Recently I was forwarded this post from a dear friend of mine:
My friend added that the post made her think of me as I am always discussing and modifying language in my company bebo mia inc. Our business offers education and community support to practitioners that work in the field of fertility, pregnancy, birth and parenting. The changing landscape in reproductive health means that we need to (re)examine language. The modern family has shaken up the heteronormative model of cis-male and cis-female people having babies together. Motherhood and pregnancy was for women only. Yes, that still represents the majority, AND there are other shapes and configurations to the family and it is not just women or ‘mothers’ getting pregnant.
This shift means that we need to reevaluate our language.
My team uses terms like ‘pregnant person’ in class. This ensures that no one is erased. This term represents cis-females, surrogates, trans-males, gender non-conforming (GNC) folks, gender-queer people and any other identity someone who is pregnant relates to.
That said, when I am working 1-on-1 with a pregnant person I ask them how they identify and what language they prefer me to use. I let them name it. I let them tell me what they want.
The stance we have taken at bebo mia has made us targets to ‘feminists’ who are trans-phobic and who post hate speech on our social media wall and who leave bad reviews on Facebook. We are standing strong in our position that everyone becoming parents, and the practitioners who serve them, need to feel safe in our community. Every person choosing to have a child needs education, love, support, and evidence-based information. Who can argue with the point that this is a right for parents regardless of their sexuality, identity or gender-expression?
Ok, back to the ‘menstruators’ post above. I am hearing that this particular individual doesn’t like being referred to as a menstruator. Fine. I get that. That is her personal choice. However, as an academic, her statement above is completely erasing the fact that menstruation is not strictly for women and girls. It is open to people with a uterus during their fertility life cycle regardless of their gender expression.
The author of the post goes on with a weak argument around ejaculation (the weakness coming from the fact that any person could ejaculate) and I do not see eye-to-eye with said author until the end of her post (yes, I am assuming that this person would identify as a she/her). I agree that the shift for inclusivity needs to happen across the board.
Here is what I am seeing happen…
**And I want to preface that this is bullshit and we live in a society that teaches and validates this everywhere!**
Women are on the second rung of the ladder below men, with trans and GNC folks coming up on the third rung. Within the three buckets of cis-males (1) and cis-females (2) and people who would not identify with either of those limiting binaries for whatever reason (3) there is a hierarchy of ranking based on race, class, ability, sexuality etc. There is a heightened awareness around sexuality and gender expression and race happening, so yay to that. However, what seems to be happening is the clammer to the first rung and in the process we are stepping all over the people beside us or those that society deem below us. It is fucking terrible.
Do you know who is not getting pedantic with their language? The top of our flippin’ social food chain. The proverbial ‘they’ are not concerned with the ‘mother’ versus ‘birthing person’ debate. ‘They’ are not worried that trans men are not represented in the marketing materials for sanitary napkins. ‘They’ are sitting watching everyone below them on the ladder tear each other down and fight to take up space at the expense of one another.
Ok, ok, this is where the exceptions are highlighted to me in emails and on social media posts. “My brother/husband/son/dad __(fill in the feminist thing he does here)__.” Thank you to those individuals. AND this needs to be a social shift across the board. We need hundreds of million of brothers/husbands/sons/dads standing up and saying that we all deserve the same rights, space, opportunity, wages, language and media representation – to name a few.
This is not happening.
I was in a lecture led by CV Harquail recently and she was talking about how we need to smash the Kyriarchy and I just loved it. It is true. This is no longer a patriarchal issue. The Facebook post above is written by a woman that wants to hold her social spot on the ladder. By using inclusive language to have trans-men who menstruate represented alongside her means she would have to share a piece of the pie and because it is perceived that we already do not have that much to share, people are scared to give it up.
This past weekend was the Women’s March and Alana and I opted out this year (we did attend in 2017 with a bebo mia crew). It was interesting to read the articles and blogs that came out over the weekend and it sparked a passionate conversation between Alana and I on Saturday night. Alana keeps me up on what is happening as she is on social media WAY more than I am. So, I give her full credit for tracking down and sharing with me the articles cited below!
