Margaret Atwood has over 2 million Twitter followers, which means more than 2 million people may have come across a transphobic article that the author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” recently shared.
“Why can’t we say ‘woman’ anymore? The title of the article reads, and serves as the text of Atwood’s tweet.
“‘Woman’ is in danger of becoming a dirty word… taken out of the lexicon of administration, eradicated from medical vocabulary and struck out of conversation,” Rosie DiManno wrote in a guest column for the Toronto Star on October 15. DiManno postulates that an attempt at inclusiveness – meaning “menstruating person” instead of “menstruating woman” to honor transgender men and non-binary people – actually erases the women of the conversation.
Atwood’s apparent approval of the article sent shockwaves through the trans community, at a time when they are still reeling from the fallout from Dave Chappelle’s transphobic Netflix special that led to a staff walkout. October 20. USA TODAY has reached out to the Atwood publicist for comment.
Advocates for the trans community say Atwood’s choice to share this room is just one of many that threaten the group’s livelihoods – serving as a dog whistle for anti-trans legislation and sentiment.
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“Atwood’s recent tweet is disappointing but not surprising,” says Lydia XZ Brown, a justice advocate for people with disabilities. “Occasional trans-antagonism – anti-trans oppression – is prevalent in society, as is occasional ableism and racism. Unfortunately, many people coming from privileged perspectives mistakenly believe that any perceived increase in visibility or attention for marginalized communities is an attack on them. , which is the sentiment echoed in the article shared by Atwood. “
Erin Roseau, an activist from Washington, DC, was previously a fan of Atwood, a “notorious feminist” who spoke out against radical trans-exclusionary feminism (TERF) online.
“Seeing her share this particular article, which a lot of people in the trans community think of as a dog whistle, definitely got me thinking,” Reed said. “It upset me. It didn’t seem like she would be the type of person to share something like that.”
Florence ashley, a lawyer and bioethicist in Toronto, is wary of the large Atwood platform. “It’s hard enough to get people to understand how trans rights don’t take away the rights of cisgender women without people sharing poorly researched and argued columns,” Ashley said.
Now concerns remain as to whether Atwood might follow the path of other famous writers who express a suspicion of transphobia. (Atwood has double on her writer’s defense, who has raised eyebrows written about the community in the past.) Think about JK Rowling and his transphobia.
“It tends to happen a lot, when we see a famous person hinting that they may have consumed anti-trans content online, and then immediately after the backlash, drumming a lot more,” Reed said.
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Such a reaction could mean violence in real life, as research shows.
“It’s not far, in terms of reflection, from ‘women mean all people born with a vagina’ to the defense against trans panic, an attempt to justify or excuse violence against trans women under the guise of that they were trying to ‘trick’ straight cisgender men into having sex with them, “Ashley says.” When you put up with an ideology, you make the consequences of that ideology much more likely to happen. “
What will happen now, exactly? Atwood lit the proverbial match. The flames have flown – and still fly – high.
“The rage was caused in the cis people who read it and say, ‘Oh yeah, you’re right, they’re abolishing women, the word women is no longer allowed,'” Reed said.
“And that’s just something we now have to face as trans people.”
This time after Chappelle has come Atwood, and someone will inevitably pick up the torch soon.
“It’s a cycle that keeps happening, and Atwood is just the last of that cycle,” Reed said.
Still, Atwood has time to put out the fire she started.
She could rectify some of the damage by engaging with transmasculine and non-binary people who are directly affected on topics such as reproductive rights. And an apology wouldn’t hurt.
“Just admitting that she did a little wrong and apologizing for it would at least help and I think, again, the damage is sort of already done,” Reed said. “But showing the rest of the community that she’s not going to overtake, showing the rest of the community that they heard us and that they’re sorry, that would at least help.”
Make room for other writers, argues Brown.
“I would love to see writers in more powerful and privileged positions like Atwood share and cede the stage to marginalized writers,” Brown said. “Apologies mean nothing if those with privileges are unwilling to sacrifice and share resources.”
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