On
from
pinterest
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Feminist Controversy

It’s a conversation that’s not going away

03.13.17
Chimamanda-Ngozi-Adichie-Man-Repeller

Last week, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave an interview to Channel 4 wherein she said she believes the cis-woman experience is different from the trans-woman experience, and therefore it’s dangerous to conflate the two as one common female experience.

“When people talk about, ‘Are trans women women?’ my feeling is trans women are trans women,” she said. And then: “I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men and then sort of change gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.”

The reaction to her comments online was swift. Feminist and activist corners of the internet began calling her out for dangerously overestimating the privilege of trans women. Others countered that she was just trying to make a point about different experiences. Everyone was and still is in-fighting.

It’s a little surprising to see it aimed at Adichie, though, a celebrated activist voice and the author of Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists who has enjoyed what seems like unanimous acclaim since she rose to fame in 2012. In 2015, Sweden’s Women’s Lobby bought a copy of the latter for every 16-year-old in the country and it made news all over the world. She’s received the MacArthur “genius” grant; won the O. Henry Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; her TED talk has over 12 millions views and was sampled by Beyonce in “Flawless.” Before last week, it was hard to find bad press on Adichie.

Late last night, she posted a response on her Facebook titled “CLARIFYING.” “Diversity does not have to mean division,” she wrote. “Because we can oppose violence against trans women while also acknowledging differences. Because we should be able to acknowledge differences while also being supportive. Because we do not have to insist, in the name of being supportive, that everything is the same. Because we run the risk of reducing gender to a single, essentialist thing.”

This did little to quiet the chatter. Not 24 hours later, the comments are over a thousand and counting and the think pieces are cropping up quickly. Many accuse her of reducing the female experience, the very thing she was condemning. “Just as it was wrong for womanhood to be narrowly defined within the hegemonic white woman’s experience, so too is it wrong for womanhood to be defined as the hegemonic cisgender woman’s experience,” wrote Raquel Willis on The Root in a piece titled “Trans Women Are Women. This Isn’t a Debate.”

“I get the fundamental argument you’re making Ms. Adichie,” said one Facebook commenter, “But I wholeheartedly disagree. See, the problem with your argument, from my perspective at least, is that you’re basing it on this assumption that trans women enjoy male privileges by virtue of being born male.”

Laverne Cox responded in a 16-part tweet and touched on both points. “For over 60 years, since Christine Jorgensen stepped off the plane from Europe and became the first internationally known trans woman, the narrative about trans folks in the media was one of macho guy becomes a woman,” she wrote. “That’s certainly not my story or the stories of many trans folks I know. That narrative often works to reinforce binaries rather than explode them. That explosion is the gender revolution I imagine, one of true gender self determination.”

As with other debates of this nature, most involved have entered the conversation with a perspective and stuck with it. This conversation over what it means to be a feminist has been ongoing in left-wing circles. Adichie’s comments have simply brought this discussion further to the forefront.

“This insistence on feminist purity and perfection is not making the tent wider and more welcoming,” wrote one commenter on The Root piece, “but rather we’re allowing those tiny misunderstandings to divide us. There’s no room to learn, no humor, no kindness. Meanwhile, patriarchy watches in delight as we do its job ourselves.”

What do you think of all this?

Here’s the full Channel 4 interview, in case you’re curious to see:

Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images.

Get more Pop Culture ?
  • dietcokehead

    Why can’t we just say everyone has a point and a point of view and just be OK with that?!?

    • autillicautnullibi

      …because some people don’t have points and some points of view can be dangerous for large groups of people?

    • Hellbetty666

      I guess because in this case it appears as though she is telling a group of people that what they feel and experience is wrong. Imagine if she’d said “homosexuality is a choice” – we’d rightly be calling her out for it. In this case, I get where she was coming from, but as a cisgender woman, it’s not really okay to make a sweeping statement about the experiences of transwoman (and, of course, vise versa).

      • Kattigans

        She wasn’t making a sweeping statement. She answered a pointed question from the interviewer about male privilege in relation to transitioning and trans-women. Why don’t we talk more about the interviewer making a sweeping generalization about the experiences of men who transition to being women?

        • Hellbetty666

          We really should be doing that. It sounds as though she was set up by the question tbh.

  • emilee

    I see both sides of this. Cis-women have experiences that differ from trans-women’s, that does not minimize either party. Privilege and prejudice need not be a contest of who had it worse, rather a question of how we can prevent the discrimination for both sides in the future.

    • Alison

      I feel like that’s what Chimamanda Ngozi was trying to say — that the experiences of trans women and cis-gender women are different. Not that difference implies inferiority or supremacy, just … not the same.

      I would add that not all “privilege of being male” is the same. It’s hard to see how someone who doesn’t conform to traditional, dominant definitions of manhood or masculinity — and doesn’t even feel at home in her own body — enjoys the privilege.

      • Totally agree that that’s closer to what she was getting at… unfortunately the internet’s outrage meter is always set to “high.” I think appreciating those differences in those experiences is paramount in advancing rights for both trans and cis women. Also as a sidenote, I’m sure it doesn’t help that one of the most recognizable trans people in pop culture is Caitlyn Jenner who for all other struggles, still very publicly enjoyed the privilege of being a (famous, athletic, white) male.

        • zachary.mcbride@mail.ru

          I profited 104 thousand dollars in last twelve months by freelancing from home a­­n­­d I did that by work­ing in my own time f­o­r few hours every day. I followed a business opportunity I stumbled upon from company that i found online and I am amazed that i earned so much money. It’s newbie friendly a­n­d I’m so thankful that i discovered it. Here is what i do… http://marketing25.weebly.com

        • jessie.sewell@mail.ru

          I have earned 104 thousand bucks last year by freelancing on-line a­­n­­d I did that by work­ing part time f­o­r several h on daily basis. I’m using work model I stumbled upon from company that i found online and I am amazed that i made so much money on the side. It’s user friendly a­­n­­d I’m just so happy that I found out about this. Here’s what I do… http://gee.su/uBX7h

      • Jones

        you don’t have to “enjoy” privilege to be its beneficiary. plenty of white men don’t “enjoy” the privileges that come with whiteness, but they still benefit from it. To point: if Bob applies for a job (whether or not s/he feels male), Bob has a better chance of getting an interview than Janice.

        Similarly, John has a better chance of getting that interview than Jamal. John may even feel guilty if he knows the situation, but it’s more likely that John will assume he got it because he was the better candidate.

    • BarbieBush

      Agree. This is, IMO, completely what she meant. I am low key obsessed with her and there is no way she isn’t an ally to all women. This is a woman more concerned with feminist politics and gender equality than RACE– as a foreign African who spends half her time in the US.

      Cis women and transwomen experiences ARE different. In that–personally, I think transwomen have it harder. Perceived previous male privilege or not..

      At the end of the day this does a disservice to feminism. Everyone getting on her because its the popular thing to be outraged online. Even when we ARE united, issues arise–intersectionality issues at the womens march ie.–I think as feminists it is part of our responsibility to NOT condemn people trying to express opinions and learn and to be the “bigger people” in educating them. That being said this is just more of the same bullshit of people coming after perceived celebrities to bring them down a notch–jonas hill crying on TV because he said fag..yes please i enjoy that…people berating someone fighting for literally all women everywhere because she misspoke..in a semi-harmless way considering..no, not into it.

    • Jones

      that’s what chimamanda said! people need to get off her back.

  • Emmanuelle

    I do not see where Chimamanda is wrong in stating the differences between being a trans woman ans being a cis woman. Both experiences are different. One became a woman with the knowledge of science; while the other is born female. I mean you can be born male and feel as a female but changing your sex is definitely different from being born female. Nonetheless, I do not think trans women as privileged because they were male before. Their experience will never be an easy one because of their choice and the society we’re living in. There’s a long way to go for them to be accepted by society.

    To me trans women are definitely women but their struggle differs slightly from cis women because they have to face a different kind of discrimination rightly because they were male before. It’s a different kind of femininity and yet a similar one too in my opinion. Like every women on earth are women but not experiencing or living their femininity the same way.

    Emmanuelle

    • Hellbetty666

      The thing is, most transwomen will have always considered themselves female. Their body won’t have reflected this but to say a transwoman was “born male” isn’t true. It’s that tricky difference between biological sex and gender – I am still getting to grips with the nuances!

      • Emmanuelle

        Hi Betty,

        I see your point but what I meant in my comment is, though a transwoman is a woman since birth, her body isn’t. And to be honest I would argue every transwomen feels like a woman since birth. I believe it’s a personal journey where people discover themselves. For some they feel there are women since their birth, for others it was a long journey to come to this. Because society. Hence why I don’t feel it’s a matter of being true or wrong there.

        Stating experiences of transwomen are different from cis women is not tricky to me because it IS de facto different. The way a cis woman comes to become a woman is not the same as a transwoman. There are things I as a cis woman will never get to experience because I am not a transwoman. It doesn’t diminish at all transwomen are women though. Not adressing this difference would mean negating the rights of transwomen. I think there are some discussions that need to be and the one of transwomen being born male is part of them. It’s only tackling these discussions progress will come.

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    I don’t necessarily disagree with her on this and I don’t think it was said to “disqualify” transgender women from the feminist movement. But I think all one has to do is look at Caitlyn Jenner to see her point: While identifying as a woman she still held on to patriarchal, conservative (white male) political ideology. And in truth it was only until she herself became a minority or an “other” that any of those causes mattered to her. I do not think pointing out the dichotomy of someone who lived life as a male for some period of time perhaps not being able to completely relate to the experiences of someone who has lived as a woman their entire lives is wrong. It’s no different than saying that a white woman can’t relate to all of the experiences of black or Asian women.

    • autillicautnullibi

      While I get where you’re coming from on one hand, I think, on the other, it’s important to note that Caitlyn Jenner’s experience is way, way, way different than the majority of transgender women. Transpeople are very rarely in the same position of privilege as Jenner was and is.

      • ValiantlyVarnished

        I agree Jenner has an immense amount of privilege. I used her as example for what I think Adiche’s point was.

        • autillicautnullibi

          I just don’t think she has much of a point if that is the example, you know? It’s pointing to a person that doesn’t represent the majority experience and extrapolating out something that doesn’t exist.

          • ValiantlyVarnished

            Male privilege is a real thing. If you’ve lived half of you life as a male in this world before identifying publicly as a woman that is a very diffefent experience than a cis woman who indentifies as such. I am not diminishing the very real issues that trans women face (violence, depression, etc.) I am speaking of Workplace interactions, making less than your peers, sexist and patriarchal aggression, puberty, etc. All of these things inform the way a cis woman moves in the world. A trans woman who has lived a life as a man has not necessarily had those experiences.

          • Claire

            The problem with this strand of conversation is that it is a yardstick that we use to start kicking women out of their own identities.

