A few weeks ago I saw a report on Feminist Times about the Rad Fems UK event FemiFest. After thinking “Wow, this is just a copy-paste job”, I noticed a few people (not many) had complained about the report being published in a website that trans* inclusive.
As you can see, it says Feminist Times is a trans-inclusive website. However, that didn’t stop them from republishing a press release of an event that purposefully and self-righteously excludes trans women. They did say that if you disagree with something published you can bite back – this is what I’m doing now. But I don’t think covering FemiFest is in any way about opinions. It’s about a hateful group harming a minority that already suffers. This is, unfortunately, irresponsible journalism.
— Feminist Times (@Feminist_Times) March 7, 2014
Feminist Times defended the reporting of the event by saying that since FemiFest is a feminist event ‘of course they would report on it’. Perhaps, if Feminist Times was not a website aimed at trans* inclusive feminism this would be true – but as one Twitter user pointed out, would they report on an event that advocates pro-life abortion policies with anything but disdain and criticism?
A little bit of research has revealed that FemiFest is definitely not trans-inclusive and in my opinion this is a conflicting information to be distributed by a trans-inclusive website. Opinions are one thing to respect, but purposeful exclusion of trans women is straight up hate and oppression. And I found this out with a quick search on Google.
The FemiFest website reads (emphasis mine):
“(…) organisers will not tolerate oppressive language or behaviour towards any group facing discrimination and oppression. FemiFest is opposed to ideologies of oppression.
“It is a central part of our radical feminist analysis that gender is a tool of women’s oppression, not women’s liberation. FemiFest organisers share the view that gender is a human created power hierarchy based on reproductive sex. This gendered power arrangement relegates women to a social status that is secondary to men. None of the organisers consider ourselves to have an innate gender – neither masculine, feminine, trans, cis, gender queer, or any other gender. We are gender abolitionists who have been raised and socialized as girls and women *because of our female bodies* in the context of a male supremacist (sic) social system.
“Women who consider that gender is a benign spectrum of self expression (sic) will find other conferences and festivals where they can organise with like minded (sic) people. FemiFest is designed by and for women interested in feminist theory with a structural analysis of power and those who want to genuinely engage with women’s liberationist ideas.”
In the least, being against ‘ideologies of oppression’ is conflicting with telling trans women to ‘find other conferences where they can organise with like-minded people’. From what I understand, Rad Fems is a group of trans exclusive radical feminists (TERFs). While the UK is already heavily transphobic the creation of such events and such a radical group is hardly helpful to trans people in the UK. Trans woman and trans rights activist Sophia Banks explains:
“[FemiFest is] run by a TERF and full of some vile transphobes. Not good. Very disappointed how supposed trans positive feminists will promote hate like this. The UK is horribly transphobic. Trans people can go to jail for having sex with someone and not disclosing they are trans.”
When I mention the defence Feminist Times used, Sophia says it’s BS.
She said: “They know exactly what they are supporting. (Julie) Bindel is involved after all. Fact is transphobia when framed as gender critical is seen as acceptable by many feminists.
(I have been unable to verify if Bindel is or is not behind Rad Fems UK or FemiFest)
It seems one of the main problems with cis feminism is that pro-trans cis women never stand up against transphobic attitude within the community. It might be that TERFs are a small group of hateful feminists, but that doesn’t mean that their activism or opinions on gender are not harmful. So why don’t cis women stand up for their trans sisters?
Sophia thinks there are several reasons for this.
She said: “One, I figure most don’t care to be honest, cissexism is everywhere. They don’t want to get involved. Also, many I have talked to privately want to but afraid of messing up and getting attacked by trans women. And sadly some are bigots who don’t see trans women as ‘real’ women and don’t want us in ‘their’ spaces. It’s a combination of hate, ignorance, fear and indifference.
I admit that I am very afraid of putting my foot in my mouth when speaking out against hate and prejudice against trans women. It is difficult to see through my cis privilege what is and isn’t offensive and what kind of vocabulary is appropriate to use.
While I haven’t written much about the subject, I feel that as a feminist journalist and blogger it’s not really constructive to not try and speak about this kind of hate.
Sophia explained: “Cis folks can and should call out hate. They can do that without putting their foot in their mouth. And I am chill, I get people fuck up. I have made mistakes and have been called on it, I listened and learned. Fear of fucking up is good but also not. It’s hard as what works with other communities does not work for trans women b/c we are so small in numbers. We can’t do this without help from allies and that puts us in an awkward position.”
With that being said, I do not want to make this post about me, or cis allies. It is about TERF hate and a personal and ethical obligation to speak out about transphobia.
“So many are unemployed, many forced into sex work then dragged through a transphobic prison system. Violence, murders, etc… We have serious problems and cis white feminism looks away. I say cis white as I find a lot of support from WOC,” Sophia says. “Stop supporting cis women who call us men and want advocate to dent trans women access to rape and homeless shelters, for a start. To dent trans women access to these spaces is to invite violence on trans women. How is that feminism on their part? They see us as a men and that puts trans women in danger.”
So maybe Feminist Times thought they were simply reporting on a feminist event… but truth is that this event is extremely harmful to a minority that already suffers more than any cis woman. Putting trans women in danger is not cool and reporting on an event that promotes hate is awful.