​My message to those who would attend Radfem 2012

In you, I see the girls who spat in my face as I walked home from school.

In me, you see every man who has ever treated you like a lesser being.

In you, I see the boys who always wanted to pick a fight.

In me, you see someone who just won’t listen.

In you, I see my father, a man I’ve always considered to be wise and thoughtful, telling me that I’ll be outed by the press and kicked out of university for using the women’s toilets if I transition after my A-levels.

In me, you see a forceful male penetration into women’s spaces.

In you, I see a hundred tabloid headlines screaming “tranny”.

In me, you see a blind adherence to the oppressive system of binary gender.

In you, I see the doctor who tells me what I can and can’t do with my body.

In me, you see the stooge of a patriarchal medical system.

In you, I see friends who have been beaten or raped before being told by authority figures that they brought it on themselves.

In me, you see a systematic desire to control and define womanhood.

In you, I see a systematic desire to control and define womanhood.

How do we bridge this impossible divide?

My truth and your truth are both derived from a fierce feminism, but somehow remain diametrically opposed.  How is it that we can disagree so much over the existence of a feminist conference for “women born women living as women”?

I would tell you that my subconscious sex, the mental matrix that somehow marks the flesh I expect to see and feel when I behold myself, maps snugly onto the body I have inhabited since undergoing hormone therapy and genital reconstruction. I would tell you that for the last three years I have been happy and at ease with myself in a way I could never have been before.

I would tell you that I am a woman because I identify as a woman, I move through the world as a woman, and in this sense I have been a woman my entire adult life. I would tell you that I don’t even know what it’s like to be a man because that’s something I’ve simply never experienced. I do know what it’s like to be a teenage trans girl faking it as a boy though, and I can tell you that isn’t a whole lot of fun. I would tell you that trans women who transition later in life tend to encounter more significant challenges than I did, and that they are no less a woman for this.

I would tell you that yes, I agree that gender is a social construct that ascribes hegemonic power to the masculine. I would tell you that I, like you, am forced to negotiate a society where we cannot simply reject gender because we are gendered constantly by others. The body I inhabit, the things I enjoy, the manner in which I communicate, the clothes I prefer to wear fit better into the artificial category of “woman” than the artificial category of “man”.

I would tell you that “trans” is an aspect of my womanhood: womanhood is not an aspect of my transness. I am a woman who happens to be trans.

I would tell you that when I was with a woman, she loved me as a woman. Now I am with a man, he loves me as a man. I am entirely at ease with my bisexuality.

I would tell you that I reject outdated ideals of “appropriate” female behaviour. I don’t see why I should take on a submissive role within society, although I do feel it is important to recognise the voices of others and listen in a sisterly fashion. I  do not see why I should dress in a particular feminine fashion, wear make-up or force myself into uncomfortable shoes, but reserve the right to occasionally dress “femme” when the mood takes me.

I would tell you that I rage against sexism and misogyny at every possible opportunity. I have dedicated a great deal of time fighting in solidarity alongside my feminist sisters for equality, for liberation, for choice.

I would tell you that I, too am subject to sexism and misogyny in many of their vile forms. My transness does not spare me. I would also tell you that I have experienced worse for being trans than I have for being a woman, although these unpleasant experiences have been limited by the privileges that come with my class status and the colour of my skin.

I would tell you that I believe in the importance of women’s spaces. I would argue that no group of women should be rejected from such a space.

I would tell you that this is my truth, and that there is no universal trans truth. That some trans people feel their gender is essential and innate, whilst others reject gender entirely, and so many occupy a myriad of positions between these poles. I would ask you to acknowledge the diversity and complexity of trans truths.

And you would tell me your truth. You would tell me of the pain that comes from growing up as a girl and then a woman in a patriarchal world. You would tell me that I can never know what this is like, that I will always be a man, that my chromosomes and life experience alike cannot be erased. You would tell me that you have a right to organise without me. That I should just leave you alone.

And the argument could roll on for a long time. For instance, I might draw upon the wisdom of black feminist thinkers to argue that there is no universal experience of womanhood. And you might argue that I, nevertheless, will always have with me the male privilege that comes with being raised as a boy. And I would say yes, I accept that, but I seek to acknowledge and check this in the same way I seek to acknowledge and check my other privileges, and moreover this intersects complexly with the oppression I experienced growing up as a young trans person, unable to access hegemonic forms of masculinity.

Where does this leave us?

At the end of the day, we have to draw a line in the sand. So you have your conference, and I am explicitly excluded. But I necessarily object to your conference, because you not only reject me on grounds that trouble me, but you invite a speaker who actively opposes my liberation.

So I am left with no choice but to actively oppose the public manifestation of opinions that will do harm to myself and my friends and my trans sisters and my trans brothers and my queer and/or non-gender-specific trans siblings.

I oppose you not because I hate you, and certainly not because I oppose feminism. I oppose you because you would cause me harm.

And in doing so, you believe that I cause you harm.

And so the dance goes on.


TRIGGER WARNING:comments contain upsetting language, erasure etc.

150 thoughts on “​My message to those who would attend Radfem 2012

  1. You don’t understand the politics so how can you address it?

    It is not about you, an individual, in the way you have framed the problem here.

    I would never harm you, as an individual – spit in your face because of what you do with your body? what?

    I know transpeople, am friendly with some transpeople, support the human rights of transpeople but I want to meet to discuss radical feminism with my radical feminist sisters. You are quite obviously not a radical feminist from what you say here. Everyone who is not a radical feminist is excluded, as you’d expect at a conference for a named group of people. The event is *for* radical feminists. We have a right to be ideological critical of other movements. That the ideology clashes with your choices as an individual is what makes this difficult. i cannot, however, in all conscience stop myself from having my critique. That does not equate to a desire to harm or hurt you on a personal level.

    • Hi rubyfruit,

      No, I am not a radical feminist because I do not believe that the oppression of women should (alone) lie at the centre of feminist analysis – as you’ve no doubt noted, I prefer an intersectional approach. I don’t believe that the differences between our feminisms are particularly great, however, and I broadly admire radical feminism.

      There doesn’t appear to be one position on which feminists are welcome at the conference – I have been told elsewhere that the event is by and for radical feminists but all feminists are welcome. Moreover, there are plenty of trans radical feminists out there.

      To accuse me of misunderstanding the politics is unfair. I did not explicitly and heavily draw upon theory, readings, great speakers and individuals within the post because I wished it to be accessible to those who do not have the time and/or resources to pursue this kind of knowledge.

      I believe that the personal is politic. That our individual experiences are necessarily connected to the wider social context, with each shaping the other. I never believed that you spat in my face. I see a conference organised by people who belittle me and deny me autonomy, and I am reminded of others who have belittled me and denied me autonomy in other contexts, just as some radical feminist commentators compare me to a rapist for my part in opposing them.

      I would argue that your critique is not sisterly, that it treats individuals as means and not ends, that it theorises us in a manner that erases our personhood. But I’m sure you knew that.

    • “Everyone who is not a radical feminist is excluded, as you’d expect at a conference for a named group of people.”

      I don’t believe that’s the case. It’s that everyone who is not born a woman is excluded. So if Ruth WERE a radical feminist, she still wouldn’t be allowed to go to the conference, which is the point of the post, surely?

    • I don’t see anything “radical” about what’s going on here; I see “reactionary.” And I don’t see anything “feminist” going on here; I see “androcentricism.” Y’all talk only to each other. Anybody who doesn’t fit your uniform is The Enemy. You make both Radicalism and Feminism look like shrill, hysterical cartoons for MRAs to point at and laugh, so the rest of us, who are actually trying to get some work done & save some lives, look like stooges and fools. Hate and fear don’t progress anything. I’m a GenderQueer. I have to live as a cis-gender female where I live. I was a Radical Lesbian Feminist for nearly twenty years, starting in the seventies. A political/philosophical “movement” that doesn’t adapt, evolve and expand with time is just an impotent cult of personalities and wound licking. You’re people I loved, hurting people I love. And you’ve stolen the name, “Rubyfruit” from one of the least separatist, most inclusive books — and the first novel ever published by a Lesbian Feminist — about gender, sexuality and liberation and completely gutted it. Just like fundamentalist xians, gutting the wholly babble. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  2. If you or any other “trans women” REALLY respected women, you’d recognize and acknowledge that just because you have GID, that does NOT make you a real woman and you’d show respectful solidarity when women want to simply meet and organize against our own oppression.

