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]

Last Minute Halloween Costumes That Aren’t The “Sexy”, Store Bought Norm.

It’s almost that time of year again when unoriginality prevails and hemlines rise in an effort not just to fill pillowcases or cheap plastic pumpkin pails with the most candy but to elicit the most controversy: Halloween.

Already we’ve seen the mass production of Halloween costumes of the likes of Caitlyn Jenner and Cecil the Lion’s killer, and you can rest assured there’ll be many an outraged news story about those brave (stupid?) enough to dress as Rachel Dolezal or a member of ISIS.

But Halloween is also the time of year when many a thinkpiece about freedom of speech, taste, and a woman’s right to dress as sexy as she wants (and I’m certainly not innocent of going that route) start doing the rounds, of which I’ve been guilty myself.

So I thought I’d write a different kind of story featuring suggestions for the trifecta of Halloween costumes: some unique, possibly envelope-pushing and fun ideas for this year’s All Hallows Eve. And with October 31st falling on a Saturday this year those invitations should have come thick and fast, so you’ll want to be prepared (hey, there’s another costume idea: Scar from The Lion King, which my friend April went as to my [non-costume] birthday last year!)

(Disclaimer: if costumes aren’t slutty enough—and some of them most definitely tick that box—just add cleavage and substitute regular-length pants for hot ones.)

magic mike xxl

Magic Mike: XXL.

Baggy pants, white singlets, backwards caps and a bandana around the neck are all you’ll need to recreate arguably the sexiest dance scene ever in this year’s sequel to Magic Mike. If you want to put a little more effort in, there’s Tarzan’s painted portrait, Tito’s “Candy Shop” routine, Ken’s sexy “How Does It Feel” rendition or Richie’s groom cum S&M dom. A little less effort? A bottle of water, packet of chips and “I Want It That Way” on loop.

halloween rosie the riveter marilyn monroe

Rosie the Riveter.

Feminism is so trendy, didn’t you know, so what better way to pay homage to the movement than dressing as someone whose image is often co opted by it: Rosie the Riveter. I went as her one year and all you need is a blue shirt; jeans, overalls or denim shorts, depending on the level of sexiness you want to go for; a red and white polka dot scarf, and you’re set.

When I was in New York for Halloween one year I saw a woman in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade who even went to the trouble of fashioning a “We Can Do It” speech bubble.

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Adam & Eve.

The perfect couples costume, all you need is some vines, an apple, and a toy snake. From there, go as dressed up (or down) as you’re comfortable with.

gloria steinem undercover playboy bunny

Gloria Steinem Undercover as a Playboy Bunny.

Yet another costume I’ve worn over the years and probably my favourite. Grab a cheap, mass-produced corset from Valley Girl or similar, some high-waisted vintage knickers (or boy shorts for more coverage), a Playboy cuffs and ears set from most party supply stores, and a white loofah sponge from the supermarket for a tail.

To differentiate yourself from a typical Playboy bunny, wear a feminist badge of some kind and for extra journo cred, carry a notebook, tape recorder (did they even have those in the ’60s?) or a copy of Outrageous Acts & Everyday Rebellions, the book her report “A Bunny’s Tale” is published in.

suffragette costume

Emily Davison.

Best known as the woman who rushed King George V’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby, she died from fatal injuries sustained in the act of protest. A suffragette, a Davison costume is not only timely with the release of the movie Suffragette in which she is featured, but it’s marginally more tasteful than Cecil the Lion: hit up your local costumery for period threads then stop by a toy shop for a hobby horse.

josephine baker

Josephine Baker.

There are many ways you can go with this: traditional 1920s fare, or for the more exhibitionistic, hunt for the components that make up her famous banana costume. A healthy helping of plastic bananas threaded together could work, or banana lollies from your local Woolies add elements of sexiness and Halloween candy metatext. This is one costume that knows no bounds.

girl scout costume

Girl Scout.

