Anyone with even the slightest bit of feminist sensibility or savvy would qualify as being a “TERF”/ “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist” ( http://secretlyradical.blogspot.ro/2014/07/10-signs-you-might-be-terf.html). Some liberal, queer, and trans activists have even gone so far as to reinterpret “TERF” into also meaning “Trans-Exterminatory Radical Feminist” implying that Radical Feminists are wannabe genocidaires who not only, apparently or according to them, have a mean-streak against trans-people but also want to exterminate them (Not true).
“TERF” when it includes being “exterminatory” is a drastic exaggeration and misinterpretation of Gender Abolitionism. In Radical Feminism, gender is a patriarchal, culturally relative, time-period specific, social construct (not an innate “womanly” or “manly” feeling backed by debunked brain sexy theory or neurosexism, nor is gender an abstract “identity” dogmatically defended by post-modern queer theory). The gender(s) might go by different terms or names depending on culture, language, and era but it is usually discussed as “femininity” and “masculinity”, which in Radical Feminism is an embodiment of sexist stereotypes that female and male people are socialized by and are pressured into conforming to. There are plenty of academic text that affirm this analysis due to the fact that it is based on some of the fundamentals of gender in sociological theory.
Gender as a social construct (used as an umbrella term to also refer to the stereotypical roles the sexes are socialized into) and sex as based in biology is not just the way Radical Feminists understand these issues. It’s what I was taught in the classroom growing up in high school as a part of sociology. It’s what I was taught repeatedly again in many college courses when being educated on the topics of gender, [biological] sex, sexual orientation, inequality, and social issues. This is why I say that “anyone with even the slightest bit of feminist sensibility or savvy would qualify as being a TERF.” Because “TERF” isn’t even about calling out a “wrong” kind of Feminism (The kind that puts male people on the spot as a privileged group that is accountable for female oppression. That’s obviously the wrong kind, right?). “TERF”, rather, is about shutting down feminist discourse entirely. The use of “TERF” is anti-feminist.
“TERF” has become the new anti-feminist derailment tactic (which is made evident by how you don’t need to be a woman or a Radical Feminist to be called one, despite the fact that only female-bodied/sexed people can be Radical Feminists). Another example of this is that “TERFs” are increasingly being compared to Nazis or Neo-Nazis.
“TERF” has become like the “feminazi” fallacy; reductio ad hitlerum. (also known as: argumentum ad Hitlerum, playing the Nazi card, Hitler Card). Argumentum ad Nazium. http://www.fallacyfiles.org/adnazium.html
“TERF”: It is an anti-feminist silencing tactic and it would be as fallaciously ridiculous as “feminazi” if it wasn’t for the fact that it actually works more often than not to get women and girls to shut up about the oppression we experience in relation to the very real female bodies we cannot think, feel, or identify our way out of. Material reality cannot be trumped by internal feeling(s). Biology is not a feeling. It is a fact of life.
So now, in the fashion of the third wave of feminism today (the Western feminism of the 1990s-2000s to the present) and liberal fauxminism as a set of ideologies with its ultra-individualism, misogyny, and patriarchy prettily repackaged as good for women and girls, women and girls cannot actually discuss how patriarchy pertains to our female anatomy. Reproductive rights and abortion rights have been rebranded as an issue that is not sex-specific or gender-specific despite the fact that the only people who can get pregnant are female-bodied/female-sexed people. Most of who live their lives as women. If you want to discuss the shame and stigma attached to menstruation and menopause (which only female-bodied/sexed people can go through), or the challenges, and physical and financial costs of pregnancy, childbirth, and/or maternity, you can be accused of being a “TERF.” Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), female feticide (anti-female sex-selective abortions), female infanticide (the murder of born females or female infants), and other global femicidal atrocities (all 100% female sex-specific) can no longer be addressed and confronted as women’s issues in the queer-theory infiltrated “feminism” of the Third Wave.
Now, while many Radical Feminists are called “TERFs” or accused of being “transphobic”, not everyone who is called a “TERF” is actually a Radical Feminist. Look at the case of Lily Cade, http://genderidentitywatch.com/2014/06/15/lily-cade-lily_cade-and-chelsea-poe-chelseapoe666-internet/, a lesbian porn performer who was accused of being transphobic when she posted online that she will never have sex with any male-bodied/male-sexed person.
Lily Cade isn’t a Radical Feminist, far from it. Radical Feminists are anti-porn and if she wanted to join our fight she would have to switch up her pro-porn politics and if she doesn’t already have them, also develop radical politics in other areas (e.g.: on race and ethnic issues, on economics, on ageism, on ableism, etc).
