Radical Inclusion: Recounting the Trans Inclusive History of Radical Feminism

Views: 7914

Here’s an excerpt from titled Radical Inclusion: Recounting the Trans Inclusive History of Radical Feminism published in TSQ by Duke University Press:

Abstract

This article reviews the ways in which radical feminism has been and continues to be trans inclusive. Trans inclusive radical feminist opinion leaders, groups, and events are reviewed and contrasted against a popular media narrative that asserts that radical feminism takes issue with trans people. Reviewed are historical instances in which radical feminists braved violence to ensure their feminism was trans inclusive.

In this article, I will review some of the ways in which the inclusion and support of trans people by radical feminists has been hidden from trans and feminist discourse, thereby creating the perception that radical feminism isn’t supportive of trans people. John Stoltenberg, a radical feminist author and long-term partner of the pioneering radical feminist opinion leader Andrea Dworkin, wrote (pers. comm., February 13, 2015), “The notion that truly revolutionary radical feminism is trans-inclusive is a no brainer. I honestly do not understand how or why a strain of radical feminism has emerged that favors a biology-based/sex-essentialist theory of ‘sex caste’ over the theory of ‘sex class’ as set forth in the work of [Monique] Wittig, Andrea [Dworkin], and [Catharine] MacKinnon. Can radical feminism be ‘reclaimed’ so that its trans-inclusivity—which is inherent—is made apparent? I hope so.” It is to this hope that I wish to draw attention to in this article.

To this end, I will utilize the feminist term trans exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) to distinguish the “biology-based/sex-essentialist” ideology Stoltenberg identified as being different from the analysis of the radical feminist opinion leaders he explicitly noted. In 2008, an online feminist community popularized TERF as a way of making a distinction between these two types of feminism. While this lexical distinction is useful, online TERF activists sometimes assert this term to be a slur, since some Internet users have used it in derogatory ways. Internet conflicts aside, I use this term in a manner consistent with its widely known original context, as asserted by the progenitor of the term, cisgender feminist Viv Smythe (Williams 2014a): “It was not meant to be insulting. It was meant to be a deliberately technically neutral description of an activist grouping. We wanted a way to distinguish TERFs from other RadFems with whom we engaged who were trans*-positive/neutral, because we had several years of history of engaging productively/substantively with non-TERF RadFems.”

Absent this distinction, much has been written of the various ways in which “radical feminism” is critical of the trans experience. It is commonplace to find popular media outlets assert that “radical feminists” take issue with trans people. The Globe and Mail asserted (Wente 2014), “In fact, the most bitter battle in the LGBT movement today is between radical feminists and the transgender movement.” The New Yorker recounted (Goldberg 2014) how a conference calling itself “Radfems Respond” was “going to try to explain why, at a time when transgender rights are ascendant, radical feminists insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women.” The National Post said (Kay 2014) that radical feminism and Paul McHugh are of one mind when it comes to trans people: “True sex change is simply not possible; you end up as a ‘feminized man’ or a ‘masculinized woman.’ Which is exactly what the radical feminists believe.”

Lost in these popular representations of radical feminism is its long and courageous trans inclusive history…

 

Internet Drama: The Handmaiden of Cis Fragility

Views: 9125

“I have been somewhat overwhelmed with J’s dominating conversations and manipulative style. J’s comments rarely bring any positive discussion and seem to frequently derail conversation. I feel like they threaten the safety of the group for the voices of transwomen and people of color.”  –  Complaint made to me from a PoC TCP group member yesterday

Some Context:

As many of you know, I’m involved with a historical project that seeks to uncover an erased trans-inclusive radical feminist hirstory. This effort is called The Conversations Project (TCP). Here’s what TCP clearly says that its purpose is:

From TCP’s “About” page

I personally think that it’s important to reclaim the voices of those women who risked even physical violence (from TERFs) to make sure that that trans women were included in their fight for the liberation of all women. As a primer, check out the feminist courage that can be found in the trans-inclusive radical feminist hirstory TCP is interested in examining:

In upcoming interviews, you’ll hear how a Black Lesbian radical feminist MichFest ride organizer related to Camp Trans. You’ll hear how TERFs destroyed one of the early militant radical feminist groups. In fact, there’s a year’s worth of upcoming interviews still to come.

As a historian, it’s hugely problematic that these stories appear nowhere else in feminist hirstory. Instead, we (especially trans people) are taught to believe that “radical feminism” is anti-trans and that “radical feminists” are transphobic. Such narratives go a long way towards erasing the very real courage of radical feminist women who risked their groups, organizations, and even put their own bodies in harm’s way to ensure that their feminism was trans inclusive. That courage should have its place in feminist hirstory.

Some disagree. Some, in the name of “radical feminism,” think those voices need to remain lost; they say time spent examining those voices is wasted time.

The Internet Drama

Here’s the long and short of a drama that’s been unfolding around TCP for months now. The project has a FaceBook group whose purpose is quite clearly spelled out:


The pinned TCP FB group guidelines.

Part of TCP is the serialized publication of a discussion between John Stoltenberg and I that began more than a year ago. This conversation is important because it represents a trans feminist and a radical feminist (finally) coming together to have an in-depth talk about radical and trans feminist hirstory and how that hirstory has affected the lives of just about every trans person in America. Through that context, a lot of radical and trans feminist content is covered. I know of no other book-length discussion like this. In some significant ways, this is what reconciliation between radical and trans feminism looks like.

John Stoltenberg is a radical feminist author and was the life partner of Andrea Dworkin. That John would be willing to break ranks and engage in a conversation like this with me, a trans woman and editor of the TransAdvocate, has been viewed as (in certain circles) a heresy of the highest order. For John’s (perceived) betrayal, TERFs have spent the last couple of months character assassinating John. Here are the basic BS criticisms of John and, of course, TCP:

  • John didn’t really know Andrea the way that her friends knew her. A couple of people who knew Andrea (and who tends to think that Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys had powerful insights into what they call “transgenderism” and “transgender ideology”), think that they, not her life partner were privy to Andrea’s true feelings towards trans folk.
  • A friend of Andrea used Andrea to submit her anti-trans screed to a publisher who rejected it and this proves that she was anti-trans. Nikki Craft asked Andrea to please submit Nikki’s anti-trans essay* to Psychology Today. Because Andrea did this for her friend, this proves that, contrary to what Andrea herself wrote, Andrea was anti-trans. Moreover, passing along an essay, means that Andrea actually co-wrote the essay. Yup, physically touching a paper to hand it off to someone else is apparently now enough to bestow full co-author status to Andrea, thus proving that Andrea didn’t support trans people accessing trans health care.
  • Talking about what Andrea wrote in Woman Hating about trans folk is wrong because Andrea actually later repudiated it. Where? Nobody seems to be able to actually point to anything specific, but I’m told that if I “read Dworkin’s other books” (which I have, more than once) I’ll see that this is true.
  • People of color won’t participate in TCP because it’s all about white people. (*cough* quote at the beginning of this post *cough*)

I’m not going to innumerate that attacks against me because they’re just the same stuff TS Separatists used to say about me when I was researching “transgender.” Except now they’re saying it about “radical feminism.” Basically, it’s all different shades of this nonsense:

“Cristan is a MAN and MUST be hiding something!!!! Also, let’s pretend that the TransAdvocate didn’t out the Woolbert story!!!”

So, Julian Real is someone who has been publicly open about being a member of TCP group. Julian is also a supporter of the cis woman who’s promulgating many of the above claims. After numerous group member complaints and innumerable moderation incidents relating to Julian’s posturing within the group, Julian was recently removed from the group by unanimous consensus of all six group moderators.  As a result, Julian (a white non-trans woman MAAB) is now running around bemoaning TCP’s purpose and talking up how much more radical and feminist their understanding of everything is and how the voices of TCP are really just neoliberal pablum.

So, for the record, here’s how things went down:

Julian attacked a commentary about a specific passage in a specific book that was written in a specific historical context… for not being commentary about something other than that specific passage of that specific book in that specific historical context. Then, after being confronted for trying to derail yet another group conversation, Julian began to again posture in the group. Here’s the response to Julian’s behavior that I posted:

Your reply is erasure from a place of privilege.

You’ve privileged yourself in deciding for poor trans women of color that exclusion -as full Sisters- from the women’s liberation movement should be subordinate to your ideas of how to overcome “capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy” (as if we’re talking about fundamentally different things). The irony is that you rhetorically subordinate their inclusion from women’s liberation from an asserted position of speaking *for* them. It’s sometimes a bit like hearing the rich of the USSR tell the poor -in the name of anti-capitalism/colonialism/patriarchy- that work will make them free.

Your persistent effort to, in violation of the boundaries of this group, advocate that its members should to spend their group time thinking about the rationals SET “feminists” cite when projecting, popularizing, and promoting their anti-trans fears, anxieties, and animus is an act of hostility against this group and its membership. Moreover, it’s an act of profound the group members and the erased, hidden, and silenced inclusive radical feminist hirstories we meet here to respect.