            I’m trans. I’ve been stabbed, beaten, abused, ridiculed, discriminated against and sexually assaulted for not conforming with traditional gender stereotypes. Have you had similar experiences?

            Nobody denies that our experiences are different. The experiences of every woman are different. Womanhood is a highly diverse identity label.

            There are a number of matriarchial communities left on the planet. Is a woman who lives in matriarchy no longer a woman?

            The bigger problem with this line of thinking is that it means we are defining ‘womanhood’ around notions of victims of patriarchy. If victimhood is what defines a woman, how do you ever expect to escape it? Is feminism now completely futile.

            The answer is no. We are women DESPITE our victim status, not because of it.

            Feminism is about equality. Our identities are all equal – transgender men and cisgender men – and transgender women and cisgender women.

            Womanhood is not something you earn through being a victim.

          • .
            I am truly sorry and sad for the suffering inflicted on you by fearful people turned into hateful people.

            Thank you for being, @disqus_JjNndUpZxh:disqus.

            And thank you for so willingly and thoughtfully and considerately and invitingly sharing your experience, strength, and hope.
            .

  • Andrea

    Yikes, yeah. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s insistence that trans women enjoy male privileges from birth, even in her clarifying comment, are super problematic. One trans black woman I follow on FB pointed out that CNA seems to be extrapolating from the Caitlyn Jenner narrative, (as Janet Mock said about Christine Jorgensen, an image of a macho man for decades), when she and so many of her friends transitioned alone, without support, in adolescence, following constant bullying during childhood for acting feminine.

    In the aftermath of this, my trans friend Christa cautioned people not to “assume to know what it is like to grow up as a trans girl who ‘passes’ as a cis boy. A trans woman who may be read as male may have different experiences than a cis woman (but not necessarily) and be granted certain benefits (but also not necessarily true), but they are not privileged in the systemic meaning of the word.” Those trans women were once trans girls, no matter when they transition! They have never been men – gender is about someone’s deeply held and enduring identity or sense of self. Besides, as Christa pointed out, the patriarchy harms us all, socializing us to believe that femininity is weakness.

    We can’t just reduce this to “everyone has their opinion!” because it’s violent. There is no reason for cis women like me and Ngozi Adiche to be so invested in preserving this image of womanhood as born-that-way, when everyone’s experiences are so complex and varied, and trans women of color face unique dangers – their life expectancy is ~35 years. Besides, I enjoy privilege being perceived as the gender I identify as my entire life.

    • Jones

      it’s not about trans women having been men, it’s about the world PERCEIVING them as men. even if a transwoman felt uncomfortable or threatened presenting as male, she still received unasked for benefits. it would be too limited to say they only received privileges, because we know transwomen have been through a lot of shame and torment as well. but the point is, the experiences are different. that is the point that adichie made.

      • Claire

        Yes, but she spoke about those differences as if they are justifications to be exclusionary. She even said she does not “equate”. She conveyed inequality because of those differences.

        It’s subjugation.

        • Jones

          Equate, in this context, as she has repeatedly says, means “not the same.” in other words, DIFFERENT. Again, YOU, brought this hierarchy into the discussion. I wonder if all that Adichie has exposed is what YOU believe and have projected on her.

          • Claire

            You might be right, although I seriously doubt it. When you’ve lived your entire life at the margins of society being discriminated against, you learn to identify it at it’s most basic level pretty well.

            This reminds me of the school bully who, when confronted about calling me a ‘freak’ said that the term was endearing in his definition.

            The word ‘equate’ has an agreed upon definition in language. Language is a form of social contract that allows us to communicate meaningfully with each other.

            The meaning of the word ‘equate’ is tied with equality. It is set out in the dictionary. Her words explicitly denied equality. There is no ambiguity or wiggle room.

            Meg John Barker once said that “dividing people into us and them is the first step in being able to treat them in horrible ways – whoever they are”

            We saw it with race – “equal but different.” We saw it with disabled people – “same, but different.”

            If you can’t say “transwomen are women” without tying yourself in linguistic knots, then there is a problem.

  • gashgoldvermillion

    It’s just not true that Adichie has been universally acclaimed. She’s been criticized for making divisive statements in the past – in particular distancing herself from Beyonce (through comments which were probably sensationalized unfairly) and becoming a makeup spokesperson.

    I’m not sure I have a point here – I personally don’t like Adichie or her work, but I don’t have a coherent argument to make, I’ve just had personally poor experiences with her, and find the critical reception of her work vastly overblown – but it is important to note she’s not perfect. None of our role models can, or should be. But I do appreciate the challenge of holding them to a higher standard, especially when so many people are listening, and ESPECIALLY at a time when trans* rights are under such attack. To me, regardless of the argument or apology, it’s irresponsible of her to say something like this and completely unnecessary.

    • autillicautnullibi

      Would you mind going into more detail about your poor experiences with her?

  • I don’t disagree with Chimamanda Ngozi. a Trans woman’s experience differs from a Cis woman’s and I don’t really understand where the controversy is coming from. Both have obstacles to over come and struggles, however to completely ignore that trans women before transition function in the world as men and thus receive male privilege whether they enjoy it or not is being myopic. Same for trans men before transition, their experiences being treated by the outside world as woman is valid and shouldn’t be disregarded because they’ve now transitioned to a man.

    • Court E. Thompson

      Agreed! I think the misunderstanding is the dichotomy between nature vs nurture. Even if a trans woman has identified as female from birth but has been perceived by others as male, she would be treated as a male and afforded those privileges. Even small things like being told you’re a bossy at age 6 can affect a person instead of being praised for showing leadership (this is a completely made up example). However, of course none of that minimizes the struggles a trans woman goes through, just like those struggles don’t downplay those of a cis woman.

    • Alexia

      Agreed! To me, she’s trying to say that the experience of being a trans woman is different than than of a biological woman. Both have advantages and disadvantages, neither experience is “easier” or “harder”. We are not all just simply women or men; white or Latino. We are all just unique beings, each with different experiences, some of which are the result of sociological grouping that society and history have put on us.

      • Claire

        Transwomen don’t deny differences in our socialisation and upbringing. We also recognise that many transwomen transitioned very early in life, were socialised as girls, and have more years living with misogyny than all of us in this conversation. Other transwomen transitioned later and experiences various degrees of male privilege.

        Of course we can discuss the differences. That’s diversity.

        But we can’t discuss the differences in the context of a conversation about whether the genders of transgender men and women are lesser than the genders of cis men and women. When we talk about differences in response to a question about equality, it always comes across and exclusionary.

        Diversity: Hi. Welcome to the sorority. Would you like to join us for a cup of tea? Would it be ok if I asked you about your experiences as a transwoman so I can learn about other women’s experiences?

        Division: Wait.. is she allowed in the sorority? I mean… she wasn’t socialised like we were. She’s different to us. I don’t know. What do you guys think?

        One of those conversations is harmful and subjugates the individual. Chimamanda’s remarks were much closer to the second.

    • I agree! Also, women can’t opt out of the oppression and socialization that begin at birth so it’s hard to believe that someone of a privileged class who opted in would have the same experience. Trans women face their own issues and I certainly wouldn’t want to diminish that but they’re different. Not better or worse, different. I’m surprised that Ms. Ngozi’s remarks are controversial, they seem pretty straightforward to me even as a bleeding heart liberal.

      • Claire

        Her comments are not controversial. They are bigotry.

        She said “We cannot equate the experiences of…” Equate. The dictionary definition of equate is “to state the equality of two or more things.”

        She was subordinating transwomen. She established a gender hierarchy with ciswomen at the top and transwomen at the bottom.

        Transgender men and women are constantly being told that we are not enough. That we are lesser. That we are not real. That we don’t exist. That the genders of trans men and women are less valid than the genders of cis men and women. That we are just a ‘guest’ in our respective genders. That our issues can never be centred. That our experiences “don’t count.” That the unique issues of transwomen are not women’s issues, and the unique issues of transgender men are not men’s issues.

        A cis woman gets groped in a bar. Other women say “That’s terrible. You should not have ot experience that.”

        A trans woman gets groped in a bar. Other women say “Haha. Welcome to being a woman.”

        Her comments were cissexist. They were exclusionary.

  • Kay

    I was at the event on Saturday where an audience member asked Chimamanda to clarify the comments that she made when on the news. While l can’t remember her exact words, she said something along the lines of not understanding the context when asked, and made some really good points about feminism not being a one stranded thing, which is a very fair point.

    As your article mentions, until recently it has been really difficult to find bad press on her. She was blindsided by the BBC a few weeks ago when at the last minute, she was told she’d be answering questions alongside a Trump supporter. It kind of looks like people are trying to generate a bit of bad press around her.

    In the Channel 4 interview, she also commented that sometimes this feminist spokesperson role that she has inherited makes her cringe. I can imagine that’s more the case now than ever: she was asked a question and ansered it. This answer may or may not have been misconstrued by media outlets and people. When writing articles about her comments, I think it’s also important to highlight her campaigning for LGBT rights in Nigeria from 2014.

    It’s unfair to see a woman who has done so much for feminism be vilified like this – I don’t refer to this site’s article, I mean in general.

    • jess

      Lena Dunham has done a great deal for feminism yet she has been regularly ripped to shreds. Male comedians remain perfectly intact.

      • I know many, many women who would beg to differ on that.

      • ValiantlyVarnished

        Yeah I would REALLY beg to differ on Lena Dunham doing a great deal for feminism. She is the epitome of white elitist feminism.

        • jess

          Say what you want about her feminism but its undeniable that her show Girls has been revolutionary. She also is an active donor to women’s charities and frequently speaks out against domestic violence. I would say that’s a lot.

          • Hellbetty666

            She has been called out a lot for her white feminism, and honestly, she really seems to be learning from it. The way she’s responded to the criticism has been thoughtful and appreciative.

            I think any white woman’s default feminism setting is White Feminist. It’s how we recognise it and respond and react accordingly that speaks volumes, IMO.

          • jess

            Absolutely. I don’t think anybody pops out of the womb a fully-woke feminist. It’s only natural that our first forms of feminism are centric to concerns that only affect ourselves. Then we learn from others’ experiences in time and can improve our worldview and learn to use our privileges in a positive way for those more marginalised groups

      • Meg S

        Nope. This is a woman who said being transgender is a fad and taking hormones is wrong. She deserves all the ripping to shreds she gets.

        • jess

          Links?

          • Meg S

            I stand corrected. I found the article, and it was someone else talking about Lena Dunham, transgender, among other things. Not sure how my brain switched it around, but it was so disgusting that I didn’t even remember it right. Sorry!

          • Jones

            delate that before someone like you runs with it.