    — I do not agree that you are a woman. I will never agree that you are a woman. Having GID does not make you a woman. I will go to my grave disagreeing that you are a woman. That’s final.
    — I don’t believe in using “cis”. I think “cis” is hate-speech.
    — I don’t believe in “gender identity”. I believe that “gender identity” is a sexist construct rooted in misogynist sex-role stereotypes that HURT women. Forcing the idea of a pseudo-medical/legal “gender identity” on society is dragging women kicking and screaming back fifty years. It’s erasing all our hard work fighting against the patriarchal oppression of women. It’s codifying LIES such as “male brain/female brain” and “girls like these things, while boys like those things”. It’s a pack of LIES about what it actually means to be male or female.

    I do INSIST that I have a human right to meet with other women (biological females) to discuss our shared experiences, to discuss our shared oppression, to organize against our shared oppression. I claim that as a HUMAN RIGHT: the right to meet with other like-minded members of my oppressed class to discuss OUR ISSUES. Not your issues. Not what you think our issues OUGHT to be. OUR issues.

    • Hello,

      Firstly, I do not agree with your assertion that I am not a woman. I, too, will go to my grave disagreeing with you on this. I’m not sure how we are to move on from here in a productive and respectful fashion, which is why I wrote the post.

      Secondly, I intentionally refrained from using the word “cis” in the above post. That is a discussion for elsewhere.

      Thirdly, I agree that these things called gender and sex are more complicated than the “gender identity” model can account for (which is, again, why I didn’t use the term) and further object to the institutionalisation of such language by the patriarchal medical system and political parties.

      I insist that I have a human right to meet with other women to discuss our shared experiences, to discuss our shared oppression, to organize against our shared oppression. I claim that as a human right: the right to meet with other like-minded members of my oppressed class to discuss our issues. Not what you think our issues ought to be.

      And, once again, therein lies our problem.

      • Regarding space:

        I am very much in favour of autonomous organising spaces for oppressed groups. I, like you, would argue that such groups should be based upon shared oppression.

        So, for instance, we might have a women’s space, but not a man’s space, because men are not oppressed for being men. There is of course no reason why said men can’t be involved in a space for (for instance) disabled people or black people if they are disabled or black.

        Similarly, within a larger women’s space we might have a lesbian and/or bisexual space, but we wouldn’t have a straight women’s space.

        At this point I would argue that trans women should not be ejected from a women’s space for the same reason that lesbian or black women should not be ejected from a women’s space.

        And you would disagree, because you do not believe we are women.

        At this juncture we are inevitably at odds and feel hurt because the other group is telling us what we should believe.

    • Regarding your third bulleted point (on the important issue of gender theory and politics):

      Personally I DO believe in gender identity; but not that it correlates with the binary sex categories man/woman. It is this culturally enforced correlation which hurts everyone – and especially women – not gender identity itself. Gender identity is just part of who we are as individuals and is a variable as any other human trait.

      Therefore trans people do not hurt women by our existence because we are as naturally varied gender-wise as the rest of the population. Indeed, the trans population, although subject to the same social pressures towards gender conformity, is hugely gender diverse – more so, I’d suggest, than the general non-trans population, because we’ve struggled with issues of sex and gender at a deeply personal level throughout our whole lives.

      Furthermore, trans theory does not codify lies about “male brain/female brain”. Yes, some trans people point to some evidence of such things in the search for aetiology – and this, I agree, can be problematic if it is taken to imply false gender correlation; i.e. that “girls like these things, while boys like those things”. But it doesn’t have to. Differing brain structure – if it exists (and I’m extremely sceptical about that myself) – doesn’t imply differing brain function, nor that gender identity is dependant upon it.

      Finally, regarding “LIES about what it actually means to be male or female”, trans people and feminists mostly stand together on these issues – and of course many trans people are feminists too.

      So the only real area of contention arises from the contents of your first bulleted point, in which you seek simply to tell us who and what we are. From our side, this is like telling us we are not from Earth or something. Our realities are as they are and what you believe or don’t believe has no effect on that. But obviously we can come to no agreement here until you change your mind.

    • A note to add onto that for Rose… When you block out transwoman you not only deny the trans experience but you are doing the same thing the feminist movement started doing in their later years. Do you know Sojourner Truth? She was a big part of the feminist movement but apparently because she was a black, dutch former slave she was bad for the feminist movement and so white feminists separated themselves from her. Because she had different experience.and because the dominant ideology denied her the right to be an important woman for the movement.

      Trans rights are important and so too the right to be able to live. I understand separation into further groups but when you deny a minority group who faces hardship and who I swear if you were to plunk yourself in the middle of a thread about… Oh… Sewing, you would never be able to tell them as a transwoman until you invited them to the conference and they said “Oh I can’t go because I’m trans.” Then where is the breaking of gender binaries and the stopping of oppression feminism calls for?

    • So what would you say to a person who is intersex? Or a person with female genitalia who is not “biologically female” in terms of chromosomes? These things happen, and show that the boundaries are not as straighforward as you’re making out…

    • Then why bother saying “women born -living as women-“? Is a someone who is biologically female, but living as male welcome? After all, if you don’t agree that a DMAB transwoman is a woman, then wouldn’t a DFAB transman not be a man? But he wouldn’t be welcome, because he identifies as a man, according to the rules. So if a transman isn’t a woman, then isn’t a transwoman not a man?

      What about intersex people who identify as women, even if they were forcibly assigned male at birth, are they welcome? They cannot help that a doctor mutilated their genitals to look more masculine at birth.

      What about those with chromosomal anomalies, such as XXY or XXX, who identify as women but due to their chromosomes look like men (or look androgynous)? Are they welcome or not? Can they help what chromosomes they were born with?

      If you let in those with chromosomal oddities who identify as women, and if you let in intersex individuals who identify as women, then it’s a little cissexist to not let in transwomen as well. NONE of those women can control how they were born or what their bodies naturally look like. All they can do is their best to make them look like they think they should– however that is. As a feminist you should support and respect your sisters, whatever they look like. Period.

      It said I already posted this, but I couldn’t see the “awaiting moderation” bit so… if this goes through twice, I apologize. 🙂

      • Sorry, I was in a seminar (on “representations of women in the media”, no less!) – I’ve deleted your duplicate message for you 🙂

    • Right on. Rose. I couldn’t agree with you more. Of course people would start using race. So if that’s the ticket, should I be allowed reassignment surgery if I felt I was really Asian? Should i be allowed to make myself look more asian? And waste doctor’s time when they should be curing cancer, but instead they are making me Asian? What’s the diff? If you want to be a chick and go through that situation, have a great time of it. i will go be made into an Asian, because that’s who I truly am.
      If you are born with a penis, you are not and will NEVER be on the same side of anything that I am on. Simple as that. You are a fraud. It takes so much more to be a woman than long hair and tits.
      Unless you bleed like me, you cannot meet with me and discuss womanhood or feminism. You have no idea what those words mean. If you stay male, you are at least genuine but do you think you could ever be a better woman than me? Never.

      • I don’t bleed like you – I have a medical condition and take medication to prevent any bleeding of that kind as it could be excruciating (feel free to look up endometriosis). Does that mean I cannot meet with you and discuss feminism*? What if I’ve had a hysterectomy, or for some birth anomaly was born without a uterus? Does that make me less of a feminist?
        I think perhaps you have no idea what your words mean. When menstruation equates to physical torture, it causes significant pain to be told that it is menstruation that makes you a woman, or even more hurtful, renders you eligible to call yourself a feminist. Please do consider your words more carefully.

        *Let’s just be clear: I don’t think I would want to meet with you and discuss feminism – it sounds like a terrifying experience and I would be wary of your intent to deny my identity

      • Can you please answer the questions that snuzzled and I asked you about intersex people and those born with female genitals but male chromosomes? And, WTF with the “bleeding” thing? Does that mean that a woman who doesn’t ever get her period is not welcome? That those who have hit menopause are not welcome? That those who take medication which has the side effect of stopping their periods are not welcome?

      • Oh, and just to add: what about transmen? They might have “bled” like you in the past…and they might not have opted for phalloplasty. So are they welcome at your conference even if they live and present as male?

    • Rose: I’m genuinely curious as to what you think of people who are biologically intersexed.

      Are people who are born with male chromosomes and internal genitalia but female external genitalia also not women? Are they men?

      What about people who were born with ambiguous genitalia?

      What about people who were born with ambiguous genitalia, were assigned (or mutliated, depending on who you ask) a male sex at birth, and later decide they prefer to identify as women?

  3. This was an amazing read. What an incredible writer you are. I’m so proud of you for saying what you have in such a fiercely loving yet, loyal to who you are and to your sisters who would be dismissed. Alot of this line exist because alot of people don’t know trans folk as regular people who inhibit their lives (or they don’t know they do). It’s easier to have such a strong political line when you don’t have someone dear to you who is trans. That assists people and understanding.

    I love that you detailed your journey and acknowledged theirs at the same time. It’s just a breathtaking piece. It just really is.

    I’ll share it. Thank-you and many blessings.

