The rise of the "TERFs"

The rise of the "TERFs"

A new (to me at least) competitor in the ongoing transgender culture wars has taken the field. I only became aware of this because of an article by transgender activist and writer Katelyn Burns at Vox. (I know… I know… It’s Vox. But bear with me here.) She starts out talking about the case of funeral director Aimee Stephens, who we’ve discussed here on several occasions involving the lawsuit against Stephens’ employer. (Side note: as a reminder, I’m using the incorrect female pronoun for Burns because she’s gone through “transition” surgery. It’s the same policy that I apply to others such as Chelsea Manning and anyone else who demonstrates the sheer bloodymindedness to have their private bits lopped off.)

What Burns is writing about is “the rise of the TERFs.” This was yet another term I was unfamiliar with until now, and it stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminists.” It has to do with feminist groups who reject the notion of men “identifying” as women being actual women. This has the rest of the community up in arms, apparently. Here’s a brief snippet of who she’s talking about here.

In their amicus brief to the Supreme Court, the Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF, writes, “Simply, Aimee Stephens is a man. He wanted to wear a skirt while at work, and his ‘gender identity’ argument is an ideology that dictates that people who wear skirts must be women, precisely the type of sex stereotyping forbidden by Price Waterhouse.”

Groups like WoLF are commonly referred to as “trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” or TERFs. They alternate among several theories that all claim that trans women are really men, who are the ultimate oppressors of women. Most of their ideas — like that trans women are a threat to cisgender women’s safety — are based on cherry-picked cases of horrific behavior by a small number of trans people. Above all else, their ideology doesn’t allow for trans people to have self-definition or any autonomy over their gender expression.

Wow. Covering this subject has been really educational in ways I never anticipated. Yet another thing I’d never heard of was the Women’s Liberation Front or WoLF. It turns out that Burns isn’t ginning up some sort of insult to WoLF by calling them “radical feminists.” If you go to WoLF’s home page, the first line you see below the banner literally reads, “We are a radical feminist organization.”

What I’m immediately finding fascinating about WoLF and related groups is the seeming dichotomy in their positions. On the one hand, their entire raison d’etre is clearly to “crush the patriarchy” (the word patriarchy is littered across their website like empty Cheetos bags on the floor of a fat dude’s apartment) and to save women from the caustic effects of toxic masculinity. But at the same time, they are sticking to basic scientific truths about the two genders of human beings and how they operate, refusing to offer the male-to-female transgender individuals a spot in the clubhouse.

This is very different from the cases we’ve seen of female athletes speaking out against such individuals when they barge into and dominate girls’ and women’s sports. Of course, they get roasted by the same groups, but they handle it very differently. In the cases where prominent female athletes have spoken up and suggested that women’s sports should be reserved for actual women, they always couch their objections carefully in LGBT code. Their statements invariably begin with something along the lines of, “Of course we’re not saying that these women can’t identify and live as they choose, but...”

Not that it does them any good, of course. You’ll recall that Martina Navratilova was pilloried mercilessly for expressing an opinion like this, as was British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies. (Outsports magazine literally compared Navratilova to Joseph Goebbels.) Davies recounted how she’d spoken to many female athletes who felt the same way but were afraid to say so in public because they dreaded the transgender mafia descending on them like locusts.

Still, this story remains one more data point to keep in mind as the ongoing transgender social justice wars continue. And now you’ve got a nifty new acronym to keep in your back pocket. Let the TERF wars begin!

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