Why i don't use the terms ‘TERF’ or ‘SWERF’
i don't use the acronyms ‘TERF’ and ‘SWERF’[a], acronyms for “Trans-Erasing Radical Feminist" and “Sex-Worker-Erasing Radical Feminist”, respectively. Instead, i use ‘radfem’[b].
i agree it's useful and important to highlight how radfems and radfem politics are hostile to the voices of trans women[c] and sex workers. However, the widespread use of ‘TERF’ and ‘SWERF’, usually (in my experience) to the exclusion of a more generic term like ‘radfem’, ends up erasing a number of other problematic aspects of radfem politics, such as:
- hostility towards RACK and kinky cis women, on the basis of the notion that women can't ‘really’ consent to kink, alongside the notion that women can't ‘really’ consent to sex work: they've “eroticised their own oppression”.
- [edited to add] claiming that no (implied ‘cis’, of course) woman really enjoys anal sex, because unlike [cis] men, [cis] women don't have a prostate. This (i) assumes that prostate stimulation is the only possible pleasurable sensation from anal play, and (ii) ignores the potential for anal play to result in stimulation of the internal clitoral complex and related musculature.
- disrespecting the voices of non-white women. Radfem politics typically claims that patriarchy / misogyny / sexism are the most significant source of oppression for women, ignoring the fact that women of colour have often expressed how racism and white supremacy have more of an impact on their daily lives. Cf. womanism[d].
- paternalism, i.e. claiming to know what's best for all women, intersectionality be damned. There's also something of an Ishmael Effect involved: "Oh others suffer from Stockholm Syndrome[e] and are still enmeshed in patriarchal thought, but not _me_.” (Derived from the character of Ishmael from “Moby Dick”: “I alone am escaped to tell thee.”)
i use the term ‘radfem’ rather than the full phrase ‘radical feminist’ because there can be, and often is, a (possibly significant) difference between a feminist whose politics are radical in some sense(s), and the ‘radical feminist’ strand of feminist thought. That is, one can be a ‘radical’ feminist without necessarily having radfem politics.
i'm a trans woman, and i have friends who are (or have been) sex workers, so critiquing radfem politics and behaviours is important to me. But it's also important to me, as a kinky white woman, to bring attention to the voices of other people negatively affected by those politics and behaviours.☙
🏷 feminism,kink,politics,queer,sex work,tgd
[a] Which i presume is something of a play on the phrase “Surf and Turf”:
Surf and turf or surf 'n' turf is a main course combining seafood and red meat.
[b] For context, i have a degree in Women's Studies, from the Australian National University - not as prestigous as it sounds :-) - with course content that might nowadays often be called ‘gender studies’: lots of feminist perspectives.
[c] [edited to add] A couple of the trans-hostile radfem claims:
- “‘Trans women’ are really just gay men afraid of homophobia. We need to be fighting homophobia, and supporting these people to live as gay men, not validating their delusions.” ORLY? i publicly identify as queer (pan), and i know many other trans women who publicly identify as something other than het. Sure, such trans women might be a minority of trans women overall, but queer cis women are also a minority of cis women overall.
- “Psychiatric/psychological support for ‘transitioning’ is actually a form of gay conversion therapy.” To me, this only makes sense in the context of the preceding point. Otherwise, it's absurd. In the context of queerness, ‘conversion therapy’ involves convincing someone that their sense of self, i.e. attraction to people of the same sex/gender is ‘not natural’, and reshaping that sense of self to what is ‘biologically appropriate’, i.e. attraction to the ‘opposite’ sex/gender instead. Similarly, it's ‘conversion therapy’ to ‘re-educate’ trans women on why our sense of self is wrong; it's not ‘conversion therapy’ to support and validate it.
[d] A term coined by Alice Walker (who unfortunately has antisemitic politics):
Womanism is a social theory based on the history and everyday experiences of black women.
[e] "[A] condition in which hostages develop a psychological bond with their captors during captivity."