The reality is, the way “TERF” is used is this: you can be the most pro-capitalist, pro-prostitution, pro-pornography, pro-pimping, pro-stripping, pro-beauty industries, pro-male inclusive liberal queer/gender-special person to ever walk this Earth and be accused of being a “TERF” if you:
- think there’s such a thing as male and female based on biology,
- if you have any basic understanding of male and female biology,
- if you support the principle that the male and female biological sex categories are scientifically backed classifications and that these classifications have connection(s) with privilege or oppression,
- if you believe that male-bodied/sexed people are privileged over female-bodied/sexed people,
- if you think that male or female anatomy is objectively real (not a relative, human-made, social construct),
- if you think that male or female anatomy exists despite internal feeling or identification and continually exists as a constant no matter culture or language,
- if you think that there is nothing wrong with sex-specific spaces, such as female-only washrooms and male-only washrooms (on top of supporting a third unisex washroom option to ensure the safety of gnc/ gender non-conforming people, trans-people, and people who are comfortable in those sort of spaces).
If you think that male and female bodies exist and are not neutral and apolitical, that there is privilege or oppression applied to the individual based on them, that there is gendered socialization based on them, and that there’s a need for separate organizing spaces based on those differently sexed bodies, then you are a bigoted TERF. That’s how it’s used. No other beliefs required.
Of course, whether or not individual RadFems can be transphobic is not a far stretch, but Radical Feminism’s support of the ability for female-bodied/sexed women to have our own organizing spaces (whether it’s at a festival, in the washroom, at a conference or meeting) is not “trans-exclusionary” for the simple fact that not all trans-people are male-born or male-bodied/sexed.
As long as you’re female-born or female-bodied, there’s a space and place for you in Radical Feminism to learn its politics and grow alongside its advocates who educate and organize against male power, male violence, and male intrusion in our lives.
We know that “TERF” is being used to snuff out feminist voices in the Left (like how “feminazi” is used to discredit any woman who dares say no to men and their entitlement to our time, space, and female bodies), and so far it’s been pretty effective in quieting many of us. Being accused of being a scary, mean, “TERF” gets feminists, radical or not, to zip their lips about male privilege and female oppression or gets them slandered and no-platformed. An example of this would be the no-platforming of Gail Dines from the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas who were misinformed that Dines is “anti-trans and anti-sex worker” (which she isn’t) and resulted in them cancelling the screening of Pornland there.
In fact, rather than advocating for censorship, Dines has become the victim of it. On 21 February, a screening of Pornland organised by the group Decoding Porn should have taken place at the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas, Austin. It never happened, because the Community Center cancelled the booking on the now numbingly familiar yet nonetheless depressing grounds that it would violate a “safe space.” In a statement, the venue explained: “we had some folks here in the Austin community say they were deeply uncomfortable with Dines’ work. Our staff had not been aware of Dines’ history of anti-trans and anti-sex worker rhetoric, and we were grateful to be educated.” And gallingly, my part of the debate with Dines was used by the Center to support its decision. I had thought for a long time about whether to ask for it to be unpublished, and decided that the embarrassment of having my mistakes on show was better than the dishonesty of redacting. I hadn’t considered that by not censoring myself, I might give occasion to someone else’s silencing.
Dines firmly rejects the Center’s claims: “I am critical of the johns, the pimps and the porn producers and distributors, but not the women who end up in the industry through poverty, racism, violence and trafficking,” she says. “It is like calling Marx capitalist-phobic and refusing to engage with his arguments about the nature of economic exploitation. Also, I have never ever said anything that could be considered hateful of trans people… I am president of Stop Porn Culture and we welcome anyone who has a feminist anti-porn position.” Nevertheless, the smear had done its job: Austin had lost its opportunity to watch Pornland and respond to the arguments on their merits. If the person staking a position is deemed unspeakable, no answer is required. The safe space of the Center must be purged of dissent; meanwhile, none of its employees seemed to wonder whether an industry in which women are called “bitches” and “sluts” and ritually pummelled for men’s entertainment can be any kind of “safe space”.
At the end of the day, the use of TERF is anti-feminist. The use of TERF is meant to keep women quiet about how patriarchy puts a target on the backs of those with female bodies and that it relates to why we are more likely to be murdered in sex crimes, sexually abused, prostituted, sexually harassed and degraded, body shamed, have our reproductive rights restricted, and more. Our bodies are a part of this. Female oppression is not just some phenomenon that is happening inside of our heads. It is systematic, it is structural, it is material. It is as real as our bodies are and it is the Radical Feminist refusal to be silent about this that makes us one of the biggest threats to ending male dominance.
