…Actually, I said that too gently (wow, never happens, right?) — I feel downright unsafe in all-female spaces, ALL OF THEM.
I feel unsafe in all-female spaces for two reasons, which I'm gonna be super, SUPER clear about right here, up front, so there can be no mis-readings because after this I'm about to swear a lot:
REASON ONE: Because being put into all-female spaces is IDENTIFYING AND SEPARATING ME BY MY SEX, which is about as close as you can get to the definition of sexual discrimination. If you think this is in any way an academic or unimportant point, please do keep reading, because I'm gonna fix that and how.
REASON TWO: Because men, as men, i.e. people with penises, are not dangerous to me. SEXISM IS. Yes, I have suffered sexual violence from some men, men who were trained by the sexist elements of our society to be violent to me. I've also been saved, supported, befriended, helped and raised by some awesome, non-sexist men…and I've ALSO been separated from those men and their support, kept from having deep relationships with them, and refused entry into "their" spaces because of my gender; and instead put into spaces with people who, while they may have also been women, were just plain awful to me.
And since sexist women are usually in favor of segregation (duh), segregated spaces are full of them; so when you segregate girls and women ('for their safety'), you often stick us with precisely the people most likely to abuse us with their sexism, which includes drilling it into us as children that women are lesser creatures than men. I learned that lesson as a child very thoroughly, and almost entirely from women. Women I didn't want to be hanging around with anyway.
This isn't an accident. This is part of how the system perpetuates itself.
Now that I'm an adult, I've quit sports I love that have segregated games. I've turned down every single invite to a girls-only party I've ever gotten. And — I can't help this — I basically forever-distrust anyone who tries to push me into female-only spaces. Because those people are explicitly being sexist.
Even if they think they're making me "safer" or trying to be kind, what they're doing is segregating me based on my (perceived) sex / gender.
It's certianly not that I've never felt the lash of sexism — I mean please, I was raised Catholic and blue-collar; sexism is everywhere in my life, and feminism for me definitely comes from having fought (or still fighting) my way free of some seriously horrendous sexist bullshit.
But here's the thing: As a feminist and oft-victim-of-the-patriarchy, it's not men I need protecting from. It's sexists. And if you think that women aren't sexist, or aren't as sexist, then holy shit are you not paying attention.
…And not only that, but if you think that female-only spaces are in any way an answer to sexism, then you badly misunderstand what sexism is, and need to get your ass back to school about it, pronto. Sexism is discriminating based on sex, and a key ingredient of discrimination is separating (segregating) people. Right? Forcing people to identify as one or the other, publicly; and then dictating what they can and can't do based on their identified sexual category: That's sexism in a nutshell.
If that's difficult for you, think about racism, which is neatly analogous: Racism is discriminating based on race, and one of its key tools is identifying your race ("are you white or black", paper-bag tests, etc) and then separating people by race, which we now know is icky and horrible and stupid and wrong. Could we have been racist without also segregating? Without black schools, black neighborhoods, white-only events and signs for water-fountains? It's an interesting question, but it's 100% clear and obvious that the segregation was / is a big, necessary part of the whole racist system. And the sexist one.
But we still do it; we still demand to know someone's sex/gender and control what they can and can't do, where they can go, what teams they can be on, based on it. Still. CAVALIERLY, AS THOUGH IT'S OKAY. And I write shit like this when I should be getting ready for work, because for some fucking reason I am still not only getting invites to "girls-only" things, but people look at me funny when I don't want to go, and that's not okay. IT IS NOT OKAY.
Regarding invites to girls-only / femme-only events: I usually answer those invites by reminding people that I have trans/queer friends who, you know, might not want to identify their fucking genitals at the door, and might feel REALLY UNWELCOME at your party / whatever if it's for "women only". (That's not "the point", but it's a useful edge case for making the beginning of the point.)
In answer, people almost always try to explain why they're "not discriminating" (yes you are) and why my friends who don't like disclosing their gender (but that *includes me*, not because I'm trans but for other reasons that have a lot to do with abuse suffered through sexism) SHOULD feel welcome. Because of course they would BE welcome, because they're my friend! …Oh good, so friends of mine get to "pass", do they?
LISTEN TO YOURSELF.
What if I brought a friend who looked 100% male and acted masc? Would you ask what's in their pants? What if I / we shut that shit down and refused to answer questions about their gender? You might "allow" them in (oooh look at you, guardian of the pants, being all benevolent), but then everybody there would stare and be uncomfortable, because this was *supposed* to be a coloreds-only — oh, sorry, women-only — event.
Also, THAT "SHOULD", oh my GOD: You're going to hold a segregated event, but if someone doesn't want to show / talk about / buy admission with your sex, then that's THEIR FAULT? Becuase they "should" feel welcome, even though you're explicitly unwelcoming them?? Fuck you to infinity.
So I guess let me put that last sentence another way, because I can't stop feeling like I can't repeat it enough: WHEN I AM BEING ASKED (or gods forbid, required, as does still happen) TO SEPARATE MYSELF INTO A SUBGROUP BECAUSE OF MY SEX, and to participate in different activities with different people because of what's in my pants, then that is NOT OK. It is explicitly the opposite of "moving towards equality". It is backwards, cruel, blind, stupid and not. ever. okay.
Further, this is not some academic, semantic point, where "technically it's segregation, but come on, it's just a hockey game / tea party / book club / whatever, it's not like you're being abused" — um, hell yes I am. Do you know where the majority of my experiences of sexism causing me direct pain come from? From roomsful of women.
– Women telling me that I wasn't good enough because my performance of femininity wasn't up to par.
– Women telling me that I could or couldn't, should or shouldn't pursue various hobbies, interests and goals because of my sex.
– Women insisting that I participate in things I didn't want to do, wear clothes that made me super uncomfortable with my body, interact sexually with other people in ways I didn't want to, and keep my mouth shut about things because it wasn't my place.
ETC, from when I was tiny right up until shit, yesterday actually.
So here's some equality for ya: Sexism isn't confined to people with dicks. Women can be INCREDIBLY sexist, especially when they were raised to be. Separating child-me from my supportive father and male friends and forcing me to do "girl things" with women who shamed me was not safety. And putting me in situations where I'm forced to be around people I did not choose, with whom I do not feel comfortable, doing things I do not want to do, because you demanded to know what's in my pants and then made me go with the other people with vaginas…
Yes, it is a true fact that most sexual abusers are men — but we don't need to protect women from men. We need to protect them from abuse, and we do that by educating people likely to abuse women (i.e. men) on how and why not to do it, and how and why to keep an eye on each other and do something about signs of it. We do that by making sure the punishments for sexual abuse and violence are stiff, serious, and oh yeah, actually applied, pretty much unlike every story you've read this year about a college-age rapist.
One more time for the people in the back: You "protect women" by making their society less forgiving of violence against women. NOT BY FUCKING SEGREGATING THEM.
Oh my god, if we put black kids in their own school or on their own sports teams today "for their own good," because "most violence against blacks is caused by whites"? FFFFFFFFFFFFFF.
But the same thing gets done to me. FREQUENTLY.
SEGREGATION IS NOT OKAY.