On this page you will find examples of the ways in which mainstream (non-LGBT/feminist community) media represents the relationship between the trans and radical feminist community. Here you will be asked to critically consider the role media narratives has played in affecting the way community members view radical feminism and how these views then reinforce these media narratives. [mashshare]
How ‘Transparent’ Boldly Called Out A Complicated Feminist Issue by Shaunna Murphy for MTV:
Yes, the episode has a little bit of “fun” with buzzy social justice concepts like trigger warnings and safe spaces — and a couple of the radical feminists featured are, again, a parody of feminist stereotypes — but at no point does it seem like “Transparent” is outright condemning any of them. […] Though most important of all, of course, is the fact that Soloway didn’t make this up for dramatic effect. Feminists and the transgender community have been at odds over what sort of privilege comes with being born with a penis — whether or not that penis is wanted — for decades, and a quick Twitter search for the term TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism) proves that the issue is no less painful for trans women today as it was in 1973, when the West Coast Lesbian Conference was marred by attempted physical violence by TERFs against a transexual performer.
Brown University’s $100 Million Inclusivity Plan by Conor Friedersdorf for the The Atlantic:
It could be considered “insensitive” for a feminist scholar to probe whether the transgender community is helping to ossify the notion that there are inherently masculine and feminine traits; or for a scholar of transgenderism to probe whether radical feminism denies real gender identities (to reference one heated disagreement on the left). Are those still legitimate areas of inquiry? Is sensitivity really a primary value that a university ought to instill in its faculty and graduate students? (The work of Darwin and his successors in biology was extremely insensitive to the feelings of several generations of religious believers. Isn’t it good that they pressed forwards anyway?) Perhaps it would be better to inculcate humanism or tolerance or inherent dignity, values that help communities flourish without stigmatizing the search for truth.
Emma Thompson says she is a ‘card-carrying, radical feminist’ by Mary Ward for the The Sydney Morning Herald:
Radical feminism is a type of feminism which calls for the elimination of patriarchy in all contexts. Radical feminists tend to oppose women’s involvement in pornography and sex work and many vocal radical feminists, such as Germaine Greer, oppose transgender women identifying as women.
The no platforming of radical feminists: A talk by Julie Bindel by Meghan Murphy for the Feminist Current:
But from my point of view — how I see it with my eyes, having been involved in this movement for thirty five years — is that it is the perfect arena for a backlash against radical feminism. It means that white straight men can stand up in any political or social context or on social media and scream “whorephobe” and “transphobe” at those of us who prioritize ending violence against women and children but still be seen as progressives.
Lives transformed: do famous transgender people help the cause? by Elizabeth Day for the The Guardian:
A strained relationship between trans people and radical feminists – whose views range from believing gender reassignment surgery should not give trans people the right to plead special privileges beyond those fought for by women who were female at birth to arguing it doesn’t make trans people women at all – has also been largely silenced. Where once feminists such as Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer and Camille Paglia were robustly critical, now they veer away. Steinem has apologised for her earlier views, although the silence isn’t always a sign of regret. The writer Julie Bindel recently refused to speak to a Sunday newspaper about Jenner’s transition because of fears she would be “bullied” by what Julie Burchill described as “the trans lobby”.
I’m glad Stonewall now has trans people’s backs. Transphobia must be exposed by Fred McConnell for the The Guardian:
But right now, since I have your ear, I’ll tell it how I see it and how I hear other trans people seeing it; none of this should be up for debate at all. Those protecting free speech and or advancing radical feminism can do so without attacking trans people. Likewise, if the mere physical presence of a trans person, including in gender-segregated areas, upsets you, that is entirely your problem. Our humanity and safety deserves the same protection as yours. Our mere existence poses no threat to anybody.
What is a Woman? The Dispute Between Radical Feminism and Transgenderism by Michelle Goldberg for the The New Yorker:
[A] few dozen people gathered in a conference room at the Central Library… The conference had been convened by a group that wanted to defend two positions that have made radical feminism anathema to much of the left… [T]hey were going to try to explain why, at a time when transgender rights are ascendant, radical feminists insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women.