  4. This reminds me of a work by bell hooks in which she advocates groups that are marginalized to work together. For that time period of the writing, that meant feminists working with African Americans and Asians and Jews. Now, that means the Trans community as well. To be a feminist is to understand the thread of oppression weaving through the marginalization of all groups… not to discriminate against another group because they seemingly do not “align” with your identity.

  5. Your readers aren’t reading the ideological critical comments, that’s for sure.

    This issue is about as far away from “identity” as a box of tissues. As my post should have made clear.

    • Some do, some don’t. I’ve read this stuff because I’m doing a PhD and I live and breathe feminist activism in my spare time. Not everyone has access to these forms of language.

  6. I’m mostly responding to the critical comments on here, but I’d like to thank everyone else for your kind words, and for coming here to read what I have to say.

  7. A wonderful, passionate piece, thank you.

    rubyfruit2 – Many of us opposed to the conference’s exclusion policy have read the ideological criticism of trans people’s identities. The difference between us and you is that we don’t have the astonishing arrogance to insist that we know better than an individual trans person how he or she experiences their gender. It is entirely possible to respect these experiences while opposing the harmful binary gender stereotyping endemic in our society – because they are not the same thing.

  8. Radical Feminism IS “theory”, activism is putting that theory into practice. It’s not some remote academic inacessible ivory tower. You’re misusing the “personal is political”. It doesn’t mean “my personal experience is political”, it means “if we combine all our experiences as women we can draw up a political analysis about male supremacy”

    You are objecting to the conference based on *identity* and not on politics. the conference is a political conference, not one of identity.

    And, no, as I tried to explain up above, my radfem politics does NOT mean I would treat you, as an individual, in any shape or form with disrespect or dismissal. I want to have a political dialogue with others who agree with me. You’ve explained that you don’t.

    I said you’d misunderstood the politics because you have. You are responding to radical feminism from your own political lens of identity politics. Radical feminism isn’t that, not about that.

    • Your radfem politics means that you *harm* me as an individual if you endorse the work of people like Jeffreys, who wish me harm.

      I would respond to the rest of your argument but fear that we would once again be caught up in a circular, tit-for-tat disagreement without end.

    • “I want to have a political dialogue with others who agree with me.”

      That’s not a dialogue. That’s a monologue in chorus.

    • Just so you can get a feel of how ridiculous that argument is, just think about having a conference about radical feminism for white women and then dare to say that excluding BME women is a political decision that isn’t based on discrimination and oppression and dare to say it’s a decision you have the right to make.

    • The conference should include all women living as women. Because some women were born with a penis and identified as female from childhood does not mean you cannot contribute to a woman only space! What’s so fucking radical about being so oppressive. Ps: will we have to show our vaginas at that door to prove we are ‘real’ woman?

  9. I love circular arguments… 1. To be a radical feminist, you have to hate/deny/exclude trans women. 2. You are a trans woman, so you cannot be a radfem by definition. 3. The only reason you are excluded from a radfem conference is… That you are not a radfem! It isn’t because we are a hateful bunch of transmisogynists! How dare you attack us like that? Poor us!

    Thanks for this post. Sharing and distributing…

  10. This is an excellent post. There is NOTHING about RadFem that I can find positive- not even if I ignore its fucked up analysis of trans* (and by association I am sure, broader gender/queer) issues. As you state in a comment above, radical feminism assumes that the oppression of women is the primary and most important oppression. Well, I am not a radical feminist either, by that yardstick- but as some of the ignoramuses in the comments above seem to have overlooked, the reason I could attend RadFem is nothing to do with my politics. It’s to do with my gender and sex, which to them I’m sure, is the very peak of legitimacy.

    You people going on at Ruth here- would you show this kind of disrespect to another feminist blogger, say shakespearessister? I doubt it, but that’s your transphobia and misogyny showing.

    My final words here will be that if the theory contradicts, defies, or doesn’t account for the reality… then the theory, not the reality, is the thing that is wrong.

  11. Hi RubyFruit, I know where you are coming from and I feel your hurt, how can anyone question your tolerance? Because, guess what… some of my friends are trans too! And men! And even black! My enlightened patronising no doubt deserves a medal too.

  12. I said that lenceriafemina because radical feminists wanting this conference are accused of hating transpeople, there was analogy here of spitting in someone’s face. It was said to clarify that wanting a radical feminist space is not the same as hating all those who politically disagree with the politics discussed in that space. I have male friends too – they are not welcome in a radical feminist space

    • The thing I remember most from the spitting incident was the confusion. I didn’t really understand what was going on. As I wiped off the spit, I looked at it as if it was something new and unusual. It was so out of place. And then came confusion over motive. Why did these girls act in this way? Did they hate me? Did they treat me as a plaything? Why were try treating me like this?

      I came across a similar anguish in radical feminist texts. Why were trans people so aggressively inhabiting women’s bodies, and why were they invading in women’s spaces?

      And in these texts, I too felt confusion. It felt like hate radiated from the pages. But at the same time, there was confusion and hurt.

      We hurt and confuse one another. That is the meaning of the spitting metaphor.

  13. RubyFruit, I’m very sorry to read that your brand of feminism gives the same importance to judging people by their type of genitals, as the patriarchy always has.

    Haven’t half the human race had enough millennia of being oppressed for having a cunt that was only allowed to be used for breeding?

    What is a woman anyway? You tell me.

  14. rubyfruit2 Sheila Jeffreys wants medical intervention for trans people barred as a human rights violation; it is clear from the various blogs that take a ‘radical feminist’ line on trans* issues that the party line is that legal recognition of trans* status should be reversed. It is also clear from those blogs that the ‘female spaces’ from which people want to bar trans women include changing rooms and toilets, and thus by extension pretty much all employment and education. This is not just an ideological position – it is a programme for the permanent reduction of trans people to second class status in society.

    I am sure that you don’t fully accept that programme’s logic because you are here and engaged in dialogue. Some of us have been gently engaged in controversy with Sheila Jeffreys and others on and off for thirty years and we have a sense of just how far they would go if they could to trash the lives of all the people they disagree with. Look back to the attempts to expel SM and Bi women from Lesbian space at the London Lesbian and Gay Centre back in the 1980s, in which Sheila Jeffreys took a lead, or the demonization, in the last few days, on Cath Brennan’s various websites of trans positive women as ‘handmaids of patriarchy’ and the rest of it.

    I understand the desire for a feminism that is more radical; trans negativity is not the only problem with the feminism espoused by leading figures involved with Radfem2012

    • As Sheil Jeffries has a lesbian history goin back to the 1960’s its reasonable to assume that she is in the terminal stages of BRSS from ingested vaginal estrogen and so has a head full of pseudo-dementia which is responsibloe for the stupidity of her ‘sex chnage is human righjts violation’ because if that line is taken then we have to state that lesbianism and homosexualisty is also a human right violation as the world governments have to ensure that everyone grows up and behaves as their natural born sex (regardless of rbain gender) and this means that girls have to mate with boys and so single sex schools and such institution must be banned as it is wekl known that this is what causes lesbianism and homosexuality. The rampant lesbinaism and homosexuality of single sex schools, clubs and prisons proves that this human rights violation must be ended,
      Here is wqarning proof that estrogen is bad for natural women: Using estrogens, with or without progestins, may increase your risk of dementia, based on a study of women age 65 or older. You and your healthcare provider should talk regularly about whether you still need treatment with EstroGel.
      This dementia is actually BRSS.

  15. Rubyfruit, the women who attend a radfem conference DO hate trans women, both directly and indirectly by supporting an essentialist model of defining “woman” that even manages to lock out women who were assigned female at birth and never found cause to disagree with the assignment. That broken definition of “woman” is used against women by the patriarchy and its helpmeets in the radfem community every day. When your radfem sisters battle against trans rights legislation from a radfem perspective, they hurt women. When your radfem sisters insist on defining lesbian by what they do not do (have sex with men) instead of what they do do (have sex with women), they hurt women. And by endorsing radical feminism that uses a broken definition of woman that plays straight into the patriarchy’s hands, you hurt women. I am sick of being hurt by other women in the name of defending womanhood. I am AFAB and content with this, so I am not speaking from what you would mistakenly label male privilege. But I have been hurt by radfems, directly and indirectly, because of the coercive and elitist definitions you employ. Radical feminism is pro-patriarchy and pro-kyriarchy. It is hate speech.

  16. Your post is lovely – respectful, eloquent and generous, which is certainly something that most commentators don’t bring to this discussion. Thanks so much for writing it.

    If more people were as kind and as polite as you, it would make the world a better place.

