Team Lindsay or Team Natalie
February 22, 2021 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Tracing the Roots of Pop Culture Transphobia: Lindsay Ellis responds to ContraPoints' video on J.K. Rowling (previously). Also features voice cameos by HBomberGuy and Jenny Nicholson. posted by lock robster (29 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
Jenny Nicholson's impression of JK Rowling... Fantastic...

And I can't choose a team....

TEAM TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS!
posted by Pendragon at 3:06 PM on February 22 [6 favorites]


I want them both to win. Can I just buy a pin for each one? Then they can both win, right? Come on, guys, We Can Do This!
posted by which_chick at 3:07 PM on February 22 [5 favorites]


I already bought two pins!
posted by Pendragon at 3:09 PM on February 22


Oh, and the video of Lindsay is informative... but very disturbing at points.
posted by Pendragon at 3:16 PM on February 22


Yeah, Lindsay's video lingered a little too long on the awfulness IMHO. She did it to make a point, but I just wanted to leave the room.

(I'm still on Team Both, though.)
posted by Foosnark at 3:28 PM on February 22


It's really interesting and great how Lindsay Ellis is using her platform nowadays. She's come a long way from those old Nostalgia Chick videos. And as much as I'd like to see her continue her Transformers/Film Theory series, these hot-take deep-dives are a lot of fun too. It's like a rigorous academic perspective on our various culture war battlefronts.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:21 PM on February 22 [10 favorites]


She's come a long way from those old Nostalgia Chick videos

And yet, this episode is Loose Canon:: Transphobia. If it ain't broke...
posted by eustatic at 8:23 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


Okay, at some point the example of Orange is the New Black as one of the only examples of a trans person playing a trans character. On that note, Pose is so so so so so good! Trans characters, trans actors, really great.

I agree that it goes on and on with the negative stuff. While not including some of the really early movies. Laverne Cox's and others' documentary on the topic of trans representation is also amazing if you haven't seen it.

(okay, just finished it, and Pose is mentioned at the end, but seriously, Pose is great).
posted by lab.beetle at 9:23 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


Doesn't Sense8 deserve a mention in that category, or am I remembering it incorrectly?
posted by hank_14 at 6:07 AM on February 23 [3 favorites]


What if Disclosure but instead of a diverse range of trans voices there was one cis woman being witty over our pain for clicks?

(At one point she uses the phrase "not a real tran", which I guess is OK because she's friends with Contra or something? Sometimes I call myself a tran, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to hear that coming from cis people, no matter how much they might be allies or how much they make for undisclosed trans charities.)
posted by death valley compound at 6:08 AM on February 23 [14 favorites]


Delete if this is too much of a side-track, but the big risk to women prisoners from men who are allowed to be in the prison is from male guards.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:37 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]


Doesn't Sense8 deserve a mention in that category, or am I remembering it incorrectly?

You are remembering it correctly, but it was mentioned near the end of the video, in the same section as Pose.
posted by bcd at 6:45 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]


the big risk to women prisoners from men who are allowed to be in the prison is from male guards.

This statement unfortunately comes across as implying that trans women in women's prisons are men.

They're women, not 'men allowed to be in the prison." Perhaps you meant to say "the big risk to women prisoners is from male guards."

It's a subtle difference, but words matter in trans acceptance. A lot.
posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 7:10 AM on February 23 [27 favorites]


What if Disclosure but instead of a diverse range of trans voices there was one cis woman being witty over our pain for clicks?

I disagree, the more voices providing messaging like this, trans and not, the better. I think her approach brings value and a wider audience.

(Also was amused at her barbs at "Vanessa LeBlanc" -- not that other YouTuber's actual name, and she's a well known trans YouTuber with a lot of bad hot takes.)
posted by Pryde at 7:42 AM on February 23 [5 favorites]


Isn't it probably less harmful for (well-informed) cis voices to review this particular topic rather than force trans people to go through all that media/trauma/emotional labour again?

I do think the video needed a specific emetophobia warning though. Yikes.
posted by Braeburn at 7:50 AM on February 23 [3 favorites]


Flight Hardware, do not touch: good point.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 8:33 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]


I disagree, the more voices providing messaging like this, trans and not, the better. I think her approach brings value and a wider audience.

I'm not convinced that more voices is a good thing if what those voices are doing is showing a highlight reel of the worst representations of trans women in film and television with light witticisms. Those images are harmful and I think it takes the kind of hard work that Disclosure did to contextualise them sufficiently to make the enterprise worthwhile.

Plus, as a British trans woman, I'm don't think that US YouTubers are really in the best position to dissect Rowling's transphobia and the impact that the movement she's part of its having on the British trans community (see, for example, Rowling being cited in the House of Lords yesterday as someone who has been vilified for defending the word "woman"). Making fun of Rowling is easy, but it feels pretty hollow.
posted by death valley compound at 8:53 AM on February 23 [9 favorites]


Isn't it probably less harmful for (well-informed) cis voices to review this particular topic rather than force trans people to go through all that media/trauma/emotional labour again?

