A sign at the 2013 Rally for Transgender Equity in Washington, DC. Photo by Ted Eytan, via Creative Commons.
Reading Michelle Goldberg’s recent New Yorker article “What is a Woman? The Dispute Between Radical Feminism and Transgenderism” made me feel sick.
The article is meant to paint a clear picture of a longstanding debate within feminist groups about whether transgender women should be accepted as women, profiling several feminists and exploring the history of current discussions about the push to exclude transgender women from “women only” spaces. But in the process, it paints trans identity as suspect, does nothing to counter the hurtful misconception that trans women are either “men” exercising entitled “male privilege” in deeming themselves female or sexual fetishists acting out “erotic compulsions,” and holds up authors who’ve written book-length academic works delineating these ideas as noble, aggrieved scholars.
While this may sound like speculative fiction set in a world where trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) theories have conquered queer and gender studies communities, it’s not. Instead, it’s something more disheartening: a one-sided profile that’s sympathetic to writers and activists who’ve spent their careers working to marginalize and persecute the already-oppressed transgender community.
Trans-exclusionary radical feminists posit that transgender women can never be considered women. At their worst, they argue that transgender women are malicious in their deceit, aiming to infiltrate female-only spaces with the goal of harassing or raping other women. These are the feminists who campaign against gender-neutral bathrooms and support the exclusion of transgender women from other women-only spaces.
In the article, it feels like Goldberg personally has a low opinion of social justice activists—that’s the view presented in her other recent article “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars.” One of the biggest problems in the New Yorker piece is that Goldberg presents trans people’s self-definitions as opinions: “Trans women say that they are women because they feel female—that, as some put it, they have women’s brains in men’s bodies.” TERF’s views are presented the same way, following the previous statement with this one, “Radical feminists reject the notion of a ‘female brain.’ They believe that if women think and act differently from men it’s because society forces them to, requiring them to be sexually attractive, nurturing, and deferential.”
Reading this passage, one might think TERFs and trans people have a philosophical or semantic debate. Trans people’s identities, for which they and their allies are waging a worldwide human rights campaign to define as legally legitimate—backed by decades of medical and psychological data—and TERFs’ hateful academic theories carry equal weight and import. If those two sides were balanced in the piece, readers might walk away with a shoulder shrug, “Who knows whether trans identity is legitimate or not?” The title of the piece certainly encourages this confusion, making it a question as to whether transgender women should be seen as women.
But the piece isn’t even balanced. In a response to Goldberg’s piece published on Autostraddle, Mari Brighe noted that Goldberg cited 14 radical feminists, quoting nine and including two quotes from books. In contrast, she quoted only four trans women, including no quotes from books; two of her trans sources actually support radical feminist viewpoints. Likewise, Goldberg quotes TERFs misgendering trans women repeatedly, never mentioning that trans women find such language dehumanizing and hurtful. “Sadly, what she presents is a disturbingly one-sided view of the situation that relies on heavily anecdotal evidence, uncited claims and debunked theories, and ignores the extended campaign of harassment and attack that the trans community has endured at the hands of radical feminists,” writes Brighe.
In Goldberg’s narrative, it’s TERFs who come off as oppressed. Their ideas lack the “power and cachet” of the trans movement, and they’ve found themselves now “shunned as reactionaries on the wrong side of a sexual-rights issue.” To understand how unjust this characterization of things is, one has to understand all the issues relating to trans people and TERFs that Goldberg doesn’t mention.
Statistics from the National Transgender Discrimination survey. Illustration by Michelle Leigh.
The article, for instance, discusses second-wave feminist author Janice Raymond’s 1979 book The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male, sharing the notorious statement, “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves.” Golderg notes that Raymond now gets booted off of academic panels, failing to note at all that students attending those panels might be trans or queer people who find such writings dehumanizing and bigoted. Goldberg also chooses to leave unmentioned Raymond’s work advising the government regarding trans health care, with her paper “Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery,” which she prepared for the National Center on Health Care in 1980. Prior to adopting Raymond’s transphobic views, the Department of Health and Human Services supported trans health care as medically necessary. Raymond’s writings helped change that, though, delegitimizing the needs of trans people in the government’s eyes. What Goldberg paints as an evenhanded volley of ideas has a long history of real-world consequences like these, which she conveniently leaves unmentioned. As the piece paints Raymond as a victim of political correctness run amok, her negative attitudes toward trans identity seem to be presented as legitimate.
In the depiction of current relations between the two groups, trans activists in the article come off as mean-spirited, marauding bullies, ceaselessly attempting to prevent TERFs from gathering in conferences and hounding them on social media and at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Fest. Wholly ignored in this picture are the acts of individual persecution visited on trans women by TERFs, which create the vigilance that fuels trans people’s responses.
