollars, not to mention all of the energy and time expended, all of which could have been used to serve and support raped and terrorized women and which could have closed the shelter down entirely."
Sometimes ending discrimination means that some people will lose advantages that they once possessed. However, the fact that a group does SOME good does not mean that those who are fighting discrimination should just give them a free pass. Abolishing Jim Crow laws meant that white people had to wait a lot longer when they went to the doctor's office, when they tried to get their kids into good schools, when they went to the voting booth, et cetera. However, ending discrimination was the right thing to do then and it still is today in this case involving the VRR.
This lawsuit IS about defining who a woman is. Just look at what Jay said on behalf of VRR:
"We believe it is important for raped and battered women to have the choice of a women-only peer group for support. Now the Supreme Court of Canada has strengthened their right as well as strengthening our right to provide that support"
In other words, by excluding trans-women, the VRR claims that it is providing women-only peer groups. That statement shows VRR is defining trans-women as outside of its definition of who actually is a "woman".
While transwomen are just as vulnerable to rape as other women are--the VRR recognizes this by acknowledging them as belonging to the group that they are supposedly set up to support--according to the VRR, they are not, however, sufficiently "woman" enough to work there because they may have had a different sort of upbringing from the other women that work there.
I wonder what reaction many feminists would have had if a group with the same supposed goals as VRR decided that since all their other members and volunteers had an upper-class upbringing, any one who came from an impoverished background shouldn't be allowed to work there.
I find myself completely underwhelmed by the way that mainstream feminists imitate the very same patriarchy that they claim to abhor and fight against. It's a topic that I talk about a lot because the hypocrisy of it all bothers me more than when I have to deal with those who openly admit that they see nothing wrong with the discrimination and oppression that women face.
It seems that everyone and their momma (within the so-called "movement") wants to call themselves "radical feminists". However, there is very little about them that's different from all the other folks in mainstream feminism. It's still the same ol' folks trying to decide for the rest of us, what constitutes proper and improper behavior for women. I don't know of a single feminist person of color blogger or one with disabilities who hasn't come across this sort of stuff at some point. I'm not the only one who has written about it. Black Amazon spoke about it here. CoffeeandInk touched on it here and Liza Sabater remarked about it here.
Not unexpectedly, several of those on Heart's site, seem to believe that they are and should be considered the ultimate arbiters of what it means to be a woman. Rabfish pointed out that gender is constructed but none of Heart's other commenters seemed to be able to comprehend what that means. All of their comments are predicated on the idea that transwomen are not really women and, therefore, should not be given the same treatment that women deserve.
Can someone please explain to me what's so radically feminist about claiming that certain women should be discriminated against? And am I the only one who finds it just a tad bit ironic that a so-called radical feminist calls it protection when a decidedly patriarchal institution says that it's okay to discriminate against some women?