TERF Deserves to be a Dirty Word
Hot take: I don’t like TERFs. I spent a long time on International Women’s Day last week arguing with one, and it left me feeling spiteful.
If you aren’t familiar with the acronym, TERF stands for “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist”. Not sure what’s radical about that, or perhaps “radical” is an odd way to say that the views of TERFs do not reflect the beliefs of most feminists, despite what they may believe.
See, a TERF is a person who says they believe in feminism, but who inherently do not believe in gender equality. If that sounds contradictory to you, well — it should. A TERF believes only the strictest of definitions of feminism, that men and women should be “separate but equal”. As the name indicates, a TERF does not recognize the legitimacy of trans individuals, which includes the belief that gender and sex are one in the same. Never mind that biologically, not everyone is born with just one set of sexual characteristics — whatever you’re born with is also unchangeable.
TERFs like boxes. In their experience and lifetime, people were only one of two things, heavily defined. Barbies go in one box, G.I. Joe in another. Maybe in their life, that has been strictly, concretely true, and I can’t blame them for that. But when presented with new information, such as historical and anthropological evidence that other cultures did not have only two genders, angry pushback will ensue. TERFs do not recognize that gender is simply a mutual societal understanding, and rather believe that it is an immovable law. Kind of like gravity, except there’s no gravity in the empty parts of space, but a TERF would still gender you there.
One of the most frustrating parts of TERFdom is its hypocrisy (also, that J.K. Rowling is one, and won’t stop spewing hateful things online even though she writes children’s books about the power of compassion). One of the most common places to find a TERF is in a discussion of “bathroom bills”, legislation revolving around regulating or deregulating where people can pee. Or International Women’s Day, apparently.
As established, TERFs believe that transpeople do not exist. In that void, explaining why a person would want to use a “different bathroom” becomes almost impossible. Unless it was for a malicious intent.
And we’re back, returning full circle to the always auspicious phrase “separate but equal”. TERFdom truly spawns from that toxic minority of gender equality which interprets feminism as only a movement to “treat women better”. Yes, this post is infantilizing to women, the chivalrous protection really just painting them as damsels needing to be constantly rescued.
But the true insult here is to the men.
I’ve known quite a few cismen in my life. I’ve also known trauma, abuse, and fear. The idea that men are predators, who have no control over themselves, is sadly not new. The TERF here was cismale, one who I suppose considers themselves “an exception”. Or not. I have no way to tell.
See, women are treated to the discriminatory “virgin/whore dichotomy”. Men have a “predator/protector” one. In the sad, sorry, hypothetical universe where this tweet is true, men are relegated to the position of non-human, uncontrolled animal, or valued at the same utilitarian capacity of a stun gun. You could take a man to protect you, or you could throw a stun gun in your purse before you leave the house. It’s the same old prejudice — if you have a dick, your value is equivalent to how useful you can be. No thoughts, dreams, companionship, or empathy. No trust or intimacy. No nail polish, dresses, or wearing a pink shirt, unless you’re feeling really daring.
You’re here to protect the women, those special, delicate, holy creatures.
Anyway, that’s my view on the TERF phenomenon. A sad, out of date, out of touch, attempt to control and restrict other people’s lives. Maybe if your name includes the word “exclusionary”, you’re not doing equality right.
Bonus: I was gathering screenshots for this article and also saw this series of tweets. I don’t actually have a comment on this, but I do have concerns.