For writing and sharing the letter, bibliography and posts below, I was denounced as a “notorious TERF”. Sharing the document here so you can read the material yourself and decide if it’s “bigotry”, “part of a toxic movement” or “a tumor”.* Or MUST reading for radical feminists, gender abolitionists, and materialist socialists.
I cannot stay if we cannot discuss sex-based oppression
Tuesday [May 1, 2018] over 200 women resigned from the Labor Party in the UK, when it opens the all-women’s shortlists to any men who self-identify as women, and its support to the Gender Recognition Act. Women who opposed these policies have already been thrown out of the Labor Party.
The San Francisco Public Library opened an exhibit featuring the ‘blood’-stained shirt proclaiming ‘I punch TERFS’, along with bats, axes and other weapons for attacking feminist women. While they were compelled by public pressure to remove the shirt, the weapons are still there, along with shields stating “Die Cis Scum.”
And our organization has a rule which prohibits discussing these events, or discussing bodies and life experiences of half the human race born female, as distinct from gender identity, to analyze sex-based oppression [On our listserve -rev]. The effect of this in our organizations to silence comrades, to compel us to agree to things we know to be false. This is deadly. The consequences of being unable to sustain honest discussion are becoming clearer every day. I have found the ban in Solidarity on discussion of certain forbidden ideas extremely disrespectful and dehumanizing to me as a woman, as a gender-non-conforming female, and as a lesbian.
As a revolutionary socialist and a radical feminist, I can no longer remain in an organization which has disarmed itself, which no longer has the capacity to identify and organize the oppressed.
Women have always been asked to ignore our own experience of oppression, and deny what we know to be true. Understanding the origins of women’s oppression is a pretty basic requirement for any self-respecting organization or current which advocates any kind of change, much less a revolutionary organization, or one that claims feminist as part of its name.
Are these statements allowed?
“The overthrow of the mother-right was the world historical defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude, she became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of his children.”
“The truth not fully recognized even by those anxious to do good to women is that she (woman), like the labour classes, is in an oppressed condition; that her position, like theirs is one of merciless degradation. Women are the creatures of an organized tyranny of men, as the workers are the creatures of an organized tyranny of idlers … Both the oppressed classes, women and the immediate producers, must understand that their emancipation will come from themselves.”
“ progress will not be made until it is once again possible (and legitimate within the progressive and socialist movements) to discuss the bodies and life experiences of half the human race born female (defined in Merriam-Webster as “the sex that typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs”) as distinct from and regardless of gender identity, to analyze sex-based female oppression as such and the problem of pervasive male violence under a still sexist still patriarchal capitalist society, and to support the right of persons born female to self-organize based on our sex.”
“Tragically, both radical feminists and transgender persons experience oppression and violence (overwhelmingly at the hands of heterosexual males) as a result of the strict gender norms, sexism, and homophobia of our society. Women as a group are subjected to systemic physical and sexual violence. Moreover, many radical feminists are lesbians who remain a marginalized and stigmatized group because of their sexuality. Most lesbians are also gender non-conforming in other ways and many have themselves experienced “gender dysphoria.” To the extent that conflicting ideologies and interests have developed between activists from two oppressed groups – transwomen and radical feminists – we are challenged to find ways to enhance communication and debate and to ensure that all voices are heard.“
The first two statements are from Engels and Eleanor Marx, of course. The third, the simple statement Ann M. wrote on the listserve commenting on misogyny on the left. The last is a line from the petition Anne, I, and others circulated in the Nov/Dec issue of Progressive magazine. (appended at end of this letter)
Basic ideas I agree with include
–Radical feminism is the global movement to end sex-based oppression. We cannot end sex-based oppression without ending gender. Females are not oppressed because of their gender. Gender itself oppresses females.
–There is a difference between sex and gender. The millennia- old system of patriarchy oppresses female sexed people because of our reproductive capacity, our biological sex. Gender is not a rainbow of choices. It is the mechanism of oppression of women.
–The term, Cis woman is a sexist term, implying a woman who naturally performs femininity, the set of ritualized submission gestures taught to female-sexed people from birth. Natal women do not experience privilege because we are born women; we are subject to the social institutions which constitute patriarchy because we are born women
I have been a feminist and revolutionary for most of my adult conscious life. When I came to understand that you had to overthrow capitalism and transform society even to make possible the elimination of patriarchy, I embraced revolutionary socialism. I read second wave feminists and anthropologists who explained, every single society and culture had rules defining real men and real women. They were everywhere, absolute… and completely contradictory. [See Women, Culture and Society, (1974) e.g.]
