*Trigger warning for transphobic language and discussion of sexual assault.
TERFS (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and SWERFS (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists) have been making headlines of late.
First there was Germaine Greer and the protests surrounding her talk at Cardiff University in Wales over her trans-exclusionary history. Appearing on BBC Newsnight, Greer asserted that trans women “don’t look like women”—a completely regressive and anti-feminist proclamation if ever there was one—and “a man who gets his dick chopped off is actually inflicting an extraordinary act of violence on himself”, ignoring the fact that many trans women don’t undergo bottom surgery and that being trans is about more than what parts you have. Doubling down on her previous comments, Greer spat in a follow up statement to the Victoria Derbyshire Show that “just because you lop off your dick and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a fucking woman.”
Meanwhile, rape allegations against the porn industry’s crown prince James Deen by his ex-partner and fellow porn performer Stoya, as well as others, have illustrated how much of the world views sex workers: undeserving of rights and incapable of being raped. Even Lena Dunham, who is usually pretty progressive on feminist issues today, has joined other famous women such as Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet in a bid to urge Amnesty International to reconsider their recommendation to decriminalise sex work, a move that could improve labour conditions in the industry.
While the title of this piece might be triggering for some in this age of click- and rage-baity headlines, you can rest assured I’m not defending TERFS and SWERFS; I’m asserting that the acronyms to describe them need to be rethought because feminists who exclude trans women and sex workers from the equality they’re allegedly fighting for aren’t radical at all. (I would go as far as to say they’re not feminists at all, but that’s another piece for another time.)
What’s radical about subscribing to widely held notions that trans women aren’t “real” women and therefore don’t deserve the rights feminists have been fighting for since the dawn of last century? What’s radical about pushing sex workers even further into the margins of society than they already are? Nothing.
Radical feminism, to me, is one that is accepting of not just all women, but all people. It’s one that supports movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, refugee and asylum seeker rights and labour conditions. It’s as concerned with tearing down the patriarchy that prescribes only one way to be for men as it is for the rigid guidelines for femininity. It wants to give visibility to old women, poor women, immigrant women, trans women, disabled women, queer women, women of colour and women in sex work alongside the predominantly white women who get to voice their opinions and have them heard, at least in some form. I would even go as far as to include environmentalism and animal rights in radical feminism, which have so often worked side by side. Not being in favour of these things, or only being in favour of them for certain people, is conservative, anti-feminist and not radical in the slightest.
Truly radical feminism—which I guess is really just intersectional feminism—needs to continue to stand up for society’s most marginalised people and take ownership of that title once again. Greer and co. are old hat and painfully conservative. It’s the women who started #BlackLivesMatter; women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera who spearheaded the Stonewall uprisings; women like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock who are giving increased visibility to trans people and, specifically, trans people of colour; young women like Amandla Stenberg and Rowan Blanchard who are showing that young people aren’t ambivalent about human rights; women like the those who started the Sex Workers Project and those who speak out about sexism and violence in the industry, like Stoya; women who work and campaign for Planned Parenthood in the face of defunding and violence, like the post-Thanksgiving shooting; the women who started THINX, period panties for, yes, privileged women who can afford to buy them, but also for trans men and women in rural, developing areas who struggle with the stigma surrounding menstruation; and women who fight for the education of women and girls in the developing world, like Malala Yousafzai, who are the real radical feminists.
My friend Camilla Peffer wrote about how her persistent acne wasn’t caused by a lack of self-love. As an acne-sufferer myself, I can totally relate to this. [xoJane]
Anti-choicers shouldn’t dare proselytise to women about abortion: we know about it all too well. [The Cut]
Sesame Street‘s move to HBO begs the question: what about kids and families without access to premium cable TV? [WaPo]
The double bind of wearing—or not wearing—makeup. [Triple J Hack]
The best of Aussie and Kiwi feminist writing from July. [Zero at the Bone]
These are the books I’ve read over the past year.
I went to see Into the Woods this week and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would having read some things on the interwebs about its race and gender problems.
