Laverne Cox’s objectified body ’empowers’ no one

What the fuck are you trying to sell us, America? This month, Allure featured a nude photo of transgender actress, Laverne Cox in the magazine which she herself, as well as a number of sites, have presented as empowering and groundbreaking.

Laverne Cox. Photo: Norman Jean Roy/Allure

The Cut, for example, spoke with Cox about the shoot, who admitted she *gasp* ate mac ‘n’ cheese the night before.

“The day before we had done the Essence Black Women in Hollywood luncheon with a bunch of the ladies from Orange Is the New Black. So that night we went out to dinner… I was like, I want to have mac ’n’ cheese. I know I have a nude photo shoot tomorrow, but I want to have mac ’n’ cheese tonight. I don’t like to talk too much about this, but I was my biggest weight during that photo shoot, and so I was like, Gotta love yourself. You got to embrace all of this.”

This was deemed “radical self-acceptance” by The Cut. Ok, so we are to believe that, 1) Achieving a “perfect” body, as defined by a patriarchal/porn culture, through plastic surgery, then presenting it as a sexualized object for public consumption equates to “radical self-acceptance”? 2) Eating food is “radical?”

Cox explained that she decided to do the shoot because she felt it “could be really powerful for the communities that [she] represents,” adding, “Seeing a black transgender woman embracing and loving everything about herself might be inspiring to some other folks.”

This statement strikes me as all kinds of backwards. Is it really a sign that we “love everything about ourselves” (which, for the record, I hardly expect anyone to do. Women, especially, are taught to hate their bodies and work to alter them to suit the expectations of a misogynist society. Trans people have received the message that, if they don’t properly fit into the limiting and oppressive gender binary, there is something wrong with them that can only be resolved by embracing the opposite end of the gender spectrum) if we alter our bodies through surgery and hormones? It seems clear that “radical self-acceptance” is not at all what Cox is experiencing or conveying to her audience.

“There’s beauty in the things we think are imperfect. That sounds very cliché, but it’s true,” Cox said. But where, in this image, are the “imperfections”? She and Allure seem to have done everything in their power to create and present a “perfect” female body, offered up to the male gaze for consumption, but sold as “radical” and emblematic of “self-love.”

If women or transwomen were truly allowed to love themselves, I doubt they’d be spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture. The fact that Cox’s body is seen as “subversive” because she is trans doesn’t change that. Her body doesn’t look subversive. It looks like any other objectified female body, sculpted by surgery and enhanced by Photoshop.

“Gotta love yourself. You got to embrace all of this,” Cox says. Ok. Then do that.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Michele

    “O.K. Then do that.” Perfect summary! Thanks for this excellent piece.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Michele!

  • Survivorthriver

    “It looks like any other objectified female body, sculpted by surgery and enhanced by Photoshop.”

    And, maintained with artificial hormones.

  • Kim

    Funny how men love everything about themselves and they STILL don’t participate in nude shoots let alone where they look like passive and submissive objects. mm.

    • Meghan Murphy

      How could they possibly TRULY LOVE THEMSELVES without posing naked like sexualized objects? It’s a real mystery!

    • Dana

      Except the occasional rare bird in Playgirl. But here’s the deal…

      Number of magazines catering to dudes’ desire to see naked submissive women: Eleventy bazillion

      Number of magazines catering to women’s desire to see nekkid men: One

      And Playgirl also has a large gay male readership. Just sayin’.

      P.S. I haven’t read Playgirl since my twenties. I’m 41 now.

      • tt

        Playgirl literally doesn’t exist anymore. Went under a few years ago

  • It baffles me that liberals can’t see the contradiction between screaming “body positivity” at the top of their lungs and advocating the extreme surgical alternation (and in some cases mutilation) of healthy body parts. If it ain’t broke, why are you fixing it? Or do you really think the surgically altered mess that you end up with if you get a bunch of surgeries is your body? In other eras the body was seen as mostly unalterable and people tried to change societies and social norms. Now society is seen as mostly unalterable and people surgically disfigure their bodies instead. It’s sad, almost to the point of being dystopian.

    • Changing society takes many decades. Not much comfort to those of us born in the wrong body.

      • Nobody’s born in the wrong body. That’s the point I was trying to make. Penises are not wrong. Vaginas are not wrong. Ambiguous genitals are not wrong. Small breasts are not wrong. Large noses are not wrong, etc. And there is no such thing as a “wrong” mind-body combination either, though I do believe that there are some personality traits that are harmful no matter who has them.

        Social change will never happen if people don’t make it happen. Contrary to liberal belief, there is no mystical spirit of change. Society changes because of real social forces (e.g. people taking to street to demand change, corporations taking action in order to increase their profits, government trying to maintain the status quo, etc.)

        We don’t know how fast society can be changed because liberals and moderates are always trying to slow down that change in order to not scare the poor conservatives. Modifying body parts to fit social norms only reinforces those social norms. This not only slows down positive change, but encourages harmful change. At the moment, most gender non-conforming children do not believe that their bodies are “wrong” and most small breasted women do not opt for breast implants, but that is changing because of the promotion of such ideas/activities. How can people be convinced that prettiness/gender norm defying bodies are acceptable if they are constantly hearing stories about people in similar situations surgically altering them?

        When liberal feminists make the endorsement of unnecessary surgeries such an important part of their movement, it causes them to undermine their own stated goals. These surgeries would not be so common if liberals did not endorse them and the practices that lead to them (e.g. children playing with highly gendered toys, pornography consumption, the sexualised depictions of women in the culture, etc.)

        • lizor

          “Nobody’s born in the wrong body. That’s the point I was trying to make. Penises are not wrong. Vaginas are not wrong. Ambiguous genitals are not wrong. Small breasts are not wrong. Large noses are not wrong, etc. And there is no such thing as a “wrong” mind-body combination either, though I do believe that there are some personality traits that are harmful no matter who has them.”

          Yes. This.

          This whole “My desire for a Barbie Body is biological and is also a human right” is a subset of an epidemic of toxic narcissism that has become endemic to our culture. And to categorize this so-called “activism” under “diversity” is so Orwellian it make my head explode.

          • Shane

            Ever consider the fact that people transition from male to female or female to male for the benefit of their own mental health, not so others can gawk at their bodies and use it to make them feel good about themselves? Do you want to try and look at yourself in the mirror and quite literally not identify with your sex? How about have people refer to you with incorrect pronouns? Living a life in the body of someone you are not? Being trans is NOT in ANY WAY narcissism, toxic or a way to gain attention and love from others. If there’s one feminist people should be looking up to, it is Laverne Cox. Not the writer of this ridiculous, anti feminist, transphobic article. Shame on you.

          • Meghan Murphy

            What is transphobic about this article, Shane? Do you not think my analysis of objectification and pressure on women to achieve patriarchal beauty standards should be applied to Cox’s image?

          • Leira

            No one is arguing that the objectification and pressure on women to achieve patriarchal beauty standards is a thing.

            But does that mean that any woman who has a body that fits your definition of “the image” someone worth shredding from a feminist POV? Or only if they took active measures to acquire that image?

            Please advise if I’m misinterpreting your argument, but it feels like you’re telling Laverne what to do with her body. How is that different from what the patriarchy is doing? What matters is intention, and you don’t know hers.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No, what matters is context.

          • Beyonce H

            Yes, and the context is that in a world where white cis people control black and trans bodies, she’s getting to decide what she does with hers. That is a radical act for her.

            And all the references to surgery and hormones in the article and comments ARE transphobic.

          • Meghan Murphy

            When you say ‘white cis people’ do you actually mean rich, white men? http://feministcurrent.com/11689/on-corporate-feminism-and-the-appropriation-of-the-womens-movement/

          • lizor

            “Do you want to try and look at yourself in the mirror and quite literally not identify with your sex?”

            Fucking rights I do.

            I don’t “identify” with the presumptions made about me based on my breasts, my hips, my bone structure and the fact that I am capable of getting pregnant and being saddled with the responsibility to raise a human being for a few decades. I don’t “identify” with the fact that I was fodder for an opportunistic paedophilic rapist when I was a young teenager.

            That is if you define “identify” with believing you are entitled to having complete control over your circumstances and that you have the right to bend the world to your will.

            However, there is also a school of thought that “identity” is made up of the accumulation of experiences you have in the world living in the body you were born with. And that maturity is the ability – developed over time – to cope with limitations, restrictions and adversity.

            The world is terribly toxic, thanks to a combination of late patriarchy that is intermeshed with extreme cartesianism – the notion that our bodies are somehow, fantastically, separate from who we are and we can swap out and alter our own flesh as easily as we can move to a new apartment.

            Feminists aim to influence the world by speaking the truth about their experience of living in female bodies in a world that both subordinates and fetishizes those bodies. The fact that such a form of disembodied fetishization as we see with Laverne Cox is now seeping into education systems such that children are being taught to dissociate and to alter their bodies before they have even had time to form their own identity is horrifying.

          • amongster

            “…not so others can gawk at their bodies and use it to make them feel good about themselves?”

            Obviously Cox appreciates others gawking and explicitly states that this was “empowerment” for transwomen, therefore something that makes “them feel good about themselves”.

            Missexing happens to many people. In the case of trans people it is not even a mistake and “misgendering” can only happen when you believe in an innate gender. Missexing is only problem in a gendered world in which different sexes are expected to behave differently and get treated unequally.

            Your body is *your* body, if you like it or not. Do you think most females are happy in their bodies when they are told 24/7 how they do not live up to the ideal?

            Some transwomen actually are autogynephilic which means these males get sexually aroused by the idea of having a female body. Tell me how that is not narcissistic.

            Laverne Cox is in no way a feminist and nothing about Meghan’s article is transphobic. Get a clue.

          • megan

            You all are still being transphobic and refusing to see it. And what’s feminist about policing women in their choices they make about THEIR OWN BODIES? You are literally arguing against people doing whatever they feel they need to do to address gender/body dysphoria. Yeah, we can all understand your hatred for the male gaze and patriarchal beauty standards, but that’s a battle to wage against male gazers and patriarchs. Not other women.

            Instead of even considering the idea that this article might be transphobic, that you *might* be playing into your own internalizations of transphobia, you’re reacting to people calling you out by telling them to “get a clue.” Do you see what is inherently offensive about bashing a black transwoman for not fitting your white definition of feminism? Getting annoyed at men chiming in with their 2 cents on this feminist issue is kinda the same as transwomen and allies getting upset w/ ciswomen chiming in with their own 2 cents about trans bodies and politics.

            Do you understand that what a transwoman experiences is not the same as what a ciswoman experiences, and that both experiences can be valid? Transwomen actually may STRUGGLE to even get seen as attractive, or sexual. To deny that sometimes we want to be seen as sexy is repressive, and actually plays into patriarchal shaming of female sexuality. I’m not rooting for Playboy, but I’m rooting for black trans visibility and sexuality.

            You keep talking about Cox being objectified, but not about Cox’s agency – her choice to be in those photos. Also, have you ever seen any queer feminist porn? Pretty incredible, without the horrors of human trafficking or press-on nails scraping the insides of vaginas.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Why don’t you explain why this article is ‘transphobic,’ since no one else seems to be able to answer that question.

            Also, re: “You are literally arguing against people doing whatever they feel they need to do to address gender/body dysphoria.”

            Ummmmm….. This is very troubling…. So you think we should accept girls and women starving themselves to death because of body disphoria? Because it’s their ‘choice’?? THIS is why choice feminism is total bs.

          • amongster

            Yes, *I* understand that a transwoman’s experience is not the same as a woman’s experience. Do trans activists know that too? I don’t think so.

            Doesn’t change the fact that Laverne gets treated like a woman when asked to pose nude. That’s misogynistic, no matter if a transwoman is asked or a woman and that’s why this gets criticized here. It is femininity that both women and transwomen are forced to live up to and just because some transwomen (and some women) believe that they *choose* to alter themselves to appeal to the male gaze and think getting objectified means empowerment doesn’t make it any less misogynistic.

            Choices and consent could only be meaningful in a free and equal society. But since it is more important to you to *feel* free than to *be* free I guess you will continue to praise the exploitation of yourself and others (queer porn, really…?). Obviously, being seen as “attractive” or “sexy” to white heterosexual men is your biggest problems as a “feminist” .

          • Missfit

            ‘And what’s feminist about policing women in their choices they make about THEIR OWN BODIES?’

            Talking about something is not policing. This obfuscating language should stop.
            I want to address this ‘argument’ because I see it come often in feminist discussions (or what tries to pass for feminism) and find it very thought-terminating. If I follow your argument, would you say that we can’t critic the use of skin-whitening products? Because these products sell, and critiquing a society that leads black women to put potentially damaging chemicals on their skin to make it less dark is shaming the women who do so? Because it’s their choice and they have agency. I feel this is really an unempathetic, individualistic way to look at things. What about systemic racism and sexism? If a woman chooses to wear a burka because she believes her body is shameful and dangerous, would it be forbidden, because ‘policing’, to raise concerns?

            ‘that’s a battle to wage against male gazers and patriarchs. Not other women.’ Yes, that’s what it is. The ever pervasive male gaze that leads women to see themselves through it’s dehumanizing filter, hate their natural, evolving bodies and seek to change it.

          • lizor

            You got it Missfit; that is exactly megan and many other members of the chorus of outrage here:

            identification of the way that sex-based power hierarchies operate is “policing”.

            To note the way that any subaltern person in a power hierarchy might adapt to, participate in and perpetuate that hierarchy to their own detriment and to the detriment of the wider group is “phobic”.

            So we should all shut our mouths and make megan and the rest of the crew’s comfort in their individualistic oblivion to the actual mechanics of violence and oppression in the real world our priority.

            There is nothing twisted, sick, sad or toxic about any of it…

            Sigh.

          • Oceans

            Where is the transphobia? I see no fear of trans people in any of the post of the comments. I see criticism of sexist definitions of what it means to be a woman.

          • Rich

            “Living a life in the body of someone you are not?”

            It is Cox’s current body is the one that is something he is not.

            This kind of surgery is medical malpractice. Someone has a psychological or medical problem with their self image, and we treat the healthy body as if it was the problem.

        • Rami

          HOW DO YOU KNOW NO ONE IS BORN IN THE WRONG BODY? I get that the world, reality, is devoid of value/meaning, and that humans insert those onto objects, people, etc. You’re saying people are people and we choose to classify some as normal and abnormal. I get it. BUT…if you were to take a boy and place him into a room his whole life where he has no access to other people and never gets to see anyone or have access to any news or society in general, then yes this boy may grow up not feeling like he’s “wrong” because he had not seen any other people and so he cannot make comparisons that make him feel inadequate. Social comparisons are causing these boys/men to feel this inadequacy. Again, I get it. BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW that in that same scenario, if we were to take a mirror and put it in that room, that that boy would not grow up to feel that something is wrong? Sure you’ve cancelled out social comparisons but maybe the entire phenomenon can be explained at a hormonal, biological, or genetic level. Maybe he will still feel a discrepancy between the neurochemical experience of consciousness he has and the outer appearance of his body.

          You can’t just go and blame “society” and patriarchy for every thing for crying out loud. There’s plenty of documentation of homosexuality in the animal kingdom. Do we have to document trangenderism in animals too? Sigh. Oh let me guess homosexuality is different. No maybe it’s not. Maybe they both have good biological or genetic explanations. That’s the point. And of course it could very well be an interaction of biology and society…but you’re not saying that are you? You’re saying: Society did it. And you sound so sure of it too. There’s plenty of great studies that support biological determinism. Just look at the childhood gender nonconformity wikipedia page.

      • Joanne

        Everyone was “born in the wrong body.” I wanted to be born in a body with a fast metabolism, but nope, it didn’t work out that way. I wanted to be born completely abled. I wanted curly blonde hair, blue eyes, long legs, fair unblemished skin. The “born in the wrong body” is a very childish thought process. Yeah, so you have dysphoria, some people are so mentally ill they think their arms shouldn’t belong on their bodies. The more exposure the trans ideology gets, the more people deconstruct the ruse we’re being sold. Lines like “born in the wrong body,” which many trans people disagree with (and several researchers have debunked), don’t sway people anymore.

  • Eva

    Well, actually you should change the title since it’s not actually true, because Laverne Cox’s body empowers herself and that is good enough.

    • Meghan Murphy

      How does sexual objectification empower Laverne Cox? Also, feminism isn’t about individual, temporary feelings of empowerment. It’s about collective liberation.

      • Paula

        No where in your article does is state that Cox identifies her empowerment specifically as FEMINIST empowerment. There are other kinds of empowerment and one of them might be feeling good about yourself/ how you look whether it be the result of lots of exercise, training and healthy eating or some other means.

        • Meghan Murphy

          The coverage of her shoot and her words were coded in that way. Personal is the new empowerment, donchaknow.

        • Laur

          This is a feminist blog, that evaluates things from a feminist perspective. Feminists bring a feminist perspective to things, whether or not they are obviously related to feminism.

        • Dana

          Your ability to feel good about yourself being conditional on whether you eat “right” or exercise enough means you’re deriving your ability to feel good about yourself from something outside of yourself. That’s not empowerment, it’s dependence. You should exercise, if you want to, or “eat right,” if you want to, because you want to be healthy, not because your self-regard hinges upon it.

          • Rich

            “Your ability to feel good about yourself being conditional on whether you eat “right” or exercise enough means you’re deriving your ability to feel good about yourself from something outside of yourself. That’s not empowerment, it’s dependence. You should exercise, if you want to, or “eat right,” if you want to, because you want to be healthy, not because your self-regard hinges upon it.”

            IMO, people should “feel good” about themselves because they have done something to earn that feeling. Why should I feel good about myself just because I exist?

          • Lee

            Dana didn’t say you should feel good about yourself just for existing. I think they’re saying you should feel good about who you are, because the rest is not controllable (we all get old and our bodies decay, for example; many people get sick and don’t bounce back; deriving self-esteem from being able to exercise may leave you in a place of losing your self-esteem if that ability is lost).

        • Paula, do the libfems know that you’ve posited that LC’s shoot might plausibly NOT constitute FEMINIST empowerment?

      • Jess Heman

        i call bullshit on that statement. since when is it feminist to attack another woman on her body and her expression of sexuality. we are ALL constantly subjected to patriarchy and do swallow some of it. many women, many feminists recognize the impact that socialization has on us and our opinions on beauty. meghan, i have seen some of your pictures online. i do some of the things you do…when i paint my nails, style my hair, put eye makeup on…i think the things we do to our appearances are formed by the constant hum of social messages around us. where do you draw the line on sexual objectification versus feminist empowerment? …that’s where an individual’s feeling of self-empowerment, choice, and freedom of expression come in.

        • Meghan Murphy

          No one has been attacked in all of this except me.

          • Lissa

            Meghan, do you wear make up? Do you style your hair? Do you paint your nails? Do you ever wear sexy lingerie? Because in the photos I’ve seen of you, it looks like you do all of these things (I obviously can’t say anything about the lingerie but it’s a guess). Because if you do any of the above things, I don’t believe you have the right to accuse Laverne Cox or any other woman of objectifying themselves. You obviously care what you look like. That doesn’t make you any less of a feminist, nor does it make Laverne Cox any less of a feminist to embrace her surgically altered body and feel good about it and good about herself. Choosing to love yourself as a black trans woman when society as whole tells such women that they are of little value is most definitely empowering, in my opinion.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’ve written about my makeup and performance of femininity 80 billion times, Lissa. And no, I do not fucking wear lingerie. I’m not performing porn for my partner, thank you very much. Caring what one looks like is entirely different than arguing that conforming to beauty standards set by capitalist patriarchy will empower women.

        • Joanne

          You aren’t talking to choosy choice third-wave feminists. What about that is so hard to grasp?

        • “meghan, I have seen some of your pictures online’…”where do you draw the line on sexual objectification versus feminist empowerment?”

          Meghan has actually written (here, at Feminist Current*) about her own beauty practices and performance of femininity. It turns out a feminist woman can wear eyeliner and/or lipstick and not only decline to proclaim these actions to be ‘feminist’ or ’empowering’, but also engage in a little critical analysis of the same.

          *try the ‘Femininity’ tag

          • Jude

            I’m sorry, but Lavern Cox’s photo is obviously empowerment, and if you can’t see that then you don’t know what empowerment even means. It’s objectification because the key here is CONSENT. She WANTED to be photographed, this is about her feeling comfortable and even confident in her own skin, and she did it to inspire others in feeling comfortable with their own bodies as well.

            Although I don’t think there’s a question in this being a “feminist issue,” (duh, trans rights, it’s obviously a feminist issue?) I’m not sure why this is even an “issue” at all. This “feminist” rant is obviously from a completely ignorant, unjustified, transphobic point of view and has no relevancy at all except to drag Laverne Cox down, which is exactly what feminism is against – girl hate, which is essentially what this is. Not sure why you’re so adamantly against her, but you shouldn’t write an entire “feminist” article trying to trash her and what she’s doing for her various communities because some people will actually believe that this is a real feminist argument.

            You shouldn’t complain about being attacked when you’ve written such a misguided article. Next time, do some research.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Consenting to objectification still doesn’t empower women. If that were the case, Playboy would have liberated us from patriarchy a long time ago.

          • Joanne

            Is everything a woman *wants* to do empowering? We’re the Manson murders empowering because Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian *wanted* to commit them?

          • Sabine

            Jude my dear it’s YOU who desperately needs to do some research. You clearly don’t have even the most basic grasp of radical feminism so best to not advertise this fact on a radical feminist blog. You will not be taken at all seriously.

          • Ellesar

            No Jude, have to call BS on that. Look at the ‘choices’ Bella Knox made starring in porn. Defining as a feminist and everything that young woman ‘wanted’ to be abused by men!

            Cox’s self exploitation is of course much less serious in terms of any concerns for her safety and future mental health, but as a CHOICE it is that wonderful ‘choice’ that women have to be ‘beautiful’ or at best a non entity. Cox buys into the typical sexist notion that women are defined and approved of when we perform femininity for men and conform to beauty standards.

            I do not see how it would be particularly inspiring for other transwomen either – Cox passes extremely well, and has the acceptable ‘attractiveness’ for a woman in this society. The vast majority of transwomen look nothing like that – they cannot get afford the surgeries to change facial and body proportions, and let’s face it most transwomen really do need those to totally pass, whilst naked.

          • Zhang He

            Why does “being confident in your own skin” = lying in submissive poses, photoshopped, naked and exposed?
            As been stated here by others, if this was so “obviously empowering”, why aren’t the men in power doing it?

            Why didn’t Floyd Mayweather do a whole bunch of nude photo spreads for various “fashion” and “lifestyle” magazines before his big fight? Wouldn’t that have been the ultimate “empowerment”?

      • Chiara

        If feminism is about collective liberation, then maybe you should be a part of the collective liberation that supports the autonomy and empowerment of ALL women, not just cisgendered white women like yourself. And for the record, transwomen are not separate from women. Transwomen are a subset of women, just like Latina women, for example. You wouldn’t say “women and Latina women”, would you?

        Having no experience with being a transwoman of color, you cannot definitively speak about the multitude of ways that they may experience liberation. And yes, even though you did not comment on her race, you can’t separate race from the intersections of power at which Laverne Cox exists. You can’t definitively say that Laverne Cox isn’t liberating herself. Oppressors speaking for the oppressed is an age-old tradition. You might think that you’re not an oppressor because you write a feminist blog, but historically, transwomen’s and women of color’s voices have been excluded from the dominant (white, middle-class, cisgendered) feminist movement. This is no exception. You are an oppressor, even if you are marginalized as a woman.

        You cannot speak for Laverne Cox. In her career, in her personal life, and in this photoshoot, she has defined herself as a transwoman of color, and you are silencing her voice by saying that her liberation isn’t good enough. Well, your white cisgendered feminism isn’t good enough for black transwomen either. If you really cared about liberating ALL women, you would use your privilege to empower women who are more marginalized than yourself, rather than policing their bodies and asking them to subscribe to your brand of feminism–a type of feminism that fails to address the concerns and needs of most of the world’s women. You say that feminism isn’t about individual feelings of empowerment, and in saying this, you assume that all individuals are like yourself. What you find empowering is not necessarily what other women find empowering.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Having no experience with being a woman, you cannot definitively speak about our liberation or our movement towards liberation.

          Also, by speaking for women are you saying that I am oppressing myself, as a woman? Because that’s what it sounds like you are saying.

        • Having no experience with being Meghan Murphy, YOU cannot definitively say that Meghan is ‘cisgendered’ or middle-class. YOU cannot speak for Meghan Murphy, and yet you try to do so – here in the same comment where you accuse Meghan of being an oppressor speaking for the oppressed – by labelling Meghan ‘cisgender’ and ‘middle-class’. This is a tactic that often appears to be used in libfem world to contruct an ‘identity’ (in this case for Meghan) which allows for any argument or analysis a white or female** woman might undertake to be considered invalid purely on the basis of that imposed identity.* This obviates the need to formulate constructive criticism or cogent (or even just coherent) counterargument.

          *Not that I agree that being white or middle class or FEMALE should be the basis for a woman having to withdraw her own feminist analysis.
          ** ‘Cos that’s what you mean, basically, by ‘cis’. A female person, born with a vagina, who disagrees with you about gender or pretty much anything else.

        • lizor

          FFS Chiara, feminism is about the collective liberation of a particular group of people – female humans – subject to discrimination based on the sex of their body, and in particular their [perceived] reproductive capacity.

          Look up the two little words “for” and “about” you will be shocked to learn that they do not have the same, interchangeable meaning.

          “Liberation” does not mean having everything you want and and bending the world to your current whim. That’s infantile narcissism. Liberation and freedom, in the original sense before neoliberal market think appropriated the terms, are about coping gracefully and productively with limitations in your material reality, not about shutting down any and all ideas that make you slightly uncomfortable or that suggest you question your own ideas and actions.

        • amongster

          The experience of being FEMALE is what unites women of all races. Transwomen are *not* female, they are not socialized as girls and do not face the same oppression based on sex because they are male and unable to be exploited in the same ways as females. So transwomen are not women but transwomen.

          It is your “feminism” (if you have to call it that) which fails in every aspect to challenge patriarchy. You don’t do anyone a favor, not even transwomen, by pretending that (self-)exploitation was empowering.

        • Zhang He

          You know, I’m getting really sick of you people proclaiming; “[blah blah] the autonomy and empowerment of ALL women, not just cisgendered white women like yourself.”

          Goddammit not everyone here, and everyone that has the “ballz” to read a feminist critique and not find a way to be offended is a “white woman”. I am not white.
          I’m tired people coming in here and pretending every minority is invisible because we don’t agree with you.

          THAT is actual racism.

    • river

      This person in that image is not a Female. Not SHE. Not a Woman. Any “empowerment” there came with the Male Sex. Laverne Cox is Male. Laverne Cox’s body is Male. This is biological fact.

      • Latin@

        I’ll take “What is Biological Essentialism” for 200, Alex.

  • Rich

    “It baffles me that liberals can’t see the contradiction between screaming “body positivity” at the top of their lungs and advocating the extreme surgical alternation (and in some cases mutilation) of healthy body parts. If it ain’t broke, why are you fixing it?”

    Because liberals are too embarrassed to admit that there is a problem with the desire of a person to have this done to them, and that there is an ethical problem with a medical industry that is ready to do this in order to make a buck (and act a little godlike while doing so).

    So they pretend to believe that the healthy bodies are unhealthy.

    • Morag

      “Because liberals are too embarrassed to admit that there is a problem with the desire of a person to have this done to them, and that there is an ethical problem with a medical industry that is ready to do this in order to make a buck (and act a little godlike while doing so).”

      Yes, this is true. And part of the reason liberals are so willing to pretend — to play make-believe — is because it’s very common for trans people, when they are even mildly challenged, to talk about suicide. Note “Emily” below, apparently a “transwoman” (i.e., male), who cries “stop letting us die.” Because, just knowing that males are men and that females are women apparently causes people to die.

      Men who believe they are women have a very tenuous grasp on reality and, in particular, on female reality. Theirs is an identity which is completely dependent on the external validation of others. If we refuse to suspend our disbelief, they accuse feminists of somehow undermining their very existence, going so far as to call it “murder.”

      • ArgleBargle

        “Men who believe they are women have a very tenuous grasp on reality and, in particular, on female reality. Theirs is an identity which is completely dependent on the external validation of others.”

        So true. Whenever I see an article trying to shut down the voices of those who that you can’t change biological sex, I always think of Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods.

        • ArgleBargle

          “..those who know..”

    • Your comment was meant as a reply to mine right? Just checking.

      “…there is an ethical problem with a medical industry that is ready to do this in order to make a buck (and act a little godlike while doing so).”

      I like to think that the people performing these surgeries genuinely believe that they are doing the right thing. To be clear, my comment was not just about sex change surgery, but about all surgeries that are aimed at alterating physically healthy bodies, for the sake of the patients “mental health”.
      We live in a society that promotes contempt for people who do not adhere to prettiness norms (and gender norms) and most people, including surgeons, do not see a way out of such a society. So they do the best they can to help individuals survive within it, which is all they can given the nature of work under capitalism.

      Even workers with high incomes and status, have very little control over the economy as a whole and therefore very little control over the culture and the norms of whatever sector of the economy they work for. If surgeons were encouraged to discuss (among themselves and with their patients) the effects of their surgeries on the broader culture and what the aims of the medical profession should be (e.g. is it to ensure that people look pretty/normal or is it about ensuring that people have healthy, functioning bodies) they might be less attempt to address people’s psychological concerns so individualistically and thus come up with a third option who think that they either need to surgically alter their healthy bodies and commit suicide (or be miserable due to their lack of prettiness/normalness.)

      “So they pretend to believe that the healthy bodies are unhealthy.”

      They don’t say that healthy bodies are unhealthy though. They acknowledge that the bodies in question are healthy and normal and still advocate that they be altered. I just don’t get it. On top of that, they accuse their opponents (who think that the healthy bodies should left alone) of believing that there is something wrong with the healthy bodies (and the people who inhabit them.) I swear it is like living in an Orwellian dystopia.

      To Morag,

      “Men who believe they are women have a very tenuous grasp on reality and, in particular, on female reality.”

