Intersectionality Has Its Limitations

Why is it that heterosexual third-wave feminists understand “intersectionality” when it comes to everyone except Lesbians?

You know, Lesbians? Your sisters? Your sisters who love other Women (and by Women, I mean Women – not Trans Women).

A friend alerted me to a discussion on the Guerrilla Feminism Facebook page, run by a Woman named Lachrista Greco. I don’t pay much attention to Feminist Facebook pages, as they tend to ban Radical Feminist discussions, and I had never heard of Greco until two days ago.

Greco made a statement on her page that “Transphobia will not be tolerated” in response to a thread that devolved into a “what about the transwomen” discussion.

And she banned Women. A lot of Women (including me, because I am mean and scary).

The “transphobia” was, of course, Women, many of whom are Lesbian, stating that “transwomen are men.”

This statement – that transwomen are men – is KIND OF REALLY IMPORTANT for Lesbians.

Why?

Because Lesbians have been pressured by Rape Culture concepts created by transwomen (Cotton Ceiling, anyone?) to examine our sexuality and consider that Penis might actually be Female.

images

Come on in, the Penis is Womanly!

The Cotton Ceiling is the same old Compulsory Heterosexuality, just in a Queer form. It’s amazing to me that anyone with a feminist analysis defends it. And yet they do!

Women tire of being told we cannot discuss Rape Culture concepts like the Cotton Ceiling, and other aspects of gender identity that specifically (negatively) impact Women and Lesbians because it might hurt the feelings of transwomen.

Sisters, it is not Transphobic to know that transwomen are men.

Sisters, the feelings of transwomen are not more important than the bodies and spaces of Women.

But fine, disagree and ban us; it’s your right. (Oh and btw, Greco isn’t the first woman to do this; Jill Filopovic did the same thing on her page earlier this year.)

But Greco didn’t stop there.

When called on her willingness to silence Lesbians to spare the feelings of transwomen, Greco DENIED her heterosexuality.

whatevs

“you don’t know that I’m straight.”
BUT OK CUPID DOES.

Like, flat out, said “you don’t know that I’m straight.”

GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD!

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Earlier this year, Ms. Magazine’s Avital Nathman made similar statements, wondering on her Twitter why her own sexuality was relevant at all to her inability to see the issue of gender identity from the position of other Women (especially Lesbians).

Oh, I don’t know. Because maybe you have a bias? Like, a big huge bias?

Like, maybe the fact that because YOU are comfortable being sexual with Men means that you might (unconsciously? subconsciously? consciously?) think that those of us who aren’t (let’s call us Lesbians) are bigots?

Like, maybe you don’t see how gender identity impacts Lesbians differently (and adversely) AT ALL?

Like, maybe you aren’t considering how the intersections of our sexual orientation create different, complex issues for us to navigate in a heteronormative culture?

Apparently, Greco’s heterosexuality was important enough for her to lie about it. Greco is, in fact, straight, a fact that anyone with Internet access and 5 minutes can confirm from her OK Cupid account.

whatevs

HAI! I DIDN’T STEAL THIS! LIKE, IT’S PUBLIC.

It’s pretty outrageous that a feminist would play “you don’t know if I’m straight” when silencing Lesbians. Because YES, in fact, despite the dishonest little quip, you are indeed a straight Woman participating in the erasure and silencing of Lesbians. 

Disagree with us. Fine. Disagree all day.

But don’t lie.

* Also, kudos to sisters who DO stand with Lesbians, including Smash the Patriarchy and Femonade.

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About Cathy Brennan

Gender Atheist.

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73 Comments on “Intersectionality Has Its Limitations”

  1. doublevez Says:

    “…a straight Woman participating in the erasure and silencing of Lesbians.”

    I think that’s called Homophobia.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      Yes, it is. When I pointed this out to Lachrista, she was real sisterly about it and created a whole new thread on her page about what a crazy person I am, with comments like “she mad” and “Cathy Brennan is a b&tch.”

      This passes as feminism in 2012.

  2. Jacqueline S. Homan Says:

    “Cotton ceiling” smacks of the tiresome accusation of “misandry.” Cocks in frocks are not women. End of. I don’t get why women-born-women who claim to be radical feminists would not have their sisters’ backs. To me, radical feminism is not supposed to be a pick-and-choose smorgasboard.

