Sexism-based exclusion runs rampant in these movements, says Julia Serano in this excerpt from “Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive.” In part this is thanks to false assumptions that we need to overcome.
By Julia Serano
WeNews guest author
Sunday, October 6, 2013
(WOMENSENEWS)– All of us have been excluded at some point in our lives. Perhaps because of our size, or class, or age, or race, or nationality, or religion, or education, or interests, or ability. And of course, many of us are excluded because of different forms of sexism; that is, double standards based on one’s sex, gender or sexuality. Many of us are undermined and excluded by our culture’s male/masculine-centrism; that is, the assumption that male and masculine people and perspectives are more legitimate than, and take precedence over, female and feminine ones. And those of us who are gender and sexual minorities are stigmatized and excluded by our culture’s insistence that only “normal” bodies and “straight” and “vanilla” expressions of gender and sexuality are valid.
This sense of exclusion drives many of us to become involved in feminism and queer (i.e., LGBTQIA+) activism. We seek out like-minded people who share our goals to eliminate sex-, gender- and sexuality-based hierarchies, and together, we work hard to build new movements and communities with the intent that they will be safe and empowering for those of us who have been shut out of the straight male-centric mainstream.
And yet, somewhere along the way, despite our best intentions, the movements and communities that we create almost always end up marginalizing and excluding others who wish to participate.
Sometimes we are consciously aware that exclusion is a bad thing, and we may deny that it is taking place within our feminist or queer circles. We may even resort to tokenism, pointing to one or a few minority members in order to make the case that our movement or community is truly diverse. But in other cases, we are blatantly exclusive.
Condemning Other Feminists
Some feminists vocally condemn other feminists for dressing too femininely or because of the sexual partners or practices they take up. More mainstream gays decry the presence of drag queens and leather daddies in their pride parades and there is a long history of lesbians and gay men who outright dismiss bisexual, asexual and transgender identities. Within the transgender and bisexual umbrellas, there are constant accusations that certain individuals do not qualify as “real” members of the group or that their identities or actions somehow reinforce “the gender binary” (i.e., the rigid division of all people into two mutually exclusive genders). And in most queer communities, regardless of one’s sex or identity, people who are more masculine in gender expression are almost always viewed as more valid and attractive than their feminine counterparts.
The astonishing thing about these latter instances of exclusion is not merely their brazen, unapologetic nature, but the fact that they are all steeped in sexism; in each case, exclusion is based on the premise that certain ways of being gendered or sexual are more legitimate, natural or righteous than others. The sad truth is that we always seem to create feminist and queer movements designed to challenge sexism on the one hand, while simultaneously policing gender and sexuality (sometimes just as fiercely as the straight male–centric mainstream does) on the other.