When the radio story aired on March 31 on the acceptance and celebration of a transgender teacher, I could only imagine what it would have been like, for my whole school to celebrate the lesbian high school teacher — instead of creating a climate where a homophobic student would burn up my car. I am outraged when I hear about the violence committed against trans people – and I flash on my own experience. Besides the hate-crime I was subjected to when my car was burned, I was targeted for rape because I was a lesbian. I worked for over sixteen years in “men’s” jobs, on the railroad and in a mine, where I experienced the range of sexual harassment and physical threats many women can describe. So it grieved me much to hear about a young woman considering transitioning, because she wanted to work in the trades. Or to hear from the detransitioned person who described the toxic misogyny she encountered when male coworkers perceived her as a man.
Many, many topics demand to be discussed, but if I do that, I will never send this letter.
Instead, I append a few things here: Mary Lou Singleton’s statement on, Cis women; the petition mentioned above; a list of sources to read and watch.
As long as is it not possible even to discuss basic premises of what women’s oppression is, I can’t remain a member. In truth, I haven’t functioned as one for some time now.
Thank you, all those who engaged in comradely discussion, who raised issues of democracy in the organization, and who reached out to urge me to stay….
I include here, a list of readings, for anyone who does wish to examine what a radical feminist perspective is. And I welcome respectful discussion. Anyone who wishes, feel free to contact me off list. See you in the streets. In Struggle, Tina Bea Nothing about us without us
Letter sent May 2, 2018 to Solidarity
Mary Lou Singleton on cis woman
I am about to be interviewed about the oppressive nature of gender by a male reporter who called me a “cis woman.” Here is my (slightly edited) written response to him before agreeing to the interview:
“When I see the unquestioning use of the word “cis” I assume I am dealing with someone who adheres to gender ideology. This word is degrading and designed to enforce the idea that sex-role stereotypes are innate. “Cis woman” implies a woman who naturally performs femininity, the set of ritualized submission gestures taught to female-sexed people from birth. You do not seem to understand that there is a difference between sex and gender or that the millenia old system of patriarchy oppresses female sexed people because of our reproductive capacity. When male authority figures like Rick Santorum (who supports transgenderism btw) get on the airways every election cycle and announce that women should be forced by the state to birth rapists’ babies, these men are not participating in gender oppression; they are oppressing women on the basis of sex. Transwomen have never worried about being forced to give birth, going to jail for a suspicious miscarriage, or giving birth at home in a state where that act is illegal. Transwomen’s bodies are not and have never been church and state regulated breeding units. I fight for the class of people oppressed on the basis of biological sex. I call these people female, girls, and women.
If transwomen would like to join this fight in a way that does not eliminate this group of people from having concise words for ourselves and the ability to name what is happening to us (sex-based oppression; males oppressing females), I welcome that help. Instead, many transwomen are upset that female people are not using our resources and energy to fight for the rights of males who declare themselves female. Your questions imply that those of us who fight against global sex-based oppression are doing wrong by the people who say there is no such thing as sex, that female is just a feeling that a person with a penis can have, and the most important women are the women who are actually men.
Are you asking gender activists questions about how it may be harmful to the class of people who are oppressed on the basis of sex to no longer have a word for ourselves? Are you asking transwomen how girls and women (who live under a constant threat of rape by people with penises) might feel about being forced to have people with penises in our locker rooms, changing rooms, DV shelters, jail cells, etc? Are you asking why men like Rick Santorum and the religious authorities of Iran support transgenderism? Why will the government of Iran kill someone for being gay but happily pay for “sex-change” surgery? Could it be because being gay actually challenges the sexist behavioral caste system called gender while being transgender does not? And on the subject of Iran, are you asking how the women of Iran feel now that half of their national women’s soccer team consists of biological males?
As a female person, I am very aware of what would have been my fate had I been born elsewhere in the world. I agonize every day over what my sisters are enduring globally. No transwoman would have been at risk of being aborted in the womb when a vulva showed up on an ultrasound or being smothered to death for not having a penis or being fed less than bepenised siblings. Transwomen would not have been at risk of being sold to an old man as a rape and breeding slave while the world called it “child marriage.” Transwomen would not have been abducted from school by Boko Haram, raped and impregnated then shunned by the whole village upon returning from that hell. Transwomen would not have been denied education provided only to male children. Transwomen would not be the ward of male relatives, unable to leave the house without being covered head to toe and accompanied by a male over the age of 13. If transwomen would like to join the fight against these and other sex-based atrocities, I would welcome that. Instead, trans activists are more interested in forcing women to adhere to the linguistic demands of males who assert they are female and forcing women to pretend to agree that penises can be female organs.
I support all trans people in their right to perform gender and to believe whatever they believe about themselves and the world. I believe trans people should have freedom of expression and be free of discrimination in housing, healthcare, and employment. I condemn physical violence against trans people. I do not believe transwomen have a right to insist that I capitulate to gender ideology or to compel me to use words I do not believe are true.
Radical feminism is the global movement to end sex-based oppression. We cannot end sex-based oppression without ending gender. Females are not oppressed because of their gender. Gender itself oppresses females.