I 100% reject your premise that focusing our group on the radical feminism that bravely fought to include trans women as Sisters in women’s liberation = being pro-capitalism/colonialism/patriarchy. Additionally, I think the fact that you are not a trans women whose existence has been defined by the (as you privilege yourself in seeing it, irrelevant) actions of a “few white lesbians” (as you call it), contributes to the problematic ways you’ve engaged in this group. While I also reject this characterization as being patently false, that you state it as fact provides some insight into the place of (apparent) unexamined privilege you engage from.

As a trans woman who lived through deaths and hardships caused by the very ideology you claim must be considered, in the name of life and liberation no less, I experience your verbal gesticulations as a (possibly clueless) hubris born of privilege that is very toxic.

It’s not only me that experiences your privilege as toxic, numerous individuals of various racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds have, since your arrival in this group, contacted mods to express exasperation with the position/way you approach group participation. In fact, I’ve noticed that we’ve lost members and that *many* others no longer participate.

It’s not that people are turned off by the theory you sometimes share. I very much enjoy some of the books, resources, etc. that you share. I think they enrich the experience of this group. That’s not the problem that I and others have with your participation… It’s the way you privilege yourself to define for others what their primary emergency is that’s the issue. From what I see, the fact that you’ve not shared that primary emergency seems to color much of the way you interact with this group.

It’s ridiculous

At this point, I find the sound and fury coming from the side that wants TCP to just go away ridiculous. It’s a bunch of wasted time and energy. Do these people really think that we’re going to stop interviewing the people who were on the ground in the 70s and 80s? Do they think we’re just going to stop publishing those hirstories?

If anything, as evidenced by this very post, their hyperbole just brings attention to the very thing they wish to mandate out of existence. Yes, their blogosphere chamber might well echo, but really… Why lie about Andrea co-authoring anti-trans screeds? Why spend months personally attacking and defaming John? Why use (as in, appropriate) the oppression and pain of POC as a tool to disrupt conversations about silenced feminist hirstory? How does any of these online teapot tempests advance the liberation of women as a sex class? How can they claim to do all of this in the name of feminism?

Personally, all of this feels very familiar to me. It feels a lot like the pushback I faced when researching the history of “transgender”. When I was researching the history of “transgender,” the demonstrable historical record conflicted with the history a certain identity was founded upon and they attacked. Now I’m researching the historical narrative that asserts “radical feminism” wants to mandate trans bodies out of existence. Both John and I have faced significant pushback for our efforts.

Even so, I expect that what will happen is that, regardless of these attacks, this hirstory will become part of the feminist hirstorical record. I expect that it will become harder for international news outlets to propagate the false narrative that “radical feminism” is anti-trans. I expect that those who are fighting to keep an erased feminist hirstory lost will find that people are actually interested in what these silenced voices have to say:

Presenting on The Conversations Project at Rice University

So, hopefully this will be my one and only post regarding the hyperbole spewing from a certain section of the internet.

*NOTE: The “anti-trans” essay Nikki Craft wrote was written upon the (absolutely wrong) premise that trans folk love Dr. John Money. Money was an ass who was willing to hurt people in furtherance of his bogus gender theories. He was willing to force children to live as the sex assigned them, telling them to accept their bodies. Moreover, Money promoted the ridiculous idea gender stereotypes and roles came from neurology, not culture. While it’s true that one must have a brain in order to become indoctrinated to sexism, Money was wrong; sexism isn’t innate to brains.

Talking Dworkin with trans folks who were taught to hate her

Views: 10853

I’m sharing this Reddit conversation since it covers the way trans people were taught to view Andrea Dworkin (and radical feminists, in general).

Passage (point 3) cited by TERFs to assert that Dworkin sought a future without trans folk

In response to a post from The Conversations Project, Transcience wrote:

Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it

Which, based on what we know about medical research into transgender identity over the last 20 years is complete, and utter, bullshit. While a broken society is certainly a cause of the high suicide rate, it is not the primary one:Gender Dysphoria gets better with HRT even if the individual does not present or read as their identified gender.

^ That medical fact makes no sense based on a RadFem interpretation of gender and sex…

Radical Feminism is still stuck in 1970’s conceptions of what transgender people are and what gender dysphoria is, and seems to think it can “help” trans people by making society androgynous and then trans people don’t need to transition! We solved ALL THE THINGS!

Even in a perfectly androgynous society, trans people would still exist, HRT would still exist, SCS/SRS would still exist. Dworkin was wrong about trans people, and since then RadFems have been wrong about trans people.

I reply:

Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it

I think you’re overlaying a sex essentialist narrative on Dworkin by taking her words out of context. Dworkin is referring to the “primary emergency” defining the trans experience of 1974. Page 186 of Woman Hating is almost always misquoted as:

“Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency as a transsexual.”

However, what’s actually written is:

“Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency (see p. 185) as a transsexual.”

Without this nuance, MANY TERFs* assert that the “primary emergency” is gender identity and that if gender goes away, Dworkin says that so will the transsexual. However, if you go back to page 185 (as Dworkin asked), the “primary emergency” that’s referenced is as follows:

How can I really care if we win “the Revolution”? Either way, any way, there will be no place for me. – A transsexual friend, in a conversation

Her phrase, “primary emergency” is the central issue of her book. On pages 22-23, she writes:

The analysis in this book applies to the life situations of all women, but all women are not necessarily in a state of primary emergency as women. What I mean by this is simple. As a Jew in Nazi Germany, I would be oppressed as a woman, but hunted, slaughtered as a Jew. As a Native American, I would be oppressed as a [woman], but hunted, slaughtered as a Native American. That first identity, the one which brings with it as part of its definition death, is the identity of primary emergency. This is an important recognition because it relieves us of a serious confusion. The fact, for instance, that many Black women (by no means all) experience primary emergency as Blacks in no way lessens the responsibility of the Black community to assimilate this and other analyses of sexism and to apply it to their own revolutionary work.

This analysis represents early intersectional feminism. Thus, Dworkin is speaking to the trans woman’s experience of “primary emergency” and the emergency is exclusionary practice based upon our transness. She’s saying that this defining social experience must be abolished.

Dworkin’s analysis is that the sex binary is BS and that we are a “multisexed.” Dworkin uses “androgyny” as a synonym for this reality.

Androgyny myths are multisexual mythical models. – p 153

The concrete implications of multisexuality as we find it articulated in both androgynous mythology and biology necessitates the total redefinition of scenarios of proper human sexual behavior and pragmatic forms of human community. – p 183

Substitute “multisexed” for “androgynous” in the snip you quote:

Three, community built on multisexed identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it.

You know what? She’s right. If the sex binary wasn’t the basis of our society, it would “mean the end of transsexuality as we know it.” Moreover, what would such a society mean for the “primary emergency” defining the trans experience of 1974? I dunno, but in the last line of that section she says that our “sexual identity” (our sexed identity) would would represent a “new mode,” something other than what it meant to be a “transsexual” back then. Again, she’s right.

On page 186, Dworkin says that claiming that trans people are the result “faulty socialization” is an untenable position to take. Instead, she says that which defines “transsexuality” is a “faulty society”. Again, she’s right. The state of being trans was, and continues to be, defined by a shitty society.

She wrote all of this in 1974, more than 40 years ago. Think about that a sec… This was during a time when leading psychologists were asserting as fact that being trans was caused by socialization. Her position was that making that fact assertion was BS. Back in 1974, trans people who got “sex changes” were told to go stealth, were taught – as part of their medical transition – to conform to sexist stereotypes, roles and hierarchies. Even so, Dworkin said that each trans person should be able to go through this process. That’s the exact opposite position of Janice Raymond, who said (in 1979) that she wanted to “morally mandate [transsexualism] out of existence.”

The only way to make Dworkin sound like a Raymond is to take her words out of the context of her time and dialectic. Please don’t help TERFs promote the falsehood that their BS represents the radical feminism of Dworkin. It doesn’t.

Remember, Dworkin and MacKinnon promoted very similar views and in 2015, MacKinnon said, “Male dominant society has defined women as a discrete biological group forever. If this was going to produce liberation, we’d be free.… To me, women is a political group.”

In Summary: the single line you quote is out of context. Dworkin is talking about the way society defines “transsexualism” through the “primary emergency” trans people face. She’s saying that if that BS went away and, moreover, if society abandoned the sex binary altogether, “transsexuality as we know it” would (thankfully) disappear and the energy we all waste trying to deal with the way society defines us would be better used.

Suchega_Uber responded, saying that while my response was illuminating, it really didn’t deal with the idea that if society became multisexed, being transsexual would go away. Here’s how I responded:

Yes, transsexualism “as we know it” would cease to exist. We’ve see this proven true as some of the ridged sex/gender roles, stereotypes and hierarchies have changed, so has the transsexual context of 1974.

