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:
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.