  17. I am a cisgendered lesbian and I admit that I used to be that kind of feminist. Unfortunately it was because my ex tried to pull the “I’m trans!” card in attempt to keep me after I came out to them and tried to break up with them. They didnt make any attempt to transition except that they stole my clothing. Even then, they felt so male it was unreal. I feared at first that all transwomen and transmen were like them, but after a rather liberating sexual experience with a very feminine gender-queer and meeting my very much female transwoman girlfriend, I realized that the super “feminazi” feminists as I call them were wrong for the most part.

    I honestly feel bad for the ones who perpetuated the stereotypes that made feminists fear our transwoman and transmen brothers and sisters. I will always support them. Feminists need to open their eyes and I hope that happens soon.

    Nobody’s rights are secure until everyone’s are.

  18. Lysana you’re telling me what radical feminism is and I don’t agree with your definition. Radical feminism is a diverse movement but, at its heart, is the prioritization of the destruction of male domination. I don’t subscribe to essentialist politics, I believe gender is a tool of oppression used against women and I work to eradicate its existence.

    My fundamental question..which I asked on twitter but no one replied is “Do radical feminists have the right to meet together in order to discuss an ideological critique of queer/transgenderism/liberal feminism and its implications without ideological opponents being present?” That is the root of the tension here.

    • ‘“Do radical feminists have the right to meet together in order to discuss an ideological critique of queer/transgenderism/liberal feminism and its implications without ideological opponents being present?” That is the root of the tension here.’

      That’s not the root of the tension, because it incorporates your own definition of ‘radical feminists’ that excludes those not born women. It’s a rhetorical question, designed to elicit a particular answer, and I for one find it disingenuous.

      Defend your right to bigotry by all means, but don’t ask people to respect it.

    • There is a difference between critiquing feminisms and critiquing “transgender”. I am all in favour of critiquing the language of transgender, critiquing our politics, contemplating the nature of our existence, critiquing understandings of this (and this blog is full of such musings!) I fear, however, that Radfem 2012 seeks to critique the very *existence* of “transgender”, particularly because this is a project Jeffreys has engaged in for many years.

      By all means critique queer feminism, liberal feminism, socialist feminism, trans feminism. But don’t please don’t question my existence.

    • Does that mean, as a “woman bodied woman living as a woman” – as the conference would recognise me (although I can’t claim to be a reproductive female, I’ve never tried…) – and a radical feminist, I wouldn’t be welcome at the conference because I am ideologically opposed to excluding trans* women, or because I see a clear relationship between radical and queer feminisms? How do you set the limits of who is allowed? Surely even a space as constricted as this one is going to include women who disagree? I don’t understand the logic.

  19. I think rubyfruit2 and other radical feminists would not welcome me into their space either. I am an intersex person who doesn’t identify as any gender.

    The thing is, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t – I should be exactly the type of person who would agree with them in every way! Of course I don’t think males should be dominant – nor do I think females should be – no one should be dominant on the basis of the way they were born.

    But that point feels far more like the one you make, Ruth, than the one rubyfruit2 does. In the world of programming, there is a saying – the idea doesn’t matter, it’s all about the execution. While the ideas may not be far from each other, the execution is worlds away – and I will always take the side that is inclusive and welcoming rather than the one that seeks to exclude, reject, and divide.

  20. Ruth, I salute you.

    rubyfruit, I can’t see what can possibly explain or justify (in your last posted comment) your conflation of queer and liberal feminisms — together with this thing you call “transgenderism”. Is “transgenderism” like “nationalism”? I find it difficult to resist picturing you figuring this ‘ism’, in the manner of U.S. neo-cons, as a kind of evangelical or expansionist doctrine depraving our (innocent feminist) youth. How terrible it would be, indeed, if sex /and/ gender categories were blasted open and widely accepted to be accessible to, or inhabitable by, any fluidly and collectively self-determining bodies at all. But as other commenters have more than adequately quashed, I think, the genital-focused policing of this self-designated “radical” feminism’s constituent boundaries, I really only want to question your rehearsal of the unconvincing ‘identity’/’politics’ binary, which here serves to tar the queer (an ostensibly anti-liberal theoretical turn, surely?!) and the liberal with the same brush, whilst reserving ‘class’ for a genital and/or chromosomal category which, I have to say, escapes my comprehension.

  21. “Nothing about us without us” If you want to discuss trans people, discuss it *with* trans people. Being trans is NOT an “ideology” it is an experience. We are not a theory, we are people.

    There *are* radical feminist who are trans women yet would be unable to go to the conference. There are plenty of queer and/or liberal feminists who aren’t trans and can go. Trans woman have a wide range of views within and beyond feminism. If you only want radical feminists at a conference, invite only “radical feminist women” NOT “only women who aren’t trans”.

    It’s insulting to assume that all people from a particular group will have the same politics.

  22. I don’t wish to get into a discussion about this except to say that I am absolutely shocked and saddened by some of these comments, particularly that of RoseVerbena. What a hurtful, hideous thing to say. Surely we are all concerned with human rights, and supporting those who are oppressed by the dominant patriarchal society. I see no evidence that you care about human rights, only those relating to yourself. Who the hell are you to deny someone’s gender, particularly when you are so sensitive to your own. Also, people are oppressed not only by gender (and those who are trans are particularly oppressed here), but also ethnicity, class, ability etc. How about taking a look outside yourself and your own (specific) experience? We must stand together to fight oppression not stand on others in order to ‘win’. What a hollow victory.

  23. Hi transactivist,

    Do you otherwise have radical feminist politics? If so, I know many, many women who will gladly work with you on issues such as ending the trade in female flesh. I bet there are even women attending who will gladly work with you there.

    I understand your feelings are hurt by being asked not to attend the conference, and I don’t mean to be little your pain. The fact though, is that in many places, girl children are aborted before they are even allowed to be born. Or they face infanticide just for being girls. Male-borns do not face this, whether or not they end up transitioning.

    You say you can leave your privilege at the door. So, can males who still live as men also leave their privilege at the door? The way I see it, privilege is not something we can take on and off so easily. And the way I see it, marginalized groups also get to decide the boundaries of their group.

    If a group of people with African heritage is meeting in a European country, should someone of Mexican heritage be allowed in? After all, they both experience discrimination. Are they not some things they can work together on, and some things they can work separately?

    Just food for thought…

    • Hello,

      Yes, I was a member of the National Union of Students Women’s Campaign Committee for several years, and remain involved in feminist activism. I see more similarities between my position and radical feminist positions than differences.

      Trans people too face extermination: from those who believe that we should be sterilised before we gain particular rights, to those who seek to harass, attack or murder us in the street, to public figures such as the Pope, right-wing politicians, tabloid journalists, Sheila Jeffreys and Janice Raymond who argue for our elimination.

      I don’t think that you can ever leave privilege at the door, although you can do your best to account for it.

      I regard my male privilege as something considerably more nebulous than my class privilege, my white privilege, my abled privilege. This is because I have not once directly accessed male privilege during my adult life, because I have lived my entire adult life as a woman. I do regard myself as experiencing a degree of male privilege because I was brought up as a boy, and encouraged to gain practical skills and be outspoken. No-one tried to abort me because of my gender.

      However, my trans status ensured that I remained shy and withdrawn until my transition. I have learned to be outgoing and outspoken in the context of living as a woman. Moreover, I experienced the extreme shame and self-hatred that comes with growing up in a world that regards me as a freak, a lesser being, unwanted and undesirable. I also experienced the pain and confusion that comes with living in the “wrong” body. I was not, largely speaking, able to access male privilege (let alone any form of hegemonic masculinity) because of this. Moreover, I was oppressed in a way that most women are not.

      Cis men cannot leave their privilege at the door because they move through the world as men: they always have, and always will. I know wonderful feminist men who are amazing to work with, and love mixed feminist spaces, but there is a power and liberation in autonomous spaces. I would be part of a women’s space because I am a woman. This, I believe, is where we differ.

      You say that you have a right to organise on the grounds of your upbringing. Surely by this logic white women have a right to organise separately from black women? After all, white women have a very particular experience of oppression. I would argue that this would be wrong because white women experience privilege over black women. I, as a trans woman, do not experience privilege over you through being a man (because I am not a man!) and do not experience privilege over you through being trans.

      I do not wish to comment on your example because I am of neither African or Mexican heritage.

    • You can’t swathe a brush of infanticide over a white-European dominated conference. There is an intersection of womanhood, class and race happening there.

  24. This is a great debate, and for once people (or at least Ruth and people defending the conference) are having a meaningful conversation without falling into insults and hatred. Thank you all for that, it’s refreshing.

    Ruth, could you please direct me to a Sheila Jeffreys statement/piece where she says trans people should be “eliminated”? I have read some of her work, and she criticizes trans and queer theory and compares it to feminist theory, and also her criticism on sex-change operations and the scientific and religious origins of these, but I have never read that she wants trans people “eliminated”, and certainly not like the Pope, right-wing politicians and tabloid journalists do express it. As I said, I haven’t read all of her books, so this is a genuine question.