A friend had this in mind for the time we were in New York for Halloween, but it never came to fruition. You can be the one to make it happen, by either forking out for the cheap, mass produced version or shifting through Etsy and vintage eBay sellers for cute vests, badges and maybe even a box of cookies or two. Know a Brownie? Borrow their garb for the evening.

beyonce feminist costume

Beyonce Standing in Front of the Feminist Sign.

Granted, this would have been fitting for last year’s Halloween (and I actually went as this for my work Christmas party), but Beyonce is nothing if not perpetually relevant.

I had a copy of the “Feminist” sign blown up and printed at Officeworks, mounted it to thick cardboard and strapped to me like a backpack with elastic strips, with portable LED lights along the bottom. Add a leotard and presto: you’re Beyonce!

wrestling costumes

Mick Foley. (Honourable mentions: Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, Tyler Breeze.)

As wrestling historian and podcaster David Shoemaker has said, wrestling cosplay has never been easier with guys like Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns: just add a white fedora and a Hawaiian shirt, and a flak jacket, respectively. A Cactus Jack t-shirt, a red flannel, leopard print boots and, of course, Mr. Socko make you Mick Foley’s most terrifying incarnation, while a selfie stick and a trip to Spotlight sees Tyler Breeze come to life at your local Halloween party.

marsha p johnson sylvia rivera

Stonewall.

A lot of controversy has been kicked up surrounding the release of the white- and cis-washed retelling of the historic Stonewall riots. Instead of taking a page out of the movie’s script, why not go as some of the historical figures who were actually involved, such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. (Note: proceed with extreme caution as cosplaying these trans pioneers could come across as insensitive at best and transphobic at worst. The last thing you want is an equivalent of the Caitlyn Jenner costume so if you’re not confident you can pull it off without offense, then maybe choose something else from the list.)

cookie costume jazmine hughes

Empire.

While not as successful in Australia, Empire is all the rage on U.S. TV screens and Taraji P. Henson’s Emmy-nominated portrayal of music matriarch and former inmate Cookie is ripe for the costuming. Sequins, animal print (preferably sequinned animal print) and faux fur complete the look. New York Times writer Jazmine Hughes even wrote a story for Cosmopolitan about dressing up as the character just in time for the holiday.

taylor swift squad goals

Taylor Swift & Her Squad.

For the more dedicated costumers, Swift’s “Bad Blood” video look can be completed with some dominatrix gear, weaponry and perhaps a red wig to complete the look. Otherwise, just grab your besties, chuck on your usual party gear and when people ask what you’re dressed as just tell ‘em “#SquadGoals”.

scream queens chanels

Scream Queens’ Chanels.

Three words: Fur. Pastels. Earmuffs.

serena-williams

Serena Williams.

2015 has been the year for women in sport. There’s currently a #DivasRevolution in professional wrestling, the World Cup-winning U.S. Women’s soccer team has been lauded at every turn, and Serena Williams dominated tennis, as she has every year but we finally started noticing. Raid your local Vinnie’s for some tennis duds and grab a racquet. Or, if you’re in need of some new workout gear, stop by your local sporting goods store and show Serena’s line some love.

BONUS ROUND!

Speaking of Serena and tennis, head on over to Junkee to check out my “Hotline Bling” Drake contribution as part of their roundup.

Related: Happy Slut-O-Ween: The Hyper-Sexualisation & -Feminisation of Costumes for Women.

Costumes & Gender.

A Very Manhattan Halloween.

Elsewhere: [Junkee] People Are Really Getting a Jump On Their Terrible, No Good Halloween Costumes This Year.

[Grantland] Reality Takes Over Night of Champions, For Better & For Worse.

[Facebook] Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS).

[Cosmopolitan] I Dressed Like Cookie for a Week to Get Over Imposter Syndrome.

Images via The New Yorker, Your Tango, Demotix, Moorewr, Pinterest, Heave Media, TBO, Bleacher Report, Neogaf, The Incidental Review, Cosmopolitan, Hollywood Reporter, Teen Choice, Odyssey, Vine.