Writing for Bitch in February, for instance, Tina Vasquez documented how TERF activists like Cathy Brennan have turned online debates into real world backlash, emailing the doctor of a transgender woman, contacting a trans woman’s employer, posting the OK Cupid dating profiles of trans women, and contacting the mother of an outspoken supporter of transgender issues.
“This kind of conduct is incredibly dangerous to trans women,” says Emily Horsman, a woman targeted by Brennan, in that article. “Outing us in a workplace or school environment could easily damage our future and put us at risk for physical violence.”
It’s known that Goldberg was aware of such TERF activities, because the day her piece appeared, the trans author Julia Serano wrote a blog post about having been interviewed by Goldberg for the article, in which she details discussing such topics at length with the writer. The omissions, Serano lamented, “Will likely lead uninformed readers to presume that trans people are simply mean and out of control, rather than reacting to the transphobia, trans-misogyny, and sexualizing comments we constantly face from TERFs.”
All in all, though, Goldberg’s article depicts a bizarre version of reality in which trans people are powerful aggressors—as if the appearance of one trans woman on the cover of Time, and the ability to convince a Quaker meetinghouse not to host a TERF conference equals absolute power.
“Injustice at Every Turn,” the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2011 survey, paints a far different picture, however, one in which 90 percent of trans people report having experienced workplace harassment, 78 percent are harassed at school, one in five experience homelessness—with more than half of those encountering harassment when attempting to access homeless shelters—and the overall population is four times as likely to live in poverty as Americans in general.
The largest failing of the article is that it completely omits this struggle against discrimination, of which the back and forth with TERFs is just a single—though heated—part. The gains in acceptance and visibility trans people have achieved of late, which Goldberg paints as some unfair advantage in their relations with TERFs, have come through hard, often heartbreaking, activism. For Goldberg and the New Yorker to characterize the plight of trans people in this way, making no mention of the near-constant threat of violent assault and death facing trans women of color in America, is misleading. Sadly, this article becomes one more obstacle that the trans community will have to overcome, in its fight for security, recognition, and equality.
Related Reading: It’s Time to End the Long History of Feminism Failing Transgender Women.
Leela Ginelle is a trans woman playwright and journalist whose work appears in PQ Monthly, Bitch and the Advocate.
34 Comments Have Been Posted
Anonymous replied on
Thank you so much for writing this article.
Theres so much more to being
Anonymous replied on
Theres so much more to being a woman than being sexually attractive , nurturing , and deferential , some of wich are not even imposed by the society but that women might like to just embody without any pressure from society (altough society might force them to drop some of theses ) some womens even like to be nurturing without it being a matter of being imposed by society.
And can they tell what does society force onto mens too ?
Seph replied on
Teraina E Hird replied on
Whilst far from an academic work, my autobiography Unashamedly Me tells of the 50 year struggle I had to come to terms with my gender. This should be required reading for all Terfs and then maybe they may begin to better understand the way we really feel.Available from Amazon.com or Amazon.uk.
Fight the Real Enemy--Please?
Kate Welch replied on
While I do not agree with the ideology of the trans-exclusionary radical feminists described in Goldberg's article, I think this post misinterprets the intent of the article, and furthermore highly exaggerates the power and the threat that both the article and these radical fringe groups pose to transgender identity, which, as a result, inadvertently diverts our focus from our real threat: capitalist-driven, inequality-dependent, cis-male patriarchy.
Goldberg is reporting the history and ideas of an extreme minority portion of a community that has been similarly marginalized and oppressed in history--lesbian-identified cis women—and tracing how and why it may have emerged in stark contrast to the more socially and politically successful inclusive goals and achievements of the greater LGBT and feminist movements.
On close reading, it appears that Goldberg’s article assumes from the very beginning (or, as we used to say, “it goes without saying”) that trans people inherently and unquestioningly have the right to identify themselves: “Such views are shared by few feminists now,” she writes; “…what’s determinative isn’t people’s chromosomes or their genitals or the way they were brought up, but how they see themselves,” and “…it’s akin to straight people refusing to share a locker room with gays or lesbians.” (In addition, Goldberg does specifically cite the statistic of 41% attempted suicide repeated in the post).
Any reader who cares enough to read this article in the _New Yorker_ in its entirety likely already has either significant knowledge or an educated opinion about transgender rights within the context of the LGBT and feminist movements, and the extreme views presented by a handful of radical lesbian feminists, mostly in the late ‘70s and ‘80s --is not going to change that, much less confuse anyone today.
While I agree that Goldberg could have included a few more quotes from transgender women in her article, the quotes and citations from the TERF literature that she did include handily assist the TERFS of today in digging their own hole to bury their movement in, due to their extreme and exclusionary nature—they come off as freaks, not “aggrieved scholars.”
