Meghan TERFy licks a frozen pole

Alternatively: Bites off more than she can chew, etc. Meghan Murphy, the intellectual bankrupt fountain of bile running Feminist Current, recently took a swipe at trans historian Cristan Williams. Williams is no stranger to trans exclusionary feminist bullshit, however, and published a comprehensive fact-check of Murphy’s nonsense:

I began encountering the “TERF is a slur” slogan in 2013, around a year after the political Right experienced a measure of success with its 2012 “homophobe is a slur” campaign.

The case was made that when discussing anti-queer hate in the news and anti-bullying efforts in schools, the term “homophobia” should not be used to describe the very specific type of anti-queer hate and oppression faced by LGBTQIA people because the term was an offensive slur.

By the end of 2012, the Associate Press banned the term “homophobe” from its news coverage and right-wing religious groups were working to ban the term in anti-bullying school materials because, they claimed, “homophobe” was a “made-up” term that promotes “hate and contempt for Christians.”

Without terms like “homophobe” and “homophobia,” the queer community’s ability to communicate and reference a specific anti-gay culture is hobbled, caged inside of rhetorical parameters defined by those who work to empower anti-gay culture. After “homophobe” and “homophobia” were deemed by a heteronormative culture to be too toxic to use, the queer community’s languaging of the hate it faced each day disappeared from most mainstream media use.

Around this time, TERFs began pushing the false history that “TERF” was coined by trans people as a slur. Note how this rhetoric closely mimics the 2012 right-wing rhetoric that “homophobe” was a “made-up” term that promotes “hate and contempt for Christians.”

Makes ya think.

Read more here.

-Shiv

 

AFAB trans women and the bog of eternal linguistic nihilism

Pizza is just a kind of very large cheese biscuit. An adequately large cheese biscuit is a pizza.

If you want to waste someone’s time in a debate, one of the best ways to do it is to hurl the balloon full of sticky goo we call linguistic nihilism at them. In terms of the value of the technique, I think my colleague Marcus characterizes it best: like “sneaking off the battlefield under cover of darkness.” Other suitable metaphors include “stepping into quicksand” or “navigating a quagmire.” If we imagine a debate to be a duel of swords, linguistic nihilism is not a technique of parrying or striking, but rather manoeuvring the opponent into knee-deep mud.

One iconic example of linguistic nihilism is captured in a low-stakes joke: “Hot pockets are a kind of sandwich.” The crux of the argument, not (typically) made with any seriousness, is that we can define a “sandwich” to possess certain attributes (e.g. a pair of bread slices with fillings in-between), and then label all things with those attributes “sandwiches.” Hot pockets, being quite literal bread products with cheese and meat stuffed in between, could arguably “be sandwiches.” But the vast majority of people reading the word “sandwich” probably don’t picture hot pockets. We can chase our tails all day as to whether or not we could argue that hot pockets are sandwiches, but it won’t change the fact that enough people, when polled, will picture distinct and different things when asked to imagine a hot pocket and a sandwich in their mind. The attributes of any given hot pocket and any given sandwich could all be described, but what those attributes mean is a linguistic and philosophical dispute, not an empirical one. There is no “essence of sandwich” one can detect in hot pockets to measure their sandwichness. What we call sandwiches is a negotiated, social process, meaning if it is suitable to all parties involved, we can decisively say one way or the other whether hot pockets are sandwiches, and then proceed with our discourse.

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Siobhan in The Establishment: How the Media’s Bullshit ‘Both Sides’ Punditry Harms Trans People

On May 15, 2017, a Medium user published an article to her personal handle arguing — among many other things — that the presence of trans women in women’s spaces constituted an act of aggression, and that the vocabulary proposed by trans men to describe themselves “erased” cis women.

Despite the rather extreme premises assumed in the piece, a feminist publication by the name of Athena Talks decided to pick it up shortly after it was posted, resulting in a second round of sharing among feminist outlets.

I am, unfortunately, rather used to having my mere presence likened to violence. Calling myself a feminist as a trans woman has meant that I’ve had to share spaces with people who argue, in all seriousness, that my health care is a conspiracy theory to eradicate gay people.

What I haven’t acclimatized to is the practice of abandoning any commitment to discovery or knowledge, something that seems distressingly widespread in media practices today. Because what Athena Talks did next also follows a well-established pattern: They published another article that was critical of the first piece, without any acknowledgement that the arguments previously presented were both based on inaccuracies and illogically constructed.