    • zrusilla Says:

      Us straight women know alllll about men wheedling, cajoling and guilttripping us into sex. Shouldn’t be that hard to understand.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        The staunchest allies I have IRL are straight women, for precisely this reason. THEY KNOW. My straight friends cannot BELIEVE that there is actually a thing called “The Cotton Ceiling.” They are like “Um, lesbians don’t want to have sex with men.”

        Just from my observations, this lack of “understanding” very much seems to be concentrated in a specific age group (20s-30s), specific race (white) and specific kind of feminism (the porny kind).

        All we can do is call bullshit.

      • FCM Says:

        seriously. JUST THE (womanly) TIP, BABY I PROMISE. i heard all this shit by the time i was 15 years old. all women have, and yet all men continue to use the same tired lines on women. gee i wonder why transwomen use the same lines men do?

        also, i explored the WHY and HOW sex-pozzies buy into the trans BS here:

        http://factcheckme.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/peak-fun/

        its a complicated and perfect storm that goes beyond merely being compliant dick-pleasers — soccer moms arent buying this shit even though they buy into other shit. its specific to this point in time i think, and has everything to do with de-politicising sex and minimizing and erasing the harms of the penis (also known as sex-pozzie). see what you think.

      • FCM Says:

        also, “third wave” feminists are not feminists.

  3. Jacqueline S. Homan Says:

    Also, it is not “transphobic” to point out that men with autogynophilia/gender dysphoria are oppressing women and thwarting our struggle for the liberation of all (real) women as a class. It is not “phobic” to be critical of those who are oppressing you.

  4. sajack26 Says:

    Why does it have to be one or the other? Can’t ALL women stand together regardless of biology, if you identify as a woman you are a woman. The devides within feminism are counterproductive we need to support each other not put rules in place that determine who is a woman and who isn’t, gender is between the ears not between the legs.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      Gender is not “real” except as a tool to oppress women.

      You should try to be an ally to Women.

      • FCM Says:

        trans-lation:

        why do radical feminists have to exist and try to be effective? cant men invade and colonize feminism to benefit themselves? why not? radical feminism is counterproductive to patriarchy so we need to make more rules against radical feminism. dominance/submission gets me hard, therefore its good and we need more of it forever.

      • karmarad Says:

        Sajack says:
        Why does it have to be one or the other? Can’t ALL women stand together regardless of biology, if you identify as a woman you are a woman. The devides within feminism are counterproductive we need to support each other not put rules in place that determine who is a woman and who isn’t, gender is between the ears not between the legs.

    • Jacqueline S. Homan Says:

      sajack26 said: “Can’t ALL women stand together regardless of biology, if you identify as a woman you are a woman.”

      Let me put it this way: if you were NOT born a woman, no amount of “designer vagina” surgery can make you one. “Feeling like” a woman doesn’t make you a woman anymore than me standing in my garage makes me a car, m’kay. So no, we can’t all “just get along.” I saw what happened when trannies hijacked the abortion rights rallies across the US this past April and wanted to make our fight for bodily autonomy all about them and not about us. So kindly pardon me for not being very forgiving when you GUYS do this same sort of shit to my Lesbian sisters to erase them and undermine their struggle, which is also MY struggle because what is done to one of my sisters, Lesbian or het, is also done unto me.

    • michelle Says:

      One cannot “identify” their way out of biological reality.

  5. Lori Says:

    So by this rationale, all my transmen friends are actually women, and should be included in all feminist circles?

    Also, why do you distinguish between Women and Lesbians? That makes no sense.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      Transmen are actually women.

      Oh, so do you reject intersectionality when it comes to Lesbians? Why did this not shock me! Yanno, sometimes Lesbians have different concerns than Straight Women, just as sometimes issues impact Women of Color differently than White Women. Duh.

      • Angie Says:

        Isn’t this entire argument actually supporting the binary division (and domination of one sex over another) of men and women? Aren’t non-binary identities necessary to break the system that sets men above women? What is so scary about non-binary identities that it evokes this kind of exchange in feminist circles? I sincerely don’t understand, and rather than be another person who acts like they know, I’d like someone who believes that transwomen and transmen are an affront to feminism to explain to me exactly how trans* exclusion from feminist struggle and theory DOESN’T support a binary system of oppression. Does gender fluidity not exist? What does that mean for intersex individuals? There are so many complications to boxing women in as “women” and men in as “men.” I just don’t see how trans* exclusion actually helps the feminist struggle. Again, I don’t want to hear the rhetoric about the cotton ceiling and all that; I have read that; I have heard that. Please tell me how trans* exclusion HELPS the feminist movement rather than how trans* inclusion HURTS the feminist movement. It seems we always hear about the latter and not the former.