  • It’s the interviewer who set the stage and define a trans woman in this case. She specifically ask her “..a man that has enjoyed the privileges of a man, and then becoming a women..” – So don’t blame Ngozi for that, she merely repeats to clarify her response is to that spec question. The interviewer also change subject abruptly from that question, and seems uncomfortable, instead of having a deeper conversation. So we should not just blame Ngozi. She is so right about saying every experience is not the same – black and white, trans and cis. Even within these ‘categories’ there are a million different experiences. The problem becomes that of semantics, ‘is she a woman?’ – well what the hell is a woman anymore? We still have very strong internal associations between sex and gender, which may create a cognitive dissonance without it being of evil thought. If we say she ‘yes she is a women’ cis-women can just as quickly forget about all the challenges a trans woman face that we don’t, like body dysphoria, bullying for being different growing up, and so forth.

    To me a trans woman is a woman, like a black woman is a woman, and a white woman is a women etc. And as she said to begin with ‘let women be many things [at once]’.
    In her FB update, she states that by acknowledging we are different, we can better understand the differences and gain empathy, and thereby stand stronger together. We should not let the differences divide us, but make us stronger.

    The interviewer should have rephrased the question or asked her more questions, because she really fucked this up. So can we talk about the interviewer? She makes the singular definition of ‘a trans woman’ in this case. And have you ever been on the spot answering questions like this?

    We are so fast to judge and condem instead of trying more to understand if Ngozi is really mean or if she is genuinely good hearted view, and said things in a way we can’t (yet) understand.

    • Claire

      She’s not “mean”. But she IS ignorant about what it means to be transgender (aside aparently from what she has read about Caitlyn Jenner). But she doubled down with a written clarification that was STILL more exclusionary of transwomen than it was inclusionary.

      She could have just said, or “You’d be better asking a transwoman feminst that question.”

      When someone who is not a member of a minority class of marginalised people starts to pontificate about their rights, it’s always hazardous territory. In trans communities, we call it cis-plaining (for obvious reasons).

  • Molly D

    Adichie was merely pointing out nuance, which is just as much under attack as anyone or anything else, sadly. Is there no room for nuance in our “accept all” culture?

  • Kattigans

    I think this is being completely overblown. How are her statements any different then pointing out the differences in privilege between white women and women of color? It doesn’t mean these two groups don’t experience hardship and challenges and sexism/misogyny but there are still differences. I respect Chamamanda and her work. She’s being interviewed and asked questions and she of course is answering them as best as she can. She, just like Ms. Dunham, isn’t the sole voice and face of feminism so her POV on this is something you can either take or leave. I get being fired up but man oh man these thing pieces rolling out on the subject are a bit much. Have an opinion on her opinion sure, but she also isn’t dismissing trans feelings or experiences. I do agree with her and I have heard the same sentiments shared on other feminist blogs when it comes to trans-women. Its a generalization no doubt as everyone has their own experiences and hardships in life. Again like other commenters have said, I agree our collective experienced of hardship shouldn’t be reduced to a pissing contest on who has it worse. After all, no one asks to be born the way that they are – this includes women, men and all those who don’t fit on a gender binary. I think more feminists agree than not that both trans and cis women are marginalized and affected by patriarchy and misogyny. Collectively, there is a desire for women, no matter what sex you are born as, to have equal rights and to not continue to be set back by the deeply rooted sexism thats affects women at large.

    • autillicautnullibi

      “our collective experience of hardship shouldn’t be reduced to a pissing contest about who has it worse” I love this! So true. What’s the point of it? It helps no one.

      • Kattigans

        I don’t know, it’s gender/identity politics. We now can’t talk about biological differences and the way in which those differences factor into the patriarchy (like women having periods and being able to give birth) without it becoming labeled as some trans-phobic conversation. In my opinion it’s just another way to further silence women about their experiences. No one’s saying trans-women don’t experience hardship. Their hardship and the hardship of women who are born as biological women don’t necessarily live in opposition of each other.

        • b.e.g.

          “And I don’t think it’s wrong to say that.” Ditto.

        • Habaloo

          Well put

        • I don’t think it’s wrong to say that either. As a cisgender woman I don’t know anything about what it’s like to be trans, but I do know that a trans woman at my university with whom I shared many mutual friends ended her own life, in part because the struggle of transitioning with an unsupportive family was so painful for her. So I know that that trans woman in particular was not ultimately helped in any way by any kind of ‘privilege’ she might have experienced prior to her coming out.

          That said, I have noticed an increasing tendency to flatten/erase issues of reproductive rights from feminist discourse in the name of being inclusive to women who do not have a uterus/period/biological capacity to bare a child. This impulse is not helpful. It is also not inclusive, though it claims to be. Reproductive rights are (annoyingly) still some of the most central pieces of the feminist discourse and there needs to be room to focus on them. There are lots of issues we all face though – for example sexual violence – which trans women are massively victimised by the world over.

          There are things we can work together on and times where we need to give each other space to focus on challenges only applicable to particular groups. We cannot let this movement turn into a competition for who’s pain deserves more attention. It’s not a zero sum game.
          Whiskey Tango Flat White | Life and style in weird short essays

          • Kattigans

            I agree and it’s sad to hear that this person ended her own life. Being a human being is a hard thing and being one that doesn’t fit the norm of what’s expected of you is even harder. On a different note, I think the fact that I have to say “cis woman” as opposed to I’m a woman is in fact somewhat sexist. Doesn’t that now just “reduce” me down to the sexual organs that trans-women (generalization) have a very problem with me and other women speaking about. To say that a trans-women and myself have the same life experiences as women is just not true. Neither one is good or bad. Believe me, I’d never wish being a woman on anyone. The struggle is real and if trans-women want claim to that struggle and to be recognized as women then be my guest, however it also can’t be ignored that many trans-women play into gender stereotypes and confine themselves into the very same narrow view of what being female is (I’m referring to taking on “feminine” tendencies like dress). And are they wrong for this? No they aren’t. There isn’t really much choice in the expectations placed on women and what femininity looks like. All women are subjected to the male gaze. It’s one thing to grow up for an entire lifetime experiencing this and another thing to transition into experiencing it, whether it’s welcomed or not.

          • Claire

            I’m trans.

            Transgender men and women are constantly being told we are not enough. That we are lesser. That our genders are less valid than the genders of cis men and women. That we are lesser. That our issues can never be centred in any discussion. That our experiences “don’t count.” That the unique issues of transgender men are not men’s issues, and the unique issues of transgender women are not women’s issues.

            I feel a lot of pressure to conform to female stereotypes – even the ones that are directly harmful to me. Often I find myself doing it because it is easier to conform than to have to fight arguments about whether I am a “REAL” woman; whether I am who I say I am; whether I deserved any autonomy over my own identity.

            The irony is – if feminists were more accepting of transgender men and women as equals of cisgender men and women – we wouldn’t feel so pressured to blend in, or to conform with social stereotypes.

          • Kattigans

            I disagree, feminism isn’t putting pressure on trans men and women to conform with social stereotypes. That would be the patriarchy. Patriarchal society differentiates the value of men vs. women or masculine vs feminine. There are many transgendered men and women who don’t outwardly express themselves with whatever set gender stereotypes society pushes onto them. There are also cis men and women who do the same. If you don’t want people to put you in a box then it’s not fair to do it to others.

            Everyone has their own walk of life and I think it’s been agreed upon and understood (in this thread and in liberal communities that have these conversations) that many trans men/women will experience discriminations, challenges, pain and terrible treatment that their cis comerarades will not experience. There are also things that I experience as a cis women you’ll never go through. It’s a difference and not a division. I do appreciate your comment and sharing your perspective. I think the subject for now has been beat to a pulp in this thread.

          • Kattigans

            Also, as a women there are constant daily battles I face and other women face from other women, men and society as a whole telling us we’re not enough. Who we are as people will never be good enough. That all I may ever be valued for is what I can sexually provide or how I look not me as a person in all my wholeness.

          • Claire

            We can absolutely talk about the differences between all of our experiences as women.

            Just not in the context of whether transwomen are real women, or whether their gender is equally valid. The answers to those questions are unequivocal.

            It’s like asking “Can we talk about our different experiences being different races.”

            Yes, we can. But not in a separatist way as part of a conversation about whether black people are lesser.

          • Kattigans

            This is getting a little absurd and out of control with the over explaining. I’ve never implied trans-women are less women than women who are born female. I’m not debating what’s a real woman and what’s not. Adichie is a huge advocate for the trans and LGBQ community. Take some time to read her post on FB and understand her perspective. She was caught in an interview question and perhaps her answer didn’t come across as great as it could of but never did it seem like she was devaluing trans-women and their experiences or questioning if they’re actually women. Its a distinction that I think is okay to make just as its okay to say that black women or women of color have issues that pertain to them that may not pertain or be of as much concern to white women. And yes I’m aware that her answer talked about trans-women in relation to male privilege but that’s because that’s what the interviewer asked. Why don’t we burn the interviewer at the stake and not a thoughtful, caring, usually well spoken advocate and ally?

    • Claire

      There is a difference between diversity and division. And Chimamanda’s comments were much closer to division.

      Diversity: “Welcome to the sorority. Would you like to join us for a cup of tea? Would it be ok if I asked you about your experiences as a transwoman so I can learn a little bit about other women’s experiences?”

      Division: “Wait… is she allowed into the sorority? I mean…. she didn’t have the same experiences growing up as we did. She is different to us. What do you girls think?”

  • Ashley Steenson

    Adichie was doing much, much more than pointing out nuance. Gender essentialism is the position of the philosophical question of “what is a woman?” answered by a set of values/characteristics that “define” womanhood with the implication that the above characteristics ARE the meaning of womanhood and a person NOT meeting all of the requirements is not a woman.

    Gender essentialism is itself combatted by many of the espoused principles of third wave feminism.

    Moreover, even if we grant Adichie her argument, that the experience of discrimination is the essential characteristic of womanhood, a trans woman, by virtue of appearing feminine, has probably experienced most if not all or MORE discrimination than a cisgender woman.

    I encourage all to watch the Amazon series Transparent episode “Man on the Land” to see what it’s like for a trans woman to be excluded in traditionally feminist circles. It is heartbreaking and life-denying.

    • Kattigans

      I think the same thing can be said about “what makes a man a man?” when thinking about trans-men. I get what you mean as she does make a point in stating a trans woman is a trans woman and not just flat out a trans woman is a woman. However, she has a point that even if you transition as a woman at one point you lived with being in a male identified body (even if you have hermaphrodite genitalia). Thus being ID’d and recognized in society as male still grants on some level, whether you want to accept it or like it, male privilege. This doesn’t eliminate the hardship, angst, and challenges that come with being trans just as the same thing can be said for identifying as lesbian-gay-bi-q (i’m not saying they are the same but a straight man vs. a gay/bi man has two very different experiences in life when it comes to acceptance – and both are affected by patriarchal values).

