TERF: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist

SOURCE:  Wikipedia, 2020-06-07

  • See also: Feminist_views_on_transgender_topics

    TERF (also written terf) is an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. The term was coined in 2008. It was originally applied to a minority of feminists espousing sentiments that other feminists consider transphobic, such as the rejection of the assertion that trans women are women, the exclusion of trans women from women's spaces, and opposition to transgender rights legislation. The meaning has since expanded to refer more broadly to people with trans-exclusive views who may have no involvement with radical feminism.

    Those referred to with the word TERF typically reject the term or consider it a slur; some identify themselves as gender critical. Critics of the word TERF say that it has been used in insults and alongside violent rhetoric. In academic discourse, there is no consensus on whether TERF constitutes a slur.

    Coinage and usage

    Trans-inclusive cisgender radical feminist blogger Viv Smythe has been credited with popularizing the term in 2008 as an online shorthand. It was used to describe a minority of feminists who espouse sentiments that other feminists consider transphobic, including the rejection of the view, predominant in feminist organizations, that trans women are women, opposition to transgender rights, and the exclusion of trans women in women's spaces and organizations.

    On her transgender rights website, The TransAdvocate, Cristan Williams defined the term as referencing "a brand of 'radical feminism' that is so rooted in sex essentialism and its resulting biologism, it actively campaigns against the existence, equality, and/or inclusion of trans people." Smythe has been credited with having coined the term TERF, due to a blog post she wrote reacting to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival's policy of denying admittance to trans women. She wrote that she rejected the alignment of all radical feminists with "trans-exclusionary radfem (TERF) activists." In a 2014 interview with The TransAdvocate, Smythe said:

    While Smythe initially used TERF to refer to a particular type of feminist whom she characterized as "unwilling to recognise trans women as sisters", she has noted that the term has taken on additional connotations, and that it has been "weaponised at times" by both inclusionary and exclusionary groups. Though contested, the term has since become an established part of contemporary feminist speech.

    Writing in The New York Times in 2019, feminist theorist Sophie Lewis noted that the term TERF had become "a catchall for all anti-transgender feminists, regardless of whether they are radical." Edie Miller, writing in The Outline, said that the term was applied to "most people espousing trans-exclusionary politics that follow a particular 'TERF logic', regardless of their involvement with radical feminism." The term TERFy has also been used to describe things "that queer millennials deem uncool" such as bangs.

    Opposition to the word

    Feminists described as TERFs generally object to the term and sometimes refer to themselves as gender critical. British columnist Sarah Ditum wrote in 2017 that "the bar to being called a 'terf' is remarkably low."

    Some self-described gender critical feminists say they cannot accurately be described as trans-exclusionary because they say they are inclusive of trans men. Some critics have called this reasoning "divisive and contradictory" and say that it represents "transmisogynist ideology."

    In a 2015 article, American feminist scholar Bonnie J. Morris argued that TERF was initially a legitimate analytical term but quickly developed into a defamatory word associated with sexist insults. She described the word as "emblematic of the unresolved tensions between our LGBT community's L and T factions" and called on scholars and journalists to stop using it.

    British journalist Catherine Bennett has described the word as "a bullying tool" which has "already succeeded in repressing speech -- and maybe even research."

    Feminist author Claire Heuchan argues that the word is often used alongside "violent rhetoric." Phrases like "Kill a TERF!" or "Punch a TERF!" are also posted by trolls online and there have been other depictions of violence aimed at TERFs. Heuchan adds that language of this type is used to "dehumanise women", often lesbians

    The 2018 All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hate Crime received several submissions that indicated a high degree of tension between trans activists and feminist groups opposed to transgender rights legislation, with both sides detailing incidents of extreme or abusive language. The report noted that some women had submitted reports which argued that "women who object to the inclusion of trans women as female are being attacked both online and, in the street, with the term 'trans-exclusionary radical feminist' or (TERF) being used as a term of abuse."

    Slur debate

    The people at whom the word TERF is directed often characterize it as a slur or hate speech. In a July 2018 solicitation of essays regarding "transgender identities", British magazine The Economist required writers to "avoid all slurs, including TERF", stating that the word is used to try to silence opinions and sometimes incite violence.

