24 thoughts on “Go to the Women’s Room!

  1. TWR has claimed in the past that all women are welcome regardless of politics. Yet it blatantly discriminates against women who are radical feminists. For that hypocrisy, and the hatred shown against a subgroup of feminists who are already among the most marginalized in feminism, I can’t support them nor can I ask my friends to.

  2. Hello and thanks very much for spreading the word about us! I just wanted to comment to correct the inaccurate information that has been given by M. K. Hajdin. The Women’s Room has always been and always will be for all women and any woman, regardless of her political stance is welcome to join the database. However, we have recently been experimenting with having guest tweeters. We had to take the difficult decision to exclude some women from our twitter platform, not because of their radical feminism (we have radical feminists tweeting for us, and one of the founders is a radical feminist), but because they go out of their way to be unpleasant to trans women – and indeed to other women who did not conform to their view of good feminism. Regardless of our beliefs on gender (and within The Women’s Room there are many different beliefs), we feel that attacking people who are clearly suffering is to go against the remit of The Women’s Room, which is to be supportive and create safe spaces for debate. However, as I have said on a number occasions to the women who sadly still want to spread misinformation about our decision, although we cannot give our platform to women who openly use hate speech, we do not prevent any woman from signing up to our database. I hope this clears things up.

  3. Right on, Week Women. The hatred toward trans people is as much a product of patriarchy, compulsive heterosexuality, and enforced sexual/gender identity as the hatred of homosexuals and women. It’s all bad.

  4. Do you want women from the US? I am a Medical Anthropologist that specializes in Breast Cancer focusing on the Medicalization, Marginalization and Nationalistic qualities of ‘disease’ gendered qualities. I joined your linkedin group, along with FB and Twit.

  5. Week Women: I’m really heartened to hear you say that. Thanks so much :)

    Also, I agree that radfems aren’t often excluded *because* they’re radfems, it’s because they go out of their way to be jerks (often as their interpretation of what it means to be a radfem). Each group has its misguided zealots; unfortunately, the misguided zealots often happen to be the loudest, too. It’s not that they’re radfems that causes exclusion and marginalization: it’s because what they say may be really horrible, regardless of their political feminist affiliation.

  6. Thanks, Week Woman! I know this kind of issue can be very divisive in feminist organisations, and I’m so glad you decided to stand against transphobia.

  7. Hi JustJanuarysJagon, yes we accept entries from all over the world.

    And the rest of the commenters, thanks for your support on this issue – it has not been an easy few weeks for The Women’s Room.

  8. This question might be inappropriate for this thread, since it’s off-topic. But, in my defense, the topic has obviously been raised by other comments. For those of us who might be teaching about radical feminism or radical feminist ideas in courses, are there any sources out there for radical feminist denunciations of transphobia, or, even better, defenses of an explicitly non-transphobic radical feminism?

    The reason I ask is just that many people who approach these issues gain the not entirely unjustified impression than transphobia is a core component of radfem views. When looking at less…enlightened radfem groups on facebook, for instance, just about the only unifying feature among the members is that they’re all transphobic. That causes lots of people to dismiss some of the groundbreaking analysis of power that has come from radfem folks.

  9. Hi Matt. I don’t have any resources for you, but I don’t think that it’s a necessary feature of radical feminism that one be transphobic…I think it’s just a contingent feature that radical feminists tend to hold that as a central rallying scapegoat.

    It’s been a little funny speaking to feminist friends and colleagues who consider themselves radical feminists, aren’t transphobic, and don’t really know that most radical feminists *are* deeply and vocally transphobic.

    I propose “strident feminist” in place to denote those who are ardently feminist, but aren’t in the transphobic, destroy gender, camp of most ‘radical feminism’. :)

  10. I hate to be/seem ignorant, but – even after looking over various sites – I do not understand the argument[s] for transphobia by self-proclaimed radical feminists.

    Could someone direct me to a source in which this view is, in fact, argued for rather than simply adopted?

    I would add that, as an older feminist, I find this very dismaying. The radical fems of my youth were, I thought, radically open.

  11. As a radical feminist & co founder of The Women’s Room I feel possibly reasonably well placed to try and answer your queries.
    Feminism is not a hive mind and, like any political movement, there are many different views and opinions. Just like any other political movements, we often use our lived experiences to inform how we see gender, inequality and oppression.
    The view that radfems are transphobic is something that is enthusiastically leapt on by those who wish to undermine and denigrate us. In actual fact, the issue is not generally about trans* people but about gender. There is a difference between biological sex and the socialisation of gender. Someone recently wrote in a blog post that, even if they were raised on a desert island with no access to media or other people, they would know they were a woman. This is something that RF would dispute strongly. Gender is imposed on us before we are even born and is a social construct. This is the debate for many RF. it’s not about denying trans* women’s existence, but about questioning the acceptance of gender roles and features.
    Of course there will always be those within feminism who seek to abuse or deny others experiences but why should radical feminism be the sole recipient of this view? Liberal feminism, in my view, works within and under patriarchal terms and fails to address the reality of our battles. I don’t agree with much LibFem ideology but I don’t attack them. Radical feminism does not receive the same courtesy in return.
    There are many excellent articles and resources available if you look. Try Finn McKay or Liz Kelly. The work done by the second wave is still relevant to us so Kate Millet etc. Also, Cordelia Fine.
    Radical feminism may seem controversial to some but it is actually made up of many, many kind, caring and passionate women who do not dismiss their sisters.