“What is a woman?” is a question that men, women, feminists, queers, and transgender people have been pondering since recorded history, and it is a legitimate philosophical topic whose discussion, in itself, harms no one.
In fact, the REAL enemies and the real threats to transgender individuals don’t EVER ask this question of themselves at all; furthermore, it makes them extremely uncomfortable and violent when other people DO ask it.
Does anyone think that Dean Schmitz, the 47-year-old man who taunted trans woman CeCe McDonald and her friends as they were walking past a bar in Minneapolis in 2011 with epithets of “bitches with dicks” and “faggot-lovers” before smashing CeCe in the face with a beer glass, was inspired by the 1979 radical manifesto of lesbian ex-nun Janice Raymond?
Schmitz would probably have called Lierre Keith, the 49-year-old lesbian separatist who Goldberg reports founded a radical ecofeminist group a “faggot lover” too.
A butch lesbian farmer who welcomed a transitioning MTF to a conference (with-WOW!-FIFTY people!) but asked that she sleep in separate quarters—THAT is our oppressor? CeCe McDonald and Laverne Cox are going to feel safer walking down the street because a thousand U of O students signed a petition to cancel Keith’s speech at an environmental law conference? Dean Schmitz is going to be convinced of the inherent humanity of ANY feminine-appearing man, regardless of how s(he) self-identifies, because some people made a "few dozen" radical separatist women meet to talk about their fringe ideas in the library instead of at the Quaker Hall?
This has GOT to be one of patriarchy’s greatest achievements: compelling the oppressed to accuse each other of the utmost violence against each other from our words, rather than taking down our real enemy—male privilege and its violent hatred of perceived weakness and inferiority based on gender—and getting us to expend so much energy squabbling each other instead of dismantling patriarchy from its roots.
Think about it: if a capitalist-driven, cis-male dominated world that rapes, murders, and exploits cis-women, femme-appearing cis-men, butch-appearing cis-women, and all trans people, no longer existed, then neither transgender individuals nor TERFS would exist, because there would no longer be any desire or benefit to violently police or question the source of anyone’s individual or collective expression or identity!
TERFS fear TRANS because men have brutally harmed them and continue to threaten to do so. TRANS fears TERFS because men have brutally harmed them and continue to threaten to do so. We can’t end the fear of TERFS and TRANS until we find a way to end—once and for all—the brutal harm of men who fear nothing more than appearing “feminine” or “weak.”
Everyone seems to forget that we are still in an incredible evolving period of shifting gender expression and identity, and just wants us all to be THERE yet, and gets so angry when the other oppressed groups are not already THERE, when in reality, all of us have suffered trauma due to cis-man, cis-men, and the patriarchal programming that makes it all possible.
It really, really hurts when someone won’t acknowledge our hard-won, self-created identities, especially other oppressed groups who should know better. But no one can eliminate your identity if you, yourself know who you are. It took us quite awhile to get to this point in history, and it’s going to take us awhile to get THERE, and we are definitely not going to get THERE, EVER—by replicating the hatred and violence on each other that men and patriarchy have done to us.
Anyone who contributes to a TERF website or an anti-TERF website is doing nothing to liberate us from patriarchal violence and is wasting precious time and energy.
OMG! Extreme TERFS drove a trans woman out of FEMINIST RECORD COLLECTIVE!
OMG! Extreme TRANS shut down a gathering of TWO DOZEN radical feminists!
OMG! A WOMAN wrote an article about it!
Meanwhile, the capitalist, inequality-dependent, male-dominated majority looks at all of it as one, and laughs and laughs at all the little freaks running around in their tiny circles of imagined power, while a father shames his son for asking for a sparkly backpack and Old Navy forces us to search for either “boy” or “girl” clothing.
I agree there are bigger fights
email@example.com replied on
There are bigger fights for trans women than TERF's. There are bigger fights for feminism.
However, do not deny that this fight or war has lasted for the last 40 years. It was more than just a trans woman being removed from a lesbian record collective. In the 70's, 80's and 90's the ideas of TERF's were mainstream in academic and center-left circles. Real lives were hurt by these transphobic ideas.
In my college years I tried to find space as a trans teen. The best I could do was avoid male behavior, live as a bi male and date bisexual women and lesbian feminists. What did i really want? To be a woman in that same life. However, the "Trans Sexual Empire" was still viewed at the definitive authority on trans women for thinking progressives. To this day, i can get fearful around lesbians. Its an irrational fear of being hated.
Now as a lesbian single mother living in San Francisco - I am forced to confront my feelings about this past. First of all, it is in the past. People's views of transexuals have changed and are now changing faster than I can understand. Giving me the wonderful responsibility of being a healthy supportive woman amongst other women.
