ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context : OnFeminism, IdentityPoliticsIsKryptoniteToTheLeft

Interesting discussion : MumsNetRadicalization

More on Transphobia

A good bit of rhetoric from CatharineMacKinnon captures what seems to be at stake in the current round of "terfdom"

Those winging to the Right are thrilled by this putatively feminist reduction of women to female body parts, preferably chromosomes and reproductive apparatus, qualities chosen so that whatever is considered definitive of sex is not only physical but cannot be physically changed into.


That sounds right to me. An essentialist attempt to define exactly what a woman is with criteria deliberately chosen such that trans-women can't fit it.

It's older and more thought through than I imagined.

Nevertheless, I don't think anyone familiar with ACultureOfConspiracy is gonna be surprised by this.

In a discussion of alleged LeftWingAntiSemitism I discussed TransExclusionaryRadicalFeminists as an example of the dangers of IdentityPolitics :

The left has a competitive victimhood problem.

Let's look at this problem in the wider context.

At the beginning of this year, 2018, the UK Labour Party has had a horrible internal bust-up about its "all women shortlists", "transphobia" and evolving understanding of trans-women's rights, which are coming into conflict with previous understandings about the right to create safe space and positive discrimination in favour of women.

Horrifying campaign to purge trans women from Labour shortlists raises thousands

Anti-trans activist suspended from Labour Party after posting transphobic memes

From an outsider perspective - I'm a cis, heterosexual male - this whole thing is an unnecessary and unfortunate internal squabble between groups who probably agree on many things, and would normally, happily work together to advance the Labour Party principles and inclusivity of all sexualities and genders.

Does anyone really think that the kind of people attracted by the modern Labour Party and its values, are fundamentally hostile to either women's advancement or to trans-rights? Of course not. Most Labour and left activists and supporters are going to be broadly sympathetic to both.

However, in a particular place, two passionately held activist agendas, and their entire intellectual and emotional underpinnings, have crashed into each other. Their demands have turned out to be in conflict. And because of this, all the emotional energy of each activism has been turned against the "near enemy" in a catastrophic terf war.

This is an endemic risk of the kinds of identity politics that are intertwined with modern left-wing thought and activism. The Left should be above "identity" in the sense of being inclusive of all. But inclusivity sometimes requires making a positive effort on behalf of, or prioritising, the previously excluded. And so you end up with competitive victimhood, as rival groups vie for who has the greatest claim that their demands are addressed.

I see this as an endemic problem for the left. But that doesn't mean we can pretend identity doesn't exist or matter. Or that we shouldn't work with it. Even support positive discrimination at times. But we should recognise that it's a hazardous substance that can sometimes blow up in our faces and cause huge damage.

Compare :