Feminism. It means standing in support of all women, right? Fighting for the equality of all women. Recognising intersectionality of oppression and the different issues facing women in different situations? Well…no. At least not according to TERFS (trans excluding radical feminists).
I like to think that I’m not your typical liberal, that I’m not the type who’ll effectively censor others and her own thinking by being closed off to anything that sounds conservative or exclusionary or non progressive. And my commitment to free speech means that everyone has the right to communicate with me and educate me (yes, that’s why I don’t use the block button on Twitter). So when @pantypopo casually told a trans woman that she is a “man” and doesn’t get to be in our conversation (a fairly uncontroversial exchange on waxing), I didn’t get angry. Instead we discussed the issue in an intriguing and civil way. And when @pantypopo tweeted a link at me and @CCriadoPerez (Caroline Criado-Perez), I read it. Because I believe I should read these things. Otherwise how do I know I really believe TERFs are wrong if I haven’t heard both sides of the argument? I read the link. I read other posts on the blog. I read @pantypopo’s blog. I read the blog of the infamous Cathy Brennan, and I read other blogs. And no, I’m not going to call them transphobes- because I don’t need to. (Though they are). Ad hominem arguments aren’t needed because I can show that TERF ideology is a huge logic fail.
The main issues TERFs have with the trans* community
1. Being trans is a sexual fetish which starts with crossdressing for sexual arousal
2. Trans people fight for rights so they can prey sexually on women in women’s toilets and women-only changing rooms e.g. by “videoing them peeing”
3. Trans people are taking over the feminist and gay rights movement/had no movement of their own and are hogging funding
4. Trans women are dangerous because they are really men, so the issue is that men are infiltrating feminist spaces and spying or destroying the feminist agenda from within
5. Trans women being able to use women’s shelters etc results in cis women being vulnerable
6. Trans women aren’t women and never will be (socialisation and physical sexual characteristics)
7. Trans people reinforce patriarchal gender norms
Let’s unpick that, shall we?
1. Well. Decades ago, the rest of the world cottoned on to the fact that there are vastly different reasons for people born with male-assigned bodies to dress as women. They do it (or have it done to them) for kink or part of BDSM role play (crossdressing, sissification); they do it to perform (drag queens, acting, etc) they do it because they’re genderqueer or trans or because they feel comfortable in women’s clothing even if they don’t identify as queer. Some cultures have 3 or more genders and this may involve male-borns living as women e.g. pre-colonial India where they held governmental positions. There may be more reasons.
Saying that crossdressing as a kink is the same as being trans* (a word that itself covers a spectrum of presentations and body types) is ignorant. Maybe a small number of men “rationalise their kink” by “convincing themselves they were really meant to be women” but that’s not true for the vast majority. The whole theory reads like a vanilla cis person’s confusion over queerness and kink. It also fails to account for cis women whose kink is to be dominant over men and “force” them to dress as women or little girls during role play. It fails to explain the existence of trans men. It raises issues over intersex people who choose to become women after being socialised as boys. It fails to explain why some female-assigned people dress as men.
2. So. TERFs think men are content to lose male privelege, be ostracised, risk being fired, murdered and raped, spend thousands getting surgery and hormones etc and have SRS surgery just so they can “film [us] peeing” or chat us up in the changing rooms? If a guy wants to see a woman in her underwear he doesn’t have to cut his penis off to do it. He doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars in debt, unemployed and ostracised. He could, like, open a laptop. He’d see much more than a woman changing on the internet. He could purchase services from sex workers- camming, full service, pro-dommes, whatever he wants. That’s way cheaper and quicker than surgery. How many men would even have the patience to sit through years of hormones, electrolysis and surgery, then spend more years as a trans activist fighting for the right to use female changing rooms, never knowing if this right will be won in his lifetime? That’d be like me drawing up a 10-year life plan and bankrupting myself so I can see a cute guy in his boxers in a male changing room in 2023. As for chopping bits of my precious, strong, beautiful body off or sewing things up- NO. Just no. Male privelege is the main advantage men have over women and the thing feminism exists to fight against. It’s unlikely men would give it up just to see (bra-covered) boob.
3. The posts I’ve read about trans projects recieving too much funding were biased- they compared the amount given to one feminist project against the amount allotted to all trans projects funded by the organisation. As for trans people having no movement of their own and simply riding on the gay rights movements’ achievements, I’m not sure this is actually true. In previous decades people who were seen as queer or gay might identify as trans if they were around now. I’ve heard of gays and lesbians of previous decades who chose opposite gender nicknames and presented as the opposite sex. Even if trans people did ride the coattails of the gay movement, so what? You could make the same (unfounded) allegation against intersex or genderqueer or androgynous or asexual or nongendered people. So what if any of these groups did? What precisely is the problem if gays were the first to mobilise and gain (some) acceptance?
