We are all living through difficult times – particularly those of us in marginalized groups. When our social feeds are filled with more absurd headlines than ever before, many individuals are taking steps to better understand the times we find ourselves in. In recent years, the topics of misogyny and transphobia have been heavily present in the American consciousness. Internationally, they have been the heartbeat of revolutionary movements towards liberation.
In pursuit of progress, dismantling the pressures of misogyny and transphobia have been the ever-persistent goals of activists. With the rise of social media activism, it is easier than ever to educate one another and work to highlight and effectively counteract transphobia and misogyny.
Educated people are powerful people. Without knowing the deep-rooted history and connection between transphobia and misogyny, we are not utilizing the full potential of the trans liberation and feminist movements.
Since the beginning of formalized society, misogyny has existed, violently and non-violently. Although, misogyny has notable differences in its appearance between cultures and time periods. To make misogyny more easily recognizable we need to create a solid definition. However, with such a complex history, it can be difficult to describe misogyny simply. Much like other forms of bigotry, misogyny is influenced by a complex set of societal, religious, cultural, and interpersonal factors, which vary from person to person.
For this article, which only aims to break down misogyny, transphobia, and their connection in a broader sense, I will focus on the former three factors, which are far broader when compared to personal experience. However, they are still complex.
Most simply put, misogyny is the hatred, contempt for, and or prejudice against women. This definition, while in its simplest form, is more complex than many think. This definition does not only include cisgender and transgender women. The effects of misogyny are also felt by those who are perceived as women or feminine, which extends the definition to include transgender men or transmasculine and gender non-conforming individuals with traditionally “feminine” features.
Feminist author Kate Manne has split misogyny into two separate definitions extending off of its core principles: moralistic misogyny and non-moralistic misogyny. While we see both present today, modern and historical examples differ.
To read more about Maane’s position on misogyny, you may wish to read her article “The Logic of Misogyny” here.
Moralistic misogyny, the misogyny most present in historical examples, is a misogynistic viewpoint that places blame on women for circumstances and situations with moral implications. Most often, the moral blame placed onto women stems from Western Christian values, which, due to colonization, were forced upon other cultures.
Moralistic misogyny does not define any religion or cultural belief but rather the belief that women are at fault for the perceived moral downfalls of men. We see examples of this in misogynistic terms such as “slut,” “whore,” the historical term “wench,” and otherwise. In more extreme cases, we see women blamed for sexual harassment or medical conditions such as medical hysteria, a fictional medical condition that blames womanhood for an individual's ailments or behaviors.
While moralistic misogyny focuses on blaming women for moral issues, non-moralistic misogyny focuses on blaming women for practical or logical issues. Manne argues that this is the more present version of misogyny we see today.
We see examples of non-moralistic misogyny in the language used to describe women and their actions in non-moral settings. We have seen this in politics, medicine, and pop culture.
One non-moralistic misogynistic phenomenon taking place in the United States currently is the targeting of Taylor Swift, an international pop star, for her attendance at Kansas City Chiefs games. While not nearly as severe as several other cases of modern misogyny, the targeting of Taylor Swift and her presence at American football games creates the perfect stage to study the actions of non-moralistic misogynists.
The above tweet, targeting Swift, is not unlike thousands of others. While Swift was present at several NFL games, she made up less than 1% of the game’s screen time, with her short-lived presence continuing to anger many fans, the majority of whom are men. Situations such as the Taylor Swift and NFL relationship perfectly point to the logic utilized by modern, non-moralistic misogynists – and it is a misogynistic message echoed throughout history: A woman’s presence and actions, thoughts, and feelings, when not serving men, are the enemy of a misogynistic society and the misogynists within it.
Understanding Transphobia and Its Roots
When examining transphobia, we can already begin to draw correlations between transphobia and misogyny.
Transphobia, similar to misogyny, can be defined as the hatred, detest for, or prejudice against transgender people. However, unlike misogyny, transphobia is a relatively new term, being coined in the 1990s. While the terminology is new, however, its meaning is not.
Historically, transgender people have been targeted. Notably, much like misogyny, the global presence of transphobia can easily be tied to the forcing of Western religious and cultural values onto other cultures through colonization. Many cultures have historically celebrated transgender people and individuals who do not conform to traditional gender identities or expressions, often utilizing their own terminology.
So where did the issue arise? When did trans identities become topics of contention instead of celebration? The answer is simple: conformation – or rather, a lack thereof.
We know this answer to be true due to the extensive presence of language and laws begging – or rather, forcing – people of trans identities to conform to what their society expects of them, often for “moral” reasoning. During transitioning, many transgender individuals have heard that they “are not trying hard enough” to “resemble” their gender identity or that they “are not convincing enough” to have their identity respected. But what is trying hard enough? What is convincing enough?
This is where we begin to formulate concrete connections between transphobia and misogyny. Why is it that transgender women or transfeminine individuals are often told they are not feminine enough? Well, to put it simply, transfeminine people, in the eyes of misogynists, are not “woman (or feminine) enough.” However, establishing a vague definition of “woman enough” is misogynistic in itself as there is no one definition for femininity or womanhood.
Contrastingly, transgender men and transmasculine individuals are often told they are “too feminine” or “too womanly” to be considered masculine. This transphobia follows the same formula as transphobia against transfeminine individuals, which consistently utilizes a definition of womanhood solely defined by cisgender men, an inherently misogynistic concept.
In this system, nobody wins. Transfeminine people will never be “woman enough.” Transmasculine people will never be “man enough.” Cisgender women will always be subject to the blame of being too feminine, or not feminine enough, too sexy, or not sexy enough – in a misogynistic society, women will never be enough. So what should we do? Uplift one another.
Allyship Between Cisgender Women and Transgender People
Transgender individuals, specifically trans women, have been historical monarchs of feminist movements. Similarly, the allyship of cisgender women to the transgender community has been historically crucial to trans liberation. This holds true today.
It is important going forward to look back on the historical allyship between cisgender women and transgender individuals. During women’s suffrage, during the Stonewall riots, during the AIDS epidemic, after the repealing of Roe v. Wade – throughout every major feminist and trans liberation event, allyship between cisgender women and their transgender peers has been crucial. Now more than ever there is every tool at our disposal to educate one another, organize, and be effective and informed allies. It is only through allyship – togetherness – that we can break down the barriers of misogyny, and thereby transphobia, to leave future generations with a bountiful, promising, and equitable future.