Right now my little meerkat brain is like a ball – it keeps rolling around, unable to settle on any single idea – at least until I read more on the stance taken toward transgender individuals by certain portions of the radfem movement.
It’s not the only topic that’s up for discussion. I’m considering dipping my toes into the dangerous waters that is men’s rights activism (there’s a whole lot wrong with that picture too, but that’s an entry for another time). There’s the possibility of a post about Star Trek vs Star Wars, but in a slightly unusual way, and to be honest, I’m not sure that post is a good idea.
Enough preamble. The title of this post is TERFs so let’s start by explaining what a TERF is.
TERF stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. That should give you a clue as to the stance taken up by supporters of the movement. I should stress (once more) that TERFs are not representative of all radical feminists, and certainly not feminists in general. In fact, there are radical feminists out there who reject the mindset of TERFs entirely: this site is a good example.
What does a TERF think? Well, for starters, they don’t like the expression ‘TERF’. To the radfems to whom this term applies, it is seen as a slur. It’s taken as derogatory, but what other term would best describe their stance? Are they not radical feminists who want to exclude trans-women from their spaces and ideas? I am struggling to think of a more appropriate term to use here.
TERFs feel that trans-women are ‘wolves in sheeps’ clothing’, as it were, seeking to infiltrate women’s spaces and undermine women from within. Examples of transgender individuals who assault or spy on women whilst within changing rooms or public toilets are held up as the be-all and end-all of discussion, extrapolated to apply to all transgender women, and then used as justification for refusing to discuss transgender women in respect of women’s rights.
I can only assume that of the thinking behind this (or perhaps all of the thinking) is due to the idea of ‘biological determinism’ (many thanks to Emma, who runs a radfem Tumblr page, for that point). As mentioned in my earlier blog entry ‘The Scary side of Radical Feminism‘, Radical Witch makes the argument that all ‘males*’ are predisposed towards violence and aggression – since a transgender woman was a man at birth, it’s easy to follow that line of reasoning through to its conclusion – transgender women are really violent men, who will inevitably hurt women, and they are infiltrating women’s spaces to do it.
The flip side of this sort of reasoning is that, biologically speaking, men do tend to be physically stronger than women and have more aggressive instincts. Women are weaker physically than men and tend to be less aggressive. Another way of wording that sentence is that women are weak and need protection (I don’t agree with that philosophy, just to make that clear).
So we have not one but two stereotypes going on here. Firstly, the blanket assumption that transgender women are all perverts wanting to assault women, and secondly, the assertion that this behaviour is a biological compulsion built into all men, and one that all men exhibit.
There is a tremendous irony regarding TERFs. They have unwittingly aligned themselves with the conservative religious right in countries such as America, and are thus fighting for the marginalisation of transgender people alongside groups who would happily marginalise women in general (to say nothing of the homosexual elements of radical feminism). Given the very nature of the forces that have restricted women’s rights down the years, it is frankly baffling that anyone who belongs to a group that has suffered oppression would seek to deny other groups rights and freedoms, least of by allying with groups that would oppress them.
*Radical Witch and the author of ‘Mancnheeze‘ refer to men as ‘males’ rather than men, in what I can only guess is an effort to dehumanise men. This makes the blanket statements and assertions easier to justify.
So there you have it. My thoughts on TERFs. I invite anyone and everyone to comment – I will not block anyone, provided comments are kept civil.