Some discussion on Gloria Steinem’s transphobia, specifically within Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions,* and what it might look like for her to do some work on retracting her statements, distancing herself from them, and—not undoing the harm, I don’t think, because how could you—but maybe making a space where those she did harm feel some respect, and some acknowledgment of the wrongdoing, and a sense that Steinem and those who identify with her are committed to moving toward a more pluralistic vision of liberation. I don’t want to speak for the trans community and what they might want, but that’s a rough précis of what I think is called for. (Please correct me if I am wrong, althought I am aware there isn’t a monolithic trans community with a spokesperson and a list of demands. Also although, I love lists of demands, so go for it if you like.) ALSO YES I JUST WROTE PRECIS, PRECIOUS.
I’m curious what the pub. date on the book and the original date on the essay were. not to say this makes it less egregious, but I hope her views have changed since she wrote that!
Well, as I stated in the post, it was originally written in 1977, and the edition was put out in 1995. In the new preface to the edition in question, she did not retract or distance herself from or apologize for anything in the essay.
Of course, 15-16 years have passed since that edition, so it is possible that her views have changed since then, and one would hope that they have. But at the same time, I really don’t think that her views changing really count for much? I mean, admittedly as a cis person my thoughts on the matter don’t really count for all that much, either, but. I’d say she not only owes an apology, but a lot of work to address the harm that those views have done to the trans community over the decades, including the harm that the feminist movement has specifically done to trans people, especially trans women. Like, you know, this.
And, you know. I sure as hell do not see her doing that work.
Which has resulted in deaths. Or cis feminists keeping trans women out of domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, which has caused deaths. Etc. Clearly, she was not only complicit in that, but an active promoter of it.
As another cis woman, I think there is also a responsibility to—without turning your back on those you’ve harmed, who should remain centered—go back to your own community (in this case feminists) and convene a discussion there and see what can be done.
I was reading old women’s magazines from the 70s at work this week. It is very exciting unto me to see that big mainstream books had regular editorials and articles about women’s lib. But the rush is always accompanied by a sick feeling because this vision of liberation is so limited and hateful. I read a whole editorial that starts out talking about how lesbians are getting a lot of press now, gals, and that’s ok! Because they are women too, and therefore part of women’s lib. But you don’t have to let their man-hating ways scare you away from the movement! SO AWFUL. I will see if I can scan it in and post it, it’s pretty intense.
Things like that make me feel like–OK how do I, as a feminist, even deal with it? See also: the suffrage ladies, who I do think were total badasses with their hunger strikes and their getting forcefed with tubes up their noses and burning the president in effigy outside the White House, but who also made such terrible terrible decisions to exclude women of color and women of other classes from the fight for enfranchisement. How can I still honor the good and acknowledge the bad? I suppose in a lot of ways reading history is just always going to be like that. There are no perfect movements and no perfect people–but that can’t be used as an excuse to not talk about the shit that has gone down and is still going down.
(Perfection issue sidebar: This is a pet peeve of mine. When people are like “Well Al Gore is such a hypocrite, he has a private plane!” And you are like, that doesn’t mean global warming isnt happening, you know. You still don’t need to buy a new tv every year. Just FYI.” There is something I call the Jesus Syndrome on the left ( different from the one on the right!) where you can justify your own inaction by seizing on things like that. I mean, John Edwards: Bad husband! Made a lot of mistakes. However, you sure don’t hear much talk on the national stage talking about poverty since he left the room. (My metaphor has a stage and a room!) It’s hard because you don’t want to fall into that trap, but then you also don’t want to ignore things like, telling Ida Tarbell she can’t march in the parade.)
Uhhh where was I. I think I’m not going to go for a neat little summation here. Working on a history of feminism brings a lot of this up for me. We want Chicklib to be inspiring and to shine a light on a lot of the radical actions that women have taken in the name of gender justice, but not gloss over the shitty things that have been done, either. I mean, it’s problematic to even call it a history of feminism because that’s a pretty modern term. Sojourner Truth and Emma Goldman wouldn’t call themselves feminists, but by including them in the book, I’m kind of claiming them. Perhaps you can now see why this project is mumblemumble almostayearbehind alsobecauseofmybeingsick butmostlythishonestly.