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(435 Posts)
ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 17-May-14 00:11:57

So I have seen this expression a lot lately... and TERF gets thown out a lot when feminists are discussing things that are only capable of affecting biologically female women.

And I just can't get my head around it tbh. I don't think feminism should exclude people I think it helps everyone. I get really upset when white feminists forget about WOC or Lesbians, or other minority groups because the point of feminism is to make women's lives better. SO if there an issue that is unique to black women (for example) it is still all of our issue and should be dealt with by all feminist.

So if trans women want in on feminism why do they think can exclude the majority of women by saying we can't discuss our issues? And if trans people want to be accepted and have their rights championed by feminism is that fair since the majority of feminists aren't also suffering those same problems? Is it not a huge double standard?

Abortion rights and prenatal care and contraceptive health, vaginal rape. Are these things off the table now for feminism?

Am I getting it wrong, missing something? It feels to me like male privilege, telling women what they can and can't talk about..and doing so in a way where they actually feel guilty as though they have done something wrong.

Isabeller Sat 17-May-14 00:20:43

I would like to understand this.

almondcakes Sat 17-May-14 00:23:58

No, they are not off the table, but I don't think trans women are collectively responsible for trying to close down discussion about them. Generally, people trying to close down those issues by making allegations of TERF are not trans women, but people whose own experiences aren't based very strongly on biological sex.

WhentheRed Sat 17-May-14 00:39:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 17-May-14 08:05:42

almond cakes do you mean feminist whose experiences aren't strongly based on sex? Or just people in general? Because I can't think of any issues dealt with by feminism that aren't in some way connected to women's biology.

It's one of the reasons I find it bizarre that trans women want their cause to be championed by feminists.. it doesn't seem the best avenue for trans rights. It's like when MRAs ask what feminists are doing for prostate cancer.. I am not against men getting funding for prostate cancer or men trying to fund raise for cancer, I just don't see it as the job of feminists.

All are important but not feminist.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 17-May-14 08:09:28

whenthered I agree. I have yet to see it used fairly. I am irritated by people insisting on the term cis-gender.

I can't use the term because I don't believe there is such a thing and in my head it goes against everything that feminism stands for. WHy want feminism to use the term? confused

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 17-May-14 08:10:01

I am irritated by people insisting on the term cis-gender as well

DoctorTwo Sat 17-May-14 08:49:48

Hmm, it's not something I know much about, so I'll go and educate myself a bit. Then I might be able to comment from a position of a tiny amount of knowledge.

AskBasil Sat 17-May-14 09:06:32

Well, there are a lot of movements out there who would like to co-opt feminism aren't there?

Some of them are more obviously anti-feminist than others.

I don't bother to engage with the more obviously misogynist ones. Even if you have a really low bar, anyone who tells me I'm not doing feminism properly if I want to discuss the lived experience of having a female body which does female things like menstruate, incubate babies etc., wouldn't really reach the bar for me and I'd just ignore.

Velocirapture Sat 17-May-14 09:09:59

What is TERF?

Velocirapture Sat 17-May-14 09:14:23

OK I've found out.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 17-May-14 10:34:11

I have seen comments by trans activist where they quote genuinely vile comments that are meant to come from feminist. So I would call that sort of thing TERF or really transphobic. And I would hope any genuine feminist feminist would pull someone up on spewing hate speech straight away.

But equally, I have always seen these quotes second hand and have NEVER actually seen anything horrible written about trans people by a feminist. And I do realise also that my version of what is acceptable (saying trans women shouldn't be allowed in spaces for vulnerable women etc) is unacceptable to trans activist, but if we can't debate those things as they affect women with out being told to shut up I give up on feminism.

vettles Sat 17-May-14 10:57:58

"when feminists are discussing things that are only capable of affecting biologically female women"

I've never seen TERF used in discussions like that. The only time I've seen it come out is when the conversation starts turning transphobic.

vettles Sat 17-May-14 11:02:42

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 17-May-14 12:15:56

From vittles link. Most of the below I would agree are horrible and were not where I have seen someone call TERF. The most recent use I have seen (and what inspired this thread) was regarding a feminist subreddit called xx chromosome and how the women were using graphic talk of menstruation to put off MRAs. Apparently them doing that (and the name itself) was trans-phobic

But I just don't see how fundamentally feminism and certain ideas in the trans community can work together as trans activism seems to go against feminist principals. I saw a video about an 11 year old who was identifying as a girl and they report basically said he liked to dance and wear padded bras and like pretty things and Britney Spears. Now as a feminist I think it is appalling that an 11 year old of any sex has a padded bra...and I can't see how any of the above things are proof that he is really a female? I hated dancing, and pretty girls things and girly pop music. Does that mean I am really a man? Based on my personal live experiences gender is a load of bull shit. I refuse to agree that it isn't to make someone else feel better.

1.) Claim that transwomen are cismen, that transmen are ciswomen and purposefully misgender transpeople.

2.) Out transpeople to employers.

3.) Tell trans women their surgery is about supporting rape culture.

4.) Assert that lesbian-identified transwomen can’t be lesbian.