The first tidbit that came through loud and clear was my point mentioned above. (White) women are fighting to take up space and in the meantime there is an issue of erasure for the trans community, for people of colour, for indigenous people and other marginalized communities. Reading about how the Halifax Women’s March was ‘roiled’ in division as marginalized people marched through with an offshoot organization to demonstrate the experience of erasure and their inherent lack of safety for marginalized people at the Women’s March. One trans-woman of African-Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq heritage, Jade Byard Peek, last year shared that she was uncomfortable at the 2017 march and she was sent death threats and told she was ‘an angry black man’ on social media for voicing her experiences.
It is heartbreaking to hear this.
The turmoil continues. At the micro level we are too busy tearing one another down to notice that we are all clawing for the shitty piece of the minority & marginalized pie. It is not much better when we move into the macro levels. The 10 organizers from Canadian cities who participated in the 2017 Women’s March applied for recognition by Women’s March on Washington to have Women’s March Canada be a formal branch of the Women’s March National Board (WMNB).
They were told that they would have to formally apply to be on the board for the grassroots organization they already created. The 10 Canadians decided that they would not umbrella under the WMNB after all but not 48 hours later they discovered that a Canadian woman and and a US woman had registered the name Women’s March Canada and appointed themselves directors of the new organization. This new organization had locked out the 10 original organizers from their social media accounts for Women’s March Canada.
This forced the original Canadian organizers to branch off even further.
This took momentum from a movement here in Canada. A movement that was created to support American issues like the Muslim ban as well as issues closer to home like the missing and murdered Canadian Indigenous women. Instead of focusing energy and time on these important issues, Canadian organizers are starting from scratch with new organizations and wasting time dealing with the hostile take-over from WMNB.
Again, there is so much battling in the ranks that progress is slowed.
To hear reporters like Jordan Valerie Allen, a queer woman of colour share about her experience of the Women’s March as something that was further marginalizing and filled with hate is disappointing. She too opted to not support the 2018 March.
“With many organizers legitimately addressing the exclusivity of the pink pussy hat and its negative impact on transgender women of color, I hoped that the 2018 Women’s March would be better and that cisgender white women would listen to our cries for inclusivity and validation.
Alas, I was wrong. When I attempted to call attention to the exclusion of transgender women of color in Indivisible and Action Together groups, I was met with rage and dismissal.
An administrator of a New York Indivisible group defending pink pussy hats after receiving criticism from transgender women of color.
I was called “divisive,” “misguided,” and “ignorant” for simply requesting that folks like myself be included in the movement. Apparently, I just didn’t understand the pink pussy hat. Apparently, I was distracting from the “real issues,” as if the inclusion of transgender women of color isn’t a real issue. Apparently, I was being mean to self-proclaimed allies, who I should apparently trust despite the fact that they care more about their hats than my life and humanity.
Nonetheless, I hoped that I could change their minds. I hoped that with sincerity and openness, I could convince them to empathize and understand.
I was again wrong. When I begged for empathy and understanding, I received only scorn and hate.
The same administrator responding to criticism with an uncaring and cruel “Okay.”
I realized, as I have time and time again, that cisgender white women would rather silence transgender women of color than do something as simple as listen to us.”
Back to my original re-post of the Facebook ‘menstruators’ statement… Nowhere in there does it state the actions that need to happen to have a truly safe and equal representation in society. We need to have cis-men shifting the belief around masculinity and creating safe spaces for trans-men. Cis-men supporting the smashing of the ladder so everyone, regardless of race, sexulaity, gender, religion, class and ability are on an equal playing field. Cis-women need to share the reproductive space with trans-men who are choosing to become pregnant. We all need to take care of all the members of the communities around us.
We all deserve to be seen and recognized and included.
We cannot erase others, even if that means a shift in definition for inclusion. We need to share the space. Binaries are no longer applicable. Encourage those to be mindful of language.
Think of individuals rather than through a ‘them’ lens which is isolation and othering. Think of that person who doesn’t identify as ‘mother’ who is birthing their baby. That person has the same fears and concerns and excitements. They are becoming a parent. They need support. They need information. They need to be seen.
Connect. Share love. Be kind. Smash the ladder.
Smash the kyriarchy.