Depends if they do it well. I haven't watched the video almost precisely because this post makes me think it is for cis people and I just don't care. But cis people speaking to cis people saying they're doing trans people a favor is extremely treacherous grounds. Save us from well-intentioned allies. Maybe I'm a jerk, but I'm understand Nicholson to be in that category, rather than someone who has been working for trans people for years.
posted by hoyland at 9:38 AM on February 23 [5 favorites]


Cis-white male, I did watch the video, and I do think it's targeting other cis (low-information) people. That's me alright. I did find the tone to be a little annoying at times, but that may speak to my age or latent sexism. I was informed by the video, as I've been informed by other posts in the blue. I live in an area where the/any trans experience is just not readily visible, it's not my experience, and with everything that happens in a day or week or year, it's easy to have my blind spots remain gaping and voluminous. On that level alone, the video is out there doing some good. Also what hoyland is expressing makes a lot of sense to me.
posted by elkevelvet at 11:20 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]


We do need different messages for different audiences, absolutely, and I think it's good to be able to watch something and say, I'm not the audience for this. Imperfect conversations and messages ally to ally are still usually a net positive, especially when all parties know they are still learning and acknowledging of mistakes, and those should be allowed their space to happen too.

The video isn't perfect, and could have come with an even stronger content warning, and maybe a disclaimer that it's more for a US audience (which is a large audience). Also, it's only partially focused on Rowling and gets to the outsized impact of The Silence of the Lambs by the end too.

(Personally I worry more about the impact of some of the problematic trans YouTubers out there, like the aforementioned Blaire White, or Rose of Dawn in the UK.)
posted by Pryde at 11:46 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]


I thought it was useful for what it is--tracing the history of some transphobic tropes in media. It's not a piece I would select to be someone's introduction to or main course about transphobia, but that's not what its aim is.

I haven't consumed as much pop culture media as most people, but I have seen echoes of the transphobic tropes shown in Lindsay's video in people's speech or perspectives. It feels like the direction of influence here is primarily media shaping public opinion more than public opinion influencing media and having a better sense of what's gone into shaping public opinion over the past many decades seems helpful in potentially undoing it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:06 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


There's something to the argument that people are receptive to messengers that are more like them, so it's okay when cis people to make videos targeted at other cis people, as long as they're not wildly off base. If this video reaches some people who wouldn't otherwise know any of this stuff, I don't know, I guess that's a good thing.

On the other hand, the value of something like Disclosure is that it's comprised entirely of trans voices speaking for themselves, in every possible role: as historians, as theorists, as viewers, as actors, as filmmakers. One of the things that makes that film so powerful is the whiplash you get cutting back and forth from the awful or ludicrous or enraging portrayals of trans people in pop culture, to actual trans people themselves, and the clash between the hideous cartoon version of trans lives versus the living, breathing, funny, incisive, diverse trans people interviewed for the film reinforces the fundamental message of the film so much better than any quick recap of recent media with positive portrayals could. It's not just good optics or politically correct or whatever for marginalized people to have the central role in dismantling their own oppression; it's necessary.
posted by theodolite at 12:39 PM on February 23 [15 favorites]


So is it always "murdering cis women" or "seducing straight men who are then grossed out?"

Did we somehow never get a "trans woman seducing and murdering straight men" movie?
posted by RobotHero at 3:48 PM on February 23


Just wanted to add thanks to trans people for engaging with this. I think death valley compound made a really good point.
posted by Braeburn at 3:53 PM on February 23


[Comment and a brief reply removed; I know you were criticizing the crappy Hollywood tropes and not endorsing them, but setting trans identities next to "men dressed as women" in any casual way reads like a not-okay comparison regardless of intent.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:03 PM on February 23 [6 favorites]


I just described this video to a fellow trans friend as "Disclosure, but for and by snarky cis feminists but ... in a good way?" I don't actually think it's a great dissection of the basis of Rowling's transphobia, but it kind of uses Rowling's (as the most high-profile TERF on the planet) transphobia as the jumping-off point to explain the blueprint of modern pop cultural transphobia. It's interesting that this was originally supposed to be a collab between her and Contrapoints, because it is VERY similar to Contra's vide, which I do think is better. But this video operates on more of a 101 level, which has value.

However, it's sort of gratifying to see a cis woman taking on transphobia again in such a fierce manor. I assume this will reach a lot of people Contra's videos and Disclosure won't. I think this is very much for cis women who are feminists but not super-political and that's an audience that really needs to be inoculated against TERFism.

(Really wish she'd cited some sources though, like Disclosure)
posted by lunasol at 4:38 PM on February 23 [11 favorites]


Whether or not this video is any good, I think we can all agree that YouTube's algorithm sucks.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:31 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


I am a cis white man, but i did find jumping off Rowling's transphobia to focus pretty much entirely on an American history of trans portrayals feels... very off. Any actual engagement with Rowling's transphobia should really engage with both the particular history of british terfs, particulalry in their prominence in our "left wing" media, but also trans peoples portrayal in uk media too.

I also found her snarkiness at points a bit uncomfortable; some of the things being shown where generally horrific and the reaction of making a light joke just felt out of place.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:05 AM on February 25


So is it always "murdering cis women" or "seducing straight men who are then grossed out?"

Did we somehow never get a "trans woman seducing and murdering straight men" movie?


plays into that old but true quote, with some tweaks:
men are afraid that people will laugh at them for finding trans women attractive

women are afraid men will kill them, and media often suggests that trans women are deceitful men
posted by i used to be someone else at 5:23 AM on February 25


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