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Solidarity Building with Laverne Cox: A Meta Response to Jen Sung, David Ng, and Meghan Murphy


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laverne-cox-nude

Just because I am part of a collective of bodies doesn’t mean I get to speak for, reason, argue – on behalf of that collective. Complexities make interesting narratives that shape our world. We are enriched by the stories of others whose differences teach us to be more open. I will always have limitations to what I know because I trust in the fundamental truth that I only know what I know, and don’t know what I don’t know. Until then, I learn to listen – and listen to learn.

-Jen Sung

I can’t help but recall a moment I saw on The Tyra Banks show. She did a show on how racial perceptions effected attraction.  There was one moment when she asked all the men on stage to stand beside the woman they fantasized about sexually. There were women of multiple races onstage. No one stood beside the black woman.  She then asked who would you want to marry and take home to your family. Only another black man chose the black woman.  Though I’ve experienced a lot of men who fantasize about me sexually there was something about this moment that felt real to me that I somehow identified with. I was kind of shocked that no one chose the black woman on one level but on another I wasn’t. Even as men have sexually objectified me they have simultaneously devalued me. We know these two things can co-exist.

-Laverne Cox

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The Beautiful thing I find about building solidarity is that I can become one without becoming the other. That is to say, I can embody the experiences that Laverne Cox faces, but I will never be Laverne Cox. I will never know what it feels like to face oppression for being trans*, for being black in midst of contemporary racism rooted in slavery, lynching, and dehumanization, and I will never know what it feels like to experience misogyny. For these reasons, I acknowledge the privilege I have in commenting about the issues of oppression Cox faces in Meghan Murphy’s article without having to face the repercussions transgender black women face.

Yet how, do we facilitate dialogue and change about patriarchy and the objectification of women that Murphy talks about in her article? (http://feministcurrent.com/11632/laverne-coxs-objectified-body-empowers-no-one/)

How do we form solidarity with fellow feminist perspectives that share similar oppression in this heap of stress? Do we completely locate oppression and critique it, or are there subtle differences? Is there perhaps a different lens of feminism that can be taken where contradictions, but ultimately, compassion and solidarity take place? Is there even a place where femininity is reclaimed and shown as self-empowering? Do we find understanding and compassion for the anger that some feminists share?

Reiterating Jen Sung’s eloquent writing, we can only observe and listen in some instances. Because when I see Laverne Cox posing naked, I see her in a liberated space, I see not just a woman, I hear a black woman who has fought her way to have autonomy of her body in a time and place that has literally killed trans women of colour. She embodies femininity, and that is what she is rejoicing, not patriarchal structures or the male gaze.

Paradoxically, I must remember that I cannot speak for others; I can only represent myself, and my inadvertent opinion regarding Laverne Cox’s nude photo-shoot.

Because being a biracial gay man and my difficulties experienced through homophobia build bridges to the same fundamental gender-based discrimination women and trans* people face, of course, in nuanced ways, and that is why I listen in solidarity.

I want to continue to disprove myself, and continue to raise questions. Questions, with good intention I believe are essential. For as we transition in our evolving social settings, I think there is potential for misunderstanding regarding feminism. I can indeed call out social injustices, but when I read Meghan Murphy’s article, “Laverne Cox’s Objectified Body ‘Empowers’ No One”, I felt this erasure of the experiences of trans women of colour. Who is to say that it empowers “no one”?

I question because of intersectionality, I question, because when a transgender woman of colour can pose naked in front of a camera and “subvert” oppression, I believe Cox is doing so.

As I respond to Jen’s article, in response to David’s articulation of Meghan Murphy’s initial critique of Laverne Cox’s nude photo-shoot, voices are shown, and voices are heard. I see a place where discussion is happening, and although disagreement can take place, I think it is beautiful how narratives can transcend our beliefs. When ultimately, we start dialogue to keep the fire fuelling the ever-evolving need for feminism, tolerance, respect, and love that Jen Sung, David Ng, and Meghan Murphy each approach in nuanced ways.

-Andy Holmes

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One Comment

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