      Liberals in general have a tenuous grasp on reality (they are the ones spouting post-modernist nonsense about how “reality is a social construct”), but I think the issue is more their understanding of gender and they value in life. They value social approval more than they value actually improving themselves. That’s a problem with young people (particularly those in university) in general. They also buy into society’s view that certain brains belong or don’t belong in people’s bodies, as do many gender-conforming people (except that they don’t want their bodies altered as a result of this belief.) They’re not crazy they are just reacting the way one would expect people without a radical understanding of gender (or a belief in a genderless future), who wish to be approved of by others, to act.

      “…they accuse feminists of somehow undermining their very existence, going so far as to call it “murder.” ”

      Anyone who thinks mere disagreement (even disagreement that is not intended to be offensive) is akin to murder does indeed not psychological help. I don’t mean that as an insult, though. The fact that we think of such states as insult tells us something about how victim-hating our society is, doesn’t it? Some people have problems and need help. It does not mean they are crazy or inferior. Suicidal people definitely need help.

      It baffles me that liberals also cannot see the contradiction between claiming that someone will commit suicide if you say something that upsets them while at the same time claiming that they such people are perfectly psychologically healthy and that their opponents (who do not believe that the person will innevitably commit suicide if they do not undergo an expensive, risky surgery) are the one labelling people as “disordered”. In reality, I am sure most radical feminists will agree with me when I say that gender dysphoria should be removed from the DSM, but the trans movement wants it in there. How ironic.

    • Jaz

      Nope, gender dysphoria in neurological origin. It is a conflict beetwen the internal body map and the outer physical characteristics. The brain expects other characteristics, but get another characteristics. The create feelings of alienation to the body and feelings disconfort.

      I am a trans woman, I felt my body was not body, and brain was sending signals if it being wrong. Because my inner self image was not the same as my outer physical sex.

      Now, your argument fails because I live in country were the medical gain nothing for. this, they lose tax money on this. They provide transition because well being and psychological health among trans people. Reducing suiscide risk.

      • Jaz: Whatever the source of gender dysphoria, it doesn’t change the fact that sexualization of the female body (whether natural or surgically/chemically altered) and the sexist concept of femininity continue to be shoved down our throats. Femininity is not endemic; it’s a socially constructed prescription of supposedly “feminine” behaviours taught to males and females from a very young age. This gendered socialization is the false template on which many women and transwomen base their idea of what it means to be female. Women have been struggling to break out of this mold for thousands of years but we keep getting squeezed back into it because some individuals insist on feeling empowered by stereotypes that limit the options of females at large. That is the problem. I’m not asking people to lie about who they feel they are. I’m asking people to stop regurgitating sexist tropes. Why is that too much to ask?

        • Heather

          “Objectification” is all about who has the power. For example, the trans woman in this article, CHOSE to be naked in a shoot. SHE was in power in this situation. Therefore, she isn’t being “objectified”.

          • Meghan Murphy

            That makes no sense at all. “Choice” doesn’t dictate objectification. Also, how does “choosing” to be objectified combat patriarchy and male violence?

          • Lee

            It’s like in Spike Lee’s ‘Bamboozled’ — those performers CHOSE to do minstrel, so they were in control and totally had the power, not the industry demanding it of them. That was definitely the point of the film, how black people can take back power by tap-dancing.

          • bella_cose

            Really? Did you learn that from a comic on Everyday Feminism? That’s literally the most asinine attempt at analyzing power relations and objectification. I’m not trying to be mean, but seriously, you need to think a bit more on this.

          • Lee Evans

            No, ‘choosing’ something that is designed to pander to the male gaze is NOT empowerment. I know this is your opinion, but it is uninformed by feminism. There is a historical person, a Black slave who sold herself back into slavery after achieving her freedom. That was not ’empowerment’- it was a coerced choice. When women don’t see a way out, and they capitulate, I don’t blame them. but I also don’t say they are empowered.

            As for Laverne Cox, she likes being look at by men. I suppose that is her sexuality. But then again, she didn’t grow up with female oppression so does not understand what empowerment for women looks like.

          • Sabine

            Choicey-choice-choice!!!! Me make choice, me EMPOWERED! No matter what the choicey-choice-choice IS and the fact it’s been 100% dictated by a patriarchal society. Wake up and get a clue Heather.

          • hak

            So if you choose to objectified then you aren’t objectified anymore? Can you explain that logic?

      • Dana

        There’s no such thing as a male or female brain. There may be slight differences induced by different hormone levels, but YOU GET DIFFERENT HORMONE LEVELS WITHIN EACH SEX. Different males have different levels from one another. Different females have different levels from one another. Often there are greater differences between two males or between two females than there are between any given male and female.

        Your body cannot possibly mismatch your brain, because it all came from the same DNA. You are exactly who you are supposed to be. The only reason you think otherwise is because society brainwashed you. And this crap starts at a very early age. I had an elderly man (who was at least somewhat polite about it) question why I had my brand-new less-than-a-month-old daughter dressed in blue. So just because you don’t remember being influenced doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Oh, it happened. And it warped you. And I’m sorry.

        But that doesn’t give you the call to spout pseudoscience. I’ll say it again: YOU ARE IN EXACTLY THE BODY YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE IN. If you choose to mutilate it and risk your life to conform to some ideal having nothing to do with your personal best interests, I’m sorry about that too, but you’re never going to convince us you’re doing it out of any sort of healthy, sane impulse.

        Stop letting the goddamned sexists win.

        • lizor

          Thanks Dana. This “internal body map” nonsense does my head in.

          • Joanne

            Yeah, and since when did your “body map” say you needed silicone bags in your chest?

            It’s funny that your “body map” doesn’t insist you have your prostate removed. Does your prostate give you dysphoria?

            Your “body map” doesnt insist you get prosthetic cervix/uterus/ovaries/Fallopian tubes implanted, lest you commit suicide, does it?

            Why are so many trans women non-op if it’s all about their “body maps”?

            Your “body map” only seems to want those parts that make you appear visually female/feminine to others.

            Would your body map be satisfied if you woke up one day as an elderly, morbidly obese, hairy woman or is your “body map” only satisfied if you appear to be an attractive female?

            Why does your “body map” insist on hair removal, when females have body hair, and there are plenty of females with profound hirsutism?

            How does it work? Please tell me more about this magical “body map”…

          • lizor

            “Would your body map be satisfied if you woke up one day as an elderly, morbidly obese, hairy woman or is your “body map” only satisfied if you appear to be an attractive female?

            Why does your “body map” insist on hair removal, when females have body hair, and there are plenty of females with profound hirsutism?”

            Love this. Well said.

          • “Your “body map” doesnt insist you get prosthetic cervix/uterus/ovaries/Fallopian tubes implanted, lest you commit suicide, does it?”

            Complex organ transplants such as you describe are only now becoming possible. Successful transplants of the human uterus occurred for the first time only last year, for instance. More complex operations–including the transplantation of working elements of the female reproduction system into male bodies–is simply beyond our ability.

          • Joanne

            You don’t get it. Like breast implants, that have nothing to do with real breasts (they are actually organs, imagine that!), you could have silicone mock-ups of female internal reproductive organs implanted to deal with that nasty dysphoria you get from not having ovaries! When was the last time you heard a trans woman say she would kill herself if she didn’t have Fallopian tubes?

  • Emily

    If you knew anything about trans women you would take the time to spell it right. Next the reason why we can’t love ourselves are that people like YOU think they know what’s best for us. Please ask yourself why you’re writing a hit piece on a black trans woman as opposed to any other female celebrity that’s had surgery. By the way letting women have whatever surgeries or procedures they want is part of feminism fyi. If you really want to end the binary, stop letting us die, stop gate keeping us from treatment we want ,& stop trying to speak for us. Let us speak instead.

    • Meghan Murphy

      A ‘hit piece’? Where have you been for the past, like, five years… I’ve been writing critically about sexual objectification since way back. You think objectification is radical or empowering just because it’s happening to a trans woman? Why? And why the FUCK do you think I do this work if not to work towards an end to patriarchy and male violence against women?? Christ. I don’t even think you know what it is you’re angry about. If you want choice feminism, you’ve come to the wrong place.

      • amanda

        I love how you side stepped Emily’s actual critic of your article, which is that you have chosen to speak on behalf of trans women when you yourself are not a trans woman. Your response to Emily screams of entitlement. Did you want a gold star for speaking up for women’s rights? Unless you have first hand experience in being a trans woman, I think you should keep your judgement to yourself.

        • Meghan Murphy

          What’s the difference between Laverne Cox and me? As a woman, do I not have the right to speak about women’s issues? Also, based your logic, would you argue that no one should speak out against rape unless they are currently being raped?

          • vera

            “Would you argue that no one should speak out against rape unless they are currently being raped?” — but there’s a difference between speaking out against a rape/rapist and disparaging a raped’s voice/expression of her experience. What you are doing in this article is not the former but the latter.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Are you serious?? Ok so here’s how this works: Cox can have whatever experience she likes. I have no control over her experience. I am critiquing imagery. Do you actually believe that feminists should not be critical of objectification or of how women are represented in media? Because that equates to ‘disparaging the experience’ of the women being objectified. Is this bizzaro world feminism?

        • Kim

          This is quite a bit of a contradiction of popular ideology. Aren’t trans women supposed to be women? if trans women are women and therefore the authorities on misogyny you pretend they are since oppression isn’t sex based according to queer theorists and that woman is merely an identity and not the material reality of being born and raised female, then trans woman are women are trans women. If you want the unique trans experience to be recognized then you need to recognize the unique female experience.

          • Morag

            WHAT? Is this postmodern-speak?

          • Morag

            OK, I think I get you now, and to whom you’re replying. Sorry about that.

            It’s just that, these queer/trans conversations get so incredibly wordy, tangled, and obfuscating to the point of meaninglessness. When it’s quite simple that women are females and females are women, and that “transwomen” are neither. But, I think that’s actually what you’re saying …

        • Joanne

          Trans women want to be women only when it’s convenient for them, otherwise they revert to “special” status, wherein only trans women can talk about them. White trans women can, and DO (very often, I might add), discuss problems facing trans women of color…and trans women discuss “womanhood,” which encompasses WBF…yet the moment a WBF lumps trans women into the category “woman” in a feminist analysis, they shit bricks…because the majority of trans women LOVE the things that oppress WBF and honestly don’t give a shit about us, unless we can benefit them.

        • bumblyhumbly

          amanda – where EXACTLY did Meghan purport to “speak on BEHALF of trans women” ??

          “entitlement” ? Really?

          What a load of BS. If you have a problem with her critique, or disagree with it in some way, you should try and figure out why and engage her on it authentically – instead of dropping buzzwords that don’t actually apply to this critique at all. I am so very tired of this phony brand of “discourse.”

        • lizor

          “you have chosen to speak on behalf of trans women ”

          How did you get that?

          Ok, let’s try this:

          Bill O’Reilly’s comments about women’s reproductive rights are regressive, oppressive and sexist.

          That’s my statement.

          Am I “speaking for Bill O’Reilly”? Am I demonstrating entitlement because I dare to comment on his public actions – actions that support and strengthen a system of oppression that negatively effect me?

          What the fuck are you talking about amanda?

        • Quinn

          So women can’t speak about the transwomen experience because we can’t know how it feels to be trans….but transwomen can say they know what it is to feel like a women despite only knowing a transwoman experience. How double standard is that?

          • amongster

            Exactly. Some transwomen only want to be women when it suits them but point out how trans they are whenever there is some prize to win in their opression olympics. Logic is totally missing.

      • lizor

        Yeah but, Meghan, you wrote “transwomen” when you should have written “trans women” or “trans woman” when you should have written “transwoman” …or… something….

        At any rate, totally gotcha! So there.

    • Simon

      Hey feminists, here are the opinions you’re allowed to have. Now stop speaking so much and let us speak instead.

      How progressive.

      • Morag

        Yeah, Simon. That “let us speak instead” comment put me in a bad mood. I was tempted to reply, “nah, we’ve already heard enough.” Your reply is better. Yes, trans activism is just a new way of men telling women-who-speak to shut up and listen up.

      • Kim

        the ” you’re a feminist and don’t agree with a woman…TADA! you’re the misogynist oppressing her!” argument! How novel! Especially in the context of a discussion about objectification!

    • jo

      “stop letting us die”
      From what? Not getting to objectify your surgically altered bodies in magazines?

      Meanwhile, biologically female humans have quite different problems…

      • Joanne

        “Stop letting us die.”

        Adults do not expect strangers on the internet to prevent them from committing suicide. People who respect women do not blame women for murders committed by men. The only person “letting you die” is yourself and the men who want to inflict violence on you.

        • purple sage

          Excellent comment, thank you so much, Joanne! It really does need to be said that healthy people do not rely on anonymous strangers on the Internet to validate their identities. Healthy people do not commit suicide just because a random stranger disagrees with them.

    • Joanne

      “By the way letting women have whatever surgeries or procedures they want is part of feminism fyi.”

      LOL. Mansplainer!

  • catperson

    Summed it up perfectly, Meghan. If Laverne Cox loved himself, he’d still look like the male human being he is. He might love the result of all the surgery and hormones and photoshopping. He might just say so publicly. But it’s as artificial as the late Cat Man’s (Dennis Avner) tattoos and surgeries.

    • MyOcean

      You sure are hung up on insisting that Cox be called a gender that she doesn’t identify with. It says a lot about your lack of knowledge of trans people.

      • Joanne

        Otherkin don’t identify as human, yet most people still refer to them that way. Do you religiously use ‘bunself’ pronouns if someone identifies as a rabbit? This is a common enough phenomenon that it applies.

  • An ACTUAL Rad Fem

    “she herself” you mean- HE HIMSELF. He is a man who has received male socialization from birth, this is not hurting him. He gets off on it like any man does. Feminism is the movement for women’s liberation not everyone’s liberation from every kind of oppression including imagined ones. Saying “cis people” (which includes women) oppress transgenders is anti-feminist and anti-reality. It is meant to obscure the fact that MEN are the ones killing these men. We have a right to have a liberation movement exclusively for women because no one else gives a shit about us. We are just peripheral beings to bring up to make a point even on the radical left. Calling men women and using female pronouns on them is capitulation to the patriarchal society that seeks to erase and destroy women. That includes the trans lobby. Women are adult female humans. Men cannot become women. Men are not “she”. Men are not “her”. You are not a radical feminist if you cannot condemn the trans lobby’s attacks on women as a class. I doubt catering to the trans will get them to support the Nordic Model anyways and also men who buy sexual access to women do not deserve to live. “Objectification” is a term that is only meant to be applied to women because only women have less humanity due to their sex in patriarchy.

  • Savannah

    I do not understand how comparing Laverne Cox’s body to a cartoon– a literal object– empowers women or challenges objectification of our bodies. Objectification in the name of feminism is still objectification.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Why is it ok to make that critique about females but not transwomen? I don’t think it’s progressive or subversive when anyone gets breast implants. I think it’s symptomatic of a misogynist porn culture. As I mentioned in the piece… To say that I ‘compared Laverne Cox’s body to a cartoon’ is a willful misrepresentation of my argument/analysis.

      • There were several women who appeared in the photoshoot and you obviously picked out the black transgender woman to criticize her appearance without saying anything about the other women who participated, so quit with the disingenuous claim that you aren’t focusing on her exclusively. And you stated in the article that she had surgery to appear like a “cartoonish” version of a woman, and here you claim that somehow you’re not comparing her to a cartoon when you say that– how utterly silly!

        What’s more, Allure is a women’s magazine, so where do you get the assumption that the images are designed for the male gaze? It seems that you are simply assuming any time a woman takes off her clothes in front of a camera it must be intended for male titillation, an incredibly misogynistic and narrow view.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I responded to Cox’s shoot, not because of her shoot, but because of the commentary surrounding her shoot. Have you missed my entire body of work, which talks about the objectification of dozens and dozens (if not hundreds) of women’s bodies? I’ve written almost this exact same analysis, even using the word “cartoonish” a number of times already — why are you suddenly picking on this one? Like, read the rest of this site.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Here ya go, in fact, just one example, from a year and a half ago — where were you then?
            http://feministcurrent.com/7080/defense-of-the-selfie-confirms-that-this-era-will-forever-be-known-as-the-stupidest-of-all-eras/

            “Historians will surely regard our culture as one made up of a bunch of spoiled, disgusting ninnies who have an inexplicable obsession with reconstructing our faces and bodies to look like cartoonish parodies of ourselves and who are so thoroughly engrossed with our own lives that we document every single thing we think/do/put in our mouths…”

            This stuff is easy to find. You can even just type “cartoonish” into our search bar or click on the “objectification” tag.

          • Are you seriously annoyed that someone might criticize one of your articles without being able to address your entire body of work? WOW that is impressively conceited. (If someone criticizes something I wrote, I might challenge them but I do not expect them to have on hand knowledge of everything I’ve ever written… how do you even get into that mindset??)

            And even in that article you linked, you aren’t talking about a particular woman’s body, whereas above you obviously are, so again spare us the disingenuous obfuscations.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Nope. I’m annoyed that you are a clueless hypocrite.

            “And even in that article you linked, you aren’t talking about a particular woman’s body, whereas above you obviously are, so again spare us the disingenuous obfuscations.”

            And neither am I in this one. Here is the sentence you reference: “If women or transwomen were truly allowed to love themselves, I doubt they’d be spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture.”

            Take note of the plural “women” and “transwomen.”

            Now what was your point again?

          • Laverne Cox’s name is in the title and her body is the repeating subject matter throughout the article. Claiming that you weren’t actually referring to her at all when you wrote about a “cartoonish version of woman” (putting “woman” in quotation marks btw– oh so subtle!) is not believable.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ya because I don’t think women count as women. You got this all figured out. Learn to read words, kiddo.

          • Nullvoid

            TBH I think this article was a bit angry and specific toward Cox in contrast to the others. I definitely felt like it was more intense than others and it feels like her being trans was part of that … though the article itself contained no transphobia or racism as others have tried to claim.

            I honestly think it could use less direct hostility but I like the general message.

          • Meghan Murphy

            But when I’ve written almost the exact same thing about other celebrity women, I’ve not received this kind of response, nor have I been libeled. Why?

          • marv

            Take a look at Meghan’s post on Madonna’s cooptation to male expectations. I don’t read it as less critical than her review of LC’s performance.

            http://feministcurrent.com/11510/madonnas-sexuality-should-be-more-advanced-than-a-20-year-olds/

          • lizor

            Oh yes, it’s super duper important not to be “intense” or “angry” when writing about the oppression of women.

            So when some public figure like Laverne Cox is spouting bullshit in ways that negatively impact all of us, could you please couch your response prettier terms, Meghan? Maybe you could squirt a bit of english lavender room spray over your next column before you post it. Just so we know you’re still a Lady.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I have the feeling Nullvoid hasn’t read much else on this site if they think this one was particularly ‘angry’…

          • Nullvoid

            For some reason there is no reply button to your other post so I’ll respond to this one:

            In response to:

            “But when I’ve written almost the exact same thing about other celebrity women, I’ve not received this kind of response, nor have I been libeled. Why?”

            Because there are obviously a lot of rabid trans activists who viciously attack anyone for daring to go against their worldview.

            In response to your exchange with Lizor:

            This is a bit unnecessary. I’ve been reading your site since I found it about a year ago. Marv brought up the Madonna one which is a good point, I forgot that it’s almost as hostile as this one.

            Really, you’re one of my go-to writers. I just wanted to offer a personal opinion on this particular article. I’m not attacking you and feel free to not give a shit about my opinion. I just wanted to mention that it’s one of your angrier articles and that it felt like her transness had something to do with it.

            Again, I’ve been reading and enjoying this site for a long time. I love seeing new content from you, especially concerning human trafficking. (Also stuff from Laura Mcnally who hasn’t written in a while.) I’m not trying to police your tone, it’s just my opinion, be it correct or not, that this one was particularly intense.

            Please don’t take it as an attack, though I know Twitter is full of the most vile and hateful shit they can think of and this might seem like another liberal feminist spouting bullshit at you. I’m gender critical with an err on empathy(My views are much similar to those of Lauren of http://radfemresource.tumblr.com/post/106716385838/many-radfem-blogs-i-follow-are-extremely-trans )

            Anyhow, if my perception of tone is off or biased, if I am reading too far into it, sorry.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thank you for reading and I certainly appreciate your opinion. This article DEFINITELY isn’t one of my angrier articles (I say that with amusement, not anger — because I know there are dozens and dozens of other articles on this site that are far more ‘harsh’ and ‘angry’ than this) — that’s ok. I obviously don’t expect you to have read everything here. It’s a lot. I am aware that my ‘tone’ doesn’t go over well with some, though it does go over well with others. It is, truly, who I am. It is my voice. Which is why I tend to be totally clueless when people tell me I sound ‘angry’ or ‘harsh’. It’s just how I talk/write… I have a great deal of empathy for trans people, despite what the internet would like to believe.

            EDIT: Here is a post that is a pretty good example of ‘angry’. Ha. http://feministcurrent.com/7080/defense-of-the-selfie-confirms-that-this-era-will-forever-be-known-as-the-stupidest-of-all-eras/

            Also, note the use of ‘cartoonish’ that everyone pretended was specific to trans women, despite the fact that the sentence is very clearly directed at WOMEN.

            “Historians will surely regard our culture as one made up of a bunch of spoiled, disgusting ninnies who have an inexplicable obsession with reconstructing our faces and bodies to look like cartoonish parodies of ourselves and who are so thoroughly engrossed with our own lives that we document every single thing we think/do/put in our mouths”

          • bumblyhumbly

            You are either purposefully misrepresenting Meghan’s critique, or you have problems with reading comprehension. I can’t figure it out.

            Regardless – it looks like engaging with you is pointless because you don’t want to (or can’t?) engage on the actual critique here?

            She is saying that women AND transwomen are encouraged by society to mutilate themselves to fit into a patriarchal, cartoonish, mold of what women should look like. And to then put their physically-altered-bodies on sexualized display, just like always. And that some feminists are ok with this and even hold it up as an example of ’empowerment’ or an example of ‘feminism,’ because choice.

            She wrote about Cox because Cox has been using those words, that language of feminist empowerment, around this nude photoshoot.

            But calling her entitled, misrepresenting what she’s saying, or otherwise attempting to invalidate her by implying that she’s transphobic or racist or whatever is probably a lot easier than thinking about what she’s saying and responding with thoughtful dialogue.

          • bumblyhumbly

            The sentence again, because you insist on misrepresenting it:

            “If women or transwomen were truly allowed to love themselves, I doubt they’d be spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture.”

            Woman is only in quotes once here – in reference to the cartoonish caricature of “woman” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture.

            Not in reference to Cox or transwomen or any other women.

            Jeez. Was it really necessary to point that out? How hard is that to understand?

            I’m still lost as to whether you are purposefully being obtuse and engaging in dialogue dishonestly, or if you’re really struggling here with context and reading comprehension.

          • Laur

            “Are you seriously annoyed that someone might criticize one of your articles without being able to address your entire body of work?”

            But, the context of Meghan’s work on this very blog is incredibly important to replying to your question. If this was the only time Meghan ever used “cartoonish” as a way to describe objectification of bodies in the media, that would be one thing. But it’s not.

        • “Allure is a women’s magazine.”

          Is it, though?

          It’s actually scary to me that you believe sexist messages are only conveyed in magazines primarily sold to men and not in those sold to women. Why would they stop there? Patriarchy is about protecting male privilege and domination. Let’s put that front and centre in this discussion because you seem to be oblivious to the fact that females are socialized within this system from birth and are groomed to conform to it by males as well as females – mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, friends, the media, etc. There’s no such thing as “women’s magazines” unless they’re feminist i.e. unless they challenge patriarchy. Otherwise, these rags are nothing more than instruction manuals on how to perform the gender roles assigned to women. This propaganda tells us that what women really care about is shoes and handbags, to look beautiful, to perform like pornstars in bed, to be mothers and wives, not to be angry or confrontational. And they throw in a few half-decent articles here and there because we’re human beings who care about real life, after all, and otherwise we might start to feel icky because it would be glaringly obvious that we’re being sold an extremely narrow vision of what we’re supposed to be. Being a woman has nothing to do with how you style your hair, how you dress, whether you like the colour pink, or what types of movies you enjoy. Plastic surgery doesn’t make you a woman. Wearing high heels and wigs don’t make you a woman. The last thing women need is for individuals who believe that they’re women to tell us what it means to be who WE in fact are. Many transwomen like Laverne Cox, Carmen Carrera, and Isis King construct their image as women directly from gender stereotypes – specifically the most hostile and restrictive ones of all. All this does is limit ALL OF US. Whether they’ve internalized this misogyny as men or women, every time they “empower” themselves in the manner described in this article, they are working against the basic principles of feminism. You don’t get to co-opt a movement and silence women because you’ve decided you’re happy now that you fit the description of what you think a woman should be.

          • lizor

            “There’s no such thing as “women’s magazines” ”

            This is very true. I remember many many years ago a male friend of mine picked up a “woman’s magazine” don’t remember what it was – one of those fashion/makeup/cooking for other people advertising vehicles and he said “holy shit – you could jerk off to this.”

            “Women’s magazines” are for the most part self-porn primers.

          • Seattler

            I wish I could like this comment 1,000 times and make every woman and “trans woman” read it every day.

        • Sabine

          Savannah you are hopelessly naïve if you have not realized that the male gaze is internalized in EVERYBODY and is therefore splashed across all media regardless of whom it is aimed at. Look at pretty much any “woman’s magazine” and you’ll see reams of photos picking apart female celebrities for looking fat on the beach or caught without makeup or being called too thin one week and too bloated the next. It’s all about how women are measuring up to the male fantasy ideal. How you can look at that image of Cox and not see it as IDENTICAL to the titillating ones wanked over by men in “men’s” publications I just cannot fathom…

        • Kim

          Here you commit the usual and quite boring fallacy of ”if a woman does it, it can’t be misogynistic”. I can’t believe you’re championing women’s magazines as independant from the mass media culture of sexism when they’re know to shamelessly promote dangerous diets, detox, surgical enhancements and fillers, photoshop women of color to look whiter, etc.

        • Joanne

          Are you kidding?? Allure is a magazine that TEACHES women how to appeal to the male gaze and be submissive, body-obsessed consumers. LOL. “A women’s magazine,” my ass.

      • “Females.”

        There are three groups that refer to human women as “females”, in my experience.

        1. Lusty, evil extraterrestrials in bad science fiction.
        2. Men’s Rights Activists
        3. Pick Up Artists
        4. Women who hate trans women so much they’re willing to trample any number of other women, including themselves, for a chance to take a shot at us.

        The common thread in all groups is misogyny.

        Women are human beings. We are not breeding stock. We are not scientific specimens. We are human beings.

        And before someone comes along and says that I’m trying to make rules about what other women are and aren’t allowed to say, I’m not. I’m merely suggesting you take a look around at the company you’re in when you demean women by referring to us in the dehumanizing fashion favored by those who hate us most.

        It is your right to use what language you wish and keep what company you wish, but please don’t pretend it’s empowering to validate these male tropes.

        • *Pardon, FOUR groups. I suppose I was counting MRAs/PUAs as one group when I started formulating that list.

          • Sabine

            Alexandra Erin: ?????????????????????????????????????????

        • Meghan Murphy

          Your comment makes no sense. Are you actually asking women and feminists not to use the word “female”? Lest they “validate male tropes”? You do realize that half the population is female, yeah?

        • ArgleBarble

          Some others for the list:

          Medical Doctors
          Scientists

          • Meghan Murphy

            hahahahhahah!

        • “Women are human beings.”

          You don’t say! I for one had no idea. There are no special groups that refer to women as females because that’s actually what we are. If you feel this alienates you, I’m afraid you’ll have to blame biology. I never thought I’d live to see the day when women are told (by so-called feminists and human rights advocates, no less) that it’s problematic for women to refer to themselves as females. It doesn’t work that way. Turn around and go back to where you came from.

        • Michelle

          And the fifth group is scientists: because female is a scientifically accurate term for human beings with a female reproductive system. You haven’t thought of the scientists because trans can’t ever fit a scientific definition of female.

          Actually, I’ve read the use of the word female more often recently in some circles because trans have been co-opting the word woman. Female, because of its use in the scientific world to describe actual biological attributes, is probably being used to avoid the blurring of the categories that trans have been looking for. That’s why you object to feminists using the word female: it’s harder to convince male and female scientists that the words female and male refer to feelings and not anatomy.

          • Morag

            “Female, because of its use in the scientific world to describe actual biological attributes, is probably being used to avoid the blurring of the categories that trans have been looking for. That’s why you object to feminists using the word female: it’s harder to convince male and female scientists that the words female and male refer to feelings and not anatomy.”

            Yes, Michelle, that’s exactly why we use the word female, more often than usual, for girls and women. Because transgenderists and queer activists are trying so hard to blur the physical sex categories, and especially to obfuscate the term “woman.” We still use “woman,” of course, but mean what it actually means: an adult FEMALE.

          • gxm17

            Precisely. The only group who, apparently, refuses to use the word “female” is the group that wants to disappear us.

        • gxm17

          Oh good grief, there is one group who uses the word “female”: Everyone who speaks English.

        • Kim

          oh hi, Alexandra Erin aka blue-author, bored of beating your dick to killing and eating women now? (http://omgstopbeingashittyperson.tumblr.com/post/86403823573/tw-violence-against-women-cannibalism-torture)

          Funny how women aka females are exclusively the sexualized butchered victims in your little fantasies? Before pretending to lecture women on feminism try to stop being such a disgusting misogynistic and predatory waste of a person.

          • bella_cose

            That is literally one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen. Anyone who likes that shit has something not working right in their head.

            Sometimes it really hits me, just how dangerous this world is for women. It’s truly frightening.

          • bumblyhumbly

            wow.

            Just…wow.

          • Jacqueline

            Those images are truly horrifying. Thank you, Kim, for exposing this predatory piece of slime.

        • Joanne

          OMFG, you sick f*cking pig of a man. We see you. We see your poisonous, misogynist, demented, transhumanist, necrophilic ideology. You are NOT a woman, you do NOT speak for us, we REJECT you.

    • bumblyhumbly

      “comparing Laverne Cox’s body to a cartoon”

      Here it is again – a purposeful misrepresentation of what Meghan actually wrote, which was:

      “If women or transwomen were truly allowed to love themselves, I doubt they’d be spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture.”