Thankfully, we trans women are finally beginning to be free enough to fight these larger battles.
BethanyAnne replied on
Every.time. It's like clockwork. Every time someone dares care about transwomen at all, I look in the comments, and there's a wonderful fair-minded and caring individual who wishes us nothing but the best questioning whether spending any time or effort on us is worth it. After a fair and deeply balanced accounting, they sadly and reluctantly conclude that it simply isn't Our Time Yet. It will be Soon™! Very Soon! Just not now. How about we not be so selfish to care about ourselves, hmm? If it's a place where gay men congregate, it's usually a bit more direct "Those trannies are nothing like us, why are they here anyway?" If its a space with more lesbians, its "I agree that they are women, but you know, if they were really women, they'd know that women face more important concerns than theirs."
I'm gonna enjoy when our turn happens. Oh, that will be so wonderful. And I'm not worried! It will be Soon™.
Denial of healthcare kills.
Cel replied on
Denial of healthcare kills. Exclusion from women's shelters kills. Stigma in the media kills, especially alongside widespread societal violence. If a few TERFs hadn't waged a decades-long campaign of hate and infiltration, maybe fewer trans women would be murdered. Maybe we'd have healthcare. Maybe our fellow LGB folks wouldn't make us homeless and unemployed, and we'd have some shelter against straight men. A friend read an article calling us "shemales" in the national press, by a TERF. Two months later she was dead.
So, is the 40% suicide rate completely unrelated to just how much some feminists want us dead? Maybe it is, as I've often seen argued, no sign of discrimination but merely a sign trans people are "mad" and "weak". Why else was it cited in the New Yorker article, after all?
And, well, you say "you can't erase an identity". But you can erase the people, by killing them. And a few TERFs have even explicitly stated that's what they want. Far too many of us are murdered as it is. And TERFs stand between trans people and the support and belief by doctors, police (perhaps), bosses, and all of the public.
"But no one can eliminate your identity if you, yourself know who you are"
They can. They kill you then you're dead. This scar next to my eye reminds me that it's been tried. The hatred from fellow feminists reminds me that, maybe the guy who called me an "abomination" was right. Maybe I'm better off dead.
It does kill
Dana Taylor replied on
A conservative estimate indicates that around 50,000 trans people died because of Raymond's involvement in our healthcare.
woah...where's the evidence
Anonymous replied on
woah...where's the evidence for that? I'd be interested in reading it. That is crazy.
f*ck those faux feminists,
Anonymous replied on
f*ck those faux feminists, and f*ck that guy. you are no abomination you are person who deserves love and care and respect and allies who will stand up with you.
Seph replied on
"patriarchy’s greatest achievements"
Patriarchy is not an ideology or a group of people. "Oppression has achieved X" cannot actually happen.
"radical fringe groups pose to transgender identity"
So you've pointed out these people are negative, but I disagree, I think the stronger the voice, the more heads will turn. If we get out and say our opinions,
"Fight the Real Enemy"
Yes, let's forget about ignorance. Wait, what? This is no different from the "look at the bigger picture" argument, which many people use to dis-empower minorities. I happen to also be an aspie, so let's say autismspeaks spends 4% of it's charity income on actually helping families with autistic children and they're spreading awareness, so they're doing good. But some good doesn't make autismspeaks good, just how the idea of learning compassion and altruism for others, doesn't make Buddhism good. Buddhism states only males can be ordained, those who are gay cannot, this naturally encourages ignorance and intolerance. People's opinions won't change just because of a law. Autismspeaks is advocating cure culture, which is stigmatizing. You see stigma is the 'Real Enemy'. You're basically saying "let's ignore the millions of little people" and ignore stigma (because patriarchy). Changing minds IS important.
So, there's a lot in here,
Anonymous replied on
So, there's a lot in here, but I'm going to respond to this:
The idea of the real fight/threat.
This argument has been used in our movements to derail legit conversations about tactics and power dynamics that are replicated from larger society. And they are usually made by people with more privilege. We can't talk about male dominance within the group because the more important fight is against x more important thing. We can't talk about cis-women harassing trans women because men are harassing all of us, which is more important.
There is always going to be a bigger fight, but this isn't one battle, it's a campaign, a struggle, one with many fronts that will take time and a variety of tactics. And not examining ourselves along the way will only replicate the problems of the society as a whole as we carry them with us.
Further, this is not just a problem of trans women being excluded from small conferences (which, ps, is still a problem if we are trying to build a diverse and inclusive movement) but one of trans women being harassed in their daily lives, on social media, outed at their jobs. People like Catherine Brennan make a hobby of stalking and abusing trans women and that is a significant problem, especially if they are using the label feminist to justify their viscous behavior.
Rephrased, you can't smash the patriarchy together singing tra-la-la if some of you are acting like patriarchal douches.
