So I (perhaps foolishly) volunteered to help run a women’s conference held at my community. I had a feeling that it might not jive with my ideas about gender (single-gender spaces kinda make me cringe in general), but I was willing to set that aside and try it out for this year to see if a) it was actually more inclusive than I originally thought or b) I could make it more radical from within.
At the first meeting, I mentioned that I was curious about the current policy surrounding who is welcome and folks on the committee seemed cool at first and kinda made fun of the old school womyn-born-womyn-type participants. The current wording says that “female-identified and/or woman-born” participants are welcome to attend, which is inclusive of trans women. Apparently, they tried a few years ago to change it to welcome all “non-male” identified participants, but when a masculine-presenting male-assigned-at-birth person (who did not identify as male) showed up, other participants felt uncomfortable/unsafe and it was a big issue. So the language went back to “female-identified and/or woman-born.”
While this is a better policy than other such gatherings (i.e. MichFest ugh), I had issue with the “woman-born” part because people are not born a certain gender. So, I suggested changing the wording to “woman-identified and/or female-assigned-at-birth” since FAAB is a more generally acceptable phrase in the trans community. My thought was that this change would update the conference, bringing it into more currently acceptable wording, but not necessarily altering the target audience. The flyer ended up saying “Open to all women: female-identified and/or female-assigned-at-birth” and I suggested that it would be better to take out the first part (to be more inclusive of genderqueer folks) and change “female-identified” to “woman-identified,” since it’s pretty obvious from the title of the conference that it’s primarily intended for women.
This started a whole discussion about what language to use and who our target audience really is. It also revealed that although folks on our committee are a bit more gender savvy than the old school participants, they were still not understanding some of what I was saying because they are not really a part of the trans/queer community. They were concerned that the “female-assigned-at-birth” language would alienate and/or confuse cisgender women and brought up the fact that attendance has gone down since being more accepting of trans folks (some participants even suggested that “trans people can come every other year”). So, the icky feelings that I was kinda feeling before (since the word “women” was being used in every sentence during our meetings) were further compounded with the fact that the organizers were apparently more interested in keeping attendance up (utilizing pretty ancient marketing techniques to reach out to the “old school” participants they are seeking to keep happy) than challenging people’s ideologies and welcoming the chance to discuss modern gender issues.
Soooo I’m quitting! My partner pointed out that the work we do here is like a vote for what we want/like/support. So, I would rather be doing something else with my time that’s more in line with my ideals than catering to second wave feminists blindly holding on to an archaic moon gathering.