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A root of TERFism

I’ve been contemplating writing a review of Sheila Jeffreys’ published conspiracy theory, Gender Hurts, in order to educate on the roots of some academic/feminist trans-antagonism. I hadn’t entirely recovered from the migraine since the first time I read it, so it was a project I was not looking forward to. Thankfully, I’ve discovered that somebody else has done this work for me. Roz Kaveney writes at Glamourous Rags:

Language is, for Jeffreys, something to be used carefully to deny the existence of choices of which she disapproves. For example, she uses ‘prostitute’ only as a passive transitive verb, because she is of the opinion that no sex worker has any autonomy. She refers to ‘transgenderism’ as if it were an ideology rather than a complex of needs and choices, and has turned ‘transgender’ into a verb. She prides herself on always using the pronouns she regards as correct rather than those trans people have chosen for themselves; she explains at length that this is a matter of principle, rather than mere childish rudeness. At the same time, she regards the adoption of the value-free term cis to denote anyone not trans as a vile and insulting piece of abuse.

Jeffreys is very keen to deny personal animus, though her grasp of strict truth is often lacking. She talks of a conference she was to speak at being banned from the C onway Hall, rather than of its organizers having been reminded that they needed to observe the hall’s regulations about hate speech and declined to do so. She cites this occasion as evidence of a ‘McCarthyite’ conspiracy to silence her, as she does the existence of a number of mildly successful trans journalists – all of whom mostly write on other matters. (Sheila Jeffreys remains, of course, a tenured academic in spite of this cabal.) She also denies that she is guilty of hate speech in spite of a passage in which she claims that the genitals of trans women who have had surgery stink.

This passage is worth commenting on because she relies on a Dutch study of the bacterial flora of those private parts (Weyers 2000), but both distorts its results and fails to criticize its protocols. Tge Weyers study notes occasional unpleasant discharges in a fifth of its population – because it relies on literature for its comparison of flora, the study is mute on the frequency of such discharges in cis women. The protocol also asked its subjects not to wash their genitals for three days and did not consider the effect of this on the degree to which faecal bacteria were present – nor does Jeffreys. The study does, however notice that lesbian trans women had a flora closer to the cis norm – Jeffreys does not mention this correlation, for whatever reason.

Read more of Roz’s review here.

-Shiv

The same “freeze peach” crowd uses libel accusations to silence? Say it ain’t so

Dr. Brooke Magnanti is a researcher who used to do sex work to get her through school. She was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to turn her written experiences of said work into published materials, which soon earned her a bestselling author status. Of course, to the rabid anti-sex-work lobby, this would not do, and they managed to damage Magnanti’s prospects by harassing her both online and through frivolous libel lawsuits.

I remembered seeing a tweet from @Popehat from a few years ago. Someone had maliciously bought the account thousands of followers; this is something people do so they can report the account for the fakes, and try to get them kicked off Twitter. I DM’d a couple of people with experience of both being the target of online harassment and of communicating with Twitter. The response was unanimous: someone is trying to get you banned. Lock your account and start deleting the fake followers.

With a book set to come out on the 25th, I was between a rock and a hard place. Publishers increasingly expect authors to use social media presence to publicise their work to readers. My publisher likes that social media is embedded in my writing and that I engage with a lot of people online – without the Internet, I would never have become a writer at all. Should I lock the account and be unable to promote the book widely, or unlock it and risk a ban? I decided to go quiet, and see what happened. The day of my book release came and went.

By Friday night the Twitter follower count was touching 40k with no sign of slowing. I didn’t have much choice anymore. I locked the account and started blocking the bots and declining the hundreds of follow requests from fakes coming in. This is an ongoing effort. If you have recently followed me and find yourself blocked, I apologise — there are going to be some false positives in this process.

I don’t know when it will stop. I hope it tops out at 5k, which is soon. A bit of Googling shows anyone can buy 5,000 followers for anyone else and for as little as $10. I hope someone isn’t spending much more than that, and that they have better things to spend their money on. Books maybe.

The timing of this bothers me. I would be tempted to think it was a coincidence, someone winding me up for no particular reason. But considering that feminist charity Eaves For Women slapped my book The Sex Myth with a libel threat on the day it was released, getting it pulled from shelves nationwide, it is sometimes hard to believe in coincidences.

Read more here.