    Thanks very much in advance.

    • I compare Jeffreys to right-wing figures because she would deny access to physical transition to those of us who require it, deny us the autonomy over our own bodies, deny the strength and depth of our feelings, and deny the subtlety and complexity of our analysis. She twists our truths to fit her agenda, and argues that our very existence poses a threat to her utopic conception of a better world. In this sense, she is allied with the Daily Mail when its columnists say that transition is a waste of taxpayers’ money. She is allied to the Pope when he wishes to save us from our own “self-destruction”.

      When I say that Jeffreys would “eliminate” trans people I do not mean that she would literally exterminate us, but that she would do away with us.

      So, the problem with transgenderism – which is obviously an expression of men’s sexual rights as well of course( it’s very much about the right to be sexually excited by female clothing, and subordination and so on). But it also comes out of the gendered system. And it means that in order to support transgenderism , gender has to be supported. So the subordination of women has to be supported in order for transgenderism to be supported. Transgender as a phenomenon is the clearest possible indication of the strength of the structures of the male domination going on right now. Of course we know that in Iran homosexuals are routinely transgendered because they’re not allowed to be homosexuals.

      (http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/sheila-jeffreys-the-mccarthyism-of-transgender-and-the-sterilization-of-transgender-children/) – trigger warning: Gendertrender outs and misgenders people.

      I have no doubt that the questioning that is now beginning in earnest, particularly within the feminist movement, will eventually lead to the ending of this harmful cultural practice, in the same way as a different form of sterilization of the unfit was ended in the 1970s. Unfortunately this will not be a happy event for many of the victims of the practice. They have already lost much in body parts and health. They cannot reclaim them, and once the whole practice comes into disrepute, as it must, then their rationale for existence, their identities and sense of self, will be under threat. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that transactivists oppose feminist critics so very fiercely. I can offer no solution to their understandable disquiet. It is necessary for the severe harms that the practice inflicts on adults and now children to be brought to an end.


      The lesbian community needs to address the urgent political task of enabling lesbians to retain and love their lesbian bodies. If the suffering and destruction of lesbians is to be halted then we must challenge the cult of masculinity that is evident in such activities as drag king shows. We must challenge those forms of self-harm which are presently being promoted as progressive and liberating such as butch/femme roleplaying, sadomasochistic self-mutilation and the instruments, drugs and surgeries now being used to enable lesbians to ‘transition.’


      As for the difficult history of genital reconstruction surgeries – we have long been aware of this! Most trans activists strongly oppose professional demands that medical transition necessitate the perpetuation of damaging gender conformity.

    • Jeffries uses the confusion of TG with TS to push her agenda in that by constatly referring to TGism as being unacceptable and a therapy for TGs a waste of money she is quite correct as most TGs are not TS and fit the female brain in male body.
      However her BRSS’d brain refuses to accept the reality of the TS which is what she shares with most other radfems.

  25. I am neither transgendered or a radical feminist, though I would consider myself a feminist. I am really shocked at some of the language used here against trans women. I was somewhere in the middle on this debate and could not make my mind up either way, but any group of women that wants to debate about another group of women without them present does not go well with me The only argument left to counteract that position is “you are not a real woman” and once that is the fall back position the argument is lost. I have now decided which way to jump and am just left with the question why Ruth and others would want to be with people who treat them in this way. I personally would leave them to it in the knowledge that by displaying such views, they are probably marginalizing themselves. Having women only places is so important but this does not do the case any favours.

    • Hi Lesley,

      Thanks for your thoughts! In general, I believe trans inclusion in women’s spaces is important because trans women too experience sexism and misogyny, and we wish to join with other women to fight back. I should note also that I believe women’s spaces are powerful and important, and reject the somewhat terrifying arguments of so-called “men’s rights activists”.

      Would I wish to attend Radfem 2012? Probably not, but that’s because the space will already be a negative environment to me! Ultimately my personal objection to Radfem 2012 is not that I, personally cannot go: rather I object to the inevitable “critique of transgender” occurring in the absence of trans participants, and I object to the insistence that I am not a woman. It’s bad enough to hear this constantly from right-wing figures, but from feminists?

      I’m therefore grateful that there are plenty of other feminists out there such as yourself who are sympathetic to our cause 🙂

  26. Pingback: Feminism Against Transphobia « FemGen Edinburgh

  27. Thank you Ruth for taking the time to so extensively respond to my question. Nevertheless, and after reading the work from Jeffreys you quoted, I still don’t see in her words a justification for such a charged statement as she wants trans people “eliminated”, and much less compare her analysis with the nonsensical figure and declarations of the pope.

    By her words what I understand she means is that if we all fight for the cause of learning to love our bodies as they are, and to accept the different variants in our sexualities, this type of procedures will eventually be unnecessary and therefore will stop happening. I can understand this being a sensitive issue for trans people completely, but she does highlight a very important issue in a non-insulting or hateful way whatsoever.

    If historically Jeffreys work, and that train of thought, has been so grossly misunderstood, despised and attacked by the trans community, in a way it is not surprising that the conference organisers have decided to prevent a situation where this type of examination would not be able exist, as all time and energy would be consumed by people feeling hurt by it, and not much discussion about “how to get to that point” would be possible to happen.

    I do think that it would be better if this issue could be discussed by everyone in a rational manner, without both extreems interacting as they are right now, which are creating much confusion, pain and sorrow in the general feminist community. By both extreems I mean the ones who shout “transphobia” and “die cis scum” at the organisers, as well as the “men on dresses” type of delivery.

    I appreciate your intent to bring this debate to a balanced stand, as well as the energy you are putting in answering all the points exposed by the supporters of the conference. It must be not just time consuming, but also emotionally consuming. However, I do find that there is certain irrationality in your discourse that does not allow this discussion to get any further, like your the general misunderstanding of Jeffreys work. Saying things like “she argues for trans people to be eliminated” can only keep the ball of vile and rage rolling, from both sides.

    • “… I still don’t see in her words a justification for such a charged statement as she wants trans people “eliminated” …”

      But aren’t you taking ‘eliminated’ in this sense very literally? I see no such misreading when the word is taken relatively loosely. Jeffries does not believe they should exist or have a right to exist. She wants them eliminated at least in the sense of no longer permitted to come into being, even if she doesn’t mean literally going out and murdering them.

      When you read the full tract from her blog, and witness her method of ‘engaging’ with critics and opponents, there’s no question, to my mind, that Jeffries is the same sort of idealogue as you find on the far religious right. She has accused trans activists of being in league with MRA members at the drop of a hat, merely out of spite. I don’t think any sort of defence can reasonably be mounted – she is anti-compromise, anti-dialogue, unable to empathise and guilty of hate speech,

      • Sorry Jon Stone, I am very happy to be having this conversation with Ruth but I will not engage in a debate with someone who makes up facts and puts hateful feelings and intention into another human being, unknown personally or privately.
        It’s simply not healthy or constructive in any way, and I hope you could understand that as being part of the mess we’re in regarding this subject. I wish you calm and clarity of mind in your life and future.

        • Well, anyone who wants to entertain the proposition that I’m making it up can scoot along over to her blog and decide for themselves, rather than have you and me argue in generalities.

          But the question remains: aren’t you taking the concept of ‘elimination’ in an extremely narrow sense in order to argue that Jeffreys’ isn’t in favour of it?

    • I will never be sold on the “learn to love your body as it is” argument because I have experienced the benefits of transition – an experience someone who does not require transition can never understand.

      In a gender liberated world, I imagine that less people would transition. I have no doubt that many trans people ultimately undergo particular procedures because they make their life easier, rather than simply because their mind/body interaction requires it. At the same time, to criticise such people for making the best of a difficult world is unfair, particularly if their life is ultimately improved.

      Moreover, my experience – and the experience of those like me – suggests that there will always be some who transition physically. This is about bodies more than gender.

      Jeffreys is not interested in our experiences, our truths, the depth of our personal feeling and understanding. She is interested in fitting our bodies to her theories, in denying treatment to those who need it. She would remove the lifeline we have fought for for decades, the lifeline we continue to fight for.

      Physical transition was not imposed by experts. We first fought for its transition, and since then we have fought to remove sexist and transphobic restrictions placed upon the process by cis male doctors who think they know best.