STOP THE HARASSMENT AND THREATS AGAINST RADICAL FEMINISTS
Ad published in The Progressive by Ann, Tina, Steve, and others
As socialists and progressives, we are committed to building a united movement of the Left rich in our diversity capable of creating a just, democratic and egalitarian society freed from all forms of oppression and discrimination. To build such a movement for fundamental change will require an atmosphere of mutual respect, and an ability to tolerate political differences among our movement sisters and brothers. It will also require a willingness to engage in open debate and discussion in order to find common ground and build solidarity among various oppressed groups with at times divergent interests.
Radical feminists have been an essential part of the broader progressive movement for social justice from the Second Wave of feminism in the 1960’s through the present. Radical feminism puts front and center the question of female liberation, i.e., how to end female oppression and subordination by a patriarchal society, therefore raising important issues for the Left.
We are therefore disturbed by recent demonization, intimidation and threats of violence against radical and lesbian feminists by certain segments of the transgender community and their supporters that have attempted to silence feminist voices and have had a chilling effect on the ability to have open discussion and debate on complex issues of sex, gender and sexuality, a debate that is sorely needed in order to build an effective and united movement.
These disturbing incidents include the following:
Ann Menasche, a long time social justice activist, socialist, Green, and civil rights lawyer was cyberbullied on Facebook in March of 2017, by a group of trans-activists and their supporters. She was labelled a “TERF” (“Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists”), “Nazi,” “rapist,” “racist,” and a supporter of “genocide” who, like other “TERFs” are hateful bigots that deserve to die. Several people contacted her employer in an unsuccessful attempt to get her fired from her job. Her “crime” was to respond to a post by writing that persons born female are oppressed on the basis of sex, (a position taken by many Leftists since the time of Karl Marx) and that it was unfortunate that many males fail to recognize this fact.
Feminists involved in the Vancouver Women’s Library faced similar threats and epithets by a group calling itself “Trans Communist Cadre” during its opening night event in February of 2017. Though the Library welcomed transwomen to participate in the event and to join the library, more than two dozen protesters showed up, blocking and assaulting female patrons, tearing a poster from the wall, pouring red wine on the bookshelves and books, and tripping the fire alarm. They labelled library supporters “TERFS” and “fascists,” demanded that the library take “TERF” books off the shelves (authors such as Adrienne Rich and Mary Daly) and made groundless accusations of violence against library founders.
In March of 2017, Tasha-Rose Hodges, a mother of six with children in the St Paul, Minnesota school district, announced her candidacy for Board of Education. The focus of her campaign was to improve the quality of education in St. Paul and address problems like lead in the drinking water. She had also taken a strong stand against bullying of any kind in the schools, including on the basis of gender identity. However, because she had expressed gender critical views, within 24 hours of announcing her candidacy, an on-line campaign began to bully her into dropping out of the race. They described Hodges as a “loathsome snake,” accusing her of spreading “venom” and “hate”, with one writer telling her crudely to essentially go home and masturbate. Another reminded readers “to punch your local TERF.” The harassment escalated to include death threats. Hodges ended up dropping out of the race because it was no longer possible for her to focus on the issues that had motivated her campaign to begin with.
In January, 2017, the Working Class Movement Library in Salford England, a small volunteer-run library which archives stories of working class people’s lives and activism, announced that it would be hosting feminist journalist Julie Bindel as a speaker. Julie is a founder of Justice for Women, a movement for women who live with domestic violence. She was to speak on her experiences growing up as a working class lesbian. In response, hundreds of people began a petition campaign demanding that the library rescind the invitation claiming that her work and her views on gender constituted bigotry. Julie was accused of “violence,” and was called a “fascist” and “Nazi.” The protesters even went so far as to go after the library’s funding. However, many women around the world voiced their support for her right to speak. Ultimately, the Library did not cave into the pressure to no platform her, and on February 4, 2017, Julie gave her talk.
In January, 2017, Casey Callahan, a person who has de-transitioned from a transman back to female, posted on her blog a link to screen shots of responses a friend of hers, also a de-transitioner, had received to a post she had made on twitter. Her friend had tweeted that she believed that there was a need for female-only space. Two transwomen responded by providing a detailed description of how they would rape her and sending her pictures of their genitals. Casey, who describes herself as “invested in the well-being of anyone with gender dysphoria, whether trans-identified or not,” declared that she was done with taking seriously people who use the word “TERF” because of the harassment and threats that go along with the word.
Tragically, both radical feminists and transgender persons experience oppression and violence (overwhelmingly at the hands of heterosexual males) as a result of the strict gender norms, sexism, and homophobia of our society. Women as a group are subjected to systemic physical and sexual violence. Moreover, many radical feminists are lesbians who remain a marginalized and stigmatized group because of their sexuality. Most lesbians are also gender non-conforming in other ways and many have themselves experienced “gender dysphoria.” To the extent that conflicting ideologies and interests have developed between activists from two oppressed groups – transwomen and radical feminists – we are challenged to find ways to enhance communication and debate and to ensure that all voices are heard.