While I’m not expected to learn how to wear high heels by my medical docs, that kind of training was part of “transition” back in 1974. While I’m not expected to be sexually stimulating to my doc’s eye, that was one of the metrics a trans doc noted that he used back then. I’m glad that I don’t have to pretend to be heterosexual and I’m glad that if you happen to be married, you’re not forced to divorce as part of your transition. In short, I’m glad that the transsexual model of 1974 is dead and I’m glad that the energy I would have put into learning to walk in heels, as a condition of my transition, was put to better use.

I would say either way, people would still be born with bodies they are inherently uncomfortable with.

I’d say that you’re very likely right and I would hope that trans medical care is alive and well for them!

I can only speak for my own experience; my issue was my body, not that l liked pink. I don’t know why at the age of 3 I was very aware of my body not being right and I don’t know why at the age of 5 I began to pray that god would fix my body or let me die in my sleep. All I can say is that it was the central crisis of my life from my earliest memories and that whatever gender performance I engaged in: macho, fem, genderqueer, it didn’t fix the issue. My sense of embodiment was never okay until after my physical transition.

Or is it saying that moving towards an androgynous society will make it easier for people to live by destigmatizing trans livelihoods in a broader sense?

This is correct.

The emergency Dworkin identified was that trans people are excluded in everything and in every way. The word she used was “despised.” She acknowledged that even with all the Revolutionary thought going on at that time, it didn’t include trans people.

Since Dworkin uses androgynous and multisexed interchangeably, my sense is that trans people wouldn’t have to deal with essentialist BS situated around being a “real man” or a “real woman” or grinding oppression in a multisexed society.

*TERF means Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. It’s a feminist term used to acknowledge that some “radical feminist” identified people seek to exclude trans people from some/all aspects of the women’s liberation movement (the precise “primary emergency” Dworkin identified). TERFs claim that this term is an inherent slur because social media uses the term in the same way that it uses homophobe, misogynist and racist. I use the term because it doesn’t matter what term is concocted to identify this group of self identified “radical feminists” because TERFs would simply come to assert that term is also a slur the moment social media began using it the way it uses homophobe, misogynist and racist. In this post I am speaking about “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists”.

Ray Hill, the TransAdvocate and Feminism

Views: 13693

Ray

Last night I attended a roast of my friend, Ray Hill. If you’re queer — and especially if you’re a queer Southerner — and you don’t know who Ray Hill is, then you don’t know the first thing about Southern queers. Ray Hill is an iconic living legend of queer rights. Here are some of his achievements:

  • Cofounder and President of Promethean Society (Houston’s first gay/lesbian organization (1967-1969)
  • Cofounder (1968), former Board Member and former General Manager (198o~1981) of Pacifica Radio, KPFT-FM (where I first found other local trans people in the 1990s)
  • Cofounder, Executive Director Houston Human Rights League (1976-1986)
  • Cofounder (1975), Past President (1989) of Houston Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Political Caucus
  • Winner of landmark First Amendment US Supreme Court Case Houston v Hill lob S.Ct 2502, 1987)
  • Cofounder/organizer (1976), Past Chair (1984-1985) of Houston Lesbian Gay Pride Week
  • Cofounder Kaposi’s Sarcoma Foundation (198o, became KS/AIDS Foundation, is now AIDS Foundation Houston)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, the trans Unity Committee
  • Chair of Executive and Coordination Committees for the First March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, 1979
  • Author of first “Safe Sex Pamphlet” in the country to help prevent the spread of HIV, published by Citizens for Human Equality CHE
  • Contributor to the first three International Conferences on Gender Law and Employment
  • Author of Model Transgender Policy for Jails and Prisons
  • Founder/producer/host of the Prison Show (the only show of its kind in the US) 198o to 2012
  • Convict (197o-1975) Texas Prison System

 

Ray is equal parts Mark Twain, Harvey Milk and Utah Phillips. Here are some photos from last night’s roast:

L to R: Jack Valinski, CW Sheila Jackson Lee and Ray Hill
1. Ray Hill & Mayor Annise Parker; 2. Judge Phyllis Frye; 3. Monica Roberts, Parker, Frye; 4. Frye, Parker; 5. Me, Roberts, Daniel Williams; 6. Me, Parker

Feminism

I was asked to present at the University of Michigan’s New Articulations Feminist Conference. Here are a few slides from my presentation:

The conference was really interesting and I met numerous feminists from all over the nation and made some new contacts at the Feminist Times and Crunk Feminist Collective.

During the last several months I’ve made some amazing connections with several iconic Radical Feminist thinkers and it’s absolutely changed the way I’ve historically viewed Radical Feminism — which I’m really, really grateful for!

TransAdvocate

I have a couple of stories that are about to come out. There’s a really frank interview with [K], an intersex sex worker. They’re really honest about what it’s like and I really appreciated their views about the services that sex workers need.

I also have an upcoming interview with RadFem icon, Catharine MacKinnon that I’m really excited about. It will be interesting to see how some quotemine her to make it seem as if MacKinnon somehow doesn’t deride Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (whom I like to conceptualize as Sex Essentialist Feminists) ideology/morality but that she somehow really does believe that sex is a natural binary and that women’s liberation depends upon categorizing “women” in terms of a discrete biological group.

Moreover, other notable RadFems are collaborating on a significant piece that will be coming out in the coming months. It will represent a tangible and clear answer to the idea that SEFs represent their radical feminism. This should make it clear that  SEFs speak only for their own group when they pontificate about their “radical feminist,” “feminist,” or “lesbian” ideology.

Also, the TransAdvocate is contemplating starting its own press. Isn’t that cool?

#TERFpatriarchy, Germaine Greer and Radical Feminism

Views: 16057

I have, on several occasions, pointed out the difference between actual Radical Feminism and a type of patriarchy that’s sold as “Radical Feminism.” This patriarchy is called Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism (TERF). Perhaps the biggest difference between Radical Feminism and TERF ideology is that TERFs believe in certain sexed essences which authentically, naturally and self-evidently marks one as eternally “female” or “male.” Depending upon which TERF you ask, that which is essentially “woman” might be menstration, XX chromosomes, socialized habits, childbirth and/or something else entirely. For long-time TERF opinion leader Germaine Greer that which is essential to being woman/female is a large stinky vagina.

As it turned out, Greer wasn’t the only TERF who seemed happy to take up and use the patriarchal stinky vagina trope against trans women. I deconstructed the power TERFs seek when they deploy this patriarchal trope against trans women and I was happy to see that Radical Feminist opinion leader John Stoltenberg both liked and tweeted the article. Here, I want to further explore the ways in which TERFs seek refuge in patriarchy.

Here’s the basic supposition I think will hold true: the ideological difference between RadFems and TERFs is that RadFems seek freedom from patriarchy and TERFs seek freedom by carving out a section of patriarchy as being their very own space. TERFs seem to believe that if they can simply protect their space within a heteronormative contextualization of us and them/male and female, true freedom will surely follow. Protecting their place within a heteronormative contextualization of humanity leads those who are trapped within TERF ideology to develop a twisted gender morality which validates their patriarchal behavior as ethical, thereby reinforcing their denial.

For instance, in her new book Gender Hurts, TERF opinion leader Sheila Jeffreys remarks on her gender morality:

“Another reason for adherence to pronouns that indicate biology is that, as a feminist, I consider the female pronoun to be an honorific, a term that conveys respect. Respect is due to women as members of a sex caste that have survived subordination and deserve to be addressed with honour.”

For Jeffreys’ ad naturam morality, it is dishonorable not to recognize that sex is a natural binary and that people like Jeffreys authentically occupies a special space within this heteronormative contextualization of humanity. Iconic Radical Feminist theorists have written about this problem for decades. In the 1980s, Wittig noticed this troubling tendency towards a reductive essence-based objectification of women within the movement that became TERFs:

[N]ot only is there no natural group “women” (we lesbians are living proof of it), but as individuals as well we question “woman,” which for us, as for Simone de Beauvoir, is only a myth. She said: “One is not born, but becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society: it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.”

However, most of the feminists and lesbian-feminists in America and elsewhere still believe that the basis of women’s oppression is biological as well as historical. Some of them even claim to find their sources in Simone de Beauvoir.

Colette Guillaumin has shown that before the socioeconomic reality of black slavery, the concept of race did not exist, at least not in its modern meaning, since it was applied to the lineage of families. However, now, race, exactly like sex, is taken as an “immediate given,” a “sensible given,” “physical features,” belonging to a natural order. But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only a sophisticated and mythic construction, an “imaginary formation,” which reinterprets physical features (in themselves as neutral as any others but marked by the social system) through the network of relationships in which they are perceived. (They are seen as black, therefore they are black; they are seen as women, therefore, they are women. But before being seen that way, they first had to be made that way.) Lesbians should always remember and acknowledge how “unnatural,” compelling, totally oppressive, and destructive being “woman” was for us in the old days before the women’s liberation movement. It was a political constraint, and those who resisted it were accused of not being “real” women. But then we were proud of it, since in the accusation there was already something like a shadow of victory: the avowal by the oppressor that “woman” is not something that goes without saying, since to be one, one has to be a “real” one.

