The conflict between biology and social construction shapes feminists. Trans people run the risk of being pulverized. They don’t have to be.
If you are born a woman, are you made one or do you make yourself one? Photo: dpa
"You are not born a woman, you become one," says Simone de Beauvoir. Clear-cut? Not at all. People in feminism are still arguing about what is now "made" and what is "innate."
Author Marlen Hobrack writes in Die Welt that one should not dissolve the biological definition of "woman" by including trans* women. "A real woman cannot take off her womanhood like a dress," Hobrack writes, defending herself against the accusation that this thinking is transphobic.
It’s a myth that feminists* all love constructivism ("we are made"). Many are fans of objectivism ("we are what we are"). For feminism was created by and for "women" – as a rather clearly, rather biologically-medically defined group that was easy to mobilize because it had clear opponents in the form of the rather clearly, rather biologically-medically defined men.
More than just a debate
If you say goodbye to this rather unambiguous definition, then that’s it for the movement, fear not a few, and want to save "the woman" (and implicitly also "the man") – biologically.I don’t think that’s completely wrong. Many feminist issues are biological. Anyone who is unemployed pregnant will tell you that this situation is more than a discourse formation. But feminism is also more than uterus.
Perhaps you are thinking now: A heady debate about terminology, such as only humanities scholars can think of! However, it has real implications for people who are trans* – that is, people who cannot put proof of their gender on the table in the form of abdominal organs. They are exposed to violence and discrimination and therefore need feminist networks. But what if these networks decide that people can only be accommodated if they have a uterus – even though trans* women suffer from many patriarchal phenomena (such as sexualized violence or exploitation) just as cis women do?
Marlen Hobrack shows understanding for feminists who reject trans* women: "This rejection is probably also based on the concern that trans women make the already hard-to-define feminist collective subject ‘woman’ finally indefinable." Aside from the fact that this debate is being conducted without and to the detriment of trans* people, I don’t think there needs to be a conflict here. Feminism does not necessarily have to function as a frontline "cis-women-against-cis-men".
On the contrary: The prerequisite for the dissolution of patriarchy with all its sub-problems is that "the man" abolishes himself. In the beginning this is happening. But for this to happen, it must also be possible for "the woman" to abolish herself a little. Ultimately, after all, feminism is about power – those who have it and those who suffer from it. And power is not biological. Power is first of all power.