I was called a fake feminist because I don't have an issue with a transwoman becoming a model for Kate Spade. This happened on the Book of Faces, where I had posted my musings about the ridiculousness of being offended about some influencer/TikTok model when we have much bigger issues. I mean, the world is on fire, but let's focus our righteous indignation on who should wear a pink poofy dress. However, before I get started, let us send up a round of applause for that commentor who thought she was insulting me:
Welcome to the Busy Black Woman's new feature, The Library.
Interestingly enough, I had been planning to address this issue long before this exchange. I have been concerned about the growing tension with our mothers and grandmothers from the second-wave of feminism who aren't quite sure of how to welcome transwomen into our midst. After all, when they were burning bras and denouncing the patriarchy in the 60s and 70s, the closet doors had only opened a crack with the Stonewall uprising.
Sixty years after Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, here we are, on the last day of Women's History Month (also Transgender Day of Visibility*), in the year of our Lord 2023, worried about who gets to be called a woman. Well, transwomen are women. Period.
I understand why that might be a concern for the patrons in a Kate Spade boutique, but as for me and my space, I said what I said. Maybe this would bother me if I were on the hunt for a pink poofy dress to wear on Easter Sunday, but I'm not. My Kid's birthday is on Easter Sunday this year and I'm trying to decide if we can spare a few eggs to dye given these high prices. And pink is not my color...
Therefore, I find it rather curious that we are now defining feminism in such a narrow-minded way since I was taught that the central point of the movement was to upend the notion that biology determines our choices and destiny. Originally, we wanted girls to grow up to believe that they could be anything because they are more than the functioning of their reproductive organs. So how am I a fake feminist because I believe in choice, not just for women but also for men? And because I regard that right to choose as inclusive of one's gender identity? How sway...
All of us come to some pivotal moment in our lives when we get to decide who and what we are. Perhaps it was in elementary school at a career day assembly or maybe one day on some dead-end job when you decided that you had enough. Maybe one day you looked at yourself in the mirror and decided that you would dye your hair, pierce your tongue, or get a tattoo. Or maybe you would try on your mother's discarded makeup and realized how your eye color popped with the right shadow. After a particularly brutal encounter with a bunch of playground bullies, imagine feeling so worthless that you locked yourself in the bathroom with thoughts of suicide until you heard the lyrics to a song that reassured you that it would get better.
Because my definition of feminism allows space for women who were born male, but who choose to live as women, I don't understand how that makes me fake. In this same society where women spend millions on artificial enhancements such as cosmetics, breast implants, and Brazilian Butt Lifts (BBLs), a transwoman who has had gender reassignment surgery is still just a man playing dress up? Does Caitlyn Jenner know that?
In this same country where the rights I was born with regarding my reproductive choices have been all but eliminated for my daughter, I ought to be mad about the outfits worn by an influencer on TikTok. I must say, after three years of pandemic, it finally feels good to shift my attention from the virus to more pressing life or death issues. I shouldn't worry my pretty little head about book bans, gun violence in schools, or whether hungry children receive free lunch, because it is far more important to keep drag queens from reading books to children at story time.
Should I leave it to the real men, born male, to decide if and when girls need access to menstruation products in school too?
Which brings me to the concerns of these older feminists who are worried that the inclusion of transwomen de-centers attention from women's overall struggle for equality. In my mind, it doesn't. Yes, it changes our language and how we frame certain issues. I have to get used to the concept of cis-gender as a way of distinguishing different kinds of women's issues. But it is a trick of the devil to convince us that discrimination against women is somehow more likely if we advocate for transwoman as well. Are we seriously going to act like the first wavers who didn't want to include women of color in the fight for suffrage?
Take this sudden push for equity in girls' sports. Do you honestly believe this battle is being fought by a bunch of concerned girl dads who coach soccer or softball? You can't even watch the Women's NCAA Basketball championship games without cable, but the most pressing challenge is whether transwomen have unfair physiological advantages. Admittedly, that is a complex issue but if we've figured out how to make all kinds of other opportunities that were once only available to men accessible to women, we can figure this one out too.
Since this all started over a Kate Spade advertisement, let's offer an illustration of fake feminism by taking a trip to the nearest mall. Oh wait, there isn't a Kate Spade store at my local mall because it doesn't serve their core demographic. Instead, I can either travel downtown or out to the suburbs to get a look at the spring collection. Hmm, as I walk through the door, there is a $500 shaggy dog purse that greets me, and I think, how cute, maybe I can carry my car keys, lip gloss, and a few credit cards in it when I wear it to brunch on Easter Sunday. And oh look, here is the infamous pink dress with the poofy sleeves for $400, and a pair of white sandals for $260, so look a whole outfit for under $1200!
A feminist is more concerned that the salesperson receives a decent commission or that they earn enough to afford health coverage or that this job offers Family and Medical Leave. Instead of shaking my fists and expressing my outrage on social media that the model prancing around in a TikTok video used to be a man, I care that this young woman feels accepted for who she is and uses her platform to support others who need reassurance to find their truth. In my eyes, that makes her a more authentic woman than anyone who denounces her as a lady boy.
Finally, let me close this Library session by weeding out a few authors from the shelves, namely J.K. Rowling and Alice Walker. It pains me to admit that their divisiveness has become a distraction from the real shit that weighs us down. Because women shouldn't waste time on silly disagreements that benefit the patriarchy, so while we are arguing over who can call themselves women, the tyrants are running amok. From the Taliban banning women and girls from obtaining education; to Iranian protests; to legislation in states across this country that seek to restrict LGBTQIA+ rights. Transwomen aren't protected from harm because they used to be men. Oppression is everywhere. None of us can fight it on every front, but we can be allies and do no harm.
To that end, I can admit that I am still learning and evolving, so I expect to be wrong about certain things, and I am willing to accept correction and be educated. I can tell you that I cringe at some of my past behaviors and opinions when it came to acknowledging the personhood and humanity in others, so I am not speaking from some self-righteous perch of having known the truth all along. As a card-carrying women's college alumna of almost 30 years, my identification as a feminist ain't some designer label I just adopted so that I could win arguments with strangers on Al Gore's internet.
You can take your selections to the check out desk and have a nice life. The Library is now closed.
* After working on this for most of the day, I found out that today is Transgender Day of Visibility, so I accept that as a sign that I am evolving in the right direction.