Monday, 10 March 2014

A trans perspective on cat-calls

There seems to have been a lot of fallout regarding Paris Lees' piece on catcalling in VICE . What struck me as curious is that at no point in the follow up pieces was it ever mentioned that Paris is trans. Now don't get me wrong, Paris is a kick-ass journalist and I'd hate to think that everything she writes has to be from a trans perspective. She's a young woman writing from a young woman's point of view and I'd hope that being trans is seen as irrelevant in much of her writing. Certainly the journalistic responses from others were very much on the lines of feminist critique and rightly made no mention of anything trans related.

So allow me to throw the T into the ring.

First though, the feminist response: I f***ing detest the objectification I've been subject to for most of my adult life. "Cheer up love" is the mild end of the spectrum, with "Oy Oy!" and a car horn towards the other end of the spectrum. "Pick your f***ing knees up you f***ing lazy c**t!" is just so bizarre I can't get into the mind-set of the guy who went to the effort of slowing down and leaning out of his window to deliver that tip during one of my training runs. I guess men just have to assert their place in the patriarchal power struggle regardless of their safety behind the wheel.

The thing is though, for a trans woman, a catcall can be life affirming. It means we've passed the test. A man has judged us, found us attractive, and told us about it. Our negotiation of the urban landscape is always a gamble - many of us fear interactions, fearing the misgendering or worse. When we encounter another person, particularly a man, there's always that moment of worry: will it be "Alright love?" or "F***ing tr**ny!"? It is always a relief, and I have to admit sometimes a pleasure when I get a catcall. I hate saying that as a woman and a feminist, but as a trans woman I occupy a precarious position in society and my brand of feminism is positioned accordingly.

As a group, trans women attract a lot of criticism for reinforcing gender stereotypes. Many of us dress according to society's rules of femininity. I'm guessing that if there was an index of feminine expression, with points scored for makeup, nails, skirts, cleavage etc, then we'd be further along the curve than what would be considered average for a woman. There's a very good reason for this: dress androgynously and you risk the misgendering that most cis women are immune from. Misgendering a trans woman hurts - those who use misgendering as a weapon against us know this only too well.

I'm talking from a position of relative privilege here, where misgendering is generally the worst I get. For others, there's the abuse and potential violence that comes from someone else's snap judgement of whether we fit with their narrow view of femininity. We crave the ability to blend in. We crave the privilege of living our lives without others judging us and finding us wanting in the gender stakes. Our feminine gender expression is one of the few weapons available to us in that daily struggle.

I'll repeat my assertion that the way some men feel the need to assert themselves over women in the sexual power battle just stinks. I'm with Paris though: I love a wolf whistle - it makes me feel sexy and above all female. Does that make me a bad feminist? Take a walk in my killer heels before you judge me.

1 comment:

  1. I have an urge to comment but my mind can't figure out what I should say. So what shall I say? You do and act as is your dictate. Be well and be happy.