        No one owes me anything, but if anyone would like to take on these questions, I would love to listen and discuss. Thanks.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        Stop. Conflating. Sex. And. Gender.

        I am beginning to think transition causes brain damage, with the lack of reading comprehension exhibited by transwomen on this blog.

        Once again… Gender is a tool to oppress women. A gender binary is supporting masculine and feminine gender roles. Radical feminists don’t support this. Trans does – you just switch out your stereotype.

        Sex exists. This is why transwomen “need” to take hormones and have sex reassignment surgery. Your penis might feel womanly to YOU but that is irrelevant to the reality that it is a penis, a male organ.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        “The confusing thing, of course, is why somebody would need serious surgery and testosterone to modify their gender (sic) if gender is supposed to be so fluid in the first place.”

        Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs, p. 127

      • bugbrennan Says:

        Oh and by the way, nothing is “scary” about “nonbinary” identities. You think our concerns stem from “fear”? Get the fuck out of here. Go read some books, and come back, and maybe you’ll understand why Women don’t want Men to tell us how to do feminism.

        Hint: I model this root “emotion” every chance I get.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        From Shakesville (I don’t agree with the trans analysis I’ve read there, but I like this).

        “Progress is dependent on people who get angry, because anger—productive anger, motivating anger, directed anger, rational anger—is the root of all progress.

        Feminists/womanists and their allies know that change comes by virtue of anger.

        Progress ain’t fueled by rainbows and gumdrops.

        If you’re not angry, you’re probably not helping.”

  6. radicalwoman Says:

    Whenever someone says “intersectionality”, I hear “let’s be sure actual women are the least important people in feminism.” Business as usual.

  7. Dee Says:

    I’m sorry, I’m quite new to this kind of feminist discourse. What is the Cotton Ceiling? And please explain intersectionality.

  8. Kate Says:

    (Redacted comment from a lesbian with trans friends, stating that our not wanting to have sex with men is “hateful.”

    Kate, the world for lesbians who have sex with men is “bisexual.” There’s no shame in that.)

    • Kate Says:

      No, I’m not saying who you want to sleep with makes you hateful, I’m saying your other comments such as calling them men make you hateful.

    • Kate Says:

      And I see you’re not above silencing the voices of lesbians who disagree with you either.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        You’re an idiot.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        Say something worthwhile. All you have is “you’re so mean.” No one cares. We don’t believe you. We don’t trust you.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        Did you not notice that this is my blog? Like, my blog. You don’t have a right to shit all over it. Just like Lachrista has a right to ban women for being big meanies (although makes her a tool). This post is about her lack of analysis (and yours) and her willingness to lie about her bias.

        Take your entitled ass somewhere else, Kate (who also, by the way, apparently created a NEW email address to once again come here and tell women we str bigots for knowing trans women are men, as I previously banned her from here for being an idiot. Kate, you learned the boundary violating WELL from your pals!)

      • Kate Says:

        Yeah and if it makes her a tool what does it make you?

      • bugbrennan Says:

        Right.

        Her views on gender identity are wrong, as are yours. That makes radical feminism…wait for it… Right.

    • Kate Says:

      And by the way I think it’s extremely arrogant that you think you have the right to unilaterally declare someone is not a “real” lesbian if they have a relationship with a trans woman.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        Lesbians don’t want intimate relationships with men. That’s not arrogant, that’s the dictionary.

        Why does it bother you that you’re bisexual? What kind of weird groomer are you that you insist that Lesbians must be sexual with men?

      • Kate Says:

        No, you’re saying I’m not a lesbian just because I don’t see
        trans women as men. I’ve never been in an intimate relationship with a trans
        woman (that I know of) and as far as I’m concerned I can go my entire life
        without meeting an individual trans woman that I’m interested in taking to bed
        and still see them as women, and yes still be open to the possibility that I one
        day might. Once again don’t tell me I’m not a lesbian.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        Fine, you’re a lesbian who for some reason thinks it’s very important for other lesbians to sleep with men.

        You’re a groomer, how’s that?

      • Kate Says:

        I have however had a relationship with someone who was born intersex and required surgery as a child to get the ‘proper’ female genitals so maybe that’s gonna get me kicked out of the lesbian club as well.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        You think your specialness, your individuality, your individualism, trumps the rights of a class of humans called women.

        It does not. Try a class analysis.

        Oh and btw, any woman can be a lesbian. But no man can.