4. Same problems as the Chopping Off My Cock So I See Women’s Shoes Under The Stall Door In Ten Years theory. (Okay, so lots of trans people don’t get SRS surgery – or any surgery. But they still live as women and get the same misogyny, violence and sexism if they’re read as women. Many do use hormones which drastically change the body , including the genitals.) Who is most likely to spend thousands and years changing his body and losing male privelege just to infiltrate feminist activist groups? Misogynists, right? But misogynists are the sort of men who look down on women and don’t think women (and therefore feminism) can achieve anything much. They wouldn’t see feminists as a threat. Misogynists are also rather sad individuals who aren’t very proactive or able to craft such elaborate and time-consuming plans; they mostly hang out online, blogging against “sluts”, posting misogynistic comments on articles or venting about their exes on forums. We’ve all seen the pathetic things they’re capable of.
5. There’s no reason why cis women would be vulnerable if trans women used women’s shelters or were put next to women in hospitals (aren’t hospital wards mixed gender anyway?). Trans women might be stronger, but differences in strength, height and health exist within the cis female community. There are cis female athletes and cis female bodybuilders. Even the average cis woman would be stronger than a cis woman with a severe health condition or disability. As for sexual predatoring, it would make more sense to ban all lesbians, bisexuals and pansexuals (whether cis, trans or intersex) from using women-only spaces in case they start sexually harassing or raping everyone.
6. Yes, socialisation starts at birth (often with the pink clothes purchased before the birth) and yes it is an ongoing life long process. As values change, gender roles change and so women are often re-socialised as the expectations for women are tweaked. And yes, trans women haven’t experienced this socialisation. But. They experience it as soon as they present as women. They get all the misogyny and sexism, and if they’re spotted for being trans, they get worse oppression than cis women. Look at any statiistics you like and you’ll find that trans people are more at risk of murder, rape, employment discrimination, mental health issues and homelessness than cis people. And come on- do you really think that if employers are bigoted enough to discriminate against cis women, they’ll be rushing to employ or promote trans people? Do you really think that the communities who oppress lesbians are going to welcome trans women with open arms? It’s worse because trans women get discriminated on two or three grounds – being women, being trans and (if they have a female partner) being lesbian. And yes on the surface it looks like trans women ‘choose’ the oppression that cis women are forced into. That they “know what they’re getting into”. But do they? Do all trans women know exactly what oppression they will face before they succeed in being read as women? How can they know what sexism is like just from observation, any more than I can know what transphobia is like just from observation? And the bottom line is that whether trans women freely chose oppression or not, they are being oppressed now. They face all the oppression faced by cis women, plus the added and more dangerous oppression for being transgender. One post I read seemed to focus on rape and inply that trans women will not be raped. But if they are read as women there is no reason why they cannot be attacked. Even assuming that heterosexual rapists leave women alone after discovering they’re not cis (we don’t know if they do), what is the advantage? The attacker would already have hurt, stripped, maybe molested you before he discovered you weren’t cis. You’ve already been seriously sexually assaulted and maybe physically assaulted. This idea seems to imply that only PIV rape or ‘full’ [?] rape counts as rape, which is a ridiculous idea. People of all genders have killed themselves over sexual assaults that ‘fall short’ of rape. The idea also has misogynistic undertones about equating women with their genitals and the patriarchal importance placed on physical virginity. Given that not all rapists are heterosexual, the idea that trans people can’t be raped is nonsensical. Rapists can be queer, too.
The radical feminist idea that trans women aren’t women because of their bodies is biological reductionist (equating male with male genitals). It’s also hypocritical to then claim that even after SRS surgery they still aren’t women because women cannot be equated with their genitals.
7. Radical feminists want to abolish gender, so obviously to them trans people seem to be reinforcing patriarchal gender norms by declaring that gender is real, and they are born a certain gender (but in the wrong body- though not all trans people subscribe to the ‘born in the wrong body’ narrative). Actually transgenderism can be seen (and has been seen by some cultures) as creating a third gender. Transgender individuals divorce gender from physical sex, which though it may reinforce gender, it at least shatters the patriachal value of gender which was to repress the female sex. Gender isn’t that valuable to the patriarchy if it is separate to biological sex because people who were male-assigned at birth get oppressed while those previously female-assigned enjoy male privelege. The tie between gender, sex and reproduction (and therefore important aspects of the gender roles) also get messed with. Besides, even if trans women (and therefore trans men- stop just blaming the women, feminists!) reinforce gender roles, plenty of cis women do too. Women who shave (guilty), wear gender-exclusive clothes like skirts and dresses (guilty), are housewives, work in traditional female careers like caring, are interested in style (guilty) and cosmetics, even arguably women who have no interest in feminist issues. Are radical feminists going to kick all of them out of feminism too? According to some radical feminists, PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex is unfeminist. I’m actually not guilty of that very often, but that’s because I’m kinky (which is even more unfeminist in the eyes of some radical feminists). And of course there are the sex worker excluding feminists, but that’s another subject for another blog post.
So there we are: 7 reasons why the radical feminist criticism and exclusion of transgender and transsexual women is failed logic. I have tried to keep this post as non biased as possible and have included links to some TERF blogs and @Pantypopo’s Twitter because even if we disagree, she deserves credit for indirectly making me write this. I apologise if I’ve accidentally said anything ignorant or offensive about trans people – you can tweet me at @Slutocrat on Twitter and I will change the text. -Slutocrat