Trans-Exclusive Feminism Essay

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Modern social media has coined an acronymic term to capture a sect of feminism making a resurgence in the public sphere. TERFs, or trans-exclusive radical feminists, see the increased visibility of the transgender community thanks to activists like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Carmen Carrera, and have countered with transgender exclusivity. As a result, a divide has deepened in the feminist movement, a war of sorts between trans-exclusive and trans-inclusive activists—a TERF war. In this essay, I analyze the theory behind trans-exclusive feminism, positioning it within contemporary feminist history. This essay asserts that trans-exclusive radical feminism undermines feminist theory by perpetuating a misguided relationship between sex and gender,…show more content…
Modern feminism pins gender as a main component of patriarchal society. As a result, modern trans-exclusive feminism blames transgender people for sustaining patriarchy by reinforcing the structure of gender. Cathy Brennan, head of the Gender Identity Watch, takes this position to possibly its furthest point, arguing, “the foundation of the entire “Transgender Rights Movement” is based on violence against women, censorship of women, and the elimination of the Human Rights of women” (“Transgender Ghouls for Suicide and Death”). The blog and organization Gender Identity Watch is a self-described tracker of legislation attempting to override protections based on sex by writing gender identity into law. A great deal of the organization’s actions fall directly in line with the mantra of its leader and avid fans; trans-exclusive feminists see transwomen as threatening female solidarity and using “weapons like the term “cisprivilege” to...offend born-females” (“The insanity of the term…show more content…
This is particularly palpable in the phenomenon of gender roles. “Oversimplified conceptions pertaining to our behavior as females or males,” gender roles boil down our gender and anatomical performance into categories of “boy” or “girl” (Basow 3). Patriarchy then builds systemic inequality off this simplistic binary foundation, attaching “male” to spheres of power and “female” to spheres of powerlessness. Gender roles are one of many patriarchal infrastructures that thrive off a concrete definition of gender and/or sex, and so modern feminism has found power in dismantling both constructions. Interestingly, trans-exclusive feminists may claim to champion the demolition of such social constructions. Their theories and actions, however, tell a different story—a much more problematic story. I do not at any point wish to generalize trans-exclusive feminists; like all other people, each holds their own personal beliefs and lived experiences. What this essay considers is the edifice of trans-exclusive feminism itself, the flaws inherent in being exclusionary toward the trans* community, and how this exclusivity is counterproductive to the tenets of

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