While it certainly still had those (*spoiler alert* both The Witch and The Baker’s Wife die because they don’t subscribe to typical notions of femininity; The Wolf wears a zoot suit in a dodgy part of the woods) it’s probably the least problematic of all the Oscars bait in cinemas at the moment.
I found the politics of gender very interesting. I was surprised by how on the nose the rapeyness of The Prince was, and I thought Chris Pine played him to perfection. I was taken aback by the pedophilic undertones rife throughout the musical, exhibited by The Wolf and The Baker, amongst others. And for those unfamiliar with the stage version, in it the actor that plays The Prince also plays The Wolf! It gives a whole new meaning to the niceness/charm VS. goodness that reverberates throughout Into the Woods. If you like musicals and/or picking apart the underlying meaning of pop culture, go see it. [The Windowsill]
Why are some of our favourite TV shows given a “free pass” on their problematic content while others are expected to be all things to all people? I love that Sinead Stubbins threw in the gender card: Sex & the City, Girls and even Grey’s Anatomy are often held to a much higher standard than prestige TV’s other (read: male protagonist-based) vehicles. [Junkee]
Disney’s Agent Carter isn’t feminist: it’s about “Disney owning feminist entertainment, and thereby being able to set the terms for it.” [In These Times]
Just as relevant to the #Tay4Hottest100 controversy as it was when it was published last year, Brodie Lancaster writes about gender-based music elitism. [Rookie]
“Authorities want to ban hoodies but not guns, sagging pants but not police murdering unarmed Black people, natural hair but not unnatural racist discrimination.” [Dame]
Nicki Minaj sacrificed love for career success on her latest album, The Pinkprint. [One Week One Band]
Looking at Pretty Woman‘s positive portrayal of sex work. [Bitch Flicks]
The inevitability of being called fat for deigning to be a woman in public. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]
On being a fat bride-to-be. [The Guardian]
Sex & Relationships.
Rachel Hills on sex then and now. [Time]
Three former sex workers tell their stories. [Cosmopolitan]
Sometimes human bodies are just human bodies; do we have to sexualise them all the time? [SBS]
Race & Racism.
People of colour can be racist, too. [Daily Life]
“Every 28 hours a black person is killed by police or vigilantes”: what Aboriginal deaths in custody have in common with America’s current protesting of the murders of unarmed black people by police. [Daily Life]
Please don’t act so surprised that Indigenous children are 5.2 times more likely to die than non-Indigenous children. [The Koori Woman]
A guide to therapy for Asian Australians. [No Award]
Punjabi migration to New Zealand. [Stargazer]
Reflections on #illridewithyou from the woman who started the hashtag. [Silence Without]
Australia’s racism problem in ten incidents from 2014. [The Koori Woman]
Racism in Australian media: some choice examples. [No Award]
Pop Culture & The Media.
Lena Dunham and the Slenderman attempted murder both make us confront our fears of women and girls not behaving in socially prescribed ways. [Bitch Flicks]
Further to that, we’re still as captivated by witches in popular culture as we were during the medieval and Salem witch inquisitions.
What does Miss Julie have in common with Gone Girl? [Flaming Moth]
On that note, Junkee published a guide on responsible social media use in the wake of Sydney’s hostage situation.
Why did The Guardian give a platform to an allegedly falsely accused rapist when alleged victims of rape are so rarely afforded the same? [Women’s Agenda]
“The Best Misandrist Films of 2014.” [Brocklesnitch]
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is in dire need of an update. [Hoyden About Town]
Ju’s Australian Women’s Writers Challenge wrap up. [The Conversationalist]
Girl-friendly video games. [On the Left]
Violence Against Women *trigger warning*.