There is so much hate in here
Victoria Whyte replied on
There is so much hate in here that I can't even handle going through it closely enough to respond to it, but I am going to comment on this part:
Trans is an adjective, not a noun. You can't use "TRANS" the way you're using "TERFS" because TERFs is an acronym where the 's' makes it plural, but that's not what the 's' in trans is for. If you would say "Extreme CIS does some thing blah blah blah", don't use "trans" like that either. And since you would never ever reduce cissexuals to being only cis and nothing else, so don't do that with trans folks either.
Anonymous replied on
This response was written so much more calmly and with such greater detail than I would have made it, but I couldn't agree more.
These articles remind me of history class, the War of the Three Henry's. The two Catholic Henry's were so busy fighting each other that the Protestant won the throne. To borrow from American history:
"We must all hang together or we shall all hang separately."
No-one is asking anyone to forget their grievances or to stop taking care of themselves -- but attacking someone in a petty way (spray-painting on a tent? harassing someone's family or doctor?) is not taking care of yourself; it is harming someone else in a way that is not only unproductive but backwards.
We are arguing over grammar when all kinds of women-- all kinds of people-- are facing down death and violence. Let's make it safe for everyone to walk down the street first. Let's make workplace discrimination based on anything other than the ability to do your job illegal first. Let's create resources and stomp out ignorance with our words and our policies and our presence first. Then we will have the foundation on which to build a world where we can all live in safety and agree to disagree without presuming or attacking one another.
but we are fighting the real enemy...
fakecisgirl replied on
No, radical fauxminists fear trans women because they need someone to punch down on in shilling for the patriarchy. There's no "pure" intent in radical fauxminism other than to buy temporary safety from the patriarchy...they're patriarchal shills just like MRAs or religious conservatives, and granting them any moral high ground to "feminism" ignores that they work to actively harm some women...generally trans women, almost always sex workers, and sometimes even disabled women or married cis women who don't work outside the household.
Holding the radical fauxminist accountable for being a pro-patriarchy plant is fighting the real enemy, just like fighting MRAs is fighting the real enemy, just like fighting religious and secular conservatism that hurts women is the real enemy. It's all patriarchy, no matter what clothing you put it in. (See http://inchoaterica.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/doing-the-patriarchys-work-...)
The radfaux set is a number of white women, who work in positions of privilege and power (partner at a law firm? tenured academic?) and use the Internet as a tool of harassing women. They often harass Black cis women for some reason, and often maintain sockpuppet accounts that claim to be Black until they're caught, like GallusMag, and it's pointed out that they're really in internet blackface. As a half-Black woman, it's really insulting to see people calling for my death adopting blackface...
People with money and conditional power, because in this patriarchal society all women only have conditional power, punching down on people to stand on their backs? Using Internet blackface? Harassing people? Siding with cishet white Republicans? That's about as "feminist" as Ronald Reagan. Yet leaders of the radfaux movement have done all these things. There's nothing feminist about radical fauxminism, it's just a front for the same old patriarchy.
this. all of this. thanks for
Anonymous replied on
this. all of this.
thanks for saying it.
Amy Robertson replied on
I thought this was a great response to the New Yorker article, though I disagree that that article undermined transgender identity. I thought the TERFs were accurately portrayed as the narrow-minded troglodytes that they are. Here are a couple more thoughts on why TERFs are so objectionable: discriminating based on their arrogant assumption that they can know and judge the inner life of other people. http://thoughtsnax.com/2014/08/02/peter-singer-and-the-terfs-we-know-you...
I am a victim of this hate group.
Dana Taylor replied on
Thanks for linking to my article about Brennan contacting my employer. She also contacted my doctor! The coordinated attack against me via my employer also included Janice Raymond. Soon after this happened I was diagnosed with PTSD which has been debilitating. I am on what is known as random disability right now. This trauma I am still suffering from has ruined my life. I submitted myself to the emergency room for help where I received none and the following day I was taken to a crisis center. Not only does the trauma prevent me from living my life as I did before the attack but it has literally cost me thousands of dollars.
Her minions have attacked me numerous times claiming I am faking PTSD. They ridicule me over it all the time. Even after posting all the proof on my site, they continue.
Jessica Mink replied on
What a wonderful response to the New Yorker article! Thank you for pointing out the fact that despite their relatively small numbers, TERFs have done quite a bit of damage which it has taken decades to build up the support we needed to start to undo.
Anonymous replied on
Re: "the ability to convince a Quaker church not to host a TERF conference"
It's a very tiny thing, but Quaker places of worship are not properly called "churches" unless the congregation are evangelical Friends (which is not the case in Multnomah).