On the “dispute” between radical feminism and trans people by Juliet Jacques for the The New Statesman:
I’m aware that this article is entitled ‘On the ‘dispute’ between radical feminists and trans people’ and I’ve barely touched on it so far. It’s partly because I’ve always agreed that ‘the personal is political’, as many second-wave feminists said, and partly because two things have often been missing from this ‘dispute’ as it’s recently played out on social networks and in the mainstream media: a sense of humanity, and a sense of history. Writing in the New Yorker, Michelle Goldberg tried to address these issues, especially the latter, in an article entitled ‘What is a Woman?’ Goldberg mentions some of the main flashpoints of the conflict between trans people and a group labelled trans-exclusionary radical feminists (or TERFs for short, especially within the limited space of a tweet), but various trans people have remarked that the piece is rather one-sided. I’m not going to critique it here – Mari Brighe did an excellent job of that at Autostraddle. Instead, I will offer a counter-history that tries to be fair but makes no claim to impartiality – if you want balance, maybe read Goldberg and me side-by-side – and look at how that history has informed my own engagement with mainstream liberal media.
Feminist icon: Transgender ‘women’ like Bruce Jenner aren’t women. They’re delusional. by John Jalsevac for the Life Site:
Author and ’60s radical feminist Germaine Greer is coming under fire after telling the BBC that transgender “women,” such as Bruce Jenner, are not women and that they don’t “look like, sound like, or behave like women.” Greer was responding to a petition that was being passed around by leftist activists demanding that Cardiff University cancel a lecture by the radical feminist scheduled for November 18 because of her history of making statements questioning transgenderism.
Radical Feminism & The TERF War by Rod Dreher for the American Conservative:
A generous reader sent me a delightfully Dreherbaity New Yorker article on the Iran-Iraq War the war between radical feminists and militant transgender activists. “Radfems” can’t stand male-to-female transgenders, and won’t let them into the movement because they believe they are really privileged males trying to pass as women. Transgenders can’t stand the radical feminists for obvious reasons. It has gotten very, very ugly, with transgender activists pressuring venues to deny Radfem conferences an opportunity to gather there, given their stance on transgender.
What the “Transgender Tipping Point” Really Means by Laurie Penny for the New Republic:
Of course, “cis” covers a lot of bases. A great many cis people experience gender dysphoria to some degree, and a great many women, in particular, experience the socially-imposed category of “womanhood” as oppressive. I’m one of them, and that’s why I believe trans rights are so important to feminism—and why it’s so dispiriting that some feminists have been actively fighting the inclusion of trans people in anti-patriarchal and LGBT politics. The notion that biology is not destiny has always been at the heart of radical feminism. Trans activists and feminists should be natural allies.
The Feminazis vs. the Transgenders by Rush Limbaugh for the rushlimbaugh.com:
Nash, while I’ve got you here, let’s explore the story together, all right? It’s in The New Yorker, and here’s how it starts. I’ll read just enough to answer whether or not this is about what you’re interested in. “On May 24th, a few dozen people gathered in a conference room at the Central Library, a century-old Georgian Revival building in downtown Portland, Oregon, for an event called Radfems Respond.” Radical feminazis respond. “The conference had been convened by a group that wanted to defend two positions that have made radical feminism anathema to much of the left. First, the organizers hoped to refute charges that the desire to ban prostitution implies hostility toward prostitutes. Then they were going to try to explain why, at a time when transgender rights are ascendant, radical feminists insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women.” So the fight here is that the feminazis do not want transgendered women anywhere near ’em.
Dispelling Fictions and Disrupting Hashtags by Julian Vigo for the CounterPunch:
Transgender advocates have also written, “Radical Feminists are often a bigger threat to the safety and dignity of trans women than society at large.” As well as being a backhanded compliment to the outsized power of radical feminism, this claim illustrates the kind of transgender obsession and hatred of radical feminists that permeate transgender writings.
Dispelling Fictions and Disrupting Hashtags by Ryan Sheales for the University of Melbourne:
Dr Jeffreys also argued transgenderism undermines women’s rights by seeking to expand entry into ‘women only’ spaces, such as toilets, changerooms, women’s shelters and even rape helplines. “One of the central problems with transgenderism is that it’s based on the outdated notion of gender,” she said. “Radical feminism considers gender as a sorting system for male domination, something that provides ‘the bars of the cage’ that imprison women in their daily lives. “Without gender, transgenderism could not exist. “As such, when transgender rights are inscribed into law and adopted by institutions, they promote ideas harmful to women’s equality.” Professor Jeffreys has researched transgenderism for several years. Gender Hurts is based on original interviews and a critical analysis of a wealth of literature from the fields of history, medicine, the law and sociology.
