The Rise of ‘Radical’ Feminism

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"Coffee Alchemy" by Iain is licensed under Creative Commons

by Ace Hobfoll

As the third wave of feminism begins to crest — with events like the Women’s March, and Pride parades, along with a rise in social movements like #METOO — there has been a triumphant rise in the striving for inclusivity in media. For the most part.

There’s one glaring exception. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFs, are a group of radical feminists who, as their name suggests, strive to exclude trans people, particularly trans women, from feminist arguments and spaces.

Supporters of this movement say that trans women are just men who want to have access to women’s spaces in order to commit crimes such as assault and rape. While this seems mostly contained to social media, TERFs have made it clear that this is not an internet issue.

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Sign reads “TRANS WOMEN ARE MEN. TRUTH IS NOT HATE. DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE! TRANS IDEOLOGY IS MISOGYNY & HOMOPHOBIC. Woman is not a “feeling”, a costume or a performance of a stereotype! Woman is a biological reality! There is No ethical or moral duty to LIE to soothe a male ego.” Via Twitter.

There’s also the claim that being transgender is a mental illness. According to the American Psychological Association, “A psychological state is considered a mental disorder only if it causes significant distress or disability. Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.” I guess no one told the TERFs.

In the weeks before this year’s Women’s March, particular aspects of last year’s march were criticized online, namely the pink “pussy hats” and the overall focus on genitalia due to the exclusion of trans people.

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Via Twitter.

Tweets like this caused outrage throughout various online communities.

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Via Twitter.

Essentially, the argument boils down to these primary points: There are two biological sexes, gender isn’t real and you can’t be attracted to it, a trans woman existing and being a lesbian is wrong, and saying anything against them is homophobic.

Now, I’m not advocating for men to have sex with lesbians or that everyone has to have sex with a trans person and that you have to be attracted to every single trans person you meet.

The idea of sex and relationships isn’t dependent on genitals; it’s dependent on compatibility and initial attraction. How a person expresses their gender is more evident than what’s in their pants.

Preference, by definition, means “a greater liking for one alternative over another or others.” An example provided is, “A preference for long walks and tennis over jogging.” Preferring some things over others isn’t the same as excluding women because they have a penis.

Along with the assertion that trans women aren’t real women, TERFs have begun to use  the term ‘womyn’ to “recognize that womyn have diverse and different identities and roles which are not all defined by a relationships to men,” according to the Womyn’s Center. That sounds good in theory — until the realization that TERFs use it to further exclude trans women from conversations about women’s rights.

Now, I might be getting into some petty territory but I don’t think TERFs realize that there are ways to have sex that don’t involve penetration; and for the gay men who advocate for the exclusion of trans men, there’s a plethora of ways to have sex and many tools to help out. 

The thing is, as long as people continue to claim that they’re LGBTQ advocates, while aiming for the exclusion of transgender people from feminist spaces and conversations, there will be a problem. If you continually exclude transgender people from LGBTQ spaces, then you do not advocate for the equality and equity, especially when it was trans women who brought LGBTQ issues to the forefront.

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