I will no longer use the word “TERF”.
It is a good word to express contempt, with that plosive T. Someone is only a terf, an enemy, a deluded person. They claim it is a slur, and use it to claim victimhood- see the horrible things they call us! “Punch a TERF!” they quote, endlessly.
It stands for “trans-excluding radical feminist”, and one objection I have to it is that anti-trans campaigners are not necessarily radical feminists. Some are conservative Evangelicals, and some have no particular feminist views other than
hating opposing trans people. They are sucked up by social media radicalisation. Radical feminism is a world view, centring women’s oppression in the reproductive system, with particular attitudes to paying for sex, surrogacy, and violence against women and girls. One might engage with it. Often, you cannot engage with trans excluders, whose only relevant philosophy is no trans women in women’s spaces, not never not nohow, and no treatment for trans children (usually not trans men either) because they cannot believe trans children exist.
I changed “hating trans people” to “opposing trans people”. The most horrible attitude in them is dismissal: they talk of “single-sex” spaces excluding “men” as if trans people did not exist. They pretend to dispassion. There is a ghastly and complete lack of sympathy. Their one priority is protecting [cis] women.
I don’t like the term “gender critical feminist”. Some only take in feminism through social media posts, never reading more widely. And, believing that gender is an oppressive social construct need not mean that you are hostile to trans women in women’s spaces. Instead, it could mean that you welcome us, as we subvert gender norms.
Their idea of “gender ideology” deludes them. They claim trans people are divorced from reality, but the only thing you need to believe to accept trans women in women’s spaces is that trans people exist, and are mostly harmless.
Some anti-trans campaigners object to being called “gender critical” too, because they want to conceal the fact that their expressed desires affect no-one but trans people. So they claim to be campaigners for “sex-based rights” or “women’s rights”, pretending that their desired ends might give protection from “predatory men” rather than harm trans people.
They dislike the term “trans excluders”, arguing that common sense excludes “trans identified males” from “women’s spaces”, but trans women have been in women’s spaces mostly harmlessly for decades, so in effect they campaign to drive us out. So they are anti-trans campaigners, whatever they claim about respecting trans people or supporting trans rights.
The worst of them spread vile myths, and incite fear of us by constant reference to the worst of us. They may identify with Maria MacLachlan to claim vicarious victimhood, even martyrdom. It is a common tactic in anti-trans campaigning. Consumed by a sense of their own righteousness, many of them have lost all sense of proportion. And yet, each is an individual, with human vulnerability and with some capacity of empathy. Unfortunately, people’s empathy is usually shut down if they feel threatened, and mainstream media keeps them constantly triggered.
The media thrives on drama, and the simplest drama is confrontation. The media obsesses on anti-trans v trans. So the BBC had a profile of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and used the time as if the three most important things about her were “Half of a Yellow Sun”, “Americanah”, and her remark in 2017 that “trans women are trans women”.
Our empathy can be shut down too. This weakens us, making us angrier and less creative. Both sides are victims. They are wrongdoers- victims of violent men, they refuse to draw a distinction when considering harmless trans women. Then their sense of victimhood and standing up for their rights feeds off reasonable or angry demands that they cease their exclusionary campaign, or be silenced. But their initial victimhood is real, serious, and worthy of empathy.
Picture today: I see resonances, but I picked this because I have just watched the great film “All about Eve”.