[CONTENT WARNING: TERFs]
The term “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist” was first coined by “TigTog” in 2008. Those labelled as TERFs will either claim that it’s a hateful slur against them, or the definition is so broad as to be meaningless.
Calling someone a “TERF” automatically and intentionally groups them in with people you are *supposed* to dislike and no-platform. The term itself implies that the only thing you need to know about them is that they want to “exclude” trans people and you’re supposed to turn off your brain and not ask any more questions. It’s meant to make everyone know that they should be shunning that person for supposed crimes against other people. It’s a slur for all those reasons. … And there is a reason that any woman who makes any statements about gender that are not in lockstep with queer nation is painted with a shallow, meaningless term in the hopes that it will shut her up or at least make sure no one gives her the opportunity to speak for her own ideas.
Radical feminist analysis maintains that feminism is the movement of women to liberate women from oppression, and that female biological reality is a defining aspect of women’s experience of oppression. This does not exclude transwomen on the basis of prejudice or discrimination any more than it does men. TERF also obfusticates the fact that the vast majority of radical feminists believe that ALL people should work together to end the oppression of women and that many believe once transwomen transition they experience much of the same prejudice and discrimination that women born women do. In reality, TERF is a meaningless term based on the desire to silence radical feminist voices. Ultimately it’s misogynistic.
So what, exactly, does “TERF” signify? In a post after Tigtog first made the term public, she uses it to refer to people who would exclude trans* people from certain spaces.
I will not give any trans-exclusionary feminist event any promotion here in the future. If I do unknowingly post a link to some event that is trans-exclusionary, I will delete it as soon as I am made aware.
I am aware that this decision is likely to affront some trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), but it must be said: marginalising trans women at actual risk from regularly documented abuse /violence in favour of protecting hypothetical cis women from purely hypothetical abuse/violence from trans women in women-only safe-spaces strikes me as horribly unethical as well as repellently callous.
But the usage has expanded somewhat. TheTERFs.com gives two definitions, one as-per Tigtog, but another more like “excluding trans* people from a fundamental right.”
For my part, I side more with the broader definition of that website. Laid out in specific:
1. The denial, directly or otherwise, in general or specific, of gender identity. Plus,
2. A familiarity or identity with TERF culture. Optionally,
3. Actively working to physically exclude trans* people.
The ability to identify your own gender is considered a fundamental human right, both internationally and in Canada. So if you waffle or outright deny that someone who identifies as a man is a man, then you’re violating one of their rights. Note that this is a subset of “transphobia,” or the fear of trans* people. You can fear such people without denying their identity, yet while denial isn’t the same as fear we typically consider it “phobic” anyway.
I don’t think that first clause is enough, though. You can find plenty of religious people arguing trans* women are men, yet almost none of these would identify as a feminist. TERFs, in contrast, have “feminist” in their very name and tend to embrace it.
Terfs are trans exclusionary radical feminists. Terfs don’t believe trans women are women. Cis or trans, if you say you’re female, you’re female. Also the radfem in your bio should be removed because most radfems as well as the radical feminist movement have the vast majority of problematic “”””feminists”””” in it and they exclude queer women, sex workers, and most are racist. I don’t think you support that so the term feminists is more of an inclusive term.
Hey Anon, kindly fuck off. I don’t think you actually know me, care what I have to say, or aren’t just hate-following me. So fuck off my blog please. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist. I am a radical feminist.
In case you missed it,
I am a radical feminist who doesn’t give a shit what you think is “problematic”.
So there’s also a cultural element in play. This fuzzes up the definition a bit, as culture can shift over time, but at worst you’ll just tick boxes off a mental checklist then make a judgement call.
As mentioned, many TERFs reject the label “TERF.” They prefer to be called “gender critical feminists,” or a feminist that deconstructs what “gender” means. But does that mean other feminists don’t critique gender and gender roles? The words “gender critical” are a cultural flag that says “I’m part of the club,” while appearing to be innocuous or even positive to non-feminists. I’ve never heard it used by regular feminists, except when discussing TERFs.
