My time at WCCW has been very enlightening for me. Partly from learning the culture here, partly from learning girl world skills, but mostly from observing the difference between the way WCCW was presented to me before I moved here and the reality I’ve found now that I’m here. Most of the difference between these two things is very much so based in sexism. So I’d like to take some time to debunk some of these myths, lies, and horrible stereotypes.
People have continuously insisted that women gossip more than men, including the Sgt who greeted me when I first arrived here. This is false.
Gossip is no worse in the woman’s prison than the men’s. Everyone gossips about everyone in both to the same degree. People nose into other people’s business for no good reason to the same amount. The only real difference is that the women are more creative and personalized with their gossip. Which makes it have a greater psychological impact. Whereas, there is a set of about a dozen or so generic rumors which get recycled in the men’s prison and applied to a specific person or situation. Which gets kinda boring once you know how to spot them all and their variants.
This is sexist because it assumes women talk about nothing while men are stoic or some such nonsense.
I had many people, mostly DOC staff, insisting that there is just as much transphobia in the woman’s prison as there is in the men’s. This is false.
To fully explain this I need to unpack something first. Just as there is a difference between homophobia and transphobia, there is a difference between transphobia and (what I am calling) masc-phobia/femme-phobia. Each of these are distinct categories of discrimination and the way they interact with an individual’s identities/positionalities dictates how that person may be impacted.
The men’s prison is horrific when it comes to both femme-phobia and transphobia. The sheer amount of hate that is directed at TGNC people is overwhelming, and the amount of bullying directed at anyone who displays femininity (including effeminate cis men) is just brutal. At WCCW there is some transphobia, but it is not nearly as bad and is limited to a few individuals. What WCCW does have is an extremely entrenched case of masc-phobia. People here are highly reactive to displays of masculinity. If a person is perceived as possessing masculinity they are subject to gossip, social exclusion, bullying, and being snitched on. Granted, while this has very little to do with one’s trans status, it overwhelmingly impacts trans people.
I was also asked what I would do if the women here wanted to beat me up. This is false to a hilarious degree. I spent a month and a half in the closed custody and I did not witness a single fight. Furthermore, I have not been threatened with physical harm by a single person, even when I had one person screaming transphobic things in my face. I have witnessed other women threaten each other, but no physical violence has resulted from those arguments the entire time I’ve been here.
The assumption that I would be attacked when I got here is based in transphobia. The assumption being that I am not a “real” woman and therefore would be rejected by women here and expelled from women’s space with violence.
I had many men asking me about what I would do if the women here pressured me for sex before I left the men’s prison. This has not happened at all. I had a couple people express interest in becoming a couple and I turned each of them down. I’ve remained friends with one, and the other is someone I don’t hang out with, but we still say “hi” on the way to chow and yard. It was absolutely not a big deal. This is sexist because the men asking this were engaging in toxic masculine fantasies which are in no way shape or form connected to reality. This is based in the whore-madonna double blind, the assumption being that any woman who engages in any type of romantic relationship in prison must be sexually depraved.
And the last myth is by far the most sexist. No, the kitchen does not cut up hot dogs, carrots, and other similarly shaped foods before serving. This is also based in the same whore-madonna as the previous item.
In short, from this list I conclude for the billionth time. Men are gross. Sexism is bullshit.
There are other things which are different and aren’t based in sexism, or are different and I simply had no knowledge of prior to coming here.
At WCCW we get combination locks for our lockers. In the men’s prison we don’t get combo locks or lockers. Instead there are shelves in the cell to store one’s stuff, or everything is in cardboard boxes under the bed. When I told this to my roomie here she immediately asked “how do men keep from getting robbed when they have a bad roommate?” My reply: “Violence.”
In the summer when it’s hot, in the men’s prison people are allowed to just sit around in their cells in their underwear. I would sit around in my shorts and a sports bra all the time. At WCCW we are not allowed to do the same. T-shirt and shorts are the minimum amount of clothing one has to always wear, including in the cell, even in the summer.
There is not more solidarity among the women here. In fact, there is a (false) perception that the men get more stuff than the women because (allegedly) the men have more solidarity. It’s probably the most ridiculous case of “the grass is greener on the other side” I’ve ever seen on the part of both the men and the women. There is an equal amount of back-biting and crab-bucket syndrome on both sides of the gender divide.
WCCW still has a cosmetology class where we can get real haircuts. The last barber shop in any of the men’s facilities was shut down years ago.
WCCW only gets half of the channels available on our cable package because the facility’s (still analog) cable system can’t handle any more than 30 channels. Most men’s facilities have between 60 – 100 channels.