[W]e all get told how much our activism of any sort does not matter. If you happen to not be against, or are even ambivalent towards, or maybe involved in sex work (and not the perfect poster girl victim), what you do doesn’t mean shit. It’s nothing, not good enough; after all, you haven’t seen what they’ve seen, and you are enabling it, even personally making it happen! It doesn’t matter if you bust your ass every day trying to find a woman on the run from an abusive ex a place she can afford to live. It doesn’t matter if you spend hours working with lesbians who have been kicked repeatedly by society trying to help them feel comfortable in their own skins. It doesn’t matter if you’ve scrubbed the blood and grey matter of a woman shot by her boyfriend off your floors or stood over the casket of a co-worker killed by her boyfriend in a jealous rage. It does not matter if you’re a transwoman who has been beaten or raped. It doesn’t matter if you’ve fucking lived aspects of any of these lives on your own in order to put food on the table and come through it realizing that every persons situation is different and that there is no universal experience when it comes to all women. It does not matter. You’re not good enough. Right enough. Pure enough. What you do means nothing, no matter how much of that nothing you do or how much of that nothing you’ve lived or how much of that nothing has helped other people.
The radical feminists I talk about in this blog, who write the most transphobic things are the same radical feminists who say the above – who dismiss the work Ren does because Ren does sex work – because she’s a stripper. Their bigotry is not limited to just one or two things, but a spectrum of experiences and lives that they vehemently disapprove of – BDSM, pornography, women of color who actually speak for themselves, women with disabilities. Anyone who raises uncomfortable questions about the definition of oppression in radical feminist terms – that the root of all oppressions is gender, that women are invariably oppressed, and that all these things represent oppression. BDSM reifies heteronormative patriarchal sex roles. Transsexualism reifies the patriarchal gender binary. Pornography makes women nothing more than sex objects. All women have a common experience of oppression as women, and so the pain that a black woman suffers when the violation she suffers is defined as “not really rape” and “a theft of services” is the same pain that a black woman from Mali suffers when she is refused political asylum to protect her daughters from FGM. It’s the same pain that a Russian woman who’s been trafficked into sex slavery suffers. It is the same pain that a latina woman suffers when she is separated from her daughter before deportation. These are all the same pain that a white middle-class woman feels when she reads about these stories. Or so some radical feminists might say.
This denies that all women have our own diverse experiences, that we experience life differently, that we’re oppressed in many ways because of race, disability, class, and sexual orientation. That my experience as a white woman is not the same as a black woman’s, or that black woman’s experiences are not the same as mine because she is cissexual and I am transsexual. That we have intersections that stack and multiply the social complications we face, and that it is impossible to separate “race” from “gender” for women of color, or “disability” from “gender” for women with disabilities.
Instead of looking for a common thread that binds all women together, we’re better served trying to address the real experiences that real women live. A form of feminism that runs women who don’t share that common thread out on a rail isn’t really a feminism I can get behind. Especially not one whose proponents try to silence voices like these.