“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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I'm A Woman And You Can't Convince Me Breastfeeding In Public Is OK In 2019

Sorry, not sorry.

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Lately, I have seen so many people going off on social media about how people shouldn't be upset with mothers breastfeeding in public. You know what? I disagree.

There's a huge difference between being modest while breastfeeding and just being straight up careless, trashy and disrespectful to those around you. Why don't you try popping out a boob without a baby attached to it and see how long it takes for you to get arrested for public indecency? Strange how that works, right?

So many people talking about it bring up the point of how we shouldn't "sexualize" breastfeeding and seeing a woman's breasts while doing so. Actually, all of these people are missing the point. It's not sexual, it's just purely immodest and disrespectful.

If you see a girl in a shirt cut too low, you call her a slut. If you see a celebrity post a nude photo, you call them immodest and a terrible role model. What makes you think that pulling out a breast in the middle of public is different, regardless of what you're doing with it?

If I'm eating in a restaurant, I would be disgusted if the person at the table next to me had their bare feet out while they were eating. It's just not appropriate. Neither is pulling out your breast for the entire general public to see.

Nobody asked you to put a blanket over your kid's head to feed them. Nobody asked you to go feed them in a dirty bathroom. But you don't need to basically be topless to feed your kid. Growing up, I watched my mom feed my younger siblings in public. She never shied away from it, but the way she did it was always tasteful and never drew attention. She would cover herself up while doing it. She would make sure that nothing inappropriate could be seen. She was lowkey about it.

Mindblowing, right? Wait, you can actually breastfeed in public and not have to show everyone what you're doing? What a revolutionary idea!

There is nothing wrong with feeding your baby. It's something you need to do, it's a part of life. But there is definitely something wrong with thinking it's fine to expose yourself to the entire world while doing it. Nobody wants to see it. Nobody cares if you're feeding your kid. Nobody cares if you're trying to make some sort of weird "feminist" statement by showing them your boobs.

Cover up. Be modest. Be mindful. Be respectful. Don't want to see my boobs? Good, I don't want to see yours either. Hard to believe, I know.

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Should We Forgive The Racist Pasts Of Jeffree Star And James Charles?

When is it "acceptable" to move on from the past, if at all?

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The online beauty community is no stranger to scandal. Whether it's a problematic shade range or a site-wide hack that robbed customers of their money, brands make waves all the time. But what about the influencers, i.e. the beauty gurus — the people who post makeup tutorials, swatches, reviews, etc. onto Instagram, YouTube and Twitter?

They're pretty problematic, too. Let's break down some of the most famous and most infamous beauty gurus.

1. Jeffree Star

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Jeffree Star, or Jeffrey Steininger, is the over-the-top, former-pop-singer, wildly popular male beauty guru. He launched his own makeup brand, Jeffree Star Cosmetics, in 2014.

Star, though notably accepting of the LGBT+ community (which, as an openly gay man, he should be), has a long term history of making derogatory and racist comments.

At first glance, he seems to own up to his past racial slurs and racist comments (like telling a black woman that he wanted to throw battery acid on her skin and using the N-words) in an apology video where he declares that "the person that said those horrible, vile things... that person was depressed, that person was just angry at the world, that person felt like they were not accepted, that person was seeking attention."

He blames his past actions on depression and anger. We can kind of accept that, right?

That is, until more slurs come to light.

Jackie Aina, another beauty guru who is well known for her outspoken nature, took to Twitter in September of 2018 to say that she would no longer support Star as a black woman. Her Tweet featured an open letter to Star.

"I have not and will not excuse his blatantly racist behavior and — not his past references to me in derogatory terms, his use of the N words nor his efforts to eliminate spaces and opportunities for people of color," Ms. Aina wrote.

Around the same time, Star's former hairdresser posted photos of conversations he'd had with him in which he used the N-word, along with a video of him referring to Jackie Aina as a "gorilla" in 2017.

Back to the apology video: Star claims that those videos that showed him in an angry depression were taken 12 years ago. "I look at them and it just makes me sick to my stomach because I don't know who that person was," he said in reference to these old videos.

Well, Jeffree, I think that person is the same one that referred to a black woman as a gorilla and other derogatory terms.

2. James Charles

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James Charles Dickinson skyrocketed to popularity when his senior photos didn't properly accentuate his highlighter and he had them retaken with his own ring light. Shortly afterward, he became CoverGirl's first CoverBoy.

His first scandal happened in 2017 when he posted a now-deleted Tweet prior to a trip to Africa. "I can't believe we're going to Africa today omg what if we get Ebola?"

James deleted the Tweet almost immediately.

About nine months later, he took to Twitter again to make a formal apology video, in which he also apologized for other, older Tweets from when he was 13 that were also racist and, as he put it, ignorant.

"They did not come from a place of hate, they came from me being a really ignorant 13 year old that shouldn't have had a Twitter account," he said in the video.

Since James' 2017 public apology, he has been a proud advocate for inclusivity in the beauty community.

When the Tarte Shape Tape Foundation launched, James gave a review that called out the brand on their poor shade range.

When James released his eyeshadow palette collaboration with Morphe, he featured four distinctly different makeup artists on his channel to use his palette.

When James launched his line of athleisure, Sisters Apparel, he kept it size and gender inclusive with unisex clothes all available in sizes XS through 3XL.

So, where do we all draw the lines here?

Do we forgive James' and Jeffree's pasts? Do we call them out? Do we "cancel" them?

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