      • You’d almost think people we’re doing it on purpose…

  • Morag

    ‘2) Eating food is “radical?”’

    Who knew? Ha! I’m glad to know, especially, that mac ‘n cheese is so empowering.

    Only, I wish I had known last week, when I ate macaroni and cheese not once, but twice. See, I thought I was just hungry. But, now I understand that I was really lovin’ and embracin’ my fine, radical, acceptable self.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I make macaroni and cheese almost once a week! I must be extremely empowered as well… Who knew?

      • Morag

        Meghan, mac ‘n cheese IS empowering. But, you might not have noticed its tonic effects if someone is, at the same time, taking away your “agency.” All the Kraft Dinner in the world can’t make up for those wicked agency-stealers.

    • Morag

      Let me just add: it makes me sick that Cox is promoting stereotypes about women and food, and is reinforcing the connection between nourishment/sensuous enjoyment of food and female SHAME. Oh, food, it’s all so sinful. Wink wink.

      When he frames eating macaroni — fucking macaroni, for crying out loud! — as an act of feminine naughtiness and rebellion, we understand that this is just one of the ways he is demonstrating to the world just how “girly” he really is. I mean, he almost apologizes for eating something that might make his ass fat, and then decides that eating something yummy is a sexy act of “self-acceptance.” Voilà! Empowerment! Gah.

      He also shows us how little he thinks of women, that daring to eat elbow pasta before getting naked for the camera is an act that requires a bucketful of courage. THIS is what he does with his public platform?

      Oh, ladies, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the macaroni!

      • jbportraits

        LOL! Morag, great post.

    • Joanne

      Yeah, that comment was really transparent. I highly doubt Cox thought twice about eating some food. People socialized male rarely do. That seemed really forced and disingenuous.

  • justine

    Megan, I found this article really hard, because you seem to be saying that all nude images are inherently disempowering and structured for the pleasure of the male gaze. Could you give us some examples of nude images which you find empowering? Or which go some way towards being empowering? Is there a context in which this photoshoot of Laverne Cox might be empowering?

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t believe all nude images are inherently disempowering or structured for the male gaze… I think it’s very possible for women’s bodies and female sexuality to be presented, in imagery, as not obejctified and sexualized, it’s just that we so rarely see it we can barely even imagine it could exist. I think we can subvert the gaze by desexualizing it — by not presenting women’s bodies as pretty things to look at and fuckable objects. Magazines present women’s bodies as these flawless, perfect things that are only there to be looked at and and lusted after (and to sell products). Can’t women’s bodies exist simply as women’s bodies? I wrote about how Girls/Lena Dunham seems to have managed to present an unsexualized, unobjectified female body, maybe that might help clarify what I mean? http://feministcurrent.com/7173/girls-explains-the-difference-between-porn-and-nudity-in-half-an-hour/

      • justine

        Thanks for your reply!

        Good to know that you thnk there can be empowering images of women. I agree that there is a large and pervasive framework, from which it is almost impossible to escape, that produces and contextualises images of women as objectified and sexualised.

        This is why I am particularly interested if you have any specific examples of nude images of women where the women are, for example, fuckable but not objects, or lustable but not pretty things to look at?

        For instance, there was the famous controversy last year of Leena McCall’s portrait of Ms Ruby May: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/07/painting-pornographic-pubic-hair-outrage … what do you think of this image?

        • Diana

          I think this painting is not a very good example, it’s not much different from the patriarchal norm, except the pubic hair. High heels, thin, young, quite male-gazey. I think good example of real, subversive bodies in painting could be Jenny Saville’s, Lucian Freud, some works of Egon Schiele, Frida Kahlo’s work… Socialist art produced empowered images of women, although it depends if you agree with that kind of politics. More histotic example, Artemisia Gentileschi’s Susanna and the elders depicts Susanna as a person, not as a fetishized victim, as was more common for this motive.
          Contemporary photographer that makes subversive and non-objectifying images could be Ben Hopper (Natural beauty project), and Zanele Muholi (Being). See also artists Heather Cassils and Hannah Wilke.

          Sometimes advertisements for sports clothes (especially climbing, running, hiking equipment) do a good job at empowering photography.

          There are also declarative attempts at subversing male gaze, but sometimes fail miserably (in my opinion Nadia Lee Cohen and Bettina Rheims).

          It’s not suprising that photographs of female body hair, overweight bodies, breastfeeding etc are often censored (see for example Petra Collins, very good work imo).

          But honestly, Lena Dunham is by far the best and the most efficient example of reclaiming women’s nudity, which also is why she pissed of so many males.

          • Artgrrl2003

            Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece is the best example I can come up with of a women presenting herself as an object without resulting in public sexualization (although she is sexualized) and ending up as a critique of the gaze that is both radical and empowering. (Although it is decidedly uncomfortable and disturbing on a personal scale.) Ono’s self presentation is about as far from Cox’s as you can imagine, and very clearly highlights that these are two very different people who are fighting for two very distinct rights. Ono is fighting against the objectification of women as a means to measure female worth, while Cox is asking to be taken as a woman because Cox’s objectified body serves as a sign for woman. Cox has no invested interest in tearing down the male gaze because it is the validation of the success of her project.

  • Jacqueline

    Megan I love your blog (just discovered it a couple of months ago) and this is an excellent article. I’m very sorry about all the hate you’re currently getting on Twitter for this piece, but I guess it’s to be expected. Sadly, it’s become very difficult to have a civil discussion about trans issues, especially as they apply to feminist concerns. Women, in particular, are a favourite target for some in the trans community. I never see them attacking men with the same venom or frequency.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yeah it’s kind of baffling. Like I’m supposed to drop my analysis, the same one that underlies all my work (and the work of so many other women, over decades) simply because we’re talking about a trans woman? And, like, people who never gave a shit about my work when it was fighting violence against women all those years are suddenly all concerned with this little piece about what is and is not ‘radical self-love’ and ’empowerment’? Like, ok. Shows what they’re about (i.e. feeding the twitter rage machine and not ending male violence against women and misogyny).

  • Nicole

    I think you’re being attacked so much, not because of you criticizing a nude female body that happens to be trans, but because you are wholly invalidating her identity as a woman. This article reeks of transmisogyny and some of the comments are even worse. The fact that you use “women” and “transwomen” as two separate and individual terms is you further invalidating her as woman and placing her in some “other” category. Your piece is prompting people to outright misgender Laverne and further invalidate her as a woman.

    I’m all for criticizing patriarchal views on what is considered beautiful. I’m all for destroying the gender binary. But some people identify as a woman and should be respected as such. And your article is simply perpetuating hate towards trans people and their bodies.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m invalidating her identity as a transwoman by calling her a transwoman? Do you think that Laverne Cox doesn’t know she is trans? Is trans an insult, suddenly? My argument doesn’t disrespect her humanity, it argues that patriarchy isn’t liberatory.

      • Michaela

        Nicole is pointing out that you are not including transwomen in the ‘women’ category. No, trans is not an insult, but you treated ‘transwomen’ and ‘women’ as separate categories. You are invalidating her identity as a woman, because you wrote as if she cannot be both a transwoman and a woman, that it’s an either/or thing, rather than writing like ‘transwomen’ is a subcategory of ‘women.’ A better, nontransmisogynistic phrasing would be “ciswomen or transwomen” or “women, whether cis or trans,” you know, something that shows that transwomen are women, rather than putting them in a separate category.
        (Sorry this comment is so repetitive. I just want to make sure you understand.)

        • Meghan Murphy

          Does Laverne Cox, in that case, invalidate her own identity by identifying as a trans woman? What is wrong with being a trans woman anyway?

        • Sabine

          That’s because they ARE separate fucking categories! HE has no “identity as a woman” because he isn’t one!!!!!

    • purple sage

      “The fact that you use “women” and “transwomen” as two separate and individual terms is you further invalidating her as woman and placing her in some “other” category.”

      Do you really think that “women” and “trans women” are the exact same category? Do you see no difference between humans who produce ova and can bear young vs humans who produce sperm but who wear dresses and makeup? I bet you do see the difference. There is a real biological difference between these categories.

      Laverne Cox is out as trans. She is not hiding the fact that she was born male from anyone. So she has actually invalidated her own “identity as a woman” by admitting that she is biologically male and transitioned to her current appearance using artificial hormones and surgery. If Meghan is being “transmisogynist” for invalidating the idea that Laverne Cox is different from a biological female, then is Cox herself also being “transmisogynist” when she admits to being something other than a biological female?

    • gxm17

      There is no “gender binary.” Gender, like race, is a man-made concept.

    • Rich

      “But some people identify as a woman and should be respected as such.”

      Why? Because it makes him feel better? Do we have to accept fantasy for reality if it makes someone feel better?

      I have a young relative who is going through this. I am not unaware of the level of distress that leads to this. It is very sad. But I am not going to deny reality because of it. Cox is a man who thinks he is a woman. That is simply a fact, and I see no reason to respect a fantasy.

    • bella_cose

      Transwomen are not women. Transwomen are transwomen. If they were women, they wouldn’t have to transition. See how that works? It’s not invalidating anyone, it’s simply acknowledging reality.

    • bumblyhumbly

      Nicole – how is Meghan “invalidating her identity as a woman” ?? She refers to Cox as she and her, Cox’s preferred pronouns, throughout the article. Maybe you should READ the piece?

      “This article reeks of transmisogyny”

      Really? Where? Point it out. Your comment seems to me to be part of a twitter-rage-pile-on, rather than a thoughtful response to the piece.

      “The fact that you use “women” and “transwomen” as two separate and individual terms is you further invalidating her as woman and placing her in some “other” category.”

      Bullshit. Cox calls HERSELF a transwoman. Let me get this straight – you are NOT supposed to call trans women trans? Or you are? Because the rule seems to change, depending on how to best use it to bludgeon someone for being supposedly transphopbic. The only “invalidating” going on here is the attempt to invalidate Meghan’s thoughtful critique by misrepresenting it, outright lying about what she said, and using empty buzzwords, like so:

      “And your article is simply perpetuating hate towards trans people and their bodies.”

      REALLY? That’s hilariously absurd. Her article does nothing of the sort!

  • Riley

    Where do I begin? Never have I witnessed such a hilariously less self aware cliche of white feminism in my life. Should I start with the comments misgendering Ms.Cox? The comments arguing how trans women have no place in feminism and how “oppressive” the term “Cis” is? It’s all too overwhelming. One of my fave parts here is how Ms. Murphy acknowledges that it’s impossible for women to love every physical aspect of their body, before chiding women for not ..loving every physical aspect of their body and getting surgery. Not once did it occur to you that trans women esp Black and Black trans women have been denied the traditional performance of femininity? That for girls who grew up like Ms. Cox said performance and adornment affect their survival? Can we get to the part where the message that if given the choice no women would choose an appearance that would appeal to the male gaze? Because it’s “anti feminist” to choose traditional femininity? Even if it’s something you enjoy? Because all that matters is the male gaze? And about that gaze, it should be so paralyzing that women like Laverne should work to rebuff it’s glance. Did you think about her agency? That maybe what is not empowering to you and the rest of your bland brood , may just in fact be empowering to her? You know what’s best right? Why amplify the voice of trans women when you can speak over them? AmIrite?
    And lastly, about that “Twitter rage machine” let’s cut through the textbook passive aggressiveness and call it what it is. A platform where WOC and trans women can openly voice their opposition. Critical analysis is not “rage” and reducing it to that, is both racist and sexist. Much like this drivel you call writing .
    Have fun with that

    • Meghan Murphy

      Femininity isn’t empowering. It’s oppressive. And I realize that #twitterfeminism likes to pretend it is a place for the marginalized to speak out, it is not. The working class are not, largely, on Twitter. The poor are not, largely, on Twitter. They are working. And struggling to survive. “Speaking out,” to #twitterfeminism, means screaming at feminists and blaming us for male violence while completely ignoring the actual men who are perpetrating violence against women. So excuse me if I don’t think Twitter is going to liberate us from the systems that oppress us. (P.S. Twitter is a profit-driven corporation.)

      • Sarah

        Are you then saying that it is not possible for women to enforce patriarchal systems? You don’t have to be out there perpetuating violence to be oppressive, it can be in your language, in your everyday speak. For instance, calling women broads
        This is what this article does. You are invalidating her as a woman because she is trans and that’s why the comments here are so otherizing.
        FYI, twitter is a place for the WORKING CLASS, like me, like many young black women, that’s where we have our pushback. Just because white feminists aren’t on twitter doesn’t mean there isn’t a rallying point.
        And so what if twitter is driven by profit-driven co-operation? We are in a white supremacist, capitalist, homophobic and transphobic world, we have to express our voices somehow, whether it be on twitter or in dissertations.
        This article shows without reasonable doubt why I should not call myself a feminist but a womanist.
        Good day

        • Meghan Murphy

          I haven’t invalidated her in any way. And you are wrong about Twitter. You are extremely privileged if you believe the poor are there. There are many people in this world who don’t have computers or internet access or time to spend their days tweeting.

          • Sarah

            You don’t need a computer to be on twitter, households that may not have computers may have people, women with phones that give them access to twitter. Working class also doesn’t mean you can afford a cell phone. There are many so-called poor people who have cell phones.
            You’re just dismissing twitter feminism because it has dismissed your article. It’s a real force and it’s foolish to disregard it.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yes, I am aware that working class people have cell phones. I am working class. All that said, most of the working poor are not on Twitter. I don’t care what “Twitter Feminism” thinks about my post. Twitter Feminism consists of bs, liberal/neoliberal, empty mantras and has no politics.

        • gxm17

          “We are in a white supremacist, capitalist, homophobic and transphobic world, we have to express our voices somehow, whether it be on twitter or in dissertations.”

          Wow. You seem to have “forgotten” to add misogyny and patriarchy to your list. Heck, sexism didn’t even rank a mention. Hmmmmm. I wonder why.

      • klyons

        Saying that the working class and poor largely don’t use twitter makes you sound extremely elitist. Do you seriously believe that only the rich use twitter and are the only ones who express their views on social media?

        • Meghan Murphy

          Not the rich. Just mostly middle class people with privilege. Be realistic. Do you think the working poor have time for Twitter wars? The majority of people in the world, in fact, don’t have time for twitter wars. Most feminists I know don’t have time for twitter wars.

    • gxm17

      The term “cis” is hate speech. If you want to use it, I suppose that’s your business. But, talk about “a hilariously less self aware cliche.” Gender droogs are gender droogs, no “critical analysis,” just naked misogyny in all its arrogant and vicious glory.

      • Joanne

        Oh, the old “white feminism” trope. So ironic! Apparently white women don’t know what it’s like to be women, yet males do.

        • Zhang He

          I’ve been reading these comments about “White Feminism”. I’m a regular reader of this blog, and I’m asian.
          I’ve seen Twitter and Tumblr wars just like this. They bustle in to every critical analysis and the minute they see something they don’t like ( or more accurately, don’t want to understand) they start throwing words like racism, “hate speech” and “transmisogny” etc etc even though they don’t actually exist in the piece, just to derail the topic.
          It’s an attempt to incite mob mentality amongst the Twitterverse to get the support of people who don’t like reading comprehension but love a good pile-on.

    • purple sage

      “Where do I begin? Never have I witnessed such a hilariously less self aware cliche of white feminism in my life.”

      Understanding the difference between sex and gender, and the way patriarchy oppresses women, is not a “white” thing. Every human over the age of 4 or 5 understands the difference between male and female—this basic understanding of human beings is by no means limited to “white feminism.” There are gender critical black women writing on the Internet right now BTW. For example, Roslyn Hardy Holcomb (I don’t see anything about transgenderism on her personal blog, but she comments on GenderTrender quite often). All women, including women of colour, are oppressed by the patriarchal constructs of how they should behave and exist in the world. If you read about feminism somewhere other than on Twitter, like perhaps in longer essays and published books, you will find women of colour criticizing the cultural construction of femininity and the expectations and limitations placed on them by patriarchy based on their sex and race.

      The comments arguing how trans women have no place in feminism and how “oppressive” the term “Cis” is? It’s all too overwhelming

      Since feminism is a movement to liberate female humans from oppression, it makes sense to center the experiences of female humans in our analysis and activism; however, there are some trans women who are allies to us. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many. The majority of trans activism is anti-feminist—it involves reinforcing sexist stereotypes about women and shutting down feminists events.
      As for the word “cis,” I will explain what’s wrong with it for anyone reading here who is curious. The word “cis” is supposed to mean that the way one perceives oneself matches up with their biological sex and physical body. But women usually don’t feel comfortable in our bodies. Women often hate having periods, we feel pain from cramping, sometimes we feel pain from intercourse and childbirth, and we usually hate the way our body is shaped. (Too “fat,” breasts too small, etc.) Most women do not feel a sense of comfort with their bodies, or feel that their bodies reflect the way they feel they are. Telling us that we are comfortable with our bodies when we are not is condescending and rude. Sarah Ditum explained this really well in this post. She writes, “I have never felt that happy consistency between my female body, the self I know myself to be, and the gender I am recognised as and judged by my ability to perform – the agreement of parts which Serano describes as “cis”.”
      And speaking for myself, I don’t feel an agreement between the self I know myself to be and my physical body. I don’t feel “comfortable with” having monthly periods, having a body than can become pregnant, and being expected to fulfill the female sex role. And that doesn’t mean I am trans. I do not wish to take hormones and call myself by a male name just because being biologically female is no cup of tea. What I’d rather do is change the way women are viewed in our society, so that we can enjoy our full humanity despite our biology and despite the sex stereotypes assigned to us.
      Also relevant here is the idea that women have a privilege called “cis privilege” which oppresses men. This is a nonsensical concept: women are subject to violence from men based on our female bodies, regardless of whether or not we “identify with” our female bodies, and we are not dangerous to people who are male, regardless of whether or not they “identify with” their male bodies. The people who perpetrate violence against gender-non-conforming men are other men.

      It is a bit ironic that you call Meghan a “hilarious cliché.” You sound like a hilarious cliché of liberal “feminism,” actually. You have rattled off all the liberal jargon without actually engaging with the arguments being made. You’ve got a lot of things wrong here and it sounds like you’re more interested in bashing feminists than in thinking critically about the topics being discussed. I hope you can move beyond that.

      • ChathAm

        “I do not wish to take hormones and call myself by a male name”

        But that’s…literally what being cisgendered is, I thought? That the bottom line is that your internal gender matches your external sex and that you DON’T need to transition?

        • amongster

          There is no “internal gender”.

          Body disphoria therefore does not stem from a “missmatch” of gender and sex and many transgender people do not even have body disphoria or the wish to medically and surgically transition in the first place.

          So called “cisgender” people often experience body disphoria too, especially females who are constantly told that their bodies are wrong one way or the other. To be “cisgender” would mean for females to be naturally passive and submissive to males and be totally fine about it. No female is like that without cultural indoctrination, which is gender.

        • Lee

          I have no gender as far as I am concerned. My body is annoying to me because of other people’s focus on it. It doesn’t feel womanly or manly or anything in between, just tedious, because it blocks my free movement in the world thanks to the female parts. If I could, I would ‘present’ as a tree or a gelatinous blue cube on roller-skates (so far, these don’t seem to be workable options… but I am hopeful). I am sure someone out there would need to gender either of those, though, of course.

          The idea that gender is bullshit is very threatening to people who want to believe in male brains/female brains, female/male essences, etc. The idea that gender is innate and patriarchy sprung up from that natural, innate hierarchy is threatening to people like me. It’s an impasse, a completely different view of the world, and the two opposing views mean people are working at cross-purposes, even if they seem to (on the surface) have the same goals.

          • lizor

            I’m with you, lee – my body has been an impediment to me my whole life. Not that I want to be in a male body, I just hate the whole game I’ve been shoved into and I despair that the stake have gotten much more dire for the generation coming behind me.

            “the two opposing views mean people are working at cross-purposes, even if they seem to (on the surface) have the same goals.”

            Yes, that’s the thing about this whole trans liberation (and FTR – I want ALL people to be safe from male violence, including men and intersex people, however they decide to present) – it pushes the discourse of sex-based oppression to the most shallow and superficial configuration. It reduces any dialogue about the dangers of living as a female human to a question of how people respond to your fashion choices.

        • purple sage

          Cisgender is supposed to mean harmony between my sense of self and my physical body. I’ve already stated that I do not feel this harmony and you’re still calling me cisgender. It sounds like you believe that everyone is either happy with their body or is actively transitioning. In reality there are far more people who feel uncomfortable with their body but do not try to modify it. Most of us realize that reinforcing impossible standards of beauty and policing how people are allowed to dress and behave is the real problem. Those who practice real “radical self-acceptance” are those who learn to love themselves as they are instead of starving or surgically altering themselves.

    • Jacqueline

      “And lastly, about that “Twitter rage machine” let’s cut through the textbook passive aggressiveness and call it what it is. A platform where WOC and trans women can openly voice their opposition. Critical analysis is not “rage” and reducing it to that, is both racist and sexist.”

      Right, because “skunk in vagina” insults are a dazzling example of critical thinking.

    • Mar Iguana

      Why, thank you, Riley, for granting permission to big meanie feminists to have some fun. I believe I will.

      “It’s all too overwhelming.”

      Stop it right now Meghan Murphy, et al. Can’t you see you’re cruelly whelming poor, defenseless delicate flowers? You’re giving them the vapors and the hysteria and such. Quick, break out the smelling salts and help them to the fainting couch for a pelvic message before they wilt and die from being all whelmed.

    • Leila

      Using racism like this, as a rhetorical point (feminism I don’t like is *white feminism* even though the subject at hand (objectification, gender) isn’t!) actually showcases how little you care about racism. Countless feminists of color whose words I read get harassed, threatened and no-platformed by people like you when they don’t follow your party line. ”Well, I don’t agree with your take on objectification and gender you fucking white feminist!” ”I’m not white” ”Well who gives a shit you’re still a transmisogynist and worthless scum wawawa” is an exchange I’ve seen too many times.

      • Rocio

        As a Latina socialist, OMG I second this. It’s made me feel crazy to see the most self-righteous liberal feminist women of color not only get positioned as radicals but tear down actually radical women of color feminists whether they are radical feminists or socialist feminists.

        I made the mistake once of saying on Twitter that one of these popular liberals didn’t speak for me and her most sycophantic followers flooded my mentions and accused me of being either a self-hating women of color or somehow not authentically non-white.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Well you saw them all turn on bell hooks for her comments about Beyonce, right? Apparently anyone who doesn’t agree with their liberal bullshit is racist, including women of colour.

        • Rocio

          Ya that was ugly. They all supposedly loved Bell Hooks until she said that and then they said she was “old and out of touch”. She also did a panel with Laverne Cox and had a great deal of respect for her but she did mention that she wished Laverne had gone beyond stereotypical notions of femininity (the blond hair, makeup, heels etc). Saying those two things suddenly made her out of fashion.

          These types MO is to call radical Feminists “White Feminists”, if they’re not white but they’re above 40, they call them old and out of touch (bonus points if it’s an older white woman), and if they’re none of those things they just ignore them and pretend they’re the only brave Feminist voices out there.

    • derrington

      Riley – Critical analysis on Twitter? Do me a favour. Read a book, write a book but banging out a few tweets is not, and never has been, critical analysis.

    • Anna

      Riley. I’m rather late to the party. But I had to respond. Yes, the ‘traditional performance of femininity’, over and over again, in the marketplace of celebrity, conducted uncritically, is anti feminist.
      I won’t begin to unpick ‘traditional’. But until, say, trans men of colour are appearing in publications aimed at men being celebrated in the same way for the same achievements/attributes as cis men are, until- imagine- cis women are in that same position, while cis and trans men are also rolling about naked and painted in rooms full of clothed people to sell products and their own fame to the mainstream, then that ‘choice’ that has been ‘denied’ to so many will be critiqued by those who are not that grateful for having been given it.

      And just to be clear, that topsy turvy world I described is not my own feminist utopia, but I tried to use concepts that a liberal would enjoy.

  • Jonas

    Splendid piece Meghan.
    All your pieces on various issues with celebrity culture has been really good, this one no exception.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Jonas!

  • Nuna Bidness

    A black woman proclaiming herself to be beautiful and sexy on her own terms is a radical act of defiance.

    • Meghan Murphy

      On her own terms? Or on patriarchy’s terms?

      • Nuna Bidness

        Since patriarchy (and radical feminism apparently) doesn’t allow this form of self-expression from black transwomen, Laverne is doing this on her own terms.

        • Meghan Murphy

          So if it’s just ‘for her’ why doesn’t she just do it in the privacy of her own home?

          • Nuna Bidness

            I don’t doubt she does this at home too. That doesn’t change her agency here.

          • Meghan Murphy

            My point is — if it is ‘on her own terms’ why is it for an audience? What is the purpose? Who is it for when it’s for an audience?

          • Nuna Bidness

            I understand your point. The audience is not you and it is not who you think it is. Laverne says who it’s meant for in the same interview that her mac and cheese dinner is mentioned.

          • Meghan Murphy

            You’re avoiding responding to my argument. I doesn’t matter if I am the audience or not. (Also, how am I not the audience for Allure?)

          • Nuna Bidness

            I guess you still missed the part where Laverne says who the photoshoot is for in her interview. Did you catch the Playboy article about your disgust with Laverne?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh! So you like the article written by a MAN in PLAYBOY that completely misrepresented what I said/explains to women how they are doing feminism wrong? That dude constantly writes pro-sex industry articles and spends his days pushing anti-feminist shit at women on Twitter. Good to know where you stand.

          • Kate

            Lol, if Playboy is for it, it ain’t feminism.

          • Kim

            incredible. Citing Playboy. How come you people try to lecture others on feminism and can’t even manage not to be rabidly misogynistic?

          • Anonymous

            It’s still for her, because she’s choosing to do it to empower women like her. Her audience is women like her.

            Why do you think you have the right to define for her how she should express her sexuality and her audience?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I don’t. But I do think I have the right to think critically about how representations of women/objectifying imagery impacts women.

          • Anonymous

            So you seriuosly think a trans woman allowing a tasteful nude photo to appear in a public magazine to spread awareness about the beauty of trans women, is somehow going to hurt all other women?

            Why not reach out to one of your sisters and be proud of her for being willing to put herself out there to spread awareness about her struggles as a (black) trans woman, instead of insisting (with a supreme lack of critical thought, despite your statement to the contrary) the only way to see this is to see her objectifying herself for men, and therefore contributing to the all of us? What is so dangerous about a woman owning her sexuality and being willing to put it out there for her fellow women? Why do you feel so threatened by it?

          • Meghan Murphy

            You want to know why I feel ‘threatened’ by the objectification of women? Really? You’re new here, huh.

          • Kim

            Wrong wrong wrong. Why do women have to be publically sexual to ”own their sexuality”? Funny how women’s ”expression of their sexuality” is always an excuse when female bodies are made to be consumed in obvious gender imbalanced ways, whether it’s in pop culture, magazines, porn and prostitution?

            You’re definitely not going to sanctify me as owning my sexuality while sitting in front of my computer in my pajamas, yet I do. I haven’t seen any think pieces about Janelle Monae owning and expressing her sexuality when performing in her tuxedos. The ”empowerment, owning sexuality, expressing sexuality” thing is simply used to excuse away women’s subordinate and consistently objectified status in society,maintaining and even encouraging it while clouding it away behind the veil of choice and empowerment. Selling sexism and dehumanization to girls but pretending it’s not because you choose it : mainstream feminism has now become complicit in this. So glad I grew out of this phase, unfortunately not before doing a lot of harm to myself.

          • Katie

            She’s doing this in public to empower people; she said so. She’s doing it for people who need to see a body closer to their own glorified. Because, as someone else here said, she doesn’t fit the European standard of beauty America is so obsessed with.

            Which is why I’d argue she’s doing this on her terms. She ate the food she wanted the night before, didn’t lose weight for the photo shoot, the photo doesn’t lighten her complexion.

            Yes, she dresses and looks a way that is traditionally feminine but that’s not inherently anti-feminist. What is, however, are the hints of transphobia in this article along with the policing of this woman’s choices. I’m not saying that patriarchal beauty standards don’t run our culture and pervade women’s lives, but I am saying that not everything in line with those beauty standards is horrible.

            A transwoman loving herself and owning her identity enough to put her body out there like this IS going to inspire people. Preferably other trans people who don’t get to see themselves in our media, especially not in a desirable light. You argue she is a hypocrite for preaching self-love but then altering her appearance. Not every trans person feels dysphoria, and I don’t know much about Laverne Cox, but I assume she did if she changed her appearance. Does this perpetuate the gender binary? No, it doesn’t. Because anyone should be able to dress and look the way that makes them feel most comfortable, without any specific look being gendered. But she’s a woman and her aim was to look more feminine! you argue, Thus she is influenced by the gender binary!

            Who isn’t, though? All of our choices will be influenced in some way by society. If she was truly perpetuating any binary or stereotypes, she would be pushing her looks and style on other women. Which I don’t see her doing.

            What I do see is you pushing your opinions onto Laverne. I see you whining because you personally don’t feel empowered by her image and so you insist it can’t be empowering for anyone.

            And finally, nudity does not equal sexuality nor should it. I don’t find her pose to be aggressively sexual. I think the photo is sensual and beautiful and reminiscent of oil portraits. I think it’s gorgeous in a classic sort of way, but most importantly, Laverne likes it and when it comes to her body, that’s all that matters.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I don’t believe that objectifying unconventional bodies liberates women from patriarchy. (In any case, her body hardly looks unconventional.) Also, Laverne is under no obligation to listen to or agree with my opinions. Why are you so attached to defending a wealthy, beautiful celebrity from critical thought?

          • Katie

            All I am doing is replying to your “critical thought” piece which you published on the internet. You put it out in public for other people to hear your opinion and react to it, much like what Laverne was doing when she put her photo out there instead of keeping it in the privacy of her own home.

            And yes, I agree Laverne is beautiful. She knows she’s beautiful, which is why she did this photo shoot. No, her body isn’t the most unconventional but it is still the body of a black trans woman which is quite far from the thin white cis body paraded around in our culture as the epitome of perfection every woman should strive towards.