      To say that a trans-woman has experienced more discrimination than a cisgendered woman comes across as a mechanism to pit cis women against trans-women. This is needs to stop. Also, I’m sorry but there are certain things that a trans-women will never experience by virtue of not being born female such as a period or child birth. In my opinion, that is a big part of being a woman who is born female. And I’m not saying that to exclude trans-women or deny her “womanhood” but its a fact.

      • Ashley Steenson

        Reason is reason, not a plot to pit women against one another. Also, what are the facts that make a cisgender woman different? Would that be reducing gender to sex and therefore violating another espoused principle of third wave feminism? I see this as a classic case of “I Me Mine.” Honestly, what makes you different, more of a woman than someone trans?

        • Kattigans

          Whooaaa, I never said I’m more of a woman than a trans-woman, but there are experiences (biological ones at that) that most women experience that can’t be experienced by trans-women like giving birth and menstruating. That’s a fact. And I’m not reducing gender to sex, I’m simply stating that they are experiences that women who are born biological females will have that trans-women will never have and those experiences can be a big part of “womanhood”. They also that do affect how women are treated both socially and politically (hello, abortion and tampon tax). It doesn’t mean that if a female born female doesn’t have a period she isn’t a woman or if she never gives birth/can’t conceive she’s not a woman either or can’t experience “womanhood”. Every woman’s womanhood is different because we’re all individuals. I’m simply stating that these are some **differences** between the two and they of course will influence a trans-woman’s experience vs. a biological female’s experience.

          Perhaps, my wording wasn’t too on in the last paragraph. I’m really not looking for an internet war. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I don’t inherently disagree with it, and as I’ve communicated in another comment both groups experience plenty of hardships, disadvantages and challenges. I don’t think its fair to say one experiences MORE (as you did) than the other. That’s really not fair and comes across as divisive when both are subjected to deeply rooted sexist ideals and discrimination.

        • Kattigans

          I had a response, but its been detected as spam. I’ll just sum it up and say that I think you’ve misunderstood me. I inherently agree with what you’re saying and am not looking for an internet fight. I didn’t say I’m more of a woman than a trans-woman just like I don’t think of myself as anymore woman than another female born woman, but there are certain biological functions that do come along with being female. Not to reduce anyone to a gender or to reduce gender to sex, but male and female sex does exist and it does influence distinct biological functions. My fact was simply about some of the hardships that female born women can experience that trans-women cannot and will not (that’s the fact part!). These are **differences** and yes they can influence our own individual experiences and also can/and a lot of the time do define some aspects of what some may consider their own “womanhood”. Womanhood is also not just one thing, nor is it an elite club where one needs to gain entry. At the heart of it, one group’s hardships don’t negate the other’s.

          We all, no matter, how we’re born experience challenges, hardships, and exclusion. Some might experience those to a greater degree than others. It really shouldn’t be a contest of who’s dealt with more discrimination than the other. My feminism recognizes that we all suffer at the hands of patriarchy and women should have equal rights. To quote Audre Lorde, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

          • Ashley Steenson

            Definitely not looking for an internet fight, either. And thank you for engaging this question with me. I’m happy that this post has contributed to the discussion on gender essentialism and trans women’s place within feminism. It’s the reason I come to the MR community. Also, love Audre Lorde. Very nice reference!

            However, we’re still hashing out the same argument. I take it we’re both young(ish) women considering MR’s content. Take this example. Someone who transitioned in the 1980s or 1990s may have had more consecutive years of sex-based discrimination than a young woman. For me, Adichie’s argument depends on the experience of misogyny as the definition of being a woman. Even if we grant her this premise again, many trans women have experienced misogyny despite being born in the wrong body. I don’t consider birth having anything to do with it. Further, trans women who behaved in traditionally “feminine” ways while still in male bodies probably received unfair treatment based on that identification that can be equated with misogynistic treatment.

            To conclude, I still maintain my argument against Adichie’s statement that “trans women are trans women.” Yes, they are trans. But they are also just women. And discriminating against their identification based on birth/sex and then to define womanhood by the the negatives and the lacks, the misogyny, rather than to celebrate an individual’s own personal definition of what it means to be a woman. This does not negate the very real misogyny we all feel, and it does not negate the fact that we all feel it different ways based on race, class, appearance, age, disabilities, and yes, identifying or not identifying as trans. But these differences can’t be answered with essentialist claims.

            If anyone in the community is a trans woman or wants to transition and you’re reading this, you are a woman. You have a place in feminism.

          • Kattigans

            I agree with your example. As other commentators have pointed out, as have I, she is pointing out a nuance and also answering a very pointed question from the interviewer who specifically asks about male privilege in context to transitioning. If you read C.A’s FB post expanding on her comment, I think you’ll find that she very much so recognizes that trans-women are women and that trans-women have a place in feminism. Here’s an example that may help explain the nuance, many black feminists in the 1970’s and 80’s called them themselves “black feminists” to connote that feminism at the time was not necessarily inclusive of black women’s experiences. Its not exactly the same, but it draws attention and distinction to the fact that black’s women’s plights in feminism may differ from white women. The same with trans-women. There are certain injustices experienced by trans-women that cis-women may not experience. I don’t think making that distinction is wrong and I also don’t think its wrong to talk about the experiences of women who are biologically born as women and who stay that way their entire life assuming social gender roles/norms. As I’ve mentioned in another comment, there is something to be said for being born female, growing up a woman, and the imprint that leaves on your psyche. Unfortunately, and this isn’t meant to dismiss any misogyny that trans-women experience pre and post transition, but that just is not something they will ever experience and vice-versa. Again, both have different experiences and I think that’s the only distinction that A.C was trying to make. There’s no point invalidating one or the other and she’s a rather intelligent woman with a forward thinking perspective so I suggest giving her the benefit of the doubt and examine her answer in the context of the entire interview.

          • Kattigans

            MR continues to label my responses as spam..I’m not sure why. If you can’t see what I responded to you with then let me know. TLDR; A.C expands on her comment in a FB post. I recommend reading it. I don’t think she is making claims that trans-women are not women or without a place in feminism. Feminism isn’t a club that someone needs a secret password to join. Is feminism always intersectional? No its not, but that’s what happens within movements sometimes we all don’t always see eye to eye and take into account every experience of every single individual, but I think a lot of what’s happening in the movement is making way for intersectionality and intersectional conversations to happen. Feminism to me is what we all make of it and add to it. If trans-women want to be part of the dialogue, I think they have allies within the movement who support them – including cis/trans women. You also raise an interesting point: “many trans women have experienced misogyny despite being born in the wrong body. I don’t consider birth having anything to do with it. Further, trans women who behaved in traditionally “feminine” ways while still in male bodies probably received unfair treatment based on that identification that can be equated with misogynistic treatment.”

            To address this, I’d first like to state that no birth doesn’t have anything outright to do with misogyny, and that wasn’t my point. My point is the biological females are able to give birth (obviously not everyone can conceive or will) and biological men cannot give birth (trans-women were at one point biological males even if they feel otherwise no matter what hormones they inject and surgeries they have they cannot give birth – that’s a fact, not a exclusionary statement). Reproductive rights have an immediate impact on women who are biologically born as women and stay that way their entire lives. Reproductive rights has also been a major factor in the unfair and insubordinate treatment of women (misogyny!). Trans-women are not impacted by reproductive rights in the same capacity that cis-women are. And, ahem, that’s just one obvious difference between the experiences of trans and cis women. The difference is the nuance A.C is pointing out. It’s not to exclude trans-women and say “you’re less of a woman than me”, but its a difference and one that impacts the psyche of many women who are biologically born so and live as women their entire lives. Second, You don’t need to be a woman to experience misogyny and no one is saying that you do. Trans-women who experience misogyny by way of behaving in traditionally “feminine” ways is because masculinity is valued whereas femininity is devalued – its an overall disdain for anything associated with being a woman. Gay men who are overly “flamboyent” may also experience misogyny. Misogyny manifests itself in many different ways. Even if one experiences misogyny while being in a male body it still does not negate that they inherently have, to some degree, male privilege because society perceives them as “male” by way of appearance. Therefore, there is an expectation of performing male gender norms.

          • Kattigans

            I was flagged as spam again, I think you and I agree more than disagree. If you haven’t already read C.A’s fb post that further expands on her statements then I recommend doing so…its pretty obvious she’s an intelligent, forward thinking woman who sees trans-women as women and as part of feminism. I also made some points about birth and femininity in my flagged posts, but I’m tired of retyping the same things over and over looking for my posts to get through.

      • Claire

        Ironic that you say “this has got to stop”, then heap on some more exclusionary statements that marginalise transwomen. Are you also now saying that all infertile women are lesser? Or that women who don’t experience periods aren’t REAL women?

        I never denied my experiences are different to yours. Frankly, no two women’s experiences are the same. There are as many different ways to be a woman as there are different ways to be a human.

        We can talk about differences. But not in an inclusionary way, or a way to compete for validity of our identities.

        The identities of transgender men and women are equal and as valid as the identities of cisgender men and women. No matter what our experiences, oppressions, privileges.

        Feminism is about equality. Not yardsticks to measure ourselves against each other.

        • .
          Make that “… We can talk about differences. But not in an exclusionary way, or as a way to compete for validity of our identities …”

          Carry on.
          .

    • Hellbetty666

      I second this. I’ve re-watched that episode a couple of times now. It was heartbreaking and infuriating, such powerful tv.

  • ashley

    continuously in awe haley of your ability to tackle a complicated issue and conversation in an unbiased manner, and timely enough that this community has another forum to participate and be heard. I understand her clarifications but also know that it’s easy to zero in on ‘trans women are not women’ that was implied in her interview.

  • My niece’s experiences as a man for the first twenty years of her life were shitty beyond compare. If you were born with gender dysphasia, life has been nothing but struggle.

    And don’t we all want it to be better for everyone?

  • b.e.g.

    The female body with its crazy hormones, yes for most of life, then no more, the different stages of womanhood from puberty to menopause, and so on, make cis women different than trans-gender women, in my opinion. I understand C.A.’s point of view. Stating there are differences does not mean trans-women are being excluded from the club. I don’t agree with, or perhaps don’t understand what she meant, the bit about being afforded male privileges up until their transformation, except to understand both sides of the situation – now as a trans-woman they get to suffer not only the discrimation of being female, but also trans-gender. The latter is probably worse than simply being female. But I wonder if they do have the same way of thinking, problem solving, and so on, that cis women do. Female brains are strange, nuanced, and wonderful. I have never worked with a trans-gender woman, but I know for sure my cis female employees have a different way of thinking than my male employees, a different way of approaching problems. Does a trans-gender woman think like a cis woman, I wonder?