      Moreover, Jeffreys’ accounts erase the experience of the vast number of trans people who do not transition for health reasons, for their families, because they do not want to transition, because they do not need to transition. “Transgender” identities and behaviours are in no way limited to those trans women and trans men who move from one body/gender role to another. The trans movement exists because we recognise the same struggle in one another: I may identify and live as a woman, but I am not interested in preserving binary gender at the expense of my genderqueer allies. Moreover, the gender binary works to uphold male privilege. I feel we should smash it as we smash patriarchy 😉

      We can love our bodies as they are whilst also pursuing transition. I have never sought the “perfect body”. For instance, through hormone treatment my breasts grew in the same way as they might on any other woman – they were not created by a male doctor. They are beautifully imperfect and unique. I had no say in how my face looked, how much bodily hair I have, how much fat I retain when I eat too much. I support the feminist project of self-love. Transition is not about creating a perfect body: it is about creating the conditions in which we can experience the “right” body.

      I do not buy into the bullshit ideology of the beauty industry. Some trans women do, but the same goes of all women.

      Jeffreys work will continue to be despised as long as she continues to deny us. If governments, public bodies and the wider feminist movement were to pay more attention to her words, we would suffer. As she herself acknowledges, we have no choice but to set ourselves against her. Where she sees “extreme harm”, we experience feeling. She has no right to theorise away our liberation.

  28. The words of noted RadFem, Bev Jo:

    “They expect we’ll be shocked to see statistics about them being killed, and don’t realize, some of us wish they would ALL be dead.”

    “I can just imagine their gloating if they can get female body parts and reproduce (not to mention how reproduction is destroying the earth and the likelihood of birth defects and bad health from babies coming from such a place.) There are no words to describe them. There are tiny parasitic wasps who paralyse small animals (spiders, caterpillars, etc.) and lay their eggs on them, so the animal is alive while being slowing eaten by the growing baby. But the wasps aren’t deliberately cruel. These men remind me of a deliberately female-hating version of that. They’ve prove what I’ve been saying for decades — they are more female-hating than even many het men. The character in Silence of the Lambs who skinned women to wear really seems more accurate all the time. ”

    I don’t think “building bridges” to such an ideology is either possible, nor desirable. This ideology is contrary to all that Feminism is supposed to stand for. It is an ideology of privilege and hatred, and oppressive of all those not exactly like themselves. It is, in fact, Patriarchy. in its most virulent form.

    • The opinion of this Bev Jo noted Radfem, a person which I have never heard about by the way, do not voice the politics of radical feminists as a whole (and certainly not mine), as much as Valerie Solanas does not voice the politics of feminists as a whole by wanting all men exterminated, and as much as the “die cis scum” rhetoric do not represent the feelings of the trans community as a whole, and therefore should be placed in the category of unfortunate extremes I was talking about in my first post.

      Obviously extremists, rad-fundamentalists or trans-fundamentalists, are not about politics at all but about hatred which maybe have originated by their personal experiences, and they will not participate in any type of building bridges anyway. But there is the rest of us who want to work on that, and do not identify with hate speech of any kind, so please don’t put me in the same bag. If you are trying to shock the people reading this comments, there are also plenty of examples of hate speech against feminists and women coming from trans individuals, but i do not see the point in getting into that loop type of distressed and non constructive conversation, if its not to create even more hatred and distress.

  29. I happen to be a cisgender woman (I don’t give a rat’s @$$ whether YOU like that word or not–it’s how *I* identify MYSELF, and I don’t accept other people’s labels of me.) But how will you know that if I show up at your conference?

    Do you plan to inspect my genitals for scars to make sure I’ve not had SRS? Or maybe just to make sure I have the “right” genitals. Or perhaps do DNA testing to make sure I have 2 X chromosomes?

    What if I have Klinefelter’s Syndrome in which a person is typically considered “male” but who may have 2, 3 or even 4 X chromosomes (and at least 1 but up to 5 Y chromosomes) and whose secondary sex characteristics can be ambiguous? How about de la Chapelle syndrome (also called XX male syndrome), in which I may have male genitalia but an XX karyotype? Maybe I have Swyer syndrome (XY gonadal dysgenesis)–with what appears to be a female body but without breast development (because I have no ovaries, although I do have a uterus), with an XY karyotype. Alternatively, I could have androgen insensitivity syndrome, in which I may also have the appearance of a woman but the XY karyotype of a male. If you only count X chromosomes you’d be in trouble if I have Turner’s Syndrome, in which a female has only 1 chromosome (an X) and even more trouble if I have Turner mosaicism, in which the other X chromosome is missing in some cells but not in others! I suppose you’d become even more confused if I had Triple X (Trisomy X), Quadruple X (Tetrasomy X), or XXXXX Syndrome (Pentasomy X) in which I would have 3, 4 or 5 X chromosomes, respectively.

    Intersex conditions can also result from 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (a genetic mutation affecting hormones necessary for the development of male genitalia; XY karyotype only; may also present with female genitalia), Addison’s Disease (a rare, chronic endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient steroid hormones, resulting in enlarged clitoris and shallow vagina or ambiguous genitalia in girls), Aphallia (congenital malformity in which the penis or clitoris is absent; XX or XY karyotype), Fraser Syndrome (an autosomal recessive congenital disorder that results in a micropenis in a boy or an abnormally enlarged clitoris in a girl), Penile agenesis (a birth defect in which a boy is born without a penis, often as a consequence of Testicular agenesis), or Tetragametic chimerism (the fertilization of a male and a female nonidentical twin ovum in a very early phase of development results in a mixture of tissues; chromosomal karyotypes will be male in some parts of the body and female in others; most chimeras composed of both male and female cells probably do not have an intersex condition, as often most or all of the cells of a single cell type will be composed of a single cell line, i.e. the blood may be composed prominently of one cell line, and the internal organs of the other cell line, so if the sex organs are homogeneous, the individual will not be expected to exhibit any intersex traits; may present with ambiguous genitalia, or both male and female genitalia in rare form of intersexuality formerly known as “true hermaphroditism”).

    So… do you want me to strip, or what? Or do you plan to check my chromosomes? You might have to check various parts of my body. And how are you going to know… for sure?

    There is no doubt that men have historically marginalized women. But women are also oppressed due to gender identity, race, religion, social class, perceived attractiveness, sexual orientation, and ability. No one is equal until all are equal.

    Trans women are WOMEN, If you pulled your head out of your @$$ and took some time to educate yourself on the subject and opened your mind and got to KNOW some transgender women, you’d know that,

    There is a special place in hell for women who oppress and marginalize other women. Have a WONDERFUL day.

  30. Females have a right to organize for themselves. This does not mean they fear trans* folk; it only means that they are setting a boundary that should be respected.

    Besides, the conference is for radical feminists in particular; not all feminists are invited.

    Energy is better spent boycotting and protesting conservative conferences instead.

    • Energy is best spent opposing those who would cause us harm. Last year a group of trans activist protested against an event planned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a medical organisation that draws upon outdated patriarchal ideals in its attempt to control our bodies.

      Sheila Jeffreys would cause us harm. She goes further than RCPsych in calling for an end to medical interventions for those trans people who require them.

      There’s a link here as well in the figure of Julie Bindel, an outspoken radical feminist who speaks from a similar position to Jeffreys. In a bewildering twist, she was booked to speak at the RCPsych event last year.

      I do not believe that radical feminist is necessarily set against trans people, but there is certainly a strand within radical feminism that is, and this is embodied in figures such as Jeffreys, Bindel and Janice Raymond, who have historically allied themselves with right-wing groups to oppose trans liberation.

      Oh, and there’s your implication that trans people can’t be female. Thanks for that, the erasure is greatly appreciated as always.

  31. Ruth,

    You say that you will never be sold the “learn to love your body as it is” argument, but this argument is very important as a part of feminist politics, and intrinsic in radical feminism. You are right as well at saying that people who do not ‘transition’ will never understand what that experience means fully, which is the same as women will tell you about the experience of being born women. Therefore, it seems like there are personal experiences which direct our understanding and believes to different theoretical positions.

    To criticise the act of transitioning is like criticising any other practice, and it is important to do so. I can see some parallelisms, and I am not saying it’s the same but that there are some similarities, with criticising ablation. It is a practice that affects women greatly and has many health implications, specially when performed in countries with poor access to sanity services. And yet, it is performed by women only, and thousands of women submit to it voluntarily, due to the impossibility to find a husband before ablation, and the normalisation that this practice has attained in their societies: it is seen as a transition from child to womanhood, and a woman is not perceived as fully grown, as a real woman, until past the procedure. Only through criticism and close examination, and the reorganisation of the beliefs of this communities within the community, a change of practice and mentality would possible.

    What I have understood until now is that putting aside of all the feelings and susceptibilities that have been hurt since the 70s until now between trans and radfem individuals, there is also and essential difference in strategy: trans and queer theory advocates for gender bending in order to eradicate the gender binary, radfem theory advocate for the complete eradication of gender in all its forms. For me personally, it would be great to be able to have this debate, in terms of strategy, all together. But is that even possible? What I have learned this past week is that dialog seems inconceivable. Everyone is showing to be very stubborn in their position, some by not wanting to criticise transitioning, others by denying the personal experience of people transitioning.

