FeminismSkepticism

Cisphobia and Misandry: Totes Real

In the race for the title of “most victimized” we often find white, cis men yelling the loudest that they should definitely be on the podium. CISPHOBIA! MISANDRY! REVERSE RACISM! REAL THINGS! They insist. Just as a wee little example let’s check out an interaction from Piers Morgan yesterday:

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Oh Piers. Let’s sit down and have a talk shall we? Cisphobia and misandry are not real things. They are words that people made up to describe individual actions that they took to be threatening and paint them as a society wide vendetta against the white menz. They do not make sense if you look at the facts about who has the most power, who is put in jail most often, who is most often homeless, who has the highest mortality and suicide rates, who is discriminated against…I mean seriously we could list out every single bad thing that could happen to a person and statistically that thing is way more likely to happen to trans* individuals and women than it is to cis men (with the exception of completely rando things like genetic illness).

These kinds of terms come from a blatant misunderstanding of what social justice activists mean when they use terms like transphobia or misogyny. Sure, some people might use these terms to mean individual actions. Sure, some people do the same with racism and similar terms. But at the current moment in social justice thought we have come to the realization that individuals with harmful beliefs are not what does the most harm to oppressed individuals and those people should not be our exclusive focus. Instead, we can look at systems. Racism can exist without racists. Similarly, there are laws in place (or a lack of protective laws) that harm women and trans* people, there are societal biases towards cis men, there are unconscious preferences for cis men, and all of these things can exist without a single person who hates women or trans* people.

So what transphobia and misogyny are pointing out are these underlying structures that make the world suck for those of us who aren’t cis men. They aren’t “wah wah some guy was mean to me one time on Twitter”. They point to systematic behaviors and attitudes that overwhelmingly hurt those of us who aren’t in the powerful groups of this world. They point towards underlying attitudes that people have, such as Katie Couric’s comfort with asking about the genitals belonging to trans* women on national TV (something she would never do to a cis person). They point towards the fact that trans* people are often seen as jokes simply for existing, that women are painted as confusing others.

Now there are absolutely a few things about this system that are good for women (I don’t know that I can think of any counterparts for trans* individuals). These things include getting free drinks and having doors opened for them. In exchange for this, women get paid less, sexually assaulted more, gaslighted, hired less often, sexually harassed both on the street and in the work place, abused by partners more often, and have their rights to reproductive freedom restricted. Great trade off huh? But when you take the time to do a cost/benefit analysis, society as it is currently set up really means worse health, worse opportunities, less independence, more harassment, and more work for women than men. This system is what allows misogyny to exist. There is no comparable system that disadvantages men. NONE.

Similarly, there really are no advantages in this society built in to being trans* and there are ALL the advantages to being cis. Being told to shut up about trans* issues because you’re cis is not oppression. When your voice is the one that gets heard all the time on every issue, it is not oppression to be asked to close your mouth every once in a while when you know nothing about the topic at hand. In contrast, trans* individuals have obscenely high rates of suicide, assault, homelessness, unemployment, and incarceration. Totes the same thing amirite?

So we have a system that is set up to advantage cis men in almost every way. It is within that context that transphobia and misogyny make sense as terms. They refer to things that contribute to that system, that play into the tropes of that system, that continue to make life more difficult for trans* people and women. In contrast, if you try to use the words cisphobia and misandry within the current understanding of what oppression and privilege mean, you are simply laughably incoherent. You’re referring to a system that doesn’t exist. You’re trying to put one or two experiences of individuals being pissy on par with an entire society that systematically treats you like shit. Your words are asserting that a system of oppression exists for cis men when the facts say otherwise. This is why you’re often told you’re being offensive or ridiculous when you use those words: you’re really invalidating every shitty experience that women and trans* people have had by saying “you don’t want to let me be a jerk” is on par with them.

If it weren’t so offensive and pathetic it might be funny, but unfortunately when you minimize the reality that there is a system of oppression you contribute to that system. So way to go asshat. That one time somebody told you they wouldn’t go out with you is exactly the same as the regular and brutal assaults on trans* individuals. Exactly.

So stop.

