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Turf wars over TERF

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1350513.  Sun Jun 14, 2020 4:24 pm Reply with quote

I first heard of the term TERF some time ago with regards to Germaine Greer, and at the time it made sense because here was a woman known for championing feminist causes and coming out with some very transphobic remarks.

It highlighted the idea that no one can "own" a movement, sometimes even the people who start or are early champions of thought can find themselves limited by their own prejudice.

And now I suddenly hear the same term labelled at J K Rowling, and celebrities up and down the land denouncing her comments, especially actors who found fame in films based on her books.

I've seen some amazing comments from people calling Rowling names, wishing she had been gone instead of other people who had died, and comparing her to some really vile people.

So what happened?

There's a bit of a build up of some past comments, but it all kicked off with this article: It's an important article, and in referencing the subject of the article, it mentions woman and girls over a dozen time, but on one line when it quotes a figure, also include gender non-binary people. In the rest of the article the writers' opinions don't touch on gender non binary people at all.

JK Rowling then tweeted the article which highlighted it to her many followers, but she added the comment
"People who menstruate." Iím sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?

Since then I've seen so many people accusing Rowling of transphobia and being TERF and various other things, to the point she's written a reply to explain further:

Now, I disagree with her original tweet, but looking at her subsequent comments (and her own history) I think it was a flippant point on the title rather than article.

With regards her essay, I disagree with her that philosophical belief can be protected in law. It has nothing to do with gender recognition, it's a route that allows people to refuse service to people based on their "belief" that they shouldn't, and that can be religious, race, sex, etc.

I also disagree with her that someone who has not gone through sex reassignment should not be eligible to gender recognition. I think it's more nuanced than that. Taking therapy to change your body and even surgery are huge steps, not only impacting on people's health, but also on their relationships and their careers. I there needs to be better definition of gender recognition to allow for recognition of both people who have gone through sex reassignment and those who haven't. I don't know if Rowling would agree with that, but it seems to be a point she's trying to make.

Apart from those points, which IMO are not evidence of transphobia, I'm finding it hard to understand what exactly people can point to call her transphobic and for the vile reaction I've seen.

Also, and this goes back to comments I made on the discussion about statues being removed, do you revile someone completely for some actions and\or words, or do you look at their whole life and contribution and accept that people are complex?

1350519.  Sun Jun 14, 2020 6:30 pm Reply with quote

Minor point first, it might have been better if you had mentioned what TERF actually was, I had to root around Wiki to find it as I had never come across it before. Not a huge problem, but a word or two would have made it unecessary.

Major point. Ms Rowling was only making a vaild point about the language used, and I do not personally believe it makes her transphobic at all. No matter how much respect you might give to trans women, or how much recognition you might give to any given person's right to identify themselves as any (or no) gender as they see fit, only those born female will menstruate, and using "inclusive" language will not change that.

1350521.  Sun Jun 14, 2020 6:46 pm Reply with quote

I'm thoroughly confused by JKR's explanation of her sexual assault. That she's not being completely forthcoming is a matter for her if she feels uncomfortable revealing all the details but I can't help feeling that she might have been wiser not to reveal anything rather than create an impression which invites speculation.

From my understanding gleaned from television news it seems she's hinting at having been the victim of a sexual assault conducted by a transgender woman in a single sex space. I suppose I should read the article you linked to if I'm in search of clarification - not now though I'm too tired.

1350539.  Mon Jun 15, 2020 7:11 am Reply with quote

Sorry, I'd heard of the term before and knew what was meant by it, though had to look up just now to remind me exactly what it stood for.

TERF stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, and is supposed to mean women who are feminists yet have transphobic views. I don't know who else has been accused of this, and\or why, I was previously only aware of Greer.

With regards Rowling mentioning of being a victim of sexual assault, I understand this is from her previous husband, and she brought it up as a personal reason why she's worried about single sex spaces to protect people.

In fact, the SUN, in an effort to fight for the worst journalism award decided to write about this discussion by including a headline from her ex husband claiming he was not sorry for slapping her, as if it was OK for domestic abuse if you don't agree with the victim's views.