    Transgender rights activist and philosophy of language professor Rachel McKinnon has maintained the word is not a slur. She argues that merely being "a term used to denigrate women" does not make a word a slur, that being "an absurd, nonsensical view of the nature of slurs"

    In August 2018, seven British philosophers wrote on the website Daily Nous that two articles by Rachel McKinnon and Jason Stanley published in the journal Philosophy and Phenomenological Research normalized the term. They described the term as "at worst a slur and at best derogatory", and argued that the term had been used to denigrate those "who disagree with the dominant narrative on trans issues." In response, Ernest Sosa, the journal's editor in chief, stated that scholars consulted by the journal advised that the term "might evolve to become a slur", but that its use as a denigrating term in some contexts was still "compatible with its having a descriptive meaning."

    In a 2020 paper published in the philosophy journal Grazer Philosophische Studien, linguists Christopher Davis and Elin McCready argue that three properties make a term a slur: it must be derogatory towards a particular group, it must be used to subordinate them within some structure of power relations, and the derogated group must be defined by an intrinsic property. Davis and McCready write that the term TERF satisfies the first condition, fails the third condition, and that the second condition is contentious, in that it depends on how each group sees itself in relation to the other group.

    Author Andrea Long Chu describes the claim that TERF is a slur as "a grievance that would be beneath contempt if it weren't also true, in the sense that all bywords for bigots are intended to be defamatory."

    Feminist philosopher Talia Mae Bettcher argues that, regardless of whether the term is accurately classified as a slur, it "has at least become offensive to those designated by the term", which suggests it might be best to avoid "in case one wants to have a conversation across deep difference."

    Feminist views on transgender topics

    SOURCE:  Wikipedia, 2020-06-07

  • See also: TERF: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist

    Feminist views on transgender topics vary widely. Second-wave feminist views on transgender people were often hostile, but third-wave feminists tend to view the struggle for trans rights as an integral part of feminism. Fourth-wave feminists also tend to be trans-inclusive; the National Organization for Women (the largest feminist group in the United States) and the Feminist Majority Foundation both support trans rights.

    Some feminists, such as Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys, believe that transgender and transsexual people uphold and reinforce sexist gender roles and the gender binary. Feminists who espouse views that other feminists consider transphobic, who oppose transgender rights or the inclusion of trans women in women's spaces and organizations, or who say trans women are not women, have been called "trans-exclusionary radical feminists" or its abbreviation, "TERFs."

    While these parties lack influence in mainstream feminism in the US and Canada, they are more influential in the United Kingdom. Additionally, some transgender and transsexual people, such as Julia Serano and Jacob Anderson-Minshall, have formed a movement within feminism called transfeminism, which views the rights of trans people and trans women in particular as an integral part of the feminist struggle for all women's rights.

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    Transgender rights and the feminist movement

    Queer feminist philosopher Judith Butler has argued for feminist solidarity with trans and gender-nonconforming people, and has been critical of philosophers, such as Sheila Jeffreys, who she argues engage in oppressive attempts to dispute trans people's sense of identity. In a 2014 interview Butler argued for civil rights for trans people: "Nothing is more important for transgender people than to have access to excellent health care in trans-affirmative environments, to have the legal and institutional freedom to pursue their own lives as they wish, and to have their freedom and desire affirmed by the rest of the world." She also responded to some of Jeffreys's and Raymond's criticisms of trans people, calling them "prescriptivism" and [ugh!] "tyranny." According to Butler, trans people are not created by medical discourse but rather develop new discourses through self-determination.

    American academic Susan Stryker wrote in 2007 that first-wave feminism had commonalities with the transgender rights movement "to the extent that breaking out of the conventional constrictions of womanhood is both a feminist and transgender practice." She added that transgender issues had prompted feminist scholars to question notions of biological sex, and that transgender theorising was associated with the rise of postmodern epistemology in third-wave feminist thought.

    In 2012 Jeffreys wrote in The Guardian that she and other critics of "transgenderism" had been subject to intimidation campaigns on the internet, the extent of which suggested that trans rights advocates fear the "practice of transgenderism" becoming the subject of criticism. British radical feminist Linda Bellos was uninvited from a University of Cambridge speaking engagement in 2017 after saying that "trans politics" sought to assert male power.