    • autillicautnullibi

      Well, they’ve done studies and it’s shown that transwomen have brain chemistry about the same as ciswomen! Plus, transwomen experience many of the same hormonal fluxes as ciswomen, too! Many transwomen I’ve talked to have said that when they are first beginning hormone therapy, they experience a “puberty” just like a 13 year old. It’s pretty interesting!

      • Andrea

        True, a trans woman i know tracks her cycles and posted this as a reference, great piece: http://www.onwednesdays.net/trans-girl-periods/ (b.e.g. plz read articles by trans women instead of musing about how they think)

        • b.e.g.

          Andrea, my opinion is my own. I was musing, yes, and I am allowed. Why? Because, first of all, it is a discussion of ideas. Nothing is in stone here, particularly one trans-woman’s personal experience. And another thing, “musing” about how they “think” is altogether a different topic than their corporeal experiences. Have an open mind Andrea, and don’t jump down people’s throats when they have an opinion different from yours.

      • b.e.g.

        thanks for the info. Very interesting indeed. However, my husband is a PhD and I know all about studies, how they are performed, sometimes not very scientific, depending on the academic. But, I am glad it is being studied at all.

  • Meg S

    I’m not sure how to address this issue at all, but I keep finding little things that are problematic. But the elephant in the room that bothers me is that “trans women are trans women”. As if they’ll never be anything but, as if she’ll never consider a trans woman a woman. It’s not up for debate. Trans women are women, and I’ll fully judge anyone that says otherwise. Trans-exclusionary radical feminists aren’t welcome in my house. I feel she’s toeing the line right now.

    • Hear hear.

    • autillicautnullibi

      Yeah, even her clarifications seem a little exclusionary or separatist to me, which is honestly so disappointing. Maybe this is her blind spot or a matter in which she needs more education. If that’s the case, I hope she’s willing to be open to hearing more about the trans experience.

      • Kattigans

        I recommend reading what she posted on her FB. She wrote a very detailed, well thought out post that clearly shows that she’s educated and inclusive of all women – whether trans or not. There are differences between biologically born women who identify as women and those of trans-women. Its not exclusionary or separatist. She’s saying there are challenges that face trans-women that cis-gender women don’t face and vice versa. Perhaps we can all learn from each other and just get on with life. We all suffer from misogyny and the discrimination that comes along with expected gender norms/roles. And after all its unfortunately not how one feels about themselves, but about how society treats you. I can feel like a strong, independent woman but it doesn’t, for example, exclude me from being a target of sexism in the workplace.

        • Claire

          Her ‘clarification’ wasn’t more inclusive It’s plain separatist, but trying to make it look inclusive. I do note that she swapped the words “cannot equate the experiences of…” with “cannot conflate the experiences of…” Her subsequent speeches at Royal Festival Hall and Georgetown University were even worse.

          An ACTUAL inclusive statement looks like this:

          Transwomen have a different experience in life to ciswomen. Their journey into womanhood was very different to that of ciswomen. Some transwomen experienced a term of male privilege of some length. Some transitioned early and did not. Some transwomen are still finding their feet in womanhood. Others have been living as women, and living with misogyny, longer than me.

          Womanhood is a diverse label. There are as many different ways to be a woman as there are different ways to be a human. Our different experiences as women unite us, they don’t divide us. Transgender women are women. Their identities are equally as valid as cisgender women. Their issues are women’s issues. Their experiences add to the fabric and story of women. There is a place for transgender women in feminism, and a place for transgender women in society.”

          Chimamanda once said to a male television host “If you’re a white man, you don’t get to decide what is racist.”

          I agree. And if you are cisgender, you don’t get to decide what is transphobic.

          • Kattigans

            Are you stalking my responses to other users? It seems like you’re attacking me while also subsequently attacking Adichie. I can have an opinion and so can you. So can the entire world. Stop making other women the enemy of you and your life experience. I don’t get to decide what’s transphobic? I’ve never tried to. It’s ironic because you are bullying me about my own experience as a female born woman while trying to convince me that your experience and suffering is so much more valid than anything myself and any other woman like me will ever know. I think it’s been made pretty clear that I have compassion and empathy for you and any other trans-woman. It’s not a pissing contest for who has it worse. Give it a rest.

          • Kattigans

            Furthermore, I’ve made mention many, many times that I cannot ever know what’s it like to be trans. Just like you will never know what it’s like to be born biologically female and ID as a woman. Not exclusionary. Just a statement of truth. All I ever did was give my point of view based on Adichie’s answer to a question. Given the amount of upvotes my answer has, it looks like others agree. If you want claim to womanhood then take it and stop over explaining yourself and policing other people. I’m very open to your perspective and experience, but not when it comes to attacking me and subtly labeling me trans-phobic. You don’t know me and what I’ve been through. And vice-versa.

          • Claire

            You seem really defensive Kattigans. I never called you transphobic. I was calling Adichie transphobic. And my comments were respectful and civilised, even if they were robust.

            If you think your comments should be free from criticism on a public forum, then perhaps you misunderstand how public forums and discourse works.

            If you think upvotes is the measure of what’s equality and what’s not, then you’re missing the point of reasoning and logic. Trump got a lot of ‘upvotes’ too. In fact, racial segregation had 87% support amongst voters during the civil rights era.

            If you agree that transwomen are REAL women, and our value as humans and women is equal to that of cisgender women, then we are a lot closer on this issue than perhaps it seems.

            The very premise of the conversation was transphobic. The suggestion that two cisgender women get to decide whether transwomen are equal or a ‘lesser’ kind of woman is transphobic. If two white women appeared to television to discuss the ‘equal, but separate’ doctine and explain why black women aren’t real women, that would be undeniably racist.

            When any community talks about differences, that conversation can be either division or diversity.

            Diversity: “Hi. Welcome to the Women’s Club. Would you like to join us for a cup of tea? Hey, would it be ok if I asked you some questions about your experiences as a transwoman so I can learn about the lives of women who are different to me?”

            Division: “Wait. Is she allowed in the Women’s Club? I mean… is she a woman? Like, a REAL woman, like us? She is different to us, you know. Ok, can you please wait over there while we talk about you.”

            Chim’s comments were much more divisive than they were inclusive. Her follow-up commentary at GU and RFH would undeniably leave any young transgirls in the audience feeling lesser than the other girls, feeling apart, excluded and isolated. It’s a conversation that is harmful to their sense of self.

          • Kattigans

            1. I became defensive because it looks like your stalking my comments therefore your comments now feel targeted. I also feel like you’ve pulled words out of my posts to twist my position into something that its not.

            2. I don’t think that nor have I said that.

            3. I never said upvotes means equality? I just said that I’m not alone in my sentiments. I didn’t say that my sentiments held more weight than anyone else. Love how you compare me referencing upvotes to Trump voters and those in favor of racial segregation – really well meaning allusions you bring to the table. If that’s what you consider robust then hint taken.

            4. Not gonna get into this just will leave it at if you say it then I’m fine with it. I’m a liberal, special snowflake therefore I’m accepting of pretty much everyone and their lifestyle/ID choices. If you consider yourself a REAL woman whatever the heck that even means then I’m down.

            5. I don’t think it was ever explicitly stated nor subtly suggested by either party in the interview that trans-women are not real women or real people or real anything. If anything it was more suggested my the interviewer than Adichie. That’s my opinion and interpretation. You have your’s. We’ll leave it at that. And again, my opinion is that this conversation wasn’t about division. It does feel like women who are born female don’t have much of a voice sometimes in conversations with trans-women about our own experiences without it being labeled trans-phobic. I’m an ally and supporter. I’m just simply stating there are differences and to completely ignore those and lump all women into being just women is problematic. I think aids in silencing the diversifying plights and challenges of women of different backgrounds, races, sexual orientations, and transexuality. Again, that’s just my opinion. And isn’t that what the whole rallying cry is for intersectional feminism?

            I’m gonna bow out of this convo. Feel free to reply and thanks again for adding your opinions. I said that in my original post when you first replied to me.

  • jess

    I see Ngozi’s point and I think a great deal of people have misunderstood her or taken what she said out of context. A trans woman will never know what it is to be biologically born a woman. A trans woman, even if they have lived their entire lives feeling that they should be/are/want to be a woman, will never know what it is to exist in society as a woman since you were born. They have experienced male privilege up to a certain point, therefore of course their experience will differ. It’s not as if womanhood is this elite club that is keeping its doors closed to trans women, which is the way this has been narrated. There is no elite club. There is only the experience of misogyny since birth. Why trans women feel “left out” of it is unknown. They have had their own struggle, both internal and external, but it is not the same as a cis woman’s. Until gender equality is obtained, this will always be the case.

    • Kattigans

      “It’s not as if womanhood is this elite club that is keeping its doors closed to trans women, which is the way this has been narrated. There is no elite club. There is only the experience of misogyny since birth.”

      Thank you! This sums it up for me.

  • I scrolled through these comments and read so many people saying what they think is right but not taking actual trans voices into account. How would they even know if they’ve never experienced being trans?

    These comments are like when Black women say “This hurts me” and White women counter with “It shouldn’t hurt you because…”. Wrong on all counts.

    • stephanie

      Isn’t the issue more about the fact that cis gender and transgender people have had different experiences, and not that one was relatively easier than the other? Obviously both have faced their own personal and singular hardships, but the difference between the two is not a basis for invalidation of either experience.

      • Have you asked any transwomen their thoughts on what Chimamande said? Because to many of them her comments boil down to “You are not a woman and that’s it”. That’s the crux of the issue and most of these comments are showing that many of you feel the same way.

        • stephanie

          Nope. I was simply looking at the words used and the arguments at stake. I can see trans women being upset by her comments, as it is another claim against their identity. Additionally, it must be horrible to be made feel like less than human from a person who champions (all) women’s rights. My question was whether or not we as feminists can agree to identify as women, regardless of the luxuries, hardships, or experiences afforded to any one person in their life.

          • Ahh I read your comment incorrectly then. Yes, I do agree with you on that.

          • Claire

            I’m trans. I found Chimamanda’s words offensive.

            No one disagrees that transgender men and women have a different set of experiences, challenges and privileges to cisgender men and women.

            The problem is when you discuss those differences in a conversation about whether people’s identities are equal in value – you inevitably come across as being exclusionary.

            Chimamanda said that diversity does not have to equal division. Here is the difference as I see it:

            Diversity: Hi. Welcome to the women’s club. Would you like a cup of tea? Would it be ok if I asked you some questions about your experiences as a transwoman so I can learn about other women’s lives?

            Division: Wait… is she allowed in the women’s club? I mean… she is different to us. Let’s talk about how she is different. She grew up differently. And she had opportunities we didn’t. Do we have to let her in? What do you guys think?

            Ironically, Chimamanda herself said “If you are a white man, you don’t get to decide what racism is.”

            Exactly, Chimamanda. And if you are cisgender, you don’t get to decide what transphobia is. Stop cisplaining the experiences of transgender people as if we are all Caitlyn Jenner.

