The author is a male supporter of Speak Up For Women. His opinions may not reflect the opinions of all SUFW members and supporters.
A Brief Foreword
I don’t entertain the notion of a crossover between trans-advocacy and feminism. The ideologies are fundamentally in contradiction.
Feminists have always posited that gender is a culturally-constructed system designed to benefit males at the expense of females. Gender identification is the result of socialisation into this system. Feminists acknowledge that sex has objective reality and is observed with a near-complete degree of accuracy at birth. Culturally defined sets of meaning called ‘gender’ are imposed upon people, overlaid onto the reality of a persons sex.
Trans Advocates on the other hand believe that gender identification is an innate personal psychological quality. According to this perspective, gender identification is natural and naturally good. Questioning its innateness, naturalness or goodness is harmful and intolerable.
A common variation of this ideology is that sex itself has no objective existence outside of the subjective personal experience of an individual. This contradicts basic feminist theory which acknowledges that the state of ones sex exists in objective reality independently of subjective opinion.
Feminism seeks to dismantle and discard gender identification. Trans-advocacy explicitly seeks to affirm gender identification. These views are incompatible.
“We believe that women and girls are oppressed due to our sex and not our gender identity. That’s it” Georgina Blackmore
Don’t Call Women TERF’s.
Recent articles from New Zealand media outlets have been covering Gender Identity. Conversation around this subject has attracted interest lately due to the government’s pending amendments to the Births Deaths Marriages And Relationships Act.
Feminist criticism of the amendments has generated passionate debate across social media. These critics object to bad lawmaking which pushes the concept of ‘sex’ from acknowledged observable reality towards being a legal fiction. This shift undermines sex-based protections in New Zealand human rights law.
A ready-made way to dismiss and abuse people, especially women, who critique the amendments (or in fact any other artifacts of sexism) is to apply the term ‘terf’ to them. It is a digital scolds bridle.
Some NZ media outlets are happy to propagate the term. Sometimes allowing it to be published in guest opinions as an insult hurled towards women who disagree with them. Sometimes dropping the term as “considered a slur by some”.
The facts is this: the term is not neutral. It’s a loaded term used to silence voices that are mostly women’s. Let’s look at why any adult discussion of gender politics wouldn’t use the term.
The Term Is Politically Meaningless
The term doesn’t describe an actual political position. It simply gets applied to anyone who questions any premise or conclusion of transgender ideology.
But you don’t have to be either feminist, “trans exclusive”, radical, feminist or radical-feminist to reject these premises and conclusions. The rejection of innate gender has always been central to feminist theory.
Personally speaking I don’t consider myself a feminist. I get called a terf because I’m open about not believing in innate gender.
You don’t have to be a feminist to see that identity itself, including that part of it called ‘gender identity’ is the product of historical forces. The hyper-individualised idea that gender identity emerges from biology is completely unsupported by evidence and it violates basic understandings of how culture and socialisation work.
The UK organisation A Womans Place publicly challenges changes in UK law that mirror the changes to law in NZ. A Womans Place place no restriction on trans individuals from attending their events. They host trans speakers.
Yet the organisers are called ‘terfs’ despite their explicit inclusion and platforming of trans voices.
This insult against A Woman’s Place has been accompanied by organised misogyny that includes venues being denied them and constant threats against attendees.
Feminists are called “trans-exclusive” because they correctly determine that their movement exists to centre the interests of people born female. Anyone born female is singled out for marginalisation by a world shaped in the interests of people born male. It is female people who are socialised into the subordinate position.
This stance naturally includes the interests of female people who identify as men.
Lesbians are accused of being ‘terfs’ simply for stating that they are not attracted to people with male bodies. Transgender orthodoxy insists that some males are female simply because they say so. Lesbian sexual disinterest in these males is considered heretical.
There’s nothing particularly radical or “trans-exclusive” about lesbians wanting the right to say no.
The only instances in which the term is self-applied is when the self-application is done ironically: no gender-critical feminists actually consider themselves ‘terfs’. No self-identified ‘terfs’ exist. Nobody calling themselves a ‘terf’ has published an article attempting to explain “the terf position”. That’s because there isn’t one.
“Trans-exclusionary Radical Feminism” has no real existence: Feminists have always been clear that males are welcome to support the project of liberation for people born female. Males have never been excluded from supporting any kind of feminism.
The Term Is Intertwined With Gross Mischaracterisations of Feminist Positions
It’s the new ‘feminazi’.
That transgender activists are railing loudly against an ideology that doesn’t actually exist isn’t surprising given that anti-feminists typically attack “straw-woman” caricatures of feminism.re
No responsible media outlet would participate in this caricaturing of the feminist position. Nor should they allow the broadcasting of these caricatured positions to continually over-ride women’s real concerns.