Witting noticed that this group is seemingly constitutionally incapable of seeing that the very thing they cling to and defend is the patriarchy within themselves. Wittig continues:

The ideology of sexual difference functions as censorship in our culture by masking, on the ground of nature, the social opposition between men and women. Masculine/feminine, male/female are the categories which serve to conceal the fact that social differences always belong to an economic, political, ideological order. Every system of domination establishes divisions at the material and economic level. Furthermore, the divisions are abstracted and turned into concepts by the masters, and later on by the slaves when they rebel and start to struggle. The masters explain and justify the established divisions as a result of natural differences. The slaves, when they rebel and start to struggle, read social oppositions into the so-called natural differences. For there is no sex. There is but sex that is oppressed and sex that oppresses. It is oppression that creates sex and not the contrary. The contrary would be to say that sex creates oppression, or to say that the cause (origin) of oppression is to be found in sex itself, in a natural division of the sexes preexisting (or outside of) society. The primacy of difference so constitutes our thought that it prevents turning inward on itself to question itself, no matter how necessary that may be to apprehend the basis of that which precisely constitutes it.

Wittig wasn’t alone in noticing that TERFs seem ironically happy – in their misguided quest for empowerment – to seek empowerment by making a place for themselves within patriarchy. Andrea Dworkin took Germaine Greer to task for promoting this misguided attempt at empowerment back in 1974:

Germaine Greer once wrote for Suck — she was an editor—and her articles, the token women’s articles, were sometimes strong; her voice was always authentic. Her attempt was to bring women into closer touch with unaltered female sexuality and place that sexuality clearly, unapologetically, within the realm of humanity: women, not as objects, but as human beings, truly a revolutionary concept.

But Greer has another side which allies itself with the worst of male chauvinism and it is that side which, I believe, made her articles acceptable to Suck’s editors and Suck acceptable to her. In an interview in the Amerikan Screw, reprinted in Suck under the tide “Germaine: ‘I am a Whore, ’” she stated:

Ideally, you’ve got to the stage where you really could ball everyone — the fat, the blind, the foolish, the impotent, the dishonest. We have to rescue people who are already dead. We have to make love to people who are dead, and that’s not easy.

Here is the ever popular notion that women, extending our role as sex object, can humanize an atrophied world. The notion is based on a false premise. Just as the pill was supposed to liberate women by liberating us sexually, i.e., we could fuck as freely as men, fucking is supposed to liberate women and men too. But the pill served to reinforce our essential bondage — it made us more accessible, more open to exploitation. It did not change our basic condition because it did nothing to challenge the sexist structure of society, not to mention conventional sexual relationships and couplings. Neither does promiscuity per se. Greer’s alliance with the sexual revolution is, sadly but implicitly, an alliance with male chauvinism because it does not speak to the basic condition of women which remains the same if we fuck one man a week, or twenty.

There is similar misunderstanding in this statement:

Well, listen, this is one of the things a woman has to understand, and I get a bit impatient sometimes with women who can’t see it. A woman, after all, in this country is a commodity. She’s a status symbol, and the prettier she is the more expensive, the more difficult to attain. Anyone can have a fat old lady. But young girls with clear eyes are not for the 40-year-old man who’s been working as a packer or a storeman all his life. So that when he sees her he snarls, mostly I think, because she’s not available to him. She’s another taunt, and yet another index of how the American dream is not his to have. He never had a girl like that and he never will.

Now, I think that the most sensible way for us to see the crime of rape is an act of aggression against this property symbol. . . (but I’m not sure about this at all —I mean, I think it’s also aggression against the mother who fucks up so many people’s lives). And I must think that as a woman, who has not done a revolution, have not put myself on the barricade on this question, I owe it to my poor brothers not to get uptight. Because I am that, I am a woman they could never hope to ball, and in the back of my mind I reject them too.

Here again, the alliance is with male chauvinism, and it is incomprehensible. Mothers fuck up people’s lives in direct proportion to how fucked up their own lives are — that fuck up is the role they must play, the creative possibilities they must abort. Greer surely knows that and must speak to it. Women who walk, as opposed to those who take taxis or drive (another relevant class distinction), are constantly harassed, often threatened with violence, often violated. That is the situation which is the daily life of women.

It is true, and very much to the point, that women are objects, commodities, some deemed more expensive than others —but it is only by asserting one’s humanness every time, in all situations, that one becomes someone as opposed to something. That, after all, is the core of our struggle.

Rape, of course, does have its apologists. Norman Mailer posits it, along with murder, as the content of heroism. It is, he tells us in The Presidential Papers, morally superior to masturbation. Eldridge Cleaver tells us that it is an act of political rebellion — he “practiced” on Black women so that he could rape white women better. Greer joins the mystifying chorus when she posits rape as an act of aggression against property (a political anticapitalist action no less) and suggests that it might also be an act of psychological rebellion against the ominous, and omnipresent, mother. Rape is, in fact, simple straightforward heterosexual behavior in a male-dominated society. It offends us when it does, which is rarely, only because it is male-female relation without shame —without the mystifying romance of the couple, without the civility of a money exchange. It happens in the home as well as on the streets. It is not a function of capitalism — it is a function of sexism.

Here Dworkin is rightly criticizing Greer’s “Radical Feminism” – the same brand of “Radical Feminism” that would later have Greer publicly claiming that trans women are not women because trans women don’t know what it is “to have a big, hairy, smelly vagina.” Dworkin, like Wittig, notes that the “Radical Feminism” of people like Greer is lacking a simple, yet fundamental, truth about the struggle against patriarchy. As Dworkin notes:

[Greer’s writing] did not change our basic condition because it did nothing to challenge the sexist structure of society…  it is only by asserting one’s humanness every time, in all situations, that one becomes someone as opposed to something. That, after all, is the core of our struggle.

As Wittig notes:

For there is no sex. There is but sex that is oppressed and sex that oppresses. It is oppression that creates sex and not the contrary. The contrary would be to say that sex creates oppression, or to say that the cause (origin) of oppression is to be found in sex itself, in a natural division of the sexes preexisting (or outside of) society. The primacy of difference so constitutes our thought that it prevents turning inward on itself to question itself, no matter how necessary that may be to apprehend the basis of that which precisely constitutes it.

As pioneering trans-feminist and academic Suzan Striker noted over 20 years ago:

[T]he Nature you bedevil me with is a lie. Do not trust it to protect you from what I represent, for it is a fabrication that cloaks the groundlessness of the privilege you seek to maintain for yourself at my expense. You are as constructed as me; the same anarchic Womb has birthed us both. I call upon you to investigate your nature as I have been compelled to confront mine.

TERFs seem to think power comes from protecting the boundaries of being a thing – a class: woman/female – instead of, time and again, returning to that which we all share: our humanity. TERFs seek a type of  freedom by carving out a sexed space within a heteronormative contextualization humanity; a natural sexed binary to which TERFs – finally and for a precious short time – get to taste the power of being a gender gatekeeper. To the precise extent TERFs work to culturally contextualize trans women as ghastly parodies of the mystical “natural woman” do they actively strengthen the very patriarchy they claim to hate. When TERFs wittily rebuke trans women’s validity by satirizing, explicating, analyzing and noting the various ways a trans woman’s vagina might smell, they’re validating the very vaginal smell trope Radical Feminism worked so hard to dispel.

TERFs – like women who seek empowerment through participation in raunch culture – try to make patriarchy work for them by deploying the tools of patriarchy against other women. Female chauvinists objectify women through their participation in raunch culture. TERFs objectify women through sex essentialism. For TERFs, there really is a sexed essence that a god and/or Nature endowed them and for female chauvinists, this essence must be sexualized. Both the TERF and the Female chauvinists are actors for the patriarchy and both are rewarded – in a Foucauldian sense – with power for their troubles. I find it telling that the  long-term TERF opinion leader Germaine Greer has a history of seeking empowerment through both sex essentialism and raunch culture.


If you’re wondering why trans and intersex people aren’t guilty as (ironically) charged by TERFs of “reinforcing gender stereotypes” let me first quote you Dworkin:

Hormone and chromosome research, attempts to develop new means of human reproduction (life created in, or considerably supported by, the scientist’s laboratory), work with transsexuals, and studies of formation o f gender identity in children provide basic information which challenges the notion that there are two discrete biological sexes. That information threatens to transform the traditional biology of sex difference into the radical biology of sex similarity. That is not to say that there is one sex, but that there are many. The evidence which is germane here is simple. The words “male” and “female, ” “man” and “woman, ” are used only because as yet there are no others.