          • Jones

            OR you can look at it this way:

            we’re talking about black lives matter, so, yes, by default all lives matter, but today we’re talking about black lives because there’s a specific issue on the table that will get lost if the conversation is broader.

            AND if you actually read some of Adichie’s work, you know that she talks about specific experiences (“cis”)girls have ,like shame around periods, policing of girls’ clothing/body (sit with your legs closed, etc); she even shows the discharge on her character’s underwear in her novel (another source of shame), reproductive health; female genital mutilation; the patriarchal family structure.

          • Claire

            What makes you think I haven’t read Chimamanda’s books? What makes you think I am not a feminist or don’t understand women’s issues? What makes you think I’m not qualified in gender studies?

            Nobody is denying the issues of cisgender girls – female infanticide, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, reproductive rights, socialisation issues, domestic violence, rape culture, misogyny, gender pay gap, boko harem, poor parliamentary representation.

            But we must have intersectionality in feminism.

            As feminists, it’s important that we pay attention to the fact that feminism is about more than ending sexism — it’s also about ending all the interconnected systems of oppression that affect different women in different ways.

            Your exclusionary line of thinking is “a one-size-fits-all feminist movement that focuses only on the common ground between women is erasing rather than inclusive. Even if all women deal with sexism, not all women deal with racialized sexism, or transmisogyny, or black misogyny.

            The very reason we have intersectional feminism is because no two women have the same experience of womanhood. A black transwoman does not have the same experience of womanhood as a wealthy cisgender woman living in a matriarchy.

            If you don’t agree with intersectional feminism, then what exactly does ‘equality for ALL women’ mean to you?

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      Okay I’m going to raise my hand here as a black woman and say nope. It’s actually the opposite IMO. As a black woman what makes me angry is when white women attempt to pretend that all of our experiences as women are the same nottaking anything into account like socio-economics, religion and yes, race. That is not what Adiche did though. She stated that our experiences ARE different. A trans woman and a cis woman do not have the same experiences

      • Transgender women are women, though. They’re born as women trapped in the wrong bodies, and imo she and other people who think differently are trying to invalidate that fact.

        Either way, what does your comment about black women vs white women have to do with the point I was making when it’s completely different than what I was referring to?

        • Lil

          I do agree that transgender women are women born in the wrong bodies.
          But they were born in the wrong bodies, and, into an imperfect society where people are often judged based off of physical appearances alone. So a trans woman and others who are educated will treat trans women with the respect and courtesy they deserve.

          But those who don’t understand that gender is non-binary will simply see a male and project gender norms onto them and into the way the treat/act around them.

          • Agreed. As a nonbinary person who falls somewhere between the two, depending on the day, I do have strong feelings when people like some of the women in these comments speak so knowledgeably about something they know nothing about.

          • Lil

            Since mind reading and time travel are impossible, the only life that we’ll ever know everything about is our own lives that we’re currently living. And even this gets tricky at times. :/

            So I don’t think the other women on this board are being disrespectful or overzealous about their insight. Everyone’s just sharing their opinions in a courteous manner and with no ill will, which is what makes for healthy conversation.

            This is why I love Manrepeller. Even the comments section is filled with conscientious individuals, yourself and I included. 🙂

            (Unlike the Yahoo comments section, yikes… lol)

          • ValiantlyVarnished

            Exactly

          • Jones

            i don’t really get what “non-binary” means. isn’t everyone non-binary? don’t we all have aspects of femininity and masculinity in us? or to qualify for the moniker “non-binary,” does it have to go further? further in what way?

          • Claire

            It’s about labels. A non-binary person rejects the label ‘man’ and the label ‘woman’. They don’t identify with either gender. Or they identify with both.

            Ironically, non-binary transpeople are pretty much the only people advancing the ideals of gender abolitionists – who continue to propogate harmful stereotypes about transpeople.

          • Jones

            but that’s the thing. I don’t think many people actually identify or conform completely with their gender, and besides that, notions of “gender” continue to evolve and are also different in various cultures. isn’t that what radical feminism is all about? literally breaking down the gender constructs that exist as they are manifestations of patriarchy?

            This is why I reject the label “cis” and I reject the whole notion of gender non-conforming. nobody really conforms! by using that language, you’re making the binary more static.

            IMO the only useful difference between trans and “cis” people, is the strong feeling of dysphoria that trans people feel, strong enough that they’re willing to undergo costly, painful, and risky medical procedures in order to feel relief.

          • Claire

            I think it’s important to distinguish between gender roles, gender expression, and gender identity here.

            Gender roles are prescribed forms of behaviour based on people’s perceived gender – the things often expected of men and women. The misconception that women are predisposed to be stay-at-home parents is a gender role. The suggestion that ‘the ability to cook comes pre-installed in a vagina’ is a summary of another gender role. Society punishes people who do not conform with their expected gender roles.

            Prescribed gender roles are harmful to women because they generally subordinate women to men. Nobody should be coerced into adopting a gender role that they are uncomfortable with.

            Conversely, gender identity is a label that a person chooses to adopt to describe their own gender. For example, a person might have been born female but prefer to tick the box on a form that says male. Or might just want to avoid being forced to choose a gender altogether. An intersex person with both male and female genitals may prefer to call themselves a woman. Or they may prefer to call themselves a man. Or maybe just intersex. Or agender. Their gender identity is the label they choose for themselves when asked by others to describe their gender. Many jurisdictions recognise intersex as a distinct gender and sex. The State I live in already issues birth certificates that are NEITHER male nor female.

            The narrow binary, cisgender view of gender is harmful. It is prejudicial to assume that everyone else’s experience of gender fits within your own conception and experiences. People should be free to define their own identity on their terms.

            You don’t have to call yourself cisgender if you don’t want to, but it won’t change the fact that gay people exist. Similarly, you don’t have to call yourself hetero if you don’t want to, but it won’t change the fact that gay people exist.

            You can call yourself a gender abolitionist if you like. But… ironically… right now the only true gender abolitionists are non-binary people. If you are not rejecting gender altogether, how exactly are you abolishing it?

          • Jones

            Claire, I wonder if this is where the distinction is. Maybe we (cis and trans women) just experience gender very differently. For me “gender identity” is not what I feel, it is what I do. I don’t feel like a woman. I don’t even understand what that means. I simply am. It’s like if someone said to me, what does it feel like to be human? I simply am.

            I identify with other women through shared experiences (like menstrual cramps, periods, childbirth, cervical cancer, misogyny, etc) . Whether I wear my hair long or short, or wear makeup or not, the things that anchor me to my womanness are NOT that. they actually feel incredibly superfluous.

            So when someone who hasn’t/doesn’t have those experiences says we’re the same, it’s hard to understand what is the basis of that sameness. and i still don’t understand why we can’t be different and still be equal.

          • Claire

            Hi Jones.

            I’m glad to have this conversation. There is an increasing consensus amongst scientists that gender dysphoria is caused by a hormonal imbalance in utero that bathes the brain of the foetus in hormones that cause cerebral development along the lines of a particular sex. Lab scientists can adjust the hormones of lab mice in utero and cause them to exhibit lifelong behaviours of a mouse of the opposite biological sex.

            My point is that gender and sex are complex things.

            Since commencing cross-sex hormone therapy some years ago, I don’t experience a deep frustration with my body or my social identity. I don’t feel particularly female – I just feel like me.

            Your suggestion that biology is what defines a woman is exactly what feminists have been fighting all these years. A woman is more than a walking vagina and reproductive mahcine. Biological essentialism is right up there with saying you’re not a real woman if you haven’t had a baby/haven’t had an abortion/haven’t had a natural birth/haven’t breastfed. What about the women who’ve had hysterectormies? Mastectormies? Aren’t they real women any more? Is a woman who was infertile from birth no longer a woman? What about the girl who doesn’t find blood in her pants at 13 because she has anorexia? Not a real woman? What about intersex women born with both sets of genitals? Or an intersex woman born with no cervix? Not real women?

            To put the question differently – if you had a horrible disease and ended up losing your cervix, uterus and breasts… would you no longer be a woman?

            As for questions of clothing and gender expression – that’s a strawman argument amplified by ignorant comments by Caitlyn Jenner and media that loves to talk more about what a woman is wearing than her achievements or her identity. I agree with you that superficial things like clothes and makeup are not what defines a woman. I agree that it’s reductive to women. But that is not what transwomen are saying. Clothing does not make a woman.

            The point of third wave feminism is that a woman should be free to wear what she wants and express herself however she wants. Otherwise we are just swapping one gender uniform for another. And there are many transwomen who hate makeup and girly clothes.

            Transwomen are criticised for wearing clothing that makes them look like a caricature of a woman (think Jenner). We are also criticised for appearing and behaving too stereotypically masculine to be accepted as women. Often those two criticisms completely overlap, leaving no way of dressing ourselves or behaving that won’t attract criticism.

            There is no common experience of womanhood. There is not a single experience that all women share. Womanhood is an identity, not a common experience or a common biology.

            The genders of transgender men and women are equally valid to those of cisgender men and woman. To say otherwise is to create a different form of patriarchy.

          • Claire

            Hi Jones. It’s good to talk about these things.

            The first thing to understand is that gender dysphoria is a very real phenomenon. It is laden with despair, anxiety, and a lot of confusion. There is increasing consensus amongst scientists that it is caused by hormone imbalances in utero. There is also some suggestion that it is amplified by socially prescribed gender roles that are rigid and policed. It’s not a nice thing.

            Dysphoria was making it incredibly difficult to function in everyday life for me. The only thing that ever made any difference to my experience of dysphoria was cross-sex hormone therapy. After 18 months of hormones, I stopped hating my secondary sex characteristics and began respecting and loving my body more and more. I didn’t feel like a ‘woman’ or a ‘man’ at all, I was just me – but in a body that was truly my own. I cared for my body and was more comfortable expressing myself. I formed much more personal relationships with people. I began exploring intimate relationships with other people for the first time in 30 years after surgery. I didn’t feel like a ‘woman’ either. I just felt more at home in my own body.

            I pass fine as female. I forge connections with other women through shared experiences like you (misogyny, sexual objectification, autonomy of reproductive rights, breastfeeding rights, catcalling). However, I recognise that not all women shared the exact same experiences as me, but they are all still women. I support them in overcoming their own forms of gender oppression, even if their experience of gender oppression is not the exact same as mine. I would also honestly say that if you and I sat and chatted for an hour, we would probably find many more common experiences than you might think.

            When you say that you identify with other women through shared experiences of childbirth, menstrual cramps, periods, etc – is that the basis by which you identify with ALL women? Do you contest the basic identity of women who don’t share those experiences? Are they some ‘lesser’ or ‘other’ form of woman from you. Is an infertile woman (AFAB) not a woman? What about a woman raised in a matriarchial society? What about an intersex woman who is infertile and doesn’t experience menstruation?