Feminists Declare War on Transgenders by Bob Unruh for the World News Daily:
Women are not the same as men. That’s obvious to most. But a stunning conveyor of that message is radical feminists, who according to the New Yorker, are objecting to claims to womanhood made by men, otherwise known as transgenders.
St John’s Gender Equality Festival in transphobia U-turn by The Oxford Student:
The committee for the upcoming St John’s Gender Equality Festival have released a statement apologising for the transphobic content of an article in the festival zine, leading to the resignation of three committee members who refused to add their names to the apology. The article in question, written by Magdalen College LGBTQ rep Elsa Field, was entitled “What is a woman?” and expressed the view that “for a radical feminist to accept transgenderism is to accept the idea that society can create women and men, and that the very concept of a gender identity is one we can support.” Field’s article goes on to criticise the “non-platforming” and “censoring” faced by self-identified “radical feminists,” arguing: “I object to a world where members of my community are routinely subject to rape and death threats because they refuse to acknowledge the womanhood of a male-bodied person who self-identifies as female.”
Transphobia Spurs PIELC Protest by Shannon Finnell for the Eugene Weekly:
One speaker’s stance on gender identity is causing controversy around an upcoming environmental conference at the UO. Among its keynote speakers, the 32nd annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) Feb. 27 to March 2 will feature radical feminist Lierre Keith of Deep Green Resistance (DGR). A heated debate on PIELC’s Facebook event page (http://wkly.ws/1on) about Keith’s position that people who are transgender aren’t really the gender with which they identify has generated hundreds of comments. Some enviros are petitioning PIELC and UO to cancel Keith’s talk. “I find it disturbing that the co-directors of PIELC think that Keith’s ‘perspective on environmental issues and activism’ are separate from her perspective on transgender people,” says Shelley Cater, a long-time PIELC attendee and one of the protest’s organizers.
Ecological and Social Implications of Trans and Climate Change by Robert Jensen for the Dissonant Voice:
The cover story of Time magazine’s June 4, 2014, issue, “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier,” illustrated the success of the trans movement in equating any questioning of transgender/transsexual identity as a form of bigotry; to challenge the trans ideology is seen by some as opposition to civil rights. A longstanding radical feminist critique of trans ideology—which does not attack individuals who identify as trans but offers an alternative way to challenge patriarchy’s rigid, repressive, and reactionary gender norms—has been largely sidelined in this discussion.
What About the (Trans) Menz?! by Kat Callahan for Jezebel’s ROYGBIV:
Because this is a sub-blog of a feminist blog, I felt it was appropriate to discuss the interactions between the feminist community and that of the trans men community. As Kat has discussed in previous posts, there are issues with trans issues being taken seriously, or viewed as a hostile entity, in some branches of feminism. The majority of the criticism laid out in “Radical Feminist” literature has been directed against trans women, viewing them as wolves in sheep’s clothing who are trying to undermine the feminist movement from the inside out, as well as perpetuating a gender binary. Naturally, there has been significant retaliation to these assertions by transfeminists and third-wave feminists, such as Kate Bornstein and Sandy Stone.
Queer liberation and the feminist connection by Alison Thorne for the Socialism.com:
Sections of the feminist movement hostile to transgender people came from the radical feminist, biological determinist tradition. The highest profile was the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, which excluded anyone who was not a “woman-born woman.” These reactionary ideas rippled around the world and were increasing promoted by radical feminists in Australia. We were clear that they needed challenging. In 2001, FSP debated Sheila Jeffries about transgender oppression on AusFem PolNet, a national feminist discussion list.
The battle over gender: what makes you a man or a woman, anyway? by Helen Lewis for the New Statesman:
I am an outsider to all of this I can only say what I think based on my observations of the “discussions” between trans* activists and radical feminists and my understanding of their respective positions.[…] For radical feminists, the concept of “gender identity” is nonsensical, as they believe gender- the roles, activities, behaviours and even clothing that are considered acceptable for males and females- is socially constructed. Subsequently, they question what it means for a person born male to “live as a woman”. […] I have seen both radical feminists and trans* activists behaving appallingly to each other. From what I have observed over the past 9 months, there is a lot more violent language coming from the trans* camp, and there is more taunting, name-calling and ridicule coming from the radical feminist camp.
