Draft:Trans-exclusionary radical feminism by country
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The unique position of TERF ideology in the United Kingdom has earned the country the nickname "TERF Island."
TERFs are a minority tendency in the American feminist discourse, concentrated primarily among older second-wave feminists who came of age amidst the women's liberation movement of the 1970s and '80s. In the US, the anti-transgender movement, like the anti-gay movement, is mostly driven by religious conservatives and often comes bundled with anti-feminism, while younger third-wave feminists take a more intersectional approach that, among other things, embraces transgender rights and a looser understanding of gender as a concept.
It is a very different story, however, in the United Kingdom. TERFs hold a mainstream position within the British feminist movement, and serve as the main face of British anti-trans activism as opposed to religious conservatives, to the point where there has been friction between American and British feminists over the issue. In 2018, Sam Levin, Mona Chalabi, and Sabrina Siddiqui, three American journalists writing for The Guardian, publicly disavowed an anti-trans editorial published in the paper, citing its similarity to the rhetoric of American religious conservatives and the Donald Trump administration. In the other direction, in 2019 Posie Parker and Julia Long, two anti-trans British feminists, traveled to Washington to ambush Sarah McBride, a trans woman and the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, live-streaming footage of themselves hurling anti-trans invective at McBride. They said that they came to Washington because they saw the United States as the global heartland for transgender rights activism and "political correctness" in general, and wanted to challenge it on its "home turf".
The rise of trans-exclusionary radical feminism in the UK is for a variety of historical reasons. To start, while the cultural feminist tendencies that bred transphobia were born in the US in the '70s, in the UK they attained a far more commanding position, with lesbian separatists getting heavily involved in the anti-nuclear movement in the '80s due to them seeing the nuclear standoff of the era as a symbol of the patriarchy's worst excesses. Furthermore, without an organized Religious Right in Britain hostile to both feminism and transgender rights, the intersectional alliances between activists in both movements and others never emerged the way they did in the US. As such, post-Thatcher Britain saw relatively few of the broad, popular left-wing social movements that characterized the American left during that time; the movements against racism, police brutality, environmental degradation, and sexual harassment and assault were largely American-led affairs within the Anglosphere, to the point where some Brits came to see such movements as fundamentally rooted in American concerns that were of less relevance beyond American shores. The blind spots of the British skeptical movement in the '90s and 2000s, and the positions many figures from such would later attain in British media, also played an unfortunate role. Pushback against postmodernism and alternative medicine often took the form of a fetishization of the "hard" sciences to the point of biological determinism, and a dismissal of the humanities and social sciences as corrupted by nonsense pushed by people with an axe to grind and rooted more in ideology than science. This made queer theory into a target of ridicule, seen as postmodern junk undermining a "biological" understanding of gender. Finally, the parenting forum Mumsnet played a major role during the '00s and '10s. Mumsnet is a major online social space for young mothers in the UK, a demographic that is often quite feminist-leaning but also receptive to "think of the children" arguments, and they proved to be an easy market for rhetoric couched in feminist language calling trans people and rights a threat to their kids.
Centrist author JK Rowling definitively outed herself as a TERF by defending Maya Forstater after the latter lost an employment tribunal. Rowling claimed that Forstater had been forced out of her job for saying that ‘sex was real’. However a reading of the legal documents that Forstater herself posted online, which were ably broken down by Dr. Pimenta reveals that she was a contractor, and her employer simply declined to rehire her, based on her anti trans comments made on the company / charity Slack channel, and the fact that her Twitter comments, made publicly under her own name, had made full-time staff uncomfortable. In a further plot twist, it turns out Forstater may have been in an unpaid volunteer position, so that in effect, a TERF has sued a poverty-related non-profit think-tank because they didn’t want her as a volunteer.
Forstater recently became very excited that Posie Parker was supporting her and Rowling.
Despite her claims to be an ordinary woman with ‘concerns’ about GRA, Forstater was recently revealed to be running the 2010Equality Twitter account, dedicated to spreading misinformation about the ECHR legislation. She also has 'media representatives' and has stated that period poverty is "not a real issue" despite being told otherwise by several women who have actually experienced poverty. She has also said that the tampon tax is 'not misogynistic', an extremely odd position for a so called feminist to take, and that "£20 per year is not a material amount to anyone's welfare," which suggests she doesn't understand poverty or money.
TERFs are a small minority of German feminists. The most active, purportedly German group is WHRC Germany, a hate group that is led by Stefanie Bode. However it was founded in the UK and lists its address as Mildenhall, a provincial town in Brexit Land, and is arguably a British TERF group that is trying to recruit in Germany, not unlike how Russian trolls like to pose a U.S. gun nuts.
