How TERF works

Sarah Ditum

Pay attention, if you’re not already neck-deep in the gender wars of online feminism. TERF is an acronym for “Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist” that its users claim is applied purely descriptively. Critics of the term point out that it is not used neutrally, but in all cases pejoratively: TERF is a curse word used solely against women, a version of “bitch” that liberals can feel OK saying. “TERFs” are charged with inciting and inflicting violence against transgender people, despite the fact that violence against transgender people, like all violence, is overwhelmingly committed by men and not by feminists of any stripe.

The definition of TERF is extraordinarily loose: what one is supposed to be excluding trans people from is never identified. To state that male and female bodies exist can be enough to win the TERF label; to state that the division of sex is the foundation of sexual oppression…

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