What is a Woman? The Dispute Between Radical Feminism and Transgenderism.

by lizzfowler on January 26, 2015 - 7:43pm


The article What is a Woman? by Michelle Goldberg for The New Yorker on August 24th 2014 discusses the disagreement between radical feminism and transgenderism. On May 24th in Portland, Oregon, a few dozen women joined together for an event called “RadFems Respond”. The conference was called with the intention of dispelling the belief that disagreement in prostitution is equal to hostility toward all prostitutes. It was also called so that, in a time where we are as a society becoming more and more progressive, the RadFems were going to explain why they insist on regarding trans women as men and trans men as women. Among the LGBTQA+ community, we are no stranger to trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). They will often accept gay men and lesbians, but Trans men and women are left waiting outside the door. The TERF argument for why Trans people should not live their lives as their true gender is that it perpetuates misogynistic culture. A Trans woman cannot be a woman because she is appropriating female culture, and that a Trans man cannot be a man because he is giving in to patriarchy. To TERFs, a Trans woman is a man in drag, who is using his male privilege in order to be accepted as a woman in society. They see Trans men as women who felt so hopeless and powerless that they had to become men in order to live up to the position of power they desired. They often see trans men as women who betrayed the female community.

Trans-exclusionary radical feminist views on the transgender community are very counter-productive. At the root of their beliefs, TERFs are feminists. The whole point of being a modern-day feminist is to empower all women and men and inspire them break free of gender roles and stereotypes. RadFems and TERFs are contributing to a patriarchal and misogynistic society; they believe that gender and sex are non-exclusive. They openly believe that everyone with a penis in their pants is a man, and anyone with a vagina in their pants is a woman, thus perpetuating the very wrong belief that genitals make up some element of a person’s identity. They are basically continuing the stereotype that women are ‘walking vaginas’, which is possibly the most un-feminist view to have on any situation.

In order for the situation to improve for Trans folks everywhere, we as non-radical feminists need to accept all of our sisters and brothers, not just our cisgender ones. If you notice anyone purposely mis-gendering someone or giving them a hard time because of their gender identity, we can do the right thing and speak up. It may not make an immediate change, but we are already on our way to accepting all people of every gender in our society. Helping out a little bit along the way will only get us closer to that ultimate goal!


(I believe this is a reliable source becaus The New Yorker is a very widely read magazine that often has very reliable sources, such as Michelle Goldberg, who is a well-known journalist and author)