Laverne Cox: ‘Power works in part by dividing and conquering’

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The Daily Beast has an interview with Laverne Cox in light of the recent high-profile idiocy from a certain billionaire author. Laverne completely eviscerated Rowling’s recent rant against transgender women without even mentioning her name or deigning to refute any of her asinine “points.” She calls it for what it was, a means to pit “feminists” (I put that in quotes because I do not consider those people siding with Rowling feminists and I do not want that to be a dirty word) against transgender people. The Daily Beast references their analysis of Rowling’s essay by Laura Bradly, who breaks down Rowling’s argument as a dog-whistle-filled mess with anti-trans talking points. Cox explains that when marginalized groups turn against each other it only benefits the ruling class, of which Rowling is definitely one. The fact that Rowling chose this moment to further bash an already misunderstood and targeted group says so much about who she is. Laverne has a new documentary premiering on Netflix next week called Disclosure, which explores the portrayal and history of trans people on film. It includes famous trans people like Laverne, MJ Rodriguez, Lilly Wachowski and Chaz Bono.

“I love individuals. I love people, I love human beings,” Cox tells The Daily Beast. “But I’m critical of ideologies. And I’m critical of systems of oppression. And when I think about the comments to which you allude, I think about how power works. Power works in part by dividing and conquering.”

Disclosure explores, among other things, the contrast of today’s historic trans visibility in media against the legislation that threatens trans rights and encourages the rise of anti-trans violence. Our discussion with Cox about Rowling’s comments arises in relation to a powerful quote at the beginning of Disclosure from trans historian Susan Stryker: “Why is it that trans issues have become front and center in the culture wars?”

We asked Cox about Rowling’s words as well as the burden of expectation, as a trans public figure, to speak out each time there’s a news cycle surrounding statements like Rowling’s. She used the opportunity to speak about the broader issue of power imbalances and the dangers at play.

“The ‘divide and conquer’ method of pitting women’s rights against the rights of trans people has been a very effective tool for dividing marginalized people,” she said. “So then what we’re seeing in that moment [with Rowling]… is that we’re pitting marginalized communities against each other.”

“I think if we are smart as trans people, as people of color, as women, we will see that these things are deeply problematic, and that these things do not get us closer to the justice that we need for everybody,” she continues.

“So that’s what I think about when I think about moments like that,” she concludes, referring to Rowling’s statements. “How do we work vigilantly to not allow ourselves to be pitted against another marginalized community? I want to proceed with love towards everyone, and then be critical of the ways in which power seeks to divide and conquer.”

[Rowling] cemented these views in a subsequent 3,600-word essay that, as The Daily Beast’s Laura Bradley wrote, “attempts to characterize her views as feminism,” but in reality is “a rhetorical dumpster fire—an almost exhaustive collection of the bigoted dogwhistles that put trans people in danger every day.”

[From The Daily Beast]

I like how she went high by just talking about these type of attacks in general and focusing on how they work to divide people. I wish the media would do this more with bigoted hate-filled arguments. There are not two sides to an argument when a group in power attacks and tries to dehumanize a marginalized group. When Trump plans to hold a rally in Tulsa on Juneteeth he is promoting and attempting to normalize heinous hate crimes. He has consistently tried to mobilize his base to hate, attack and kill anyone who isn’t white, CIS gendered and/or straight. I know that’s a slightly different despicable thing, but there are parallels.

The cast of Pose is also speaking out against Rowling. The LA Times has compiled some of their comments and they’re more explicit about how terrible and damaging she is.

In the next podcast, #55, we talk about JK Rowling’s idiocy. That’s out on Sunday morning.

This is Brian Michael Smith, he’s also in Disclosure and I got these photos from Netflix’s press site. He plays a transgender man on Lone Star: 911. Also Lone Star: 911 is bonkers and I love it.
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Photos credit: Netflix Press and Getty

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12 Responses to “Laverne Cox: ‘Power works in part by dividing and conquering’”

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  1. Aang says:

    Every day it becomes clearer and clearer just how problematic white women are. From calling 911, to terftastic essays, to the utter silence I’ve experienced from most of the white women I know about what’s been happening the last few weeks. They are so comfortable in their place that even watching a man being murdered on camera won’t make them challenge anything. Trans women are women and Black Lives Matter. It’s not that hard.

    • Chica1971 says:

      It’s best to focus on you at this point. Some white women are ready to acknowledge their privilege but others are not. Don’t be disappointed because some are not and will never understand your existence. For others, speaking out is simply performative and insincere. It’s the actions and support over the long term that will reveal the character and commitment to change.

    • Aoife says:

      This kind of crude generalization is not the solution.

    • Bean says:

      Please don’t lump all white women into the same category.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Really good points, esp. pitting marginalized groups against each other instead of unifying against oppressors.

    • Otaku fairy says:

      Yes. It’s a real problem, and one of the ways it comes out is through pressure on everyone in 2 or more marginalized communities to choose only one community to protect based on other people’s moods. To TERFs (who are also often SWERFs), lesbians and bisexual women can only support each other and women in general by being ok with how the Julie Bindels of the feminist movement treat transgender people. You can’t be pro-woman and anti-racist according to people who want to justify xenophobia and racism, or who want to defend certain rightwing women. In order to be anti-racist, you have to accept misogyny, and have to tip-toe around the issue as a woman of color, rembering that it’s still taboo on both sides to put the girls/women at your dinner tables or family reunions on the same level as gay/bi men and boys on people’s screens.

  3. BearcatLawyer says:

    Laverne Cox is amazing, and I love her. I wish I could come up with something more meaningful to say this morning, but I am still half-asleep.

  4. Jane Doe says:

    This issue is so important. Literally a life and death issue. I wish an even greater platform for Laverne Cox and for those that attack trans woman and their ability to be safe to disappear into irrelevance.

    • lucy2 says:

      I listened to a talk Laverne did a few years ago, and much of her focus was on the life and death danger that so many trans women face, especially those who are not white. The statistics were a real eye opener – I knew the danger existed, but not to that extent.

  5. Celebitchy says:

    I could have put JK Rowlings name in the title to this post but the Terfs are a nightmare and I don’t want them in here.

  6. Otaku fairy says:

    Terfs are awful, but I’m still going to call them feminists because it’s good to acknowledge the fact that feminists can oppress almost all of the same groups of people that religion and the right have oppressed. Feminists have definitely resorted to racial stereotypes and played the affirmative action game over women of color within the movement standing up to them. Some have even gotten racial slurs and had violence wished on them from feminists. Sone have doxxed and threatened sex workers. Many don’t shy away from victim-blaming and misogynistic abuse or painting transgender women as threats (not to say that that can’t actually happen).