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Sheila Jeffreys is an English lesbian radical feminist (more specifically, TERF) academic. She is well-known for her virulent transphobia, namely her belief that being transgender is a "human rights violation."
“”Can I just say something about fundamentalism. It is important that, in Iran – and this is a connection I have with Alison here, because we're making connections today – in Iran transgenderism is totally approved, it's enforced by the state. Huge numbers of men are having transgender surgery and they're getting it on the state because homosexuals are executed. So, what I think is very fascinating is that there's a connection between the very jolly Blair government and their Gender Recognition Act and Iran. They love transgenderism because it does help to get rid of this serious problem of homosexuality and it enforces gender. Right? So we do need to be fighting, I think, transgenderism as a state 'project' in terms of gender.
At the same conference, she expressed support for ultra-conservative British politician Norman Tebbit's views on the Gender Recognition Act (which gave transgender people legal recognition under British law):
“”Now one of the things I find puzzling about it is that, when I look at the House of Lords debate on this legislation, those I agree with most are the radical right. Particularly the person I find that I agree with most, in here, and I'm not sure he will be pleased to find this, is Norman Tebbitt. Now, Norman Tebbitt is not having any of it, right, so in response to the Gender Recognition Act, he says, he gives a very good definition of gender as socially constructed and says, in your act you've got it confused, right, it should say sex and you've got gender. And Lord Filkin, for the government, who is putting this legislation through, says that sex and gender are the same thing and anyway, what does it matter? Right, isn't that extraordinary? Tebbitt then accuses him of linguistic relativism. Which I love. [laughter] Couldn't have put it better myself. Tebbitt also says that the savage mutilation of transgenderism, we would say if it was taking place in other cultures apart from the culture of Britain, was a harmful cultural practice, and how come we're not recognising that in the British Isles. So he makes all of these arguments from the radical right, which is quite embarrassing to me, but I have to say, so called progressive and left people are not recognising the human rights violations of transgenderism or how crazy the legislation is. The legislation makes us engage in a folie à everybody, right? Everybody now has to go mad in order to understand or respond to this legislation.
In Bisexual politics: A superior form of feminism?, Jeffreys falls back on the stereotype that bisexuals are incapable of forming long-lasting, loving relationships. She presents a biphobic manifesto meant to incriminate the entire bisexual movement as antifeminist and male-identified, describing bisexuality as "a way not to identify as lesbian or gay."[note 1] This is because the "loss of privilege involved in identifying as lesbian [is] significant and likely to encourage women to […] avoid such a definition." She essentially accuses bisexuals of wanting to lead heteronormative lives while enjoying the side benefits of queer sex or communities. She thinks bisexuals (along with trans and queer-identified people) are a political danger to lesbians.
Views on bodily autonomy
Jeffreys' 2005 book Beauty and Misogyny makes her seem militant and puritan. She sees all non-radfem women as mindless drones who passively accept a male-dominated culture. Why do they shave their legs? Why do they wear makeup or wear skirts or carry a purse? Well, because the male-dominated society makes them do it. She ascribes every activity a woman does--from putting on lipstick to wearing high heels--to the male-dominated culture that makes women do all these things purely for male sexual gratification, whether they realize it or not. Piercing your ears, navel, or getting a tattoo are forms of self-mutilation encouraged by the male-dominated beauty industry to make money and get women to look the way men want women to look. Jeffreys thinks women who have piercings or tattoos are being forced to have them by the male piercer/tattooist, in the same way as she thinks trans people only have surgery because they're forced to by the government. She doesn't try to substantiate the claims of anyone being forced to change their bodies with any concrete evidence.
- Worth noting that the boundary between bisexuality and lesbianism is not always so clear-cut.
- Comments at Andrea Dworkin Commemorative Conference, Oxford. witchy-woo.blogspot.com.au, 7 April 2006.
- Sheila Jeffreys speaks on beauty practices and misogyny at the Andrea Dworkin Commemorative Conference, April 7, 2006.
- Sheila Jeffreys, Bisexual politics: A superior form of feminism? Women's Studies International Forum, 22(3), 273-285.
- Sheila Jeffreys, 'Body Art' and Social Status: Cutting, Tattooing and Piercing from a Feminist Perspective. Feminism & Psychology, Vol. 10(4):409–429.