“Real” Women

“Real” Women

Gender Critical Feminism and The Need for Trans Inclusivity
199
views

In the words of feminist writer and activist bell hooks, “feminism is for everyone.” However, there is a sect of feminists that seem to believe feminism is only for “women born women.”

Within feminist discussion forums and the blogosphere, these feminists are mainly referred to as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFs. Yet, some feminists who aren’t as welcoming to transgender individuals find the term “TERF” offensive and prefer to be called “gender critical.”

“In mainstream feminism, trans people are often excluded and erased because cis women are misled by respectability politics and think that by presenting their feminism in a more ‘palatable’ way, they will be granted rights and privileges more quickly,” says Kaleb Fischbach, a 19-year-old transman from Louisville, Kentucky. “They [gender critical feminists] fail to see the interconnectedness of the struggles for individual rights.”

“Much of the transgender agenda is harmful to women and works against the interests of women and feminism,” says Diane Walsh Fortune, a 41-year-old gender critical feminist from Southern California. “I seek to abolish gender as a concept, since it is an oppressive framework that exists for the whole purpose of oppressing women. Transadvocates embrace, support, and deify the gender concept. They exist to reinforce a way of thinking that is designed to oppress women,” she continues.

“When transgender individuals claim to ‘feel’ like the opposite sex, the description of their feelings match stereotypes of opposite sex behavior,” Fortune believes.

“I feel TERFs are very miseducated on the subject of gender identity,” says Jessica Robin Durling, a 19-year-old transwoman and human rights advocate from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. “The miseducation comes from the false, and very dangerous, belief that gender identity is the same thing as gender expression or gender norms.”

Durling explains that gender expression is how one chooses to present themselves in terms of gender stereotypes, such as men wearing pants or women wearing skirts. Durling believes that these stereotypes are negative and limiting. Gender identity, she says, is when someone describes themselves as male, female, or non-binary.

“Gender identity is best thought of as the ‘sex of the brain,’” Durling says. “Gender expression doesn't make someone transgender. Gender expression is a choice, gender identity is not.”

Additionally, there are many trans people who don’t fit the stereotypes of what a man or woman should be. For instance, there are butch trans women and femme trans men. “I’m a soft butch trans girl,” Durling says. “I don’t like skirts, I find them inconvenient and I find things like makeup far too much work to put on every day.”

According to a 2015 study by the Medical University of Vienna, it has been scientifically shown that there is a distinction between gender identity and biological sex. “While the biological gender is usually manifested in the physical appearance, the individual gender identity is not immediately discernible and primarily established in the psyche of a human being,” the report states.

Gender essentialism, which is the idea that men and women have unique characteristics that qualify them to be separate genders, isn’t necessarily reinforced by trans people. Many trans people are looking to become their “true selves” as opposed to striving to become the opposite sex. The former implies that these people are seeking ways to better express their realities, while the latter implies that they aren’t content until their bodies are changed. In fact, there are many trans people who are happy with their bodies and don’t undergo surgery.

“Every trans persons level of [gender] dysphoria is different. Just because they feel they don't need a specific level medical treatment doesn't make them any less trans,” Durling states.


While feminism’s purpose is to abolish to the patriarchal system, it could be argued that focusing so much on one’s privates when it comes to defining gender actually reinforces patriarchy by continuing to make the focal point of our discussions the female genitailia. “I feel that TERFs are so obsessed with genitals defining who can be a feminist or who can be welcome in women’s/feminist spaces or not that they are missing the whole point of feminism,” says Gabriel H., a 29-year-old transman from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “The idea that something can only be done by ‘people with vaginas’ or ‘people with penises’ is ridiculous and wrong. Feminism is about equality, at least to me it is. Therefore it shouldn’t matter what is in your pants as long as you are striving for the same goals together.”

Though some gender critical feminists deny inclusion of trans women into their women’s-only spaces, they will accept trans men, as those individuals were deemed female at birth. “Not only is it misgendering, it completely discounts the male privilege and male social position I now have,” Fischbach says. “TERFs who would welcome me into women's spaces are allowing a man into their space while excluding trans women, who are actually women, and face misogyny, specifically transmisogyny, in everyday life.”

Many gender-critical feminists have been accused of being transmisogynistic. One example is Catherine “Cathy” Brennan, a lawyer from Maryland and a well-known gender critical feminist. She has done some controversial things, such as outing high school-aged queer people to their schools and posting Tweets such as this one:

Durling has personally had a negative experience with Brennan. In fact, it was an article Brennan wrote that first introduced Durling to the gender critical feminist movement. The article was published on Christmas Day and attacked Durling’s work as an activist.