            I suppose we will have to disagree on what is defined as objectification. Laverne is still a person in this photo; she is still herself. She isn’t a sex object or a headless torso that could belong to anyone and yet is so retouched it belongs to no one and is only meant to gratify the viewer.

            Basically, what I’m saying, is that I feel a woman loving her body enough to put it out there to counter the current harmful body image that’s at the forefront of our society is a good thing and can actually be empowering. She’s saying she doesn’t look like what has been drilled into her head she should look like and she isn’t ashamed. She’s saying if you are in a similar boat that you shouldn’t be ashamed either.

            That was her intent, anyway. Obviously, it didn’t work for you. I mean, in the very title you say no one is empowered by this image. But it did work for me, which is why I commented.

          • derrington

            I was a punk in my youth, but complained one day to my mum that dressing the way I did made some people react negatively to me. My mum gave me a great piece of advice – dress how you want to but expect that some people may not like it and may voice that. Laverne Cox has decided to do a nude photoshoot – something feminists have battled with regarding how this particularly portrayal of women causes a good number of problems in particular violence against women not prepared to act out the same stereotypical behaviour for a given man. Laverne is free to do nudity, and others are free to critisise it because of its links with sexist violence and demeaning women into being sex objects. With becoming a women comes responsibility to the rest of us as to whether you choose to perpetuate violent stereotypes, or challenge them.

          • Lee

            Some of us don’t think that focusing on female bodies instead of female persons/humanity is a way to subvert the extreme focus on female bodies. What if I don’t care very much about my body, don’t love it, but do love my self? That’s so outside the mainstream, it’s basically inconceivable to most people.

          • Anonymous

            Why does it matter that she’s wealthy or beautiful?

            And her body is completely unconventional from Western standards of beauty. Even if she was not trans, it would be completely unconventional from Western standards of beauty. Some of us think she is beautiful nonetheless, but this does not negate the fact that society has been slow to accept her (and other trans women and black women) as conventionally beautiful.

          • lizor

            “…her body is completely unconventional from Western standards of beauty. Even if she was not trans, it would be completely unconventional from Western standards of beauty.”

            No, it is not “unconventional”. The images in the Allure article conform exactly to western standards of beauty.

          • lizor

            “She’s doing this in public to empower people; she said so.”

            Um, do you think that maybe, just MAYBE she did it for the huge fee that Allure most certainly pays for such a spread and also because doing such a piece increases the value of her brand? The only thing empowered in this charade is Laverne Cox’s bank account and the careers of her agent, manager and handlers.

            “She doesn’t fit the European standard of beauty America is so obsessed with.”

            Oh come off it. There is absolutely nothing in this presentation that varies from the bog-standard western dictates of so-called “feminine beauty”.

            If this is your idea of diversity or subversion, then you live in a very tiny universe indeed.

          • Jacqueline

            That photograph of Laverne precisely imitates European standards of beauty. Allure lightened her skin by flooding it with light and she’s wearing a wig of straight, blonde, silky hair. They made her look as European as they possibly could.

          • Nullvoid

            Sexualization isn’t limited to conventionally beautiful women. Often, it extends to fetishization of unconventional bodies. Sexualization is no gift to any woman. The fetishization of trans women and black women is nothing new and is just as disturbing as that of any other woman.

            Men don’t look at a black trans woman and change their mind about beauty standards or open their mind about sexuality … men look at a black trans woman and jerk off while continuing to be misogynistic homophobic racists from start to finish.

        • purple sage

          Do you really believe that radical feminists have disallowed anyone from expressing themselves? Can you name any instance of this happening? Laverne Cox did, in fact, do this photo shoot. No feminists shut it down or censored the magazines.

          Women posing naked or nearly naked in sexy poses has been done a zillion times. This exact imagery is found almost everywhere you look in popular culture, from movies, television, magazines, advertising, etc. How can repeating the same cultural expression of femininity that women have been expected to perform for decades be seen as “a radical act of defiance” or “on her own terms”? Who do you believe Cox is defying here? Why do you think her “own terms” precisely mirrors what our culture dictates women must do?

        • Patriarchy doesn’t disallow this form of expression (patriarchy and radical feminism are diametrically opposed); it’s served by it because women being depicted in revealing and sexualized ways is the status quo. It’s great that Laverne is comfortable as a woman and is proud of her body. But why do women have to take their clothes off in order to show the world that they’re comfortable with their bodies and why do men not do this? Gender roles matter here. It’s not that nudity is bad per se or that the female body is taboo; it’s that under this system, we can’t do the things that the system thrives on and expect that to result in liberation from patriarchy. Which is the point of feminism. It doesn’t mean you can do whatever you feel like doing. No other anti-oppression movement says anything goes. Why do people think that feminism should be any different?

          • Nuna Bidness

            Purple and Lavender, the fact is not all women are oppressed in the same way under patriarchy. Most women of the world are not allowed to perform femininity in the way the West has defined it (the way Laverne expresses it). Women demanding that other women look the way they see fit in public spaces is not what feminism is about, it is not uplifting, it only further divides us.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Performing femininity doesn’t liberate women. “Femininity” and “masculinity” are oppressive/part of an oppressive system that upholds male power and violence.

          • Nuna Bidness

            Scolding women for the way they present themselves doesn’t liberate women. Not listening to your sisters tell you about their experiences under patriarchy and assuming you know what’s best for them doesn’t liberate women. Do you want access to patriarchy or to dismantle it?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Who has been scolded? And no,I most certainly don’t want ‘access to patriarchy’. Patriarchy is violent and oppressive and destructive. You’re preaching liberal feminism at me and I’m afraid I just don’t buy into that individualist, superficial, consumerist version of ‘feminism’.

          • Nuna Bidness

            Scolding/correcting/regurgitating whatever you want to call it. It is unfortunate and bizarre that you see “listen to other women rather than speak at/for them” as “individualist, superficial, consumerist.” What antifeminist rhetoric has Noah Berlatsky espoused on twitter?

          • Meghan Murphy

            He promotes prostitution and pornography as empowerment and spends half his day telling feminists they’re doing feminism wrong.

            How does forming a feminist critique of the performance of femininity constitute ‘scolding’. Got anything to say about the virulent misogyny thrown my way, by the way? Or are you just worried about rich Laverne Cox?

          • lizor

            Yeah, Marx and Engels were big scolds too – always wagging their fingers at capitalists, speaking for capitalists, erasing them, and denying the poor capitalists their agency.

          • Nuna Bidness

            Twice you have asked me a question and there was no “reply” button for me to respond. I haven’t seen the misogyny you faced and was unaware that moderate recent wealth outweighed generational wealth.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I linked to the misogyny here in the comments section.

          • Mar Iguana

            “Not listening to your sisters tell you about their experiences under patriarchy and assuming you know what’s best for them doesn’t liberate women.”

            No man is my sister.

          • Nuna Bidness

            I’m not a man.

          • Joanne

            I believe she was referring to Laverne Cox, who says it’s empowering to pose nude for magazines, which according to you is “our sister telling us about her experience under patriarchy.”

          • derrington

            You’re not that smart either. She was refering to you referencing Laverne as a sister.

          • Nuna Bidness

            LMAO I know what Mar was doing, I ignored it. I am a ciswoman who accepts Laverne as my sister because as a woman, my gender identity is more than my genitals! I’m sorry that some women want to willfully (maybe it’s not freewill bc it’s enforced by patriarchy?) be reduced to their reproductive systems.

          • Anonymous

            Laverne Cox is not a man.

          • Joanne

            Laverne Cox is male. Most people abide by the rule that “male” and “man” are synonyms when talking about an adult of the male sex.

          • Sabine

            Erm…yep, he is.

          • derrington

            Then why did Laverne need to transition? Liberal feminism is pure fantasy la la land: the violence and hate speech in porn is not real despite the fact it is acted out in homes throughout the world and leaves thousands of women dead every year and women can have a penis and their feelings count more than the lives of women who have a vagina. Talk about first world thinking on oppression and violence.

          • EEU

            Yes, he is.
            Man = adult male human being
            Woman = adult female human being

            Biological sex is immutable. It cannot be changed, not with hormones, not with surgeries.

          • Mar Iguana

            Women do not reduce themselves to their reproductive systems, Nuna Bidness. Men reduce women to their reproductive systems, and have for thousands of years now.

          • purple sage

            Nuna, it is not true at all that “most women of the world are not allowed to perform femininity in the way the West has defined it.” Femininity means being objectified, being subordinate to men, performing for the male gaze, and conforming to what men find attractive. Although what precisely men find attractive in each culture will differ, the main themes remain the same. Women all over the world are forced to dress and behave the way men want them to. Cox is dressing and behaving the way women are expected to dress and behave in the West. There is nothing subversive about this.

          • Nuna Bidness

            Since Western patriarchy (which has white supremacist colonizer undertones, and ideas of “purity” related to nudity/femininity) doesn’t allow this form of self-expression from black transwomen, it is quite subversive actually!

          • Meghan Murphy

            Why do you think that trying to achieve exactly what the status quo/oppressive systems of power want/have created is empowering or subversive?

          • Nuna Bidness

            Maybe you’re ignoring something on purpose here… Laverne’s existence (especially in this photo) is the opposite of every current conceivable notion of status quo.

          • Meghan Murphy

            How so? Don’t you think she looks like any other beautiful woman?

          • Nuna Bidness

            She looks beautiful, she does not look like “any other woman” according to how patriarchy/racism/ableism defines us. Only certain people are allowed/forced to look like “any other woman” and Laverne is not one of those people.

          • Meghan Murphy

            How so?

          • Nuna Bidness

            It seems your “logic” includes denial, not answering questions, and insulting your readership using arguments that misogynists use. I’m fine without it, thank you.

          • Nuna Bidness

            Do you want me to copy/paste the list of reasons? You could always open other dominant media and see that Laverne is not what our society pedestals as woman for yourself if you don’t believe me after I’ve rewritten it numerous times.

            You could look at the history of who was defined as womanly and whom that womanhood was measured against. Have you ever heard nonwhite women’s experiences under racism/patriarchy/colonization? Or do you choose to ignore them too?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Please explain why objectifying black/trans women will help or empower black/trans women.

          • Nuna Bidness

            I will write you an essay when you pay me for the labor.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No one wants an essay. We just want you to make a logical argument as opposed to an illogical one.

          • Elis

            Ok, I want to address this idea that women are placed on society “pedestals” according to how they look, and that black women performing according to this ideal but not *looking like them* is somehow subersive and revoluationary.

            White women being placed on “society pedestals” according to what features we are born with or use painful plastic surgery to gain, and whether or not we conform to a certain standard of femininity does not give us societal and political power, nor is it empowering for us as women. Sure, it might give us temporary leeway in some situations, but the problem is: this ideal was never created *for* or *by* us. Beauty ideals in western (and most likely all) society is essentially for men, because possessing a woman who follows all the rules and fits the standard is a mark of a man’s power and influence. A man with a beautiful (and feminine) wife is considered a powerful man, hence the idea of the “trophy wife” exists. Men brag about their beautiful girlfriends, because it makes them seem significant and valuable. She as a person isn’t important, what she gives to her man’s status is the important part. A conventionally beautiful woman who isn’t already in a relationship with a man is considered an oddity as women who fit the mold are essentially considered vapid and man-centric, and if she is a lesbian she is considered a “loss”. A waste. Because she is not possessed by a man and/or will never be possessed by a man, she is a worthless and broken commodity, or one that needs to be fixed (often by men).

            Black women and women of color being forced to play according to this set of already impossible rules is a ridiculous and horrific situation, but pretending that shifting the goalposts within beauty ideals and the ideal of perfect “womanhood” will fix it and make it more “inclusive” and therefore better for woc, is a futile effort. Beauty/femininity standards change constantly, and it never gets any better. Beauty and femininity might be drawn up according to the perfect and unachievable image of the thin white woman, but no woman, not white ones either, benefit from this system in any way shape or form. There might be a little more breathing space afforded to the women who fit the ideal, which is a certain type of privilege, but it is temporary and treacherous, because following the rules means you’ll be seen as vain, stupid and shallow. Speaking up against male power will get a “beautiful” woman in trouble just as fast as it will an “ugly” one. And women age, as all humans do, and become invisible and unimportant after all.

            Beauty and femininity is a lose-lose situation for women. No matter what. And it’s pretty much just used to pit us against each other and keep us busy, because it doesn’t matter if we are seen as beautiful or ugly, feminine or not, we’re never safe from male power and violence. We need to work the idea of “beauty” and “femininity” out of our system entirely, and Laverne Cox is not helping there at all. We really shouldn’t be working at molding patriarchal systems to individual benefit, we should be destroying them altogether.

            tl;dr: womanhood should never be measured by patriarchal beauty and femininity standards, because they are inherently oppressive systems for all women and should be destroyed entirely.

            Women and what is considered “true womanhood” have been defined by male-controlled, white supremacist ideas and media, digital or otherwise, for a damned eternity. We need to move away from it completely, not try and appeal to or modify what’s already there. It’s pointless to work with a system that hates us, degrades us and consideres us commodities for male consumption.

            This is something we are socialized into, so it won’t just go away by itself. We gotta fight it, hard. That’s why this piece by Meghan Murphy is so important, individuals benefitting from and working within patriarchal systems won’t “empower” our way out of oppression. Individuals having “agency” and “choosing” to do exactly what is expected of them in a patriarchal setting won’t liberate us nor protect us from male violence.

          • lizor

            Elis April 28th, 2015: FANTASTIC comment! Thank you!

            “Beauty ideals in western (and most likely all) society is essentially for men, because possessing a woman who follows all the rules and fits the standard is a mark of a man’s power and influence.”

            Yes! All of this “empowerment though performing femininity” horse shit boils down to being a favoured possession and nothing more. You can take that “power” and cram it sideways, thanks.

          • Kate

            How can you say that patriarchy doesn’t allow this type of self expression from trans women when Playboy published an article celebrating it? Is Playboy not part of patriarchy?

        • lizor

          “Since patriarchy (and radical feminism apparently) doesn’t allow this form of self-expression from black transwomen”

          What are you on about? Patriarchy loves this form of self expression.

          Radical feminism critiques this form of so-called “self-expresison” for its it’s extreme conformity and its reiteration of a gendered power differential.

          Critique is not “disallowing”. If you have an argument to counter this critique, then make it. If you can’t argue without mischaracterizing what is actually going on, then that indicates that you don’t actually have a counter argument. You’re just stamping your feet and saying “You’re not the boss of me!!”

          It’s social critique. Grow up and deal with it.

          • Nuna Bidness

            So the part where there are parenthesis means it’s a thought added on to “Since patriarchy doesn’t allow this form of self-expression from black transwomen.” Arguing the semantics of a thought in parenthesis might distract you from the main comment, but if it helps you focus we can say “in addition, radical feminism doesn’t WANT this from of self-expression from black transwomen.”

            This is what I hear from radical feminists first hand, “enlighten” me if you identify as a radical feminist though. Since you are so wise, do you think critique is protected from critique itself? Is that part of “growing up?”

          • lizor

            The part where it’s parenthesis means it’s a quote, like in elementary school grammar. I was responding (using the established rules of written english) to the statement you made that “patriarchy […] doesn’t allow this form of self-expression” which is patently untrue and a classic reversal.

            The rest of your sentence about radical feminism “WANT”ing or not wanting certain forms of what you call “self-expression”, simply indicates your non-comprehension of what I said.

            First of all, Radical feminism (a.k.a. feminism) is a form of social analysis. It’s not a being with desires. Many people who apply feminist analysis WANT a world where women are not subject to violence, poverty and to endless heaps of mental gobbledegook as to why they should accept violence and poverty in their lives.

            Part of the critique here is that imitating the ubiquitous profit-driven marketing/porn imagery that dictates a very specific and narrow construct of femininity is not self expression. Aping what’s in front of you is not self-expression. It is the most mindless form of human action.

            Like someone said upthread, I can’t tell if you really are unable to comprehend the ideas articulated here or if you are playing dumb just to take up space. If you had a critique that responded to and engaged with what’s actually been said, I’d be happy to engage with you.

    • Sabine

      That’s all very lovely, Nuna Bidness, but for a start he’s not actually a woman and secondly he is merely adhering to the stereotypical standards of feminine beauty and sexiness within patriarchy. Radical? Defiant? Hardly.

      • Nuna Bidness

        Clearly, you are more radical than Laverne by choosing not to address a person the way they ask to be addressed! As if purposefully reminding a person that her identity is not her own, but is actually up for public debate is not status quo.

        • Joanne

          Would you validate a white man’s internal “black identity”?

          • derrington

            Particularly if they then dressed up as a black man in chains and claimed they were doing it to empower other black men and own their inner slave?

        • Victoria

          “choosing not to address a person the way they ask to be addressed!”

          Hmmm, when the trans activist community decides to get women’s input on whether or not “cis” is an appropriate way to address/describe us and then agrees to address us the way we want to be addressed…maybe then I’ll consider whether or not I want to use female pronouns to address men.

          As long as I am being “cisgendered” without my consent, I will stick to reality-based pronoun use.

          • Nuna Bidness

            Joanne, I think you need to revisit the way analogies work. Victoria, your “reality” seems to ignore the people around you.

          • Joanne

            We could use the otherkin analogy if you prefer, since their community exists in the thousands. Should society allow an otherkin who “really really felt like a dog inside” go around urinating on fire hydrants?
            If you want to challenge my analogies, you’re going to have to explain why you think they’re flawed. Personally, I don’t think you even have an argument. I think you just want to pretend like you do, condescending to me all the while.

            Women are real, we are not a feeling in a man’s head or an “identity.” It sickens me that this even needs to be said. I have no obligation to wound my own dignity as a woman to validate a mentally ill man.

          • Nuna Bidness

            Uh, I don’t know anything about otherkin tbh. But if an otherkin was in a magazine expressing their otherkiness(?) I would not feel the need to comment publicly in a rude way about it. Thousands of otherkin seem hardly comparable to millions of transpeople, however.

            Any condescension from me is a mirror of the comment I reply to. The way you attempt to use race here shows that you don’t have much experience with racism. White men DO say things like “I’m a sassy Black woman on the inside” white people get paid to wear “blackness” as a costume. It’s a very successful business model, not some hypothetical to use (especially when talking and refering to Black people). Black people are very real too.

            I’m a woman, I feel it in my head and not in my vagina *shrug* I don’t identify as a woman bc someone told me I am. I am more than my reproductive organs! I find that simplification of my womanhood to be insulting, not the existence of transpeople.

            We are really in the stone ages in terms of understanding mental illness, biology, hormones, and brain development. But transpeople have been real for millenia across continents and cultures. The English language and biology are relatively new so if “biologically” woman = vagina then we need a new definition. Or, you know, we can just stop learning or whatever.

          • amongster

            So you believe in brain sex? What inside your head makes you feel like a woman, Nuna?

          • Joanne

            It’s “trans people,” not “transpeople.”

            I wasn’t implying blackface was hypothetical, I’m not an ignorant child. I was saying that blackface is no less offensive than what we call “ladyface,” or dressing up in the costume of female oppression. “Ladyface” and blackface are not mutually exclusive, I have seen a white man very sincerely “identify” as a black woman.

            You go on and on about your vagina not making you a woman and what not…but you’re so heavily steeped in genderism you think we believe our genitals dictate our personalities when we say our vaginas are an important part of our reality as women.

            We, as human beings, couldn’t give a shit what junk we have…but patriarchy does care. Our reproductive systems mark us as rapeable and impregnable.

            Gender was originally created to demarcate the “vagina-havers (the acted upon)” from the “penis-havers (the agents).” Gender was created to alert men that I belong to the group of “lesser-thans.”

            I hate gender, it is an evil force. I wish that genitals didn’t matter, but as long as females are oppressed on the basis of our sex, our genitals do matter.

          • Nuna Bidness

            Have you been to another part of the world, ever?

          • Joanne

            Yes, I have lived in several other countries. You don’t even know where I live to begin with. How is this relevant? Are you going to lecture me about third gender fa’afines, berdaches, kathoeys, Two Spirits, or Hijras?

          • ginny

            1.Otherkin are quite normal in comparsion to transwomen, animals are not an oppressed class, and otherkin usually accept some form of difference between their “brain/soul species” and their genetic species and don’t go around forcing everyone to accept they are the species they identify as.

            2.White people steal black people’s identities, men steal women’s identities. I don’t see what you fail to understand.

            3.If you “feel womanhood” then either you have internalised mysoginy or you’re a man.

            4.Good job missing the point of the definition of woman, woman is not vagina, just like how black person isn’t skin colour.
            Since you state it is wrong for “white people” to identify as black, do you define black people as skin colour, did Micheal Jackson stop being black when his skin went pale?

            Of course not, your basis as an oppressed class is defined by your experience as an oppressed class.

            The experience of boy babies and girl babies is mutually exclusive straight from birth.
            Boys get more attention, more food,more toys and better medical attention, are more likely to be described by people around them as strong and smart and are much less likely to be murdered,abused, neglected or abandoned by adults. Someone with this experience can not understand what it is like to be female.

            As boys grow up they are allowed to be naughtier and louder than girls, they are given more opportunities in education, given more attention by teachers, they are allowed larger areas of personal space, allowed to invade girls personal space, allowed to touch girls without consent.

            This trend continues when they become men, and they are given more job opportunities, allowed to make sexist comments, allowed to become overly emotional without losing their job, when they get caught for sexual harassment, people sympathise with them an not their victim.

            THAT is what makes Laverne a man.

          • C

            Just some follow ups to your follow ups ginny.

            Peta believes animals are an oppressed class. So just a heads up that there may be a group of people who would disagree with you on this one and do have the right to have that opinion.

            White people steals black identities. huh? by embracing and mimicking black culture? And black people steal white identities when they conform to and mimic white culture?

            I think stealing is a harsh word. They are embracing, adopting and expressing attributes contributing to those identities. Vanilla Ice did not steal MC Hammers Identity or culture, Mao did not steal Lenin’s and Marx’s culture or identities. Iggy azalea, nope didn’t steal a culture or identity either. Dame Edna, Ru Paul and Laverne Cox did not steal female identity or culture.

            As long as trans women use trans in front of woman, I see no harm in that identity.

            I felt a womanhood once, I think it came from H&M and was much softer than most of my manhood.

            Michael jackson was never “black” he was an African American with primarily negroid genetics. those identifiers remained as his skin whitened

            However his identity and personality changed to personify what would typically be referred to as “white”

            Should people of mixed decent always feel obligated to express themselves in proportion to the separate portions of there heritage? and otherwise they are just “stealing” a culture? If I’m of mixed decent but born and raised in canada and for the most part identifies as white due to the amount of white influence in my childhood, am I stealing white culture? The same applies to adopted children of a different race too, are they stealing culture?

            what boys and girls are taught is not mutually exclusive and varies immensely.

            Boys are taught that they are allowed to touch without consent? Any man or boy that would touch without consent is likely to have NOT been taught what is right or wrong in that situation.

            Maybe your family and community allowed boys and girls to be treated to extremes as such, but that is not my experience even coming from a blue collar neighborhood and I would guess that a lot of people raised in urban Canada would agree with me.

          • marv
          • C

            This thread so far has been a good conversation with lots of opinions here of what people are, who they belong with and how they can be, should be, and are treated.

            This comment piqued my interest enough to conjure up a response.

            Otherkins have the right to request being addressed as they wish just like anyone else. Whether or not an individual grants that request is up to the individual. Peeing on hydrants would be perfectly acceptable in the privacy of their own home. Although acceptable social behaviors in public could change with enough influence( say otherkins numbered in billions rather than thousands)

            Re: your other statement

            “Women are real, we are not a feeling in a man’s head or an “identity.” It sickens me that this even needs to be said. I have no obligation to wound my own dignity as a woman to validate a mentally ill man”

            I agree 100% although its kinda got matriarchal undertones don’t you think.

            Here’s my male rendition of your statement. Which I predict will be disliked by many.

            Men are real, and individual human beings who are free to make choices. And as a man I have no obligation to treat men, women or trans like human beings or with respect to make them feel equal or accepted for their sake. The sacredness of my dignity comes far before the needs of people wishing to be identified anyway they wish. Therefore my choice of how I treat others is a method to manipulate the social environment that I am creating or wish to belong to.

            Sounds a little selfish but it is valid.

            If one choose’s to treat any man, woman or trans as “equals” or with respect, it is solely for the purpose of gaining trust or support in that social environment. That said person has no obligations to anyone. In our society, for survival purposes it would be wise to choose how you treat others carefully so that you can benefit from the collective advantages gained by being part of a social “pack” or population.

            In a culturally diverse archipelago world with a dimorphous population of 7 billion, social dynamic is a little more complex, leading to a wide spectrum of behaviors and social interactions. Working together is better than working against each other. When men and women have a vast range of emotional and physical needs, it is difficult to please everyone all the time. It would be wise to carefully observe a volume of human needs and adjust your personal definition of socially acceptable behavior accordingly.

            One’s right to identify as a trans person trumps one’s right to not accept trans people as an identity only 50% of the time.

          • bella_cose

            I asked a transwoman on a blog not to refer to female-born women as cis, because we’re just women, and was immediately called a bigot. I don’t care though. I think cis is a slur, and I refuse to accept it.

        • Sabine

          OK, so I “feel” like a black, Jewish, gay man inside. Could you and everybody else please refer to and treat me as such from now on and SHAME on you and your prejudices if you don’t. (You seriously need to get real.)

          • Nuna Bidness

            Oh boy, the lot of you don’t seem to grasp how anologies work I see.

          • Joanne

            You keep saying that, but you have no argument. Sabine’s analogy was flawless. A man saying he’s female (you may need to consult a biology textbook if you haven’t learned about mammalian reproductive categories thus far) is no different than a straight man identifying as gay, or a rich person identifying as poor. You keep spouting these liberal feminist tropes, but I can guarantee you, at least half of us started out as liberal feminists.

          • Derrington

            Yes, but the facism of forcing other people to join your day dream seems to escape you. We are not invading other people spaces and forcing them to play ourgame. Nearly every feminist space is trans open and yet trans refuses to accept a reality that some women have very good reason to want female only spaces in the same way that if we are female we dont use male toilet facilities. The fact that aggressive trans women refuse to respect another womans valid feelings for anting a female only space to discuss rape etc shows exactly why thats necessary. That kind of behaviour reeks of male domination and you cant deal with that with a scalpel.

          • I’m afraid you don’t. It’s a reasonable question – would you defer to a white man who said he was black and treat him as if he was?

          • Sabine

            Please explain how my “anology” (?) doesn’t work? Are you saying I’m NOT a black, Jewish gay man even though that’s what I FEEL I am? WHAT?!! But I’ve been born into the wrong body and race. And once I have blackened my skin, had a sex change and converted to Judaism I should be treated exactly the same as a (from birth) black, Jewish gay man, as if I have the same access to direct experience as such a person…because I FEEL it inside. And my previous female, white, non-Jewish “reality” will have absolutely NO bearing on how I act as a black, Jewish, gay man…hmmm! This is different to men claiming womanhood how?

          • Nuna Bidness

            I can’t help any of you if you already lack empathy. ~Goodbye forever~

          • Sabine

            Oh no, but we so need your “help” oh paragon of virtue! Good God, get over yourself! You seem to think this is something personal about an individual. Open your brain up and get a clue and some perspective. While you’re at it maybe look into what “structural analysis” means and read some actual feminist critique instead of the Cosmo or Playboy version. Ciao!

  • siniaya

    How does the author know her body was achieved through plastic surgery? Hormones can achieve a lot of what I see in her shoot. Granted, one can assume at some point Mrs.Cox may have gotten breast augmentation bit that is a spectulation. But that’s not a perfect body, not to everyone maybe to Lavern Cox it is, certainly an attractive one but perfect? By no means especially if you or anyone use the “European standard” she would be considered over weight.
    I do find it empowering for several reasons the main 2 being
    1. She is comfortable enough in her own body has a TS woman to pose like this and have it published nationally. This do to gender and body dysphoria is an accomplishment within itself.
    2. A publication and photographer accepts and can see without a doubt that a trans woman’s body can be attractive. Which in itself is ground breaking and thereby breaking the mold and traditional acceptance of what is considered to be a normal perfect body for a woman.
    So YES IT IS EMPOWERING

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hmm… I don’t think the objectification of larger bodies is progressive or empowering either. And I’d be extremely surprised if she hadn’t had breast augmentation surgery.

      • siniaya

        Breaking the normal stereotypical male idiolgical view of what a woman “needs” to look like period is a step forward in any sense I think and being that we all know she is trans embodies that concept that we need to move away from that stereotypical view male society has thrusted upon all of us whether anatomically born a woman or not or can you not see that point?
        Has for the plastic surgery, so you really don’t know? And therefore your statement regarding it is invalid or incorrect is not?
        My main point is your writing seems to be a one-sided biased point of view on how a feminist should view this trans person being featured in such a piece.
        The fact you assume she’s had plastic is surgery and not verify such a statement before putting it to pen is questionable from a writers perspective in itself.

    • Joanne

      “I’ve chosen not to talk about any of the stuff I’ve had done.” -Laverne Cox

      “Stuff” you’ve “had done,” means plastic surgery. People who have never had plastic surgery don’t talk about the “stuff [they’ve] had done.”

  • Maria J.

    Meghan, I loved your article.

    I just have one question: why do you keep calling Cox a “she”?

    Because it is the *one thing* that HE is not. No matter how much he tries, no matter how many times he poses naked, no matter often he repeats that ~*misgendering*~ is violence, he will never be a woman, a female-at-birth (FAB) in other words. To call him a “she” is to indulge him, to give in to his delusions.

    What I also find hilarious is that this dude gets to mansplain to women in OITNB. But, naturally, he can get away with it because he is a trans “woman” (male), a better woman than all those other puny females.

    • Maria J.

      It’s actually a fascinating paradox: he’s naked on the photograph but he is still wearing a costume: the female struggle, women’s oppression, because it affirms his ~*identity*~. In other words, he has appropriated it.

      What is also interesting is that radical feminists predicted the threat trans “women” or trans ideology in general poses to biological women decades ago. Visionaries like Mary Daly or Janice Raymond, to name a few, knew. When they saw M2Ts pretending to be better women than actual women and actually getting praise for it, they knew. They knew. But who’d believe some man-hating, transphobic whackos, amirite?