We, the undersigned, as supporters of feminism and progressive politics believe that regardless of one’s views on gender, the tactics of name-calling, no-platforming, and threats to individual feminists’ jobs, livelihoods, and personal safety must be wholeheartedly rejected by progressives. Such tactics have no place on the Left.
[See link for signers http://www.oldandnewproject.net/Essays/Stop%20the%20Harassment%20ad.html
Sources: Radical feminist, gender abolitionist, basic feminist, socialist feminist– NOT exhaustive, updated as I find material TB
Female Erasure ed. by Ruth Barrett What You Need to Know about Gender Politics’ War on Women, the female sex and human rights, also has website http://www.femaleerasure.com/ ; see esp, Hungerford, Dobkin
The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture by Bonnie J. Morris
Dispatches From Lesbian America, Cheela Romain Smith, Xequina Berber, Giovanna Capone et al
Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State F Engels (International Publishers, NY 1969), p. 50 cited above, in Barbara Winslow, “Women’s alienation and revolutionary politics” From International Socialism, 2:4, Spring 1979.
also AT https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/
The Woman Question ,Eleanor Marx and E. Aveling,(London 1886), p. 6. Marx did not believe women were a class. She was attempting to compare the special oppression of workers as workers and women as women.op cit
Women, Culture and Society, Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo, Louise Lamphere ed. 1974, Sixteen women anthropologists analyze the place of women in human societies, including “Is female to male as nature is to culture?,” Sherry Ortner
http://www.oldandnewproject.net/Essays/Stop%20the%20Harassment%20ad.html Stop Harassment and Demonization of women petition
Women in Media Conference (WimCon) 2018: Ninotchka Rosca and other speeches, by Meghan Murphy, Ruth Barrett Sheila Jeffreys, Julie Bindel, and others
https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/07/03/the-gender-identity-movement-undermines-lesbians Pippa Fleming’s article in the Economist (Her blog is https://pippafleming.com/daddigirl-blog )
https://www.feministcurrent.com/2018/08/13/lesbians-excluded-vancouver-dyke-march-name-inclusivity/ Vancouver lesbians excluded from Dyke March, and other timely news an analusis, like the following
http://www.feministcurrent.com/2015/11/10/why-i-no-longer-hate-terfs/ site includes daily update
https://youtu.be/Ec0mG6B6b9M and https://womansplaceuk.org/film/ collected videos, We Need to Talk tour, Linda Bellos, Helen Steel (11/23/17) on her experience being threatened at an anarchist book fair, when she defended two women leafletting against the new Gender Recognition Act. See also same meeting. Intense. The Youtube channel A Woman’s Place UK updates regularly.
https://www.socfem.net/faq#q1 What do Socialist feminists say about gender identity ideology
http://www.feministcurrent.com/2015/11/10/why-i-no-longer-hate-terfs/ site includes daily update
http://www.peaktrans.org/ Maria MacLachlan’s blog, on her experience getting beaten up for photographing trans disrupters
https://4thwavenow.com/2018/03/12/baptised-in-fire-a-relieved-desisters-story/#comments on detransitioning. A community of parents & others concerned about the medicalization of gender-atypical youth and rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD)
blog https://sexandgenderintro.com/ and
https://sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/let-them-eat-text-the-real-politics-of-postmodernism/ reprint from Offourbacks by Karla Mantilla 1999 Basic feminist definitions
for the Combahee River Collective Black Feminist statement on the original definition of identity politics https://newrepublic.com/article/144739/liberals-get-wrong-identity-politics or the https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1108-how-we-get-free,
“We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation is us. … This focusing on our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially the most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression.”
Mary Lou Singleton https://www.facebook.com/marylou.singleton/posts/10213902609345743 Also, her blog http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/mary-lou-singleton.html and ON CONTACT, Chris Hedges interview with Maya Dillard Smith and Mary Lou Singleton, https://youtu.be/5jpIn1UucS
http://mirandayardley.com/en/why-i-disavow-woman-and-am-no-longer-gender-critical/ Miranda, for gender abolition, by Miranda Yardley, a transexual profeminist writer
Blood and Visions Womyn Reconciling with Being Female, Autotomous Womyns Press 2015 Essays by ten women who stopped their transition https://autotomouswomyn.tumblr.com/post/133813781271/autotomouswomyn-blood-and-visions-the-zine
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/oct/11/delusions-gender-sex-cordelia-fine Review of Fine’s research on sex, gender, brains, and so on. Fine’s text is HERE https://sexnotgender.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/fine_cordelia_delusions-of-gender.pdf