Roseanne Barr, the well-known comedian and actress from the popular 90’s show Roseanne is presently running for President of the United States at the head of the
Peace and Justice Peace and Freedom Party. Roseanne originally ran for the nomination as a member of the Green Party, but eventually lost to the present candidate, Jill Stein.
Late last night, Roseanne wrote a few tweets challenging her former opponent for the Green Party nomination on several issues. One of the issues that came up was Jill Stein’s stance in favor of trans rights (which she discusses a bit in an interview here), which was challenged in a tweet by one @ATagonist (who’s twitter account has since been suspended). She tweeted:
Jill is also in favor of letting men [sic.] into spaces where young girls get changed
followed by a link to a recent local news story out of Olympia, Washington about a trans woman who, like any woman, was using the women’s locker room to change at a local swim facility. Two girls from a high school swim team who also use the pool complained about sharing the facilities with a trans woman, with the result that the swim team has now been asked to use a separate locker room.
A couple of points need to be made about this story right from the start. First of all, this is not a story about sexual harassment or body parts being exposed. No such accusation has even been made in the story. So those who are creating such accusations out of thin air are simply being dishonest in hopes of pushing their agenda. A couple of girls from the swim team were apparently uncomfortable sharing the locker room with a trans woman. Well, now they are using separate facilities. I suppose they are within their rights to use separate facilities if they wish, but then again I suspect that if they had just let it go then these girls and the woman in question would have hardly noticed each other after sharing the facilities once or twice.
Secondly, one of the girls from the swim team has herself commented on the article under McCassidy123, specifically stating she had no problem sharing the locker room with the trans woman. This comment seems pretty key to the conversation, yet nevertheless gets completely ignored by those who are trying to project that someone being “uncomfortable” about sharing the locker room with a trans woman is just some obvious reaction anyone would have. Well, no it’s not.
Now, let’s go ahead and deal with this issue in a calm, rational manner. Here’s a very simple rule about the locker room that pretty much addresses all of these questions: Any woman, whatsoever, cis or trans, who goes into the locker room with the intention of exposing her genitals to young women should absolutely be kicked out of the locker room.
But that isn’t what happened. By all accounts, even by the two girls who didn’t want to be in the locker room with her, she just used the facilities like anyone else and then went on about her business. So you cannot accuse her of doing things that even people who were actually there never accused her.
Well, here is how Roseanne Barr chose to respond to to @ATagonist’s anti-trans woman tweets:
Here Roseanne clearly insinuates, based on no evidence whatsoever, that pre-op or non-op trans women in general (and one can only assume, in this particular instance) use the washroom to wave their genitalia in another woman’s face. It must be pointed out that this is an absolutely bizarre statement. I mean, it’s not just that there is no evidence of the trans woman in question behaving in such a manner, I don’t understand how Roseanne comes to the conclusion that this is what trans women do in the bathroom (or locker rooms, or wherever) in general. How did she come up with this? I’m a trans woman, when I use the washroom I go into the stall and pee like any other woman would do, and then I leave. And I’ve never had any problem, and as far as I can tell, no other woman has ever had a problem with that either.
So when a trans woman goes to the washroom, does Roseanne actually assume she is there to wave her genitalia around? If so, based on what evidence? And does Roseanne expect she should know another woman’s genital configuration before that woman goes to the same bathroom? Cause I gotta say, that’s kinda weird. And frankly, I’m not sure I would be comfortable sharing the same washroom with Roseanne Barr under those circumstances.
Unfortunately, from this point it only gets worse. There was already a lot of back and forth before I joined the conversation on twitter, several hours after the issue started blowing up. I won’t attempt to report on all of it (for one thing, Roseanne has apparently deleted some of her more egregious tweets), but I will mention a few highlights and a bit about my own conversation with her.
One of the confused points she has kept trying to make is that she is not actually accusing the trans woman from Olympia of doing anything sexually inappropriate. Yet nevertheless she feels the need to tweet the following (which has apparently since been deleted):
Who is this asshole predator she is talking about? Who, in particular, is she accusing of being a predator?
(And while we are at it, “straight” is not the opposite of “transgender” since gender and sexuality are two different issues; on the contrary “cisgender” means non-transgender).
Well, we have our clear answer in this block of tweets, which were quite early in the exchange (around 11 pm, Oct. 25):
Those statements are not at all ambiguous: Roseanne Barr is calling a specific trans woman a sexual predator based on no evidence whatsoever. (In fact, I’m tempted to question if these statements crossed some line with respect to legality?)
Nevertheless, I had the following rather odd exchange with her (Oct. 26, 8:19 pm):
Now I have to say, Roseanne Barr must either be a bit confused or else simply incredibly non-self aware to be able to tweet accusations that a certain individual is a sexual predator and then be able to take offense at having that fact being pointed out to her less than twenty-four hours later.
The real kicker however would have to be this one:
That’s right everybody, Roseanne Barr apparently thinks that supporting trans women’s right to go to the bathroom like any other woman is on par with supporting the disgusting pedophile organization NAMBLA. There’s really not even much to say after that little nugget of pure hate.
I will close this bit of the piece by jumping back to an earlier point in the conversation that I think really exposes the dark corners of this woman’s heart, even more so than the NAMBLA thing. I will address Ms. Barr directly in response to this all-too-honest tweet from Oct. 25, 10:40 pm:
Ms. Barr, let me tell you right now that as a woman, the only bathroom in which I could ever be safe would be the same bathroom used by every other woman. And you have no right to dictate what being “forced” means to me, and it’s pretty ridiculous (not to mention incredibly narcissistic) that you would attempt to speak for me or my needs in this comment.
