Trigger Warning: Trans*phobia, transmisogyny
Following trends like #CognitiveCissonance and #FuckCisPeople, #DearCisFeminism has quickly been spreading like rapid fire across Twitter. This hashtag, like the others, is to call into question the double standards that feminism has towards its acceptance of hateful and oppressive ideology while pushing trans* people, especially trans women, out of the picture. Tweets covered broad topics anywhere from the dominance of butch/masculine people in feminist discourse (while rejecting femme/feminine people as upholding the patriarchy), the refusal to call out TERFs (like Brennan) on their misogynistic and bigoted statements, and how cis feminism often ignores women of color, sex workers, the poor, and others while focusing on their own middle class white cis needs.
Like everything else a minority tries to do to bring attention to their plights, struggles, and needs, people have tried to take over the hashtag. TERFs and their supporters have invaded the tag by saying it highlights how men are trying to tell women what to do, how trans* activism is anti-woman, and proclaiming that the hashtag was abusing women. Per usual, calling out transmisogyny, cissexism, and trans*phobia is being met with cries of abuse, misogyny, and lesbophobia. Of course, those questioning the tag were outnumbered by those using the tag to try and prove some point. Often, those who hijacked the tag were proof as to why the hashtag was needed. Tweets calling trans women men, proclaiming their calling out of feminism and it’s cis-centric view to be misogyny and abuse, were the trend among the hijackers.
I got in touch with the creator of the hashtag, Laurelai Bailey, to talk about her reasoning behind the hashtag. Laurelai also created the #FuckCisPeople hashtag. Creating movements on Twitter is something she is not new too, nor is she known for being quiet. The history of this new hashtag stems in many prominent and vocal feminists supporting End Online Misogyny (@misogyny_online). EOM’s mission statement seems great on paper, “to highlight & challenge the online misogynistic abuse women experience”, in practice, not so much. EOM has a history of painting trans women and those who call out transmisogyny, cissexism, and trans*phobia as abusers and misognyists. In fact, EOM has supported people like Victoria Brownworth (a pedophile for profit and fake ally), Cathy Brennan (known extremist TERF who doxxes, stalks, harasses, and pairs trans women on her site with murderers and rapists), and other TERFs who attack trans women for simply existing. While EOM holds a ‘neutral’ stance on feminism and exclusionary ideology, neutrality automatically sides with the oppressor. EOM actively blocks trans women and sides with their attackers. Practice outshines EOM’s statement that they are not cissexist, trans*phobic, or transmisogynistic.
Now that we know the history of the hashtag, I asked Laurelai what she planned to do with the tag. “I wanted to attack the problem. The problem is cis feminism” she told me in our skype conversation. Exclusion is nothing new for feminism, even from its very roots; feminism has been steeped in exclusion. Like the hashtag comments showed, mainstream feminism (often called white cis feminism) often excludes trans* people, women of color, sex workers, and many more. Feminism is often critiqued for focusing on the needs of middle class white and cis women while ignoring the basic struggle for rights from other women and people. The results from the hashtag were filled with calls for feminism to be inclusive of these people or it is not feminism. Feminism for all was a common strain among those who participated.
However, the tag was not created just for trans* people to vent their feelings (like #FuckCisPeople was). #DearCisFeminism was created to become a collaborative effort, for trans* and cis people to educate each other on the shortcomings of feminism and how feminism fails its most vulnerable people while putting those who harm them on a pedestal. When I asked her what Laurelai wanted people to take from the tag, she told me she doesn’t want people to just read and leave. She wants people to become active, call out anti-trans* sentiment where ever they see it. She wants cis people to become involved in questioning their own double standards and beliefs. “Do not just read and nod. Get involved. Don’t just say you will”, she told me. So in a way, #DearCisFeminism is a call to action, to be the change you wish to see in feminism. Due to this, Laurelai avoided tagging specific people in the hashtag, as well as removing any ‘questionable’ language. Many people called into the ‘harsh’ language of #FuckCisPeople. To avoid this tone policing and to force people to focus on the double standards and problems on feminism, Laurelai chose #DearCisFeminism as opposed to #FuckCisFeminism or resurrecting #FuckCisPeople. This removed the argument towards the language of the hashtag and brought the discourse into the actual context of the tweets.
#DearCisFeminism calls into question the source, and not the symptoms (thus why it is not #DearCisFeminists), of exclusionary feminism. While focused at cis feminists, #DearCisFeminism also evolved to call into question the dominance of white feminists and the exclusion of women of color. #DearCisFeminism continues to point out the problems in modern feminism and how modern feminism is often oppressive to minorities due to their focuses. In the same way the mainstream LGBT movement throws trans* people under the bus, modern feminism is cis-centric and throws trans* people (mostly trans women) under the same proverbial bus. #DearCisFeminism is about no longer being a bargaining tool and token and #ShoutingBack against a society and movement that continues to silence and oppress.