Feminism, Trans-Misogyny, and the Echo Chamber
The “echo chamber effect” is a process by which trans-misogynist “feminists” perpetuate misinformation about trans women. Like-minded trans-misogynist “feminists” then repeat this misinformation, which is then spread to more self-identified “feminists.” This misinformation is further exaggerated and distorted as it saturates the feminist community until most feminists simply assume the information is true.
The echo chamber is reinforced by the exclusion of trans women from feminist communities. Given the lack of trans women’s presence within feminist communities, cis feminists are free to reproduce falsehoods and stereotypes that would otherwise be challenged by actual interactions with trans women. When no one in the community is a trans woman, it is hard to refute what everyone who is not a trans woman has come to take for granted. Within the echo chamber, false beliefs about trans woman become the community consensus.
Even those who don’t fully agree with the most extreme lies about trans women will tend to accept more moderate versions of misinformation, leading to a position of saying they “sympathize with where others are coming from” because they still believe some version of the lie. Communities members don’t have to agree 100% in order to uphold the overall community consensus. Just believing that there is some truth, however small, to the lies helps them justify their complicity in the supporting the echo chamber.
The community consensus also leads to pseudo-allies. These are people who claim to be “allies” to trans women, but won’t do anything that might offend the prejudices of members of the community. These are the people who end up trying to play “both sides.” They may agree with some version of the lie, but even if they don’t, they still go along with it. This is because they’re more concerned about what the trans-misogynist members within the echo chamber think than with actually being authentic allies to trans women. They will often attempt to play “peacemakers” by acting as an apologist for the echo chamber at the expense of trans women.
The self-contained processes of the echo chamber itself allows challenges to be neutralized by becoming self-referential. Rather than talk about the real issues and facts that will challenge the circulating misinformation, doubt can be placed on those facts by referring to the existing “controversy” or “debate” that gives preferential treatment to the misinformation of the echo chamber. Each time the “controversy” is referenced to it allows misinformation to be perpetuated. The “debate” becomes a self-sustaining process that supports the echo chamber effect.
For instance, debating the womanhood or even the existence of trans women ensures that the womanhood and existence of trans women is always seen as debatable. As long as trans women are seen as a subject of debate they’ll be viewed with skepticism. And this supports the echo chamber that has setup the cis people within it as the true authorities on trans women.
So how do we break the echo chamber’s negative feedback loop?
Dismantling the trans-misogynist echo chamber is not going to be easy, but it is something that must be done. Pressure, both from within and outside, needs to be put on feminist communities to take affirmative steps to support trans women and their voices. To support trans women, people in feminist communities can:
- Recognize that trans women are the ultimate authorities on their own lives and experiences of oppression.
- Actively seek out the input, feedback and criticism of trans women.
- Question and think critically about all information about trans women that doesn’t come from trans women themselves.
- Interrogate and challenge the trans-misogynist consensus.
- Stop being complicit with trans misogyny.
- Take action whenever and wherever you encounter trans-misogyny.
- Establish a process of being accountable to trans women and the oppression they experience.
- Evaluate and address how feminist communities are structured around cissexism and the marginalization of trans women.
- Check one’s cis privilege.
- Make sure the voices and leadership of trans women are respected.
- Recognize that trans women are a diverse group and experience a variety of privileges and oppressions.
- Follow the lead of trans women on all things concerning trans women.
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Hopefully more people will add their own ideas to this list.
On a final note, while the above list relies heavily on the authority of trans women’s self-knowledge, self-awareness and lived experience, I want to warn against the tendency of trans-misogynists to treat some trans women as tokens who can be exploited by the echo chamber. One of the things the trans-misogynist echo chamber is notorious for is cherry picking the words of individual trans women and then twisting their words to support the lie and stereotypes that are then applied to all trans women as a group.
So it’s important to recognize that some trans women have internalized cissexism and have yet not unlearned the lies that they’re inferior cis women. The echo chamber will persist if feminist communities continue to exploit the internalized oppression of some trans women or twist the words of others in order attack trans women as a whole. Regardless, it is not the place of those who aren’t trans women to tell trans women which trans women represents them or have their interests in mind. That is something for trans women to determine for themselves.