Having your story planned out
…but not being sure if you’re ready to start:
…but not being sure if you’re ready to start:
How TERF works
Posted on 28 July, 2014 by Sarah Ditum
Pay attention, if you’re not already neck-deep in the gender wars of online feminism. TERF is an acronym for “Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist” that its users claim is applied purely descriptively. Critics of the term point out that it is not used neutrally, but in all cases pejoratively: TERF is a curse word used solely against women, a version of “bitch” that liberals can feel OK saying. “TERFs” are charged with inciting and inflicting violence against transgender people, despite the fact that violence against transgender people, like all violence, is overwhelmingly committed by men and not by feminists of any stripe.
The definition of TERF is extraordinarily loose: what one is supposed to be excluding trans people from is never identified. To state that male and female bodies exist can be enough to win the TERF label; to state that the division of sex is the foundation of sexual oppression is more than sufficient. (If your observations of reality have led you to believe that sexual dimorphism in humans is both real and socially relevant, you may be confused to learn that acknowledging this is now deemed evidence of bigotry in some quarters.) It is also a highly toxic definition to apply to someone, both because of the intimation of violence, and because there is a hefty taboo within the left at large against “excluding” anyone.
Vague in meaning, powerful in effect – two qualities which combine to mean that the word TERF is incredibly handy for anyone who wishes to stop women from discussing our oppression as women, by men. (Who wants to stop women discussing our oppression by men? Usually men, of course.) It is a thought-stopper extraordinaire. Here’s an example. This morning, I tweeted the following in response to a discussion about domestic violence I heard on the Today Programme:
Lindy West – brilliant, funny Jezebel writer Lindy West, wrote that hilarious thing about SATC2 – retweeted it. Great! My small act of feminism has been shared by a writer with a following thousands of times greater than my own, surely the revolution in sexual consciousness is just around the corner, etc etc. But wait! A man has something to say:
Note that this is his response to a feminist sharing a comment by another feminist about domestic violence. Not solidarity against male violence, not horror at the fact that a woman has been killed by male violence every 2.3 days in the UK this year, but concern that the person speaking (in this case, me) is somehow unclean. Don’t worry though, he’s not entirely lacking in self-awareness. He knows it’s not really his place – as a man – to tell a woman what she should and shouldn’t say, even though he’s just, um, told a woman what she should and shouldn’t say. His disavowals aside, the word “TERF” does its work:
Am I a TERF? West didn’t have the time to check: avoiding any association with a tainted form of feminism took precedence over sharing a message about domestic violence. And she acted perfectly rationally in this: to associate herself with me, even by merely RTing a statement she agreed with, could be enough to make her a “known TERF” in turn and lead to her being similarly denounced in public. But note the end result of this: a feminist has withdrawn support for another feminist speaking against male violence, because a man told her to.
This is what the word TERF does. This is why it is misogynist’s dream, and this is why – if you’re a feminist or even if you simply see yourself as not-anti-feminist – you should never trust it and never, never use it against other women.
Support organisations countering violence against women
I truly hate sex-positivity with a passion.
When I was younger, I had a very impressionable friend who like me, ascribed to liberal-feminist thought all about the importance of consent and how ~BDSM WAS SO COOL~ and glamorized. We were teenagers who just fell into the line of thinking that sex was the adult thing to talk about and discuss openly without strings attached when it could properly be the farthest thing from it.
Sex-positivity made me think casual sex with grown men in their 40s at 18 was an ok thing to do.
Sex-positivity taught me that I did not require emotional attachment to sex with men 20 years my senior.
Sex-positivity taught me that I was frumpy and old fashioned if I wanted an emotional connection with my partner.
Sex-positivity made me think that my “VANILLA” desires were frumpy and not a worthy form of sex. It was not glamorous to talk about. It was devoid of passion.
Sex-positivity taught me all sexual acts were equal and that I should not shame people for their ‘kinks’. Even if it involved me forcing to play out some fantasy someone had.
Sex-positivity taught me that your ‘first time’ shouldn’t matter. Oh, did it matter to me. Four years later it still does. Four years later I still shudder. I was raped. It wasn’t my first time.
Sex-positivity alienated friends I have made who did not fall into this line of thought. It made me alienate other young girls who were as uncomfortable about sex as I was.
All because I was afraid of losing that one friend who pressured me into thinking the same way they do.
"I do it for me"
Oh really? You know, I do wonder how likely it would have been for you to have begun shaving off natural body hair if you hadn’t been informed from day one that natural hair on women is “gross” and that this was the beauty standard to aspire to.
The “I do it for me” choice-y feminism thing is bogus and please dear everything, apply critical thinking as to why it is we do the things we do.
“Just because you miss someone, it doesn’t mean you should go back to them. Sometimes you have to just keep missing them until you wake up one morning and realise that you don’t anymore.”
While much of the sex in Fifty Shades is as cruel and sadistic as in mainstream porn, it is expertly packaged for women who want a “fairy tale” ending. In male-targeted porn, the woman is interesting only for as long as the sex lasts. Once done with her, the man is onto the next, and the next, and the next. … She is disposable, interchangeable, and easily replaced. No happy ending here for women.
In Fifty Shades, however, the naïve, immature, bland Anastasia is, for some unfathomable reason, the most compelling woman our rich, sadistic, narcissistic hero has ever met, and he not only kisses her during sex (something you rarely see in Internet hardcore porn) but he doesn’t move on to the next conquest once he has had his wicked way with her. In fact, he actually marries her and confesses undying love. As one of the female fans I interviewed said, this is like Pretty Woman all over again.
Indeed, Fifty Shades is about as realistic as Pretty Woman. How many prostitutes do you know who end up living in marital bliss with a former john? I would guess about the same number of women who live happily ever after with a man who dictates, in a written contract, what to eat and wear, and when to exercise, wax, and sleep. In my work, I meet many women who started out like our heroine, only to end up, a few years later, not in luxury homes, but running for their lives to a battered women’s shelter with a couple of equally terrified kids in tow. No happy ending here, either.
In his book on batterers, Lundy Bancroft provides a list of potentially dangerous signs to watch out for from boyfriends. Needless to say, Mr. Grey is the poster boy of the list, not only with his jealous, controlling, stalking, sexually sadistic behavior, but his hypersensitivity to what he perceives as any slight against him, his whirlwind romancing of a younger, less powerful woman, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings. Any one of these is potentially dangerous, but a man who exhibits them all is lethal.
And yet women of all ages are swooning over this guy and misreading his obsessive, cruel behavior as evidence of love and romance. Part of the reason for this is that his wealth acts as a kind of up-market cleansing cream for his abuse, and his pathological attachment to Anastasia is reframed as devotion, since he showers luxury items on her. This is a very retrograde and dangerous world for our daughters to buy into, and speaks to the appalling lack of any public consciousness as to the reality of violence against women.
Fifty Shades also reveals just how pornographic our culture has become over the last decade or so. While the old Harlequin romance novels had narcissistic heroes who toyed, sexually and psychologically, with their much younger prey, however remote and emotionally challenged he was, the hero did not have a torture chamber tucked away in his basement. Fifty Shades of Grey is Harlequin on steroids, a kind of romance novel for the porn age in which overt sexual sadism masquerades as adoration and love. New as this is, the ending remains depressingly the same for real women who end up falling for the Mr. Greys of the world.”