Arcilesbica has historically been a mostly benign lesbian organization (and the most widely known one). Since 2017, it has become more and more transphobic, to the point that their focus is now mostly anti-transgender and anti-surrogacy activism (while also holding anti-sexworker and anti-pornography views). About half of their local chapters, who disagreed with this transphobic change of position, decided to shut down, or to reform themselves as minor separate local organizations.
Because of the the symmetry of its name with Arcigay, Italy's largest (and trans-friendly) LGBT organization, Arcilesbica enjoys a status of legitimacy as a progressive/LGBT force in Italy's collective imagination.
Before 2017, Italian feminism had generally been unconcerned and indifferent about trans issues. Marina Terragni, a journalist and center-left politician, later founded Radfem Italia, with the same political goals of Arcilesbica.
Another central hub of Italian's conservative feminism is Milan Women's Library.
Giovanni dall'Orto, who has historically been a predominant gay activist, has also declared himself an opponent of the transgender rights movement, and has sometimes been referred to as "the Italian Glinner".
Se Non Ora Quando (Snoq) is another feminist movement that generally holds anti-trans views (although transphobia is not their main focus), while Non una di meno generally tends to be more trans-inclusive and intersectional.)
|—Gender studies scholar Elisabeth Lund Engebretsen on her literal colleague and prominent transphobe Anne Kalvig|
TERFs make up a rather small minority among Norwegian feminists, but enjoy some support on the fringes of some of the radical feminist organizations, mainly among radical feminists of the boomer generation. Among the vast majority of leftists and centrists in Norway, and especially among young people, TERFs are viewed as a hate group. Paying attention to international fads, Norwegian TERFs often refer to themselves as "gender-critical". Most of the TERFs are disgruntled (former) supporters of the maoist Workers' Communist Party (AKP) or its successor Red, but in contrast the Red party and its youth organization are among the strongest critics of TERF ideology, and Red's youth leader Alberte Bekkhus has criticized the transphobia of TERFs and pointed out that "you can not call yourself a feminist if you are trans-exclusionary." As a result Norwegian TERFs are increasingly embracing the far right and far-right talking points.
The main promoter of TERF ideology in Norway is full-time TERF activist Tonje Gjevjon, who has started half a dozen anti-trans groups (mostly with the same handful of members). A case in point, Gjevjon has been consumed by the struggle against trans people and spends every waking moment peddling transphobia on Twitter and Facebook, and says she has been deplatformed by everyone from the Conservative Party to the communists due to her transphobia. The former TV personality Kari Jaquesson, who is unusually fond of conspiracy theories and who is notable for supporting both the radfem TERF-leaning group Kvinnegruppa Ottar (Women's Group Ottar) and the alt-right anti-feminist men's rights group Mannegruppa Ottar (Men's Group Ottar), has described herself as a TERF; Jaquesson (born 1962) is also a climate change denier, peddles anti-semitic conspiracy theories, is an enthusiastic supporter of Bashar al-Assad and insists Greta Thunberg is "an ugly child". A dedicated TERF group is Kvinneaktivistene (The Women Activists), a tiny splinter group from Kvinnegruppa Ottar led by former Workers' Communist Party activist Jane Nordlund and Anna Kathrine Eltvik. Another TERF group is lesbian separatist group Lesber i Dagslys (Leda), that consists of a number of mostly septuagenarian lesbian TERFs who left Norway's main LGBT rights group in protest over the latter's trans-inclusive views.
“”Transphobes love to create "organizations" with silly names like "Women's Human Rights Organization" or "Parent Network for This and That." It is still the same 5–6 idiots who create all of them, and the "organizations" mostly exist on social media.
|—Zealuu nailing it after Norwegian TERF Tonje Gjevjon created half a dozen anti-trans "organizations"|
Tonje Gjevjon, Kari Jaquesson, Anne Kalvig, Christina Eline Ellingsen, Tina Skotnes, Marielle Leraand, Kamilla Aslaksen and Oline Margrethe Rustad have started a Norwegian branch of the notorious TERF hate group "Women's Human Rights Campaign" (WHRC), well known for its open bigotry and collaboration with the religious far right in the U.S., and its perverse usurpation of the language of "human rights" in the service of anti-trans bigotry and indeed overt anti-feminism. The group came to prominence in Norway through its use of Fred Phelps-sounding slogans such as "stop heresy in primary schools, girls and women don't have penises" and "only women are women" on international women's day in 2021. It has also published a rambling anti-trans manifesto on the Internet with all the classic TERF talking points, and with around 150 signatures (although many are anonymous). WHRC and Gjevjon have also founded a fringe website called Matriarken, dedicated to peddling fear of trans people and "trans activists" and their alleged violence.