(By the way, the same women harassing Magnanti are also the same TERFs trying to harass me from the UK)

-Shiv

Oh, I have not self-flagellated sufficiently for The Cis, what monster am I

Back in the good old days of 2011 when Nazis were indisputably punchable and the President of the United States did not issue orders via Twitter, a fellow by the name of Paul Elam launched a website called “Register Her.” It was a domain dedicated to publishing the photographs, home addresses, phone numbers, routes to work and/or any other personal information folks could acquire–a practice commonly called “doxxing”–of women who have caused “significant harm to innocent individuals.” Alongside convicted female sex offenders and murderers were… women whose sexual assault allegations were defeated in court. Most feminists would recognize the problems immediately: How there exists a gap between morality and legality; how courts must convict with evidence that proves the defendant performed the deed “beyond all reasonable doubt;” how an acquittal doesn’t necessarily mean the action had not occurred. And that’s without taking into account the evidence that most law systems perform poorly when attempting to prosecute sexualized violence. The final, perhaps most critical detail, is that he wasn’t the sole contributor. His followers can and did propose their own profiles for the women who had, in their view, wronged them, and doxxing soon became a mainstay of online “men’s rights activism.” It became an assumption that if you were being filmed by MRAs, your face could end up on the darknet, and your details shortly thereafter.

Most people would agree, given this context, that if Paul Elam walks up to you with a video camera and you’re a woman, he’s engaging in an act of intimidation, because we know what he does with those images. Now the courts might say “it’s legal to film someone in public,” but, again, recalling our morality/legality gap, courts have also said upskirt photographs are legal too. Again, it’s not a particularly difficult analysis to perform–the law is behind most people’s conceptions for morality, so the argument “it’s legal” should be understood to be irrelevant when the actual discussion is ethics. It is, in essence, surrendering the argument altogether, though to those of an authoritarian bend it is convincing.

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TERFs and the Big Lie

If you can hold your breath long enough to read a few posts in a TERF forum, you find that a significant amount of energy is spent hand-wringing over every minute detail of trans women’s lives. They’ll frequently create threads obsessing over candid photographs, speculating wildly (using patriarchal psychosexual theories, in case you were under the illusion they’re interested in liberating women) about her sexual interests, over something as asinine as a trans woman leaning over a table to catch some dribble from the soup she’s eating.

Lately TERF twitter has been a-flutter over a video of a SUPER ULTRA VICIOUS ATTACK BY TRANSGENDERING MALES… in which Maria McLachlan, a British TERF, chokes out a trans teen for about a minute and a half before being punched. Rather remarkably, UK Media have been sharing McLachlan’s edit of the video (which, you know, also shows her choking this teen) and they’re citing it as evidence of… [CW: TERF bullshit] “trans male” violence…???

Apparently it’s impolite to not pass out when being choked in the United Kingdom.

It’s a page from the patriarchy playbook: Deny deny deny. Deny it to their face. Deny it without hesitation. Deny it repeatedly. The more ambitious the lie, the better. And I can’t think of a lie much more ambitious than saying being choked by someone constitutes an act of violence.

What I was a little bit unprepared for was how readily UK Media pushed the TERF narrative.

1) Transgender people defending themselves against violent attack by TERFs is now ‘condemned’ by Stonewall. Fuck. Cis. Gay. People. Fuck them. It is profoundly telling how easily trans people get thrown under the bus when the Gay Inc.’s respectability machine is threatened. Trans people must just take this shit now? No. Fuck you. You’re just as bad as the fucking TERFs and Nazis.

2) Transgender people defending themselves against physical attack is ‘retaliation’? This is a fantastic example of the intellectual dishonesty of cis white people. Defending ourselves shouldn’t be framed as some sort of point we’re making. We’re not ‘retaliating’, we’re not engaged in ‘revenge’, this isn’t some sort of philosophical exercise we’re contemplating, we’re trying to survive physical attacks by violent and hateful bigots.

3) As @nonbinarygxd on Twitter says: “Ummm…. this ahistorical liberal nonsense is treacherous. Newsflash, violence in the hands of the oppressed vs. oppressors is not the same.” [2]Of course forgetting history is the first thing that happens when a group started by trans women of colour is taken over by white cis men. It is a profound act of privilege and ignorance to pretend that Stonewall was born out of “pacifism” when queer people were literally beaten up, jailed, and killed so you can have your wedding cake. As @_hoemo on Twitter says: “…….so…what the hell do you think Stonewall was? A peaceful talk over tea and orgies?” [3]

etc. etc. Read more here.

-Shiv

TERFs are misogynists? Say it ain’t so

File this under “I am so surprised by this news I literally died.”

In the grand scheme of Women Having Opinions About Things In Public, I have it really easy. The tireless harassment, often escalating into abuse and even threats, that many women (especially but not exclusively Black women and other women of color) deal with online, is enormously well-documented. The worst that’s ever happened to me is an exhausting days-long barrage of messages on all my social media profiles calling me every misogynistic or homophobic insult under the sun. It comes in waves; there are days—and I know this is unimaginable to many women writers—when nobody trolls me at all.

