Every year during International Women’s Day, we see hundreds (if not thousands!) of social media posts celebrating the contributions of women. These posts range from meaningfully and actively challenging systemic sexism in workplaces and societies to symbolic and ironic gestures from companies known to be dangerous or harmful for women.
All these posts can get to be a bit much, and luckily, there are tons of great articles about what IWD is actually about or how this corporatization of IWD isn’t actually helping anything, so I won’t get into that here.
What I want to talk about are just three ways that you can put a stop to transphobic microaggressions when you’re talking about or celebrating International Women’s Day.
Keep in mind that different folks who work in trans equity or trans inclusion might have different perspectives on these items, but these are just some microaggressions that I’ve recognized and seen over the course of just this year’s International Women’s Day.
1. It is not more inclusive to say “people who identify as women”.
Often, people think they should use the phrase “people who identify as women” because they think it’s more inclusive and captures people who may not have been born assigned female at birth. In actuality, it implies that some women are women, and some women simply identify as women. We know that this isn’t the case.
If you’re wanting to make sure that you’re explicitly recognizing that your definition of “woman” includes all those who identify as such, and not just those who mainstream (i.e. cisnormative) society deem as woman, try saying: “all women, including trans women”. But while this might be a more explicit way of recognizing trans women, you could also consider including, on your list of women to celebrate, trans women that you want to highlight as well.
Simply by including representation of trans women in your #IWD posts, you’re signalling to others that trans women, and the issues they face in the workforce, should be represented as part of IWD.
2. Non-binary people are not women, and should not be mentioned as an afterthought.
The history of IWD comes from the lack of pay equity and gender discrimination in employment in the early 1900s. This history allows us to consider the unique ways that women experience discrimination and barriers to workplace and labour equity.
While the continued call for inclusion of non-binary people in gender equity issues is important, it’s also important to recognize that non-binary people and the systemic barriers they face to employment, workplace safety and equity are fundamentally different than the issues that women face.
By lumping in non-binary people with women on IWD, there’s an implication here that non-binary people (usually non-binary people who are assigned female at birth) are actually women.
If you’re looking for a way to celebrate non-binary people’s contributions to your workplace or company, consider celebrating International Non-Binary People’s Day on July 14th.
3. Using symbols of vulvas, breasts, curves or other bio-essentialist symbols of womanhood in IWD imagery implies that the women we should be celebrating have only one type of body.
While it is definitely important to address labour issues impacting those who have vulvas and uteruses, such as access to menstrual products or menstrual leave, it is also important to stop seeing those issues as “women’s issues”. After all, there are many people who have vulvas and uteruses who aren’t women (like me!) and many women who don’t have vulvas or uteruses.
Similar to arguments against why pussy hats aren’t helpful during the Women’s March, using bio-essentialist depictions of womanhood as a way of symbolizing a shared experience of women leaves a lot of women (such as trans women, intersex women, or women who’ve had their uteruses removed) out.
Instead of using these types of symbols, try thinking about other symbols that don’t make assumptions about bodies, races, or shapes that all women come in.