Male Subs and Female Dommes are still subjected to patriarchy and should still be subjected to feminist criticism.
It is ineffective to critique FemDom practice with a decontextualizing method. FemDom practice, where men “submit” to women and women “dominate” men, occurs in a male-dominated world. Male “subs” do not lose male privilege in situations where they want a woman to “dominate” them. The psychological and behavioral impacts of the gendered socialization that all male people undergo does not disappear when said male person has a “kink” for dominatrixes. Male “submissives” can be as selfish, as pushy, and feel as entitled to the coercive fulfillment of their own sexual desires as male “dominants.” Male “submissives” retain their male privilege and thus the “power” of the dominatrix is only a symbolic or representational one; not “power” in any real, material, structural or systematic sense.
The male “submissive” will still experience better pay for doing work of equivalent value to that of a woman. The male “submissive” still has a lower likelihood of experiencing stranger rape, acquaintance rape, lone rape, gang rape, being pimped, street harassment, workplace harassment, battering, and other traumatizing forms of violence than a woman. The so-called “dominant” woman still exists in a culture where it’s socially determined from birth that she will be set on a life course that puts her at a higher risk to experience physical and sexual violence than a man would, lesser pay, and feminine-gendered socialization that may prompt her into body image disorders, dieting, and indulging in costly and time consuming beautification rituals and plastic surgeries in an attempt to conform to the subordinate standards of the feminine role. The “dominant” woman is not exempt from female socialization as much as the “submissive” man is not exempt from male socialization. There is no living way to opt out of patriarchy and all that it entails. The male “submissive” and female “dominant” do not enter into a isolated bubble of experience during a FemDom “scene”. Their socialized and conditioned experiences prior to the FemDom “scene” is carried with them into the “scene”, even if only on a subconscious level.
As stated in the first point: male “submissives” and female “dominants” have still been socialized and conditioned in patriarchy as much as female submissives and male dominants have. FemDom, then, constantly references the realities of living in a patriarchal society as part of what makes it so sexually thrilling for its practitioners.
Male “submissives” reveal their awareness of male privilege and female oppression when they insist on being referred to by a range of oppressive misogynistic slurs; the vocabulary of woman-hating. The male “submissive” desires to be treated the way women and girls are generally treated in the mainstream society, which is a rape culture. For these male “submissives”, being called a bitch, a whore, a slut, or a cunt, is an arousing experience. And with the advent of porn culture, the vocabulary of woman-hating has taken on a far more creatively sadistic turn where insults include cumrag, cumwhore, cumdumpster and many other porn-invented, porn-inspired neologisms. Those insults can be directed towards men (and in FemDom, they sometimes are) but what makes the terms effective as a kinkster’s aphrodisiac is their feminizing quality and effect. To be referred to by such names is to infer having been “used” which is a key component of what gives these insults their “feminizing” quality.
The “feminizing” of men in FemDom (treating a man in the ways in which a person who is gendered feminine – like a woman – is to be treated) extends into specific practices. Besides the obvious feminization and sissification fetish (which overlaps with homophobic kinks) the act of “pegging” reveals how deeply engrained male supremacy is in FemDom.
In FemDom, pegging is an act that involves a female person anally penetrating a male person by using a strapped-on dildo. In this, the gendered politics of penetration come to life. Objects, typified as passive, are to be fucked. Subjects, typified as active, are to do the fucking. Dominatrixes become, on a performance level, “masculinized” through fucking and the male “submissive”, on the same representational and symbolic level, “feminized” by being fucked. The act of penetrating is heavily gendered in a male dominated system, it is “masculine” (about power, conquest, and being an active force) and the language used to describe it affirms as much: to be penetrating is to be “taking” and to be fucked is to be “taken.”
Through pegging, FemDom reveals just how phallocentric sex has been constructed. Even in sexual practices in which the woman is said to be “dominant” dominance remains phallic; revolving around the power of the penis in being able to penetrate. The female “dominant” does not experience any direct sexual stimulation or direct physical-sexual pleasure in having the material of a dildo thrusted into a man’s anus. Men, however, can experience pleasure from the experience of having their prostate gland massaged and so the pegging act, while sometimes staged in FemDom pornography as the ultimate act of the “dominant” female performer, actually serves the male “submissive” despite how it appears that she is “dominating” him because of what the act of penetration represents or symbolizes.