There’s a reason trans and intersex people want to use prefixes like cis/ipso/trans and there’s a reason TERFs view such things as being problematic for their strategy of empowerment.

Consider reading:

 

“Gender Critical Feminism” = Heteronormative Sex Essentialism

Views: 24134

Gender Critical Feminism (GCF) is a euphemism for TERF. There is no ideological difference between the TERF and “Gender Critical Feminist” (GCF) movement; they are one in the same. GCF teaches that because sex is a natural binary, intersex people are actually just deformed men and women and trans people are always the sex they were assigned at birth. As Janice Raymond’s acolyte Sheila Jeffreys wrote, “sex” is fixed and referring to trans women with female pronouns is therefore immoral in the sense that it is a dishonorable act.

Postmodern and queer theorists share with transgender theorists the idea that “gender” is a moveable feast that can be moved into and out of, swapped and so forth. Gender, used in this sense, disappears the fixedness of sex, the biological basis that underlies the relegation of females to their sex caste. The inferior sex caste status of women is assigned with reference to their biology, and it is through their biology that their subordination is enforced and maintained through rape, impregnation and forced childbearing. Another reason for adherence to pronouns that indicate biology is that, as a feminist, I consider the female pronoun to be an honorific, a term that conveys respect. Respect is due to women as members of a sex caste that have survived subordination and deserve to be addressed with honour. – Sheila Jeffreys, PhD, Gender Hurts, pp 5-6

While GCF/TERFs claim that they apply a “Radical Feminist” critique to gender, they are actually an ideological offshoot of Radical Feminism because instead of rejecting sex essentialism, the GCF/TERF movement uses sex essentialism as its ideological foundation. GCF/TERFs are generally sex-essentialists who believe that sex is a natural binary because there exists some undefined male or female essence that is found in all men and women. Sometimes this sexed essence is viewed as habits acquired during early socialization and at other times it is some specific sex attribute.  The specific “essence” that GCF/TERFs appeal to changes from time to time, depending on the argument they’re making.

Many trans people are generally highly critical of a supposed natural sex and gender binary. In this way, the views of trans people can align well with the views of the Radical Feminist movement. The progenitor of Radical Feminism, Monique Wittig, rejected notions of a natural sex binary:

The ideology of sexual difference functions as censorship in our culture by masking, on the ground of nature, the social opposition between men and women. Masculine/feminine, male/female are the categories which serve to conceal the fact that social differences always belong to an economic, political, ideological order. Every system of domination establishes divisions at the material and economic level. Furthermore, the divisions are abstracted and turned into concepts by the masters, and later on by the slaves when they rebel and start to struggle. The masters explain and justify the established divisions as a result of natural differences. The slaves, when they rebel and start to struggle, read social oppositions into the so-called natural differences. For there is no sex. There is but sex that is oppressed and sex that oppresses. It is oppression that creates sex and not the contrary. The contrary would be to say that sex creates oppression, or to say that the cause (origin) of oppression is to be found in sex itself, in a natural division of the sexes preexisting (or outside of) society. The primacy of difference so constitutes our thought that it prevents turning inward on itself to question itself, no matter how necessary that may be to apprehend the basis of that which precisely constitutes it.”

Sandy Stone, a trans woman who was targeted for death by armed TERFs, said, “There is no ‘natural’ sex, because ‘sex’ itself as a medical or cultural category is nothing more the momentary outcome of battles over who owns the meanings of the category.” Most TERF/GCFs are ideological sex essentialists; most trans, intersex and RadFems are not.

“Hormone and chromosome research, attempts to develop new means of human reproduction (life created in, or considerably supported by, the scientist’s laboratory), work with transsexuals, and studies of formation of gender identity in children provide basic information which challenges the notion that there are two discrete biological sexes. That information threatens to transform the traditional biology of sex difference into the radical biology of sex similarity. That is not to say there is one sex, but that there are many. The evidence which is germane here is simple. The words ‘male’ and ‘female,’ ‘man’ and ‘woman,’ are used only because as yet there are no others.” – Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating, pp 175 – 176

If one were to substitute “nature” for “god,” the sex essentialism found in the TERF/GCF crew is somewhat similar to the sex essentialism found in right-wing ideology. It is therefore not uncommon to find anti-gay propaganda mills and Tea Party politicians quoting TERF/GCFs and TERF/GCFs quoting anti-gay Tea Party propagandists. Just as right-wingers have token gay people, the TERF/GCF crew has token trans people. The GCF/TERF movement, much like other sex essentialist ideologies, encourages trans people to detransition.

So, let’s fly under our true colors, shall we? This group that professes to be “critical” of gender is so entrenched in it that they can’t even understand that they are acting agents of the very gender system they claim to hate. Or, as Wittig said, “The primacy of difference so constitutes our thought that it prevents turning inward on itself to question itself, no matter how necessary that may be to apprehend the basis of that which precisely constitutes it.

Here’s what most GCFs profess:

  • Females are a caste system because of “class analysis”
  • The binary is real; sex isn’t a continuum because “sexual dimorphism”
  • Intersex people are just deformed binary sexes because “sexual dimorphism”
  • Male and Female habits (socialization) are essential to being authentic males/females.
  • “Male” and “Female” sex identifiers should be compulsory and eternal
  • “Male” and “Female” gender identifiers are BS because “social construction”
  • “Gender identity” only ever means cultural identities

When pressed on their ideology, GCF will almost never be able to name the attributes of their “class analysis” or “social constructionism.” On a recent BBC interview, Sheila Jeffreys asserted, “the phenomenon of transgenderism [sic] which is a social construction…  is harmful to many groups of persons.” From what I’ve seen, these claims merely function as academic-sounding ideas whose value is purely rhetorical. Some of the brightest feminist thinkers of our time have noticed this too. Judith Butler notes that when GCF/TERF opinion leaders like Sheila Jeffreys burbles on about social constructionism, the things she says makes no sense to people who actually understand social constructionism. Butler observes that Sheila Jeffreys and Janice Raymond “offers a kind of feminist policing of trans lives and trans choices.” About Jeffreys’ “social construction” talking points, Butler said, “If she makes use of social construction as a theory to support her view, she very badly misunderstands its terms.” She goes on to say, “I oppose this kind of prescriptivism, which seems me to aspire to a kind of feminist tyranny.”

I read Jeffreys’ book, Gender Hurts. In the precise way she hamfistedly appropriates social constructionism to attack trans people, she appropriates the concept of class analysis to support her targeting of trans people. Gender Hurts is not a class analysis of gender; rather, it is merely an appeal to class analysis. If you want to see a GCF/TERF squirm, press them to explicitly map the precise attributes of their “class analysis.” They’ll simply appeal to the authority of this academic pseudo-radical terminology until they’re blue in the face. When they utterly fail to support their position, then inform them that the progenitor of Radical Feminism rejected such analysis as rhetorical woo.

Consider what Witting has to say about much of what we find in GCF/TERF ideology. Remember, the following is foundational Radical Feminist thought, not (as GCF/TERFs would say) “transgender ideology:”

[N]ot only is there no natural group “women” (we lesbians are living proof of it), but as individuals as well we question “woman,” which for us, as for Simone de Beauvoir, is only a myth. She said: “One is not born, but becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society: it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.”

However, most of the feminists and lesbian-feminists in America and elsewhere still believe that the basis of women’s oppression is biological as well as historical. Some of them even claim to find their sources in Simone de Beauvoir.

Colette Guillaumin has shown that before the socioeconomic reality of black slavery, the concept of race did not exist, at least not in its modern meaning, since it was applied to the lineage of families. However, now, race, exactly like sex, is taken as an “immediate given,” a “sensible given,” “physical features,” belonging to a natural order. But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only a sophisticated and mythic construction, an “imaginary formation,” which reinterprets physical features (in themselves as neutral as any others but marked by the social system) through the network of relationships in which they are perceived. (They are seen as black, therefore they are black; they are seen as women, therefore, they are women. But before being seen that way, they first had to be made that way.) Lesbians should always remember and acknowledge how “unnatural,” compelling, totally oppressive, and destructive being “woman” was for us in the old days before the women’s liberation movement. It was a political constraint, and those who resisted it were accused of not being “real” women. But then we were proud of it, since in the accusation there was already something like a shadow of victory: the avowal by the oppressor that “woman” is not something that goes without saying, since to be one, one has to be a “real” one.