Cathy Brennan On Radfem 2013 by Peter J Reilly for Forbes:
We are revolutionaries, fighting for social change, and overthrowing current patriarchal systems. We want a radical alternative to both right wing, biological determinist and post modern versions of “genderism”. In other words, we oppose the promotion of gender roles as “natural”, inevitable, desirable, innate, or exaggerated performances of “femininity” and “masculinity”. We believe that gender is a destructive hierarchy, which harms women and needs to be abolished. We also oppose the the multi-billion pound sex industry. We disagree with “identity politics” which is counter to our goal of abolishing gender and male domination. The language of identity politics re-enforces patriarchy, even though sometimes people use the language of revolution to push these male centered ideologies. This conference will explore radical feminist critiques of all these oppressive aspects of patriarchy and promote alternative ways forward. Packed into that paragraph is the type of thinking that motivates some other people to oppose the conference happening at all. When Cathy Brennan told me that she liked getting together with a bunch of women to discuss these issues she meant, in my idiot’s analysis above, females. They all have wombs, which is not something you get with gender reassignment surgery. Cathy Brennan believes that the LGBT movement (which if your paying attention can now be LGBTQH, with two possible meanings for Q) has sacrificed the interest of females in the search for transgender equality. That has made her quite a controversial figure in portions of the internet.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Julian Vigo for CounterPunch:
Since January of this year, the word ‘transphobia’ has been bantered about in mass media and social networking circles to such intensity that its definition has been expanded and in some instances grossly misrepresented. ‘Transphobia’ has been used in recent months to indicate everything from the range of negative attitudes and actions towards transsexualism and transgender people to the overt censorship of any expression that takes issue with the theoretical and political expressions of the transgenderism or certain trans activists. Even to undertake a strictly political analysis of the trans community one risks being labeled ‘transphobic’ especially if one is a radical feminist. As a result of this assault on dialogue, the true violence of transphobia (ie. assault, rape, murder and many other forms of discrimination) is cheapened and diluted in the larger space of discursive disagreements with feminists. Conterminously, the mislabeling of dialogue under the guise of ‘transphobia’ masks another type of violence perpetuated towards radical feminists who speak about these discursive differences with trans activists.
These Are Not the Radicals You’re Looking For by Dorian Adams for CounterPunch:
In her recent CounterPunch column “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Julian Vigo is very concerned about the silencing of radical feminists by transgender people. Choosing to focus on a very small subset of radical feminists who pride themselves on being “trans-critical,” she goes through a laundry list of people all claiming the same thing: that transgender identities and specifically the existence of trans women is bad for women and a tool of the patriarchy. Despite the truncated timeline she provides, this is not a new topic. This sect of feminism has been making this claim since the 70’s. The arguments that Vigo reiterates here are not new, or radical, but regressive and patriarchal.
Sex is Not Gender by Elizabeth Hungerford for CounterPunch:
By equating the speech of gender critical feminists with “bullying” and “contempt,” Allen materially misrepresents the positions taken by the women she references in her article. Allen actually calls for more people to recognize radical feminists as a hate group and then pointedly adopts the term Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) to refer to them throughout the article. Make no mistake, this is a slur. TERF is not meant to be explanatory, but insulting. These characterizations are hyperbolic, misleading, and ultimately defamatory. They do nothing but escalate the vitriol and fail to advance the conversation in any way.
Talking with trans Fla. commissioner candidate Gina Duncan by Derrick Johnson II for the windy City Times:
WCT: Some proponents of radical feminism have argued against the inclusion of transgender women in the fight for gender equality. They disqualify transgender women as men pretending to be women. How have you dealt with anti-trans misogyny? Gina Duncan: Frankly, I have not had to deal with a lot of it in central Florida. However, people who have that mindset are ignorant of transgender issues. It’s important to understand that people who are transgender seek to align their physical being with their soul. Personally, I see myself as a woman, pure and simple. I am a woman running for an elected position.