  12. Thanks, Cath! That’s all very helpful. For the record, I do not consider the view that gender is solely a product of socialization to be an inherently transphobic view (just as I do not consider the view that sexual orientation is solely a product of socialization to be an inherently homophobic view). It’s just a view that combines very easily with transphobia when one makes an extra move or two.

    I’ve never had any doubt that many radical feminists are good people.

  13. I know we’re *way* off track here, but thanks for the linked article. It’s ‘mostly’ good. The “post revolution” talk about what the world would look like if we removed socially defined, binaristic gender roles always strikes me as completely unfounded. It also erases a large number of trans people’s experiences.

    For example, in the Dworkin quote, “Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it. Either the transsexual will be able to expand his/her sexuality into a fluid androgyny, or, as roles disappear, the phenomenon of transsexuality will disappear and that energy will be transformed into new modes of sexual identity and behavior.”

    Based on WHAT evidence? I’m a trans* woman, and I’m feminine. I like that about myself. In this post revolutionary world, I’d hope that I’d be just like I am now. So no, there’s no good reason (I can see) to think that this rather common radfem claim is true. Moreover, why would we want it to be true?

    What seems to be the better claim is that *barriers* and stigma against becoming who one wants to be will be removed, and that’s a very good thing. There’s reason to think that the post revolutionary world would look very different, because I suspect that diversity would go through the roof.

    Also, offering genital surgery won’t “solve” the trans emergency: not every trans person even *wants* genital surgery. (See what happens when people theorize about a group without including members of the group? Theorizing based on bad data — err, ignorance — is a bad idea.)

    But earlier in the article, the author writes: “Obviously, post-revolutionary society will not be burdened by tiresome gender constructs at all; nobody will have to become anything because everyone will just be whatever they are.” I’m sorry, but what the fuck? This smacks of essentialism: no one will change, since if all barriers and stigma are removed, people will just be able to be as they are. What defines what one ‘is’? Birth? Or, are we constantly constructing ourselves? I think the latter is true, which means that there’s no reason to think that transsexuality will go away in a post revolutionary world. Again, if all barriers and stigma (and patriarchy, etc.) were removed, I’d still hope that I’d be who I am today, and that means ‘that’ didn’t change.

    You’re right (and I’ve said this before), there’s nothing inherently transphobic in radical feminism. However, there’s still a lot of stupid stuff (which isn’t necessarily transphobic either) being said about trans people, or what the world would look like (for trans people) if the radfem project were successful.

  14. Thanks, Rachel, for your comments. I think they were really important to say. I also want to add two more worries about the line of reasoning in #15.

    First, while of course there are theorists who argue for this sort of view, I worry that support for the idea that a world in which there was no gender policing would result in a genderless society is often mainly adopted by generalizing from one’s own case. Many people do not feel that their gender (or sexuality) is an essential part of who they are. They think that their gender identities and expressions are largely determined by cultural environments. But not all people feel that way, and not all people who have thought hard about feminist issues and consider themselves to be feminists feel that way. (I do not, for example, and Rachel does not.) I think that especially for cis women (I am one) it is important not to discount this opinion of others. Doing so privileges one’s own lived experience over the lived experience of others. This doesn’t mean that one has to agree at the end of the day that gender is not fully culturally determined, just that these testimonies should be given serious weight, and it should be made clear in all discussions on the topic that they are. If this doesn’t happen, then the discussion becomes transphobic whether one means to make this the case or not.

    Second, when this view is not based on generalizations from one’s own case, I worry that it is often motivated by unsupported scientific ideas—e.g. that gender is not the sort of thing that could be a matter of one’s biology, but has to be cultural. I do not see any scientific reason to accept that. There are all sorts of super sophisticated things that are largely determined by our biology. Why not gender? Note that that does not mean that people who think that their gender is largely determined by cultural factors are wrong about their own case either. We could, e.g., adopt a sort of spectrum view, just as many do for sexual orientation, and try to explain gender identity and expression as a result of the interaction of nature and nurture.

  15. Hi ChrisTS,

    As I recall, the locus classicus, for transphobia as a consequence of radical feminism, is Janice Raymond’s thesis and the subsequent monograph The Transsexual Empire. (It seems that some of her writing was used to restrict various state and federal benefits as well as other forms of discrimination.)

    Raymond was supervised by Mary Daly. Some of this is in Gyn/Ecology though exact causality and priority aren’t clear to me (Raymond’s was granted her PhD in 1977; Gyn/Ecology was published in 1978 and refers to it).

  16. It may be useful to note that queer and trans-inclusionary groups have coined the acronym (and term) “TERF” for “Trans-exclusionary radical feminists.” This lets us talk about and separate TERFs from non-TERF radical feminists.

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