Tag Archives: intersectionality

On Being Defended

A Femme Alliance

Probably the most obvious, and unfortunate, commonality between women and trans people is that we know what it’s like to be abused, and for the threat of abuse and [sexual] violence to be constant. But I do think the shared experience of brutality can be used to shape us into a wilful force of resistance; to defend each other and let ourselves be defended.

I used to be quick-witted when harassed on the streets or in bars. Two to seven words were usually enough; shouted out before an open car window could be wound back up. The men would just snigger in reply but there was something satisfying in fighting back. It took the edge off the humiliation of objectification. But somehow, somewhere, my ability (or desire) to defend myself was worn out.

I just want a break.

When you stand by and watch someone being abused – verbally, physically or (in a longer term sense) emotionally – I do think you’re complicit in it. I think we all have a responsibility to defend each other. And it’s not without risk. I’ve watched so many men and women get high and mighty about their feminist cred; thinking they have all the knowledge (and/or ontological right) to put other people in their place without interrogating the ways they themselves are fucking people over. There are political implications to acting as though someone can’t protect or defend themselves, or that you can do it better. [If you plan on doing it, ask first if that’s what someone wants].

For a long time I thought independence meant self-sufficiency. But the stockpiling of abuse I have taken taught me that having people around to stand up for me was not only a valid survival technique (and what a privilege it was to have ever thought I could persist alone), but a complete pleasure.

Watching my femme friends or lovers verbally rip apart the guys that hassle me is a freakin dream. It’s so unexpected. She’s sharp and witty and seethingly mad and he’s so taken aback and confused he’s stunned into a retreatful silence. Violence always escalates. When I push some guy off a friend, it’s not so unlikely he’ll turn around and punch me in the face. On the contrary, the political – gendered and subversive – (and practical) power of a femme offensive like that shows up the deficiencies of any other kind of recourse. But I do what I can. And this is something we can ask each other for.

It’s not that we can’t defend ourselves, but what a relief to (even occasionally) not have to.

  • On Being Defended is a part of the series against self-sufficiency – an investigation of what is left out when feminist theory/art/movement avoids or ignores the specificities of ftm trans lives, and the ways in which we can work/resist/persist together.
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Filed under Feminist Politics, Max Attitude, What's Queer Here?

Get to it

F: A festival. A conference. A future.

April 10-11. Sydney, Australia.

This is a response to Kate O’Halloran’s review of F – The future of feminism

I think feminism, especially ‘these days’, is (and should be) less about ‘women’ and more about what I will reluctantly term ‘human rights’ – the right to be treated fairly; to not be abused, mistreated, disrespected. You can’t divorce gendered oppression from racism, nor can you separate women’s oppression from the gendered oppression of trans people.

The ways in which feminism created, took up, and continues to (way too often but not always) rely on a politics of identity is disappointing at best. Identity necessitates exclusion – the exclusion of trans people from political spaces (women’s, but also, ‘feminist’) is, I think, the most obvious and perhaps simplest (most easily overcome) example of this.

What I like so much about (the prospect of) F is that the organisers have really taken this on. It’s not just that “feminism comes in many forms” but so do feminists. Ways in which our differing experiences ([and] of oppression) affect our ways of organising and prioritising feminist movement and change (the possibilities of the future) are really important. Too often this has been (and continues to be) overlooked by a failure of participants to interrogate their own privileges.

Building alliances through our differing feminist struggles and coalescing about the possibilities of feminist futures is really freakin exciting. Get to it.

Register (and read the conference blog) here.

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