ONTD Political

Radical feminists are acting like a cult

2:54 pm - 05/27/2012
Twitter has been flooded with controversy for the last week about the RadFem2012 conference, currently booked into the Conway Hall, which announced its membership as restricted to "women born women and living as women" (it originally said "biological women", but that got changed after much mockery). This disturbed the trans community, which it is meant to exclude, but also those feminists who regard trans-exclusion as something other than radical.

To be clear, I know no trans women, still less trans men, who want to spend time in a space organized by people who slander us. However, one of the main speakers at the conference is Sheila Jeffreys, who has a forthcoming book critiquing trans medical care. In much of her earlier writing (see, for example, page 71 of this journal), she calls for "transsexualism" to be declared a human rights violation and then surgery banned by international law, so it's fairly clear that we have an interest in the debate. What Jeffreys proposes has, of course, other implications for all women – the Vatican would love to make similar declarations about reproductive freedom.

There is also, more importantly, the question of whether what Jeffreys and her supporters say about trans people constitutes hate speech. As of two days ago, the Conway Hall expressed their concerns about the legality of trans exclusion, and about hate speech, to the conference organisers.

One of the problems with the Internet is that it is possible for people to lock themselves further and further into a restricted mind set where they hear no other voices. On the other hand, it makes it possible for those with a strong stomach to overturn every stone and find out just what people are saying and thinking. It's clear that Jeffreys and her supporters are very hurt and disappointed that so many younger women don't agree with her – Jeffreys blames the corrupting influence of post-modernism and queer theory; "trans-critical" lawyer Cath Brennan - who uses Twitter to deride trans people's experiences and mock non-trans feminists who are their allies - is also a RadFem2012 attendee.

Of course, the trans issue is only one aspect of the conference. Its mission statement makes it clear that this is a "female-only, activism-focused conference with a radical feminist agenda". Space will not be given to anti-feminist sentiments, which is arguably another way of saying that, on most crucial issues, the party line is predetermined and that any dissent from correct "radical feminist" thinking will be stigmatised and driven out. Jeffreys makes it clear in many of her writings that post-modernism and queer theory are the enemy, and that piercing, tattooing, BDSM and role play are all pollutions of a feminism that is nothing to do with choice or preference, everything to do with commitment. Indeed, the Radical Feminist Hub, to which she contributes regularly, links to resources arguing that what it calls "penis-in-vagina" sex is a bad idea, from which women should choose to refrain.

There are many debates within feminism, and the women's movement ought not to be a monolith of orthodoxy. There are, for example, legitimate arguments on both sides of discussion of sex work – whether the stress should be placed on prohibition or harm reduction, say. But such a debate will not be allowed at RadFem2012. I hate to say this of other feminists, but aspects of their feminism – the anti-intellectualism, emphasis on innate knowledge, fetishisation of tiny ideological differences, heresy hunting, conspiracy theories, rhetorical use of images of disgust, talk of stabs in the back and romantic apocalypticism – smack less of feminism than of a cult.

scolaro 27th-May-2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
...she calls for "transsexualism" to be declared a human rights violation...

Is there any logic behind this that I just don't see?
fierceleaf 27th-May-2012 07:08 pm (UTC)
I've noticed it too. But the author says

I hate to say this of other feminists, but aspects of their feminism – the anti-intellectualism, emphasis on innate knowledge

They reason like religious zealots.
scolaro 27th-May-2012 10:16 pm (UTC)
Guess you're right. The word "radical" in their name should have been my first clue...
poisondusk 27th-May-2012 08:51 pm (UTC)
Basically, radfems believe that when trans women transition medically (so hormones/surgery/etc.) they are somehow violating (and I've even seen the word rape thrown around) the female form by "imitating" it, so they are therefore violating the rights of cis women.

Excuse me while I go and wash my hands very thoroughly for having typed that.
kaowolfie 27th-May-2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
I don't have words to say how angry it makes me to hear that they think that, especially if they call transition a "rape" of the female form.

I mean, aside from FUCKING NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GODDAMMIT, but that's not real coherent.
scolaro 27th-May-2012 10:14 pm (UTC)
*hands you the soap*

Thanks. It still doesn't make sense to me - basically it sounds like heterosexual people claiming same-sex marriage destroyed traditional marriage. Or something.

I need to go to bed and dream about non-political stuff now.
missmurchison 27th-May-2012 10:23 pm (UTC)
Except they hate marriage too. I remember these types from twenty or so years ago. They made every Womens' Studies class and every meeting of a feminist organization that they attended a living hell. We'd be discussing how do something practical to improve the way local hospitals and police treated rape victims, and they saw that as collaboration.

I had the temerity to marry, live with a man, and have children, so I was apostate. Never mind that my husband is at least as good a feminist as I am and the best thing that ever happened to my daughters was being raised by a man who believes them capable of anything they want to do.

This anti-trans stuff is new to me, but I've been ignoring whatever these crazies say for years. It doesn't surprise me in the least they've gone after some of the people who could most use their support.
scolaro 27th-May-2012 10:53 pm (UTC)
True. They represent everything that gives feminism a bad name - to the point that women who have a clear picture of what they want from life and are actively working on achieving their goals deny being feminists at all. And who can blame them?

Back in the days I did a double take when I heard feminists suddenly say that women MUST have a career instead of a family. As in staying home was *frowned upon* because it *betrayed the cause*.

Up to that point I'd always thought that the feminist idea is that women should have the exact same rights as men. Including marrying and whatever else may make an individual female happy.

It's a bit like the Republican Party that started out with some okay ideas, before being hijacked by radicals who are now steering their clown car firmly towards the abyss...
amyura 28th-May-2012 12:34 am (UTC)
Wow. Thank you for the explanation. To me, that sounds like the argument fundamentalist Christians use against gay marriage-- that someone else's relationship somehow violates THEIR marriage. What someone else does to her body doesn't affect my form at all. WTF.
moonshaz 29th-May-2012 04:22 am (UTC)
wut. O_O
cyranothe2nd 28th-May-2012 05:49 am (UTC)
I've read some radfem stuff. They have this idea that women think on a fundamentally different, intuitive and (mostly) better level than men do, so that even a trans woman can never be a "real" woman because she wouldn't have that ~magic intuition~ that women are blessed with.

It's actually totally sexist and gross.
scolaro 28th-May-2012 08:36 am (UTC)
Ugh. Totally agreed.
kyra_neko_rei 28th-May-2012 11:15 pm (UTC)
Is there any logic behind this that I just don't see?

Only the solipsism-based nonlogic that's behind what is in common use generally termed "mansplaining."

Now excuse me while I go clean up the shards of my irony meter.
scolaro 29th-May-2012 08:58 pm (UTC)
Now excuse me while I go clean up the shards of my irony meter.

LOL, seriously! XD
savemefrombadrp 26th-Aug-2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
because according to them, MtF are men appropriating femaleness to exploit/invade womyns spaces/rape/whatev. They're less vocal about FtM, but consider them traitors and are angry with them for 'wimping out' of being female.

This will often involve arguments about allowing MtF to use showers and bathrooms for women, saying they don't want some perv perving on them in a female disguise.

What really boggles my mind is they appear not to recognize that someone could use the exact same reasoning to keep lesbians (many of whom these radscum are) out of women's showers and bathrooms!
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