 

Olivia

Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

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40 Comments

  1. I’m not seeing what Piers Morgan did wrong in the first place. I’ve been googling, but the discussions are very lacking in specificity. Was it that CNN put a label on the screen that said “was a boy until age 18?” That seems to be what set off a firestorm.

    Then Piers made post about waking up to find hordes of abusive posts, and then there was a twitter exchange in which Piers says he’s being the victim of cisphobia and he calls someone who called his interview “trans bumbling” a “transbumblist.”

    Am I missing something? What’s the meat of this thing?

    1. Seriously? Again? However, I’ll bite.

      1. He misgendered a woman that happens to be transgender over and over again. He refused to accept her narrative about her gender.
      2. If I recall, like Katie Couric, he rudely asked about her genitals. I mean, I don’t know why it is that every freaking person that finds out you are trans* has to ask about your junk, but it’s a rude and obnoxious faux pa.
      3. He refused to listen to his guest when she discussed her own history, and badgered her about whether or not she’d ever been a boy. (Spoilers! No!)
      4. Then when he got lambasted on Twitter, he freaked out and doubled down on his rhetoric, had a second interview where he continued doing the same shit, and ended the second interview with a panel of idiots who echoed his transphobic crap.

      1. Again what?

        All I said was I was trying to google the details and saw only very vague stuff.

        I see that he “misgendered” his guest by saying the guest was a boy until age 18. I hadn’t seen anything about him doing it “over and over again.” Is there a link to this? I’d like to see it.

        What did he ask about genitals? Whether the guest had surgery? I would certainly object to Piers Morgan being rude and obnoxious, but Piers is in general a pretty liberal guy. I would think he’d try to be sensitive. It seems a little out of character if he was insulting the guest or being rude and obnoxious about it.

        I was not aware he had “refused to listen to his guest,’ but I’m not sure what that even means. He’s a host of a talk show. Did he not let the guest talk?

        I guess I just need to locate the Piers Morgan show itself and watch the episode with this particular guest. I’d also like to see the twitter exchange in full. The parts I found online were edited and cut up. I’ll go looking for it some more, since there are no good links here.

        Sorry for bothering you.

        1. You are missing the point again. Misgendering a guest is rude. He did do it repeatedly. Asking at all about surgeries and genitals is rude, period. You’d think that Piers is a media professional and might have done five minutes of research on how to interview a transgender person, you know, being a professional. Instead of playing the whole thing for sensationalism. Especially after the Katie Couric thing.

          This account is all about trolling right? Contemplative1? As such, I’m not going to lead you through transgender 101 stuff. Google “transgender 101” if you need to figure this out. It’s pretty easy to deal with trans* people, and I think this post is disingenuous. I’m tired of folks being shocked that it’s rude to misgender people, and that folks seem to expect that they get to ask about transgender folks junk as a matter of course.

          1. This person keeps leaving comments on just about every post nit-picking and trying to “explain” to us why we are wrong, or why they don’t understand. “Comparing women to cows is dehumanizing.” They reply: “No, it’s not!” I ask: “Do you know the history of comparing women, specifically non-white women, to cattle and farm animals?” *crickets*

          2. So, the PETA post, the CVS post, and this one. Am I missing any?
            All contrarian arguing, missing the point, and JAQing off.

            Either ignorant and unwilling to educate themselves, someone who argues as a hobby, or trolling.

            Are you a troll, contemplative1? Is your username intentionally ironic, or is that just a happy accident?

      2. As a journalist, I am finding that our ilk is getting a lot less sensitive to our subjects, and Piers Morgan blew this one sky high when it came to rudeness. Of course, dumb ass, she had surgeries! Of course she took hormones! Yes, she was a girl living in a boy’s body and felt trapped. Jee-zus kee-rist, not only did he insult his guest, he insulted his audience. It made me so sick. We used to call this yellow journalism. It annoys those who know about the topic, and disgusts the fearful. It was a really bad move on Piers’ part. To me, if I know the obvious and my audience does too, then it’s a non-story. Bad move, Piers. Bas clas.