Mermaids, which is a charity in the UK helping transgender people, has now responded to Rowling, and has picked up on her mentioning single sex spaces.

I agree that transgender women can easily exist in a single sex space, and am reminded of a film called The World According to Garp (highly recommended if you've never seen it) because there is a character of a transgender woman staying in a women's refuge.

However, the need of some women to enter such spaces is because the abuse they've suffered not only leaves them with possible physical scars, but also emotional ones, and that can easily manifest itself in an instant distrust of anyone that possibly has a link to the person that abused them. It's easy to make the claim that you think women and transgender women should be treated the same, but if you're in a situation where personal emotions are involved, I can see why some women might baulk at the idea of sharing their space with someone who at some time was identified as male. They need time and space to come to terms with their own trauma.

That's not taking away the need of transgender women to have the same kind of space, and be accepted as women. However, imagine if someone had a strong emotional distress that meant they could break down at the thought of any physical contact with another human being, you wouldn't force them to accept being touched by anyone else so they could live in the same space, you'd work through their issues first, and I think this is similar. It's not about women feeling hatred towards transgender people, it's about an emotional response they need to work through.

Of course, some people are transphobic anyway, which is horrible, and this in no way excuses that.

1350540.  Mon Jun 15, 2020 7:12 am Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
...she's hinting at having been the victim of a sexual assault conducted by a transgender woman in a single sex space.

On reading the essay I do not believe that was her intent although the television news precis of the content did prompt one to lean towards that understanding - presumably because she does voice concerns in this area.

This issue is not one I can meaningfully engage with so since in the wider debate a great deal of hate-filled vitriol is being thrown around by those who profess to occupy a place where it seems they should be sympathetic with each other I think it best for me to exit this discussion leaving only the sincere hope that reason and practical compromise will prevail over manipulation, spite and bullying.

1350561.  Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:31 am Reply with quote

To be honest, I don't really have a side in this discussion either, I'm a heterosexual male who's comfortable in his gender, and I'm not actually a fan of Harry Potter (I can feel the evil eyes from some of you reading this immediately).

I've been aware that Ms Rowling has voiced opinions on social matters in the past that have made her a target of some people, and I've been impressed that she's been able to articulate her thoughts and actions quite well. People don't have to agree with her, but at least listen to where her opinions are coming from, yet this time round it seems as if so many people jumped on the bandwagon to condemn her, and this has led to some people taking it even further, and my question is why.

Why do people need to feel that they need a bogey man figure to hate?

1350568.  Mon Jun 15, 2020 11:13 am Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:

Why do people need to feel that they need a bogey man figure to hate?

That is a question I ask myself all the time - and I've discovered it's a waste of time asking people that have the bogey man figure to hate.
People are just people, as far as I'm concerned they get treated equally, if I treat you badly it is usually a reflection on how you treat me.
I don't care how you want to identifiy, but if you tell me how hard done by only you are because you get treated in such a way I won't hesitate to direct you to places where the opposite occurs to show you how ridiculous you are.

1350588.  Mon Jun 15, 2020 1:46 pm Reply with quote

I linked Rowling's article on FB because I thought it was an interesting take on the issue, and it's an issue about which I know far too little, and was promptly dumped on by a large number of people. I don't mind that, and I'm told by people who read the thread on my FB page that I handled it well, but as I said on that page I was beginning to feel like an agnostic at a revival meeting.

I have met a very few transgender people, and in those cases I had no problem reacting to them as I would to any other person of whatever gender. I was asking questions about how people react to somebody who while asserting a female gender identity don't want to change themselves hormonally or physically. What exactly is it about womanhood that they are asserting, in that case? As somebody on the thread pointed out, the problem is often that some spaces are binary, so if (for example) you are in a women's refuge from an abusive situation and somebody you don't know comes in there claiming to identify as a woman but appearing to be male, how are you supposed to react? If you are a person from an ultra-conservative family, for example Muslim or Orthodox Jewish, and you encounter somebody who to all physical appearances is male in a space you have always expected to be reserved for women, how are you supposed to react?