A related giveaway is the endorsement of a binary sex model. Cristan Williams of TransAdvocate goes into more detail on what that means.
- Females are a caste system because of “class analysis”
- A natural binary is real; sex isn’t a continuum because “sexual dimorphism”
- Intersex people are just deformed binary sexes because “sexual dimorphism”
- Male and Female habits (socialization) are essential to being authentic males/females.
- “Male” and “Female” sex identifiers should be compulsory and eternal
- “Male” and “Female” gender identifiers are BS because “social construction”
- “Gender identity” only ever means cultural identities
Most feminists are comfortable with shades of gray and some even challenge that model, which many TERFs dismiss as political correctness and ideology gone amok.
First, there is no “TIRF” or trans-inclusionary radical feminist. There is, in fact, no term that is opposite of “TERF” that is used, ever. There is only “TERF”; and that term is used to silence, to bash, to put down, to shame, etc. not just radical feminists, but all women who see biology as a real thing and gender as a social construct. It is used against women, especially women who disagree with men who claim to be women, in any way. […]
We should also be allowed to feel safe. We should be allowed to have penis-free restrooms, dressing rooms, shelters, jails, rape crisis centers, etc. so that we can feel safe. For thousands of years, the penis has been used as a weapon, as a weapon to control women, to hurt women, to exert power over women. It has been used as a weapon and we are seeing more and more how trans “women” are accused of or convicted of the rape and murder of women but they continue to be allowed to be placed in female prisons even if they still have their penises. This is so wrong on so many levels but in today’s PC culture of not wanting to offend these men, they are not placed where they are supposed to be: with other men. Instead, the rights and the safety of women are circumvented for the rights and safety of men who claim to be women because they are afraid of, you got it: men.
But rather than a specific list, it’s more important to look for incoherence. Take the above; if anatomy is so strongly associated with a tendency to violence, how can you hope to improve things by destroying the concept of “gender?” That list of beliefs isn’t universal or definitive, but I have yet to see a single TERF with a self-coherent view of sex/gender. That’s because their “criticism” isn’t actually a critique, based on solid evidence and analysis, but a fig leaf to disguise their bigotry. It’s very similar to the way creationists and snake-oil salesmen will invoke science without actually understanding it. Williams agrees on this point.
When pressed on their ideology, GCF will almost never be able to name the attributes of their “class analysis” or “social constructionism.” … From what I’ve seen, these claims merely function as academic-sounding ideas whose value is purely rhetorical. Some of the brightest feminist thinkers of our time have noticed this too. Judith Butler notes that when GCF/TERF opinion leaders like Sheila Jeffreys burble on about social constructionism, the things she says makes no sense to people who actually understand social constructionism. […]
I read Jeffreys’ book, Gender Hurts. In the precise way she hamfistedly appropriates social constructionism to attack trans people, she appropriates the concept of class analysis to support her targeting of trans people. Gender Hurts is not a class analysis of gender; rather, it is merely an appeal to class analysis. If you want to see a GCF/TERF squirm, press them to explicitly map the precise attributes of their “class analysis.” They’ll simply appeal to the authority of this academic pseudo-radical terminology until they’re blue in the face. When they utterly fail to support their position, then inform them that the progenitor of Radical Feminism rejected such analysis as rhetorical woo.
That should be more than enough to spot a TERF in the wild. How to argue with them is another story.
[HJH 2016-01-01]: Looking back over this, I’d like to add that we don’t include the necessity for action in similar labels. You don’t have to be actively working against the rights of gays or lesbians to be considered a “homophobe,” nor actively suppressing groups of people to be considered “racist.” Making active involvement in tearing down trans* people a part of “TERF” is equally nonsensical.
Another counter-argument is that denying gender identity is just words or an opinion, and thus is substantially less important than actions. By that token, though, constitutions are just words, as are bills of rights, legislation, and even the writing on the door of a bathroom. Words matter, even if they don’t lead to immediate discrimination.