    1. Thanks – those videos will be helpful. I’m going to take a close look.

      Don’t get me wrong – I don’t even like Piers Morgan. I’m not defending the guy. I’m just trying to see with specificity what happened. I appreciate it very much that you found that link for me. My search results were a little different but I did not search using just “Piers Morgan Janet Mock.” I was searching using the term cisphobia and piers morgan. Most appreciated.

  2. This is the one thing I don’t like about words like transphobia, or homophobia. When we talk about phobias in every other since of the word, we’re talking about things on a very micro level. I’m arachnophobic and acrophobic, for example. My girlfriend… has a phobia about escalators, and I don’t happen to know what you’d call that. But typically a phobia is a personal fear.

    Because of that, phobia words are so extremely prone to misuse. Not that I’ve ever encountered anyone who was cisphobic anyway. It doesn’t matter much, because those seem to be the best words we have, and if we had words that didn’t invite the micro level use, they’d be misused anyway.

    1. Etymological fallacy. The definition within a social justice perspective, which is the meaningful perspective to come from when using words like transphobic or homophobic, is quite clear.

      As you point out, any chosen word might be ‘misused’ (I would say misconstrued), so it hardly matters if different words were chosen. The problem lies not in the words used, but in an utter lack of understanding about the subject to which they’re related and in which they’re applied.

      I should point out that the perfect example of the fallacy you commit is when you refer to these words as ‘phobia words’. They’re not in any meaningful sense and words like transphobia are so formed based on convention established with homophobia. There is no reason, in context, to suppose that ‘phobia’ is the equivalent to the root -phobia from Greek as in clinical psychiatry. These words are not the equivalent to apparently similar words as used in clinical psychiatry.

      Whether or not the presumed meaning of the word has anything to do with its apparent derivation, it is its use that determines its meaning and the only thing that can help misunderstanding is education. It should go without saying, but the need for education around this topic and those related is proportional to the misunderstanding of the words used to talk about them. It’s a very circular problem and bigotry, even the seemingly benign and mundane sort Piers Morgan engaged in, is pretty impenetrable.

      1. It’s rather important that this is “within a social justice perspective”.

        I’ve never heard of cisphobia before, but the word “misandry” is a real thing outside of the social justice perspective; I don’t know what other word you could use to describe The SCUM Manifesto, for example.

        Within the social justice perspective, Olivia is right: misandry isn’t a thing. It’s not pervasive, it’s not cultural, and it’s not nearly as common as certain white cis men seem to think.

        1. @Pseudonym, ” … the word “misandry” is a real thing outside of the social justice perspective; I don’t know what other word you could use to describe The SCUM Manifesto, for example.” … How about satire? As mentioned in the link you gave even. Weird you leap to thinking the “Society” for Cutting Up Men is a real thing O_O … Even if it was they would need institutional power for “misandry” to be a real thing in the sense of an opposite to misogyny. Which is how the MRAs frame it, a societal power structure that systematically disadvantages men. And we know how ridiculous that is, right? I’d accept misandry as “real” in the limited sense of prejudice against men, but the power imbalance makes it an impotent prejudice.

          As to SCUM as satire, this quote is not serious. The usual argument against it being satire is often an ableist assertion that Solanas was “insane”, read it, it’s actually quite funny…. “The sick, irrational men, those who attempt to defend themselves against their disgustingness, when they see SCUM barreling down on them, will cling in terror to Big Mama with her Big Bouncy Boobies, but Boobies won’t protect them against SCUM; Big Mama will be clinging to Big Daddy, who will be in the corner shitting in his forceful, dynamic pants.”

        2. Satire comes to mind. Or parody. At least, I would think so.

          An additional problem with words like ‘misandry’ is this:

          Fran and Frieda Feminist are discussing rape. Maxwell Misogynist comes in and says “Hey, men get raped too!” Fran and Frieda realize Maxwell is ignoring the real problem, which is what to do about RAPISTS, not men in general. Then Valentino Victim comes in and mentions that he was raped, and Venus Victim understands Val’s plight. But Fran and Frieda already heard Max’s tirade and assume Val here is no different than Max. Flame wars ensue, nothing constructive happens, and the MRM silences the men it claims to represent.

          Max’s favorite word is ‘misandry’. I never even heard the word until I went online and one particular discussion wrt: rape was derailed by MRAs.

