beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
[personal profile] beatrice_otter
For those of you fortunate enough to not know what they are, TERFs are trans-exclusionary radical feminists.  There are a wide variety of them (and some sound reasonable at first blush), but those few "man-hating feminists" who actually exist are all pretty much TERFs.  And part of what their extremist response to men ends up as is a denial that transwomen are women.  (Hence "trans-exclusionary.")  Feminism isn't about equality for all people, to a TERF; it's about advancement for biological females.  These are also the people behind "queer is a slur which can't be reclaimed!"  Because queer is an umbrella category, see, which makes it a lot harder to police who is a "real" LGBT+ person than any other term.  And if you can push some people--aces, genderqueer, transpeople, bi/pan people, and others out or at least to the fringes--you can much more easily separate out who the "real" women are, and who "deserves" support, from those who "don't".

Anyway, I was listening to the On Being podcast today.  (On Being, for those of you who don't know, is an EXCELLENT radio show/podcast which "opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?"  It often addresses issues of religion and spirituality from a broad range of traditions.)  This week's show is a conversation with Joy Ladin, an Orthodox Jewish transwoman who is a professor at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University.  And I was excited.  Queer representation!  Religious queer representation!  I'm not trans, and I'm not Jewish, but I am asexual and aromantic and there isn't much out there sympathetic to the intersection of queerness and religion, and most of what there is focuses on Evangelical/Fundamentalist/Conservative Christianity (which I am not) and homosexuality, no nuance or anything (and I'm also not homosexual).

A few minutes in, Joy started talking about hurtful comments on her blog posts dealing with transitioning in her forties.  These comments were from both very conservative and very liberal people, she said, and they agreed about something.  And I thought, Oh, God, it's TERFs.  I am disappointed but not surprised when conservatives are nasty to queer people; when supposed progressives are, it hits a lot harder.  Joy did not use that term, but apparently they were all very adamant that gender isn't just about presentations, it's about experiences, and they've experienced oppression because they are women that Joy hasn't because everybody assumed she was a man for the first 40+ years of her life, so she really doesn't count as a woman.  Or, at least, not as much of a woman as they are.


Reader, I had to stop listening.  Because Joy seemed to have accepted this and internalized this, from what little of the conversation about this I could stand to hear.

This is what INFURIATES me about TERFs.  I get that shared or similar trauma can be a powerful bonding mechanism; I get that someone who hasn't shared that trauma or one like it will be different than someone who has.  But TRAUMA AND THE EXPERIENCE OF SEXISM IS NOT THE WHOLE OR EVEN LARGEST PART OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WOMAN.  AND EVEN IF IT WAS, NOBODY GETS TO POLICE WHOSE TRAUMA WAS "ENOUGH" OR THE "RIGHT KIND" OF TRAUMA.

Part of the TERF hatred of transgender women is a belief that because they didn't suffer sexism, they can never really be women or understand what it is to be a woman.  This comes down to believing that either a) the trauma of being TRAPPED IN THE WRONG BODY and forced into a gender presentation that is wrong for you is the WRONG KIND of gender-related trauma, or b) that it is NOT TRAUMATIC ENOUGH.  And it also says that the TERFs get to police what womanhood "really" is.

Let's break this down using Joy's experience, and mine, okay?  Joy is transgender.  They started the podcast talking a little bit about her kids (born and raised when she was presenting as male according to her genitalia).  They always wanted her to tell them stories, and she had a real problem, because she was a good dad, and knew that she wasn't supposed to tell stories about depressing things or suicidal ideation.  She glosses over that a bit and moves on quickly, but she did say it: she apparently had some depression deep enough for suicidal ideation.  She spent a bit more time on the fact that because she was so dissociated from her body, she really didn't form many memories.  She had ONE happy childhood memory suitable for telling her kids: one time, she made a poptart, wrapped it in a towel, and went outside and ate it on a cold day.  THIS IS THE ONLY HAPPY MEMORY OF CHILDHOOD SHE HAS.  If that's NOT ENOUGH trauma, well, I don't know what would be.  Do you have to be raped to have "enough" trauma to count as a woman?  Do you have to actually attempt suicide, not just contemplate it?

If it's just that it's not the right KIND of trauma, well.  Let's consider my experiences, shall we?  That icon up there, the woman in red with a flower choker and her face turned away from the camera, that's a picture of me, taken by my parents specifically so I would have a picture of me to use as an icon for fannish spaces, but I wouldn't have to show my face to minimize the possibility of my fannish and legal names being connected.  Anyway, my parents are awesome parents.  There was a minimum of gender-related stuff in my house growing up.  All three kids, me and my two brothers, learned to cook and regularly cooked meals.  Both parents shared the cooking.  All three of us kids shared equally in the cleaning and in the yardwork.  Etc., etc.  My school was on the I-5 corridor in Oregon.  While there are a LOT more Conservative Republicans on the West Coast than most people realize, they don't tend to congregate along the I-5 corridor, and my school had a minimum of gender bullshit and discrimination against women.  So did my college and seminary, and most of the places I've worked in my life have been either mostly women or extremely women-friendly.  And, as an aromantic asexual, I haven't really done much dating, and the three boyfriends I had when I was just figuring I was a "late bloomer" were genuinely nice guys, and not Nice GuysTM.  So while I know what most women go through at least at SOME point in their lives, and I've been exposed to as much media sexist BS as anyone, I have lived a life about as sheltered from sexism as any woman in the late 20th-early 21st century can.  If we're measuring womanhood with "have you faced enough sexism to really UNDERSTAND what we're up against," then I DON'T COUNT AS A WOMAN, EITHER.  And, like I said, TERFs are the ones trying to police who counts as REALLY LGBT (not queer, never queer!) so they'd have a problem with me on that axis, too.


