What is a TERF and why is it important in today’s political climate?
After several years of behind-the-scenes battles, largely ignored by politicians and the media who have firmly turned a blind eye to the fact that there is a left-wing feminist critique of “gender identity,” TERFs have finally entered the mainstream. public debate about the existence of such a thing as “gender identity” and whether it deserves the same legal protections afforded to biological sex.
But what is a TERF? I want to dispel some misconceptions about what this term means and who we really are as a political movement.
It is unclear exactly when the term was first coined, but it originally meant “trans-exclusive radical feminist”. A more accurate characterization would be “male-exclusive radical feminist,” since the only category of people we seek to exclude from gender-based spaces, such as restrooms, prisons, and sports teams, are men. Many women targeted by this term (which is often accompanied by threats of rape and death under torture – just ask author JK Rowling) take offense to it. But others have embraced it, arguing that it means “tired of explaining reality to f***wits”.
In recent years, gender ideologues have expanded the TERF label to apply to anyone who understands that biological sex is grounded in material reality. This is also incorrect, because many people who understand this truth are not radical feminists. Some are conservative. Some are left centrists. In fact, most people understand that sex is rooted in reality, but they aren’t necessarily radical feminists.
Finally, it is common to characterize TERFs as essentially conservative or “right-wing reactionary”. That’s not correct either. Radical feminists come from the left and generally have very traditional liberal values. Most radical feminists are either Democrats, Greens, or have become independent in the past few years because they are fed up with the Democratic Party’s embrace of “gender identity” (among other things). I don’t know any radical feminists who are Republicans and no Republicans who claim to be radical feminists.
So what are we exactly? In short, a TERF is a radical left feminist who recognizes the material reality of sex.
I have always considered myself a feminist, although I have never felt the need to include a qualifier such as “radical”, “socialist”, “ecologist” or “Marxist” (there are women all over the world who use labels such as like these to describe themselves). I studied radical feminism in college and law school, and was won over by many of its arguments, but I didn’t feel the need to situate myself in any particular subset of the movement. feminist. I ended up pursuing a different career field anyway, so it just wasn’t necessary.
That changed in 2014, when I was talking with a friend and said something about “trans rights.” My friend stopped me dead and said anything “transgender” is misogyny. I had never heard that before, so I studied and educated myself. I learned of efforts to allow men who claim to be women to invade intimate spaces such as bathrooms, domestic violence shelters, and women’s prisons. Women fought for centuries for things like the right to vote, to serve on juries, and to own credit cards, and the second-wave women’s liberation movement achieved enormous success in the struggle to protect women fleeing physical and sexual abuse by men, among others. things. I also pulled all my radical feminist books off the shelf and spent the rest of 2014 immersing myself in radical feminist theory and values. I was furious when I realized what was happening.
Let’s be perfectly clear: radical feminist objections to issues of “gender identity” and “transgender” are not right-wing. I signed up as a Democrat when I turned 18 in 1990, and the only time since then that I haven’t been a Democrat was for a very short time in 2007 when I signed up for the Green Party, after which I re-registered as a Democrat to vote in the 2008 presidential primary. My core values align with the political left. I remain a Democrat today, despite my distaste for my own party’s embrace of “gender identity,” which is misogynistic at its core.
For TERFs, the problem boils down to this: women as a class have always been oppressed by men as a class (regardless of each man’s benign behaviors) on the basis of sex, and we are all very angry about it. There is a reason suffragists had to fight for the right to vote after centuries of being denied the right to vote and countless men and institutions fighting to stop them. There’s a reason men all over the world are beating, raping, torturing and murdering women and girls at astronomical rates. There’s a reason lesbians are regularly the target of harassment or worse. There’s a reason men used to burn women for allegedly practicing witchcraft. It wasn’t on the basis of “identity” – no one bothered to ask the women what pronouns they preferred. It was on the basis of gender. And now the whole “gender identity” movement is denying that sex even exists or that it can matter.
The dominant narrative is that being “pro-trans” or “trans-inclusive” is a leftist position. But it’s not. All issues of “gender identity” and “transgender” are an embrace of politically regressive, sexist and homophobic stereotypes. This is the most politically regressive idea the Democrats have adopted in my lifetime. TERF sees through it all.
TERFs are committed political leftists dedicated to protecting the rights, privacy, and safety of women and girls, and we’re going nowhere. In fact, we’re just getting started.
Kara Dansky is President of the US Chapter of Women’s Declaration International and author of The Abolition of Sex: How the ‘Transgender’ Agenda Harms Women and Girls. She holds a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a BA from Johns Hopkins University. Follow her on
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