The proper word to use instead of "church" in this case would be "Meeting" (which refers to the congregation, who were the ones convinced not to host the Radfems). If you want to refer to the building specifically, the word is "meetinghouse."
thanks for the heads up
Sarah Mirk replied on
Sorry for that inaccuracy, I'll fix that.
I didn’t see the New Yorker
Patrick replied on
I didn’t see the New Yorker article as being pro-terf or anti-trans. I thought it was clear that Goldberg thought that the TERFs were in the wrong, and it is even clearer in her discussion of the article on the New Yorker Out Loud podcast. I’m not steeped in transgender theory or the history of transgender rights, and I thought that it was clear that the TERFs were on the fringe and basing their ideology on shaky ground.
Thank for suggesting the podcast
firstname.lastname@example.org replied on
Based on your suggestion, I listened to the pod cast.
I agree the author makes clear that she thinks rad fems are wrong excluding trans woman. However, I do not think they have a good understanding of the conflict. The topic is introduced as an theological debate not a conflict between a school of thought vs. medical science and actually real lives. Is lesbian rights a theological debate?
Anne-Marie Taylor replied on
So after reading this article I went back and read the New Yorker article. I am new to this debate and this history but couldn't help but get the sense of something. It smacked of a bunch of people complaining about the tactics they've consistently employed in the past (and continue to employ) being turned around to bite them on the tuckus. The TERF community has hurt a ton of people over a long period of time. They've gotten their way for so long and now hey're the ones being oppressed when others stand up and call them out on it? Give me a break. I feel no sympathy for them as they get a dose of the treatment they've been meting out, though I do draw the line at violence or implied violence as retaliation.
And I've got to object to the idea of Lisa Vogel of Michigan Womyn's Festival that: "There’s something that I experience on the land when I walk at night without a flashlight in the woods and recognize that for that moment I feel completely safe. And there’s nowhere else I can do that.” She continued, “If, tomorrow, we said everyone is welcome, I’m sure it would still be a really cool event, but that piece that allows women to let down their guard and feel that really deep sense of personal liberation would be different, and that’s what we’re about.”
The designation of womyn born womyn does not automatically create a safe space . Womyn born womyn can be rapists and abusers too; the ability and choice to commit such acts has nothing to do with gender assignment on birth.The assumption that it does is dangerous in and of itself.
Per your last paragraph: I
Anonymous replied on
Per your last paragraph:
I felt really uncomfortable with what Vogel was saying their too, and for me it both ignores the violence women are capable of and also is a form of gender essentialism. The idea that women are safe to be around because they are women and inherently don't want to cause harm, especially to other women is far from true and dehumanizing in its own weird way.
Thanks for pointing that out.
This article makes me sad.
Anonymous replied on
This article makes me sad.
I find it rather alarming
Anonymous replied on
I find it rather alarming that so many people thought this article was one sided. One article is hardly going to bring up EVERYTHING and to be honest this article is one of the first i've read in the mainstream that has even attempted to understand why there is such a struggle between radical feminists and pro-trans folks.
I agree that the notion of a 'female' and 'male' brain is made up and is simply a tool used historically by men to keep women from being viewed as equals. Am I wrong in thinking this? I grew up as a girl child thinking i'm going to show everyone I can do things as well as boys can and there is no difference between us. Was I wrong? Am I no longer allowed to think this?
Women have fought SO HARD and SO LONG to create groups that support abortions, women focused health care, promotion of women's rights in government, school, work, childcare in all our daily lives. Do we not have a right to question what it means to lose the word woman altogether? Especially when we are losing these rights all over again. Abortion is becoming less and less available, public child care is non existent, women never reached pay equality.
As someone who definitely does not align with most of the radical feminists interviewed in the article I feel that there must be an in between where, we're not calling each other names or making death threats but where we can have critical difficult discussions. But it seems this is impossible, am I right in thinking this?
I really don't understand the
Anonymous replied on
I really don't understand the use of the word TERF? In what context is it used? It sounds incredibly derogatory so am I right in thinking that it is used against people to demonize them and someone wouldn't consider themselves one? If you're radical feminist are you automatically a TERF? what if you want to question the roots of gender? Are you automatically a TERF?
To me it seems unnecessary to engage in name calling, I understand there is a group of women who you want to dispute but this is stooping to a pretty low level, aren't they being 'trans-phobic' like most of the rest of the general population (unfortunately)? Why can't you call them transphobic?
Acronyms aren't automatically slurs
Avid Listener replied on
TERF is a shorthand acronym that literally means "trans-exclusionary radical feminist." They're radical feminists who exclude trans people from radical feminist dialogue. It's a self-explanatory descriptor and not a slur. It carries an inherently negative connotation because being a trans-exclusionary radical feminist is a negative thing to the people they attack. This is on the same level of people who believe that the Latin prefix "cis" (on the same side of) is a slur against cis people.