      2. I think I didn’t make my point very clearly, and I do apologize.

        I have a personal dislike for the word, yes, because it used the “phobia” suffix in a context outside the normal context. I think that makes it pointlessly confusing, as it follows the same pattern as the psychological terms. Thus people not educated think they know what it means. There’s usually plenty of reason, in context to suppose that the words do carry similar definitions. If you say Morgan’s actions were transphobic, one can easily see that as Morgan personally has a phobia of transgender people. There’s no reason to think that it (or homophobia) differs from the psychological, personal term, without clarification. If someone thinks they know what a term means already, why would they bother to educate themselves further?

        In any case, by the same logic, one could argue that he hasn’t misconstrued “cisphobic” because you’re assuming it’s the inverse of a macro level term, but the people who coined and used the term use it as a micro level term.

        What I mean to say, however, is that I don’t like the term. I did NOT mean that we should get rid of it. Another term would be similarly abused. It’s not worth going over all the confusion and debate of trying to change the thing, just to take away justification for abusing the word, when we know it’s not going to help anyway. Homophobic and Transphobic are words we’re stuck with. I don’t personally like them for the same reason I don’t like “chocoholic”, except on a larger scale. But we’re pretty well stuck with them.

          1. Except they don’t. It has the exact same problem transphobia does. People take it to mean a personal level fear/distrust of homosexuals, instead of a large scale social issue. I’m not saying people mistake them for actual clinical phobias, but that they think the words apply similarly to individuals, and not social problems. People use homophobia to mean a single person, or group of people, who are bigoted against homosexuals constantly.

            To use the below example of xenophobia, there’s a reason we have both the word xenophobia and racism. Xenophobia is for mico-level fear and distrust of an population perceived to be foreign (even if not actually foreign). Racism is the systematic system of discrimination against those people.

            Is it so much to say that people might trip over words like homophobia and transphobia when they operate differently from every other word that carries the suffix? I’m not even arguing we try to change them, I’m just saying that when all other words ending in “phobia” are used on a micro level, it could be confusing that two of them are macro level, except when they’re constantly and casually being used in a mico-level sense themselves.

          2. “there’s a reason we have both the word xenophobia and racism. Xenophobia is for mico-level fear and distrust of an population perceived to be foreign (even if not actually foreign). Racism is the systematic system of discrimination against those people.”

            0.o
            No, xenophobia is not a term for racial prejudice. The reason we have both words is that they describe two different kinds of bigotries; US anti-black racism is not xenophobia; UK fear of Polish plumbers is not racism. Anti-foreignness and anti-non-white-people-ness aren’t the same thing.

    2. This is a great point. Phobias can be very specific. People have phobias about fish, open spaces, closed spaces, water, hamburgers, and almost everything else under the sun. That seems to be more related to the clinical definition of a phobia — when a psychiatrist diagnoses someone as having a phobia, it’s a medical condition related to an unreasonable and uncontrollable fear of something — could be anything. In that sense, cisphobia most certainly can exist, just as much as fear of spiders or open spaces or heights or flying.

      Then there is the common, casual usage of the “phobia” word. People often will self-diagnose, so to speak, and say that they have a phobia about, say, public speaking. When really what they’re saying is that they’re nervous about speaking, but they really wouldn’t be actually diagnosed by a professional with glossophobia.

      Then there is another usage of the phobia which relates to a person’s prejudice against a particular group of people. Homophobia, is used in this fashion. I think this is the area where folks are saying that cisphobia doesn’t exist because they’re relating the use of these terms to racism and prejudice against sexual orientations and such. It’s like when people say that black people simply can’t be racist in the US, because of the great power and privilege disparity that exists here. So, even if a black person refuses to hire white people at his company, or won’t associate with white people, that person is not a racist because a person can’t be racist against the dominant race.

      So, cisphobia most certainly “can” exist in a given person as a medical condition. A person can most certainly describe themselves as “cisphobic” if they have a bit of a problem being around cis folks or don’t like them. In the third sense, however, whether cisphobia exists depends on whether you accept the premise that a person from a disfavored group can’t really hate, fear or loathe or be prejudiced against a dominant group.