Besides, if we take as an example the perfect “butch,” the classic example which provokes the most horror, whom Proust would have called a woman/man, how is her alienation different from that of someone who wants to become a woman? Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

However, as Andrea Dworkin emphasizes, many lesbians recently “have increasingly tried to transform the very ideology that has enslaved us into a dynamic, religious, psychologically compelling celebration of female biological potential.” Thus, some avenues of the feminist and lesbian movement lead us back to the myth of woman which was created by men especially for us, and with it we sink back into a natural group. Having stood up to fight for a sexless society,” we now find ourselves entrapped in the familiar deadlock of “woman is wonderful.” Simone de Beauvoir underlined particularly the false consciousness which consists of selecting among the features of the myth (that women are different from men) those which look good and using them as a definition for women. What the concept “woman is wonderful” accomplishes is that it retains for defining women the best features (best according to whom?) which oppression has granted us, and it does not radically question the categories “man” and “woman,” which are political categories and not natural givens. It puts us in a position of fighting within the class “women” not as the other classes do, for the disappearance of our class, but for the defense of “woman” and its reinforcement. It leads us to develop with complacency “new” theories about our specificity: thus, we call our passivity “nonviolence,” when the main and emergent point for us is to fight our passivity (our fear, rather, a justified one).

She goes on to note that if we are to apply class analysis to “woman,” it can only be done as a political class aimed at deconstructing the “natural” sex binary. GCF/TERFs do the exact opposite and view “woman” as a natural biological class aimed at deconstructing the a political binary.

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Wittig continues:

Marxist theory does not allow women any more than other classes of oppressed people to constitute themselves as historical subjects, because Marxism does not take into account the fact that a class also consists of individuals one by one. Class consciousness is not enough. We must try to understand philosophically (politically) these concepts of “subject” and “class consciousness” and how they work in relation to our history. When we discover that women are the objects of oppression and appropriation, at the very moment that we become able to perceive this, we become subjects in the sense of cognitive subjects, through an operation of abstraction. Consciousness of Oppression is not only a reaction to (fight against) oppression. It is also the whole conceptual reevaluation of the social world, its whole reorganization with new concepts, from the point of view of oppression. It is what I would call the science of oppression created by the oppressed. This operation of understanding reality has to be undertaken by every one of us: call it a subjective, cognitive practice. The movement back and forth between the levels of reality (the conceptual reality and the material reality of oppression, which are both social realities) is accomplished through language.

It is we who historically must undertake the task of defining the individual subject in materialist terms. This certainly seems to be an impossibility since materialism and subjectivity have always been mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, and rather than despairing of ever understanding, we must recognize the need to reach subjectivity in the abandonment by many of us to the myth “woman” (the myth of woman being only a snare that holds us up). This real necessity for everyone to exist as an individual, as well as a member of a class, is perhaps the first condition for the accomplishment of a revolution, without which there can be no real fight or transformation. But the opposite is also true; without class and class consciousness there are no real subjects, only alienated individuals.

Here, Wittig explicitly notes that the subjective is the fatal flaw of Marxist theory. You cannot appropriate and objectify women as a class; as a monolithic “thing” called “sex.” It is the subjective that can’t be erased when being critical of the supposed natural sex binary. Again, this isn’t so-called “transgender ideology,” this is Radical Feminism. And yet, with GCF/TERF goggles on, even Wittig supposedly rejected the subjective regarding gender:

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GCF/TERFs offer a perspective of sex and gender that’s fatally warped to the point that it explicitly advocates for the very ideas foundational Radical Feminist theory rejected. GCF/TERFs might call themselves RadFem or “gender critical” but what they offer is the very poison chalice RadFems spent decades warning against; it’s an ideology at war with its own roots. The very perspective GCF/TERFs so viciously attack is the foundation of Radical Feminism. GCF/TERFs have such a long history of, with all the asperity of a hellfire creationist, asserting that sexing everyone is better/different/more natural than gendering everyone that I hold no hope they will see past their own obtuse equivocations.

Radical feminists have developed the most realistic framework for analyzing the social realities of gender. Specifically: gender is a hierarchy which is constructed on top of the (real, permanent, dimorphic) category of biological sex. – GCF trans woman, SnowFlakeEspecial

Stop me if you’ve heard this GCF/TERF meme before: unless the natural sex binary is embraced and enforced, gay men and lesbians will disappear. Wittig refuted that meme decades ago but GCF/TERFs don’t want you to know that:

To destroy “woman” does not mean that we aim, short of physical destruction, to destroy lesbianism simultaneously with the categories of sex, because lesbianism provides for the moment the only social form in which we can live freely. Lesbian is the only concept I know of which is beyond the categories of sex (woman and man), because the designated subject (lesbian) is not a woman, either economically, or politically, or ideologically. For what makes a woman is a specific social relation to a man, a relation that we have previously called servitude, a relation which implies personal and physical obligation as well as economic obligation (“forced residence,” domestic corvee, conjugal duties, unlimited production of children, etc.), a relation which lesbians escape by refusing to become or to stay heterosexual. We are escapees from our class in the same way as the American runaway slaves were when escaping slavery and becoming free. For us this is an absolute necessity; our survival demands that we contribute all our strength to the destruction of the class of women within which men appropriate women. This can be accomplished only by the destruction of heterosexuality as a social system which is based on the oppression of women by men and which produces the doctrine of the difference between the sexes to justify this oppression.

It is the system of heteronormativity that is at the root of oppression and it is the heteronormative gaze that produced the concept of the natural sex binary. It is only with a perspective rooted in heteronormativity that a GCF/TERF can assert that gender is an oppressive system that must be abolished by replacing it with a new set of taboos, norms, language and identity labels all must adhere to and somehow won’t be gender. A GCF/TERF seems to think that when they assert that a trans woman is male, insists upon using male pronouns, uses the person’s old name/old picture to construct a sex context for the trans woman to occupy within a cultural system, they aren’t engaging in forced gender performance.

If “he” is hurtful or if “she” is hurtful and you’re a friend, or someone who isn’t an asshole then I avoid using them. However I’m not, nor should I or anyone, actually be expected to lie to appease another’s feelings. When we (gender critical folk) are accused of “misgendering” what we are actually doing is telling the truth.  “He” and “she” denote sex, lets be honest about that and sex is immutable. – WhoIsCis, GCF affiliated with GenderIdentityWatch

In fact, most of them will assert that they aren’t performing gender, that they are instead honoring natural sex binary. They do this without seeing any irony. They seek to institutionalize the naturalistic essence-based sex binary as a means of taking ownership of sex labels, which they mistake for authentic empowerment.

Another reason for adherence to pronouns that indicate biology is that, as a feminist, I consider the female pronoun to be an honorific, a term that conveys respect. Respect is due to women as members of a sex caste that have survived subordination and deserve to be addressed with honour. – Sheila Jeffreys, PhD, Gender Hurts, pp 5-6

Let’s contrast the above GCF/TERF view with foundational Radical Feminist theory:

However, most of the feminists and lesbian-feminists in America and elsewhere still believe that the basis of women’s oppression is biological as well as historical. Some of them even claim to find their sources in Simone de Beauvoir… But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only a sophisticated and mythic construction, an “imaginary formation,” which reinterprets physical features (in themselves as neutral as any others but marked by the social system) through the network of relationships in which they are perceived. Lesbians should always remember and acknowledge how “unnatural,” compelling, totally oppressive, and destructive being “woman” was for us in the old days before the women’s liberation movement. It was a political constraint, and those who resisted it were accused of not being “real” women. But then we were proud of it, since in the accusation there was already something like a shadow of victory: the avowal by the oppressor that “woman” is not something that goes without saying, since to be one, one has to be a “real” one.

It is heteonormitive indoctrination that prevents GCF/TERFs from understanding that the “natural sex binary” is just another aspect of gender. While much of the rest of the feminist world is confronting both the causes and effects of oppression, GCF/TERFs spend a significant amount of time and energy in preserving, supporting and appealing to a binary sexed body system constitutionally incapable of working with concepts like cis, trans, gender queer, agender, intersex as it relates to reality of human bodies because such views of humanity are supplanted by the asserted preeminence of an ad naturam binary sexed essence.

Men appropriating our identity hate us, and want to take our skin to become us. Can never happen, but they sure want to destroy us in the process.

No, of all the oppressive forces against Lesbians and women in patriarchy, I believe the trans cult is at the top. Far more dangerous than the rest of the right wing like the nazis and clan and christian, muslim, etc. religious fanatics, THEY WANT TO DESTROY US FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

They are like the worst form of parasite, who tricks the victim into protecting and fighting for those who are killing them. So we don’t even end up fighting these men directly. We have to first face the women who are standing in front of them, working to destroy all women’s rights.  – Bev Von Dohre, TERF pioneer

GCF/TERF ideology is rooted in a twisted ad naturam morality, not radical-feminist-gender-critical theory. Jeffreys herself puts it: “Consider that Another reason for adherence to pronouns that indicate biology is that, as a feminist, I consider the female pronoun to be an honorific, a term that conveys respect. Respect is due to women as members of a sex caste that have survived subordination and deserve to be addressed with honour.” Jeffreys seems totally oblivious to the reality that when she explicitly appeals to the embedded ad naturam morality within her natural sex binary, she is publicly pronouncing her attachment to and support of behavioral norms and taboos predicated upon a coercive binary cultural system. Jeffreys’ hubris and morality blind her to her own hypocrisy while functioning to validate her cruel behavior. Not buying into the naturalistic binary of Jeffreys’ female-essence is, to her mind, a morally dishonorable behavior. Jeffreys’ drive to lay claim to labels rooted in a morally natural male/female essence means that she is privileged to dismissively or mockingly disregard another’s identity precisely because, within her gender system, such behavior is honorable and even preordained.

