Fundamental Issue With “Gender Criticalism” #1: Who Faces Misogyny

Katy Montgomerie
6 min readOct 20, 2021

You cannot justify removing women’s rights from trans women when they need them for the same reason that cis women do

If you aren’t allowed to talk about the misogyny you face then you will not be able to combat it

The Problem

1) At most two of the following can be true:

a) The people who face misogyny are those whose “sex” is “female”
b) Trans women’s “sex” is “male”
c) Trans women face misogyny

We know for a fact that (c) is true through both every day observation, and from the fact that you cannot always tell who is trans or not, meaning that the target of misogynistic harassment may be trans without the abuser knowing. No one asks for your original birth certificate before sexually harassing you.

Why It Is Important

Gender Critical (GC) people often argue to exclude trans women from feminist analysis and actions on the grounds of (a) and (b). But given (c), this has the effect of preventing the feminist analysis of some misogyny. Feminism is about destroying the patriarchy and ending misogynistic oppression. One of the oldest tricks that the patriarchy uses to protect itself is to prevent those affected from being able to name and address it. If trans women are prevented from discussing the misogyny they experience alongside cis women (often by GC people) then some misogyny goes unaddressed. If we are unable to combat some misogyny then we cannot end the patriarchy. Trans women’s and cis women’s liberation is inseparably linked and so we must all fight together.

Secondly, a common GC demand is a blanket ban of all trans women and girls from the women’s spaces they use today, again on the grounds of (a) and (b). The strongest justification for women’s only spaces is to address misogynistic sexism and sexual violence. Banning trans women and girls from them is unjustifiable when they face the same misogyny that those spaces exist to address.

Clearly in both cases if trans women don’t meet your definition of “female” then your definition of “female” isn’t useful for feminist analysis or determining legal protections, given that it doesn’t actually predict who is affected in either case, so we need a more accurate definition or a better criteria. Feminism isn’t a club, it exists to address real world problems and to do that you need a model of the world that actually reflects who faces those problems.

Common GC Responses

“Trans women do not face misogyny at all”

This is observably false. It would require either people to always be able to tell who is trans, or for misogyny to not be a motivation for actions but instead be the description of an interaction with a non-misogynistic motivation. It would mean turning a blind eye to misogynistic intention based on who the recipient is.

“Trans women do not face discrimination for being pregnant (or other form of misogyny not typically experienced by trans women)”

No women face ALL forms of misogyny. If we were to only include people who have faced, are facing, or even who could face, discrimination for being pregnant then we would be excluding a lot of cis women from the conversation too. This is true for any form of misogyny. There is no form of misogyny that all cis women face that no trans women do.

“Trans women only experience misdirected misogyny”

If an action is motivated by misogyny and the target experiences it then they are experiencing misogyny. It doesn’t make it any more acceptable or less worthy of objection because of who the target is. This is just an attempt to hand wave away the misogyny trans women and girls face without there being any actual distinction.

“Feminism is about liberating the female sex class, not males”

If your definition of a “sex class” doesn’t predict who faces the misogynistic sexism that your model of the world exists to address, then it isn’t useful for trying to address misogynistic sexism.

“Ok some trans women face misogyny, but not all of them”

Whether this is true or not doesn’t resolve the Problem (1). It just implies we need a better model of who faces misogynistic sexism.

“Trans women face less misogyny over all”

Whether this is true or not doesn’t resolve the Problem (1).

Also it doesn’t make sense to try and exclude some women from combating misogyny just because they experienced less of it.

“A cis man might experience misogyny, does that make him a woman?”

No. I’m not arguing that experiencing misogyny makes anyone a woman. None of this argument relies on trans women being men, women or anything else. Regardless of your view on what trans women are, if you want to end misogyny then you need to acknowledge that they experience it targeted at them.

It is worth noting that experiencing misogyny a handful of times in your life is different to experiencing it every single day like women, both cis and trans, do.

“As soon as someone learns you are trans you will stop facing misogyny so you can just identify out of it”

Firstly, a trans woman is no more able to “identify” out of misogyny than a cis woman. If “actually, I’m a trans woman” worked as a way of avoiding misogyny then any woman could say it (you can’t always tell who is trans), and they would be doing it today. I do not recommend trying it.

Secondly, trans women don’t only face misogyny when they are read as cis women. This may be a point of contention with a GC reader (though observably true), but isn’t actually necessary for this argument so won’t be argued further in this article.

“But if we let trans women in then what is to stop abusive men”

Whilst this is a concern that will be addressed in a later article, it is not a justification for excluding trans women from the fight against misogyny at all, nor is it a good justification for banning trans women from women’s spaces.

“Without (a) and (b) we can’t fight the patriarchy at all”

This is false, but also it is not a good justification to keep a broken worldview because you can’t imagine a better one, especially when there are already better ones out there. You need a model of how the world works in order to change it. A simple but incorrect model is not better than a more complicated but correct one, though it may seem it to people covered by both.

“Ok but trans women shouldn’t try and talk over women who are discussing pregnancy discrimination or other misogynistic oppression that trans women don’t typically face”

Yes. This is true of any form of misogyny and subset of women who face it. We shouldn’t be talking over people who have had experiences with various forms of misogyny. This includes trans women talking over discussions about pregnancy, and this includes GC people talking over trans women having discussions about the misogynistic sexual assault or rape they experience. This is a much bigger problem in White Feminism than in trans inclusive feminism.

“Trans men face misogyny”

Yes. They should be included in the fight against it too.

The Actual Solution

To resolve the Problem (1) there are two things to point out that the GC worldview has wrong:

i) Biological sex isn’t a one-dimensional immutable property of humans, it is a collection of characteristics, but regardless and more importantly…
ii) If there was a definition for “sex” that did place all trans women as “male” and all cis women as “female”, then it observably isn’t a useful model for determining who faces misogynistic sexism and patriarchal oppression, and so we should use a more accurate model that allows us to do feminist analysis.

Trans women do face misogynistic sexism and sexual violence and should be included in the fight against it — and should keep the protections they have from that today in countries like the UK. Only (i) or (ii) have to be true for this to be justified, but it happens both are true. The set of all people who face misogynistic oppression includes trans women and so the fight against misogynistic oppression must include them.

Are there any “Gender Critical” counter arguments to this that I have not addressed?

“Gender Critical Feminist Analysis” — One of my badly drawn cartoons, more can be found here

Huge thanks to the following for helping me with this article

--

--

Katy Montgomerie

Katy is a feminist, LGBT rights advocate, atheist, metalhead, insect enthusiast and trans woman