Most of the people who have sought me out to denigrate my character (rather than criticize my work, which is an entirely different kind of exchange) are right-wingers, anti-feminists, conservatives, anti-queer ideologues, or just open and unabashed misogynists. But because I believe transgender people exist and deserve safety and dignity, I also have more experience than I’d like being harassed (again, distinct from criticized) by people who describe themselves as feminists.

I’m still learning how to respond to trans hatred from ostensible feminists, though I’m well aware that the vitriol they direct my way is infinitesimal compared to what trans people have to contend with. It’s disorienting to encounter someone who claims to share your goal of liberation, but espouses reactionary hatred for your most deeply held ideals. But if anything, I’ve spent more time being harangued by trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) than by men.

Read more here.

-Shiv

TERFs aren’t above the Nazi playbook either

The thing about TERFs is that, as a trans woman, I cannot play optics with them. Many TERF theories craft elaborate narratives that paint my mere existence as a threat–there is literally nothing I can do that won’t be perceived as violent for someone steeped in these narratives. So I am not even slightly surprised when we can be assaulted at a rally and the footage of a 60 year-old TERF dragging a wisp of a teenager across concrete is held up as evidence of “trans violence.” (Apparently it’s impolite to not pass-out when one is being choked).

Stavvers noticed the meta-strategy here: It’s a page from modern Nazis.

What I want to point out is the similarity in tactics between the transmisogynists’ narrative, and tactics deployed successfully by Nazis. Our current face of Nazism–the alt right, neo-Nazis, the far right, whatever your style guide demands you call them–rather like to play the victim. When Richard Spencer got punched (lol) the Nazis were very keen to whine about it. When anti-fascist protesters come out to defend their communities, the Nazis, and their chum Donald Trump, are falling over themselves to denounce violence “on both sides”. Centrists are always eager to back up these narratives, because they love a good middle ground almost as much as they love pretending they’re not enablers of fascism.

This, of course, serves a purpose. It drags discussion away from “Nazis are bad, how can we stop them?” to “punching is bad”. It has been a Nazi tactic since Nazis were invented; Hitler rather liked to claim that he and his were victims of unprovoked violence from the people they wanted wiped out.

Now, transmisogynistic bigots have rather a lot in common with Nazis already. They both share an unhealthy fascination with trans people’s genitalia, where trans people pee, concern trolling about safety, and a general desire to see trans people eliminated entirely. They have been known to work together on certain projects, in particular surrounding “bathroom bills”. It seems, in their cosy discussion groups about how to ban trans people from public life, the transmisogynistic bigots and the Nazis have also been exchanging tactics.

Read more here.

-Shiv

Louder for the TERFs in the back

I’ll signal boost the actual piece I want to share in a moment–I just want to focus on this one line of TERF fuckery so we can all appreciate it. I mean really stew in it, soak in it, like it’s a warm bath. This isn’t even artisinal TERF fuckery. This is gourmet TERF fuckery.

It is also worth pointing out that approximately two thirds of transgender people have reported undergoing some form of gender-confirming surgery, meaning that the majority of transwomen are in possession of a penis

You know, if I hadn’t seen it in the wild, I would have accused Heather McNamara of making shit up. But no. They are really this blinkered. This is the genuine article.

Without further ado:

Those of us who have been in the trans activism game for a while are familiar with the mental and linguistic gymnastics that TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) perform in order to justify transphobia while simultaneously pretending they’re not transphobic. One of their little terms, however, recently went relatively mainstream as blogger Claire from SisterOutrider leveled it at bestselling author (and one of my favorites), Roxane Gay. That term is “lesbophobia.”

If lesbophobia charges were in good faith and meant lesbian phobia where “phobia” is used in line with its colloquial meaning to describe aversion or hate, perhaps it would apply to these sorts of behaviors:

  • Exclusion of lesbians from events or social situations
  • Exclusion of lesbians from discourse on sexuality or gender
  • Preference of straight or bisexual women over lesbians
  • Insistence that lesbians are actually straight or bisexual and erasing their identities
  • Violence leveled at lesbians for being lesbian

These are the sorts of things to which we refer when we discuss homophobia, so naturally it would follow that “lesbophobia” being used in good faith would apply similarly, with the exception that the target was exclusively lesbians. Roxane Gay’s words, however, fit absolutely zero of those descriptions.

Read more here. Content notice for TERF nonsense and evangelist dog-whistles, because of course a TERF would use evangelist dog whistles without the slightest hint of irony.

I swear to Dog.

-Shiv