(I have seen people say that a transwoman can't suddenly assert that their female partner is now a lesbian after trans person transitions, which I completely agree with)

5.) Claim that a world without trans people is preferable.1

6.) Find that your anti-trans arguments and the anti-trans arguments of far rightwing groups match.2

7.) Assert cisprivilege isn’t real; that non-trans people aren’t privileged in a society that’s hostile to trans people.

*(how can I accept cis-privillage if I don't accept cis gender? I spent my teens in boys clothing was nothing like anyone's idea of "feminine" I don't agree that any attributes we call "feminine" are actually innately female. By many trans people's idea of gender, I would have been a boy. I did however have a vagina so I was treated a certain way based on that. People assumed despite being nearly 6 ft and on the large side and wearing comfy boys jeans...that the 5'6 male next to me could better lift things. Because he was a boy, because he had a penis.

8.) Claim that gender isn’t real, but the MAAB/FAAB binary is.

9.) Claim that trans surgeries were pioneered by men in service of the patriarchy.3

10.) Lie about rape and death threats you’ve received from trans people.

11.) Fearmonger about the rape/violence threat transwomen pose to ciswomen in the womens restroom.

12.) Assert that trans people transition to satisfy their sexual urges.

13.) Degrade and dehumanize the genitals of trans people.

14.) Work to overturn trans equality protections.

15.) Work to halt access to trans medical care.

16.) Appeal to the Klan Fallacy.
(didn't know what this was, clicked on it and refers to radPHLEMS)

17.) Compare transition to a disgusting Frankenstein-like process.

18.) Claim that trans people transition due to political or social pressures.4
that people are forced to conform to rigid gender roles IS feminisim though right? Why ask for feminist to support a trans agenda if they don't also belive this is the case?

19.) Claim that when you work to halt the propagation of anti-feminist stereotypes it’s empowerment, but when trans people work to halt the propagation of anti-trans stereotypes it’s censorship .

20.) Assert that trans women transition because they’re actually gay men and that transmen transition because they’re lesbians wanting to escape the patriarchy.

- See more at:

DisgruntledAardvark Sat 17-May-14 12:28:49

Agree completely with WhenTheRed. I only ever see it used to shut down women, and/or coupled with other misogynistic attacks.

AskBasil Sat 17-May-14 14:20:40

I've never seen any acronym for Trans Excluding Fascist or Trans Excluding Tea Party Member or Trans Excluding MRA or Trans Excluding Misogynist or Trans Excluding Man with Power or Trans Excluding Man who Actually Inflicts Transphobic Violence on Transpeople.

So yeah, I think it is there to shut down a tiny section of women with a radical feminist analysis of society. Because all the other groups who might actually have the power to harm transgender people and some of whom actually use that power, don't have easy silencing acronyms.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 17-May-14 14:50:51

That's a really good way of looking at it Basil.

almondcakes Sat 17-May-14 15:43:46

RFFF, while I agree with you (or at least agree with what I think you are saying) that all forms of women's experiences within sexism are ultimately linked to biological sex, it remains the case that-

A. Not all feminists agree with that.
B. Some forms of sexism are much more closely related to biological sex than others.

There is a big difference between a woman who has been forcibly impregnated and then dies during childbirth due to inadequate provision of maternity services and a woman who works full time with no children who finds it hard to progress in her job in computer programming because people believe women are not good at STEM subjects.

The former is far more disadvantaged than the latter and her disadvantage is very much immediately based on biological sex. The latter is less disadvantaged but the disadvantage is much more based in prejudices around gender (I think these prejudices around gender have arisen from a desire to control women's bodies because those bodies are biologically female, but not everyone agrees).

It has generally been the case throughout feminist history that young, white middle class women tend to make feminism about them. The usual situation of a young middle class woman in the US or the UK is to be highly educated, employed full time and have no children. This makes them exceptional among women and young women globally and throughout history. To maintain the idea that they are the group of women being most disadvantaged and therefore whose experiences feminism are most about, they can't claim outright to be the most disadvantaged because that would be seen as racist, classist, neocolonialist etc), so it is necessary for them to decouple sexism from biological sex. Anybody who then raises the massive global issues around maternity, forced marriage, fgm, breast feeding and child rearing as feminist issues can be called a transphobe and a bigot, allowing the issues of white middle class women to become the main issues of feminism because as they rarely directly mention the female body, they are not 'transphobic.'

I don't think it actually has much to do with concern for trans women at all. I would like to see a piece of research into attitudes to trans people, whether or not people consider using the word 'vagina' in a conversation about abortion to be transphobic or not, what people consider the major global feminist issues to be, etc etc to be compared to whether the person holding those beliefs does or does not have children and what standard of maternity care, child care, medical services etc are available to them. I feel pretty confident that people who think being a woman is not about biological sex are more frequently women in developed countries who are enjoying all the protections based on biological sex that second wave feminism fought for, and usually haven't given birth themselves.

