There’s some things I’ve been trying to be better at lately. One of them is not saying “rad-fem” as a pejorative. One is not saying things that imply or suggest that “radical feminism” is interchangeable or necessarily consistent with trans-exclusionist radical feminism, or suggest that transphobia, cissexism and shitty opinions about sex work are somehow an inherent and necessary quality of radical feminism (to be honest with myself, my own feminism is pretty damn radical, even if I reject a significant number of the assumptions usually taken by those who self-describe as radical feminists). And another is trying not to worry too much about the transphobic fringes of feminism, and not participating in the self-perpetuating cycle of anxieties in our community surrounding “the rad-fems!”. They’re just not the big, terribly powerful, dangerous bogeymen we frequently imagine them to be.
TERFs certainly can be dangerous, in certain situations. But it’s extremely important to look at what the tools and weapons they use in order to cause harm actually are. On their own, they don’t wield nearly the influence the constant freak-outs on the part of trans activists would suggest about them, and they simply don’t deserve the degree of fear and anxiety we lend them. Consider the heavily controversial “Rad-Fem 2012” conference in London (conceived partly as promotion for Sheila Jeffries’ latest work from Rutledge University Press, “The Industrial Vagina”; the title of which, btw, is a denigration of sex workers’ bodies as “industrial” and not their own, not the bodies of trans women). Months of anxiety and debate led up to the event, which ultimately turned out to be no more than a dozen or less women gathering near a tube station and going to grab coffee for a pointless little chin-wag about the evil trans women and evil sex workers “reinforcing the [blank]”. Although partly it was the efforts of trans activists that kept the conference from becoming anything more substantial, it’s nonetheless the case that the worry that the trans community expressed in the months leading up to the “conference” vastly eclipsed the actual subject of that anxiety in scale, influence, reach and the energy expended upon it. [Read more…]