Natalie Wynn, better known online by her alias—ContraPoints—is a YouTuber with close to 15 lakh subscribers on the platform. She is also a trans woman taking on political, social and cultural debates through satire and witticisms.
Using her own journey, she has discussed several delicate topics around identity, radical feminism and right-wing extremists.
She believes that, “What’s happening online is like a canary in a coal mine, telling you something’s happening before it happens on a bigger stage…” She seeks to highlight questions surrounding the future of the LGBTQIA+ community and women, that underpin today’s politics.
In keeping with “trans awareness week”, this piece aims to highlight some of the most insightful comments by ContraPoints in her videos: “JK Rowling”, “Transtrenders” and “Men”.
Through “JK Rowling”, released earlier this year, I could observe Natalie’s empathetic nature as she dissected JK Rowling’s transphobic statements. She is sensitive to JK Rowling’s triggers, but remains firm in her arguments and is unafraid to call it like she sees it.
Natalie spoke about the necessity to understand the bigotry present in casual transphobic statements, that are often veiled as facts, yet serve to further the discrimination and alienation of trans folk.
Only through this understanding can one recognise bigotry in oneself.
“So when you reduce bigotry to a caricature of pure hatred, you obscure that bigotry is a deeply human problem. […] I believe that understanding bigots is the best defense against becoming one yourself, because when you dehumanise the villains, you become unable to recognise the villain within.”
Shaming those with differing opinions—no matter how hurtful—doesn’t change minds. Villainising them and viewing them as the “other” doesn’t help either; it only prevents one from identifying one’s own problematic patterns of thoughts and actions.
While Natalie understands that each one of us is deeply flawed and a work-in-progress, she believes in holding oneself accountable and empathizing with others whose experience may not look similar to one’s own.
Social media has increased our dependence on validation from others, to such an extent that we often need external validation to feel comfortable in our identity.
As a member of the trans community, Natalie opined:
“I feel like trans culture is just so obsessed with reassuring ourselves that we’re valid, that we sometimes forget that the end goal of a political movement is not validity, it’s equality.”
She discusses how the focus shifts from equality for marginalised communities to the quest for validation from the majority, in JK Rowling, ending with a “does their validation really matter?” sentiment.
While validation is an important step in the right direction, the search for validation alone undermines the effort of the political movement seeking equality.
The priority ends up becoming receiving validation from an individual or a group of individuals, rather pushing for equal rights and special protections.
Natalie pointed out that the questions one often asks now do not progress the conversation, rather result in the avoidance of the main topic.
“Some questions should be dissolved rather than solved. [..] Sometimes the only way to answer a question is to realise you’re asking the wrong question.”
Natalie points out how questions like,
“What is a real woman?
What does it mean to feel like a real woman?
What is true trans?”,
tend to be semantic debates that fall under metaphysics. They don’t have any common definitions that are acceptable to the majority. These conversations often result in no real progress.
She wants to pose questions around subjects that actually matter such as political struggles, medical discrimination etc. to “free trans people from the stigma that prevented us from becoming equal members of society.”
Questions are, after all, the gateway to a new realm of ideas and debates. Thus, the right set of questions need to be asked, for any progress in the search for a new societal order.
In “Transtrenders”, Natalie questioned the need for trans folk to find a theory to explain their existence, imposed on them by cis members of the society.
She discusses three frameworks: the medical, the biological and the social; but concludes with,
“Do we have a theory on why people are gay? No! They just are. The only reason we even feel like we need a theory about trans people is that society is so unaccepting of us that it’s constantly demanding we justify our own reality.”
This demonstration of the alienation of trans folk from society, highlights the stark divide in societal acceptance and equality between cis folk and trans folk that still remains.
Why do we, as cis people, require a section of society to justify their existence, experiences and reality, so that they can fit into our inadequate ideas of “normal”?
Moving on to the video titled “Men”, Natalie poignantly describes the root of the anti-feminist movement that has arisen of late in the US and elsewhere:
“Existential angst is often a disease of privilege. If you’re actually being oppressed, you have a struggle. You have something to fight for, and therefore, a purpose. But, for a lot of men, their lack of purpose puts them in search of a struggle.”
The privilege associated with being a man in the feminist discourse and the consequent expectations, results in the need to establish a counter-movement to hammer home the struggles of men.
I believe that this is the root of the “what-about-isms” and the passive-aggressive responses of men, when debates surrounding an issue primarily associated with women and trans folk occurs.
Modern feminism places the focus on women and relegates the struggles of men to toxic masculinity, without providing adequate reasoning or solutions. Natalie says:
“While feminism tells women: ‘you hate your body and you’re constantly doubting yourself because society did this to you and needs to change’… We kinda just tell men: ‘you’re lonely and suicidal because you’re toxic. Stop it!’ We tell them that they’re broken without really telling them how to fix themselves.”
View this post on Instagram
Natalie believes that while an anti-feminist movement is certainly not the answer; a men’s movement to provide a model for the modern man is necessary to solve the issues that arise from the current feminist movement.
This men’s movement could develop the conversation around men’s mental health, safety and other issues, beyond the “what-about-isms” brought up in feminist debates.
It can provide a safe space for men to highlight some of the struggles of they face in a modern society, given that the model of masculinity they grew up with is now widely considered to be outdated.
This brief list of quotes was meant to provide a glimpse into the wonderful world of ContraPoints. It is a world with elaborate costumes, mesmerising sets, and eloquent, well-researched arguments.
Enter this magical world, with Natalie’s imagination being the only limit!
Note: The author is part of the Sept-Nov ’21 batch of the Writer’s Training Program.