Why Are Youngsters Afraid of the Word ‘Feminist’? by Sady Doyle for the In These Times:
An exclusive focus on sexism tends to grate on younger activists, who understand privilege as complex and multifaceted. For many, the term “feminism” is entangled with an ugly history – radical feminism’s violent hatred of transgender women; liberal feminism’s exclusive focus on the plight of the white middle-class housewife, who became the white middle-class career woman – and therefore a conflicted term, even if they identify with many of its goals, or sometimes identify as feminist. And, of course, contemporary demonstrations of privilege within the movement continue to drive people away.
Why Are Youngsters Afraid of the Word ‘Feminist’? by Erin Stewart for thescavenger.net:
Jeffreys then withdrew from the conference, arguing that she felt it was “untenable” to participate, and around 60 radical feminists, many of whom were aligned with Jeffreys’ views, held an alternative – or as they put it – “real” feminist conference at a nearby venue. Jeffreys experienced a great deal of condemnation for she feels that supporting ‘transgenderism’ entails a support in the gender-system, which she does not agree with. She also suggests that surgery to change the bodies of transgendered people is often pre-emptive, a strategy to hide homosexuality and culminates into the forced sterilisation of young people.
Mary Daly 1928-2010 by Micki Leventhal for the Windy City Times:
Mary Daly, Ph.D., died Jan. 3 in a nursing home in Gardner, Mass., “in a state of calmness and love,” according to an e-mail circulated by Max Dashu, founder of the Suppressed History Archives. […] Not all academics hold Daly in such esteem. “The climate has changed a great deal since Daly’s contributions to feminism, who has been amply, and rightly, criticized for espousing a kind of [ female ] essentialism…,” said Dr. Tina Chanter, co-director of the program in Women’s and Gender Studies at DePaul University. Regarding Daly’s refusal to allow men into her classroom, the stance that ultimately resulted in a court battle, a settlement and Daly’s retirement from Boston College in 2001, Chanter maintained that “feminism needs men to take it seriously before further significant advances can be made, and…men should be encouraged to learn about feminist theory. “Transgender and intersexuality issues demand more urgently than ever that we bring into question any assumption about a rigid dividing line between the sexes. As gender transitioning becomes more and more common, it is incumbent upon feminism not to remain static on these issues, but to attempt to think them through in all their complexity,” continued Chanter. “Daly’s contributions to feminist thought remain important from a historical perspective….Understanding how far feminism has come, and its nuances along the way, helps inform us about how far it still needs to go.”
Goodbye, Mary Daly, and please take the transphobia with you by Monica Roberts for the Global Comment:
One of the major reasons I don’t like radical feminism is the virulent transphobia that was espoused by the quartet of Sheila Jeffreys, Janice Raymond, Germaine Greer, and the woman who died on January 3, Mary Daly. While Daly was a brilliant thinker, she was controversial, to put it mildly.
On Stonewall Riot Initiator Sylvia Rivera’s Birthday, Her Words About Gay Oppression Against Trans People Still Ring True by Ashley Love for the Huffington Post:
[Sylvia] Rivera continued to advocate for LGBT equality, particularly for those disenfranchised and homeless. Sadly, after the gay establishment was done using her to get publicity to raise money, she was abandoned by the gay community, and actually died impoverished. They expressed that “transgender issues are too extreme”. The lesbian separatist “radical feminist” community would exclude her from women’s conferences, and she was even one time escorted out of a queer women’s conference by transphobic lesbians.
Socialists in the Australian women’s liberation movement by Margaret Allan for the Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal:
Nevertheless, in 1998 radical feminism started to gain ground again among new activist feminists, such as in Left Alliance. This is happening mainly at universities. The transgender debate, renewed opposition to men’s participation in movement events, censorship debates — this is all coming up in movement collectives and in such forums as nowsa.
Questions to consider
- How do media narratives construct discourse within the trans and feminist communities?
“I find it disappointing that so many feminists seem oblivious to the ways in which anti-trans discrimination is rooted in traditional sexism. This is why the media powers-thet-be systematically sensationalize, sezualise, and ridicule trans women, while allowing trans men to be largely invisible.”1
Research to consider
- Categorical Thinking: “The human mind must think with the aid of categories… Once formed, categories are the basis for normal prejudgment. We cannot possibly avoid this process. Orderly living depends upon it.”2 Research to consider: 1, 2, 3