“Gender Critical” or “TERF”?

People often use these terms interchangeably. Both have in common that they reject the idea that transwomen are women and transmen are men. Both sets of beliefs include a belief that sex is real (it can be proven), immutable (it cannot be changed), and material (sex differences are important). TERF is a slur used to shut down arguments. You can see examples here (not safe for work).

Being “Gender Critical” (usually called GC) means that the person rejects the rigid societal roles assigned to males and females based on their sex. For example, the idea that women are the homemakers and men the breadwinners is based on gender. Another gender-based idea might be that women wear makeup and men do not; or that girls like pink and dolls, and boys like blue and football. Some people express this by describing gender as the cage in which people are placed by virtue of their sex. It follows that GC people believe that sex is what matters, not gender.

There are gender critical people of both sexes, including some transsexuals, and of all political persuasions, from socialist to conservative. 

“TERF” is an acronym for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Radical Feminists believe women are a class oppressed on the basis of something material and real (their sex). Radical Feminists believe that the patriarchy should be dismantled and that no one, male or female, is truly free until it is. 

A fundamental objection of radfems to gender ideology is that it rejects the material reality of sex as a reason for oppression, replacing it with something unseen and interior, gender, as the supposed reason for oppression. This means that you could, without changing yourself in any way, move from being an oppressor to being oppressed, or vice versa. Radical Feminism rejects the idea that you can decide whether to be oppressed or an oppressor – this position is fixed by virtue of your position in material reality. 

TERF also suggests “trans-exclusionary”. This is because radical feminists do not accept that “transwomen” can be women; they cannot experience the same oppression that women do because it is a result of sexed biology that the males who call themselves transwomen do not share. However, most radical feminists are NOT trans-exclusionary because they include transmen, trans-identifying females, in their feminism, arguing that they continue to be oppressed by virtue of their female sex despite “identifying as” men. 

Most radical feminists are left-wing socialists, this is because the state has to play a greater role if the traditional gendered role of men (patriarchy) is eliminated. Some radfems are separatists, rejecting all men. Most radical feminists do not accept that men can be “feminists” at all (even if they are allies) because they cannot experience the oppression women feel. 

For this reason, men cannot be radical feminists. If anyone tells you a man is a TERF, that person has no idea what radical feminism, or a TERF, is.  

It is important to note that gender-critical views are not hateful. The view that sex is real and matters is legally protected under the Forstater decision. You are allowed to think men are men and women are women!

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