    Maybe part of the process of reconciliation will entail stopping the spiral of victimisation from part of of the trans community and its supporters, and stopping the spiral of negation from part of the radfems. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like anyone wants to start that process. It’s a real shame.

    You will say that in order to start a process of reconciliation trans should be allowed in the conference, as no dialog would be possible without one of its ‘dialogant’ parts. And I will agree with you, but the conference aims are not about starting a process of reconciliation with the trans community, but about getting further in the discussion of the radical feminist strategy, that is, on how to eradicate gender altogether. On that basis only I find understanding the necessity of an space in which this discussion is possible and not disrupted, not based on gender essentialism and discrimination, but purely on a difference in strategy and method.

  32. Pingback: ‘RadFem 2012: a uniting force against transphobia’ by Orlando « Resist RadFem12

  33. One trouble with reinventing ‘radical feminism’ on an old model is that it precludes the possibility that second wave feminism has in fact shaped some men (sadly a minority obviously) to be pro/feminist. I don’t mean to sideline the trans issue because I think the exclusion of trans and that of ‘men’ are linked here. If you want radicality you need to go down the intersectionality route in my opinion, and you also have to go beyond humanism. Radical feminism, in my opinion,also cannot be a humanist project, it cannot by definition only be about an equality agenda – feminism needs to redefine what the ‘human’ is…

  34. I really, really, really don’t understand exclusion of women who define themselves as women at ANY feminist gathering. To understand one another we have to listen, to listen we need to let people speak, to exclude means taking away a voice. Once you start taking away you leave gaps. In the gaps are misunderstandings, assumptions and fear. To be raised a ‘boy’ but be a woman to me is something any interesed feminist should want to know about. It’s an insight, with shared insights come wisdom.

  35. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this beautiful post. As a ciswoman, I have been horrified by Radfem 2012’s guidelines, and the arguments from many of its attendees. I only wish all women, cis or trans, could understand that we are ALL women, and no, that doesn’t mean that we had the same experience, but we all have the right to be feminists.

  36. Pingback: Resist RadFem 101 – Links Round-Up « Resist RadFem12

  37. It is good to read a thoughtful piece on these issues.

    I am going to the Radfem conference and wanted to make a few points.

    1. I understand why you might think Radical feminists and their allies would want to spit in your face, but in my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. I would challenge all oppression including someone attacking or discriminating against transexuals. Howeer I don’t view excluding transexuals from this event as discriminating.

    2. This conference is for those who are radical feminists or are interested and want to know more. You can’t be transexual and be a radical feminist – you just can’t. It doesn’t fit with the philosophy. Just as you can’t be a black panther and be white. You can be sympathetic to the philosophies and theories,but you can’t be a radical feminist.

    3. More from the comments – lors of groups with political beliefs meet amongst themselves to discuss those. This includes political parties for example as well as those looking at socialism or single issue political campaigns. It doesn’t mean that those groupos are not trying to get their message out there or listen to opposing views. It is simply a space to talk about the details of theories and philosophies with those starting from a similar point. Hardly revolutionary.

    4. Nearly every group in society organises conferences or events that don’t include everyone. This includes Transexuals who organise events and meetings for those who are transexual – which is fine. Would you really want radical feminists there telling you they don’t think you are the sex you say you are? I really don’t see the difference with this event.

    5. I don’t understand why so much energy and vitriol is being put in by transexuals to protesting about this 1 small conference of radical feminists that in reality have very little power. Why do you feel so threatened about it? What really is the big deal? Transexuals already have access in the UK to virtually all women only spaces and groups. Why try and deny us this tiny space?

    6. You are right radical feminists and Transexuals will never agree on the definition of women. But legally Transexuals have won the battle. To continue to berate as this letter does or in more extreme cases of certain individuals harasss radical feminists, really does seem like misogyny. Otherwise why do it?

    • It isn’t that you’re getting together and talking, its that as radical feminists you oppose the trans community, which shouldn’t be as alarming as it is. I agree. But the nature of society these days is very adversarial and I do think that radical feminism had a part to play in the way things are now, along with every other group within larger movements that contributes to infighting… which almost all. I can’t really think of a movement not plagued by infighting in some way. Some worse than others.

      Of course they feel threatened. The right and all those who would send them to internment camps look to you guys as feminists who don’t support trans rights. And some of you are down right nasty about it leaving lots of vitriol to go around.

      We’ve come to a cultural space where compromise is weakness and disagreement on ideological grounds is sometimes all it takes for two sides to give up discussion and start slinging insults and personal attacks at each other.

      Every group should have the right to meet, and discuss their shared similarities, differences and whatever else they decide. And if that discussion wanders into hate speech that should be addressed. However, as much as you ought to (and do) have the right to have a convention and meet and discuss things. Those who feel you are actively opposed to their existence are allowed to voice their opinion.

  38. i, as a lesbian woman, wouldn’t want to attend a trans, MTF, situation. I’m not trans. So why would you want to attend something that is radically feminist? You can’t be a radical feminist, you are not female. Not sure why this doesn’t make sense. It’s sad to be excluded, isn’t it? Women have been excluded long enough. We don’t pick what gender we are, we know we are female and we are proud of this. Go meet w/ other trans people over there and wave your flag, it’s your right. But you have no idea what it is like to be a woman, so why do you think you should get the priviledge?

    • Yes, we can, because we are Female: Female by holistic, biological observation of majority sexual dimorphism. This is why the majority of men AND women see me as Female and why my birth certificate and driver’s licenses indicate “F.”

      You have no more idea what it is like to be a woman than I do and my idea is likely superior, because I had to do without womanhood for years and had to risk everything to transition to it. I appreciate it a lot more.

      If there should be no Male privilege, then there should be no Female privilege, so why is the community built on exclusion? Radfems: at least as bad as men.

  39. I wish harm on every male on the planet. Plain and simple. No matter how you play dress up. If you are male, no thanks.
    Meanwhile, I walk around with harm being done and wished upon me every minute of the day because I am female..

    • what cuckooland do you live in?
      I’m sure that the vast majority of women float through life quite happily without any harm wished upon them although if they look like women they are a constant source of sexual interest from every man.
      Most women are quite happy with that.

      • “I’m sure that the vast majority of women float through life quite happily without any harm wished upon them although if they look like women they are a constant source of sexual interest from every man.
        Most women are quite happy with that.”

        Wow. I’d rather live in DLT’s “cuckooland” than yours. I don’t know ANY woman who hasn’t been raped, assaulted, denied employment, stalked, or threatened with harm- sometimes by trans-women (why is that, I wonder? Seems like a very male thing to do). Not a one. I have NEVER threatened or wished harm on ANYONE. And, I am NOT happy being ogled, catcalled or groped almost every time I am in a public space.

        You have your head in the sand. Privilege, big time.

        • I don’t understand why you have to turn a perfectly valid point about rape culture into an attack upon trans women. Yes, some trans women rape, assault, deny employment, stalk, or threaten people with harm. So do some cis women (and I’m not calling cis women “men” when they rape…I’m calling them rapists). But all of us are considerably more likely to be on the receiving end of this awful experiences.

  40. In theory all of this is great. Then I think of the women’s group I attended last year. A room of 20 women. Someone comes in late. It’s someone in a dress. Someone in a dress with a beard, sideburns, men’s shoes, clown makeup. They sit with their legs spread so wide that nuttage is almost scene. It’s not a joke either. This person lives like this and sees themselves as female. Speaks with low tones. Man 100% save for the dress and anything else you want to say is a female thing. I’m supposed to attend something for women while accepting all trans folks when this person is in that group? I’m not supposed to single out people and accept them all as a group when this person shows and makes me stand up and leave a women’s group? I’m supposed to talk about issues in my life with a man in a dress sneering at me? You have got to be joking. Not only would I attend radfem I would host it in my house if I could. There’s a certain level of respect a trans person should have towards the lady part females. This is the start of it. I don’t want you in the tampon aisle with me either to be honest. I can respect what you are doing without trying to remind you every 5 minutes that I am a natural woman, why would a trans person want to make me uncomfortable and try to attend a group that I am at where they have no business in my opinion. This isn’t about the colour of your skin or godly beliefs, it’s about something a trans person will never understand, the oppression of waking up every day a woman in a world that treats us like we are (thank you yoko ono) the nigger of the world.

    • Ruby, you’re defining that person, who explicitly identified themselves as female, as a man because of a beard, low voice, men’s shoes… you must know there are cis-women with noticeable facial hair, with low voices, or who wear men’s shoes.

