I have posts coming down the line–one about the Haas convening in Houston, a movie review, and so forth–but this sparkling example of transmisogyny just came into my field of vision, and I’ve just got to talk about it.
You’ve heard that Jenna Talackova wants to compete for Canada in Miss Universe, and that she’s been rejected because of her trans status. I don’t want to judge women who choose to compete in pageants–it’s their right to do anything they choose with their bodies. Nonetheless, it’s inarguable that pageants are patriarchal. The judges examine women’s bodies in a way that’s often compared to cuts of meat. They judge women’s worth on the basis of how well they perform a certain constricting femininity, one that is designed to please men. The contestants aren’t just asked to mold their bodies to please men, but their personality, their way of speaking–there are categories in pageants to determine whether a woman has an “acceptable” conversation style or “acceptable” opinions.
Under these circumstances, you may not be so surprised to hear that Bill O’Reilly favors including trans women in Miss Universe.
This is what transmisogyny looks like.
O’Reilly has mocked trans folks before, comparing us to ewoks, saying in reference to gender presentation in the workplace, “If your name is Fred, you can’t look like Dolly Parton.” But when a trans woman seeks to involve herself in a patriarchal project like a pageant–O’Reilly is all over it. All of a sudden instead of comparing trans people to aliens, he’s asking, “What right does the Miss Universe pageant have to violate this lady’s right to be a woman?” Of course, the moment Talackova’s performance of womanhood dissatisfies O’Reilly again–the moment she thinks for herself–mark my words, he’ll be on the air saying that she’s gone too far.
This is because O’Reilly believes that women should not have autonomy, and trans women even less so. What he has proven here is that trans women can only get even a particle of respect from him–oh, he still mocks Talackova’s identity in the clip, mind you–if they perform femininity to exact patriarchal specifications.
God forbid, though, that trans women present in too feminine a style–as indicated by O’Reilly’s older comment on “Dolly Parton”–then, they’ll be the object of O’Reilly’s disdain again. This is part of the misogynistic pathologization of femininity on a larger societal scale, but especially, and in its most deadly context, when femininity appears on a male-assigned body.
And this is how most people think about trans women’s bodies and lives! How insidious. I hope this helps you to understand how transmisogyny works–that it is different from cissexism or transphobia. To me, O’Reilly seems like a good object lesson.
UPDATE: According to Jenny Boylan’s tweets (and I trust her), Miss Universe has decided they’ll include Talackova after all. This will be very interesting to watch! What if I livetweeted Miss Universe? I’m pretty sure that would end in tears.
UPDATE, the revenge: They’re considering including her again, but haven’t decided. Donald Trump apparently has strong opinions. Strange bedfellows.