Over the past couple of days I have been half-following the #sharedgirlhood hashtag on twitter and the surrounding controversy over cissexism and exclusion. I don’t wish to comment on that directly, not least because it feels like being asked to choose which women have the most authentic lived experience (and all women get quite enough of these arbitrary judgments already).*

One thing that has interested me, however, has been seeing the suggestion that the idea of “shared experience” has no value anyhow. I’ve seen several feminists suggest that because women’s experiences are so disparate and dependent on other inequalities, the idea of a shared experience (whether or not we call it shared girlhood) is at best pointless, at worst a sop for the privileged. I don’t think this has to be true. If women’s oppression is not understood collectively – if sex discrimination is regarded as something that has no internal coherence in and of itself – how can feminism have meaning as a project for women’s liberation?

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I’m writing this in response to some discussions I’ve observed on Twitter between cis and trans women, most of them feminists. I want to write honestly about my own feelings because there is some disjuncture between what I feel and what I actually want to feel. This is an odd post to write because I’m terrified of upsetting people who’ve experienced far greater difficulties than me, plus it’s hardly as though the world is crying out for my personal views on cis and trans identities. On top of that, I don’t want it to be felt that I’m having a moan or comparing forms of discrimination. All the same, I feel like a fraud if I’m sitting there tweeting “fuck off Julie Burchill” and not being totally honest about the gaps in my understanding. In some ways I feel it’s even more cissexist to work on the assumption that a substitute for understanding is silence; I can’t help feeling that buried within this is an even greater assumption of cis superiority.  (more…)

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