I don’t agree with this writer’s somewhat socially leftie leanings in terms of concerns about female representation in the arts (though I think he’s more libertarian), and so on, but he raises some interesting and valid points about what hardcore leftist progs are doing there.
The inclusion of trans* writers suggests that a theater company can fulfill its commitment to gender parity without actually producing any plays written by people born as women. And in a more fundamental way it reduces the meaning of the word woman to whatever a man thinks it means since at any point a man can decide he is a woman and expect to be considered one.
the experiences and identities of the trans* community cannot be conflated with the experiences and identity of women in general. Pretending these experiences are one and the same may be inclusive and progressive, but it is also dishonest
Proponents of including trans* writers in this list argue that their stories are a part of this broad experience of women. But this begs a question, why not simply include these trans* writers as women, with no “and/ors” about it? Why list them separately?
The reason for changing “women” to “female and/or trans*” is purely political, it literally serves no practical purpose. This is clear because as theater companies peruse the list looking for plays by women, they will have no idea which of the playwrights are trans*. There is an optional box for writers to fill in what groups they identify with (with responses such as lgbtq, latino, human and many more), but in today’s world identifying with a group is not the same as identifying as a member of that group. What the addition of “female and/or trans*” to the title does is significantly broaden the mission of the list. No longer simply a call for more plays by women, it becomes a demand that theater companies and society as a whole accept these trans* writers as women in exactly the same way as any other woman.
the We Exist list of playwrights goes a significant step further. It does not simply demand that a trans* writer be identified as female (as Manning often is), it demands that women (and all of us) include trans* people who do not even identify as female as women.
This is a confusing but important point. The use of and/or in “female and/or trans* playwrights” requires a bit of unpacking. It suggest that a woman can be female and trans*, (as in “I consider myself to be female”) as well as simply trans*, with no claim to female identity. In fact it states that being a woman need not have anything to do with being female. But if this is true, do we really need more plays by women? If any man who says he feels like a woman must be considered a woman then why can’t a man write women characters or stories about women just as authentically as a woman can? If gender has no basis in biology then why should we expect women to have any special insight into their own gender or its stories?
The implications of this new way of defining women are vast. And not just for the entertainment industry. The nation’s storytellers and the progressive academics from whom they receive their terminology (which by the way changes about once every ten minutes) have enormous influence. While most Americans don’t have to deal with these questions right now, that will change when their kid gets to college and is politely informed that they are not a man or a woman, but rather cisgendered, if they go to Oberlin they might even get this handy flyer from the school outlining their cisgender privilges. Before very long television and film will reflect the notion that biology is divorced from gender.
In asking producers to do more work by “female and/or trans*” writers we are also asking them to eschew work by women that embraces a more traditional understanding of gender. This is a common tactic in the cultural ground game, and one that conservatives tend to be slow to react to.