Reflecting on “​My message to those who would attend Radfem 2012”

Note: this is the second part of my response to transphobia during Feminist Times’ “Gender Week”. You can read the first part here.

It’s been almost two years now since I published the most widely-read piece I’ve yet written: “My message to those who would attend Radfem 2012“.

I actually wrote this piece quite quickly. I remember turning it over in my mind for a few hours, and then writing it up and posting it to my blog without any inkling of how it would be read by thousands of people. I was angry, but also upset, with part of my upset arising from a sense of empathy for those I disagreed with. You, like me, are damaged. You, like me, are hurt. Why is it that we must hurt one another so?

Ironically, it was also this piece that helped me come to the conclusion that I was right to engage in ideological struggles against transphobic forms of radical feminism. Engaging in this struggle is – in a sense – an attempt at self-preservation, as well as an act of solidarity with other trans people.

I don’t personally participate much in the never-ending arguments between trans people and trans-exclusive radical feminists (“TERFs”) across Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. I don’t have the energy, and I’m not sure that it’s always productive to argue with individuals who are never going to be persuaded to change their views.

But I do think it is important to intervene on many occasions – for instance, when transphobic views are aired by TERFs in the mainstream media, or when TERFs are afforded platforms at feminist or LGBT events. The point is not to deny people the freedom to express their awful views: instead, the idea is to always contest these views. To ensure that anti-trans perspectives don’t start gaining additional traction.

In light of this, I’ve strived to keep “My message…” alive, in one form or another. I’ve performed bits of it on a number of occasions with Not Right (ironically, this frequently does not go well as references to feminism have riled cis men in the audience on a number of occasions). I’m hoping to read the whole thing out during an upcoming feminist event at the University of Warwick. And I’ve recently been working on a number of revisions, as I hope to create a new version with the same sense of flow but a somewhat wider outlook.

It was in this spirit that I granted Feminist Times permission to republish the piece as part of their “Gender Week”.

I wondered initially if I perhaps should have thought this through better. There was some confusion as I was originally asked to write a companion piece to accompany an article by Finn Mackay, but (due to external circumstances) wasn’t able to meet the deadline.

In retrospect, I feel I should have ensured that my article was published as a stand-alone piece. I feel like both my article and Finn’s attempt to “talk to” the other “side” in the supposed trans/radical feminist debate, but the way in which both pieces were written independently means we’re kind of talking past one another. This is a pity. Finn and I have a lot of common ground, and I feel we could have a productive and interesting dialogue about our differences.

Whilst the comment sections on many of the Gender Week articles have seen some extremely unpleasant views aired, and the Twitter hashtag (#GenderWeek) has spun horribly out of control, I’m glad to see Feminist Times offer a platform for trans voices in an attempt to thoughtfully address transphobia in the feminist movement.

It’s important that we create safe spaces for trans people to discuss gender, identity and politics. It’s also important that we reach beyond these spaces, lest trans discourse becomes an echo chamber. I’ve experienced quite serious burnout recently, but fully intend to keep talking about the place of trans people in feminism. Keeping “My message…” alive is an important part of this.

Of course, the resulting attentions of both male misogynists and the TERFs are horrific. One lesson we can learn from this is that trans people who gain a platform benefit from content warnings, strong moderation and (during offline events) “no tolerance” door policies, lest we buckle under the pressure of hatred received.

3 thoughts on “Reflecting on “​My message to those who would attend Radfem 2012”

  1. Pingback: Reflecting on “​My message to those who would attend Radfem 2012″ | Pasupatidasi's Blog

  2. It’s amazing that you’re trying to force your way into women’s safe spaces given your openly misogynistic and violent song lyrics. You claim there is nothing misogynistic about calling women you hate “stinking cunts” and threatening to “hit back” at them for making you angry. If someone doesn’t understand why calling women “stinking cunts” is misogynistic, they don’t belong in a women’s safe space. If someone doesn’t understand the difference between calling people “stinking cunts” and calling them “phalluses,” that person doesn’t belong in a women’s safe space. If someone doesn’t understand why calling a woman a cunt is not just liike calling her any other body part, that person doesn’t belong in a women’s safe space. If someone threatens to “hit back” women for something they say, that person doesn’t belong in a women’s safe space. If someone is prone to giving long, hair-splitting lectures on why threatening to “hit back” at a woman is so different from just threatening to “hit” a woman, that person doesn’t belong in a women’s safe space. If someone is prone to giving women long lectures on when they should and shouldn’t take that person’s threats of violence literally, there is no way that person belongs in a women’s safe space.

    The point of women’s safe spaces is to have a place where they are safe from the sort of person who calls women cunts.

    The point of women’s safe spaces is to have a place where they don’t have to worry about threats of violence, and get long lectures from the person issuing the threats on when they should and shouldn’t take it literally. The point is not having to worry about it at all.

    The point of women’s safe spaces is to be able to speak freely and honestly, not censor oneself in fear of being called a stinking cunt.

    These are the spaces you feel entitled to force yourself into?

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