            There is no ‘common experience’ of womanhood. It is an identity, not a set of defining experiences. There is not a single experience that every single woman on this planet serves. We are all different.

            We CAN be different and equal. Women are diverse. There are an infinite number of ways to be a woman. But we can’t use our differences in a divisive way. When I looked at the videos of Chim’s interviews at GU and RFH, all I saw was the modern day equivalent of two white women justifying the ‘equal, but separate’ legal doctrine to ‘other’ black children. The very premise of even having a conversation over whether transwomen are equal to ‘real’ women was transphobic. And it’s something transwomen deal a lot.

            Separating people into ‘us’ and ‘them’ is always the first step in marginalising a minority class and mistreating them.

            Diversity: “Welcome to the women’s club. Would you like to join us for a cup of tea? Hey, would it be ok if I ask you some questions about your experiences as a transwomen so I can learn about other women’s experiences that are different to mine?”

            Division: “Wait.. is she even allowed in the women’s club? I mean.. I mean… is she even a women… like a REAL woman? She didn’t have the exact same experiences as a girl that we did. Ok, can you please wait over there while we talk about you for a few minutes.”

          • k

            All genders should be equal, no? And yet they are different. I think Claire’s over-insistence on equate = equality is pretty mind-boggling. Equate = same, and trans and cis persons are certainly not the same in all respects (not to say that cis people are all alike or that trans people are all alike). That means there tend to be some differences.

            I have to say that I “experience being female” in the same way that you (Jones) do. If at birth my brain had been somehow transplanted into a male body and I grew up as a boy, I don’t think I would have been a trans women. Gender is something other people and society thinks about and projects on me. I’m affected by it of course but I can’t see how there’s anything “essential” to it. I don’t think there’s anything that all of 50% of humanity has in common that is excluded in the other 50%.

          • Jones

            exactly. the only time i hear that rhetoric of “i feel like a woman” is from transgender people, which again, makes me wonder if the reason why it’s so hard for “cis” people to understand is because we experience gender in a non-essential way.

          • Jones

            Claire,

            you wrote a very thoughtful comment on dysphoria and now I can’t find it on the thread. Did you delete it? I want to echo your sentiment, in that I appreciate your willingness to engage in this conversation with me. This is NOT a discussion that I would feel comfortable having in person. Plus, as a self-identifying trans person, you probably just want to “be.” I’m sure you get tired of explaining yourself to people like me.

            Anyway, I absolutely do believe that dysphoria is a real thing, and I understand there is science to back up physiological disruptions that can lead to it. My question is, why must difference always be treated as aberration? Why can’t it just be seen as diversity along a gender trajectory?

            I guess I don’t understand why “trans” identifying people don’t just occupy a third space in terms of gender. That notion already exists in lots of cultures. I wonder if dysphoria might actually exist precisely because one must be gendered as male OR female. If one embraces the dual identity (a “female” brain and a “male” body), maybe they would be in harmony. Why should it be treated as a mistake and “fixed” through “corrective” surgery and hormones? Frankly, I think the world would be a better place if some men had female brains.

          • .
            Make that … You don’t have to call yourself cis gender if you don’t want to, but it won’t change the fact that trans gender people exist. Similarly, you don’t have to call yourself hetero sexual if you don’t want to, but it won’t change the fact that homo sexual and bi sexual people exist …”.

            Carry on.
            .

        • ValiantlyVarnished

          I’m not disagreeing with that. But they lived a part of their lives as men with all that comes with being men in a patriarchal society. They were viewed and treated as men regardless of how they viewed themselves. The outside world viewed them as men and they were treated accordingly. I don’t think that can honestly be disputed. And my example of the expetience of white vs black women is a pretty accurate example of what Adichie was speaking of. Which is why I brought it up – you may not see them as the same. I think it’s actually quite similar

  • disqus_VufbhiISRJ

    I think her statement differs from how some people are interpreting it in that it is not claiming trans women, as a group of women, have different experiences than cis women (as one could claim of women of different classes/races/nationalities/seuxalites etc, and which i think would be fine), rather she implies that due to their different experiences trans women are a group outside of and tangental to women as a whole. I think acknowledging and allowing for a diversity of experiences is very important, and that it’s important not to flatten everyone’s interests into the same, but there’s no reason to conceptually push trans women out of womanhood to do that – in fact that’s why it’s important for cis and trans woman to work together and listen to each other achieve the best for everyone. I am interested in an empathetic movement above all. I am not interested in feminism that throws some women under the bus becasue their experiences are too difficult for more respectable, privileged women to understand or engage with.

  • gisele2015

    I completely agree with her. Being born a woman is a completely different experience that cannot be equal to the one of a trans woman. I support trans rights but i am a born and raised woman, not a trans.

    • Ashley Steenson

      Trans women were born women as well. They simply did not have the luxury, as you did, or feeling safe and secure within the bodies they were born with.

      • Hellbetty666

        I’ve been trying to articulate this in response to another comment, but you’ve done it so much more succinctly and elegantly!

      • gisele2015

        No, they didn’t. That’s the natural, not a luxury. It is a big issue not feeling your body is right for you. I am natural, they have issues. I support that they can solve this as best as they can, have surgery, whatever, but they are NOT naturally women. They are people as well and that is the most important.

      • gisele2015

        It is not the same. It will NEVER EVER be the same. I don’t have or ever had a penis. Period.

  • Lil

    I definitely agree with Chimamanda Ngozi. The experiences of trans and cis-gender women are different, however it doesn’t mean that one is more important than the other.
    I thought that what Ngozi was getting at is that all women deal with some type of strife, but of course it’s not the same for everyone.
    For instance we all face the hassle of not being able to just go out for a walk because it’s too dark out. Whereas the only difference with trans women is that before transitioning, most probably didn’t have to give an evening walk any second thoughts.
    Now this is a really broad example, but bottom line is that everyone should respect each other’s battles rather than add to them.

    • Claire

      Yes, but we should be united by our differences, not divided by them.

      Chimamanda was dividing transwomen away from womanhood.

      • Lil

        We are united, we’re just acknowledging the fact that everyone’s experiences are so unique. There’s no cookie cutter mold on what it means to be a woman.

        • Claire Sydney

          I think we agree then.

          Wouldn’t an inclusive answer from Adichie be something like this:

          “Transwomen have a unique and different experience of womanhood from non-trans women. Some transwomen transitioned early in life and were socialised as girls. Others transitioned later in life and were socialised as boys. Some enjoyed a period of male privilege. Others experienced emotional and physical violence whilst trying to live as boys. Others were born female, transitioned to male and enjoyey decades of male privilege before de-transitioning and returning home to their womanhood.

          The unique experiences of transwomen add to the rich fabric of womanhood. Transwomen are real women, and trans men are real men. The unique issues faced by transwomen are feminist issues, just as the unique issues faced by intersex women are feminist issues.

          I am unfree as long as any other woman is unfree – even if her shackles are different to mine.

          Transwomen are real women.”

          Instead what we got was Chimamanda tying herself in linguistic knots to avoid saying “transwomen are real women” whilst also trying to avoid coming across as exclusionary. Followed by a 1,000 word press release that confused things further.

          Otherwise, I think we are in agreement. 🙂

        • Claire

          Then why are there conversations on TV between two cisgender women discussing whether transwomen are REAL women (or, by extension, some false or lesser kind of woman)? If we are all inalienably equal, how can that conversation even take place? How does one person accept the job of deciding the worth of another woman? The whole thing is the modern day equivalent of two white men on television discussing whether black people are REAL people, and justifying the “equal, but separate” doctrine of the civil rights era.

          Why are feminism working so hard to ‘other’ transgirls and set them apart from the general community of girls? To marginalise them rather than embrace them?

          In any community – when we deal with differences, we can do it in a way that creates division, or in a way that creates diversity.

          Diversity looks like this: “Hi. Welcome to the Women’s Club. Would you like to join us for a cup of tea? Hey, would be ok if I asked you about your experiences as a transwoman so I can learn about the lives of women who are different to me?”

          Division looks like this: “Wait. Is she even allowed in the Women’s Club? I mean. Is she even a woman… like a REAL woman. She is different to us, she probably didn’t have the same experiences as us. Ok, can you please wait over there while we talk about you.”

          The whole premise of the interview with Chim was much closer to the second of those two.

  • Jessica

    An infertile cis woman will never know what it’s like to go through childbirth but it doesn’t make her experience as a woman have any less value than a woman who has been a mother. However, a cis woman without children might have more privilege as many businesses see being a mother as a liability. That’s the closest example I can think of.

    • Claire

      “Also wouldn’t saying that a trans woman is a woman be a way of erasing the trans women specific discrimination that trans women face?”

      Do you think that saying that a black woman is a REAL woman erases the specific experiences of racism that black women experience?

  • june2

    The general public needs to learn to handle paradox and contradictory subtlties as a state of harmony.

  • june2

    Nitpicking like this is ridiculous. Stop arguing over inane micro-perspectives, jeez. Women need to stick together AS WOMEN and that includes support from ALL the people, straight men, trans women, whatever! Whatever your path to valuing the feminine perspective was, thank you for just getting here!

  • Alexandra H-H

    For god’s sake, if you are Assigned Male At Birth, you have a male body. That’s the assignment. Parents talk to boy babies differently, they give boys and little girls different chores, they dress them differently, they play different games with them, buy them different toys, and have different expectations for their behaviors. Now, these experiences up to now can be classified as gender experience based on the presentation of sex. But upon attaining adolescence, girls and boys have very different physical experiences of puberty. Boys do not menstruate, and if they are sexually violated they do not have the additional potential trauma of pregnancy. Those Assigned Male at Birth who enter puberty grow on average to be larger, stronger, taller, with heavier bones, larger lungs, and a greater athletic capacity than women, who divert energy to the vital job of creating life for the good of all. These types of bodies are quite different genetically. Every cis-woman on earth of any race is genetically closer than any cis-woman is to anyone who was assigned male at birth. So yes, Adichie is correct, to say the least.

  • Sarah

    Hi manre

  • Sarah

    See this article on the importance of dialogue and communication.

    https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/12/05/david-bohm-on-dialogue/

    The issue for me is that there is no dialogue or real communication happening. If the goal is to learn and understand, we should not reduce a complicated and interesting discussion to a few words someone said in an interview.

  • Leah

    I agree with her. Trans women’s experiences are completely different from cis women. That’s not to lessen their experiences, it just differentiates it!

    I find all this in-fighting between people pushing for equality so degrading. It pulls the focus away from the ultimate goal: acceptance of everyone in any shape or form, treated as an individual rather than stereotyped.

  • Hellbetty666

    I’m a white cisgender woman first off. I’m struggling to process this. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest a ciswoman’s experience of being female is different to a tranwoman’s experience.

