Gender-critical feminism

ideology or movement that opposes transgender rights
(Redirected from TERF)

Gender-critical feminism (pejoratively known as trans-exclusionary radical feminism or TERFism) is a movement opposing what it refers to as "gender ideology", as well as the concepts of gender identity and gender self-identification. Gender-critical feminists believe that sex is biological and immutable, while believing gender, including both gender identity and gender roles, to be inherently oppressive and consider such outlooks to be misogynistic. Their views have been described as transphobic by other feminists and are opposed by many LGBT rights organizations.

To be so-called gender critical while leaving traditional biology intact tightens rather than loosens the hold of a gender system on our bodies. —Sara Ahmed


  • There are some who hold onto rigid ideas of biological sex, but I do not expect feminists to be among them. When I hear people refer in code to “biology 101,” meaning the scientific basis of female and male sex difference, to claim that trans women are not “biologically women,” I want to offer in rebuke, “Biology 101? Patriarchy wrote that textbook!” and pass them a copy of Andrea Dworkin’s Woman Hating, a radical feminist text that supports transsexuals having access to surgery and hormones and challenges what she calls “the traditional biology of sexual difference” based on “two discrete biological sexes.” To be so-called gender critical while leaving traditional biology intact tightens rather than loosens the hold of a gender system on our bodies.
  • Anti-trans feminists’ repeated claims that they were being silenced were in fact highly effective in getting their viewpoints aired on television, radio and in the press.
  • The way we are all taught, from a young age, to make the link between visible biological sex traits and behaviour can be extremely powerful in shaping our intuitions about other people. This process of interpretation and the way it affects how we relate to and behave towards others is part of the system we call gender. Feminism, though, ought always to interrogate biological essentialism (the idea that a person’s nature or personality is innate; arising from, or connected to, their biological traits). The idea that anyone born with a penis is inherently more aggressive or violent because they have a penis is an anti-feminist idea: it actually suggests that male violence is linked to biological ‘essence’ and is therefore inevitable, immutable, perhaps not even truly men’s fault. Yet anti-trans feminism is forced to rely on biological essentialism in its insistence that there is too great a similarity between trans women and cis men for the former to be regarded legally and politically as women. Transphobic feminism often uses imagery connected to penises (imagined or real) belonging to trans women as a powerful rhetorical tool, to suggest that trans women are exhibiting aggression or entitlement or are a threat.
  • The existence of trans people ought to make everyone take a long hard look at their own dearly held ideas about gender, and wonder whether these ideas are quite as stable and certain as they once thought. This would be healthy. The distinction between men and women is often arbitrary. The distinction between ‘binary’ trans men and women and non-binary trans people is equally arbitrary and, in reality, the precise distinction between people we call cis and people we call trans isn’t rigid either. The fact that definitions can be so unstable is clearly deeply troubling to many – which is why it is easier to belittle challenges to binaries than to take on their contradictions, complications and exceptions. ‘We are all non-binary’ is potentially a radical new analysis for how we might reorder society, but conventionally it is used by gender critical feminists to mock those people making political demands to dismantle the binary’s imprint on our culture. Yet those critics provide no alternative for how we would otherwise emancipate society from binary gender stereotypes and roles. Once more, feminist hostility to non-binary people reasserts the notion of an inescapable biological sex that should be given more social and legal credence than a variant gender identity, a notion that merely replicates patriarchy’s own logic.
  • Feminism must concern itself with radical possibilities for our future, a future in which gender-based violence and harm is abolished, freeing us all to lead more joyful lives. That cannot begin with barring the freedom to find other ways to look at, understand or do gender.
  • TERF ... has expanded to include any woman worried that permitting men who “self-identify” as female to enter women’s changing rooms or refuges unchallenged makes her less safe.
    TERFs, according to trans activists, are evil. TERF is the new witch. Search on Twitter for "TERFs must die" or "burn in a fire, TERF" and behold a cauldron of violent vitriol. Before the meeting, a trans-woman posted: "Any idea where this is happening? I want to f*** some TERFs up, they are no better than fash [fascists]." Search "punch a TERF" and you will find crowing approval of what happened to Maria.
    So at Speakers’ Corner trans activists and feminists were chanting and taunting each other. Maria was taking photographs when an opponent grappled with her, snatched her camera and smashed it on the ground. Then a tall, male-bodied, hooded figure wearing make-up rushed over, hit her several times and as police arrived, ran away. I asked a young activist if she was OK with men smacking women: “It’s not a guy, you’re a piece of s*** and I’m happy they hit her”, came the reply.
    So when is it OK to punch a woman? When she won’t do what you want; when you don’t like what she says. Some things never change.

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