TERFS & SWERFS Aren’t Radical Feminists*

*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.”

While a petition to prevent her speaking at the college garnered over 3,000 signatures, it was ultimately unsuccessful and the talk went ahead late last month.

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.

Elsewhere: [BBC] Germaine Greer: Transgender Women Are Not “Real Women”.

[The Telegraph] Germaine Greer in Transgender Rant: “Just Because You Lop Off Your Penis… It Doesn’t Make You a Woman.”

[Change.org] Cardiff University: Do Not Host Germaine Greer.

[The Guardian] Germaine Greer Gives University Lecture Despite Campaign to Silence Her.

[The Guardian] Actors Call on Amnesty to Reject Plans Backing Decriminalisation of Sex Trade.

[Thinx]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

In the wake of allegations made against porn star James Deen by his ex-partner and fellow porn performer Stoya, as well as several other performers, both Ann Friedman and Amanda Hess attempt to unpack what it means when women hold men who express feminist sentiments up as feminist heroes. [The Cut, Slate]

And while Deen may have been put on a pedestal, he and other violent men illustrate the low standards we actually hold them to. [Junkee]

Stoya’s business partner Kayden Kross explains why they chose to keep scenes featuring Deen on their website, TrenchcoatX (NSFW). [UnKrossed]

I wrote about Meredith Grey, of Grey’s Anatomy, and her woman problem. [Bitch Flicks]

“The Myth of the Tight Pussy.” [Medium]

The real cost of unpaid emotional labour. [Harlot]

“Why Do Teen Girls Like Gay Porn?” [Broadly]

Three ways to make pop culture more diverse. [This Ain’t Livin’]

Another thinkpiece on Drake’s obsession with “good girls”. [The Establishment]

Unpacking Showgirls‘ infamous pool sex scene (NSFW). [The Frisky]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

Porn star Stoya Tweets, “If you think pubic hair on a woman is unnatural or weird, you aren’t mature enough to be touching vaginas.” You go, girl!

Beware hot baths in winter: they can cause heart attacks!

Celebrities and mental illness.

I was absolutely disgusted by Bob Ellis’ take on the ADFA sex scandal on ABC’s The Drum Unleashed, comparing the unconsented filming of a young female cadet during sex to the girls discussing last night’s date on Sex & the City. Here are some choice excerpts:

“Let us imagine the girl agreed to be filmed, and then, afterwards, being mocked for it, and flabbergasted by the number of leering hoons who saw the film, made the complaint. Would that then occasion the sacking of her commanding officer, the court-martial of fifteen or twenty of her fellow recruits, and the bastardising of her lover?

“… She would have been mortified. She would have cursed for months the prurient observers of her bed games. She would have railed at them in the canteen. She would have sobbed on the phone to her mother. She would have attracted some sympathy. She would almost certainly have got over it… And she might… have married the boy.”

“… They, and we, should be careful when we attend too closely to what occurs in a bedroom consensually, and how we punish either participant.

“… Is the young woman, moreover, to be named, and acclaimed, and promoted, and hereafter entrusted with frontline command on some field of battle? Who would trust her in any high army position? Who would be sure she was truthful? Or sound of judgment? Or loyal? Or reliable under fire?”

To end, he makes sure we know that group sex didn’t occur, “as it sometimes does in traveling footballers’ motel rooms”, as if that somehow makes it okay.

Kim Powell writes in response at News with Nipples about Ellis’ assertion that (male) society owns female bodies, as he began the above piece by reminiscing about an old M.A.S.H. episode in which the shower Hot Lips Houlihan is using is lifted by a crane and the menfolk gaze at her naked body.

Girl with a Satchel posts a smashing review of Tina Fey’s Bossypants.

Vintage Gala Darling, circa 2005. Glad to see she hasn’t changed :).

“7 Reasons to Get Excited About the Royal Wedding”… one week later!

In relation, is Princess Catherine doomed to repeat the same fate as Diana? A royal comparison.

Also, “Jessica Rudd shines some perspective on the wedding and the Republic.”

Much to my chagrin, tanning beds are safe… for some things!

Sarah Wilson on private schooling:

“I know parents want to provide the best for their own kids… I don’t know that fancy pools and excursions to Tuscany make for a better education.”

“Things Fat People Are Told”:

“If a fat person defied any of these pronouncements in any way, they spoke of having their lives and experiences denied. They couldn’t really have low blood pressure. They couldn’t really be getting married.

“The hostility fat people experience is extreme. One woman spoke about being on an operating table for a C-section and having a surgeon mock her fat, suggesting they get rid of it while they’ve got her open. Another spoke of sitting in an ambulance while a police officer refused to believe she was raped. Others were told they should be happy to have been sexually assaulted. We heard about how transgender persons were belittled for being too fat to pass. We heard about fat people who were sick and were denied treatment until they lost weight. Fat mothers were told they were selfish for being fat because they would orphan their children. Or that their children would never love them. Or that they’d just ruin their children’s lives so maybe the baby should just die in the womb.”

Lisa Simpson would “totally be a Jezebel reader if she were human.”

Images via Jezebel.