By David Futrelle
So-called “Gender Critical feminists” — aka. TERFs — are constantly coming up with new excuses to be mad at trans women. The most ingenious effort I’ve seen of late comes from a Gender Crit Redditor who has managed to convince herself that she’s being oppressed — and “erased” — by trans women getting breast implants.
“Top surgery erases women with small breasts,” Brrrontosaurus declares in a rant recently posted to the Gender Crit subreddit that so far has gotten well over 200 upvotes.
If you’re having trouble parsing that declaration — as I did at first —
Brrrontosaurus explains, sort of, what she meant:
[T]he idea that if you “identify as a woman” you need breasts in order for your body to align with that feeling implies that flat chested women are somehow less valid [as] women.
Well, not really, not any more than any cis woman getting breast implants or reconstructive surgery does. Are women — cis or trans — who grow their hair long “erasing” short-haired women? Are women who wear heels and makeup thereby declaring that women who wear neither are really men?
Somehow Brrrontosaurus never gets around to asking these sorts of questions, nor does she stop to wonder why it’s only trans women who get her “so pissed off” (as she puts it) for getting implants.
Female beauty standards are a large and complicated issue, but they weren’t created by trans women — and generally speaking it doesn’t seem terribly feminist to rage at women (cis or trans) for conforming in various ways to conventional ideas of femininity (or, in many cases, twisting them around into something empowering).
Gender critical women know this, of course, and will defend their own use of lipstick and other accoutrements of femininity — even if they often feel uneasy about it. But when it comes to trans women getting implants — or wearing lipstick, for that matter — they have no sympathy.
Trans women didn’t invent the idea that small breasts are somehow inferior or unfeminine; they’re subject to the same pressures to conform to beauty standards as cis women, thought for them the stakes are higher.
And of course the Gender Crits know this as well. The thread inspired by Brrrontosaurus is full of stories from small-breasted women describing how they were teased and bullied over their “mosquito bites” when they were teenagers.
“I was crying a lot when all of my friends in middle school were developing breasts,” reports someone called popttartopine.
I felt so disgusting and unlovable because I learned early that boys liked breasts and that you had to look a certain way to be a woman, it was horrible, I wanted to kill myself because I wasn’t like the other girls and students were talking about me and laughing, calling my breast”raisin” or “mosquito bites”.
Carmine-Warrior also had issues with bullies:
[W]hen I was growing up, I was consistently bullied by boys and girls about my small size. It started at 11 when the boys would walk up to me and ask, “Why is your chest as flat as your back??” I definitely had thoughts over the years about if augmentation would make my life easier even though I am accepting and satisfied now.
Terf_fret had a similar story:
I had no breast growth as a teen and it distressed me so much. I would literally dream of growing breasts. I spent so much effort trying to find the perfect padded bra that wouldn’t show through my clothes because I didn’t want to be harassed. Isn’t it crazy?? My distress came 100% from patriarchal messages.
None of those telling these stories report ever being bullied about their small breasts by trans women; the culprits are school bullies and the occasional rude lingerie saleswoman. But the Gender Crits take the rage they clearly and justifiably still feel about the bullying they endured (and the patriarchy itself) and direct it at trans women instead. And so the bullied become the bullies, attacking trans women regardless of whether they’re trying to live up to beauty standards or defying them.
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