The Term Is Constantly Used By Males Threatening The Safety of Gender-Critical Women
I never liked using the ‘C’ word. Even before I had given any thought to feminism I simply noticed the way the word was used against women. If a man wants to summon the most hateful expression he can while threatening a woman’s self-worth or physical safety then he uses the ‘C’ word in a sentence.
I know a woman who used to be ok with the ‘C’ word. She accepted it as part of casual kiwi vernacular. She was ok with “reclaiming” the word. But after having the word used against her by an abusive partner she couldn’t ignore the hate built into the word itself.
Here is how ‘terf’ is used within the transgender community:
It’s pretty evident from these threats that trans-activism believes that threats of violence against women are acceptable.
Why would media outlets and pundits accept the use of the word ‘terf’ knowing how the word is used?
These images are pretty horrible but they are also completely unexceptional.
Trans activist threats against feminists occur multiple times daily across social media. Terfisaslur.com documents the unending constant stream of threats of violence and death heaped upon women by trans activists.
These threats are entirely acceptable among trans-activists.
The San Francisco Library hosted a trans-activist exhibition. It included a t-shirt with the text “I Punch Terfs” designed to look as if it was covered in blood. The exhibition also featured baseball bats painted in rainbow colours and covered in barbed wire.
This behaviour has spilled out into real life: A Womans Place formed in the wake of transactivists physically attacking a grandmother who was attempting to meet with feminists trying to avoid trans activist harassment.
Why should any media outlet use the term to describe anyone while knowing that the term is deliberately meant to be dehumanising and used in calls to violence?
For that matter, why would anyone who claims to care about human rights use the term while knowing it is commonly used to dehumanise and call for violence against feminists?
Stuff, Spinoff and the rest of NZ mainstream media should follow the lead of The Economist and desist from using the word.
The Only Sense In Which ‘Terf’ Is Meaningful Is In The Sense ‘Heretic’.
Orthodoxies deride heretics and attempt to marginalise them while considering the differences between heresies as besides the point: all heretics are the same and must be subject to punishment.
It doesn’t matter whether women want their own territory because as individuals they want space from male bodies due to traumatic violence or simply on principle. It doesn’t matter if the heretic simply questions the innateness of gender identity. It doesn’t if they are female and homosexual and don’t want to sleep with males.
All that matters is that the faithful be protected from the pollution of dissent: there will be no debate.
Feminists Are No More Trans-Exclusive Then Transgender Advocates
Trans advocates claim to believe that if a male truly believes he is a female then he is. To deny his claim is considered harmful.
Consequently a male making this claim would be outside of the entry criteria for male-only organisations. They would be excluded from membership in male-only sports teams. Or organisations like Male Survivors Aotearoa, MOSAIC or The Male Room. Or Big Buddy.
If trans-activists really believed that women claiming to be men are in fact men, then trans-activists must also conceded that these women must be excluded from women-only organisations and services.
This trans-exclusionary consequence generally doesn’t come up in discussions of gender politics partly because females are not demanding access to male-only spaces, services and provisions.
The Term Is A Thought-Stopping Cliché
The term is employed to prevent people from considering the feminist point of view.
Accusing somebody of being a terf is to publicly announce that the opinion of the accused must not be considered. “Terfiness” is a undesirable moral quality, and those polluted by it have no right to be heard.
It functions the same way that accusations of communism functioned during Americas McCarthy years: the actual words, opinions and considerations of the accused didn’t matter. The person declared a commie simply had to be dismissed out of patriotic duty.
Imagine a Stuff editorial that said “some people think that ‘commie’ is a slur”? Or a Spinoff article accusing people fighting for the retention of welfare benefits of being “commies”.
Here is how one person attempts to use the word ‘terf’ into drown out heretical thoughts:
The Term Is Not Neutral
Because they know that the term is politically meaningless, feminists who get called ‘terf’ have constantly and repeatedly asked that the term not be used.
They have pointed out its problematic nature. They have pointed out that it is consistently used in violent threats against them.
If the term was actually neutrally descriptive then this request would be honoured.
I still remember being called “curry-muncher” while being subject to regular racist beatings. I was told that it was simply a semantically accurate descriptive term. Therefore it wasn’t racist.
I guess the same would apply to the term “paki”. And yet both these terms have a much finer semantic scope than the vaguely-defined “terf”.
So here we are. The term ‘terf’ is politically meaningless, purposefully vague, used to prevent meaningful disagreement and deride unorthodox thought. It is used to ostracise and threaten women.
As such it has no place in adult discussion.
Women fighting for sex-based legal protections are asking you not to use it. So honestly why would you?