“There is a witness to the transsexual’s script, a witness who is never consulted. She is the person who built the transsexual’s body of her own flesh and brought it up as her son or daughter, the transsexual’s worst enemy, his/her mother. Whatever else it is gender reassignment is an exorcism of the mother. When a man decides to spend his life impersonating his mother (like Norman Bates in Psycho) it is as if he murders her and gets away with it, proving at a stroke that there was nothing to her… ” – Germaine Greer, PhD, The Whole Woman

In transsexualism, males put on “female” bodies (which are in fact pseudofemale). In a real sense they are separated from their original mothers by the rituals of the counseling process, which usually result in “discovering” that the mother of the transsexual-to-be is at fault for his “gender identity crisis.” These “patients” are reborn from males. As Linda Barufaldi suggested, this fact was symbolized in the renaming of the renowned transsexual of tennis, Renee (literally, “re-born”) Richards, whose original first name was Richard.” The re-birthing male supermothers include psychiatrists, surgeons, hormone therapists, and other cooperating professionals. The surgeons and hormone therapists of the transsexual kingdom, in their effort to give birth, can be said to produce feminine persons. They cannot produce women. – Mary Daly, PhD, Gyn/Ecology, pp 67 – 68

It is only through a moralistic lense that the trans experience can be constructed as being monstrousFrankensteinian and/or even vampire-like. Notice that GCF/TERFs like Janice Raymond make a point of ensuring that the morality of the natural is withheld when speaking about trans women through phrases like, “male-to-constructed-female.” TERFs, so focused on watch-dogging which essence is natural (ie, “real” and therefore valid) – predicated on the notion that their appeal to their own perceived woman-essence is natural – they fail to perceive their own hypocrisy.

Transgender activists such as Serano have developed a new vocabulary to advance their political agenda. One of these new terms is ‘cis’, which they apply to all those who are not unhappy with their ‘gender’. In effect the term ‘cis’ creates two kinds of women, those with female bodies who are labeled ‘cisgender’, and those with male bodies who are ‘transwomen’. Women, those born female and raised as women, thus suffer a loss of status as they are relegated to being just one kind of woman and their voices will have to compete on a level playing field with the other variety, men who transgender. – Sheila Jeffreys, PhD, Gender Hurts, p 50

Returning to what Wittig said, “The primacy of difference so constitutes our thought that it prevents turning inward on itself to question itself, no matter how necessary that may be to apprehend the basis of that which precisely constitutes it.” Jeffreys, acting to protect her steak in a natural binary sexed essence asserts that cisgender should not be used because it somehow impugns the nature of her own claim within a natural sex binary. This isn’t about biology or feminist theory, it’s about a morality.

Let’s be clear about what GCF/TERFs offer. It’s not a non-gender system, it’s merely a new incarnation of a heteronormative gender system in which trans and intersex people are erased. It is an enfeebled attempt at empowerment through forced appropriation and objectification by defining what you are by what you’re not and in this way, what GCF/TERFs offer is nothing new or radical:

“Authentication and denaturalization, the second pair of tactics, respectively concern the construction of a credible or genuine identity and the production of an identity that is literally incredible or non-genuine. We have chosen the term authentication in deliberate contrast with authenticity, another term that circulates widely in scholarly discourses of identity and its critique. Where authenticity has been tied to essentialism through the notion that some identities are more ‘‘real’’ than others, authentication highlights the agentive processes whereby claims to realness are asserted. Such claims often surface in nationalist movements, where a shared language becomes a powerful force in the formation and articulation of an imagined national unity (Anderson 1983; Gellner 1983). Here the process of authentication often involves the rewriting of linguistic and cultural history.”– Mary Bucholtz and Kira Hall, Language and Identity in A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology

So, meet the new boss, the same as the old boss. It’s called “Gender Critical Feminism.”

TERF front group is fake

Views: 27255

Would you be surprised to learn that a wildly popular front group TERF attorney, Cathy Brennan runs is fake?

The group, Organizing for Women’s Liberation (OWL) claims to have received well over 100,000 FaceBook likes and is the more palatable face of Cathy Brennan’s hate group. OWL mixes anti-trans messaging in with news reports chronicling rape and brutality against women, thereby linking “trans” to real violence against women.

The reality is that OWL is a fake group whose “like” numbers are purchased in bulk:

OWL
Cairo, Egypt?
This Week
Lahore, Pakistan?

The #1 reason for not buying fake likes is that it’s super easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for. Consider #1 of the 4 Momentous Reasons to NOT Buy Facebook Fans post:

whynot

A quick google search reveals that it’s not exactly cheap to make an irrelevant FaceBook page appear to be relevant. From what I can tell, it costs over $100 to buy just 10K  FaceBook “likes.”

OWL3

Above: from the Organizing for Women’s Liberation site whose tagline is, “Putting women first.”

Obviously the idea of people liking Brennan’s version of feminism is important to her and if she can’t find actual people to listen to her, she seems content to appeal to an audience of sockpuppets. Unless Cathy Brennan is prepared to claim that Cairo, Egypt and Lahore, Pakistan is the epicenter of the RadFem world, she might want to explain why she feels it important to post several times an hour to a predominantly fake audience.

While it might be fun to snicker at what might appear to be a pathetic attempt to invent friends, I don’t think that’s what Brennan is doing here. My experience with Brennan suggests that she does things with a strategy in mind. Brennan and her hate group already enjoys influence in fringe feminist discourse. I therefore view this is her attempt to gain a more substantial foothold in mainstream feminism. Most people would not think to fact check her organization’s claim of having more than 100k feminists listening to her. What access might Brennan gain to mainstream feminist discourse if people wrongly believe that she has 100k, 500k or even a million feminists listening to her? If Brennan’s group owns a feminist brand that appears to have significant feminist approval – even with the anti-trans messaging – it would provide the hate group false credibility and influence.


Anti-gay marriage group gets surge in Facebook likes … from Thailand

Cotton Ceiling: Uncovering the trans conspiracy to rape lesbians

Views: 25593

The mere mention of the “cotton ceiling” should send rapey shivers up your spine. If you’ve not heard of it here’s the lowdown from feminists:

Transgender cotton ceiling rapists hold male-only (Planned Parenthood sponsored) seminars, write books, host lecture tours, and endlessly spam lesbian websites and blogs with rape and murder threats over lack of male “inclusion” in lesbian social gatherings, lesbian organizing, lesbian events, lesbian music festivals, and – most importantly- lesbian bedrooms. 1

.

Planned Parenthood Toronto is helping to sponsor a March 31 conference in Toronto that includes a workshop inviting participants to discuss and strategize ways they might be able to “overcome” women’s objections to these participants’ sexual advances. We believe that no means no, that a woman’s right to say “no” to sex at any time is sacrosanct and that no explanations should ever be requested because none is ever necessary. The name of the workshop proposed is “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling: Breaking Down Sexual Barriers for Queer Trans Women.”

– Petition against the cotton ceiling 2

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Activists want to force lesbians to consider them as sexual partners. 3

Sounds really horrific, doesn’t it? Transwomen, full of male-privilege, feel that lesbians must submit to having sex with them or else they’re transphobic. Right? I mean, multiple lesbian feminists are all saying the same thing. Even Cathy Brennan has a cotton ceiling tag. Certainly these self-identified lesbian feminists wouldn’t lie, right? Certainly these self-declared feminists wouldn’t purposely misrepresent cotton ceiling in an effort to make ciswomen fear trans people, right? RIGHT?!?

[Cotton Ceiling commenter] you are a male sexual predator, enabling your male predator brethren. Which is why you and all your Cotton Ceiling buddies creep me the fuck out… These dudes in dresses are trying to guilt-trip you into sleeping with them, and name-calling you if you don’t. There is nothing wrong with not liking penises or male bodies, and preferring female bodies. To say otherwise is lesbianphobic. 4

Horrific, isn’t it? Planned Parenthood held a workshop to teach transwomen how to make lesbians have sex with them. I want to reread the previous sentence and think about that for just a moment. Then reread the rhetoric about the cotton ceiling. With a straight face, these self-identified feminists asserted that Planned Parenthood taught transwomen how trick lesbians into sex.

Seriously. And you know what? A lot of people believed it.