    Lesbian feminist of color Sara Ahmed has said that an anti-trans stance is an anti-feminist one, and that trans feminism "recalls" earlier militant lesbian feminism. Kimberlé Crenshaw, developer of the theory of intersectionality, wrote, "People of color within LGBTQ movements; girls of color in the fight against the school-to-prison pipeline; women within immigration movements; trans women within feminist movements; and people with disabilities fighting police abuse-all face vulnerabilities that reflect the intersections of racism, sexism, class oppression, transphobia, able-ism and more. Intersectionality has given many advocates a way to frame their circumstances and to fight for their visibility and inclusion."

    Sally Hines, University of Leeds professor of sociology and gender identities, wrote in The Economist in 2018 that feminism and trans rights have been falsely portrayed as being in conflict by a minority of anti-transgender feminists, who often "reinforce the extremely offensive trope of the trans woman as a man in drag who is a danger to women." Hines criticized these feminists for fueling "rhetoric of paranoia and hyperbole" against trans people, saying that while spreading anti-trans narratives, anti-trans feminists abandon principles of feminism, such as bodily autonomy and self-determination of gender, and employ "reductive models of biology and restrictive understandings of the distinction between sex and gender" in defense of such narratives. Hines concluded with a call for explicit recognition of anti-transgender feminism as a violation of equality and dignity, and "a doctrine that runs counter to the ability to fulfill a liveable life or, often, a life at all."

    Feminist theorist, writer and Yale professor Roxane Gay has said that issues facing non-white and marginalized women such as sexual harassment and misconduct extend to trans women as well, and that TERFs have "woefully failed" to consider trans women's experience. Gay finds transphobia appalling, with the maltreatment and agony trans people suffer, such as the high suicide rates and murder rates of black trans women, not their fault. She has also said, "I think a lot of feminists are very comfortable being anti-trans. And that's painful to see because we should know better, having been marginalized as women throughout history and today. How dare we marginalize others now?"


  • Main article: Transfeminism

    Transfeminism, or trans feminism, synthesizes feminist and transgender discourse. Transfeminists argue that there are multiple forms of oppression and sexism, and that trans and cisgender women have shared interests in combating sexism. Influential transfeminists include Julia Serano and Diana Courvant.

    Trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs)

  • See also: TERF

    "TERF" is an acronym for "trans-exclusionary radical feminist." It is used to describe feminists who express ideas that other feminists consider transphobic, such as the claim that trans women are not women, opposition to transgender rights and exclusion of trans women from women's spaces and organizations.

    While these parties lack influence in academic feminist philosophy, they are relatively powerful in the United Kingdom, in particular the British press. They have allied with conservative groups and politicians to oppose transgender rights legislation in the US, the UK, and Australia.

    Feminist Viv Smythe, who is credited with coining the term, has stated its intention as a "technically neutral description ... to distinguish TERFs from other RadFems ... who were trans*-positive/neutral." Those who exclude trans women call themselves "gender critical", and consider the word "TERF" inaccurate or a slur.

    Support from conservatives

    Researcher Cole Parke at Political Research Associates (PRA), an American liberal think tank, wrote in 2016 that conservative groups opposed to the transgender rights movement were basing their arguments on the work of feminist authors such as Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys, whom Parke described as "TERFs." The Southern Poverty Law Center, an American civil rights nonprofit, reported in 2017 that American Christian right groups were trying to "separate the T from LGB", including via casting transgender rights as antagonistic to feminism or to lesbian or gay people. The report said this trend was "part of a larger strategy, meant to weaken transgender rights advocates by attempting to separate them from their allies, feminists and LGBT rights advocates."

    The SPLC detailed the anti-LGBT Family Research Council's annual Values Voter Summit, during which attendees were encouraged to rebrand their rhetoric in the language of feminism, including framing gender identities as offensive to women. The report quoted Meg Kilganon, leader of an anti-transgender conservative group, as saying "Trans and gender identity are a tough sell, so focus on gender identity to divide and conquer."

    In January 2019 the Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think tank, hosted a panel of left-wing feminists opposed to the US Equality Act. PRA researcher Heron Greenesmith has said that the latest iteration of collaboration between conservatives and anti-transgender feminists is in part a reaction to the trans community's "incredible gains" in civil rights and visibility, and that anti-trans feminists and conservatives capitalize on a "scarcity mindset rhetoric" whereby civil rights are portrayed as a limited commodity and must be prioritized to cisgender women over other groups. Greenesmith compared this rhetoric to the right-wing tactic of prioritizing the rights of citizens over non-citizens and white people over people of color.

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