That is why MN feminist board has a far higher number of people who don't leap into every conversation with comments like, 'stop saying maternity rights are a feminist issue! Not all women give birth and not everyone who gives birth is a woman! You are a transphobe!' while almost every other English speaking feminist space is awash with such comments. I think it is also why there are more lesbians getting accused of transphobia, because lesbians have often experienced a lot of prejudice based on the actual functions of the female body, and they often think that is what sexism is really about.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sat 17-May-14 16:25:54

Thank you Almond, the beginning of your post is exactly what I was trying to say (only more coherent blush)

And the rest is really interesting and thinking about the demographics of the places where I have seen TERF does make quite a lot of sense as well that it could very well not be trans people at all (but your hypothetical 20 something female IT worker).

Maybe the confusion for me is that I first became interested in online feminism through mumsnet and first realized that there was an angry feminist in side of me when I got pregnant. I've only in the past year or so started looking in to feminism outside of mumsnet.

almondcakes Sat 17-May-14 16:42:52

Ultimately, trans people are 0.3% of the population, and not all of that 0.3% are trans women. Even if every trans woman in the whole English speaking world spent all of their time accusing people of being transphobic online by mentioning the word uterus or whatever (which clearly they don't, because many don't agree with the sentiment or have other things to do), it couldn't possibly account for the huge amount of discussion about trans issues that exists. Trans women are globally fewer in number than, for example, women with cerebral palsy or women with autism.

Yet there isn't huge amounts of time given over by feminism to discuss these issues, even though the extent of disadvantage faced by women with cerebral palsy has to be far greater than the disadvantage faced by almost anyone else. There has to be a reason for the discussion of trans issues other than concern about disadvantage.

FloraFox Sat 17-May-14 22:41:15

almondcakes I think the reason is the determination by transactivists to make other people validate their "womanhood" combined with male privilege and entitlement that their issues must be front and centre of feminism.

Beachcomber Sun 25-May-14 10:45:04

I very much agree with Flora and Basil.

TERF is used to get radical feminists and anyone who agrees with their analysis of trans/gender/sex to STFU. It is also used to 'other' rad fems so that people will be put off even hearing them out because they want to distance themselves from 'transphobia'* because nobody likes to think of themselves as a bigot. This strategy is proving very successful.

It is used in a very similar way to that of how radical feminists are accused of being racist and excluding women of colour. Nobody wants to be thought a racist so better steer clear of those racist radfems (when in fact liberal feminism was no less neglectful of women of colour, indeed it was more neglectful. Radical feminism is very very definite on the tenet that ALL women count and ALL women matter and that includes poor women, women of colour, women with disabilities, older women, all women who traditionally bear the brunt of misogyny. This is one of the reasons that radical feminists are so against prostitution and pornography - because they are racist institutions which disproportionately harm women of colour. It is also one of the reasons for the radicalism in radical feminism - we do not believe that liberation for all women can be achieved within a racist, sexist, capitalist, edifice).

Of course the difference is that racism is very much alive in society and society is white supremacist. And white feminists, no matter how just and non-racist they may wish to be, are products of white supremacist society and therefore have white privilege and all the usual accompanying issues with entitlement, etc that we need to be mindful of.

So although TERF is used in a similar way to the accusation of racism, WRT to silencing radical feminists and women who agree with them, the issues of transphobia and racism are fundamentally different.

Having said that, accusations of radical feminism/feminists being racist, do very often come from white women - usually those that disagree with radical feminism and accusations of racism are a good way to discredit people you disagree with. I think this is similar to what almondcakes is saying about white middle class educated women jumping on the TERF/transphobia bandwagon. I don't think a lot of these women really care terribly about trans issues - I think they use trans issues in order to get radfems to STFU and in order to present themselves/think of themselves as jolly progressive and cutting edge (intersectionality can be used in this manner too).

As to why trans issues seem to take up so much space, well, Flora was bang on the money IMO. Trans issues take up so much space because men take up so much space and trans issues are extremely male centric. Plus the space they want is not that of other men (which would be much harder to muscle in on), the space they want is that of women. And everyone knows that women's job is to make sure the men are all right and to put women last because men matter and women don't. And men's issues are legitimate and women's issues are not.

* I put transphobia into inverted commas, not because I don't think it exists but because I disagree with the definition it has taken on. Women not wanting transwomen, who have their penises intact, in our locker rooms and prisons are not being transphobic. Women who want to talk about (and have feminist discussions about, or meet up in women only safe spaces to exchange on) gynecological issues, pregnancy, menstruation, vaginal rape, FGM, abortion, PIV, hormonal contraception, etc. are not being transphobic. And it takes a particular kind of male privilege/sense of entitlement/narcissism to think that we are being transphobic WRT the above.

Beachcomber Sun 25-May-14 12:02:12

Basically, feminists are being accused of transphobia when we refuse to prioritize men's issues over our own (and to the detriment of our own) within the women's movement, and when we refuse to submit to being defined by the male gaze/perspective and the notion of male as default and female as other.

Which, of course, is just same old, same old, patriarchy, male dominating, subjugation of women by men, etc.

It is just another way of calling us manhaterz because we try not to be walked all over and treated as subhuman.

But it is considered dead progressive in some circles to do the above...

JustTheRightBullets Sun 25-May-14 12:53:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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