      Today, it seems, “transgenderism” has become an effective loophole to justify misogyny. Who would have guessed.

      • gxm17

        Yes. He’s wearing my oppression. And the only people who can wear another’s oppression are the oppressors. Misogyny as a fashion statement. Unfortunately, it never seems to go out of style.

    • Maria J.

      I’m sorry for the multiple posts but I just feel that I have to say this, especially to the liberal feminists who are defending trans “women”.

      You need the radicals, especially radical feminists, women who are uncompromising to transjacktivism, i.e. to the oppressors’ demands. If you think that by supporting trans ideology in the name of feminism you are doing something noble you have no idea how wrong you are. When the oppressors, i.e. males/trans “women”, start getting what they want, and at the moment they are*, when radicals disappear and are forced to go underground, transjacktivists and men will be coming after YOUR asses next. All those ally cookies you’re getting for supporting trans will disappear and you will find yourselves in a shitload of misogyny faster than you can say “I am an unworthy cis woman.”*

      *their supposed “victory” over Michfest is only the beginning, even though they didn’t actually have anything to do with it ending

      **some women are actually saying that. Imagine the self-hatred when they say that they’ve not work hard enough to “earn” themselves the title “woman”, as opposed to their trans “sisters”

    • derrington

      Misgendering is violence? Maybe he/she should try being called a cunt whilst being punched if he/she because you happen to have said no to a man. Misgendering is violence is an insult to anyone, male/female/black/white etc who has experienced real violence. What self indulgent bullshit.

      • Joanne

        This goes along with the “cis” bullshit, the assumption being that non-trans people have never been “misgendered.” Many of us have, and most of us would say it felt like a mild annoyance.

        “Misgendering is violence” comes across as an abuser’s tactic of silencing dissent. It’s propaganda. These are the words of a fascist, thought-terminating ideology.

  • FreeRadicalFem

    Great analysis, Meghan. Of course, I do agree with Maria J that Cox is a he, no matter what he wants us to call him. And I don’t believe women need to respect the “preferred pronouns” of those whose entire ideology and existence is dependent upon a sexist association between womanhood and femininity. Without femininity, there are no transwomen. Without sexism, there are no transwomen.

    • bella_cose

      I know many gender critical transwomen who do not refer to themselves as women, but use female pronouns. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. As feminists, we can enforce certain boundaries without being completely disrespectful.

    • Kyle

      Feminity has nothing to do with trans women. Masculinity has nothing to do with trans men, either.

      Do you know what transsexuality is, FreeRadicalFem? I don’t think you do! Because to me it looks like you think it’s just some mockery of the sex binary and anyone who identifies as such is just some stereotype-pandering sexist.

      Transsexuality begins in-utero when the fetus is being formed. For most of the population, the sex that develops is in-line with the sex hormone that the fetus is washed in. But for a small percentage of us, the sex hormone we are washed in does not match the physical sex we have already begun developing. So begins the glaring symptom of transsexuality, which is what makes it a medical disorder: sex dysphoria.

      Sex dysphoria is defined as a feeling ranging anywhere from mild to extreme discomfort with primary and/or secondary sex characteristics. Primary sex characteristics are the genitals; secondary sex characteristics are mammary glands, amounts of body hair, location of hair follicles, hip size, face shape, and other things typically affected by hormones. Notice how none of this has to do with societal gender roles?

      Dysphoria can present itself at any point in life, but typically increases around puberty as sex characteristics begin to become pronounced and/or noticeable. With proper education, transsexual individuals can realize that they are experiencing this symptom and, with luck, go on to receive hormone treatments and surgical procedures that will alter their body to fit their “brain map” – the picture in our brains that our mind sees us through, which is largely affected by hormones. This is why dysphoria exists; when the body doesn’t match the brain map, discomfort occurs.

      Now that I’ve explained that, let’s go back to femininity/masculinity and societal gender norms. First of all, as I imagine you know very well, sex and gender norms are two entirely different things. A woman does not have to wear dresses and heels to BE a woman. Nor does she have to wear makeup, be “ladylike”, or do anything else society demands she do to fit the idea of “femininity”. To put it simply, femininity and being female are two different things. The same goes for males and masculinity.

      Yet man women do act feminine, and many men act masculine. Many are products of society, yes, but this discounts those who are simply being who they are happy being. Some women like to be feminine! It is entirely in their right to be so. At the same time, some MEN like to be feminine. And it’s their right as well. And then you have masculine women, and masculine men, and then you have those who are more neutral in their expressions of gender. It’s a sliding scale, really, and it’s entirely separate from sex and/or gender itself.

      Now let’s put it all together. Trans people also exist upon this sliding scale of gender expression, which is unrelated to their actual gender and sex. So trans women… might like to be feminine. Just like any other woman might like to be feminine.

      Laverne Cox likes to wear dresses and heels because that’s just what she likes to wear. It has nothing to do with her procedures, her “preferred pronouns”, or her sex (which is female in definition, by the by).

      How would you respond to a trans woman who was not so openly feminine? Would she be more valid to you, or would you discredit her as a man simply because she acted “more manly”? In judging Laverne Cox by her gender expression, you are being just as sexist as you think she is simply by being feminine. Her femininity has NOTHING to do with her being female. Nothing at all. She just dresses how she likes to dress and acts how she wants to act – just as all women have the right to do.

      I hope in the future you’ll consider actually researching things before you claim they aren’t real.

      • Meghan Murphy

        “Laverne Cox likes to wear dresses and heels because that’s just what she likes to wear. It has nothing to do with her procedures, her “preferred pronouns”, or her sex (which is female in definition, by the by).”

        Are you trying to tell me that women simply choose to wear uncomfortable shoes because they ‘like’ them better? No other reason at all?

        • lizor

          No Meghan, it’s because when we’re in the womb we are “washed in the sex hormone”, so like if there’s progesterone and estrogen in your mom’s amniotic fluid (Kyle seems to be saying), then out you pop, gagging for a pair of stripper heels. See? It’s scientistic!

          • Kate

            Wait does the sex hormone we were washed in before birth make us more genetically inclined to do laundry! IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW!

      • Maria J.

        That’s right, dude, mansplain away. Call us uneducated, we have no idea about anything, you know? What are we even doing?

        “Femininity” is a completely unnatural construct, used to subordinate women. And at this point, it doesn’t matter what the individual woman likes or dislikes, femininity will be used against her. Daring to go against femininity is even more severely punished.

        It’s not just some quirky fashion statement or a fun game to play for your own amusement and that goes especially to “feminine” men who think they’re being subversive.

        You may be dreaming of some liberal utopia where anything goes and women can choose their choices but that’s still wishful thinking.

        “How would you respond to a trans woman…”

        Oh, I can tell you how I would respond but you won’t like it.

      • Kate

        Kyle, I have ovaries, a uterus and breasts. I menstruate monthly. When I first began to menstruate I was filled with shame over it. I didn’t want anyone to know that my body was performing a perfectly natural function. I longed for the freedom I saw my brother enjoy, freedom from not only menstruation but also from sexual harassment on the street, which began at an early age. I thought of my body as the culprit in all the shame I felt. Was this dysphoria, as you imagine only trans people can feel?

      • purple sage

        “It has nothing to do with her procedures, her “preferred pronouns”, or her sex (which is female in definition, by the by).”

        Laverne Cox’s sex is not female. Laverne Cox is male. Do you understand what the word “sex” means? It doesn’t sound like it.

        How funny that you tell Meghan to do research when you have got the basic facts of biology wrong.

      • Joanne

        Transsplaining. Yes, it IS a medical issue, just like BIID, anorexia, body dysmorphia, and a host of other mental illnesses, but we don’t suggest people with anorexia get liposuction or people with BIID or dysmorphia get cosmetic surgery. It’s a part of the rest of this mental and physical illness epidemic that we’re faced with. Trans are champion goalpost movers…”I just need FFS, then I’ll be happy…” but they never are. They are almost always depressed, anxious, sick, with a host of personality disorders. Evolution would’ve weeded it out if the only option is transition or suicide. This is a modern day epidemic, and it could as easily be caused by lead poisoning or benzene in vitro as it is “hormones.” They refuse to do the science because it’s such a profitable industry, claiming the science is settled. When is science ever settled?

      • Mary the Ice Cube

        Identity doesn’t work like that. Neurology doesn’t work like that.

        We only “identify as women” after noting we have female physical characteristics at an age we start being able to make information stored as memory useful. Don’t widdle out of a fleshy tube, that makes you a girl. It’s like knowing your eyes are brown because they are a colour we call “brown”.
        Being unable to subconsciously process information pertaining to yourself is entirely possible, entirely alarming but has nothing to do with sex. Sorry.

        Anyway, this “brain map theory” is all rather questionable and possibly, if I’m gonna play by your lot’s rules, offensively ablist too.

        You’re talking what those who suffer with Phantom Limbs go through and misinterpreting it for your own ends, as you describe entirely different symptoms while lacking the neccessary neurological breakdowns which cause said symptoms to arise.

        If you had the same problems as people with genuine issues with their “brain maps”, we’d be hearing a lot more “Deep down I know I’m a man. A man who’s itchy, also smaller than me and kind of distorted on one end” and “Inside I’m really a woman. A woman who keeps involuntarily reaching to tie my laces and occasionally feels like she’s on fire” than what has actually been said.

        Those sensations only occur when the brain lacks corresponding, responsive nervous tissue on the body.
        You lot however, are not lacking in that department. Your ability to concieve children and demands that people have sex with you and your entirely functional, all there genitalia, all demonstrate that this is really not the case. Your “brain map” is fine.

        And not a single kid has a clue how their adult body is gonna turn out. Nobody’s brain is wired to expect mondo boobs at an early puberty, or tiny ones, or growing into someone almost 2 feet taller than both parents. Doesn’t happen. Sorry.

        Also, if you’re trying to bring Body Integrity Disorder into it, all that means is that some people are seeing limbs as foreign or unconnected. Which again, has nothing to do with sex. Making sex to blame is just that human tendency to try and answer the unknown with some sort of culturally justified belief rearing it’s predictable head.

        However when BIID and Phantom Limbs fail, your symptoms regarding alarming lack of connection between body and conscious mind do sound uncannily similar to those reported by people on the Austism Spectrum.

        Given the high correlation between people with ASD and those with gender identity issues, and the fact that your descriptions of “gender dysphoria” are pretty much the same as what I, an autistic woman experience due to dyspraxia and other invisable disabilities, you might want to look into something called “Executive Function Theory” instead.

        Or not if you’d rather swan past all the more plausible neurological causes and other possible solutions and simply attribute sex to feeling that way intead.
        Or again not, if you’re only in this to bully women.

        I’ve had enough of this shit. It’s like trying to describe Tourette’s to someone living in a Theocracy that needs to believe in demonic possessions in order to funtion and stay in control. You believe in gendered minds when I simply cannot. We don’t have to share your beliefs either, any more than a Muslim has to believe Jesus is best, or else.

        Gender is no more real than a blue eyed, blonde Jesus Christ on a white Tea Party memeber’s commemorative china plate. It’s a cultural idealisation no more real than gods. A pair of frequently cruel and insane idealisations that change depending on time and geography.
        As it is, we’re idealising the traits that worked well for breeding pairs of land owning and inheriting aristocrats back in the brutal past rather than …traits people just sort of have. Sociopathic warlords and their disposeable, heir-making virgin brides should be nobody’s ideal.
        Why supposedly left wing people are playing a long with this and calling it a revolution is a mystery to me.

        None of what I’ve said will stop me crossing a street to help a gender non-conformist not get pummelled by tiny minded, violent, very likely male, shit heads. At least in countries without armed citizens everywhere.

        • Joanne

          Well said, Mary. As another woman on the autism spectrum, I sometimes feel like my body is alien to me, and existing in general can be very physically and mentally painful. I have struggled with anorexia and the desire to amputate my breasts. I think that’s what transgender people call “dysphoria.” This doesn’t make me male, and I don’t have some sort of mind-body duality or “male soul.” That’s sexist tripe, and I was lucky to be shielded from sex stereotypes a great deal growing up. I’m smarter than to think sex organs dictate personalities. My sex is my sex, immutably, and ultimately doesn’t affect who I am, outside of the swimming upstream that must be undertaken by any gender non-conforming woman. That’s society’s fault though.

      • ginny

        Except identity is nothing to do with in-utero hormones, if for some bizarre reason a male had female hormones in-utero then he still has no reason to identify as female because there is no reason to care.

        I still do not believe this is possible because female hormones in-utero create actual uterus-bearing females, not males with lady-brains.

        Also sex disphoria occurs in many “cis” women throughout their lives including me, sex dysphoria is a product of social conditioning, no-one is born hating their body.

        Oh and Laverne does not simply choose to wear dresses and high-heels, he completely defines femaleness around looking and acting feminine and hosts TV shows dedicated to the policing of womens’ bodies and self-expression.
        I’d react to “less feminine” transwomen exactly the same way, all transwomen are enacting their male fantasies of ideal women and police women in similar ways.

  • Jes

    Why is it that nudity is always interpreted as sexual objectification? What about this photo implies sex? I don’t see any penises threatening to penetrate an orifice. I don’t see anything sexual at all about this photo. It’s a picture of a naked woman. A naked woman who was born with a male anatomy, but identified as female, and has chosen to modify her anatomy to match her identity. How this wrong? How does this not promote self-love? Changing your body so that it represents the person you’ve chosen to be is not contradictory to self-acceptance, is complimentary.

    If you’re happy with your physiology, then accept it. If you’re unhappy with you physiology, change it. Both of these things are healthy choices that reflect an acceptance, and more importantly a clear definition, of who they are. If you’re happy with your physiology, but change it because you feel pressure from society to look a certain way, you’re doing something unhealthy.

    I don’t believe Laverne has changed her body because she feels a pressure from society to look a certain way; she’s changed her body so that she can feel and look like she wants to. It’s her choice, and it’s a choice made by herself, for herself. I think media like this can go a long way toward the acceptance of trans people and culture, and the criticism presented in this article is misplaced, and is resultant from a lack of understanding by the author.

    • Why is it that nudity is always interpreted as sexual objectification?

      It isn’t. But lots of times it is because (a) that’s how it’s presented; (b) it’s ubiquitous; and (c) it frequently appears where there’s no logical reason for it to be there. The crux of the matter is: Why are women so often depicted in various states of undress while men are not?

      I don’t see any penises threatening to penetrate an orifice. I don’t see anything sexual at all about this photo. It’s a picture of a naked woman.

      If your criteria for sexual imagery is the presence of a penis and/or the act of penetration then there’s something wrong with your definition. It may not be sexual to you but you’re just one member of the audience. It’s reasonable to imagine that many heterosexual men who see this attractive nude woman would have thoughts of a sexual nature. Not just because she looks hot but also because they’re used to seeing women as sexual objects and thinking precisely that way about women who are clothed, let alone those who aren’t. And a woman lying on her stomach naked is assuming a passive position. That doesn’t exactly say, “I’m powerful”. Over and over again we see women ripping their clothes off in a supposed act of defiance when it does absolutely nothing to contradict the insidious belief that women exist for male consumption and enjoyment – because defiance means doing things differently. It can’t be that hard to imagine an alternative way of putting ourselves out there.

      Changing your body so that it represents the person you’ve chosen to be is not contradictory to self-acceptance, is complimentary.

      I don’t think you realize how ridiculous this sounds. If you accept something as it is there is no need to change it. Being uncomfortable with her original body doesn’t make Laverne any different from most women, but it is in fact a contradiction to say that women should accept themselves as they are while also saying that you’re happy now that your body looks the way you want it to. I’m not saying it makes her a bad person. Just let’s not bullshit ourselves.

      “I don’t believe Laverne has changed her body because she feels a pressure from society to look a certain way”

      Then where do you think she got the idea that there’s something inherently feminine about wearing high heels and having long blond hair? Is it just a coincidence?

      • Sabine

        Lavender Blume, please keep your insightful, clear words coming! They are much needed in the face of such incredible ignorance and intellectual dullness.

    • ArgleBargle

      Changing your physiology via major cosmetic surgery, hormone treatment, and/or SRS is not healthy for your body. Lots of nasty short and long term side effects, up to and including early death via cancer for longer term users of cross sex hormones.

  • Habitat

    I was linked here via a retweeted post slamming this article, the Twitter hate machine as you call it. Specifically a post retweeted by “Peter Coffin”.

    His insinuation was that this article was transphobic bigotry.

    Well, I thought I would like to tell you Megan, that you should not pay any mind to the Twitter hate machine. I have a billion stories to tell about this “male feminist” Peter Coffin – and I suspect the rest of the “feminist twitter machine” (like the user described above there as being for disenfranchised “black” women) is polluted with people like him.

    Peter Coffin is a man who 4 years ago, spend 18 months pretending to be his own girlfriend on Twitter.

    Peter Coffin faked the identity of a Korean woman claiming that she was a Japanese model named “Kimi Kobayashi”. Under this woman’s identity, he spread racist jokes for 18 months. He used his fake girlfriend’s identity to harass other women (most notably Xiaxue, Kim Kardashian) calling them many slurs.

    And suddenly, within the last year, he decided that he was going to be a “supporter of feminism”!

    How does he support feminism, do you ask? By shouting down women having conversation with other women. By pimping out his wife (figuratively) and posting naked pictures of her on his CD covers. By buying a sex doll.

    It has been unanimously agreed by anyone outside of the toxic atmosphere on twitter and tumblr that Peter Coffin unfathomably hates women with such extreme passion.

    Ignore the twitter hate machine. I’m sure the rest of them are like my little buddy Coffin. Hypocrites with nothing but contempt for women. If the people who retweeted this article from him are anything like he is, I wouldn’t take their word into consideration for anything.

  • chockablock

    blocking those on twitter who need to use sexually violent insults to respond to this article

    • Meghan Murphy

      Am I amazed and repulsed. I’m blocking them too, but she’s essentially made it ok to move to misogynist attacks and slurs on me.

      • chockablock

        ugly bullying
        Laverne Cox saying “bow down b**ches” at an award ceremony last year really grossed me out

        • Sabine

          Typical male.

        • UterusesB4Duderuses

          He thought he was being cute by quoting Beyonce, the epitome of 3rd wave sex = power feminism.

        • derrington

          Anyone that uses gendered hate speech such as calling women bitches is not a sister.

  • Theresa

    Let’s leave the post alone for moment. The fact that the author has not said one word about the incredibly offensive misgendering and transphobia in these comments is repulsive. She’s on the defense with comments critiquing this post but can’t be bothered to keep the commentary respectful to the subject of the article. Even if there wasn’t a whiff of transphobia in the post, the silence is telling. I am sickened by this thread.

    I’m also guessing that the author wears clothes from the women’s section at stores and she appears to have long hair that is styled in her Twitter profile picture. Is this not femininity? If you’re going to criticize a woman for putting her femininity on display, why are you putting yours on display?

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m assuming, in that case, that since you’ve said nothing about the virulent misogyny hurled my way, that you approve of misogyny. Also, yeah, I perform femininity too. When I am critical of that do you think it means I’m me-phobic?

      • Morag

        If you’re me-phobic, I can tell you some things that may help you with that. Meghan Murphy is intelligent, an engaging writer, determined, tough, energetic, generous with her time, and an all-round great feminist activist. She’s also funny and witty. And nice. Oh — and her long hair is nice, too.

        Ha- HA! Take that!

    • purple sage

      Why do you think it’s “repulsive” to call biological males by male pronouns? I would actually call that “accurate.”

    • Rich

      “The fact that the author has not said one word about the incredibly offensive misgendering and transphobia in these comments is repulsive”

      “Misgender” is a remarkable word. Its entire purpose is to create a sense of impropriety around descriptions of reality. To make it seem socially unacceptable to speak the truth. It is almost perfect in its fundamental dishonesty.

      Now, it is not my affair if some man wants to pretend to be a woman, or some woman wants to pretend to be a man. But I am damned if I am going to feel a social obligation to pretend too.

      • derrington

        The whole conversation around trans feels a lot like a kind of cult reality – that no one is allowed to say that the Emperor has no clothes on.

    • Joanne

      You know who else misgenders Laverne Cox? Scientists.

  • Victoria

    So sorry you are getting so much hate on Twitter. The Twitter rage machine cannot tolerate even a mild critique of anything involving their pop culture icons. The reactions are as childish, but more sinister, than the squabbling of middle school children arguing over which pop star is King or Queen this week. And of course, this isn’t an attack or even a criticism of Cox as an individual nor is it a critique of transgenderism!

    Yet, according to Twitter, Meghan Murphy wrote a scathingly transphobic “hit piece” on Laverne Cox. This article is nothing of the sort.

    As for empowerment, Laverne does what he does because he is a celebrity and it earns him a paycheck and publicity, first and foremost. He may also sincerely believe he’s an inspiration and a role model for other trans people, and maybe he is.

    But this particular photo is in a magazine that is marketed to women. This is an image being marketed *to women*. Therefore, it is completely appropriate for women to opine, critique, dissect, unpack, and comment upon this image, from a feminist perspective (or any other).

    So sad that after writing your analysis, instead of discourse, you’re told to shut up and berated in horrible ways, not just by men but by other women!

    Feminism is a movement by, for and about women. “You’re not entitled to speak because you’re privileged” is really an insidious way to dismantle it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      It’s amazing how much time and energy they spend defending wealthy celebrities and not much else. But Twitter is for the marginalized, amirite?

      • C.K. Egbert

        I find this particularly ironic since you are basically arguing AGAINST the objectification of transwomen’s bodies. Basically, you are saying “transwomen should be treated like human beings” (plus you used Laverne Cox’s preferred pronouns). I guess this counts as transphobia in the same way that talking about the harms prostituted women experience is “whorephobia.”

        • Meghan Murphy

          Indeed.

    • Ali

      Laverne Cox is a woman. Misgendering her on purpose is transphobic. Just so you know.

      As for this “analysis”, as a feminist who has had plastic surgery – not to stick to some kind of “ideal” dictated by our society, but simply because what I saw in the mirror didn’t feel like myself – I find this article offensive. What do you get for shaming women who have had surgery? Who are you to speak for transgender women who have to fight for years to achieve a body that pleases them?

      Cox’s body is nothing like the “cartoonish version of a woman” – it is that of a woman, period.
      Kim Kardashian’s body is also the body of a woman. They come in different shapes and forms, remember? Blame society as much as you want, but don’t shame (curvy, black) women for having bodies they accept.

      As for the shoot being subversive – black, transgender bodies have been the target of attacks for years. Hopefully this photoshoot will be inspiring for a generation of black women and transgender women – showing them that their bodies matter too. It’s a strange branch of feminism you have, mocking people’s bodies when they happen to fit pornographic stereotypes. In a way, you are no better than the porn industry: by identifying the bodies of Cox and Kardashian as “pornographic”, you directly objectified them. Well done.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I’m sorry but black women have been objectified and sexualized for eons and it does not/has not helped black women.

      • Joanne

        I’ve had plastic surgery, too, but I didn’t consider it a feminist act of empowerment. It didn’t do anything to help women as a whole. It was actually caving to patriarchy. We all do it to some degree to survive.

        • esme

          Yeah I had plastic surgery too. It wasn’t particularly empowering. It makes sense that feminists would be critical of it and I only wish I had been exposed to feminist analysis of it before I did it.

      • Lee

        “What do you get for shaming women who have had surgery?”

        I think you’re referring to this part of Meghan’s article:

        “Is it really a sign that we “love everything about ourselves” (which, for the record, I hardly expect anyone to do. Women, especially, are taught to hate their bodies and work to alter them to suit the expectations of a misogynist society. Trans people have received the message that, if they don’t properly fit into the limiting and oppressive gender binary, there is something wrong with them that can only be resolved by embracing the opposite end of the gender spectrum) if we alter our bodies through surgery and hormones?”

        So, I think you’re saying that the question “Is it really a sign that we ‘love everything about ourselves’ … if we alter our bodies through surgery and hormones?” is a shaming one.

        This shaming thing…

        Can people feel shame they don’t actually feel, at the request, suggestion, or insistence of others? Is criticism, questioning or analysis the same thing as shaming? Can the mere hint of disapproval from someone else cause a person to feel shame that is not truly their own to begin with*?

        I go back to being a vegan a lot in these conversations, because there are a lot of ‘rules’ to being a vegan, and I don’t follow all of them. I bought used leather boots, for example. I have eaten ramen with beef stock when I was really short on cash, and it wasn’t because I couldn’t find (more expensive) versions without it, but because it was the easiest thing at the time. I don’t feel any shame that isn’t authentically mine for these actions, because the degree to which I am or am not OK with these things is actually my own internal process. It is affected by others’ input, but not dictated by it, because I have my own moral compass and philosophy. I can think critically about different positions people hold, and my own beliefs and situation, and come to my own conclusions. I have done hours upon hours upon hours of research in terms of vegan clothing, for example, to find the best answers for myself, and Chinese-made vegan boots that are usually very trendy and not meant to last very long did not seem like a good alternative to used leather boots I could wear for decades for me. I am mostly OK with this decision (although I do worry about ‘promoting’ leather) but I am also OK with not being a perfect human and making the best decisions i can while considering the consequences for other people and animals. My ego is not so easily jostled that other vegans criticizing the wearing of leather or their own thinking behind making different choices is what makes or breaks my sense of myself as a “good vegan” or not. I don’t expect every vegan or non-vegan out there to think I am perfect and therefore so are my choices, and to not criticize the leather industry because I choose to wear it.

        Sorry for thinking out loud, and I’m not sure if that’s making much sense, but this shaming thing… The accusation in an of itself, that someone is shaming another person, is intended to shame another person into not shaming, which is interesting.

        • bella_cose

          I’ve thought about this shaming thing too, and it doesn’t make sense to me. Feeling shame isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes that feeling can keep you from doing something harmful or hurtful to another. Why is that a bad thing? If you’re truly comfortable with who you are, and what you’re doing, someone criticizing that shouldn’t cause you to feel shame.

          It’s basically a silencing tactic.

          • Joanne

            These third-wavers and genderists want to tell you it’s “kink-shaming” to speak out against mentally ill teenagers being rented out to men as broodmares by their “Daddies.” This is actually something I’ve witnessed before, so no, I’m not just pulling this example out of my ass.

        • lizor

          Exactly right. A well thought out essay on a social trend cannot engender shame unless the reader is completely identified with and dependent upon external validation. Or perhaps a particular analysis might give you a new perspective on your actions that may very well make you think twice about how those actions square with your ethics. If there is dissonance there, you may well feel ashamed – and that’s OK – it’a actually part of developing a moral compass.

          If you have actually gone through a process of maturing and developing a sense of self, reading someone else’s thoughts about human actions is not going to “erase” you.

          • Lee

            This is what I was trying to get at, but said much better!

      • Mildred Pierce

        You said

        Kim Kardashian’s body is also the body of a woman. They come in different shapes and forms, remember? Blame society as much as you want, but don’t shame (curvy, black) women for having bodies they accept.

        ——-

        Absolutely. Lily white feminists will never get this. They operate from their own (Privileged) worldview, but yet take no issue with trying (And failing) at policing other groups.

        • Meghan Murphy

          What are you talking about? There is nothing wrong with Cox’s body.

        • Joanne

          Trashing women to defend a male, like you just did? Is that how you suggest I should improve upon my “lily white feminism”?

      • derrington

        These people dont happen to fit pornographic ideals, they have surgery to make them fit those ideals.

  • pisaquari

    When was the last time a black woman went naked in front of a camera and the internet exploded into bits of “radical” and “inspiring.” WHEN?

    If this was about “empowering” black women, why the hell was a male needed to step in?

    THINK.

    • Morag

      ‘THINK.’

      Ha, that’s right: what’s missing from the movement for female “empowerment” is good ol’ male input and leadership.

      It’s so obvious! And so crazy!

  • Ellesar

    Just envisage a transman doing the same thing and it is immediately obvious how absurd Cox’s stance is.
    No man is going to be empowered by appearing naked, they do not have that in their thought process, it does not exist for men, and that makes sense. HOW is it ’empowering’ to appear naked? Empowering to appear in the typically objectified woman’s pose? I would say that Cox’s ‘analysis’ for this feeling of ’empowerment’ is simply that she now ‘passes’.

    • Nuna Bidness

      Aydian Dowling is a transman working on that right now actually. You can vote for him to be featured in Mean’s Health magazine… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/24/aydian-dowling-mens-healt_n_7119774.html

      • Sabine

        Big wow. As if this is the “norm”. And the men certainly do not look passive or pouty the way women routinely do in similar shots. These men are also simply adhering to what a patriarchal society deems suitably masculine. Nothing subversive or radical here either…

      • Lee

        Woman on the ground, man standing up. Would he look less powerful splayed out on a couch, butt in the air, no woman worshipping his junk beneath him?

  • Sarah Siegel

    I guess the thing I’m most troubled by are the comments about surgical enhancements.

    First, I think it does seek to shame or question women who — for whatever reason — have decided to undergo elective surgery to change their appearance.

    But it also seems like a totally subjective and unfounded claim to suggest that Cox is choosing to look cartoonish or porn-y with her particular enhancements.

    • Meghan Murphy

      My point is not that Laverne looks ‘cartoonish.’ She doesn’t. My point is that women learn to strive to reach these cartoonish ideals — porny fantasies of what a woman should be/look like. Jessica Rabbit is the model — tiny waist, huge ‘cartoonish’ breasts. I think it’s a complete micharacterization of my words and argument to say I think Laverne looks ‘cartoonish.’

      • Sarah Siegel

        Then, to be honest, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. Who’s attempting to achieve a cartoonish ideal, if not Laverne, in your post?

        • Meghan Murphy

          Women and transwomen. Like I said in the sentence… Sorry, I’m not trying to be rude, I’m just sort of confused as to how the words I wrote would be interpreted to say that I think she literally looks like a ‘cartoon’…? I was making a general comment on what, today, is seen as the ideal, in terms of ‘woman’. And it’s this kind of unnatural, exaggerated, porny look. Like Kim Kardashian, for example. This isn’t about insulting individuals. It’s about patriarchal, cultural standards. And, again, why is it ok to make that critique with regard to ideals for women but not for transwomen?

