Women-Only Space Does Not Mean Safe Space
I am really sick of the assumption by *some* feminists that women-only space is necessarily safe space. To begin with, I don’t want to have anything to do with all the transphobic crap that usually surrounds it, and furthermore even as a cis woman I don’t feel really welcome in the Girls Only Club. If these folks are so insistent on their narrow definition of womanhood, I’m sure at some point I’ll violate their pre-conceived notions. Too straight or too queer, too butch or too femme. Too something. I’m fine with participating in “anyone who IDs as a woman is welcome” spaces, but I do not go into them with the assumption that they’re automatically safer than spaces with men.
I was never really a part of your “sisterhood” or “shared girlhood“, so save your cutesy speeches about sleepover parties and announcing when you got your period to your friends. I was That Weird Kid. I did have friends, growing up, but as I grew into puberty being a girl became less about having fun on my own terms- dressing up, having tea parties- as well as catching bugs and playing in the mud- and more about a list of obligations and rules that I had to follow. A few of these things I learned from my mother, who is a feminist herself and not inclined to push me into forms of femininity that weren’t my thing. But most of them were proclaimed and enforced with bullying, shaming, staring and shunning by other girls. In junior high, I got bored with all the fuss over makeup, clothes, diets, boys (really is anyone impressed by junior high boys?) and dances. I retreated to my books. Same with high school. Boys, for most part ignored me, but girls obsessively enforced “the rules”.
After taking women’s studies classes in college, and observing how my experiences compare to other women, I’ve realized how much gender performance is part and parcel of faking being neurotypical. It’s suspected that women and girls are less often diagnosed with autism, or are labeled later in life because we are often better at passing as neurotypical, often by mimicking others, and just being quiet and withdrawn. My partner jokes that I have “male pattern autism”- I threw tantrums, I expressed loud opinions. My behavior was impossible to ignore, so I was labeled at fairly young age (at about 8 or 9) Anyway, I’ve gotten to the point that whenever I see a book or article, or hear a statement that “women think this way, communicate or develop this way” or whatever, I just think “That’s neurotypical women they’re talking about.” And most of the time whatever generalization was made doesn’t fit me very well, and may not even fit a lot of neurotypical women, but least of all me!
Now, I have indeed been bullied, harassed and sometimes abused by men but those experiences haven’t taught me that men, as a category of human beings are to be feared. I’m equally cautious with men and women in general social settings, though more cautious with men when walking down the street.
So really, I ask you is really so much better for womanhood, girlhood, femininity or whatever to be defined and enforced by women rather than by men? I think the nastiest tool of the patriarchy is not the average man, but rather other women, even ones who call themselves feminists. We are our own worst enemy. I’m not letting off the men off the hook here, certainly they should be held accountable *as individuals* for their actions, but let’s not pretend we have this glorious utopian sisterhood.
From transwomen and transmen, and cross-dressers and all manner of gender-diverse folks, I’ve learned that there are so many more options of who I can be as a human being, I feel more comfortable with being a woman in my own way *because of them* They are not in any way threatening to my identity as a woman. If they threaten yours, I think you’re the one who needs to work on having a healthy gender identity, one that’s based on being yourself rather than worrying about how other people identify.
Entry filed under: Autism/Asperger's, Concepts & Definitions, Feminism/Gender. Tags: aspergers syndrome, autism, autistic girls, autistic women, autobiographical, college, feminism, gender diversity, gender performance, gender roles, genderqueer, junior high, middle school, neurotypicality, tomboy, transphobia.