“Real” Women

“Real” Women

Gender Critical Feminism and The Need for Trans Inclusivity
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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

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20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.
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Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

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To The Girl Who Is Shamed For Being 'Basic'

Life is made up of enjoying the little things. Don't let anyone make you feel bad for loving what you love.

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You see her.

She has her hair half-up, half-down with a mini-bun on top, and she's clutching her Pumpkin Spice Latte as she runs to her Art History class. Draped around her shoulders is a Northface jacket, and her Lululemon leggings are tucked into her brown Ugg boots. She's the girl with an infinity sign tattooed on her wrist and a sign with "Live, Laugh, Love" written in pretty cursive hanging on her wall. You listen to her talk about how she was so busy jamming out to Beyoncé that she almost forgot to unplug her straightener. She was up so late the night before watching "The Bachelor" and sipping rosé that she almost forgot to clean her nostril piercing. Before class, she sends a picture of herself in the Snapchat dog filter to all her streaks and posts a picture of her trip to the pumpkin patch on Instagram.

You see her. What do you do? Do you watch her like she's an animal in a zoo? Do you shake your head at how far humanity has fallen? Do you make fun of her actions and interests?

You leave her alone.

Mind your own business. What she's doing isn't affecting you in any way, so lay off her. What makes you think you have the right to dictate what someone can or cannot love?

She is just as entitled to her interests as you are. So maybe you two don't mesh. Maybe you love combat boots and would rather eat a rat instead of watching "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." That's okay. You are welcome to enjoy what you enjoy. However, that does not give you the right to make fun of girls who are interested in mainstream things.

So-called "Basic Girls" can't enjoy anything without being made fun of for it. Love Starbucks? "You don't know what real coffee tastes like." An infinity scarf is your staple accessory in fall and winter? "You dress just like every other girl." Saved up for that tattoo of an anchor inscribed with a meaningful quote? "You're following a trend." Think the dog or butterfly crown Snapchat filter is cute? "You think you're pretty? How arrogant."

Stop making people feel bad for what they like. Maybe she decided to treat herself to a caramel frappuccino today because she doesn't like coffee. Scarves are cute and good for warmth. Her tattoo can be meaningful and beautiful and still be popular. The Snapchat filters are super fun and are meant to evoke laughs. Stop taking everything so seriously.

People who criticize these girls are awful. We are just trying to live our lives, but they feel the need to tell us how unoriginal we are. We're told to abandon our interests so we can be "unique." Newsflash: I am unique. I am my own person. You do not get to decide what type of person I am based on your very limited knowledge of what I like to do or how to dress or what to wear.

I do not make fun of you for having a farmer's tan and wearing your camp shirts with your hair in a messy bun. I do not laugh at you for downing a Monster energy drink and playing video games. Do not ridicule me because I love things that are popular.

I love pumpkins.

I love scarves.

I love Starbucks.

I love Snapchat filters.

Life is all about enjoying the little things while you still can. Do not make me feel bad about doing what I love.

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