Blog Posts

On “Radical Feminism” and Human Dignity

I recently became aware of a faction within the feminist movement calling itself the “Rad Fem” and/or “Womyn Born Womyn” movement. Those ascribing to this ideology hold that gender constructs are intractable. Those who are biologically male will always be male, even if the male in question identifies as a woman. (The same holds true for biological women who identify as male, though most rad fem analysis focuses on the former.) Because transwomen were initially reared as men, they have experienced male privilege. Hence, any man who transitions into a woman is appropriating the biological identity of women and imposing male perspectives unto the collective experience of women as a group. Such individuals view this alleged appropriation as misogynistic.

We live in a country where people are free to believe whatever they want, but many RadFems, such as those on GenderTrender, ignore the boundaries of basic civility by identifying, tracking, outing and then systematically harassing specific individuals. Such people are not content to voice their opinions; they seem to have a burning compulsion to make trans people’s lives as miserable as possible. People associated with Gender Trender have attempted to get people fired from their jobs and alienated from their social circles. They have engaged in online bullying of specific trans people. As survivor of bullying, this persecution breaks my heart. These attackers have no concern for the physical, emotional, vocational or spiritual well being of their targets. It’s impossible to look into their hearts, but their behavior evokes the kind of unrestrained savagery displayed by the child antagonists of Lord of the Flies. Like their metaphorical counterparts, these attackers represent a vicious society that is controlled by humankind’s lowest instincts and which is devoid of compassion.

Radical Feminism is an anomaly in the feminism movement. There are fringe factions in every group. RadFems strike me as the Randall Terrys of the feminist movement-their hateful rhetoric is an embarrassment to the feminist movement in the same way that Terry’s besmirches pro-lifers. Similarly, the rhetoric of some in the RadFeminism movement reminds me of Peter Singer’s ableist promotion of medical rationing, involuntary euthanasia and infanticide, which he cloaks in the guise of philosophical discourse. For instance, in regard to their statements that they want transgenderism to disappear from existence, some RadFems have reassured detractors that they don’t want to physically injure or murder trans people. Similarly, Peter Singer has said that he doesn’t want to kill disabled people who can conceive of themselves over time and have a preference to go on living. Well, thank goodness for small favors! Surely society should have higher standards than that…

I anticipate that in the future there will be more and more dialogue between trans and disability advocates, as we experience similar forms of social oppression. (Bodily difference, discontinuity between the kind of body our society expects and the kind of body one actually has, interaction with the medical establishment, the current need for accommodation in regards to name changes, living arrangements, etc.) This dialogue will become increasingly valuable as the disabled community wrestles with the phenomenon of transableism, and how best to evidence respect for able-bodied persons who identify as disabled. Finally, I hope that those of us who identify as progressive, consistent pro-lifers can be party to creating a society in which every person is loved, valued, and treated with dignity.

4 thoughts on “On “Radical Feminism” and Human Dignity”

  1. Hm. I just checked out GenderTrender’s website. I only skimmed the posts highlighting particular trans people, which seem to basically be reposts and critiques of the material these transpeople have shared publicly. I may easily have missed, or not read far enough to see, where they are “identifying, tracking, outing and then systematically harassing specific individuals.”

    I was dismayed to see some slurs here and there, e.g. “tranny,” “laydee-suit.” The tone of some of their posts is reasonable and professional (as is your critique above), but in other posts it definitely strays into ranting.

    Slurs, ranting, and assumed ad hominem harassment aside, however, I did carefully read their more theory-based posts. I found myself nodding in agreement with them: essentializing gender roles is problematic. That is their consistent main point, and the ways in which they apply it honestly to the phenomenon of transgenderism seem largely cogent to me (if sometimes distastefully delivered). Thank you for introducing me to their ideas.

    One last thought: people are still developing theories of sex, gender, ability, the body, sexuality, etc. to attempt to describe reality. We probably always will be – and that’s exciting!The current transgender movement may be a particularly clumsy attempt at describing and solving more complicated matters, but surely Radical Feminists (or anyone else, for that matter) can’t have figured it all out perfectly either. So I agree with you that “in the future there will be more and more dialogue” about “bodily difference, discontinuity between the kind of body our society expects and the kind of body one actually has,” etc. As GenderTrender writes: not all “people identify equally or in the same manner with their bodies” – trans or cis.

  2. Radical feminism is about women’s liberation. Trans males are men. Gender sterotypes harm women. ‘Cis’ is a sexist term which says that gender as a social construct is innate and that is very regressive. Stop trying to critique something you just found out about 5 seconds ago.

  3. I have known about this phenomenon for a year, and I learned about it while serving as a Course Development Assistant for/student in Women’s Studies courses. I do indeed know of at least one situation in which people associated with gender trender and the radfem movement harassed a colleague. There is also a lot of vitriol on that site-theory is one thing, but basically wanting everyone who disagrees with them silenced, calling people names, saying that people should be fired from their jobs, etc, is hate speech. (IMO).

  4. radical-dyke: Take your own advice and stop trying to critique trans people’s identities.

Comments are closed.