For TERFs, it extends beyond the basic innocent misunderstandings of the general population, who are mostly ignorant of these issues entirely. They actively target and seek to deface/destroy the trans rights movement.
Your own argument
jimart replied on
Yes, but your own argument is why women, and I would include gay men, find this so puzzling. I liked the article in the New Yorker because it spoke what many of us have felt for a long time. (I come from the radical 60s where we simply called ourselves gays and lesbians. This bisexual and transgendered addition was always contentious, and I would add, for good reason.)
You are pitting the oppression of trans people against women who not only have experienced oppression, but have fought long and hard to end it. This has turned into a battle of who is more oppressed, when in fact it should be a discussion about gender and sexuality, and how to obtain civil rights and end violence.
I bring up gay men because I have heard trans MTF say they were gay and homosexual and are now male and heterosexual and then take on the bigotry and privilege of both, and then turn that onto gay people and demand that we bow to this new identity. I have listened to FTM trans people say the most stereotypical heteronormative comments and then demand that we respect them.
Just because you consider yourself changed and now fitting into heteronormative society does not make you a candidate for our respect, especially those of us from the 60s civil rights movement. In fact, it concerns us deeply that you want to be like this.
Perhaps I'm not expressing myself clearly, but what is missing here is a respect that perhaps these women are not being bigoted, but are in fact bringing up a valid question. Yes, trans people are the victims of violence and that is awful and must stop.
Let us not however forget that so are women and gay men and we have been working a very long time to stop this. We are not the enemy. If a trans person is blocking women and gay men from speaking, then they need to stop and ask what freedom of speech means to them.
If I can't speak, then some day, neither will you. Freedom of speech means listening to speech you DO NOT like.
Also, the paradigms change. Women now inflict domestic violence as much as men in many places. Women are now a part of the workplace and have overcome men in college. Gay people can get married in many countries and have obtained many civil rights in.
This is not 1967. But at the same time, women and gay men who have been working on civil rights since 1967 find it a little difficult to be told what they can and can not say about sex and gender. Perhaps if transgendered people spent some time listening rather than freaking out, you'd understand that.
After much listening and research I learned that not all transitioning is done for the same reason.
There is no consensus on what happens when someone transitions. None at all. Some people use it as reparative therapy for their homosexuality. Some people do use it as a fetish. So what? It's their body. People should be allowed to dress however they want as long as they aren't hurting anyone else. There are a lot of different reasons for transitioning and some seem ludicrous to me, and some I simply do not understand.
However, I don't have to like it nor understand it. Again, it's your body. Do as you please.
But I was born gay and some people were born women. This comes with a certain amount of unique experience. If you have never spent your life as a woman in a patriarchal religious society, then don't tell her how she feels. If you haven't spent your life as a gay man dealing with constant fear of attack, then please do not tell us what to say and think.
And if I am to respect you, then please return the favor. If you don't like what I have to say, fine. Then change my mind. But to tell me to shut up or to shut down my venue is not respect. It's fear. It means you're hiding something.
When transgendered people express how their experience relates to civil rights, then I listen. But if they're simply attacking me for not understanding, for asking questions, or worse, for not fitting their heteronormative fantasy, then screw them. I refuse to be bullied by transgendered bigots just like any other bigot.
I have a right to ask you why trans people take drugs and have surgeries and why that equals my being born homosexual or someone being born a woman. I have a right to ask what "being in the wrong" body means and how parents can know this with a child. A woman who has been raped is going to feel unsafe sometimes and if you're seriously interested in civil rights, you have to listen to why. Yes, it seems silly to discuss bathrooms and that whole issue. But women do get raped, a lot in some societies, so you have to listen. Why do restrooms play such a role as a safe place for women? Sound stupid?
Sorry, but this is not a perfect world yet.
We're working on it. You still have to listen. If they are calling you a tranny abomination who deserves to die, then no you do not have to listen to that hatred. But otherwise, yes. So the best you can do is formulate a clear response.
My perception and expression is not an excuse to censor me nor anyone else. It just makes me think that something must be wrong here, otherwise you'd allow free expression. If my ideas are so ludicrous and wrong, then let them fail on their own lack of merit, not because they were never allowed to be heard.
The intention to censor these radical feminist women just made me want to hear what they had to say. And when I listened I may not have agreed totally, but in there was a point being made.
If you're not willing to listen to women, then how can you claim to be one?
If you're not willing to listen to gay men, then how can you claim to be in favor of sexual and gender civil rights?
Is it your way, or no way? Women and gays have been hearing that for a VERY VERY long time and we are very adept at the response. And you wonder why we react so negatively. Do you know how many times in my life I've been told to shut up and stop talking about gay rights, either in person or indirectly in society? Do you realize how many times women and gay men have been told their ideas are offensive and they should just keep it to ourselves?