“This is a woman I have never met in my life, and I was shocked that they would spend Christmas Day to attack an 18 year old,” Durling recalls.

However, not every gender critical feminist agrees with Brennan’s tactics. Joyce Hackett, a gender critical feminist and novelist from Massachusetts, believes strategies such as outing stealth queer kids or similar privacy intrusions to be a “violation.” “There's a group that seems to feel all trans women at any stage are women, if they declare they are. Then there's Brennan, who says they never ever are. Both are extremist, unworkable positions. If we're going to work together, we're going to have to negotiate,” she says.

While some gender critical feminists, like Brennan, act hostile towards those who identify as transgender, others believe that there still may be room for trans people within feminism. “I do think that anyone can be a feminist, so I have no objection to transgender individuals participating in feminist discussions,” Fortune says. “I am hopeful that some transgender individuals will see that there is room for supportive gender nonconforming and transgender people to work with women to abolish patriarchy.”

“I think that there is always a chance that everyone can work together to abolish patriarchy,” Gabriel H. says. He recognizes that not every gender critical feminist is as militant as the ones he’s come across, and believes “that with some education and time they may open their minds and realize that we are all striving for the same goal.”

Fischbach concurs with Gabriel H., also believing the compromise has to come from the gender critical side of the movement. “Trans people are already part of intersectional feminism. Trans people need not make any compromises to appease those who demean and exclude them,” he says.

Cover Image Credit: NewStatesman

Popular Right Now

19 Reasons Why The 'Part Tomboy Part Girly-Girl' Is The Best Type Of Girl

With us, you get the best of both worlds, the best of BOTH girls.
19489
views

1. She has a guy’s sense of humor so you will constantly be laughing together.

2. She knows how to handle your sarcasm, and she’ll throw it right back in your face.

3. Your friends will love her because she is basically one of the guys (except for the facts that she smells good and shaves her legs).

4. She can kick your ass in dizzy bat, pool or maybe, on a good day, beat you in shot-gunning.

5. Little things don’t bother her- she is rational and level-headed.

She knows how to put things into perspective and knows what is worth getting mad over and what just isn’t.

6. BUT she also has a sensitive side... she knows the ways to your heart whether it is an amazing home cooked meal or a good back scratch.

She is always thinking of ways to make your day because she is thoughtful.

7. She will call you out on your BS, because let's be honest... someone has to.

8. She’ll eat pizza and drink beer with you, and maybe if you are lucky she’ll even smoke a cigar.

9. She cleans up nice.

Sometimes her hair is in a messy ponytail and a hat, but other times she looks like she just stepped off the red carpet.

10. She doesn’t mind getting dirty.

She can spend a day on the boat, fishing and wakeboarding, hunting, shooting guns, or eating unlimited chicken wings with you.

11. She is go-with-the-flow and always up for anything and everything.

Festival? Amusement park? Concert? Drive-in movie? A day at the beach? Hell yeah, sounds awesome.

12. She likes to work out, but she isn’t a health freak… sometimes you just gotta have a McChicken.

No regrets, you know what I’m sayin'?

13. She has an open mind about people, places, and trying new things.

You will never be bored with her.

14. She can get along with pretty much anybody.

15. She doesn’t care what people think.

She’ll be the first one on the dance floor at the wedding, but the same person who helps an older man carry his bags to the car at the mall.

16. Your sisters will adore her, but so will your brothers.

17. She isn’t afraid to voice her opinion and stand up for what she believes in.

18. Not only does she not mind doing “guy things,” but get this... she actually enjoys them and will do them with you.

She’ll watch late night ESPN with you, play basketball in the pool, be player 2 in "Tony Hawk Underground," go fishing, dirt biking, you name it, she is down.

19. Safe to say, we’re pretty word.

So word, in fact, we might even be going extinct... So, if we just so happen to grace you with our majestical presence, you better make damn sure you don't let us go.

Cover Image Credit: Catherine Anne Guarino

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

People Are Pretending To Be Culturally Aware SJWs When In Reality That Needs To End

"It's a time in our culture where people love to pretend they're offended." - Matt Groening

30
views

Earlier in October, I was devastated and frustrated to learn that Apu Nahasapeemapetilon may be cut from "The Simpsons." However, it turned out to be just rumors spread by Adi Shankar, producer of "Castlevania." Al Jean, a senior writer who has been with "The Simpsons" since episode one, shot down those rumors by tweeting: "Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons. I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show."

