For decades, feminism has been dedicated to furthering and securing equal rights for women. From obtaining the right to vote to fighting for reproductive rights, women and their allies have been advocating for their right to live equally.
However, feminism has long been scrutinized for being exclusionary. Women of color and lesbians have often voiced these concerns. And there’s always been much debate over whether or not men can and should identify as feminists, or if this social movement can only belong to women.
Now, with the current advancement of transgender visibility, a new debate has emerged over whether or not there is room in the feminist movement for trans individuals.
While scrolling through Facebook last week, I saw an argument – which seemed to escalate quickly – about this very issue. Initially, the heated discussion centered on whether certain comments were transphobic, and if so, what should be done about them. Some tried to intervene and explain why the comments were transphobic. It did not take long for the subject matter to shift to whether or not transwomen are, in fact, women and if they belong on feminist sites and groups.
Rather than define what feminism is or isn’t, or who is and who isn’t a feminist, we should be focusing our energies on furthering the feminist cause for everyone. If we restrict who is allowed to fight for equality, we are reenacting the same form of discrimination that our oppressors have historically enacted upon us. Without question, we cannot say equal rights for us but not for them. Ultimately, if we limit ourselves then we limit our possibilities.
Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Can the feminist movement withstand all of this infighting?
Here are some helpful hints to avoid infighting:
1. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume that a website or social media site that is open to all will agree with individual beliefs or that it should. If a website is open to all, then it is open to all – views included.
2. Keep in mind…your beliefs do not necessarily equate to fact, and won’t be embraced by everyone. Remember that people used to believe the Earth was flat and the center of the universe…
3. If you have a question, be open to hearing the answer, even if you don’t agree with that answer. Don’t just start an argument simply to argue. If you ask a question, and are given an answer, take a minute and think about it. Don’t ask a question with the end goal of telling a person s/he is wrong. Next, refer to step 4…
4. Educate yourself. Education is a privilege, but more importantly, it is a choice. If the answer(s) to your question seems dubious, then do some research.
5. Don’t be a hater! Channel the oppression you have experienced into exercise, art, writing, or whatever modality works for you. Do not take your pain and anger out on others. Don’t become the oppressor you are trying to fight and more importantly,
6. Communicate, don’t attack. It is okay to agree to disagree. It is not your job to change minds or opinions. State your own but respect that someone may have a different belief. Don’t become elitist, judgmental, derogatory, personal or self-righteous when someone disagrees with you.