But what you’ve really done here is something far more cynical than that. Here, I very much like this response to your tweet:
Indeed, at this point, let’s take a moment to review that comment that one of the girls from the swim team actually said for herself in defense of the trans woman in Olympia:
I am a captain of the swim team at Capital High School (one of the swim teams that practices at the college) I personally do not have any issue with the woman being in our locker room so to generalize that the “girls are uncomfortable” is not true. I feel this woman has just as much of a right to be there than anyone else and am annoyed how out of control this has gotten.
Ms. Barr, attempting to speak in my place and suggesting that it is inevitable that I should be hated is one thing, but to actually take your own hate and attempt to place it over the voice of this young woman who can speak for herself just fine and who is in fact a much better person than yourself is absolutely fucking disgusting.
Now that having been said, I would like to close this piece by making a major call-out on some people on twitter who seem to believe that they are my allies but in fact are not. Because there have been a number of people whose responses to Roseanne’s hateful ignorance have actually been almost as hateful and misogynistic as Roseanne herself, and it has made my fucking stomach churn throughout this ordeal to read that garbage. I include a few representative samples below (there’s more of this garbage).
Some awesome trans women additionally responded and called this Max guy out on his misogyny (response to the second tweet, following my own response):
(BTW- everyone feel free to go let Max know what you think of his misogyny yourself right now!)
But there was more of this kind of shit from JuJu:
And some other jackass:
And there was at least one trans woman I saw who went along with this crap for some reason:
[Edit: After the fact, I was shown the full context of the conversation between RB and the trans woman originally mentioned here. In that case, it was clear that RB threw out trans-misogynistic insults directed at the trans woman first, before that woman then responded with some problematic comments of her own. Given that RB apparently threw out misogynistic insults first, I felt it was unfair to include this trans woman's comment in this section. Hence an image that appeared in an earlier version of this article has now been deleted.]
Here’s the thing: I’m a woman. You can’t engage in anti-woman rhetoric as any kind of “ally” to me, because anti-woman language is an attack on me in the first place. Note that the status of genitalia makes no difference in this. For example, if someone goes around talking about trans women “mutilating their genitals” that causes social harm to me as a trans woman whether I have the surgery myself or not. Likewise, if someone engages in misogynistic rhetoric against a cis woman, that dehumanizes the class of people known as women, of which I am a member. So anyone who engages in this misogynistic language (or even excuses it) in my name, I can only say this: fuck you, get the fuck out of my movement. (Edit: I’d also just like to note that I’m not the first trans woman to call out this misogynistic crap.)
While we are at it, there is a childish phrase that is continually being used against anti-trans radical feminists, which also needs to be called out.
Apparently Roseanne is friends with Obviously Roseanne retweeted several of these women, including the notorious anti-trans woman hater Cathy Brennan. Regardless, it is time to end this inane phrase “radscum” that many trans women have been using to describe these women’s hateful ideology. Yes, their ideology is hateful and patriarchal; no, that doesn’t give us permission to stoop to their level of calling names.
Trans-feminists should defeat these hateful ideologies in the realm of ideas, not in the realm of childish put-downs.
Finally, let’s bring this home by recalling who really is the most vulnerable, on average, when it comes to this bathroom debate. The fact is that numerous trans people, particularly trans women of color, have experienced brutal violence in bathroom settings.
Personally, I find Roseanne’s suggestion to solve this problem (enforced gender segregation for trans people) to be the absolute worst approach. Not only does it serve to socially stigmatize trans people (particularly trans women), but it would probably ultimately make violence worse by shining a greater spotlight on trans people’s bodies and trans people’s lives. What if a trans woman felt unsafe revealing her trans status in a given situation? Walking into the “special” bathroom would pretty much do this instantly. But then, what if she goes into the women’s bathroom to avoid this, and then she risks being put in a situation where the fact that she “broke” this idiotic rule could potentially be used as a new excuse for violence.
You know, I lived in Europe for a while, and there I noticed that many institutions took the approach exactly opposite of that proposed by Roseanne. Oftentimes I found that even multi-stall washrooms were gender neutral. Now, to be clear, that usually involves building the stall a little differently, so that it is more like a small, separate room, but I found most people, women and men, were very comfortable with this (and I think it afforded greater privacy in the individual stalls). Indeed, I don’t claim to have all the statistics on hand, but I’m fairly sure that gendered violence is less common in Europe than the U.S. (anyone who is familiar with the relevant stats, please feel free to bring this into the comments section!).
In fact, there are times that I suspect that gender-segregated bathrooms ends up subtly serving to promote violence, as it seems to promote a sort of ‘predator and prey’ model of gender and sexuality. I mean, if men and women are separated on the basis of “preventing violence,” are we not subtly suggesting to men that they can’t help themselves? Doesn’t that implicitly justify violence, if the woman fails to adequately “protect” herself in some given situation. I mean, think about it: in cultures where there is generally greater segregation between women and men, is gendered violence really less common? I don’t think that’s the case, and I think it would be better to just teach men they can control themselves, and they’d better learn to do it from day one.
Finally, let’s review a case of actual violence in the washroom. Here’s a hint, as is usually the case, the trans woman was the victim, not the perpetrator:
To read more about how false “predator” accusations are used to justify violence against trans women, read here.