What’s the opposite of trans?
You’re no longer a woman. You’re cis
So yesterday we started by talking about the concept of gender and how we analyze it as a set of rules imposed on the sexes, controlling behaviour and punishing those who attempt to reject its constraints.
The gender system is a hierarchy – it places men above women, and this is why men hold nearly all the power and the money in the world. Typically ‘male’ characteristics, such as leadership, cunning and ambition, are praised in men and condemned in women. We see so many examples of this on a daily basis we almost become immune to it. Women also enforce these rules, so trained are we to serve the patriarchal system.
Here is where we introduce the concept of oppression. Like patriarchy, oppression is a word that many women feel uncomfortable with, and they frequently argue against it. It is however extremely important as a political concept, helping to explain how gender works.
The enforced gender rules serve to oppress women
Women are exploited for their reproductive capacity (ability to bear children) and unpaid caring and domestic labour. Essentially, we’re neither paid nor appreciated for women’s work and are judged on our perceived reproductive capacity – which means our worth is mainly assessed on our age, size and fuckability.
Transgender people tell us they have a gender identity at odds with their biological sex. Identity politics tells women that if they are not trans then they are Cis. Incidentally men are also sometimes called cis but they don’t listen and it doesn’t have any effect on them.
Cis was invented as the opposite to trans – it’s actually a chemistry term meaning “on the same side of” – so if we say that trans women are women, identity politics argues that there must be another kind of woman whose gender identity matches their sex – cis women.
Feminists object to this because:
a) we are women, no qualifier is needed; and
b) it would mean we accept that our gender (which we believe is an oppressive social construct) matches our sex – in other words that women identify with the chains that bind us.
“Now Catherine!” you might say, “I am not oppressed! Women in the west have choices! We have power, we have the law on our side!” and to a certain extent that is true – there has been much progress in the last 100 years, speeding up towards the end of the 20th century.
But our position compared to men is still poor: occupations mostly taken by women are poorly paid, women still do most childcare and domestic tasks, there is a wage gap, women of childbearing age face discrimination (whether they have children or not), older women often feel invisible, younger women are judged entirely on their looks, rape and sexual assault are at epidemic levels, domestic abuse is rife and women are often disbelieved.
And the list goes on. However it is true that white women in the developed world face less oppression than women of colour, in fact there are many forms of oppression which is why tomorrow we will cover privilege.