There is shit among us we need to sift through. Who knows, there may be some fertilizer in it.
~Gloria Anzaldúa, Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color, 1990
Shortly after I woke up this morning, reflecting on the social media back and forths I engaged in/witnessed/tried to moderate, I thought to myself: damn. what a damn mess Adichie made! From the Women’s March to a Day Without Women, feminist movement in the US is a damn mess. Actin’ a fool like we ain’t learned nothing, not a damn thing.
Since her interview made the rounds yesterday, I have engaged in countless conversations trying to explain transmisogyny, transphobia, and transexclusionary feminist politics to cispeople—not all straight people and not all white people either. I take on the work of educating (as best I can) as a cis person knowing her limits and hoping the work I’ve done to teach myself by reading and respecting the words of transwomen of color is somehow transmitted. Though, of course, I can not speak for them, I also don’t think it is their job to do the teaching much like I don’t always want to explain sexism to cismen or white privilege to white folk. (Though as a college professor I have committed my life to this work, so I hardly get a pass on my job as an educator no matter how tired I am). All this to say: that was a lot of emotional and intellectual labor over something that should be obvious. And it made me mad.
Was I mad because all of that online unpaid labor meant less time with my toddler…sure. Was I mad that there are still so many people who have no idea the power they wield against those with less privilege no matter their intentions…of course. But really, I’m mad cause WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE. I teach my students about “the shit” among feminists from the perspective of my foremothers—those brilliant queer women of color that light my way. They sifted through SO MUCH SHIT, always doin‘ that hard hard work. They sifted through the shit and used it to plant a seed, trusting the “next generation” would nourish it.
And we haven’t. We buried the seed in more piles of shit.
Now I’ve come to see that Adichie has done us a favor by showing the “shit among us” lingers. And we can’t bury it, we have to deal with it. And by “we” I mean ya’ll who can’t seem to let go of that essential “woman” category that can be strategic but never clumsy, and never at the expense of others. Those are the master’s tools and we don’t need them to lift ourselves and each other up. (Look at the leaders of the Movement for Black Lives if you want proof.) In my last blog post, I said we need to get back to basics. So let’s put it to the test real quick. Did Adichie’s comment that “transwomen are transwomen” respect transwomen’s demand for bodily autonomy? Did it cultivate collectivity? Did it foster empowerment? Build solidarity in difference? Promote social justice? Sadly, no, it didn’t. And here are some of the reasons why. Clearly, she has some shit to sort through too.
No matter who you are, if you want to #resist, if you want be part of a feminist revolution: Get.*Your.Shit.*In.Line.