Despite their own background as mostly maoists, WHRC now complains about the "trans lobby" being the "extreme left", and approvingly and constantly quotes far-right sources. WHRC has embraced the "Super Straight" meme, a troll campaign started by neo-Nazi agitators on 4chan to invalidate and mock trans people's gender identities; its members have widely shared or referenced the meme on Twitter, and the group references the meme on its website and even in its e-mail address ("super"). They also have close links to the conspiracist website Steigan.no and to the prominent Holocaust denier Hans Olav Brendberg, with most of the leadership of WHRC sharing a Facebook post by Brendberg gloating over the collaboration between TERFs and the religious right against trans people. The group frequently also shares scaremongering stories from other right-wing sources such as The Post Millennial. The group claims the main function of Norway's equality ombudsperson Hanne Bjurstrøm is to discriminate against women (due to her enforcement of legal protections for LGBT people). Longing for "true" conservatives like Viktor Orbán, WHRC has claimed that the very "worst thing about Norway" is that Norwegian conservatives are LGBT-friendly and socially progressive. Unsurprisingly, WHRC is quite fond of Vlad the Poisoner and some of their members use slogans like "#IStandWithRussia" rather than the more familiar "#IStandWithRowling".
Further illustrating the convergence of the far right and the far left, the far-right anti-immigrant website Document.no, owned by Hans Rustad and best known for inspiring Anders Behring Breivik, published an article praising Gjevjon and WHRC, and gleefully noting that anti-trans radical feminists had been enthusiastic about a previous anti-trans article published by the website. Rustad is the father of WHRC co-founder Oline Rustad, and himself made a rather similar ideological journey from maoism to wingnut bigotry.
While the signatories of WHRC's transphobic declaration – and presumably the hate group's membership – includes at least two board members of Kvinnefronten (Skotnes and Rustad), at least one board member of that organization has publicly criticized TERF ideology within the radical feminist organizations, and 2,500 progressive feminists have signed a declaration condemning transphobia within radfem organizations. It is a fair assumption that Kvinnefronten is somewhat divided on the issue, whereas Kvinnegruppa Ottar (itself a splinter group from Kvinnefronten) is more firmly in the TERF camp. While Kvinnegruppa Ottar also peddles transphobic themes such as the "bathroom scare", the organization's elected head uses a more toned down rhetoric than openly extremist groups such as WHRC and Kvinneaktivistene that in contrast focus solely on anti-trans activism.
- Burns, Katelyn. "J.K. Rowling’s transphobia is a product of British culture." Vox, 19 December 2019 (recovered 19 December 2019).
- Sam Levin, Mona Chalabi and Sabrina Siddiqui. "Why we take issue with the Guardian’s stance on trans rights in the UK." The Guardian, 2 November 2018 (recovered 17 October 2019).
- Miller, Edie. "Why is British media so transphobic?" The Outline, 5 November 2018 (recovered 17 October 2019).
- Forstater Case
- Dr Pimenta’s analysis
- Cursed E on Twitter.
- Maya Forstater on Twitter.p
- Helen (mimmymum) on Twitter.
- Forstater Claims Period Poverty is Not a Real Issue
- M Forstater on the Tampon Tax
- La misura è colma. Sulla transfobia di Arcilesbica
- Elisabeth Lund Engebretsen on Anne Kalvig's transphobia
- Transdebatten: – Transfobi hindrer kvinnekampen
- Transfobi på norsk, Dagbladet
- Didrik Søderlind (Norwegian Humanist Association) on Kari Jaquesson's support for both radfem group Kvinnegruppa Ottar and anti-feminist group Mannegruppa Ottar
- Kari Jaquesson: "Mann kan ikke bli kvinne
- Didrik Søderlind (Norwegian Humanist Association): Kunsten å 'bare stille spørsmål'
- Kari Jaquesson fjernes fra Jenteprisen etter at flere nominerte trakk seg, VG
- The Unholy Alliance of Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists and the Right Wing, Jezebel
- "Slår tilbake mot anklagene om å være hatefull mot transkvinner" [Hits back against accusations of being hateful towards trans women], Klassekampen 12 February 2021, p. 8
- Signatories of the anti-trans manifesto of the "Women's Human Rights Campaign"
- Tweet by Norwegian TERF Tonje Gjevjon peddling fear of "trans activists"
- Cite error: Invalid
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- The 'super straight' campaign taking over TikTok is actually just ugly transphobic trolling
- On Norwegian TERF retweeting Nazi meme
- Tweet by Norwegian TERF Tonje Gjevjon
- Facebook post by Hans Olav Brendberg gloating over the collaboration between TERFs and the religious right against trans people, liked and shared by most of the leadership of WHRC Norway
- Tweet by Women's Human Rights Campaign Norge
- WHRC on the equality ombud "discriminating against women" by enforcing legal protections for LGBT people
- WHRC on "the worst thing about Norway" being conservatives' LGBT-friendly views
- WHRC member: #IStandWithRussia
- "Svensk feminist: Kvinner taper på at kjønn relativiseres". Document.no, 31 March 2021 [link to extremist website deliberately ommitted]
- Opprop for inkluderende kvinnekamp