Monday, March 08, 2010

International ALL Women's Day: "Feminista"

As a writer, I shouldn't say bad things about another writer. It's bad PR and it's bad karma.

But as a woman, I have to call out sexism, and cissexism, when I see it.

I was excited to read Erica Kennedy's FEMINISTA mainly because of the title. I happily bought the book, not just because I could put it on my shiny new eReader but because buying it I was supporting a fellow Latina writer.

The story and characters have turned out to be not be my particular cup of tea, but I wanted to read it anyway. Until the word "tranny" appeared -- and didn't go away.

***Warning: HERE BE SPOILERS***

The main character, Sydney, works for a magazine and she's assigned to interview The Raven, a male-to-female transgender artist who, Price-like, went from being known by his male name, then decided to go by a symbol becoming "the artist formerly known as." Then the artist disappeared for a while, and reemerged as a woman, calling herself The Raven.

When we first hear of Sydney's assignment, we have to play the "he -- no, I mean she; he hates to be called he -- I mean, she hates to be called she -- oh, whatever, you know what I mean" for laughs. Because denying a person's gender and identity is SO FUNNY.

Sydney's boss/editor calls The Raven a "tranny," and Sydney, an supposed feminist who "gets offended for everybody," does not bat an eye. Instead, she uses the term herself (in her inner monologue/thoughts, so it's not like she's doing it to "fit in" with the boss or to suck up to him/keep her job).

She gets her panties in a wad when the British boss uses the term "colored woman" instead of "woman of color" (which may be a cultural/dialectical thing, I'm not up on my UK PC jargon), but not a peep about "tranny" and "she-male" and misgendering The Raven.

When Sydney actually interviews The Raven, the pronoun "(s)he" is used once, and then, for one, "she." (Those are the only two times she's referred to with a pronoun). I guess we should be grateful they got the right pronoun ONCE, huh?

Yes, Sydney is supposed to be a snobby, petty, judgemental, shallow bitch. But she's the main character, and nobody calls her out on misgendering The Raven. All her other shallow BS is called out (if feebly) by another character, sometime in the book. This? Nope.

In the chapter following the interview we find out Sydney has been fired from her job because she misgendered The Raven in the article and made fun of her chosen identity. However this is presented as the "excuse" the higher-ups needed to get rid of her -- so, you see, she didn't really do something wrong, she did something stupid. And it's so unfair! "The trannies" complained about her, boo-hoo Sydney, and now "the cross-dressers" are picketing her apartment!

Later on in the book the author does paint this incident as Sydney subconsciously-yet-intentionally self-sabotaging herself, because, deep down, she really wanted to get fired. So she did the stupid thing on purpose. This does not solve the problem of the cissexist, transphobic, transmisogynistic slur being so casually thrown about: the fact that Sydney may have known it was wrong to misgender The Raven in print, out loud to the world, does not say anything about how she thinks about trans women. Not once was the term "trans woman" used in the novel, by the author/narrator or by any of the characters.

I wanted to read FEMINISTA because of the title. Because I still have not realized that "feminist" does not mean what I want it to mean. "FEMINISTA" means, clearly, "CIS FEMINISTA," with a capital C that stands for "cunt." Because if you weren't born with one of those, then eff you.

***EDIT***
The definition of "cis," for those of you who have not seen it before.

12 comments:

  1. I had a run in with Kennedy on twitter, and she was full of excuses, and absolutely unrepentant.

    I cut her off to spare myself her hate.

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  2. First of all voz, came at ME spewing hate. When "your hateful characterization of trans women in your book is unwelcome, and inappropriate" is your opening salvo, you're not going to get a discussion. You're either going to get blocked or you're going to get into an argument. So you own YOUR own shit, Voz.

    Secondly, do you realize that most people probably have no idea what you're talking about? I have no idea what CIS means even after reading this blog post. I have never seen that term. Your movement is not mainstream yet so you can't expect people to know what you're talking about or what offends you unless you educate them.

    And you're right, Criss, Sydney is a snobby, petty, judgmental, shallow bitch. Which is why she would never do the politically correct thing in this situation but to my first and main point, she wouldn't KNOW what the politically correct thing is. Because no one talks about this in mainstream media. If you want to get them to talk about it, this is not the way to make that happen.

    And you don't think her getting fired from her cushy, well-paying job is a consequence? I do. And of course she thinks that was an excuse they used to get rid of her. She thinks everything is someone else's fault. And no, she doesn't care about The Raven's feelings because she's too self-involved.

    If you had written something interesting, something that could enlighten the rest of us, I would have happily posted it on my blog. But there's nothing here worth blogging about. You're not trying to start a dialogue. You're not looking to educate. You're just looking to rage. And I'm not going to expend my energy to do that dance with you.

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  3. Anonymous9:17 AM

    I think you're right, it's bad PR and bad Karma to rag another woman sitting behind your computer behind a blog. You forgot Tacky.

