Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Radical Feminism Versus Reality

The New Yorker decided to publish an exposé about the ongoing war of words between Transsexual Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) and transsexuals.

Sadly, the author spent most of their time talking about what TERFs have written about transsexuals and failed entirely to present the transsexual side of the discussion in any depth.  In fact, the entire article came across as if the transsexual community's reactions to various TERF proclamations about transsexuals were simply an overreaction.

While I have no doubt that there are those whose fury over the acts of various TERFs towards the transsexual community is such that they have made threats or been otherwise unpleasant about things.  The transsexual community is hardly uniform in its sensibility or willingness to discuss topics when they feel they have been slighted.
Such views are shared by few feminists now, but they still have a foothold among some self-described radical feminists, who have found themselves in an acrimonious battle with trans people and their allies. Trans women say that they are women because they feel female—that, as some put it, they have women’s brains in men’s bodies. Radical feminists reject the notion of a “female brain.” They believe that if women think and act differently from men it’s because society forces them to, requiring them to be sexually attractive, nurturing, and deferential. In the words of Lierre Keith, a speaker at Radfems Respond, femininity is “ritualized submission.”
One might wonder just what room for dialogue there might be when the TERF argument starts with absolute erasure of the lived experience of transsexuals.   Perhaps even more troubling is that the TERF position clearly ignores a large and growing body of evidence that does show that masculinized and feminized brains are objectively different (and that transsexuals reflect brain structures that tend towards female typical).

In many respects, it isn't the TERF's denial of the reality of transsexuals that gets people wound up.  I think if it were merely a disagreement over philosophical points of worldviews, it would be far less contentious than it is.

Unfortunately, TERF writers going back to Janice Raymond, author of a treatise entitled "The Transsexual Empire" have done their level best to erase the narrative of transsexuals.  Quite frankly, Jeffrey's latest work is really just another volley in an ongoing war where transsexuals are concerned. There is very little in it which is new, revolutionary or even evolutionary.

Whether or not "Radical Feminist" theory has any legitimate criticism of the social roles assigned to our male and female citizens is unfortunately lost in the core assumption that denies transsexuals the right to their own stories.  Jeffreys, along with the other TERF writers are blinding themselves to the growing evidence of biology and how it influences the expression of gender.  The rigidity of the TERF position is also its brittleness.  Feminism needs a new direction to evolve.  The work started so many years in the past has not been finished yet, and yet it cannot move forward without including the diversity of gender identities and roles that have emerged in the last 25 years.  I firmly believe that the TERFs like others with rigid, inflexible belief systems will become the intellectual dinosaurs in the coming years.


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