(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-28 10:54 pm (UTC)
ratcreature: oh no! (oh no!)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
I'm getting unpleasant 90s flashbacks....

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-28 11:04 pm (UTC)
monanotlisa: Diana as Diana Prince in glasses and a hat, lifting the rim of the latter rakishly. HOT! (Default)
From: [personal profile] monanotlisa
Oh, man. I hear you.

And I just don't get it...why would anyone be hateful and exclusionary when there's no need to be? Humans come in all shapes and sizes, colors and orientations and identities; my own is not the Truth or the Standard (I personally have an extremely weak gender identity, but I love and trust and believe my trans friends and some cis friends about who they are, gender-wise).

This is why we queers, too, can't have nice things. :/ Fuck TERFs.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-28 11:36 pm (UTC)
nell65: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nell65
I've lately been following a couple of TERF blogs - not that they seem to call themselves that very often. They stick with rad-fem.

It's been a fascinating revisit of topics that were very current when I was in college and grad school in the 80s/90s (in Michigan! And the women's music festival was still very much a going concern. I didn't go, it was a lot more 'nature' than I'm very interested in! - but some of my friends did....) and hadn't engaged with much in the interim.

Anyway, ahem. The clear line of decent - at least for this bunch - from marxist feminism - is fun to see. Not all that many of the fandom-world SJ types are nearly so disciplined and clear and rigorous in their theoretical positioning. But, their weakness is the same weakness of marxim/materialist analysis more generally. Great on identifying the problem (control over the essential site of reproduction/the uterus and vagina - and having never had these things to be so controled, runs the argument, means that transwomen will never be subjected to the *same* discipline as women who do), much much much sketchier about what to do about it. Which somehow devolves into a lot of ugly boundary policing and accusing other women of being brainwashed/deluded/suffering from false consciousness.

They also glom onto every story ever of transwomen gone bad and attacking women/transmen that they come across --- which butresses their case that most transwomen, whatever their own issues, are and only will ever be men when it comes to relating to women - i.e. that they will seek to control them via discourse, silencing, or violence.

It's an odd group - very fundamentalist in the sense that they have a very clear, fairly straightforward, doctrine that they apply riggidly to every single situation, warranted or not.... and suffer from both overweening superioity over all the great unwashed who don't share/know their philosophy, and an overwhelming sense of persecution.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-29 04:34 am (UTC)
nell65: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nell65
I was raised by a second wave mom - League of Women Voters, ERA braclet (which I now wear myself !), gave me and my sisters biography anthologies of famous/should be famous women, honored Eleanor Roosevelt and Jane Addams, had a career of her own - So you know, a 'lib feminist.'

Her younger sisters were all like her, their mom had been involved in politcs and pursued a career before them. My friends moms too. I just reblogged a picture of Shirely Chisolm on tumblr because a good friends mom had a whole collage of her Shirely Chisolm campaign swag in teh basement and it made me all nostalgic.

It never crossed my mind that I wasn't a feminist, or that I needed to prove my bona fides.

Pretty healthy inoculation against the rad femmes of the day. Or this one.

Unfortunately I know too many women like you, who didn't have that second wave women's lib in the air they breathed growing up, who met rad fems first and found them --- uncongenial.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-29 12:42 am (UTC)
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
From: [personal profile] melannen
I do sort of understand the core of this, because I have met trans women who do things like explaining cis women's experiences and bodies to them, and constantly talking over other women, and being rape apologists, and so on, and if I had finally found my feminist space where for the first time I didn't have to deal with that crap and then that happened, it would be tempting to say "you are doing the things we created this space to get away from, please leave."

But I have met plenty of cis women who do that, too. And the problem is not that they aren't real women, it's that they're self-centered assholes. And then instead of saying "maybe we could all just listen to each other and not be assholes," everybody gets exclusionary and ideological and everything sucks and then we can't even talk about it at all. (And then it gets even harder to get rid of the assholes.)

(On the same note, I am generally super angry about the "asexuals can't be queer" people, but I know some people whose reaction is "the lgb community is the first place I have found that hasn't tried to force me into asexuality, so fuck you for coming in to our space and wanting to make me celebrate what I'm escaping", which I can empathize with while entirely disagreeing and considering it factually wrong.)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-29 07:22 am (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
Radical feminism's adamant refusal to admit that women can wield power in a negative fashion is really the most fundamental problem I have with it.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-29 01:37 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
This is a good rant. Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-29 01:47 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
I didn't know it was TERFs who were against using the word "queer"! I knew plenty of anti-trans radfems back in the 90s who happily used the word, so I didn't even think of this perspective.

And their trying to close off the category of "woman" makes me furious.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-29 07:23 am (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
Yeah, the recent lashback against it (especially visible on Tumblr) seems to very much be against trans, nonbinary, bi, pan, and ace groups claiming membership under the "queer" umbrella.


beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)

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