The controversy and criticism of Apu surfaced after the 2017 documentary "The Problem With Apu" in which filmmaker and comedian Hari Kondabolu expressed his disapproval of racist elements like Apu's accent and job. A few months after the documentary aired, "The Simpsons" responded with a quick remark at the end of one of their episodes: Marge attempted to change a bedtime story that she was reading to Lisa in order to make it politically correct. Lisa objects and Marge asks what she would rather her do. Lisa responds with, "It's hard to say. Something that started a long time ago decades ago, that was applauded and was inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" And then a framed picture of Apu is seen next to Lisa.

Many, including Kondabolu, were not happy with that scene or the way the show handled the criticism. Kondabolu turns to Twitter and posts "Wow. 'Politically Incorrect?' That's the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked?" in response to Lisa's comment. So, creator, Matt Groening replied, "It's a time in our culture where people love to pretend they're offended." Best. Statement. Ever.

I have not seen Kondabolu's film nor do I ever plan to. Kondabolu and anyone else's feelings and opinions are valid and shouldn't be brushed off; however, this show needs to be watched with a grain of salt. The only reason why it's okay to have slightly racist characters in "The Simpsons" is because they make fun of everybody equally. If they only took jabs at Indians then the show would never have become what it became. They don't just throw those jokes in there for cheap laughs. They are commenting on exactly what their audience is thinking and making fun of the stereotypes themselves. After all, it is a satirical show. They make fun of almost every race, ethnicity, culture, subculture, sexual orientation, gender, accent, political stance, and profession. Hank Azaria, the voice of Apu and many others, believes "The Simpsons over the years has been pretty humorously offensive to all manner of people. They've done a really good job of being, shall we say, uniformly offensive without being outright hurtful."

Now I admit, I may have a more blunt sense of humor that can appreciate the artistry of a well-created joke even if it is slightly offensive. Maybe I just have tough skin or no heart. But as a person of fully Chinese descent, I have never once been offended by any of the Chinese or stereotypically Asian characters on the show. Cookie Kwan, number one on the west side, has never offended me with her stereotypical Chinese accent and pushy demeanor. Several times Homer has equated getting good grades or being obedient to being Korean or other Asian ethnicities, and other "low-hanging fruit" comments. A Chinese couple, who were clearly Americanized, put on "the act" for Homer when he stepped into their Chinese restaurant and said things like "You not come long time!" with exaggerated Chinese accents and a costume change.

Azaria rightly says, "the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people ... about what they feel and how they think about this character and what their American experience of it has been." But the greatest part of this whole issue is that it seems like fans of the show in India have no problem with Apu's character. This is exactly what happened in an opinion piece I wrote in response to the controversy over high school senior Keziah Daum wearing a traditional Chinese dress to prom.

Everybody in America seemed to have an issue with it, but everybody back home in China, including myself, loved it and saw it as a young woman appreciating Chinese fashion wanting to show off its beauty on a very important night in her life. Several Chinese-Americans retweeted "my culture is not your prom dress," but residents of China didn't see it that way. Something about being an American citizen makes people hypersensitive to their other racial identities.

Sidharth Bhatia, Mumbai-based founder-editor of "The Wire," is quite a fan of Apu. When asked his opinion on the matter, I think he hits the nails on the head: "The controversy about the stereotyping is classist snobbery - Indians in America don't want to be reminded of a certain kind of immigrant from their country - the shopkeepers, the taxi drivers, the burger flippers. They would rather project only Silicon Valley successes, the Wall Street players and the Ivy League products, with the proper accents, people they meet for dinner - by itself a stereotype. The millions of Apus in America, the salt-of-the-earth types, with their less 'posh' accents, are an inconvenience to that self-image of this small group of Indian-Americans."

As hard as it is to swallow, Apu may be based on stereotypes but there are many real people like him out there. Yes, he owns a convenience store, speaks with a strong accent, has an arranged marriage, and practices Hinduism. But he's also a hard-worker with a Ph.D., a ladies man, and an excellent singer.

Through everything the show has faced, I am very glad that "The Simpsons" is proud of their work and unapologetic for the controversy that they produce. Like Lisa says, what exactly are we supposed to do? There's always going to be somebody somewhere offended by something that somebody else says or does. I'm not at all saying that people deserve to be marginalized and made fun of and that people should just get over it because it's funny. But what I am saying is that people are just too sensitive nowadays, especially seeing that it took 30 years for people to get offended by something that has stayed essentially the same for decades. Groening's perfectly frank comment is addressed to people who think it's cool and perhaps politically correct to be offended by everything in fear of looking ignorant. And look where that's gotten us.

Related Content

Facebook Comments