  3. Mankoi is right. You need new words. When people who unknowingly offend somebody by not using their pronoun of choice get put in the same box as Fred Phelps, the box is too big to meaningfully define anyone. Piers Morgan does not personally dislike or fear transfolk. Zimmerman had no conscious belief in his racial superiority. They are both influenced, unthinkingly, by bigger, subtler structures, which should never in the first place have been described with words that, to anyone without a Tumblr account, evoke images of overt and malicious acts set to Elton John and Itzhak Perlman, respectively.
    Everyone is a bigot–so now, nobody is.

    1. “Mankoi is right. You need new words.”

      No. What needs to happen is continued dialogue and more education. The words are fine. The problem is with the people who don’t know what they mean. There’s nothing inherent in a word (any word) that makes its meaning instantly knowable. Words and their meanings are learned and the meaning of words like transphobia can be learned too.

      “Everyone is a bigot–so now, nobody is.”

      That’s so devoid of useful meaning.

  4. Trigger warning for castration, incest, child molestation, and rape: I suppose John Money *might* qualify as cisphobia, what with his idea to raise a boy as a girl and then force the twins to have sex to convince “Brenda” that “she” was a girl, but then again, funny Money really did *not* understand being trans* at all; most trans* people will tell you they were born that way, which didn’t fit into Money’s ideology at all, really. But in general, the US media don’t talk about Money’s breaches of ethics for some reason.

    On Morgan himself, seriously, Piers, you don’t ask people about their genitalia! Are you having sex with this person? Are you an MD diagnosing some sort of genitourinary disorder? Are you a surgeon prepping the patient for some sort of genital surgery, such as a hysterectomy? Are you getting DNA samples from a rape victim? Are you Howard Stern, and is the person you’re interviewing by any chance an adult film star who markets himself on the size of his penis? Wait, this situation is none of the above? Then it’s none of your damned business! This isn’t even a trans* thing, this is a human decency thing.

  5. Not to nitpick, because the stats involving trans compared to cis are quite real. However, I’m quite certain men are more likely to be jailed or imprisoned than women, and I believe have higher rates of suicide and homelessness as well.

    1. It’s a really true point, and I don’t think it’s nit-picky at all, but it can certainly be explained at least somewhat with “Sexism hurts men, too.” Our expectations of “masculinity” aren’t good for men.

  6. MRA’s are wrong about feminism. Women’s issues are important, and overall deserve more attention than men’s. Also I agree that misandry isn’t really a thing, and cisphobia is definitely not a thing.

    But I take issue with this statement: “I mean seriously we could list out every single bad thing that could happen to a person and statistically that thing is way more likely to happen to trans* individuals and women than it is to cis men (with the exception of completely rando things like genetic illness).”

    I partly agree with that, I can’t think of any way society disadvantages cis people. But in the preceding paragraph you mention homelessness, which affects more cis men than cis women. Same with the criminal justice system, even controlling for actual commission of crime. Being male has as much affect on what sentence a convict receives as does being black (I’m not sure how or if it affects conviction rates). It’s why in social justice spaces one usually hears about the epidemic of black MEN in prison.

      1. Sexism, LGBT discrimination, and transphobia being brought up as problems doesn’t mean feminists want men to befall ill. Being a cis man, I get it, I once upon a time, in a darker age, thought that people bringing up discrimination issues meant that they were telling me I was a bad man. Not so, not so, not so. Asking for equal treatment =! reverse discrimination.

        1. @dr. dr. professor
          I didn’t say those things shouldn’t be brought up as problems. I was disputing a specific, incorrect claim.

          @mrmisconception
          I’m guessing you didn’t read my comment if you think I’m an MRA. I didn’t bring up men’s problems because women’s were brought up. I challenged a statement in the OP that itself was about men’s problems–specifically that every single one is something women experience more and worse of.

  7. cisphobia?????

    que?????

    if piers picks his nose, his head is sure to cave in!

    i am a cis man. cisphobia doesn’t exist.

    in my own opinion, it is possible for misandry to exist, but if it does, it is so rare as to hardly be mentioned because male privilege overrides it.

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