Here’s the reality:

CC-workshop

 

There! See it? It says right there in the description: Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling will explore having sex with lesbians who don’t want to have sex with trans people! It says it right there… oh wait… it doesn’t say that at all.

Can you guess how many attended this,  the workshop-heard-round’-the-feminist-world?  Was it…

  1. 250 workshop attendees
  2. 150 workshop attendees
  3. 75 workshop attendees
  4. 50 workshop attendees
  5. 25 workshop attendees
  6. 10 workshop attendees
  7. 7 workshop attendees

If you guessed 7, you’d be correct. Let that sink in for a moment. All of this over a workshop with 7 people.

Care to guess what they talked about?

Would it really surprise you to know that what they talked about was body image and shame?

Seven people met to talk about body image and shame and Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) claimed that Planned Parenthood was organizing a meeting to teach trans people how to rape lesbians… and many, many people believed it. Were you one of the folks who believed that Planned Parenthood was teaching corrective rape?

TERF opinion leader and lawyer, Cathy Brennan
TERF opinion leader and lawyer, Cathy Brennan

I want you to pause for a moment and think hard about the notion that TERFs are pushing: transwomen support corrective rape.

Here, let me break down the basic TERF rhetoric:

TERF: Teh cotton ceiling is all about teaching trans people how to rape lesbians!1!!

Dupe: LOLWUT

TERF: Yeah, Planned Parenthood gave a workshop to teach trans people how to rape lesbians! No means no!

Dupe: That sounds a little strange to me…

TERF: Don’t believe me? Google any of the many, many, many TERF blogs that freaked over the Planned Parenthood workshop! #rapeculture

Cathey Brennan
Cathy Brennan

Dupe: Well, I did hear about how transwomen want to hang out in the women’s restroom…

TERF: Yup, it’s all about rapey rape culture!

Dupe: Yeah, I guess tranwomen are kinda rapey…

TERF: I KNOW, RIGHT?!?! Spread the word!

Dupe: I’m totally blogging about this!

Think about all the fear and enmity TERFs managed to generate over the Cotton Ceiling during this past year. They took a small meeting about shame and body image and purposefully twisted it to dupe people into believing that Planned Parenthood was teaching corrective rape tactics and MANY people believed it.

Planned Parenthood + Trans people = lesbian rape conspiracy... or not.
Planned Parenthood + Trans people = lesbian rape conspiracy… or not.

TERFs did what they almost always do. They equivocate in their arguments:

Original workshop description:  

Participants will work together to identify barriers, strategize ways to overcome them, and build community.

TERF Petition to stop the workshop:

Planned Parenthood Toronto is helping to sponsor a March 31 conference in Toronto that includes a workshop inviting participants to discuss and strategize ways they might be able to “overcome” women’s objections to these participants’ sexual advances.

Cathy Brennan, TERF Opinion Leader

Workshop supporters have suggested that “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling” is intended to facilitate a discussion about the social construction of sexual desire. Even if this were the case, being a lesbian is not a prejudicial social construct to be overcome by expanding lesbians’ limited political consciousness around trans women’s “gender identity.”

From there all a TERF need do is appeal the transwoman-rapist meme the radical right pushes while referencing the TERF petition and sit back and enjoy their malevolent handiwork.

TERFs making sure their 'trans people are rapists' narrative gets into women's magazines
TERFs making sure their ‘trans people are rapists’ narrative gets into women’s magazines

Back when all of this began, trans folk were really clear about what the cotton ceiling was about:

This, from the individual credited for popularizing the phrase, "cotton ceiling"
This, from the individual credited for popularizing the phrase, “cotton ceiling”

Or as a cisgender dyke organizer put it:

The idea of the “cotton ceiling” is intended to draw attention to how even in spaces that are politically and socially welcoming of trans women, transphobia often retains its influence on how we understand who is sexually desirable and who isn’t. It’s no different from other politicized criteria for desirability—people who are, for instance, fat or disabled are also often welcomed into queer women’s space but not seen as desirable compared to those hot slim, muscular, able-bodied sorts. This isn’t our fault—our entire culture tells us what’s sexy and what’s not, 24 hours a day, and that definition is terribly narrow. But it is really easy to forget how much influence advertising propaganda and social pressure can exert on what gets us wet and hard, and to let the mainstream’s terms dictate our desires. 5

If a small group wanted to talk about how ableism affected cultural notions of beauty and/or desirability, would feminist circles tolerate TERFs going on a yearlong campaign, claiming that those who aren’t able-bodied want to force lesbians to have sex with them?

In a culture that devalues and oppresses trans people, why is it not appropriate to discuss how these cisnormative beauty standards impact notions of desirability, how these biases relate to the fetishization of trans people and how all of this impacts the perception of trans people in queer spaces? Why is it not appropriate for transwomen to ask themselves how this affects the way we see ourselves and/or how this affects the way others view us?

Why don’t TERFs want trans people to have this discussion?

How would such a conversation affect the anti-trans TERF narrative they’ve been pushing for decades?

because the fact of the matter is that unlike born-women, who have everything (literally, everything) to lose from rape culture, transwomen have at least something (everything?) to gain. to a transwoman, cutting off her dick and turning it (inside out) into a fuckhole between her legs makes her feel better. from transwomens own mouths, we know that these fake fuckholes alleviate transwomens suffering. turning their dicks into extra-large condoms for other men to penetrate (or not, whevs…thats my hat-tip to the internet “lesbian transwomen”) actually tamps down their anxiety, and feelings of dysphoria.  6

Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent not only in religious myth, but in its offspring, phallocratic technology. The insane desire for power, the madness of boundary violation, is the mark of necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses. This necrophilic invasion/elimination takes a variety of forms. Transsexualism is an example 7

[Transsexual surgery] could be likened to political psychiatry in the Soviet Union. I suggest that transsexualism should best be seen in this light, as directly political, medical abuse of human rights. The mutilation of healthy bodies and the subjection of such bodies to dangerous and life-threatening continuing treatment violates such people’s rights to live with dignity in the body into which they were born, what Janice Raymond refers to as their “native” bodies. It represents an attack on the body to rectify a political condition, “gender” dissatisfaction in a male supremacist society based upon a false and politically constructed notion of gender difference.

Recent literature on transsexualism in the lesbian community draws connections with the practices of sadomasochism. 8

 

This should be a simple issue. How could our oppressors – men – possibly become us? How? Just by saying they are?  By the male medical industry and doctors making money off this game, declaring that they can turn men into women?  Would you agree with these men if they claimed to be a different race than they are, a race they are in a position to oppress?  Would you believe them if they claimed to be of a different species?  Why not?

If you do accept them as Lesbians, would you (as a Lesbian) want to be lovers with one?  Why not?  If you are hesitant to say “no” to their claims and demands, in spite of what you feel inside, why?  What is it that makes you agree to something that doesn’t feel right?  Does it remind you of other times when it was hard to deal with a man who refused to take “no” for an answer? 9

How would a serious discussion about our transmisogynistic culture, and its influence over notions of beauty impact anti-trans TERF messages?

How does shutting down this discussion benifit the TERF narrative?

Does it benifit the anti-trans TERF aims and goals to not only stop this discussion, but to colonize it in such a way that feminists would instinctively view the discussion as being an inherent part of rape culture?

“Transwomen” are not and can never be women or Lesbians – they are simply men, trying to steal our identity and culture… One way to begin to fight their oppressing Lesbians and women is to refuse to give them what they want. At the very least, PLEASE stop calling them “women” in any form, and stop using female pronouns for them… they act like typical men and intimidate and guilt trip – everything is about them. And the hell with any Lesbian who gets in their way. Some have also learned what to say to sound believably female, but if you question a bit further, they revert quickly to male bullying techniques. As for those who do have surgery, men do a lot of bizarre things for sexual gratification, such as strangling themselves to have more exciting orgasms, which has resulted in some unintentional suicides (such as that by David Carradine.)

As Janice Raymond says, “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating their body for themselves.”  It’s actually reminiscent of the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” 9

I think there’s a reason TERFs have put so much effort into colonizing this discourse. I think there’s a reason that they framed their colonization of trans discourse as rape prevention and I think that reason is plain to see.

I submit to you that TERFs do not want the trans community to have this discussion and they certainly do not want the cis community to question where they picked up their views – good/bad/indifferent – of trans people. I believe that such a discussion would further isolate TERFs from the rest of the feminist world.

 


1. http://tinyurl.com/ms5289e

2. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/917/570/206/support-womens-sexual-autonomy/

3. http://tinyurl.com/oa3lsy9

4. http://tinyurl.com/mj3vlcc

5. http://www.transadvocate.com/if-trans-women-arent-welcome-neither-am-i.htm

6. http://factcheckme.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/rape-culture-birthed-the-neovag/

7. Gyn/ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism by Mary Daly, pp 70 – 71

8. Sheila Jeffreys

9. http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/bev-jo-radical-lesbian-writing/