“My History Has Taught Me That I Can’t Fully Rely Upon Other Women for Sisterhood”

'Any ambiguity or nonconformity, especially in relation to gender, conjures terror'

8.11.2019

'Any ambiguity or nonconformity, especially in relation to gender, conjures terror'

An exclusive excerpt from Canadian author, musician and artist Vivek Shraya's timely new book, 'I'm Afraid of Men'

And so, I’m also afraid of women. I’m afraid of women who’ve either emboldened or defended the men who have harmed me, or have watched in silence. I’m afraid of women who adopt masculine traits and then feel compelled to dominate or silence me at dinner parties. I’m afraid of women who see me as a predator and whose comfort I consequently put before my own by using male locker rooms. I’m afraid of women who have internalized their experiences of misogyny so deeply that they make me their punching bag. I’m afraid of the women who, like men, reject my pronouns and refuse to see my femininity, or who comment on or criticize my appearance, down to my chipped nail polish, to reiterate that I am not one of them. I’m afraid of women who, when I share my experiences of being trans, try to console me by announcing “welcome to being a woman,” refusing to recognize the ways in which our experiences fundamentally differ. But I’m especially afraid of women because my history has taught me that I can’t fully rely upon other women for sisterhood, or allyship, or protection from men.

As a girl, I’ve grown to appreciate my chest hair—a black flame rising from my bra—more than I ever did when I was boy who regularly waxed and trimmed to adhere to the ’90s standard. Unfortunately, any ambiguity or nonconformity, especially in relation to gender, conjures terror. This is precisely why men are afraid of me. Why women are afraid of me, too.

Read more: FLARE

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