  9. Waterbug Says:

    I’m straight, female, under 30, and not sure which “wave”. Whichever wave requires a pro-choice and sex-neg position. The way I describe sex-neg is that PIV for a straight woman can be as fun as a rollercoaster or something, but that’s about it. On the risk side, it can hurt and kill women in ways men don’t have to deal with. So when placed on the scales, it isn’t worth it. Is that a good way to put it?

    Intersectionality counts and should be a highlighted issue in feminism. Women with dark skin or who prefer women sexually or who are poor have a different experience from those who are white, het, and wealthy. We still have more in common than we do with men in an essential way, at least. That gives us a united front or at least the makings of one, but still lets us talk about our own intra-group differences.

    I’ve been huffing and puffing and blowing houses down by publishing activism-focused writing in various social networks for years, but only the past year and a half has my radfem analysis come to the forefront. It is STAYING there. This blog (and its roll) and it’s commenters have given me so many tools for breaking into radfem inquiry. I look up to you all. Changed my life.

    • Waterbug Says:

      Oh, but: Trannies claiming intersectionality to access women’s space? Hell no.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      Intersectionality is hugely important and vital; the problem, as you’ve noted, is that it’s been manipulated as an analytical tool to put Men at the Center. Tool has been broken! We need a new tool. Of course, the Men will break that tool, too, probably.

      How’s about Boys on the Side Intersectionality. Or Women-only Intersectionality. And, of course, it’s infuriating to have to beg for space even within analytical tools!

      Also, thanks for reading and for your kind words. My daughter, who is sick with flu, just threw up on me, so your comment made me feel better.

  10. weirdward Says:

    Radical feminists do not believe in calving up the bodies of intersex babies and children to fit prescribed notions of ‘appropriate’ genitals.

    For the same reason, radical feminists are against plastic surgeries designed to ‘fix’ women’s bodies (there is nothing wrong with our bodies, thanks very much) like breast enlargements, vaginoplasty, labiaplasty etc. etc., as well as FGM.

    Following on from this general theme, radical feminists also don’t believe it is right or necessary to calve up the bodies of women and men (and especially girls and boys) who do not fit prescribed notions of what behaviours are ‘appropriate’ for the set of genitals they happen to possess.

    It’s amazing. We understand what consistency means. So I don’t know why Kate is playing the intersex card as if to imply that we think intersex people should have to have surgeries to conform, or that we’ll go into a panic if we see ‘improper’ genitals or something. We are the ones (the only ones!) saying women should not be forced or manipulated or pressured into undergoing bodily mutilations in the name of beauty or culture or gender identity or whatever else.

    Actually it is the trans camp that is pushing for the calving up of bodies that have been deemed inappropriate for not matching sex-role stereotype behaviour.

    Thanks for this post Cathy.

  11. bugbrennan Says:

    Hi Phylicia – I agree that this post addresses sexual orientation, specifically. Are you saying that the intersectional analysis is not applicable to the oppressions caused by being gay in a heteronormative society? Because if that is the case, wouldn’t it also be true that you would reject an intersectional analysis as applied to gender identity (and from what I understand, you are in favor of gender identity). Thanks.

    • bugbrennan Says:

      You are a total idiot – this post is about how gender identity has used intersectionality to hijack all discussions. Seriously, if you at going to be a bad ass philosopher wearing an “activist hat,” you need to (1) actually do some activism and (2) know your shit. I’ve seen some of the former, but damn, you don’t know shit.

      Now, I have asked you repeatedly to stop contacting me – by email, by text. You should really stop now, you are only hurting yourself.

  12. bugbrennan Says:

    Look at you, telling me to “read.” I have read. And for all that Towson education, you have missed the point that intersectionality deals with Gender as applied to WOMEN. Trans activists have used it to apply to men. That’s failure. My post was about the hijacking of this theory by MEN. Trans women are MEN.

    Phylicia, it’s not racist to call you an idiot. You are an idiot. You have threatened me publicly and continued to send me harassing messages despite having been asked not to. That’s criminal. I am going to the court commissioner today to press charges against you. Again, stop talking to me.

  13. doublevez Says:

    I fear for these people. They have no concept of *fact* as opposed to *whatever I decide it will be this moment, which will be different tomorrow, if I feel like that then*. They are going to be unable to navigate their way through life and unable to comprehend why they are having such difficulty. Seriously. Their “disability” goes far beyond not comprehending basic biology.

