An old friend of mine has become a hard-line Radfem. Donna asked if we could stop and visit with her on our way from New York to Cape Ann (she lives in the feminist stronghold of Northampton), and she said no.
She said a lot more than no. She’d read Gender Hurts by Sheila Jeffreys and agreed with everything in it. I sat on the beach, surfed the internet, and downloaded a copy (see notes below). I wanted to understand what I was up against.
If you are unfamiliar with the Radfem perspective, this is my brief summary based on reading the book:
- Gender is a caste system constructed by the patriarchy to oppress women.
- Gender should be abolished.
- There are only two sexes – men and women. It doesn’t matter how you identify, what hormones you take, and what surgeries you have; there is no escaping your original genitals and chromosomes.
- Changing your sex (Radfems don’t believe in gender) is an illusion, a delusion, or a fantasy.
- Trans women are not women; they are men who claim they are women. They are out to destroy feminism and lesbian/women only spaces (by invading them and insisting on their right to be in them). Radfems believe that only “women born women” can know what it feels like or what it means to be a woman.
- Trans men are women who claim they are men. They have mutilated themselves to gain male privilege. They are unwittingly destroying feminism and lesbian/women only spaces (by leaving the community and taking their partners with them).
- Radfems do not recognize/use the terms gender binary, cisgender, non-binary, or genderqueer; you are either a Radfem or a dupe/puppet of the patriarchy. They consider the word cisgender to be a slur because they believe that women are by definition “women born women.”
- Women should choose, as a political act, to be lesbians or remain celibate.
Whew. Radfems are a small (tiny) segment of feminism. I would say fringe, but I know that many mainstream feminists also sit in judgement. They doubt the authenticity of trans women’s lives (without demonizing them) and think that trans men are butch lesbians who drank the Kool Aid. On a really bad day, when I am wracked with self-doubt, those thoughts cross my mind, but then I talk myself out of it. All gender identities are valid, including mine. Continue reading