“Why Rape Jokes Are Never Okay”. [Feminaust]
We don’t need to ask why Man Haron Monis perpetrated the Sydney siege. His miles-long rap sheet of sexual and physical violence towards women speaks volumes. [Women’s Agenda]
And in the wake of the siege, a dissection of the Change.org petition calling for stricter bail laws and the impact that might have. [Hoyden About Town]
This is what happens to women who fight back against street and sexual harassment. [Daily Life]
“We are a society that can land a rocket on a comet, splice fish genes into strawberries, and invent cars that reverse park all by themselves; we’re people that fight for marriage equality, dig deep during natural disasters and legislate overnight against ‘coward punch’ violence in the street. And yet our attitudes to the simple procedure of discontinuing a pregnancy remain shrouded in misconception.” [Daily Life]
Tony Abbott plays that “gender card” he so often accused Julia Gillard of. [Women’s Agenda]
Further to that, it’s “too little, too late”. [No Place for Sheep]
A Very Tony Abbott Christmas. [Brocklesnitch]
Just like the Labor government they said they’d be nothing like, the Coalition has had their fair share of surprises and excuses since taking office. [No Place for Sheep]
Prime Minister Tony Abbott misses the mark on why the repealing of the carbon tax is good for women. [Curl]
Why don’t our politicians have any personality? [No Place for Sheep]
Miscellaneous & General Feminism.
Depression around Christmastime (trigger warning: suicide). [Brocklesnitch]
On identity politics: “You’re Not Really X”. [The Rainbow Hub]
“Adventures in Free-Boobing.” [Jessica Hammod]
“How to Be a Good Parent to Your Bisexual, Lesbian or Gay Child.” [Opinions @ BlueBec]
The history of cyberfeminist group VNS Matrix. [Motherboard]
“To be alone is to be eccentric. To be alone and a girl is to be nuts.” [Spook Magazine]
Rachel Hills has just started a newsletter: sign up for updates on her blog, book and more! [Emails of an Inappropriate Woman]
On Old Fartism: “a position of social insecurity… Old Fartism can be found in people of any age or gender, but it is most prevalent among those who have lived in a world where their viewpoint and interests were reflected by default, to the exclusion of other subject categories.” [Junkee]
“It is indeed the opening of these doors that has rendered work-family balance problematic in the first place since it is the entry of women into the public domain, and specifically into paid employment, that problematises liberal-capitalist conceptions of the ideal worker, which presupposes a wife at home.” [Online Opinion]
Who are the top game-changing women medievalists? [Australian Medievalists]
Rosie Batty is Daily Life’s Woman of the Year.
The ugly girls club. [Daily Life]
Sorry about the lateness but I was unexpectedly without internet over the Christmas break (luckily I was connected to Twitter and Facebook via my phone, so I didn’t have to spend too much time socialising with the family. Phew!). I hope you had a lovely one xx
The mainstreaming of feminism. [Oregon Humanities]
Critiquing Nicki Minaj’s feminism. [Jezebel]
Feminism in Sons of Anarchy. [Bitch Flicks]
I was a Hooters girl: the similarities between waitressing and sex work. [XOJane]
Black women are constantly surveilled but do we ever really see them? [Model View Culture]
I profiled OCW’s fastest rising star, Slade Mercer.
Still with Shonda Rhimes’ creations, is How to Get Away With Murder the most progressive show on TV? [Vanity Fair]
On relatability (“To appreciate [art] only to the extent that the work functions as one’s mirror would make for a hopelessly reductive experience.”) VS. likeability (“If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble.”) [The New Yorker, Buzzfeed]
Lena Dunham has tweeted and Instagrammed in support of Tom Meagher’s blog post earlier this year about the rape and murder of his wife Jill Meagher two years ago. [Buzzfeed, White Ribbon]
Wendy Squires wrote on the weekend that Eddie McGuire is leading the charge of male feminists because he built a change room for women runners to have a safe space after exercising at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. That’s great, but here are four reasons why McGuire isn’t the feminist Squires thinks he is. They highlight why language is just as important as action. [The Age, Daily Life]
Speaking of language, stop calling sex workers “pr*stitutes” and “wh*res”. [Junkee]
Anne Helen Petersen on Renee Zellweger’s changing face:
“… Zellweger’s picture personality has been about the striving performance of femininity—and a striving performance that’s rooted, always, in the appearance of twenty- and thirtysomething youth. To see her at the age of 44, amid a long period without acting work, with plastic surgery seems yet the latest attempt, and failure, to conform to the ideals of femininity, the sad second act in the latest Bridget Jones. Only this time, as the book tells us, Mr. Darcy is dead, which means there’s no man to validate her and thus save her from self-punishment.” [Buzzfeed]