I honestly haven't thought my way through all this yet. I have no hesitation in saying "black lives matter" rather than "all lives matter", and I fully support equal opportunity for gay men and women, so I'm not sure why seeing nuances in this situation apparently makes me a transphobic TERF.

1350592.  Mon Jun 15, 2020 2:01 pm Reply with quote

Why should it make a difference though? If someone who appears as a male identifies as a female and they are in a refuge, they are there for the same reason as "you".

Alexander Howard
1350595.  Mon Jun 15, 2020 2:29 pm Reply with quote

It has all got a bit weird, and hurling self-defied labels about just makes it all the more meaningless. You need to be able to listen to work out what you're arguing about, or if you are actually arguing.

Accusing opponents of "hate" doesn't help either (and screaming it incoherently with utter detestation is, well....)

It seems to be about definitions. Firm definition is a fundamental necessity for philosophy, and messing definitions up is the craft of politics.

What does "A trans woman is a woman" actually mean?

Alfred E Neuman
1350596.  Mon Jun 15, 2020 3:01 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote: I'm not sure why seeing nuances in this situation apparently makes me a transphobic TERF.

My take on it is that, while the expectation is that our gender is non-binary, our opinion is very much assumed to be binary. There seems to be no room for uncertainty or for ignorance - you appear to be classified as phobic quite quickly if you exhibit either.

Itís not an area of discussion I participate in easily for those reasons.

1350608.  Mon Jun 15, 2020 6:21 pm Reply with quote

This kind of reminds me of a conversation I was having a couple of days ago - ah, the penny drops, this is probably why the subject came up.

My stance (fwiw) is that (except perhaps in the very limited sense of sexual reproduction) labels such as male, female, heterosexual, homosexual etc are meaningless.

I just think we're staring at this through the wrong end of the telescope. Outside the absolute biological differences related to reproduction, all we can realistically say about a person is that (for example) if they have a "female" set of reproductive organs they are more likely statistically to be physically weaker, have more stamina, I dunno - whatever the basic things are.

There is no particular reason to favour the "biological sex" of an individual as their over-arching defining characteristic, taking precedence over all others.

To take an absurd example - what sex is an asexual masochist? That is to say, a person who gets their sexual kicks from having pain inflicted on them with no consideration as to whether the "sadist" is male, female, trans, homo, hetero? Why should that person have to declare "their own" sex in terms which have no meaning to them?

1350673.  Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:12 am Reply with quote

I'm somewhat in agreement with you there, bob. I think it only arises as an issue in the context of people whose view is very binary, or whose experiences around others have taught them to be particularly wary of people who present in a particular gender.

Most of the fuss seems to be around mtf transgender people, but I also think about ftm. I wonder how somebody who is ftm but still retains a vagina would fare in, say, a men's prison?

One of the issues is that (forgive me chaps but I think this is true) that although sexual predators are few in the context of the population as a whole, and certainly no higher as a proportion of transgender people than in the whole population, among the population of sexual predators the vast majority are men. Men are also, generally speaking, stronger than women. That combination tends to make women warier around somebody who looks male than they are around somebody who looks female, and if the only evidence that this male-looking person is a woman is that they say so, well, that's not necessarily convincing, is it? How reasonable is it to expect every woman, whatever her life experience, to immediately roll over and drop such fears?

1350691.  Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:06 pm Reply with quote

I think this is a point I can comment on.

Jenny wrote:
I wonder how somebody who is ftm but still retains a vagina would fare in, say, a men's prison?

My guess is that the number of femalely 'equipped' professed trans individuals who would seek to gain admission to a males only prison would be vanishingly small; the assumption is that the counter example is considerably more likely.

<E> apostrophe

Last edited by Celebaelin on Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:41 pm; edited 1 time in total

1350693.  Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:24 pm Reply with quote

Well it has happened in the case of Karen White that a mtf transgender person was put in a female prison, and abused other prisoners.

The Ministry of Justice is now opening prison units for transgender individuals, which seems a reasonable response.

I agree that it is very unlikely that a ftm transgender person would end up in a men's prison, but something like that may be an answer.


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