Each Monday, we bring you special, maintainer-curated content intended to enrich your VP experience. Please note that you can find past MMMMonday posts using the mmmmonday tag.
Also, a quick reminder about the other places you can find VP: vp_bulletins for local announcements; contact_vp for questions and feedback on the way VP is run; the Vulvapedia for basic questions; and don't forget about our sibling community over on Dreamwidth!
One more note: we're doing a giveaway over on our Facebook! If you haven't already, "like" us and the giveaway post on our FB page for a chance to win! (And select "get notifications" if you want to make sure you see everything we post - not required to win. :))
This week we have another piece from our very own frolicnaked, concerning "women's" issues and trans inclusivity. Tori / frolicnaked is a long time yoga student, high school teacher, and VP SSM. She blogs about yoga and other things over at Anytime Yoga.
So I hang out on Reddit sometimes. (Not my best choice, I realize.) While I try to avoid most of the main subreddits there, there is a certain amount of sexism, cissexism, heterocentrism, and body shaming that is woven through the place. You will know me because I am the person often writing:
- "Is this question open to women, too?"
- "I'm not straight, but...."
- "Um, could you not? Fat people [insert verbiage appropriate to specific exercise/physical activity under discussion] too."
Now, I am a markedly patient person -- source: I have been teaching ninth grade for eight years, and it is pretty much my dream job -- but the sheer number of times I do this gets overwhelming. Sometimes I just say, "Fuck it," and leave.
Remember this for later.
Recently, via another VP Safe Space Maintainer, I came across this op-ed piece (CN: abortion, anti-trans* bias) at Truthout. The salient point, if you're not interested in clicking, is that framing abortion access as a "women's issue" is exclusionary as it leaves out trans men -- as well as some genderqueer individuals -- for whom abortion access may be a personal issue.
Regardless of one's views on abortion, this is a real and significant thing in the world. In fact, it's probably even more significant because it applies to much more than a single issue.
In another facet of reproductive health, insurance coverage for copay-free contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act and the subsequent lawsuits challenging this is often framed as a "women's issue" or part of the "war on women." Now, it is absolutely true that contraceptive coverage does affect women as a class; I don't think anyone is trying to deny that. But what about the people who aren't women who need contraception and who are continually not considered by virtue of this framing? What happens when a health care provider internalizes the idea that contraception is a "women's issue" -- and doesn't ask some of their patients about birth control? Or when a patient brings it up, only to have their concerns dismissed? (As a cis queer woman, both have happened to me. I can only assume they're legitimate potential issues for other marginalized groups as well.)
Similarly, sexual assault -- in the news in recent years with respect to the US military and the infamous "legitimate rape" -- as well as domestic violence -- as in the Violence Against Women Act are largely framed as "women's issues" in public discourse. While, again, these issues do affect women, they also affect plenty of people who don't identify as such. In fact, from the relatively limited available data, trans* folk experience domestic abuse and caveatsexual assault</a> at proportionately greater rates than the stats for "women" in general. (Caveat: Some people who do identify as women -- for example, folks who are MtF -- are included in those trans* stats. However, from what I've been able to tell, the increased rate holds true for folk who don't ID as women.)
I also wonder about some less controversial, more accepted uses of exclusionary language. I cannot count the number of times I've heard the standard Pap, pelvic, and possible breast exam referred to as a "well woman" visit. Hell, I cannot count the times I've referred to it as a "well woman" visit. Or that prenatal care is one facet of "women's health" services, often available -- along with mammograms and period pain relief -- at places officially titled "women's health centers."
The problem is not that any of these "women" terms are flat-out wrong. In every instance, millions of people who do identify as women are affected. The problem, however, is that they're incomplete. There are also hundreds of thousands -- in the United States, more in the world -- of people who don't identify as women who are left out, both of public and more personal discourse on matters that may be hugely relevant in their lives.
The bottom line? Exclusionary language -- even well intentioned exclusionary language -- can make people say, "Fuck it." Even for some of the most patient, steadfast self-advocates, it can be draining. Because some marginalizing language is so pervasive. We say it faster than we can speak up against it.
I know we've had so many language talks in VP and in CVP. Precisely because it is so ingrained, exclusionary language can be silencing, chilling. Can make people go away. Given that it impedes people from seeking online help, how much more might it do so in real life?
Superstars - how has language hurt you, or been a barrier for you to overcome? If you'd like to share experiences regarding these issues, or otherwise discuss this piece, we invite you to do so in the comments.