TERFs accuse Chinese women runners of being men

One result of the recent rise in anti-trans campaigning has been the rash of cis women targeted and subjected to harassment as a result. Whether it’s because they’re gender non-conforming in style, or the viewer considers their natural physical features too masculine, these women have been chased out of public toilets and harassed in public for things such as having short hair or not dressing “feminine” enough.

While trans women are still the primary recipients of transmisogynistic harassment, and the focus needs to stay on them, many people have noted the irony of cis women who fail to meet feminine norms also being subjected to this kind of discrimination. Others claim that this is part of the purpose and that the end goal is enforcing traditional gender norms on cis women as well as forcing trans women back into the closet.

The most recent high-profile cis victims of this trend are the competitors from a race at the Chinese National Athletics Championship held in Shenyang, China. Twitter users are accusing several of the runners, including Tong Zenghuan and Liao Mengxue, of being men based on nothing but their physical appearances.

These are all cisgender women, from the 2019 National Athletics Championships held in Shenyang - but trans exclusionists...

Posted by Jessica R. Durling on Monday, September 2, 2019

The Chinese Athletics Association has since gone on record confirming that all the competitors are cis women.

However, despite this, TERFs and their allies are still claiming otherwise on Twitter, unwilling to accept that women who don’t fit their physical standards for womanhood actually exist.

Many of them are also hailing @MsHelenWatts as a persecuted heroine of the women’s movement as she has now set her account to private due to the amount of conflict her tweets have created.

If this all seems familiar to you, it’s because it’s happened before. Casta Semenya was subjected to an unbelievable amount of misogynoir and transphobic investigations after her win at the Olympics, and many feel it’s no surprise that the IAAF’s ruling applies specifically to the events she does best in despite their being the ones least impacted by higher testosterone levels. Successful cis women of color, especially Black women like Michelle Obama and Serena Williams, have also regularly been accused of being men in disguise. There’s a long history of attempting to dehumanize women of color, particularly Black women, by attacking their femininity, calling them manly and aggressive, and deriding them for failing to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards. According to white supremacy, women of color are not real women and don’t deserve to be treated as such. The clearly racist angle of the attacks on the Chinese runners form a clear part of that pattern.

Fortunately, a lot of Twitter users are also aware of this and calling it out.

But this still isn’t enough to combat the problem. Women, cis or trans, don’t deserve to have their gender up for public debate and we must stop holding up white femininity as the standard of womanhood. While the runners in question are all cis women, it ultimately shouldn’t matter, and no one should have their body or gender identity publicly dissected like that.

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Siobhan Ball

Siobhan Ball

Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org