          • bumblyhumbly

            I’m starting to think that it’s not a lack of reading comprehension – it’s that the people who are mischaracterizing what you said would RATHER you have said the words they are putting in your mouth, because it’s easier for them to write you off if they can twist your words into something transphobic.

            It’s not as easy for them to grapple with conflicting thoughts, like the ones your post probably inspired within them, and to have a real dialogue about that.

            Much easier to erect a straw man and then tear it down.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Exactly.

    • Stephanie Cleveland

      “for whatever reason” is vague. Women get surgical stuff done to our bodies in a way men don’t (as a group, as a class) partly because it is still considered the responsibility of women to look “pretty” for a male gaze. We are taught to build our entire sense of self-worth around male approval by the culture we live in, and to focus on appearance. As for the porn-esque style of the photo, you don’t see male bodies laid out horizontally (passive) and nude in magazine spreads aimed at straight women, at least not unless the male bodies bother to label themselves female first. Femininity is about the performance of submission relative to a dominant, the masculine role. Some feminists don’t agree with the notion that women have free choice or make our choices outside a social context (if you self objectify, get breast implants, have long blond hair, remove all your body hair, as happens in porn and this photo, you get male approval–if you don’t, you don’t get a photo spread in allure). Let’s be honest, this photo reinforces a sexist cliche about what a woman is, that women should present themselves as “sexy” (objectified in honesty, or else we don’t love ourselves, etc. As for cartoonish, if you told me you thought you saw shades of Jessica Rabbit in this photo, I could hardly disagree. This is a very old, patriarchal way of conceptualizing what it means to be “woman.”

  • Maria

    Meghan Murphy is calling to stop objectification of trans women’s bodies too. Her argument actually links the acts of bodily modification with trans women and non trans women together.

  • Lotus

    If posing nude was actually a sign of being “empowered”, you’d think that we’d see the CEOs of the top fortune five hundred companies doing it all the time in business magazines like the Wall St. Journal. But we don’t and we won’t because people with real power get to keep their clothes on.

  • James

    Meghan Murphy, stop being a typical angry feminist. Is Laverne Cox playing into the objectification/sexualization of the female body, yes. But what you seem to overlook is the message she is getting across. She’s trying to break the stereotype of transexuals as something non-human/freakish/and wrong, her photoshoot shows there is nothing wrong with transexuals, in fact they’re beautiful. Do you not see what she’s doing? Laverne is now a hollywood icon, she has the attention of the media, in order to get the message across on transexuals and their empowerment she’s feeding into the media apparatus. See beyond your agenda and your bias and try to understand the bigger picture.

    • Meghan Murphy

      lol. What made you think I or anyone here GAF about what anti-feminists think about women or feminists? Can’t you think of anyone in the world who needs defending except for a rich, beautiful, American celebrity?

    • Joanne

      “Stop being a typical angry feminist” says “James.” Okay, dude, whatever you say.

    • lizor

      “Meghan Murphy, stop being a typical angry feminist.”

      James, stop being a predictable asshole.

    • marv

      “Laverne is now a hollywood icon, she has the attention of the media…”

      Yet another disgruntled naive hollywood groupie promoting sexist beauty cults. You need to “see beyond your agenda and bias and try to understand the bigger picture”

      Do you genuflect before pictures of celebrity icons, kneel and say a little prayer? Atheism is necessary to dispel god illusions.

      • ArgleBargle

        Ok, off topic, but I do know some people who may say a little prayer to their living room Elvis shrine. Ok, several. Not the older, portly Elvis. The young one. That’s all right mama …

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWgprZu4Hk4

    • derrington

      Why wouldn’t Megan be feminist on a feminist blog? Her blog. Dont come into someone else’s house and tell them what to do/speak about/what emotions they’re allowed. Megan is trying to break stereotypes around women and is fighting for rights for the larger half of the world’s population. If you want to hear support for female stereotyping, maybe go to a trans blog.

    • Kim

      James! Stop being a mediocre male ”ally”, stop being a typical sexist who tries to co-opt feminist language to give legitimacy to your argument and try to see beyond your agenda and bias aimed at maintaining male power over women. kthnks bye. 🙂

  • The Real Cie

    I agree with Melissa that the objectification of Ms. Cox is problematic and that her beliefs about her body (the eating mac and cheese comment) are problematic as well.
    I am horrified by the transgender hatred that I see in the comments. How do you people justify your attitudes? Does hating others this way really serve you, other than to make you think that you are somehow superior to another person?
    There are people who have an XY chromosome but who develop female secondary sex characteristics rather than male. Are you also going to tell these individuals, the majority of whom identify as women, that they are in fact male and damn well better accept it?
    Trans women are women. They did not become women so they could “invade women’s spaces.” They became women because they always strongly felt that they were in the wrong body when they were in a body with male secondary sex characteristics.
    Laverne Cox is a woman. One can specify that she is a trans woman. Hatred towards her or any other transgender individual serves no one and does not bring us any closer to equal treatment for women as a whole.

    • Victoria

      “There are people who have an XY chromosome but who develop female secondary sex characteristics rather than male.”

      Yes, but Laverne Cox is not one of those people. Laverne Cox is very clear on the fact that he was born male, lived as male until he reached adulthood and that he has had some form of “gender reassignment” surgery although he doesn’t disclose exactly what, he openly states that he has had some surgery.

      “I am horrified by the transgender hatred…”

      I’d love for you to point out examples of hatred that don’t consist solely of accurately using male pronouns to refer to men.

    • Lulu

      A woman is an adult female human. Laverne Cox is not a woman. So quit gas-lighting women and demanding we accept a male as a woman.

      • EEU

        Agreed. ‘Woman’ is not a feeling, it’s a biological reality. Women are oppressed because of our BIOLOGICAL SEX, not because we ‘feel’ a certain way.

    • Please could you list all the transgender ‘hatred’ that isn’t simply pointing out that Laberne Cox is a biological male?

  • shishiqiushi

    joanna schroeder @iproposethis · 1h 1 hour ago
    @joedonatelli @hoodedu content. It’s really activism against toxic masculinity to publish a piece like this in @playboy

    https://twitter.com/iproposethis/status/591749464915726336

    So The lib fems are saying that the playboy article written by a man, surrounded by advertisements of naked women, arguing that naked objectifying pictures of women are good for women is the REAL FEMINISM.

    This has to be peak liberal feminism right? They can’t be this stupid.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Oh Joanna Schroeder who hired, repped for, was buddies with Hugo Schwyzer and attacked me for criticizng the gross assholes at the Good Men Project? It IS truly a mystery that she would support a vile, but privileged, white man for attacking and defaming feminists. A MYSTERY.

  • Ian

    I’m curious as to how you (or radfems in general) feel about this controversy:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/24/aydian-dowling-mens-healt_n_7119774.html

    Is this individual a cartoonish imitation of a “man” or a real man? Is this empowering for trans men or is this insulting to biological males (also keep in mind that it’s “Men’s Health” and not “Men’s Fashion”)? Is this objectification?

    • Morag

      That individual is a woman. Female.

      As for your other questions: this is not an exact parallel to the situation with men who believe that they are women, and who demand that others regard them as such. Because “Aydian” is no threat to men — men not being an oppressed class, and men being in very little danger of being objectified.

      However, “transmen” — i.e., female transgenderists — are just as intellectually dishonest as their male transgenderist counterparts. As far as transmen demanding entry and acceptance in male-only spaces … well, some men aren’t comfortable with that. Specifically, some gay men are not happy with trans activism. They resent being called “bigots” for knowing that women who transition are still, and always, female.

    • Morag

      … and one is tempted to ask: what the heck does a female body (even one which has been altered with synthetic testosterone) have to do with “men’s health”?

    • Kim

      1. It’s a trans man

      2. it’s not empowering

      3. it might be objectification, but not in the submissive, passive, decorative, cut-off female parts way that women are. In fact, you could easily argue that the disembodied female hands hiding his junk is an example of it.

      Your whole argument rests on the idea that there is a phenomenon of male objectification as much as there is one of female objectification, with similar consequences, which does not reflect reality at all. Do some reading.

      (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2009/feb/16/sex-object-photograph)
      (http://www.apa.org/education/ce/sexual-objectification.pdf)
      (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2014/01/26/resistance-to-objectifying-advertising/)
      (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/07/02/sexual-objectification-part-1-what-is-it/)
      (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/07/06/sexual-objectification-part-2-the-harm/)
      (http://pwq.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/07/31/0361684314544679.abstract) sexual objectification linked to sexual coercion of women.

    • gxm17

      I often wonder if you folks do not have eyes. The person on the left has a narrow waist and, for lack of a better term, muffin top which are typical physical characteristics of a biological female. It’s actually quite astonishing that hormones and surgery can’t erase the clear feminine form that the artifice was built upon. The same is true with the photo of Laverne Cox. The narrow hips and thick waist are always the dead giveaway, even when men have undergone the expense of facial feminization surgery. Body modification, in the end, really can’t change the foundation it is built upon. Then again, it shouldn’t be surprising that some folks equate masculinity with muscles and body hair, and femininity with long hair and breasts — as always these gender stereotypes are purely superficial but unfortunately the entirety of what many people “see.”

      • Sisi24

        Um. I am a woman, was born a woman and my body is a lot like Laverne’s. Thick waist, narrow hips, muscular arms and all. Didn’t realise it was so obviously biologically male looking.

        • gxm17

          Hormone therapy can not change bone structure. Any person who has gone through puberty has their bone structure set for life. This is the reason that the trans pushers advocate to give children hormone blockers, so that their bone structure remains malleable and can be hormonally shaped to the gendered appearance they (the trans pushers) are attempting to simulate. And yes, for the uniformed, male and female skeletal structures (while similar in many areas) are quite different in regards to the pelvic and hip region because biological women are designed to give birth. You may think that you resemble LC but, barring abnormality, your bone structure does not.

          And this is exactly the point I meant to emphasize: Far too many people see long hair, breasts and a submissively posed nude and think “FEMALE!” Likewise, with the photo of the trans man, people see body/facial hair and muscles and think “MALE!” As if women never have body/facial hair and/or muscles. I was actually surprised at the side by side comparison. It’s so obvious that the trans man’s physique is built on a woman’s frame that I’m stunned others can’t see it.

          • Sisi24

            But I didn’t do that at all? I’m not looking at Laverne’s hair and determining that she looks like a woman. What I’m saying is that her (altered) body looks very similar to my (natural) one. And yes, that is to any “uninformed” eye that isn’t analysing an x-ray or somehow looking at our skeletons directly to compare the bony structures. You seem to be suggesting there is essentially one female (or male) body type to have, and there isn’t. We have quite a lot of anatomical variation that isn’t pathological or abnormal.

            Now absolutely there are general differences – female pelvises are typically wider than males, male shoulders are generally broader etc etc. (As a sidenote my shoulders are broader than my boyfriend’s).. But there are several types of female pelvis, some of which might look like Laverne’s, and still function normally. I just think you need to be careful when you say trans people can’t ever look like natural women because their “male” features will always betray them. It is not necessarily true. Certainly not that you can tell just by looking at a person.

  • Christine

    How on earth can you call yourself a feminist when your perverted version of feminism is putting down a trans woman for having surgery and hormones to achieve the body she wants to have? The way to fight the objectification of women isn’t to put women down. Especially by calling her body “cartoonish.” Is it really necessary to comment on that? What strides is this article making for women? And I mean ALL women. Trans women included. You have no idea what it’s like to be trans, otherwise you wouldn’t be question how empowering it is for a trans woman to pose naked and love her body (surgery and all.)

    • Meghan Murphy

      You contradict yourself in this comment. Again, as a woman with a woman’s body, do I not have the right to talk about how objectification hurts women?

      • Mildred Pierce

        If you believe it is within your right to talk about the objectification of women, why did you question a commenter for wasting her time defending Laverne ‘A wealthy celebrity’? Surely it is within the readers right to question what you have written? If you can’t stomach critique, especially the heated kind, then don’t bother writing about a well loved ‘Wealthy celebrity’. It isn’t a science, dear.

        • Meghan Murphy

          “If you can’t take virulent misogyny and libel don’t critique capitalist patriarchy.” Oh ok. Thanks for the tip.

      • Christine

        Your entire stance is a contradiction. As a woman with a woman’s body, you don’t understand the plight of a trans black woman and therefore have no place to talk about it. Your stance is that Laverne cox posing nude further objectifies women, but you aren’t realizing the strides it’s making for TRANS women. If a trans black woman can feel empowered to love herself even though the world has told her her body is unnatural, or ugly, or undesirable, or not actually “woman,” how does that not embody the essence of feminism? Laverne cox posing nude is dismantling gender stereotypes and beauty standards that oppress ALL women. We will never be able to rid the world of the objectification of women and the male gaze, that’s just a fact. You aren’t helping feminism my criticizing women for showing off their bodies.

        • Meghan Murphy

          How does objectification help women, exactly?

        • Joanne

          Isn’t Laverne Cox’s body a woman’s body?

    • Quinn

      Just as transwomen have no idea what it’s like to be a woman. Can’t have it both ways Christine.

  • Christine

    And another thing, Since you have no idea what it’s like to be trans, how can you write such a strong opinion on something you know nothing about? You’re just making judgements as an OUTSIDER. We are all women but we have different plights. The plight of a trans black woman is nothing like that of a white cisgender woman. So basically, you commenting on Laverne cox’s decision to pose nude is like if a man were to write an entire article about how Kim kardashians nude photos objectify women and how her body is unnatural, cartoonish, etc. Not only do you have no place to write about this, but this article comes off as one big attack on the “unnaturalness” of Laverne Cox’s body. You aren’t helping black women, trans women, or any women at all actually.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I thought I was writing about the objectification women’s bodies? I have a woman’s body, ftr. Does Cox have a woman’s body or not?

      • Joanne

        Why aren’t you policing all the white trans women talking about problems black trans women face? I see this constantly.

        Oh, right…because female.

      • Christine

        It’s clear you’re refusing to take responsibility for the tone of this article and your comments. I understand your point about Laverne Cox’s naked body being augmented to fit patriarchal idealistic standards of big breasts, tiny waist, etc. I get that posing for a nude photo contributes to objectification of women. But have you taken a second to consider what this means for trans women? You talk about fighting the male objectification/violence toward women. Do you realize how many trans women are murdered by men every day? Especially black trans women? Do you realize how many of them are murdered for just being trans women? For either having male genitalia, or previously having male genitalia? Patriarchy kills trans women too.

        It defies patriarchy for Laverne Cox to pose nude for a major magazine. How many other naked trans bodies do you see in major media outlets? Meghan, you need to ask yourself, what is the more important thing here, that Laverne Cox augmented her body to fit a patriarchal stereotype of a feminine physique, and that she is just another naked body contributing to male objectification of women.. or that her naked body is subversive to patriarchal beauty standards and gender roles? And that representation of trans women in the media is ultimately making them safer? Not only that, but it’s like you’re blaming Cox for her own objectification. Are you just going to criticize every woman who shows off their naked body for inviting the male gaze and objectification? What kind of feminism is that? We’re never going to get rid of the male gaze. Women will always be objectified by men. One way of fighting it is defying beauty standards that men have set for us. You might not view Cox’s body as “subversive” since she augmented her body to a feminine stereotype, but that’s because you’re not trans and you don’t have the same experience as a trans woman. So it’s not your place to make that judgement.

        • Meghan Murphy

          In what universe do you think objectifying black trans women will end violence against black trans women??? That is the most wrong-headed solution to violence against trans people I have ever heard.

        • Kate

          “We’re never going to get rid of the male gaze. Women will always be objectified by men.”

          What kind of feminism starts by admitting defeat?

          • Meghan Murphy

            And where is the movement part of the movement if we say that we cannot effect change?

        • vagabondi

          Christine: are you implying that what’s good for transwomen is the opposite of what’s good for women? How does that square with theories that transwomen are women, and that acknowledging the differences between the two groups is transphobic?

          If you’re right that what’s good for transwomen is the opposite of what’s good for women, does that mean that feminists, in order to be inclusive, need to fight for the liberation of women and the opposite of the liberation of women at the same time? What would that look like, and who would benefit?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yes, I’m confused as to why it is transphobic for me to have said LC is a transwoman, but not for any of the commenters here who are saying it’s specifically empowering for LC to be objectified because she is a transwoman. I thought transwomen were women, in which case, shouldn’t we be applying the same analysis to their objectification as all women?

          • lizor

            “Yes, I’m confused as to why it is transphobic for me to have said LC is a transwoman, but not for any of the commenters here who are saying it’s specifically empowering for LC to be objectified because she is a transwoman. I thought transwomen were women, in which case, shouldn’t we be applying the same analysis to their objectification as all women?”

            Here’s the reason Meghan: picture a balloon, inflated to almost bursting, being let go so it flips around in all sorts of squiggly directions through the room, making a flaccid farty sound, until it lands, depleted, on the floor.

            Because that.

          • Meghan Murphy

            ha

          • Joanne

            Right, if what’s good for trans women is anti-feminism, then we need two different liberation movements, and trans women have been very vocal about finding this offensive.

    • Victoria

      As long as photoshopped images of transwomen’s tweaked, glitter-lotioned & seductively posed bodies are marketed *to women* via mainstream fashion and beauty magazines, it will be appropriate for women to write about, judge, critique, analyze and discuss those images and their presentation, and to debate whether or not those images obejectify women.

      You and Laverne don’t get to have it both ways. Either Verne’s a woman like the rest of us and is thus fair game to be criticized the same way that Kim K, Miley, Madonna and other media icons are …. or he is simply a trans icon representing only trans people, in which case he shouldn’t be marketed in mainstream media as a “woman”, ie, in the Allure nude shoot or in the current “World’s Most Beautiful Women” list in People.

    • “We are all women but we have different plights.” Interesting you should say that Christine. Because I’m sure if Meghan were to make a similar (but likely more eloquent) statement, she’d be attacked as a vicious transphobe. I guess only some people are allowed to notice the significant differences between women and transwomen. Why is that?

    • And anyway, who are you to go around labelling *other* people as ‘cisgender’? I know it is a convenient and popular way to tell gender critical women (aka feminists) to STFU, but the point is, how do you get to decide that someone else is ‘cisgender’, unless they indicate that ‘cisgender’ is currently an appropriate descriptor?
      You can proclaim yourself ‘cis’ or ‘trans’ if you like, but surely you’d want to be careful not to ‘misgender’ others? I guess ‘misgendering’ is only considered to be such when directed at a person who was either born with a penis, or would like to have been. And then, of course, it is Violence.

  • purple sage

    I’m going to try to help out the people who are using the word “empowering” without having any idea what power actually is.

    From Merriam-Webster’s
    power
    noun, pow·er often attributive ˈpau̇(-ə)r
    : the ability or right to control people or things

    : political control of a country or area

    : a person or organization that has a lot of control and influence over other people or organizations

    Those of you who believe that women derive “power” from posing naked, please explain some things.

    (a) How does taking off one’s clothing and looking sexy in photos give women “control over people or things” or “political control over a country or area” or “control and influence over other people or organizations.” Can you think of any instance of a woman posing nude and her gaining political office or control over an organization as a result of her posing nude?

    (b) If posing nude gives people control and influence, then we should be able to look at those people who currently have control and influence and see that many of them have posed nude. Can you name any CEOs, Presidents, Prime Ministers or managers of organizations who have posed nude to gain power?

    (b) If I’d like to gain a position in political office or get a higher position in my workplace, can you explain to me how I can pose nude in order to help me gain this power? What advice would you give? What sorts of poses should I use in order to get people to take me seriously as a person with power? Where should I post my nude photos in order that they might bring me influence and control?

    I thank you in advance for this important information.

    • gxm17

      Ah, I love the sound of crickets on the intertoobz. Well done!

    • Meghan Murphy

      YES. Thank you, purple sage.

    • Buster Brown

      Bravo Purple Sage.

  • marv

    Oh Laverne’s objectified body ’empowers’ someone alright. Cox is feeding cock power. Men don’t mind some transgression as long as porn is being further consolidated. It makes them erect with flags at full mast. Only a hurricane of opposition can snap their poles/potency.

  • Datch

    Laverne Cox says: “Seeing a black transgender woman embracing and loving everything about herself might be inspiring to some other folks.” and “You got to embrace all of this.”

    So here’s an idea. How about Laverne Cox pose for and Allure magazine (or some other magazine) publish a fully nude photograph? One that includes “all of this” and that demonstrates that she loves “everything about herself.” And then let’s have the conversations.

    I can pretty much guarantee that a whole lot of people who do just fine gazing at or admiring this body in the photo above would not feel similarly comfortable with “all of this.”

    If we’re going to talk about it, let’s be honest.

    • shishiqiushi

      Since playboy is trans inclusive now why doesn’t she do a spread for playboy? Or are is playboy’s readership too transphobic to accept as a playboy bunny?

    • MLL

      I thought that too. Those who so vehemently say that Cox is a woman would freak out if they saw photos of his body with “all of this”. Instead, we get this imagery of soft femininity, blonde hair flowing, beautifully made-up face, “all natural”, when is not.

  • Stephanie Cleveland

    Thank you for the article. This photo spread is a prime example of how trans ideology and radical feminism are incompatible. Radical feminists critique patriarchal beauty standards as a harmful cultural practice. Trans activists (if we’re to judge by Cox and those coming to Cox’s defense) embrace the same institutions and cultural practices (the pornifying of women’s sexuality, turning women into sex objects for sale, catering to a male view by presenting female bodies in states of sexualized vulnerability, promoting the idea that women innately all just love doing femininity and that to be a woman is defined by one’s adherence to femininity itself.) that have historically kept women subordinate to men as a class, and continue to do so; not to mention making many women hate our bodies and causing many of us intense pain, and no, I don’t think women who can learn to have “fun” with femininity should get to matter more than the rest of us. This is the kind of thing that proves trans”women” don’t care at all about the lived reality of born women and just don’t get it. Really tired of being asked to put these people’s feelings above my own. This is an airbrushed, objectifying, dehumanized photo that’s insulting to women everywhere. Makes me feel nothing positive about where women are at in the culture I live in. Thanks for nothing Laverne Cox.

  • Saint

    The liberal left rage continues its attempts to silence feminism (because it’s not the ‘right’ kind of feminism or it’s too ‘radical’). This critique re the objectification of women has been made before with little uproar. Women who are public mentors influence – esp the next generation of women — this is nothing new and has been an expectation from all sides. So I’m curious why the author is vilified when she writes a feminist critique of a current female star that has substantial influence over other girls & women? I’m assuming if this article was written about Miley Cyrus nobody would care to comment. Who really is seperating women from transwomen again? Not Meghan.

    *Radical feminism continues to evolve and serve as the last true hope for all women’s rights worldwide.

    • Mar Iguana

      “*Radical feminism continues to evolve and serve as the last true hope for all women’s rights worldwide.”

      Radical feminism serves as the last true hope for every living thing on the planet.

  • Saint

    No surprises when the sex industry (Playboy) shows its commodity driven colors by taking the opportunity to attack radical feminism and misrepresent the entire message — considering RF is one of the only threats to the multi-billion sex industry I am not surprised.

    Thank you Meghan for standing up for women – and this includes the next generation of trans women! A reminder to liberal feminists – we are supposed to work as a collective remember?

    • Meghan Murphy

      No it really isn’t surprising at all. Like, gee, Playboy supports objectification? No kidding.

  • jo

    You have commited a grave sin here Meghan. Not only have you written a blog posts about objectification of women being something not good, which could appear to criticize a beloved celebrity but also –

    you’re also refusing to applaud the pinup photo of a trans woman. The correct way to react is to applaud and call it progressive and sexxxy. The goal of many of this type of male individual who identifies as a woman, is to look like a Barbie-like hot object for men, and you MUST be a mirror for them and tell them that they are the fairiest in the land. Then you have validated their existance as a REAL woman, since real women should be pornified objects for men.

    Say something that could be seen as negative, like start talking about serious feminist analysis, and it will be perceived as an attack. You’re not holding up the mirror the way they want.

    Even though you’re calling Cox ”she” and a woman, you’re against objectification, so you’re a transphobe.

    • Meghan Murphy

      It makes perfect sense! I should see if the belle jar will take me under its wing! https://www.facebook.com/TheBelleJar/posts/715570085218224

      • MLM

        I’ve never told anybody here this before but I’m actually a time traveller, so I frequently visit the future and occasionally the past. (Respect my identity and all that). I’ll give you vision of the feminism in the future by describing an advertisement I saw in 2030 for a reality TV show called “The Next Top Feminist”:

        Male Voiceover: “Next time on The Next Top Feminist…”

        Two women clad in miniscule Classic-Scifi-Silver bikinis are fighting in a mud pit surrounded by a cheering crowd of “male feminists”.

        Ist Woman: Nice tone policing you BEEP-ing BEEP! I’m a hundred times more feminist than you’ll ever be you jealous, dried up piece of scum!!

        2nd Woman: Oh, yeah? My feminism shits on yours, sets fire to it and kicks it out the door! And I’ll gut you if you even try to say otherwise you brain dead BEEP-ing bitch!

        Male Voiceover:The Next Top Feminist: The Ultimate Smackdown to Total Empowerment.”

        (Of course, I put the ‘BEEP” thingies in for you, myself. Which is probably bad cause it’s censorship and robbing people of their agency and a whole host of other sins. So I’m very sorry if that offends anyone).

        I guess the bottom line is “Chin up, girls!” The future has a silver lining – Classic-Scifi-Silver actually – even if it is almost entirely covered in mud. And look, Playboy feminism has already got you all this far!

        Meghan, you rock. Your legend will live on, I assure you. xx

        • Meghan Murphy

          HA. Thank you, sister.

      • bella_cose

        Lately I’ve been wondering if there’s a connection between submissiveness or masochism, and women who bend over backwards to accommodate trans ideology. I mean, the entire idea that women are privileged over transwomen is really perverse.

  • Meanwhile fat women’s Instagram pictures are being deleted from their accounts. Pregnant women with their post baby bodies are getting crap for posting pics of themselves. Actual women are being told that they are ‘cissexist’ for taking about periods and saying that things like FGM happen to women instead of ‘uterus havers’ (what the fuck???). We are faaaar from empowered. In fact no woman is ’empowered’ in this way under a patriarchy. Liberation is the orly thing that matters.

    • Joanne

      Don’t forget, breast feeding is obscene! But getting toxic bags of silicone placed in your lymphatic system is *~empowering~*

  • Dan H

    Strange article. On the one hand saying that misogynistic culture has taught women not to love every part of themselves, then slamming a woman for resisting that misogynistic culture by determinedly loving every part of herself. What, she shouldn’t?

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t think making critical arguments about how people frame empowerment or liberation equates to ‘slamming a woman’.

  • Mark

    Great article, excellent, clear and concise commentary as always, thanks Meghan.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Mark.

  • YouMissedSomething

    “She and Allure seem to have done everything in their power to create and present a “perfect” female body, offered up to the male gaze for consumption.”
    Men–cisgendeed straight men, the “patriarchy”–don’t read Allure. It’s a fashion and beauty magazine for women. So I’m pretty sure that wasn’t their motive, there. Just sayin’.

    • Meghan Murphy

      So would you argue that objectification doesn’t count as objectification if it’s in, say, Cosmo either?

    • bumblyhumbly

      “Men–cisgendeed straight men, the “patriarchy”–don’t read Allure. It’s a fashion and beauty magazine for women. So I’m pretty sure that wasn’t their motive, there. Just sayin’.”

      HAHAHAHAA! As if Allure exists in some feminist-fantasy-world where it is not a part of the patriarchal culture we live in. A “women’s” magazine can’t possibly encourage women to perform for the male gaze because it’s a “women’s” magazine? Um ok. I guess Cosmo’s countless articles about how to get him off, look skinny, etc should never be critiqued as part of larger society right? They are not influenced at all by the patriarchal culture we live in? Gotcha.

    • Joanne

      No, you’re right— cisgender men don’t read Allure! They are the CEOs, the writers, the fashion designers…of Allure.

  • YouMissedSomething

    As well, I am curious. Do you think trans people should keep the bodies they have, with no modifications, despite the fact they often feel trapped in the bodies they have? If not, and they feel like they have to modify their bodies so they look like women, I imagine your objection is that the women they choose to look like are traditionally “male consumption sexy”, images you oppose. What would you have them look like, then? You have the luxury of already being women who are empowered by your natural bodies, and as such, should accept them, with all their wonder and beauty. Yet they do not, and as such, must design their own bodies to be what their souls pull them towards being. To do so, they choose a form they find aesthetically pleasing–it’s their money, their choice. Do you think they should all steer away from modifications that look like the “male patriarchy”‘s view? What, then, should they use as a model?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Women aren’t empowered by their bodies. Women’s bodies are used in order to oppress women.

      • christine

        Why aren’t women empowered by their bodies? Just because you say so?

        • Meghan Murphy

          Ha. No because men who rape and abuse women say so.

        • purple sage

          Christine, how on Earth does anyone derive power from their body? Do you even know what power is?

        • Sabine

          Just when you thought Christine’s comments couldn’t get any dumber….sigh.

    • purple sage

      Do you believe that people who are uncomfortable with their bodies need to surgically alter their bodies in order to feel more comfortable? So, for example, do women who believe their breasts are too small need to have breast augmentation surgery in order to feel better? Most people are dissatisfied with their bodies in some way. For some people the dissatisfaction is very strong. Has it ever occurred to you to look for the source of this dissatisfaction and to help people to love themselves the way they are? That’s what Meghan is doing with this article, and with everything she writes about objectification. If we’re told our whole lives that our bodies are wrong and that we have to look and act a certain way based on our bodies, that creates a lot of dissatisfaction for a lot of people. Meghan is criticising the culture that creates body dissatisfaction.

      • Celestine

        Do you believe that people who are uncomfortable with their bodies need to surgically alter their bodies in order to feel more comfortable?

        Well, I don’t know about the person you’re asking, but personally I believe it isn’t my business what other people do with their bodies, and neither is it yours or Meghan Murphy’s. Being overly concerned with other women’s bodies is just another kind of oppression that certain types of feminists engage in, and it’s no better than the judgement of men.

        • Joanne

          Would you say that the women who were overly concerned with the starvation of models (who were dying!) that led to France banning models under a certain BMI was “a kind of oppression” that was no better than the kind of judgment that forced them to lose weight to begin with?

