February 14, 2016

Transphobia and femme shaming - two sides of the same coin

Much of transphboia is rooted in our culture's disdain for femininity and feminine expressions. This applies to all femmes: straight cis-women, lesbian women, gay men and trans people of all genders.
Femme shaming is yet another way our society keeps women 
and gender variant people in check.
Photo by Maffi Iren.

People who should know better, like radical feminists, play the “feminine is a sexist stereotype” card with great enthusiasm, while at the same time embracing masculine gender stereotypes with gusto.

Muscles and leather are apparently not sexist, high heels and cleavage are.

To me this reflects a deep rooted misogyny that permeates our whole culture.

Femininity is a sign of weakness (or something worse)

This becomes especially difficult for those male to female transgender people who feel feminine and who want to express that femininity.

They are immediately dismissed as sexist, not in the same way as feminine non-transgender women, mind you (as ”sluts”, “airheads” or “bimbos”, depending on to what extent they express their sexuality) but dismissed all the same (as ”effeminate gay men” and “heterosexual perverts”).

It does not matter that “we all know” that a feminine gender expression in a woman does not equal fragility, weakness or promiscuity. Even in the most gender conscious among us the social dismissal of the feminine often takes over, and we make the same mistake over and over again: Femininity equals female equals weak equals powerless and pathetic.

Sexism and radical feminism

This tendency has been strengthened by the curse of post-structuralist philosophy; the idea that gender is nothing but a performance, a social construct with no deep roots in the personality. Or, at least, this is how such philosophy is presented by the militants.

Presenting as feminine is therefore a moral choice and a bad one. Butch is good, femme is bad.

Safira Anouk, a a two spirit native American artist and radical femme. makes the following observation over at Harlot Media:
"Femme-shaming oppresses not only women, but any gender-variant person who doesn’t equate their personal empowerment to masculine presentation. This brutal way of thinking stratifies people into a kyriarchal caste system according to their biological sex, forcing them into corresponding boxes of gender norms; arbitrarily socializing people in ways that betray their authentic selves."
Yes, this radical feminist actually believes there is such a thing as an "authentic self", and that this personality core is not just a mirage of gender symbols and semiotics.

I am certain she is right. Much of the suffering trans and queer people experience is because they are not allowed to be themselves, express themselves and be affirmed as themselves. Saying that there is no "self" does not help at all.

Anouk strongly defends her right to be femme:
"My choice to wear long nails may be partly influenced by the way that I was socialized, and it may also coincide with misogynist expectations of women, however it is my choice which I made through thoughtful analysis of pros and cons. In this case I chose in favour of my own aesthetic preference, knowing full well that they can be impractical and invite unwanted attention from disapproving feminists and chauvinist trolls alike."

Gay femme-phobia

The gay male culture has also become increasingly femme-phobic. Looking “straight” or even more straight than “straight” is the ideal. The six-pack is the new norm.

Over at iD Scottee Scottee, a femme queen, draws attention to ​femme-shaming and the need to fight back against gay-on-gay prejudice:
"Lets entertain Russell and Daniel's rhetoric that effeminacy is somehow performed -- then surely this means their beloved masculinity is also a performed action? 
My limp wrist, higher intonation and penchant for an ASOS blouse is not, contrary to popular belief a received action, I'm just being the person I feel I am. 
Granted when I'm wearing eight inches of foundation and covering myself in confetti perhaps this is a heightened version of my femme identity, but there's an argument here that this is only deemed outré because of the rules of gender our aforementioned attention seekers adhere to and enforce; perhaps we often try to be louder because we want to be heard. To paraphrase a Stonewall campaign slogan -- some people are camp, get over it."
For me femme shaming is yet another attempt by both religious, feminist and LGBT extremist to force the rest of the world to live to up to their ideals of restricted and puritan lives. It reflects centuries of sexual repression of women, the denial of sexuality in women and their pride in their female body and soul. It also turns the natural and healthy desire to celebrate yourself through clothing and appearance into something pathological.

And above all: It reinforces the cultural fear of femininity in people assigned male at birth.
Caitlyn Jenner's twitter photo. This is how
she would like to be seen.

I may disagree with Caitlyn Jenner when it comes to parts of her politics, but I will never reduce her desire to appear feminine to a result of social conditioning. It reflects a genuine part of herself that is now, finally, given room to breathe.

The fact that femme shaming has become a concept gives me hope. This means that we can finally see and do something about this kind of oppression.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!