Happy International Women’s Day!
Today, I want to talk briefly about why we shouldn’t celebrate all women. There are obvious candidates for exclusion: TERFS, pro-lifers, billionaires, girl bosses, trad wives, SWERFS, etc., who will continue carrying water for the patriarchy because womanhood is, for them, either a social club or an obstacle to be overcome. They are permanent victims, so thoroughly convinced of their own inferiority that they can’t see over the top of the gender box they're trapped in.
Read the original speech given by Sojourner Truth at the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Ohio, and the appalling bastardization published by a random ass woman over a decade later—which has, for reasons too obvious to explicate here, been passed down through the ages as the official transcript—and tell me all women are united in the fight for our liberation. (The original and more correct transcript was written by a man, btw.)
But more importantly, observe what is stripped away in the incorrect version, not just from Sojourner, but from the entire framing of women’s rights. “I am a woman’s rights,” Truth says. Her real speech is a direct challenge, articulate and forceful. The revision focuses on Truth’s own inclusion in the pantheon of womanhood. “Ain’t I a woman?” is a question that has less to do with challenging patriarchy and more to do with who this woman feels should be allowed in the club.
I often think about the “anything you can do I can do better” attitude toward women in sports that prevailed when I was growing up, and how dramatically that has shifted. I remember it being widely acknowledged that acceptance of the biological inferiority of those assigned female at birth was harmful to the fight for gender equality. How much do differences in socialization account for physical disparities between women and men? That was the question we were asking in my college Feminist Political Theory class almost 15 years ago. If the reaction to trans women who are participating against—and most often losing to—cis women in sports is any indication, the answer is that they don’t want us to find out.
Why are we allowing women who insist that we are so biologically inferior that we can’t possibly compete in the same arena as men, so weak and feeble that we cannot protect ourselves in a public space, so inconstant and easily influenced that we can’t be trusted to make decisions about how to use our bodies, speak for us at all?