    Maybe if you spent this much effort into critisizing male writers for misogyny, women would be in a different place. Just like some of the viperish women of the 70s who ate their own, you seem to be taking that example.

    Your energies would be best spent not tryinng to drag other women down but lifting each other up.

    You do not want to do anything but hurt this writer. If you really wanted to resolve it, you would go directly to her, no put her on blast. Grow up child.

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  4. Anonymous9:26 AM

    and btw "grammar" is the language of men.

    gertrude turned away from men's "grammar"

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  5. Shelly9:27 AM

    Criss I agree with you that the term is CISsexist, and maybe if the Erica took the time to research the issue before writing about it, she'd know what it meant. Also, you have every right to criticize a female writer--in fact, if women never criticized other feminists, we'd still be a bunch of rich white women sitting around whining about housework. Instead our movement has expanded, changed, and grown in many directions. Thanks for the interesting post.

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  6. I think it's interesting how in the name of "feminism" we're supposed to all support other women just b/c of the virtue of them being women, without regard to their actual actions or beliefs. It's like saying we all need to vote for Sarah Palin for President just b/c she's a woman. Really, it's kind of ridiculous.

    I don't see where Criss went on a hateful rampage against Erika here... I see a review with, yes, some anger over inappropriate terminology being used. It is true most people don't yet know what "cis" means (I didn't until recently). How is anybody supposed to find that out without people speaking up about it?

    (Criss, you could consider adding a sidebar section or link in your top linkbar with a glossary of terms, maybe? People can then easily look it up right here if they're unfamiliar with the word?)

    The problem with "feminism" is that it means vastly different things to different people. I don't think that necessarily has to be a negative against it, or a reason to abandon it altogether. It may just mean you have to fight make your own brand of feminism known, and hope it will spread.

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  7. Anonymous -- are you effin' serious??? "sitting behind your computer behind a blog"??? I'm not sitting BEHIND my computer, I'm sitting AT it. I'm not hiding, in any way, shape, or form. Are you seriously trying to call me a coward WHEN YOU ARE POSTING ANONYMOUSLY???

    I use my full name and I have a big ol' fat photo of my face up there.

    I never ragged on the woman, I spoke up about a derogatory slur. Had I just finished reading a book where the white main character (through whose POV we see everything), written by a white author, had referred to Black people as "niggers" repeatedly in the book -- and the character never saw what she had done wrong -- I would have spoken up the same way.

    I will respond to Erica's comment in a separate blog post, because there is a lot that needs to be said and that would be an eternally long comment.

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  8. For those of you following comments on this post, my response to Erica K is here: http://blog.crisswrites.com/2010/03/feministas-and-t-word-aftermath.html

    Shelly: the movement is growing and changing, but we still have a LONG way to go. We're getting there, and we've come a long way... but there is much work to be done.

    Marcy: too many people don't "get" what "feminism" means. That's why they call Sarah Palin and Dr. Laura "feminists" -- they happen to have vaginas, they MUST be feminists! All vaginas think the same! We are one Borg!!

    I find it hilarious that I opened the post referring to Erica and myself as "writers," but Anonymous took "writers" and read "women." The "woman" part is (in the second paragraph, and) the reason I spoke up; as a woman I can't sit idly by as someone uses those slurs to refer to another woman.

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  9. Funny how Anonymous talks about supporting women writers and calling out misogyny but doesn't bat an eyelash about the abject lack of support for trans women shown by all this transmisogynistic BS. Sad isn't it, that supporting ALL women, whether they grew up like us or not, isn't considered mainstream or worthy of raging against the machine?

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  10. Anonymous7:38 PM

    Erica Kennedy, you're a fucking disgrace to WOC everywhere. You SHOULD know about their "movement". What, just because it doesn't effect you, you shouldn't know about it? If a white woman wrote a novel in which character referred to black women as "hefers" or the n-word would you get pissed? YOU WOULD. Do not lie. Your book is not some philosophical masterpiece. We are not meant to judge your character for her ignorance, no, because that character is a rehashed carnation of yourself and you yourself probably refer to trans women as "trannies". Karma has been good to you I see, as your book, in reality, is not that popular.

    Also, don't you even try and step up to Voz. Voz is a more of a woman as you will ever be! EVER be. Do you know what it means to be a woman? Fight in the face of adversity, not cower and eat it up.

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  11. Anonymous12:36 AM

    i'm being educated by it all, frankly. i enjoy erica's writing, and will be returning to this blog regularly, too. relieve me of my ignorance on this, though (anyone): erica kennedy is latina?

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  12. Anon 12:36: I read FEMINISTA because of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's English Language Latina Authors (ELLA) Book Club (http://ellabookclub.com/), which is why I assumed she was a Latina author. Sydney (FEMINISTA's main character) is Afro-Cuban, so I assume that's Erica Kennedy's background as well.

    She's in Twitter as @feminista09, if you want to ask her! :)

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