  14. Nicolas Says:

    I’m sorry but your argument here seems to boil down to you saying: “I feel uncomfortable with people being like this so I should feel free to abuse people like this.”
    Shouldn’t we all try and be more open minded with the people we meet? If someone seems to be happier being what they feel they are, rather than what their bodies are, what right do we have to judge them, shun them and make jokes at their expense? It’s not something that they’ve chosen and it’s not something that effects us. Why should we care, let alone get up in arms?

    • bugbrennan Says:

      Nicolas, are you a man? What “argument”? You mean the argument where Women say, hey, we’d like space away from men, go away?

      Also, where are the jokes? This isn’t funny. This is dead serious.

      Women have a right to establish a boundary and have it respected. If you do not support that, you are a rape culture supporter.

      • Nicolas Says:

        Yes I am a man, that doesn’t change the points I made. And while I believe everyone has a right to establish boundaries to make a safe space for themselves no one has a right to make a boundary to exclude specific groups of people.
        An important point here that you need to understand is that trans people don’t suddenly wake up and think “Hey ho, let’s try being a different gender for a change”, they are people who don’t feel comfortable with the bodies they’re in and honestly feel that they are that gender. I really don’t think that you can lump trans people in with their birth-genders, psychology is different from physiology.
        I would also like to point out that a lot of homophobes in the past would have probably made some of the same points, which probably means that you need to re-examine them, or at least try to re-phrase and clarify them.

    • Sugarpuss Says:

      Shouldn’t we all try and be more open minded with the people we meet?

      If by “open minded” you mean “open legged”, I’m gonna have to say HELL FUCKING NO.

      I personally am of the opinion that much of this trans nonsense (particularly the “lesbian in a man’s body” trope) is just a very elaborate PUA scheme designed to invade lesbian spaces. And, of course, as with ALL male creatures, the ultimate goal is to get laid. Being het, I am extremely embarrassed by the behavior of other het women who claim to be Feminist, but appear to be more worried about appeasing, and cloaking the sins of, their new masters.

      • Nicolas Says:

        No, I mean open minded. If someone’s life choices only affect them and those who choose to involve themselves in their choices, why should you care one way or another? Just live and let live.

      • bugbrennan Says:

        But it doesn’t affect “only them.” That’s the point, asshole.

      • Sugarpuss Says:

        “Live and let live”

        Tell that to the trannies. They’re the ones trying to invade lesbian spaces and not allowing them to live as they choose. So, FUCK OFF, dumbass.

      • Sugarpuss Says:

        This Nicholas character is thicker than a block of government cheese. Geeeesh!

  15. Guls Says:

    I’d never heard of this ‘cotton ceiling’ business until quite recently, when I started blogging and happened across Pretendbians. From a – more or less – straight guy’s point of view I can identify with it in a roundabout kind of way: We – men – might be turned down for sex for any number of – nuanced – reasons but in the end it comes down to ‘does she fancy me or not’ and if the answer’s no then it’s no. I’ve wasted countless hours, days and weeks agonizing and trying to rationalize why ‘x’ wasn’t interested in me romantically/sexually – and what a waste of time and unnecessary self-inflicted pain it was! But she wasn’t, and that was that. No Means No. (And I say ‘more or less’ straight because I HAVE had sexual encounters with men and they’ve been fine, but I prefer women for sure.)

    It baffles me, then, that some Transwomen pointedly pursue those LEAST likely to accept their advances and then spend inordinate amounts of time feeling sorry for themselves, getting angry, and trying to rationalize why they got turned down. I’m not transphobic in the least – not even sure quite what that means – and in fact, if I met a Transwoman and the chemistry was there I wouldn’t preclude the possibility of a relationship with such a person. I just discern something kinda masochistic and self-centred in the whole cotton ceiling thing: if you’re so confident of your declared ‘identity’ why the need to gain the acceptance and approval of others to shore it up?

    And I’m all for granting everybody their due rights, but if claiming what you see as a ‘right’ means treading on someone else’s toes then it was probably a privilege, not a right to begin with. Reality. Check. Needed. (especially if you’re one to blather loudly about ‘intersectionality’).

    Good post and great blog. Take care,

    Andy.

    • FCM Says:

      here let me fix that for you, andy:

      I just discern something kinda SADISTIC and self-centred in the whole cotton ceiling thing: if you’re so confident of your declared ‘identity’ why the need to gain the acceptance and approval of others to shore it up?

      you clearly meant SADISTIC, not masochistic. youre welcome.

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