        • purple sage

          Feminists aren’t “overly concerned about women’s bodies.” We’re overly concerned about the way women are treated in a patriarchy. That mistreatment happens on our bodies.

  • Just wanted to say, Meghan Murphy, you are the best. Stay strong.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you!

  • Daph

    First of all, you’ve set this all up with something of a paper tiger regarding the “radical” and “subversive” intentions that you’re apparently trying to debunk. That part was really overstated. At no point, for ex., was the act of eating mac n cheese explicitly presented as “radical.” I got the impression she was just talking—as you did in your own article—about the conscious process of dealing with various pressures.

    But anyway, if you’re starting with the premise that a woman being sexual is inherently a bad thing, well, that’s its own dead end. But the issue with the patriarchal ‘male gaze’ specifically is that in it, women’s sexuality becomes a site of judgment, male entitlement, shaming, disrespect, and violence—both physical and emotional. Yet you are judging and shaming Cox for the choices she’s made about her own body, here and in life. Of course (I assume) you don’t have what would you would consider actively hateful thoughts about trans people, but presuming you know more about how they should be in this world than they do is violently disrespectful and dehumanising. A lot of what you’re doing here is classic ‘male gaze’.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Women ‘being sexual’ is not a bad thing. How does nude, photoshopped fashion photos in a mainstream magazine equate to ‘women being sexual’?? Do you think women’s sexuality is merely constructed and performative, dictated by capitalist patriarchy? Do you think the only way women can ‘be sexual’ is by being looked at? That is NOT progress nor does it have anything to do with ‘sexuality’.

    • purple sage

      But anyway, if you’re starting with the premise that a woman being sexual is inherently a bad thing, well, that’s its own dead end.

      Where did Meghan ever say that a woman being sexual is a bad thing?

      Yet you are judging and shaming Cox for the choices she’s made about her own body, here and in life

      Meghan is simply saying that posing nude isn’t empowering. That doesn’t come anywhere near “judging and shaming.”

      A lot of what you’re doing here is classic ‘male gaze’

      This makes no sense whatsoever. Meghan is seeing from a female perspective here, and criticizing the way women perform for the male gaze. How on Earth did you conclude that she is seeing with a male gaze?

    • C.K. Egbert

      Is this the “by critiquing objectification you are objectifying someone?” This is the equivalent of saying, “By claiming there is a rape culture (describing reality) you are committing rape.” Criticism does not work that way.

      How does transphobia even figure in any of this? Meghan is arguing that Laverne Cox is being treated like a woman, with all the subordination this entails.

      I’m sorry for all the hate you are getting on this thread, Meghan (and on twitter)–the only transphobia I can think being expressed is the idea that transwomen deserve to be objectified in the same subordinating way that women are.

      • Meghan Murphy

        “the only transphobia I can think being expressed is the idea that transwomen deserve to be objectified in the same subordinating way that women are.”

        Agree.

        • Daph

          Sorry, forgot to check in here, will try to simplify.

          I at no point said that this the ONLY way for a woman to be sexual, but you did very clearly express you think she is over-sexualising herself, which is apparently the problem here.

          You are dictating to her how it is socially permissible for her to express her femininity/sexuality. And here, you are dictating what is allowed to be considered sexual. While not necessarily ‘objectifying’, that controlling behaviour aligns with a patriarchal male gaze.

          Teach people to respect women’s sexuality in any form; Don’t teach women how they are allowed to be feminine/sexual.

          And no, I just can’t imagine how you could feel so entitled, in particular, to instruct a group people who have had such intensely different life-experiences from your own.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No. I did not “express [I] think she is over-sexualizing herself.” The problem is not how LC “expresses her femininity/sexuality.” Patriarchy decided what femininity was and then forced us all to comply. I — Meghan Murphy, the independent feminist writer — do not “dictate what is allowed to be considered sexual.” Have you no clue how systems of power work?

          • Quinn

            In the same way that you and trans women “instruct a group people who have had such intensely different life-experiences from your/their own” Stop telling women they can’t claim to know what it is to be trans while telling women that trans women know how to feels to be women. They don’t ’cause they aren’t!

  • dandelion

    So… just curious. Here in Silicon Valley, there’s a lot of uproar about the lack of women in tech. Could Google et al solve that problem by hiring transwomen? Thinking as a former HR person, I could see the advantages, the biggest being that transwomen can’t get pregnant. Those months of disability — not a problem. Also, since they were raised male, they’d probably be better negotiators, — over and over data shows salary negotiation to be a trap women can’t win — so the salary disparity between genders would lessen, right? I’m imagining a future where women live in complete gender equality — provided, of course, that they have penises.

  • Buster Brown

    Well…there is a reason you will not see Chaz Bono pictured on the cover of Men’s Health or Esquire. It’s the same reason Michael Sam was booted from the NFL. Men’s spaces are for the glorification of patriarchal, straight manhood. You will not trespass on their territory without a fight. Not true for women! Men violate women’s spaces with impunity. Straight men, gay men, and now those born male…but call themselves Transgendered, never Whesitate to step into women’s spaces. As a matter of fact, all three refuse to let women define themselves. This is the main struggle of feminism; women finally being able to define what womanhood is. Therefore, Laverne Cox represents nothing for female empowerment. I daresay I do not accept transgendered women as female. The female body and its magnificent function is berated and objectified in our culture. Female specific diseases, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, etc., etc., are still discounted and minimized. For these reasons I think Transgendered Women should respect women born female- by creating their own spaces. Allow women born female to chart their own course for once.

    • Christian

      Yeah, because trans women have really been bullying cis women around for far too long, lol.

  • Linda May

    Thank you for the thoughtful dialog. I just got deleted from a college professors Facebook page for being “transphobic” because I suggested the Playboy article about this blog was hyperbolic and I quoted Meghan and suggested that real insight would be gained with a more analytic. I am getting really pissed off at being called names when I tried my most patient best to get people to keep an open mind. Maybe I’ll just start name calling too, starting with calling out Feminsphobic when I see it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ugh. I’m sorry. That is gross. A man libels me and feminists are attacked and shut down for daring to criticize that. How depressing.

  • Jessica Sparks

    What I’m wondering is if a cis woman is really able to determine if Laverne Cox posing for Playboy is empowering for trans woman or not. I think that trans woman should have the opinion about this matter. Many trans woman think that Laverne Cox posing for Playboy is really empowering, because it crashes with the idea that they are gay men, since Playboy is a magazine for straight men.

    And when you say that trans women “spend thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of woman” it doesn’t sound empowering at all for trans. I’m sorry but I just can’t see Cox like that. She looks like a normal woman, only a little bit taller and bigger. She’s not even inside the weight limits of a stereotypic version of a perfect woman. She doesn’t have the shoulder/hips/waist proportion of the so called “ideal woman”. I’m even surprised she posed for Playboy at all.

    Don’t you think that a trans girl that is not being represented as a gay man is already empowering enough? Perhaps empowerment have different meanings for cis and trans woman, since trans women are just starting to be recognized as women at all. Also, trans women will never accept their natural bodies exactly because they don’t identify with them. That’s the whole definition of transexuality. If they accepted their bodies and were truely influenced by the society patterns of what’s socially acceptable and beautiful, they would have muscled bodies like men in the first place, wouldn’t they?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Do you think it’s empowering for women, in general, to pose in Playboy? Or is it that you believe it’s particularly empowering for marginalized women to be objectified? Because I do not.

      • Brendan

        Then is the issue with women posing in Playboy or is it with a transwoman posing in Playboy? Because you don’t mention the other women, so this leads me to believe this is less about women being objectified and more about transwomen attempting to achieve a “cartoonish verion of ‘woman’.”

        Are there transwomen who look to achieve a “cartoonish version of ‘woman’?” Absolutely. Are there cis women who also look to achieve a “cartoonish version of ‘woman’?” Absolutely. Was Laverne Cox going for a “cartoonish version of ‘woman'” simply by taking hormones and having surgery? I have no idea. Even with the photo, I can’t tell if that is a “cartoonish version of ‘woman’.” Looks like a woman. However, to state or imply that taking hormones and/or having surgery to align your body with your gender identity is, in and of itself, an attempt to achieve a “cartoonish version of ‘woman'” and that the only way a transwoman can really be accepting of herself is to accept the male anatomy she was born with is transphobic, diminishes the experience of transwomen, it’s disgusting, it’s shameful and should be shouted down.

        • Meghan Murphy

          HA. Yeah I’ve never written about women’s objectification or porn ever before. This is the first time.

    • What I’m wondering is if any woman (or anyone) is really able to tell another woman that she is ‘cis’.

    • ginny

      laverne Cox posing for playboy is empowering to men, which transwomen are.

  • Lynne Tonks

    it saddens me that people are labelled “transphobic” for calling a spade a spade. Laverne Cox resembles a woman but he isn’t one. Women aren’t cock-less men for gods sake!

    • Oceans

      I hate the use of “transphobic.” It’s the all-purpose method to stop any discussion before it exposes the emperor-has-no-clothes cognitive dissonance of transgenderism. And people can disagree with transgenderism without fearing, hating or being uneducated about trans people.

  • Nicole

    What a cold, un inclusive environment for WOMEN. Feminism isn’t about tearing each other to shreds it’s about supporting one another. In case anyone doesn’t understand what trans means, which very clearly no one here does, Laverne Cox is a WOMAN. Young trans kids try and CUT OFF their penis’s, because they are not men, they don’t want a penis! And because a group of ignorant people want to tell them they should keep it anyways, does not make a reason to do so. I will never visit this website again, you are not a feminist, not even close, if you were the sight of a beautiful female body wouldn’t offend you so. Guess what when you transition you don’t want male body parts anymore, RADICAL I know. There is such a thing as being born in the we of gender and before spewing anymore ridiculous, ignorant, harmful, bullshit, maybe you should all speak to a trans specialist and understand how it works SCIENTIFICALLY. Gross feed, gross, gross, gross.

    • Meghan Murphy
    • C.K. Egbert

      Meghan never once said anything about the transgender issue at all (other than acknowledging the fact that Laverne Cox is a transwoman). So it is acceptable to subject Meghan to threats and harassment because she dared to be critical of the way that transwomen are dehumanized? Doesn’t sound terribly “inclusive” to me.

      I dare say I think this is less about inclusiveness and more about harassing and silencing women who challenge the status quo.

      • Brendan

        Wait. What? She does much more than simply acknowledge that Laverne Cox is a transwoman. She talks about transwomen using hormones and surgery to become a “cartoonish version of ‘woman’.” Methinks you need to read the piece again. She is making gross generalizations about what transwomen are trying to do in adjusting their body to match their gender identity. That goes way beyond simply acknowledgement that Cox is a transwoman.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I make the argument about ALL women. You read the piece again.

        • Zhang He

          No, methinks YOU have to read the article again.
          “She talks about transwomen using hormones and surgery to become a “cartoonish version of ‘woman’”

          That “cartoonish version of women” applies to the standard Barbie doll ideal that is shoved down our throats our entire lives. It hurts women and trans women alike. That was her point.
          Objectification =/= empowerment. For ALL women. The end.

          Do you understand now? She did not call LC “cartoonish”. She called the unreachable ideal of what men want in women’s bodies “cartoonish”.
          It goes the same as the many times she’s written about biological women carving themselves up to fit the same ridiculous ideal.

          I seriously don’t get what most of you are raging about. The articles was pretty clear on all this. To me it seems like you all love LC ( I like her too). And if an article comes along and makes a critique about how trans women risk being pulled into same crushing pressure to live up to an impossible ideal, that they will be just as miserable as the rest of us – then you start raging.

          How can that be anymore clear? Maybe next time we need an animated version of these types of blog posts. Or an illustrated version.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Exactly. Thank you Zhang He.

          • Lee

            Heh, someone needs to do a venn diagram of the overlap of women and transwomen and objectification. I don’t think Twits would get it, though :/

    • S.

      FYI Your allies consider you a transphobic bigot for referring to the penis as a “male body part.”

    • Joanne

      Girls aren’t just boys without penises. We have incredibly complex reproductive systems. Male acts of OCD-driven self-mutilation are not an indication of femaleness. Is a cat tearing out its fur actually a sign that it’s a naked mole rat? You do realize the “boys cutting off their genitalia” exists outside of the transgender community, don’t you? It’s called nullo/smoothie/or just plain ol’ eunuch. It’s also a pretty popular sexual fetish. Do you research!

    • Oceans

      Cold and uninclusive? Pointing out people mutilating healthy bodies because of psychological distress and *we’re* the bad ones? WTF? I suppose you think giving diet pills to someone with anorexia is being supportive. Maybe helping pay for someone with BIID to have their leg amputated so they feel more comfortable in their body is “being an ally.” What a fucked-up understanding of community you have.

  • Simon

    I wonder how the people taking offense to “shaming” here feel about Cox’s show “TRANSform Me” in which Cox instructs women how they should dress and what makeup they should wear.

    • Victoria

      Excellent point. Meghan is being accused of policing women’s bodies. I think that show epitomizes policing of women’s bodies and appearance. Three people show up at your door unannounced (kinda like the police!) to tell you how crappy you look while filming your reactions. Then you get made over to fit a conventional beauty standard.

      Can some of those worried about “policing” respond to this?

      Is it okay for the people behind the TRANSform Me! show, including Cox, to police women’s appearances – apparently before the women even consent to it?

  • Pingback: Noah Berlatsky is going to objectify women straight to freedom » Feminist Current()

  • Julia

    This is a horrible article. Feminism is about inclusion: inclusion of not just cisgender middle-class white women (i.e. Meghan Murphy), but also transwomen, queer women, women of color, sex workers, women of all social and economic statuses, and disabled women. Refusing to acknowledge transwomen because some choose to take hormones/undergo surgery, and deriding Laverne Cox’s expression of her body is incredibly transphobic. It’s fine if you personally don’t want to pose nude because you aren’t comfortable with it/feel that it personally is not empowering, but don’t transcribe your beliefs onto other people.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m not middle class. Also, if feminism is for all women, than why should I leave particular women out when talking about how the objectification of women hurts women.

      • Brendan

        Calling Laverne Cox out for saying posing for Playboy as a transwoman is empowering is a legitimate criticism. I, for one, don’t take issue with that. But you went well beyond that.

        • amongster

          Yeah, thank goodness Meghan went well beyond that because it is not just not empowering to have taken nude photos of yourself for Playboy but it’s also not empowering to have to alter yourself through surgery and other treatments in order to live up to misogynist standards.

        • lizor

          FFS Brendan, LC did not pose for playboy. The spread is in Allure. Playboy published an article trashing Meghan for this critique we are discussing.

          Try reading.

          Try to understand what has actually gone down before taking up space with your half-assed non-thoughts.

          You’re welcome.

  • Pingback: Feminism and transgender liberation part 2: creating space for respectful communication | FEL()

  • Suzee

    As a behavioral neuroscientist, I think there is one thing that needs to be understood within the circumstance of trans women and feminism and it’s the biological basis of gender, and how this can implicate suppressed behaviors in those who are trans gender. Laverne Cox is on a spectrum of gender hormones that leans more towards female, but still has hints of male. Which is why I feel a lot of trans women (not all) sexualize themselves, because that is their inherited view of what it means to be female. If this is offensive to anyone, I’m sorry, that’s how gender works in the brain, it’s all about hormones and which ones are more dominant and which ones are more suppressed.

    Laverne Cox is an example of most trans women in the media who are over sexualizing themselves, but I don’t think it has anything to do with their stance on the social issue of trans acceptance, I think, actually I KNOW, it’s a much deeper definition of the plight to be seen as a female. Which is where I agree with Meghan, it seems that she was not represented in the right light (I had only come to this site because of all of the controversy with Playboy). The stance that this sexualization trans women seem obliged to adhere to says a lot about the repressed definition one has on what is female, rather than, just being who they are and accepting it. Although, I don’t think Laverne Cox deserved to be shamed in her over sexualization, because I don’t even think she can acknowledge within herself that this intense desire to be seen as this image of a woman is that of a societal formation and not of being a true female, we are but a slave to a lot of repressed information stored in our brains that implicates how we view ourselves, and our relation to the world around us. This is a clearly damaging acknowledgement for any trans woman, because trans women so desperately want to feel female, so this is what they become.

    Laverne Cox isn’t what I’d consider a good role model for trans women, because she represents a simplified version of trans gender. I have my issues with that, being as there is so much more to gender than male and female, which is empirically evident in hard science and social science, but I do think that the trans community doesn’t need any criticism right now, maybe somewhere down the line, but right now they just need to be seen and to be normalized so that bigger issues such as the one suggested in this article can be discussed.

    I get that this forum is represented in terms of radical feminism, but sometimes you need to let yourself escape your perceptions, and see things from a different perspective. I get what Meghan is trying to get across in this post, but I just don’t see the relevance. We should just be happy for the trans community that they have a trans person being invited to do glamour shoots in general. I do not get the bitterness, I see no good in it. If you want people to listen to your view points, you have to acknowledge everyone, not just yourself. This is a public forum and people are going to get the wrong impression if you don’t discuss things in a manner that could promote understanding which ultimately leads to change.

    • Joanne

      You are NOT a behavioral neuroscientist, and that was word salad that amounts to “shut up, feminists, men’s sexy feelings are more important than women’s liberation…so could you just wait a couple more eons before expressing your opinions?”

    • amongster

      “I have my issues with that, being as there is so much more to gender than male and female, which is empirically evident in hard science and social science, but I do think that the trans community doesn’t need any criticism right now.”

      Gender is not sex. Gender is *not* male and female, it is masculinity and femininity. It is domination and submission, it is a hierarchy and not the funny binary genderists often say it was. Do you say there were emirical evidence for gender as something material, something innate? Cause that would be an untruth.

      Also, in a time in which female spaces get invaded by aggressive transactivists who want to see radfems “burn in a fire” I for my part believe that it *is* the time for criticism.

  • Celestine

    Laverne Cox is beautiful, and you are narrow and cruel.

    No one else’s body is your business. Making it your business is just as oppressive to other women as the judgement of men. Please find a different way to express your feminism than by judging other women for their personal decisions on how to empower themselves.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Being beautiful has yet to liberate women from patriarchy.

    • amongster

      As if anybody should even care if somebody is beautiful or not…

      And yes, objectification *is* a feminist issue and therefore should be the business of every feminist. You do not understand what oppression means and should read that one up. Feminism 101 would be a good start too. Also, ad hominem attacks are no arguments, so you might want to come up with something better in a debate.

    • Mar Iguana

      “No one else’s body is your business.”

      Men’s bodies are my business because men use their bodies to violate women’s bodies.

  • Catherine Thompson

    It seems to me that there is a bit of a madness in all this. At first I was thinking about this article and the opinion it expresses as a bit mad and now I’m thinking it might be fine to include Laverne Cox’s part in it as well. I do admire her for her work in many ways especially regarding the horrible prevalence of trans women of colour getting rubbed out on a very regular basis, though I have this feeling that John Raulston Saul expressed so well in his book Voltaire’s Bastards. It had something to do with the phenomenon of the propensity of the industrial west to be constant engaging in a sort of confession at all times. He references buddhists in general saying that they are constantly shocked at this tendency with self obsession generally with a good dose of insistent superior modesty and morality.

    He writes, “Any man or woman produced by the Judeo-Christion tradition is dying to confess – unasked if necessary. What the Buddhist seeks in the individual is, first, that he understands he is a part of a whole and therefore of limited interest as a part and, second, to the extent that he tries to deal with the problem of his personal experience, he does so in a private manner. The individual who appears to sail upon calm waters is a man of quality. Any storms he battles within are his own business.”

    So I reckon this would apply to Laverne Cox as well as perhaps for Meghan Murphy though it could well be argued that she is just responding to the silliness of a playboy photo shoot. The one photo that I saw on the web was really good I thought; made me ponder some of what might be going on inside her.

    Ach, I’ve lost my steam. i’ll leave it at this with my own little, I suppose, confessional statement above. Sigh… love and light, eh!

    • marv

      Traditional Buddhist and Christian outlooks are deficient lenses to view this issue. Both are patriarchal philosophies that express male worldviews. They condone masculinity and femininity instead of seeing them as hierarchy and emptiness to be abolished.

      Porn is an epitome of male supremacy. That is what Meghan is against.

      If you want to know more about feminist critiques of Buddhism from a Buddhist feminist perspective read A Garland of Feminist Reflections: Forty Years of Religious Reflection by Rita Gross. Buddhism After Patriarchy is another intriguing book.

      I take exception to much of what Ms Gross states but still admire her attempt to broaden Buddhism’s political gullibility.

      • Catherine Thompson

        excellent point!

  • Kate

    I’m 20 years old and throughout my teenage years I’ve always considered myself a feminist but ever since I’ve discovered ‘internet feminism’ on social media, blogs and articles such as this I’m really rethinking how I feel about feminism. I’m sick of feminists online overly judging other women and scrutinizing their every action. I’m sick of these women lecturing other women on how they should be thinking and feeling. I’m sick of the blatant homophobia, racism and transphobia these so called ‘feminists’ online display but use feminism to cover up their own bigotry.

    I feel this small piece is transphobic – phrases such as ‘cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture’ show how the author views trans women and it’s really disgusting. The authors comments in the common section – such as ‘feminism isn’t about individual, temporary feelings of empowerment. It’s about collective liberation.’ also show a really skewed version of feminism. How dare women think for themselves and not how you tell them to am I right? I don’t believe it’s the authors place to tell other women what they should or shouldn’t be doing with their bodies and how they should think on certain issues. Laverne Cox has done more for women – especially black and trans women – than this author has and I feel we should be supporting her instead of tearing her down.

    The superior, smug tone the author uses throughout the article and in the comment section is also disgusting. If transphobia, thinking yourself above other women and being overly judgemental and negative of other women is what this author believes to be feminism then I don’t ever want to be their type of feminist.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “I feel this small piece is transphobic – phrases such as ‘cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture’ show how the author views trans women and it’s really disgusting.”

      I don’t understand why these words and analysis are acceptable when applied to women, in general, but not to Laverne Cox. Does she not count?

      • jo

        It’s not that Laverne Cox doesn’t count to these people. They think Cox and other trans women are empowered by objectification (it makes them women) and they think that they deserves special treatment over those born female. Pretty clear male privilege there, even after surgery.
        Everyone who isn’t saying that the male Cox is a hot sexy woman is being “cruel”. Even when they are a feminist saying that objectification isn’t helpful to trans women or women in general.

        Anyway these people think it’s wrong to say that feminism is about collective liberation so…

        • Meghan Murphy

          That’s true. At the end of the day they care most about personal, temporary, feelings of ’empowerment’, as defined by dicks.

  • Saint

    I am upset that so many people are using this article as an excuse for an all-out attack on a radical feminist analysis…a new generation (incl many academics) supporting only one or limited perspectives (where is critical analysis?).

    When Cox says she’s doing a nude photo in a beauty magazine to inspire her community, it ultimately affects her community…women, especially trans woc. However, many arguments against the article are based on wording (often misrepresented), individual empowerment, or that a white ‘cis’ woman should never write a feminist analysis of a trans woman of color – off limits. I believe many feminists agree with some or all of the article’s analysis, or at least understand the actual meaning if they disagree. However, to jump immediately to claims of transphobia is inappropriate and slander. Many feminists are too afraid to speak publically for fear of being mislabelled, judged, or worse, and would rather join the popular ranks than appear too ‘radical’ – the opposite of what feminism is about.

    I adore Laverne Cox, and many radical feminists I know do. However, most people will never know this because of the ongoing assumptions that every radfem must be a ‘terf’ (a term reserved only for radfems even though its a small portion of radfems). In the meantime, the actual threats against transwomen are ignored. In social media, this has become a common way to shut down radical feminist viewpoints from challenging the norm – and it does challenge it. Unfortunately, many people learn bits and pieces of feminism through social media and have no historical or substantive background. Cox is a strong woman, and I hope she would understand her influence as a celebrity would be analyzed when doing a nude shoot for a beauty magazine. Overall, I think the photo itself is lovely and may inspire some, but many others will never live up to our societal beauty standards (‘cartoonish’) that the article mentioned. Perhaps if the photo were in a different format outside the grip of our commodity-driven industry that dictates what every woman should look like – we would not be discussing this.

    • Mar Iguana

      “Cox is a strong woman,”

      Cox is a strong man.

  • Bernie

    To me, this article represents just the opposite of what feminism should do. Feminism exists to uplift women, and create an environment where women and men (and all other gender identities) are treated equally. This includes all expressions of “masculinity” and “femininity”-which I realize are socially constructed ideals-being deemed equal. There is nothing wrong with Laverne Cox being feminine. There is nothing wrong with any woman, man, or queer-gendered person being feminine-or masculine for that matter. Gender expression and gender identity are two very individualized concepts that people can express however they want. Laverne Cox’s body may be very similar to the type of body that is often portrayed as being the ideal for young women. That doesn’t make her body inherently wrong or make her weak for conforming to the patriarchal ideal of beauty. Many different people deem many different things beautiful, and that doesn’t make any of them wrong or right. Feminism grants us the right to choose how we want to represent ourselves, and if we decide we want to appear “feminine” or “masculine”, that is our individualized choice. Laverne’s image can be empowering, and for many is, because it represents a black trans woman- something that is very rare in the media today. To have such a marginalized and hated group representative come out and state that they’re happy with their body, that it does get better, gives a lot of people hope for a more excepting society and brighter future. Something that feminists like you should be trying to do as well.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “To me, this article represents just the opposite of what feminism should do. Feminism exists to uplift women, and create an environment where women and men (and all other gender identities) are treated equally.”

      No. Feminism exists to end patriarchy and male violence against women. It is a political movement against the oppressive system of power that is patriarchy.

      • Southwest88

        Like, dude, do you think real feminists CARE about your asinine Playboy funded idea of what feminism should do and why it exists?

  • amongster

    This blog should be read by those genderists who are actually willing to engage in an informed debate – if there are any that is.

    “What I believe about sex and gender”:

    part 1 – Sex : https://slaveofthepassions.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/what-i-believe-about-sex-and-gender-part-1/

    part 2 – Gender : https://slaveofthepassions.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/what-i-believe-about-sex-and-gender-part-2/

    part 3 – Trans issues and gender identity : https://slaveofthepassions.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/what-i-believe-about-sex-and-gender-part-3/

    part 4 – Political implications : https://slaveofthepassions.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/what-i-believe-about-sex-and-gender-part-4/

    part 5 – Political implications, continued : https://slaveofthepassions.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/what-i-believe-about-sex-and-gender-part-5/

    • lizor

      This is a fantastic series, amongster. I agree that everyone should read it. It is crystal clear writing and thinking. Thanks for sharing!

  • I am somewhat conflicted about this photo of Laverne Cox, because while I agree that it is yet another instance of objectification, and that objectification on the whole is bad, I wonder if this particular instance can’t be seen as at least having one advantage in addition to the badness inherent in objectification. The advantage it might have is increasing transgender visibility and making people who are transphobic get more used to seeing transgender people’s bodies. Some people are freaked out by the thought of trans people, especially at the thought of their bodies because they’re different from what they expect. Being confronted with images of transgender people that are otherwise pleasing to them (e.g. conforming to certain ideals of beauty, and conforming to gender norms of course) might change their emotional attitude.

    • lizor

      I can see where you are coming from, Komal, but I honestly think that presenting such conformist images as a way to ease the notion of diversity for people who are threatened by it is not really going to help anyone. I don’t really think that familiar images like this one of LC is going to do much to counter the violent, threatening or merely dismissive attitudes of the fearful towards those of us who don’t present within the binary and who don’t conform to standards for feminine sex objects.

      I’m not picking an argument with you. I know that you have shared many thoughtful comments and I respect your perspective. I offer this by way of discussion only.

      I think that assuming that this image of LC might help people whose appearance is less conforming is bit like assuming that Michael Jackson’s lightened skin and altered features makes it better for black people in general because he looks more caucasian. I’m not sure if I’d really get behind that as a pro-diversity strategy. I certainly welcome thoughts on this.

      • Sabine

        I agree Lizor. Pandering to patriarchal demands of what beauty SHOULD look like according to the sexist, objectifying and misogynistic status quo is not actually changing anything other than giving transwomen “permission” to be treated as primarily a body that is either deemed attractive (seen as “empowering” within this shallow, pathetic excuse for a society when it’s anything but) or not. This is as decreed by men and their expectations which are internalized by society as a whole including by women and so the whole cycle is perpetuated. Transwomen being objectified does not stop the oppression of transwomen by their being “accepted” into the every day reality of female-born oppression. The idea of it being a-ok and acceptable for straight men to wank over pornified, airbrushed images of transwomen whilst viewing them as merely tits and ass in the same way as biological women is liberating how? And for whom?

      • I guess I was thinking that it might function as (even if it was not intended as) a stepping stone to presenting less conformist images. I’m not a fan of naked pictures in general, especially in commercial and some non-commercial contexts (because it’s objectifying and also breeds a bad kind of self-consciousness in people), which is why I said I had mixed feelings. Of all the ways to help challenge genderism and sexism, this is not particularly good, but I was just suggesting that maybe it has the advantage of easing some people into seeing different kinds of bodies. I agree, though, that there are better ways of doing that than this photo.

        • amongster

          I don’t think this step-by-step approach can work. All you’d do is saying that there is some form of objectifcation and exploitation that is ok. But seeing a person as an object leads to treating them as an object so if you don’t prevent the first step there is no hope that you can stop men from doing even more harm. The people you try to “ease” can’t be eased by catering to them, the opposite would be the case, and those who can be eased should be fed with actual facts instead of more lies.

        • lizor

          Thanks Komal. I agree that it’s very difficult to define best strategies to reduce the dangers directed at people who don’t conform to the binary (and also at those who do).

          With the sort of intellectual gobbledygook of choice [so-called] “feminism” so prevalent, it’s hard to make sense of the situation and to settle on effective action that will result in a safer world for women, intersex people, and non-conforming men.