    So i start thinking about my experiences, where I’ve been singled out or harassed because of my gender. And in all honesty, I cannot say hand on heart that my social experiences are that much different to that of a transwoman, based on what I’ve read. As someone else has pointed out, not all transwomen will have experienced life as an athletic male. I can only imagine the amount of bullying and harassment (including sexual) and violence experienced by someone whose gender doesn’t match their biological sex. The reason for the bullying might be slightly different but the impact is the same.

    SO in one sense I’m grateful for Chimamanda (and Jenni Murray) for raising this as a topic for conversation, but I would ask them to respectfully sit down and listen to the transwomen in the room, and maybe together we can understand the differences and the similarities we share.

    (PS, why is it always transwomen who are singled out? I rarely see this discussion in relation to transmen)

    • Ashley Steenson

      THANK YOU!!!! Trans women are women. ❤️

    • Court E. Thompson

      “PS, why is it always transwomen who are singled out? I rarely see this discussion in relation to transmen” – I’ve always been curious about this too! I’ve only seen a couple articles that talk about trans men’s experiences. Idk if it’s because trans women’s issues are part of our feminist-sphere and trans men’s are not (though shouldn’t they be?) or if it’s because trans women speak out more? I honestly don’t know of a high profile trans man other than Chad Bono, but he isn’t really in the public eye anymore. Perhaps this is where gender conditioning comes into play?

      • Hellbetty666

        I think that it’s yet another expectation placed on us as women, that there is a “right” way to be a woman and if you don’t meet those criteria, you’re somehow doing it wrong. Problem is, no one can really say what those criteria are. On that basis alone, cisgender and transgender women have more in common than we do differences!

        That’s a great point about visibility though – Chaz Bono was the only famous transman I could think of. Again, I wonder if that’s because transmen feel less willing/able to speak out (thanks, The Patriarchy!), or if our fascination with Doing Womanhood Properly has focused the conversation on transwomen, rather than opening up a wider discussion about gender.

        So many thoughts!!

        • Court E. Thompson

          “there is a “right” way to be a woman and if you don’t meet those criteria, you’re somehow doing it wrong.” AMEN. And this has been an issue for women for….ever? From men and from each other. I think you’re right on with the “Doing Womanhood Properly” and that it puts more focus on trans women….which seems silly since we all do the woman thing differently anyway.

          There was a really interesting article in New York Mag (I think) about trans men’s experiences regarding sexism in the workplace – not at them, but at women – that they are privy to since they are perceived as men but weren’t when they were perceived as women. A good read!

          • Hellbetty666

            I will seek that out, thanks for the recommendation.

    • FGM, sex trafficking, sex-selective abortions, child marriage, menstruation, childbirth are all things that I can think off off the top of my head that affect females based on anatomy, not identification.

      Natal born women and trans women face overlapping concerns (violence largely at the hands of men, the burden of femininity) and we can and should work together within feminism to overcome those issues. But ignoring those issues specific to natal-born women so that we don’t appear transphobic seems like another way of silencing women. That scares me.

      • Kattigans

        Thank you!! This is exactly what I’ve been saying! This is not trans-phobic. Pointing out the experiences (and lives) of women who are born as female and ID that way their entire lives DOES NOT exclude trans-women from being women. Did A.C outright say, “well trans-women are trans-women not women”? No she didn’t. It’s like an internet witch hunt that makes no sense. Why can there not be a discussion about differences without it turning into a “trans-women are being excluded” finger pointing conversation? So now women who are born biologically female must sit down and be quiet because we are silencing another group? We all have our own experiences and differences; lets listen and learn from them. There are a number of visible and vocal trans-women who speak about their experiences (Hari Neff, Janet Mock). I’ve heard them and their stories and I still feel steadfastly that there are overlapping concerns that we both face, however these individuals will never fully know what its like to be born female, grow up as a woman and how that affects and shapes your identity and psyche. And same thing for them, I will never know their journey, their pain, and their hardships. I don’t see them as less of a woman than me, however it can’t be ignored that at one point these individuals were born male and perceived in society as boys or men and because of that there are certain gender norms/roles placed on them that may grant them privilege over their biologically born female counterparts even if they never experienced that privilege or don’t ID with it.

        • Hellbetty666

          As I’ve responded to another commenter, we MUST have these discussions, we have to fight against FGM and make sure the taboos around menstruation and menopause are openly discussed. We should also make sure we don’t exclude transmen from the discussion.

        • Claire

          She tied herself in a knot trying to be divisive without actually saying that transwomen are not REAL woman.

          If you want an actual statement that acknowledges our different journeys into womanhood, but is not divisive, here’s what that might look like:

          “There are as many different ways to be a woman as there are different ways to be a human. There is no single experience of womanhood.

          Some transgender women transitioned early in life and were socialised as girls. Others transitioned later in life and were socialised as boys. Some benefited from a term of male privilege. Others suffered physical and emotional harm while trying to find their place in society. They are real women.

          Some women transitioned to male, enjoyed decades of male privilege, and then de-transitioned and returned home to womanhood. They are real women.

          Some transgender women are still finding their feet in their new gender. Other transwomen have lived as women longer than me and have more accumulated experience living with misogyny than I have. They are real women.

          We are all real women. Transgender women are real women. Transgender men are real men. The experiences of transgender women add to the rich fabric of diverse experiences that make up womanhood.

          The identities of transgender men and women are equally valid to the identities of cisgender men and women. Transwomen must be accorded the same rights and privileges of all other women. They must be treated equally, and a kind soul would share our learned experiences to help them adjust to their new position as a subjugated gender – as we would for any young woman.

          Our different experiences as women unite us, they do not divide us. Transwomen are real women.

      • Hellbetty666

        I don’t think anyone has suggested ignoring these issues to avoid being transphobic though? I have seen some discussion about the language we use when discussing them (for example to ensure transmen are included), but the idea of suppressing these issues to avoid offence is horrifying.

        • Jenn K.

          I was responding to your statement that your experiences are not that much different than a transwoman’s. I was taking it out of the individual experience and talking about the issues that affect natal-born women as a class, no matter how we identify on the inside.

          If we’re not allowed to talk about the ways in which we differ without being shut down as “transphobic” then you (the collective “you” not you you 🙂 ) silence natal-born women and their issues. Which is what critics are trying do to Ms. Ngozi.

          It also erases the issues that trans women face as well. Given that only a small percentage have “bottom” surgery they have potential health issues (prostate health for one) that natal-born women don’t. If we pretend like nothing is different we miss a lot of opportunity for growth and understanding on both sides.

          • Claire

            We can talk about our differences. Just not in the context of whether transwomen are real women. There is a chasm between diversity and division. Consider this:

            Diversity: Hi. Welcome to the women’s retreat. Would you like to join us for a cup of tea. Is it ok if I ask you some questions about your experiences as a transwoman so I can learn about other women’s lives?

            Division: Wait.. is she allowed in the women’s retreat. I mean… is she a woman. She is different to us. She grew up differently. I’m not sure if she is a real woman. What do you guys think?

            Chimamanda’s comments were a lot closer to the second of those two things.

            Dividing people up into ‘us’ and ‘them’ is usually the first step in being able to treat them in horrible ways – whoever they are. And transwomen see this at every turn in their life.

            I recently observed an interesting example. A ciswoman was groped in a bar. Other women said “That’s terrible. You should not have the experience that.”

            A transwoman was also groped at a train station. Other women said “Haha. Welcome to being a woman.”

            Inequality stems from ‘othering’ people.

  • Gwyn

    her saying “trans women are trans women” and being unable to say “trans women are women” is what gets me. trans women are women! no woman’s experience is exactly the same as another’s, whether they are cis, trans, white, of color, rich, poor, etc.a
    additionally, trans women are not afforded male privilege. they are socialized as closeted trans women, something much more dangerous. in fact, trans women are murdered and commit suicide at a much higher rate than cis women. let’s not pretend there is any sort of privilege involved in being trans and not cis as a woman.

  • Lynna

    Women are women and transwomen are transwomen, the differences should unite us, not tear us apart. Why do we not see this insistence for transmen to let men born male know that they consider themselves equal to them in lived experience? Why don’t they let men know how they feel? It simply, in my mind anyway, is because many transwomen use the remnants of that very male privilege which they claim to not have, to tell women born female from birth that are the same as them, they are not.

    Many transmen, on the other hand, don’t have to prove anything to anyonewhy not focus on things that matter, things that serve a purpose in uniting us as humans? Let us all come together and celebrate our unique lived experiences and together work for equality of everyone.

    • Claire

      I know a lot of transmen (50+). I don’t see anyone contesting their identity. They are universally accepted. No one asks them to prove their manhood.

      I also know a lot of transwomen (200+). Their identities are constantly debated, often in front of them. Often in restrooms.

      It’s demeaning.

      “Equal, but different” was a legal doctrine applied to marginalise black women in the civil rights era. And besides, dividing people into ‘us’ and ‘them’ is usually the very first step in serious maltreatment.

      We are all women.

  • Beasliee

    I have an opinion but then I also think, why does it really matter who is what as long as we look after each other?

    Every time you define what it is to be a ‘woman’, the opposite still applies and is valid. Pretty sure this is Post-Structuralism in action.

    What I find really interesting is that Rachel Dolezal wasn’t ‘allowed’ to say she was black even though that’s how she identified and that’s how she lives. Race, gender and all other structures are forced and in reality are fluid; we need to accept this.

  • Jones

    the only thing this whole “controversy” has taught me is that there’s less and less room left for “cis” women in feminism. if you talk about reproductive rights, periods, ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, etc. or you go see the Vagina Monologues, you’ll be called transphobic.

    i was already feeling there was no room for black women and african women in feminism, but adichie tried to bring it back to basic core principles about equality, and gradually i started to tiptoe back into the room.

    now, after this blowback, i’m leaving the party and i expect others who were already feeling marginalized will leave as well. if we can’t do what adichie says–accept that while we’re all women, we have different experiences and needs–then maybe adichie is actually wrong: we should all (not) be feminists.

    • Claire

      Nobody advocating for transgender rights is diminishing issues of reproductive rights, ovarian cancer, etc.

      Feminism is not some sort of zero sum game where we pick the biggest two injustices and leave everyone else behind.

      • Jones

        when the Vagina Monologues is considered transphobic because it uses the word “vagina” in the title, then yeah, we have a problem.

        • Claire

          Is there any serious transfeminist or trans advocacy groups calling the “Vagina Monologues” transphobic?

          Because I know hundreds of trans men and women, and I don’t know anyone who is saying that.

          • Jones

            unfortunately there is. at Smith college it was banned from campus because it was deemed transphobic. even when women are talked about in the context of vaginas, uteruses, periods, etc, there’s always a corrective voice that yells that even talking about those things is exclusionary.