Do you realize how patriarchal and heterosexist this is?
If you can't join in what has always been a contentious debate, and allow all sides to speak, then why should we listen to you? If you demand that certain ideas be omitted because they offend you, then you're in the wrong debate honey. The sex and gender debate has always always always offended someone.
Being offended does not however make you right.
Get over yourself!
Follow your own advice
Avid Listener replied on
I'll never get over how many times people try to extol to trans people the wisdom and virtue of listening when they obviously don't understand trans issues themselves, or trans people in general, and refuse to listen to them. They make sure to punctuate their wholly dismissive attitude with shallow phrases like "get over yourselves" to shut up inconvenient voices or excuse blatant bigotry and hate speech. So often, this attitude casts trans peoples' basic self-defense against the unprovoked ideological attacks from radical feminism, perpetrated continually since the radfem movement discovered their existence, as some form of whining or petty oppression olympics. By the way, trans people have existed for millenia and only just started receiving decent healthcare (healthcare actively opposed by trans-exclusionary radical feminists like Janice Raymond), the lack of which was responsible for countless deaths the world over. Trans people didn't just magically start existing once their modern medical treatments came to be.
What's also touched on here are traditionally masculine and feminine personality traits, clothing, presentation, and expression. Terms like "shopping mall mom" and "consumerist heteronormative clothes" are used to attack trans women specifically for merely looking about as feminine as most other average women look. What if one wore a hijab for religious reasons? What if one wore high heels for a night out with friends? What if one picked up a designer dress? What if one wore *gasp* makeup? What about if a trans man wanted to become a lumberjack? Or if he wanted to get into MMA fighting? What is wrong with trans people doing what they want and expressing themselves in ways that are acceptable with everyone else but them somehow? Why do they have to be gender non-conforming to please you? Why can't they just be themselves? Why are trans people held to a different aesthetic, cultural, and behavioral standard than cis women and cis men in that they must conform their entire personalities to fit with how radical feminists want them to look, or act? Isn't strictly policing behavior, the behavior of women especially, something that radical feminism stands against? Doesn't it strike you as odd that they will attack a person if they try to criticize a woman's clothing or personal expression (and deem that person patriarchial for doing so), but in the same breath criticize the clothing, personalities and expression of trans women? Some women are comforting and soft towards others, some women actively want to be a mother (even one that shops in malls, believe it or not), some men like sports and beer, some men like working on cars, others don't (and that's ok too). It's not somehow sexist for a trans woman to express what are understood to be traditionally feminine personality traits, nor is it sexist for a trans man to express traditionally masculine personality traits.
And now the existence of a trans rights movement somehow opposes eco activism? I mean, how many tangentially related things are you going to link trans people to? You act as if they make this huge negative impact on the environment with their miniscule and heavily oppressed population. If one drives a car, are you going to blame them for global warming too? This is getting ridiculous.
You say "we love you" but words are just words when actions don't back them up.
jimart I am with you.
Miss Andry replied on
It is not about trans women and that's going to have to be okay. It's not about cis women all the time, and we are used to it. I am not from the radical 60s, barely from the 90s truthfully, but I understand the definition of "radical". I stand with my sisters like you.
It was a good article.
Miss Andry replied on
I'm tired of everything being framed as us-against-them. Feminists do not have to measure themselves according to the male-defined perspectives of our womanhood. We don't have to do so for trans women either. Feminists don't ask POC to define themselves according white perspectives, we don't ask black men to define themselves according to law enforcement's perspective, we don't ask homosexual people to define themselves according to the heteronormtive perspective. We try to erase all of that. Yet when it comes to trans women, I see about 1% of the concern for female-bodied women's lives as I do for protecting and coddling trans women. Feminists give less than two shits about trans men or female women by comparison. This is why we are losing. Stop coddling the male-socialized ego.
It is up to trans women to make space in their perspectives for women born and raised as female, not the other way around. If trans women are female, they will understand they are now part of an authentic oppressed class. This is a thing they are going to need to adapt to before they barge in and start telling us how to run our lives and why we don't all of a sudden need our own spaces. They forget, they can pass for men if they want to, and have all those doors open to them. They get to opt-out of female oppression. Female-bodied women do not. So that's why trans women do not get to suddenly redefine our oppression for us, which is based solely on our anatomy, AKA the way we were born and raised DESPITE how we may have felt inside.
We don't ask this of any other oppressed group, let alone demand it. Stop asking it of female women. Start understanding where female-born women are coming from and you will be surprised at how little pushback you get. Continue your erasure of our lived experiences of being female-born in a world of male supremacy, and you will continue to be treated as outsiders attempting to appropriate an oppressed class.