        • Sabine

          Sorry but nope, it just doesn’t work like that. Say one day transwomen were 100% accepted by all men and women as somehow being unquestionably female and therefore treated in exactly the same way. All we have is a “welcome to female oppression, objectification and exploitation” for these people. How can that possibly be a good thing? Objectification of anyone perceived as (attractively) “female” or “feminine” as decreed by patriarchy is NEVER acceptable. And maybe it seems like some kind of novel, fun female party being a male fantasy object to some transwomen wanting be accepted as one of the “girls”, but it’s no bloody party having been born female and socially conditioned as such. This is something somebody born as a male is simply not capable of “knowing” no matter how much they identify with society dictated “femininity”.

  • Zhang He

    First off, I am so sorry Meghan that you have to go through such an aggressively violent backlash to this entry. I admire your strength, that you speak up for yourself and for what you believe in despite all this.
    So thank you for being you. It can’t be easy.
    I’m late to the party here a bit, but I’ve seen these kinds of “feminists” all over the internet. They are the people who have never studied feminist theory of any sort, and have concocted a patchwork quilt of feminism based on buzzwords and blurbs they extract from various sites.
    Reading these comments over, it became glaringly obvious to me that they did not even comprehend the article.
    I bet many of them didn’t even read it.

    All these accusations of racism? When asked to point out where is the racism in the article? Suddenly no one bothered to reply ( because it isn’t there).
    This is a terrible by-product of the internet. Everyone plays the victim olympics, and if they just start throwing every mob-inciting term they can like ‘racism’, or ‘transmysogny’, or ‘homophobe’,”White-feminist-privilege” or whatever else, to see if any of it sticks to the wall. If nothing sticks, they will *invent* it. Then cry it to the heavens that it is in there, because they know there are 100 non-reading types following them on Twitter who they can send in as an army of white knights.
    But of course they won’t really comprehend what they are reading. They simply do not want to. It’s a lot more empowering to this lot to demonize someone than to sit down, and try to engage in an educated way in order to understand the meaning.
    Meghan, you have had to explain the simplest things over and over and over again to these people. And most of the time, it’s only because they failed to read the article that has caused them so much offense in the first place. I notice that 80% of the time, they can’t answer your simple questions. Because they would rather rage, than think.
    I know since I’m asian I don’t count in their decree that your feminism is somehow elitist and leave out PoC and trans and etc etc “omgbanagafdgeface WHITE feminism”- but I have never felt that way here. You have written many articles regarding women across the board in a very thoughtful, respectful way. Then when you try to include transwomen in your analysis, in the exact same way you would include speaking about asian women, or any other woman, you are suddenly a monster?
    But I thought they called people TERFS for “Trans-Exclusionary etc etc”. Then you include them and you are a transphobe? Is it that we are only supposed to talk about them on a pedestal and praise them for being in Playboy magazine even if that goes against everything we stand for? ( not the Transgirl, the magazine).

    I seriously find these people difficult to understand. Its a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.

    And one more thing I’d like to say; I have heard so many of these people ripping Meghan apart and hurling insults at her because of the Comment Section. That just isn’t fair. You cannot blame the owner of the blog for not censoring every person who has an opinion. If you did, there would be no discussion. She let everyone have an opinion. Even the ones who are tweeting vile insults about her.

    Meghan, you have class. I really admire you. Keep your head up high.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “I’m late to the party here a bit, but I’ve seen these kinds of “feminists” all over the internet. They are the people who have never studied feminist theory of any sort, and have concocted a patchwork quilt of feminism based on buzzwords and blurbs they extract from various sites.
      Reading these comments over, it became glaringly obvious to me that they did not even comprehend the article.
      I bet many of them didn’t even read it.”

      You are completely right. Based on the reaction on Twitter, it’s very clear most didn’t read it and just reacted/jumped on a bandwagon instead. These people have invented a ‘theory’ all their own and, knowing how irrational their version of ‘feminism’ or ‘liberation’ is, they’ve had to enforce it on to others through bullying and threats of public attack — “If you don’t agree with our nonsense, we will label you a bigot or accuse you of violence and viciously attack yo/have you blacklisted.”

      An obvious example of their hypocrisy and inability to form a rational thought/address my actual arguments is that they have accused me of being transphobic by including trans women in the same critique I make with regard to representations and imagery of all women. They are, in fact, the ones who are drawing a line between women and trans women, yet they have attacked me for, actually, being more ‘inclusive’ of trans women than they are. I mean, essentially what they are arguing is that it’s not ok to objectify women but that it’s ok — liberating even — to objectify Laverne Cox. https://twitter.com/MeghanEMurphy/status/592461465694523392 https://twitter.com/MeghanEMurphy/status/592507137839861760 How does this work if trans women are women? And in any case, what’s very clear is that objectification has not and will not lead to anyone’s liberation. If that were the route towards liberation, we would have been liberated from patriarchy decades ago.

      • Southwest88

        Just dropped by http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2015/04/27/on-playboys-new-feminism/ and you should take a look, seems that Playboy is offering cash to anybody who THEY decide is a feminist expert. Funny how none of the real feminists I know of have received offers from Playboy!

        • Meghan Murphy

          Funny that! You think they’re going around contacting anti-sex industry feminists to write for them? ha

  • Koko B

    Laverne Cox has so much self hate she should change her name to Picola Breedlove. She’s co-signed onto not only patrichal definition of beauty but also the delusional mainstream one that has harmed women of color for decades. She dons a blonde wig and has bleached herself three times over (look at her hands or pictures of her as a man from I want to Work for Diddy). Obviously in her mind black can only be beautifulif were almost white.

    Cox isn’t empowering, she’s not brave and as an African American woman she’s definitely not my role model. She’s a conforming coward who perpetuares silly stereotypes of maintream feminity.

    • Diana

      Laverne Cox admitted in a talk with bell hooks that she conforms to capitalist/patriarchal/racist beauty standards because it makes it easier for her to succeed in Hollywood. I think she in a way knows what she is doing but is not brave enough to say it to her fans.

  • I also want to mention that many of the people who have criticized you (Meghan) for this article have shown a serious lack of reading comprehension ability. They are interpreting your general criticisms of objectification as attacks on Cox’s character and body. Don’t let them get to you.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Komal.

  • ChathAm

    Seeing this was really important for me. A lot of the bodies I see are white, stick-thinned, big-boobed, tiny-waisted. Cox isn’t any of these things. SHE is absolutely lovely, I think.

    …Also apparently the cure for hating my body and my gendered bits is to “go get mental help to make me love my vagina and breasts and be more self-confident.” Okay. Maybe I’ll also go get therapy that makes me believe that no, I really do love men, and I only have a girlfriend because of unresolved mommy and self-image issues. That’s what trans people need! Reparative therapy! Because forcing them to “be confident” in bodies that feel alien to them is not at all fucked up.

    • amongster

      “Because forcing them to “be confident” in bodies that feel alien to them is not at all fucked up.”

      So getting hormone treatment that has health risks, getting invasive surgery that will mutilate their absolute healthy bodies, pretending to be of the sex they are not and trying to pass as the sex they are not is not fucked up?

    • Zhang He

      I’m trying to understand your issue.

      So, if you don’t mind, could tell me why is it you think objectifying a trans-woman’s body = empowerment?
      If posing like a steak for male consumption is *not* empowering for cisgendered women, why is it suddenly ok to do this to trans?

      Everyone thinks LC is lovely. Because she is. She is just as lovely clothed and vertical though.

      But I’m asking this of you sincerely. Because I know trans women who *do not* find this empowering ( though I admit I only know 2). They think she is there because she is close to a standard, accepted definition of beauty. A beauty they don’t feel they can achieve because of genetics and no finances.

    • Lotus Blossom

      “Seeing this was really important for me. A lot of the bodies I see are white, stick-thinned, big-boobed, tiny-waisted. Cox isn’t any of these things.”

      No, what the author of this piece is saying is that women should be valued for more than what they look like on the outside. Accepting more diverse body types as beautiful and attractive does nothing to challenge the patriarchal notion that women’s predominate value lies in their physical appearance

      “Because forcing them to “be confident” in bodies that feel alien to them is not at all fucked up.”
      Nobody is “forcing” you to do anything. Feminists are just asking that you think a little more deeply about the reasons WHY you might feel the way that you do. They are asking that you consider how being socialized in a society that strictly divides general human traits, interests, and behaviours into “masculine” and “feminine” categories might have impacted your feeling that your body is “alien to you”. I’m sorry, but saying, “I feel the way I do just because I do”, is not really an adequate explanation for anything.

    • Oceans

      So someone with anorexia shouldn’t get help and just be allowed to starve themselves to death because they have the body they want? Or someone with BIID should go ahead and get that leg whacked right off, regardless of long-term health issues, because it’ll make them more comfortable with their body? Helping someone with a psychological disorder that drives them to harm their body isn’t “all fucked up.”

    • I hear what you’re saying ChathAm, and I am absolutely against reparative therapy for trans people. However, please note that not everyone who is gender non-conforming, has dysphoria and/or cross-identification for any amount of time is destined to be transgender. Some people have dysphoria and cross-identification for other reasons, such as growing pains, internalized misogyny, etc. For example, I have had moments of cross-identification (I now have no gender identity), my partner had sex dysphoria and cross-identification for a few years, and two of my friends did too (in one case it lasted for most of his life until he was in his mid-twenties or so). All of us overcame it, however, and ended up being gay and lesbian (though one of the individuals mentioned is now ex-gay, but that’s another story).

      If someone has sex dysphoria and/or cross-identification, they should be willing to accept and embrace being transgender, but they should also be willing to accept not being, and be open to the possibility that transition is not always the best path. Some of us just end up being beyond the so-called ‘gender binary’, and that’s fine, just like being transgender is fine.

  • Radvark

    Thanks for that analysis, Meghan. I also loved some of the insightful comments here.

    I’ve been following your Twitter interactions with ‘feminists’ who, in an attempt to be seen as very intersectional, accommodating and very progressive, really aren’t getting it. It’s amazing how you can navigate through that mess.

    As a woman of colour, it riles me up that any representations of (T)WoC are above critique (saw people bring up your Beyonce posts too). It is a different thing to criticize the woman herself and to analyze what her representation really means — but Twitter feminism doesn’t get that. #Agency #Empowerment #ConfidentInHerOwnSkin #BuzzwordsBuzzwordsBuzzwords

    (As an aside: funny how the first sign of empowerment for anyone identifying as female is to be comfortable in (displaying) her own skin. And that the absolute marker, to convince people of someone’s femaleness, is to present her as a passive thing, sexualized and objectified. To be a woman means to be objectified and presented for consumption.)

    Solidarity.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Twitter feminism is fully invested in individualism and in avoiding confronting systems of power. They would much prefer to attack individual feminists. The echo chamber comforts them more than anything. Solidarity sister.

  • Dana

    I’m also wondering why comments logically questioning your self-righteousness sit ‘in moderation’ rather than being posted to your audience while you are clearly active and posting on the thread yourself. Lots of transparency and integrity in this little circle-of-hate you’ve put together! Keep up the good work!

    • Meghan Murphy

      All comments sit in moderation, Dana. I’m sorry I can’t make a full time job of approving your comments.

      • Dana

        Why can’t you? You seem to be making a full time job for yourself of removing comments. I mean, I’d understand if they were inappropriate or hate speech but strangely enough those are the ones you’re letting through while the ones criticizing that policy just disappear. WEIRD. Now THAT is good writing. GIVE THIS ONE THE PULITZER, JUDGES!

        I was wondering why I wasn’t seeing more people comment on how you haven’t addressed any of the really hateful transphobic commenters – now I understand that their comments were likely just disappeared by the censor they aimed to criticize.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Commenters speak for themselves, here Dana. I don’t agree with everything everyone says here. If I did, that would make me an awful hypocrite, wouldn’t it (and an MRA). Move along now before you blow a gasket. Oh, and I saw your other comment after I responded earlier. I deleted it because you called me Rush Limbaugh sorrynotsorry.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh gawd. I should have known the person screaming at me about not approving their idiotic comments fast enough was a DUDE! https://twitter.com/gtdane/status/593201303532089344

          • bella_cose

            He sounds like an idiot. I don’t think he even knows what the words he’s saying mean.

          • Sabine

            Meghan, I am flabbergasted at the sheer volume of defensive, vitriolic and abusive comments about what is a perfectly reasonable critique of the typical, porny way a “female” body is being served up for the delectation of men in the media. Why your stance is expected to suddenly change because this “female” body is actually biologically male I do not understand. There is nothing radical or subversive about a transwoman laying naked and passive in a long blonde wig having been airbrushed to within an inch of his life, looking predictably “sexy”. If nobody knew that Cox was actually male how would this photo look any different from that of a female born actress being objectified for the male gaze? If it’s not empowering for biological women as a class (and it’s not) then why should it be ok for a transwomen to be treated as a sex object….or are transwomen NOT women after all then? The shouters can’t have it both ways. The hypocrisy of these liberal idiots is astounding. Where are all these self-proclaimed feminists when you report the horrifying statistics of women raped and murdered every single fucking day? Where are the 400+ comments then? It’s pathetic. There is a complete inability to see anything from a broader perspective and a relevant context so the “discussion” becomes something akin to banging one’s head against a brick wall but far less pleasant! Keep going sister, you are a strong voice of sanity in this asylum of a world and I thank you for it!

          • Jonas

            I def can see number 3 on a daily basic in about almost anything that is tied to political things.
            It’s not just about celebrity culture and exploitation/objectification, in this case a transwoman, but in nearly every topic that can be tied to political means.
            Discussing–its more like listening to a group of bullies ranting on you– with liberal Americans is, I would guess, like trying to reason with the American government.
            As in there is no way to reason. It’s always “our way or the highway” the same mantra the US government shoves in the face of the rest of the world every single day.

            Its tiring.

          • Meghan Murphy

            @Sabine, Here is my assessment:
            1) People on Twitter are 12
            2) People on Twitter are narcissists who think retweets and followers are a sign of power/a sign they are effecting change
            3) Most people on Twitter are American neoliberals who have no politics/aren’t able to form intelligent thoughts
            4) Attention-seeking fake-o apolitical children showboating on Twitter in order to pretend they are important and think they are still engaged in a high school popularity contest but they weren’t popular in high school and so now is their big chance who’ve made critical thinking their enemy naturally believe that the most meaningful way to achieve all that they desire (retweets/a false sense of power) is to argue about celebrities on the internet.

            Hindsight is 20/20.

          • Sabine

            Meghan, you are so right. I actually don’t use Twitter because I can’t deal with all the ill-informed ego pumping, hostility, idiocy, infantilism and the fact there are literally hundreds of thousands (maybe more) of men hiding behind fake personas and bullying, threatening and cyber-stalking women as a matter of course, because the internet. Men have taken over and destroyed social media as they continue to exert their “right” to dominate over every other being and every single last space on earth including cyber space. I don’t know how, in the face of such willful ignorance and personal abuse, your head hasn’t exploded by now! Your work and willingness to put your miraculously-still-intact head above the parapet is very much respected and appreciated. Thank you.

          • lizor

            Sabine, I second all of that.

          • lizor

            Oh course Dana’s a dude. No one raised female would presume that the world revolves around them the way this commenter clearly does.

          • Zhang He

            I like the part where he has 0 people following him.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “PAY ATTENTION TO ME” — The call of the angry internet dude.

        • But WHHYYY can’t you? WHHHYYY can’t you make MEEEE your FIRST PRIORITYYYY Meghan? You must attend to MYYY comments before you do anything else at all, don’t you understand?

          Hey, Dana dude:

          Read the friggin’ comment policy: http://feministcurrent.com/1749/so-you-think-you-want-to-comment/

    • Elis

      How ironic, seeing your tweets, Dana, and comparing them to your comments here, since you’re so obviously using the shitstorm around this post in your opportunistic douchebro entitlement to try and up your rep with the popular kids.

      Sorrynotsorry, we’re not buying it.

      Women, beware male “allies” like this one. He’s an obvious creep.

    • Oceans

      Uh, my comments which support the post are also awaiting moderation. I doubt it’s personal.

  • Missfit

    Another late to the party here…

    Questionning a claim of ‘radical self-acceptance’ made after drastic body modifications (modifications made to conform to a body that is deemed Playboy material) shouldn’t be controvorsial. Questions should be obvious. But we aren’t suppose to question anything anymore. Women choose plastic surgery and it’s their choice and we shouldn’t critique otherwise it’s shaming. 90+% of people getting plastic surgeries are women. Can liberals explain why women choose to be unhappy with their body as it is? And how posing naked is empowering? This in a context where women are constantly reduced to and valued mainly through how their body conforms to the norms dictated and enforced through the powerful male media machine. Measuring our ’empowerment’ in terms of these standards is simply adhering to and playing by patriarchal rules.

    We know, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be attractive to potential mates, and this also applies to men btw. But let’s face it, that is not what it is about here, it is about women constantly being served as ‘eye candy’, for any purposes; offered, passive, their value dependent on men’s appreciation. Laverne Cox does not bear all that on herself, her claims of empowerment are made within that context though. Can liberals explain how it is empowering for women? What does it means? That you know your place and value? That patriarchy validates your worth? That you have male approval? Well congrats, Playboy approves. Consider yourself empowered.

    Meghan, when misogynist institution Playboy, already exposed for what it is by feminists Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem, lectures you on how you are doing feminism bad, chances are you’re spot on (which is the case).

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  • Sophia G. Dierdorf

    Miss Megan Murphy, your note is an extract of pure and simple transphobia.
    I believe that seeking a body that represents your inner self is a right we must respect. I’m transexual myself, I take hormones and I’m planning to have my SRS within the next 18 months. I don’t think that that makes me a byproduct of the patriarchynor the porn culture. It’s just the image I want for myself and for myself only. I know you can’t understand this since you’re born as cisgendered and find yourself in a very comfortable position, but try to think if you were born with the same gender identity you have today but with a male body that went thru a testosterone-filled teenhood, you’ll surely be battling with that male image to all cost, and not because the patriarchal, heteronormative system tells you to do it, but because you know that simply it’s not your true self. I hope you re-evaluate what you wrote in this article, and realize that your “feminism” isn’t a true feminism, since you’re marginalizing a large amount of women just because we’re transgender. That’s not equality, that’s discrimination.
    Regards

    • Meghan Murphy

      I can’t understand the pressure to conform to patriarchy-defined notions of femininity because I am a woman? Ok.

      • “you’re born as cisgendered and find yourself in a very comfortable position, but try to think if you were born with the same gender identity you have today but with a male body that went thru a testosterone-filled teenhood, you’ll surely be battling with that male image to all cost, and not because the patriarchal, heteronormative system tells you to do it, but because you know that simply it’s not your true self.”

        A person who so clearly construes her own feelings about her gender as an Identity which demands that other women refrain from publicly critiquing gender, then informs another woman not only of what her experience of gender must be now, but also *surely* would be in the scenario of a hypothetical forced transition to phenotypical maleness. Meghan sure is lucky to have all of these people telling her what she must be thinking and feeling, (and what she is and isn’t allowed to do, or else). Otherwise, with her ‘cis’ ladybrain, how would she know *anything*?

        “I can’t understand the pressure to conform to patriarchy-defined notions of femininity because I am a woman? Ok.”

        NOPE, SORRY MEGHAN. Let me explain it to you.

        You love every aspect of being a woman in a patriarchal society, and in fact are in a ‘very comfortable’ position, as all female women are. Especially when – because we were phenotypically female at birth – we are (please read an and/or for each comma in the rest of this sentence): sidelined at work or at home, harassed, threatened with rape or death or loss of employment for having an opinion, raped, prostituted, forcibly impregnated, experience traumatic birth, experience extreme pain from untreated endometriosis, are murdered for being out in public, or are murdered by our male partner at home.

        Nothing but COMFORT Meghan, as for all people born with a vagina, as I’m sure you’ll agree if you really honestly think about it and stop being such an evil transphobic bigoted white middleclass ciswoman, which I’m sure you must be, because other people say so.

        You see, a male person has social licence to tell herself that she is really female, because of feelings she has about her own ‘gender identity’. This is because in doing so, she not only conforms to the patriarchal, socially prevalent notion of ladybrain – used of course, to justify male supremacy – but has the backing of mainstream TERFer/SWERFer feminists, who have confined themselves to only thinking patriarchally-acceptable thoughts about gendered sexual roles (women are for fucking. men need to fuck them. what makes it feminist is its all OK as long as we can can imagine that there is always genuine ‘consent’ and ’empowerment’ involved for women) and gender presentation (women like and feel empowered by sparkles and pink and dresses and makeup and shaving their legs).

        So, it follows that this same male person can know your own thoughts and reality better than you know them yourself, because her thoughts and feelings about the life and experiences of any woman born with a vagina – including yourself – are more real and valid than your own analysis of the same. Because everyone knows this, pornographers and ‘feminists’ alike.

        If a transwoman claims to know your true or hypothetically possible experience of gender, it must be so, or you are denying her IDENTITY. The Gender Identity, questioning of which is not only the ultimate feminist crime (worse than men actually murdering transwomen), but also co-incidentally (and I guess this must be just a bug, not a feature) is really convenient for men whose masculine identity and social power is propped up by the idea of ladybrain, used in turn to justify and explain female ‘difference’ ie. social inferiority, slavery and servitude. Huh. Oh well. I guess that’s an unfortunate but necessary side-effect of the empowerment of women.

        Myself, I may think that I am entitled to be treated as a person rather than a fuck object or decoration or servant or slave or cheerleader for male identity and entitlement (trans, ‘lesbian’, man or whatever else). But, as a people born with a vagina who considers myself to be a person, yet not a man – a ‘cisgendered woman’ – I can have gender roles and expectations enforced upon me and have people claim that I am privileged thereby, but I apparently cannot know what gender is let alone question or critique it, even though I’ve been doing so since I was four. For that I must have been born with a penis, or at the very least feel I ought to have been.

        I mean, what person born phenotypically female, wouldn’t choose to conform to gender where possible, preferably in an empowerfulised manner, rather than question it? Apart from inviting threats to you, critiquing gender roles and gender enforcement is not only unquestionably ‘transphobic’, it could hurt the feelings not only of people who benefit from enforcement of gender, but even those who suffer from gender but go along with it because it is probably safer.

        By resisting your proper gendered role as a ciswoman, and critiquing social enforcement of gender, you might make other people feel bad, and maybe cause them to question their own thinking and choices.

        Other peoples’ feelings of identity are paramount.
        Womens’ liberation isn’t worth *that* cost.

        • Anna Krowsky

          Trans women of color, like Lavern Cox, have a 1 in 8 chance of being murdered. The average American has a 1 in 6,100 chance of being murdered. Men are four times more likely to be murdered than women. So, you are in the position of privilege. http://www.economist.com/news/international/21600713-un-offers-some-hints-how-avoid-being-bumped-dicing-death http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/2012/05/murder-statistics-of-transgender-people/

          • Meghan Murphy

            Three women are killed in the U.S. every day by their spouse.

          • Anna Krowsky

            The statistics from the UN and the statistics from the US have some disparity, but the most recent US report put it this way. If you are a black man, your chance of being murdered is 1-in-21. If you are a white man, your chance of being murdered is 1-in-131. If you are a white woman, your chance of being murdered is 1-in-369. If you are a black woman, your chance of being murdered is 1-in-104. Thus, ranking privilege in order of least likely to get murdered to most likely to get murdered, here it goes: white women, white men, black women, black men, transgender people. All of these people getting murdered are important and it should be addressed that all kinds of populace phobia should be fought at an individual cognitive level, from gynophobia to androphobia to transphobia, homophobia, racism (racial phobia), general hatred, etc. The only way to make the world a better place is to start accepting people as they are, because the only person an individual can make be a better person is themselves. And, while it certainly is possible three women are killed in the US by their spouse every day, there’s a good chunk of women out there (myself included) who are very happy for the presence of their spouses (male or female) in their lives.

    • marv

      Sophia, further up the thread Purple Sage said:

      “Cisgender is supposed to mean harmony between my sense of self and my physical body. I’ve already stated that I do not feel this harmony and you’re still calling me cisgender. It sounds like you believe that everyone is either happy with their body or is actively transitioning. In reality there are far more people who feel uncomfortable with their body but do not try to modify it. Most of us realize that reinforcing impossible standards of beauty and policing how people are allowed to dress and behave is the real problem. Those who practice real “radical self-acceptance” are those who learn to love themselves as they are instead of starving or surgically altering themselves.”

  • Brooke

    The last paragraph of this is really disgusting and basically sounds a lot like saying that Laverne Cox isn’t a real women but an approximation created through surgery. I’d wish you’d taken more time to think about trans people or educate yourself about trans people/cis-sexism (Whipping Girl may have been a good start). For trans people representation is steeped in this kind of catch 22 situation. If you come across, wish to be treated like any other person of your gender you are accused of being too feminine or masculine. If don’t look enough like the gender you identify as you are not allowed to pass as that gender freely, risking violence or even legal persecution. You are essentially holding Laverne Cox to a double standard; what about all the other women who pose in Allure magazine? Do you not see how being treated AS a woman is kind of a big deal for someone like Laverne Cox, whose a trans woman of color? Someone whose probably been told a million times she’s not “really” a woman?

    • Meghan Murphy

      I am getting really impatient with people making the same nonsensical comment over and over. I have made this EXACT SAME ARGUMENT with regard to women many times before. If Laverne Cox is a woman then the same critique applies to her image. Why are YOU treating it as a “big deal” when I’ve literally used the exact same words to critique the objectification of women many time before?

      • Anna Krowsky

        Is what you’re saying that women should not be allowed to pose naked for magazines? What about men? Or is it just transgender women? What is it about human nudity that is so offensive? Anyway, it’s her body; what she does with it is her business.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Women should be “allowed” to pose nude if they wish. My argument has nothing to do with whether or not they should be “allowed” to, but rather is that objectification and the beauty industry doesn’t liberate women or marginalized people. If it did, we’d be long finished with this whole patriarchal oppression thing by now. Here is my follow up piece, for your interest: http://www.feministcurrent.com/2015/05/01/on-corporate-feminism-and-the-appropriation-of-the-womens-movement/

          • Anna Krowsky

            Interesting read. The beauty industry actually took my relatives from extreme poverty to fancy living. They grew up eating the same empty staple food every day, to working for the big beauty corporations as beauticians and never having hungry families again. In my opinion, if I want to take off my clothes and pose for a magazine, I do not feel that degrades me. (Not that I ever have, but I’m not completely writing it off for the future, in case they’re interested in photographing a fit middle-aged woman.) There is nothing inherently wrong with nudity; the idea that there is something wrong with nudity comes from patriarchal religion. Laverne Cox looks beautiful; if she is photoshopped, I can’t say it affects my life at all. I don’t want to look just like her; that’d be impossible, anyway. I think it’s a good thing that corporate America is actually taking a stand against transphobia. I live in the deep south, and there is a transgender woman posing for a jewelry billboard, and I think it’s really nice that our society has become so accepting. She actually wears little to no makeup, which is why her skin looks so great.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Corporate America isn’t “taking a stand against transphobia” anymore than they are taking a stand against sexism every time they sell products to women to fix invented flaws.

          • Anna Krowsky

            Some of the products are bad for you: like acne pads. Some of them are good for you: the oils and the vitamins. The good thing corporate America is doing is bringing transgender people into the mainstream, so they are not othered and villainized the way religion would have it. That brings the conversation home. People who would otherwise feel pressured to disapprove of transgender people, suddenly have the reason to say, “Well, you know, people have to find their own ways and some people are different and there’s been science to prove that transgender people share a gene that cisgender people do not have, so why should I be judging them?” The reason that this conversation is happening is because they’re watching Orange is the New Black, and by now they know some transgender people and don’t want to be total jerks to them. Here’s the science on why people are transgender: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7689007.stm

          • Anna Krowsky

            When I was a kid, I was often mistaken for a boy (until I grew long hair and boobs). Huge tomboy. The amount of hate I got for it was astounding; I remember there was this horrible woman who used to beat me for it, because I thought I might be transgender and she wanted to beat that out of me. When I grew up (after I had my baby, who’s practically grown now), I began to look at my female body as a source of beauty and confidence, but that does not happen for everybody. This was before we had words like “genderqueer” and “genderfluid.” Looking at Laverne Cox embracing who she is, naked whether or not society approves, does make me feel empowered, because it makes me feel like we live in a society now where if someone beats a child for having a weird gender identity, we don’t just accept that as the course of business.

    • lizor

      No. What’s disgusting (and embarrassing) is your enfeebled reading comprehension, Brooke.

      And please explain to us what “being treated AS a woman” means exactly and how that contrasts with “being treated AS a man” or how either of these differers from being treated AS a human being”.

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  • Meghan Murphy

    But by that logic, all beauty/fashion magazines are “good for”/empowering for women… Simply because these magazines are sold to women does not mean they don’t serve capitalist patriarchy…

    Also, I disagree that it’s created a dialogue or “thoughtful discourse” — it created mostly thoughtless discourse, and the result of my questioning this “empowerment” discourse was a large-scale effort to have me no-platformed and fired. Here’s more on Allure and Conde Naste, in any case: http://www.feministcurrent.com/2015/05/01/on-corporate-feminism-and-the-appropriation-of-the-womens-movement/

  • pjwhite

    People called you transphobic for this? WTF??? Madness.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I know. It’s insane. You’ve really gotta stretch… Or just not read?

  • Meghan Murphy

    “If a woman should be able to do as she pleases, then why would it be bad if she wants this figure and wants to display it proudly? You’re attacking a woman and a figure of women. Are you suggesting a woman can have any body type she wants, so long as you okay it first? Or is it just this body type in particular that’s not okay? And even if its artificial, so what? Shouldn’t a woman be allowed to choose that?”

    “Choice” is not the only measure of freedom. Cox is not being ‘attacked’ here, ideas are being challenged and questions. And sure, people can have whatever bodies they want, I suppose, but that’s really not the point. The ability to have breast augmentation surgery is not what empowerment or liberation is about.

    If you aren’t interested in challenging systems of power and media messages, it makes sense that you wouldn’t be very interested in feminism.

  • Meghan Murphy

    That makes sense. But I also think it’s important we critique the kind of “empowerment” that comes from beauty magazines and sexualization, no matter how it makes the individual woman pictured feel… It’s the discourse surrounding the shoot/this kind of imagery that is more problematic than anything else. It’s very much attached to the capitalist cooptation of feminism that says the best way for women (or transwomen, clearly) to feel empowered is by being viewed as attractive and sexy on the pages of a corporate beauty magazine…