Since my induction to the feminist blogosphere, I’ve put much time into narrowing my focus. Widespread blogging seems too general, unfocused, and leaves me with little direction. Mostly, I don’t feel I learn as much as I want when I blog across the spectrum.
About a year ago, I decided to move forward in specific issues relating to feminism – defining “radical,” exploring sexual violence, faith, media, and womyn of color.
Every once in a while though, I wonder if focusing on “feminism” somehow limits my exploration of “gender.”
How does that focus change me, my writing, when and if I write: I want to explore feminism vs. I want to explore gender.
Is it the same thing?
Before I would have emphatically stated yes.
Now, I would emphatically distinguish that mainstream feminism and academic courses absolutely ignore the entirety of gender as an issue. Often times, feminism is conflated with the upward political, class, and elitist advancement of White women. Somehow, in some contorted, quiet way, I’ve often thought that gender has gotten lost in feminism. Sure, it’s pointed out when women, particularly women of privilege are abused, oppressed, or violated, but, for the most part, feminism and gender, ironically, are often not paired together in headliners.
I’m thinking, specifically, of the transgendered lives and experiences that I, admittedly, know very little about.
I am not and do not identify transgender and have often felt like my understanding is extremely limited by my slow understanding and deconstruction of socialization when it comes to gender roles. For as much as I analyze the experience of womyn of color, I often fail at pushing myself to explore the experience of transgendered womyn of color. Semantically, it’s easy to ask, “What about the transgender folks?” But to truly be an individual open to learning the struggles and causes of the transgendered population, the questions must conquer the fear and confusion.
And so, as someone suggested to write about feminism as it relate[s] to transgender, here’s my honest reply:
I don’t know. You tell me.
And I write that with as much respect and honesty as a womyn of color who once asked how feminism relates to US-born Filipinas with immigrant parents. I write that as someone who asks how feminism relates to a late-birthed sexual awakening and an even delayed political consciousness. How does feminism relate to transgender lives?
If I do not live a transgendered life, do not know the full extent of the pain and violence and discrimination suffered by transgendered womyn, I will not know how feminism relates to them, or even IF it relates to them.
Despite what is being written in the history of mainstream feminists in the westernized, classist world of iconic femmies with self-serving agendas, the truth is that feminism has the power to transform consciousness and spirit. It has the ability to challenge our very definitions of humanity and rights. I believe, however, that it must arrive in the grain of relationship and a shitload of humility.
Feminism, the study of women’s lives, excludes no one…in theory. Yet, we don’t live theoretically, do we?
We live individually, often to own detriment. We live so individualistically that we fail to even understand gender within feminsm and we fail ourselves. We fail as writers, activists, listeners…we fail as people, I think, when we forego others. Feminism has long bypassed transgendered womyn. I write that as someone who only sees transgender issues written about when someone has been slain. I write that as someone whose blog only mentions transgender issues a handful of times.
Truthfully, my goal as a writer is to point out the holes. Most people mistake that for seeing the negative, or constantly bitching about what’s wrong. But there are enough fans of mainstream feminism and not enough compassionate critics who long to see it do better than what it is currently doing. And the “doing” isn’t by feminism itself, but by the students and practitioners who claim to be activists within a “Movement.” And if the students and practitioners are happy with feminism, we are in big trouble.
It isn’t just about transgendered folks being ignored or how the issues are only mentioned in the blogosphere by way of violence and brutality, it’s the complete disregard for any gritty issue of gender when it involves unfamiliar territory. This is true for feminism as it relates to the disability movement, transnational or international womyn, immigration, faith, Katrina…the list goes on.
Feminism does not make itself relevant to folks like you and me. We must make it so.
In other words, your voice, my voice is needed to explain why.