"Common Sense" is all too often little more than a substitute for ignorance and prejudice. It rejects the carefully thought-out argument for instant thoughtless reactions. It is usually wrong.
UnCommon Sense tries to look at issues from a more complex and considered point of view. "Common Sense" is simplistic, UnCommon Sense is deals with the the world as far more complex than many would have us believe.
Unfortunately Feminist Times didn't publish this article I wrote for gender week, it was not what they wanted. In the end they needed an article that suggested ways in which a kind of rapprochement between trans people and TERFs might happen. I could not find it in me to empathise with any TERFS after some of the things I have seen them do, so my article was not of that nature. However this is what I have written and it does in fact, suggest a way forward.
Meaningful dialogue; is it still possible between trans women and TERFs?
They claim to want to ‘abolish gender’ (which mysteriously seems to begin and end with trans people) or that trans women are hyperfeminine ‘Stepford Wives’ manipulated by the patriarchy. Yet they police women’s spaces and trans women’s lives with accusations that trans women are ‘too masculine’. Space
So the apparent proposal by Finn Mackay that trans women should be allowed in most women’s spaces represents progress and is the kind of thing we should consider engaging with. An example has been of a feminist conference attended by trans women where trans women were included in all sessions other than one in which experiences of childhood sexual abuse of girls were discussed. I can understand this, sexual abuse in childhood is appalling; I know I used to be a primary school teacher and have dealt with its harrowing consequences on many occasions. I would support anyone wishing to discuss such things to be able to ask particular individuals to leave the room if they are talking about something traumatic from their childhood.
But why shouldn’t anyone a speaker feels uncomfortable talking in front of be asked to leave the room, why single out trans women? OK one of the rationales for this is that trans women did not experience growing up as girls, especially young girls. Yet this no longer the case, and it is likely that increasing numbers of trans women will not only have identified as but also, appeared and been treated as girls from quite young ages. Language
To the subject of language: it seems TERFs object to the term ‘cisgender’ claiming that it is an ‘insult’. Reflecting on the fact that a tiny fraction of an oppressed and disempowered 1.2% of the world’s population have used it to express their frustrations against a far larger and more powerful 98.8% demonstrates just how confected this argument is. Ultimately TERFs are oppressively trying to deny trans people the language with which to make sense of their situations.
It seems TERFs don’t like being called TERFs is because they regularly respond to criticism of their abuse, harassment and mendacity by calling it an ‘attack on women’ or an ‘attack on feminists’. This is of course profoundly disingenuous; our arguments are with TERFs not with other feminists or other women. Additionally TERFs often accuse trans people of trying to silence them. Yet TERFs who have made this accusation have also used legal threats to silence trans people. So with this sort duplicity going on it seems impossible to imagine any meaningful dialogue between trans women and TERFs.
However this does not mean trans feminists should not talk to other radical feminists; another reason for the acronym - radical feminists who are not anti-trans should not be lumped in with those who are. One radical feminist recently complained to me that TERFs’ actions had made her stop describing herself as a radical feminist. Nonetheless it is important that trans people engage in a meaningful dialogue with non-transphobic cisgender radical feminists. This is the optimistic way forward.