While the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF) is an event you may or may not usually concern yourself with, I wanted to bring to your attention an appalling violation of trans women’s privacy and safety that is happening in conjunction with the festival right now, and the refusal of blog website Wordpress to take any action to enforce their terms of service and protect a vulnerable population from harassment or worse.
I’ve never attended or really even cared about MWMF myself, but was aware from friends who have gone that there has been an ongoing controversy regarding the attendance of trans women. There are many trans women who love to go and bond with other women. There’s also a faction of MWMF attendees that feel the festival should be free of all persons born with penises and open to “womyn born womyn” only.
I don’t really want to get into the body-parts-based admission policies of the MWMF, however. What really disgusts me is a blog post related to this topic on the blog GenderTrender. (I'm not publicly linking to it in order to refrain from compromising the privacy of these women further). I find the post hateful in so many ways, the least of which is actually the blogger’s only "womyn-born-womyn" stance on the controversy. No, what is really disgusting is what she feels her opinion entitles her to do.
This blog post outs several trans women with both pseudonyms AND legal names, their photos, where they can be found at the festival, and in some cases their profession and employment. Being on this “hitlist” was not consented to by any of them, and it associates them with accusations of volatile behavior that the author has absolutely no proof any of them participated in. The blogger refuses to use female pronouns and asserts that these women, who live in one of the most marginalized segments of our society, are “chest pounding” and trying to assert male privilege in invading a womens’ space – as if women who’ve survived gender dysphoria and live outside of our binary ideas of gender have any male privilege to speak of. I can’t even fathom the kind of vulnerability and violation these women must feel. They’re now at risk for ongoing harassment from MWMF-goers, both online and in person at any future fests, and at risk of harassment and potentially violence from any other hateful person that happens to stumble on that post.
The blogger is also putting these people in possible professional peril - at least one woman is listed by both her legal name, profession, and business name AND by the stage name she uses as an actress in (feminist-award-winning, actually) adult films. Suddenly, anyone who googles her in a professional capacity becomes immediately aware of her other work, without any consent from her.
I know there are several people, myself included, that reported to Wordpress this gross violation of privacy AND the Wordpress Terms of Service, which states “By making Content available, you represent and warrant that…the Content does not contain threats or incite violence towards individuals or entities, and does not violate the privacy or publicity rights of any third party.” (http://en.wordpress.com/tos/)
Everyone who has made a report to Wordpress received a single paragraph canned reply that states:
“WordPress.com is in no position to arbitrate disputes or make judgment on such claims. As per http://en.support.wordpress.
Even more than I was outraged at the blogger herself, I’m outraged at Wordpress. Absolutely they have the ability and the RESPONSIBILITY to enforce their terms of service. Absolutely they can tell a blogger she must remove photos used without permission. Absolutely they can insist that a blogger cannot out members of a vulnerable minority without consent. They DO NOT have to wait for a court of law to enforce their own Terms of Service.
Because Wordpress seems flatly uninterested in taking any action to protect these women, I thought I’d write to you. A good old-fashioned media shaming campaign might possibly make them take a hard look at their terrible policies of doing absolutely nothing to protect a vulnerable population and shirking their responsibility to ensure that their terms of service are followed..
Thank you for your time.