      How are your definitions any less reductive and gender-binary-enforcing, than the patriarchy-tastic media and pop culture which regularly shames hairy women, or women with deep voices, or women who dress un-stereotypically-femininely?

      • I’ll go twit Ruth pon this and say that that person with the beard and dress and male body language was obviously a male. probably slightly TG in having an urge to crossdress but if he was really woman there would be a subconscious femaleness that would direct him to having the correct image and body language – ie no beard and no open legs.
        I am sure three are lesbians with considerable face hair but that is the pseudo-PCOS side-effect of BRSS.

    • And I don’t want you in my feminism if you think it’s okay to repeat such racist slurs. Ono may be a WOC, but she is not a black woman and as such had no claims to reappropriate that word.

      • I agree with you about not appropriating the N word. I also believe it’s not OK appropriating the word “female” by trans women. Trans* women are NOT female.

    • “[…] why would a trans person want to make me uncomfortable and try to attend a group that I am at where they have no business in my opinion.”

      Ah… squeamishness, then. Glad that’s been sorted out. I can readily accept squeamishness as a motivation for prejudice. God knows, it has a long and ignominious historical record on the political right wing, or do you consider yourself left wing? I find it hard to tell the difference, when the extreme tips of both wings are glaring at me in loathing and moral outrage…

      But don’t worry about me trying to barge in on your private members’ clubs. Curiously, I have enough to occupy myself by being afflicted with this ghastly condition that makes me feel imprisoned in some hideous alien body… and which I did not, BTW, choose on a whim to be a sufferer of, but have have to endure all of my life. I am not asking and never would ask for full and unconditional inclusion into the inner circles of radical feminism, but a little compassion does not seem that unreasonable to hope for…

      To be honest, I’m just very glad right now to be British, and thus in a country where medical care is accessible to me and is not at all swayed by your views. I would be interested, however, to know how you, and the likes of Bev Jo, Janice Raymond et al. would explain why a publicly-funded health system such as the British NHS would go to the trouble of treating gender dysphoria if they did not consider it to be a very real and damaging condition.

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  42. After reading through all the comments and having what I thought was a simple issue redefined as something very complex, I’m going to try and simplify it again:
    This is an argument about who is oppressed more. Is it cis women, because they never had even a taste of male privilege? Is it trans women, because they deal with the added oppression of being trans? The right to exclude others is forfeited when you exercise privilege over those you are excluding.

    Because I dont think anyof us have ever been both, none of us can answer with anything more than our own experience. But when in doubt, it’s best to favor inclusion of voices over exclusion, diversity of opinion over sameness.

    And I would tentatively posit that trans women, especially feminist trans women, are not the oppressors that any kind of feminism should work to exclude.

      • Right. Many of the comments do argue that point. This is a really big bummer about feminism right now.

        But even if we take it as a given that trans women are indeed women, the argument wouldn’t be over. There would still be dissension over which type of woman would have the right to exclude whom.

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  45. Any guidance for cis women planning to attend in order to fight cissexism from the inside?

    Stop at the front door. Let people who would go inside know why you’re stopping, why you can’t stand for this.

    You can’t fight this kind of misogyny from inside this conference anymore than you could fight racism from inside a segregated restaurant.

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  48. After reading through the comments here, all I can say is that I would really like to see white radical feminists and white transwomen *stop* arguing these issues at each other while cherry picking Black women’s words, histories, and experiences for scoring points.

    I have a feeling I wont see that anytime soon.

    • Hello,

      I’m trying not to do this, but probably need to try harder. Sorry.

      To clarify my reference to black feminism in the original post: it was meant to act as an acknowledgement, i.e. the ideas and language I’m drawing upon came from black feminists theorists, not from trans feminism.

      I can’t speak for anyone else in the comment thread because I have no idea as to whether or not they are white (although I suspect the vast majority are).

    • To be honest I’ve given up on the white women in these raging arguments, on either side, ever really examining how their whiteness impacts concepts like “female” and “woman” and “feminiity”. I would just like people to stop using Black women’s words as long as this deeper analysis and acknowledgement is going to be absent.

      • Typical. I read so many poc women responding to respectful, often overly apologetic posts/ comments from white women say “I’ve given up on white women” to ever really understand or examine. Very weak position, which causes you to lose allies. Ruth, and many other white women, show interest and consideration and if you feel like they are missing out on issues, they are willing to learn. Saying instead that you’ve given up on them because they will never understand anyway is a real shame. Best wishes, a non-white woman.

        • My position comes out of years of experiences with white feminists; if you are possessed of superior knowledge, then by all means you can step in and educate and ally gather to your little heart’s content!

  49. Pingback: Lesbilicious » The responses to RadFem2012 show our queer and feminist communities to be standing strong against transphobia

  50. Dear Ruth,

    Thank you very much for sharing these heartfelt, but also well thought words!

    I wasn’t aware of the whole debate in the feminist movement and in my naivety I thought the only transphobic people are 1) men and 2) some women with fundamentalist beliefs about religion. Of course a feminist couldn’t be transphobic, could she?

    Well, after I read your post I’ve been lost in different blogs and articles for at least one hour. I’m amazed at the level of intolerance and nastiness in some supposedly ”enlightened” corners.

    I’m a feminist. As a feminist I’m against sexism, homophobia and transphobia. I cannot understand how a feminist conference can exclude some women or arrogate the right to define if one participant is a ”real” woman.

    Be well!



  51. I get the sense that you see this as being about you as an individual being identified with men: they don’t know you, or particularly care about you, because in their mind you are not a part of their community and never will be.

    They don’t believe that individuals get to define their own gender. In my experience, many radical feminists are of the “I am a woman because society told me so” camp: that is, their gender was defined by the body they were born into and what people told them they were. It had a profound and lasting effect, this coercive assignment into a category that they chose to claim because that was what people told them they were. For these people, that is the entire definition of gender: it is what people tell you you are.

    That is what they are assembling to discuss. It is an experience you did not have, because you have gender identity.

    The closest parallel is body integrity disorder. Imagine for a moment someone who cut off their own arm because it felt like a foreign and alien invader attending a convention of people who’s arms were amputated for medical reasons. That is the conflict at play here: you went looking for something the radical feminists never wanted, had force upon themselves anyway and now are coping with in a world that despises them.

    It is no wonder the two are in direct opposition: your existence negates their lived experience and yours negates theirs.

  52. Pingback: #RadFem2012: Exposure doesn’t make the media your friends « Graham's Grumbles

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  54. If you’re a dude, you’re a dude. What you have is Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
    Females have mutual knowledge that males are not privy to. So female-only spaces will remain. That’s just the way it is.

  55. FEMALE DEF: Female (♀) is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, which produces non-mobile ova (egg cells).

    If you want to be a woman fine. But feminism gets it’s name from female, as does the ♀ that mtf’s appropriate; closely related to the ‘life’ ankh symbol. That is; only a female can give life.

    These things are very important to females. Your complete disregard is what shows that you are women but not female and do not undertsand females at all. If you understood females you would understand our symbols and not appropriate them.

    If you understood you would enter female spaces with some respect. We can talk about women’s issues together, but females need to talk about female issues and you are welcome there too IF and ONLY IF you start respecting females’ unique issues, that is females’ unique issues and not womens’.

    When you start to do this you may magically find that feminists who are interested in female issues won’t mind you being around at all.

    Try it and see. Or shut up please for god’s sake. The whole scientific community is NOT going to change what is scientifically female and male just to suit you.

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  57. “Cis-” is a purely technical term. It has no political meaning. And if it is “hate speech,” too bad. It’s more harmless than “gringo,” considering that 99.99% of the world’s population from you to Mitt Romney are cisgendered. If it is an epithet, a more meaningless epithet could not be crafted. I’m reminded of the time a kid tried to insult me by calling me a “homo sapiens.” I really couldn’t argue with that. Everyone has these big complicated theories on who’s oppressing whom. The shit gets so convoluted and masturbatory that I question whether the human mind is anything but chemicals mixing together. The species vomits up every possible idea on identity and right amd wrong, and still manages to keep killing the planet 24-7. The more I listen to debates like this, the greater my faith that humanity will destroy itself.

  58. Reading this I am glad to be Canadian. That kind of discrimination in Canada would lead to peoPle rioting against radfem. They Probly wouldn’t have even been allowed to set it up

  59. The tiny enclave of exclusion calling itself Radfem reminds me of a snake eating its tail and I suspect that it/they will eventually and effectively prove to be as permanently self-consuming. It certainly shows no signs of being an entity holding growth potential…clearly it is something that started small that will only get smaller as between its extremist polarization, roots obviously borne from hate and anger fueled by vitriolic volatility, it presents as self-oxidizing as thermite (no shelf life there either and an even shorter active life)…Radfem and those thereof will inherently be its own undoing…less than five years from now it will only exist in memory and history.

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