Feminist Times should not cover trans-exclusive events

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.

feminist times

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 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.

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8 thoughts on “Feminist Times should not cover trans-exclusive events”

  1. Ok, here goes: some of us have been warning people about Feminist Times for a while now. Stavvers was told when she took a platform from them recently to debate gay marriage that they are a corrupt organisation. Stavvers’ trans friend Roz Kaveney is now on the editorial board of FT (FFS!!) and was also at that debate: neither of them objected to accepting the platform from FT despite me questioning their involvement with a project that is very closely linked to Julie Burchill the sister in law of Charlotte Raven, editor of FT. Burchill (terf and friend of bindel) can be found mouthing off on the FT facebook page regularly and is a Zionist as well as a transphobic, SWERfist bigot. Burchill is now part of the FT gang and put money in to bail Raven out when the FT was about to go under.
    Stavvers was also told that FT had LIED outrageously and said that their ‘political’ agony column was written by a woman when all the time it was written by a male ex partner of Raven’s. If they will lie outright to their ‘supporters’ what else will they stoop to? FT was meant to be a magazine by now but despite raising over £25,000 by exploiting the Spare Rib name no investors have seen a magazine yet but money has been spent on parties. The Spare Rib founders didn’t pull out because they were being difficult: they pulled out when they realised the project was all about getting Raven a generous monthly pay check.The whole project is a combination of marketing and journalism: they are trying to ‘sell’ feminism back to women and will publish anything if it gets them clicks. There is no, I repeat NO, real commitment to any sort of feminism at FT. Hence, the ease with which they assimilate Radfem with a supposed parallel commitment to being transinclusive. They don’t have the grounding in feminism to even understand why this is problematic. They rely on readers to write ‘comebacks’ to pieces to provide the content they can’t fill themselves. (One funny Twitter exchange saw FT suggesting ‘pegasus bug’ pitch them a piece when she disagreed with something. HA, ha they didn’t even know it was Brennan!)
    They think you can just absorb differences which is in itself an incredibly patronising attitude towards those of us who have real beliefs and principles. When your ‘editor’ writes a piece equating wearing high heels with domestic violence then you know you have not earned your place in feminism and you should NOT be expecting other women to pay your wages while you catch up and do a Feminism 101 course. But FT is just a vaguely ‘feminism themed’ journalism job to them: they are exploitative, rancid, opportunistic idiots who will, hopefully, collapse under the weight of their own contradictions very soon.
    Bit of background to them here, enjoy:

    http://athousandflowers.net/2013/06/19/weekly-wanker-012-charlotte-raven/

    1. Thanks for adding to this post. Yes, I feel like Feminist Times is one of the only feminist UK websites that gets any traffic or attention – there’s a gap in the market. Haven’t heard from them at all about this. But it’s unsurprising tbh.

      1. There’s loads of other sites and blogs (many of them get more readers overall) but FT started out with a lot of free publicity through using (exploiting) the Spare Rib name: people are still wondering when the promised magazine will be produced as it was promised last year. Latest estimate is 2015, if they haven’t gone under by then. Of course to keep people interested they have to try to be controversial but it’s a forced controversy: they’re not really committed feminists. Any feminist project has to come from those involved in feminism, not from journalists being what Flavia recently called ‘media whores’. There’s room for something much better, maybe we should all get together and produce it instead of waiting for FT to get radical?!

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  3. I would really like a chance to discuss issues relating to feminism in the context of the gay/lesbian/bi/ transgender agenda. Everywhere I try to comment or query issues fundamental to my understanding of gender equality, I find I am abused, labelled and dismissed as phobic. Young people seem willing to identify with the rights and equality politics of gays and transgender people much more so than with the misogyny and denigration of women in our society. Whenever this is pointed out, there is a universal outcry of “transphobia”. Could we not agree some basic principles of acceptance and then go on to properly discuss how society can still accept the marginalisation of 51% of the population ?

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