Well, it looks like feminist author Margaret Atwood has pulled a JK R*wling and outed some uncomfortably TERFy views, by re-igniting the tired, out-dated, and obviously transphobic debate on gender-inclusive terms that use words other than ‘woman’.
The Handmaid’s Tale author shared two articles on Twitter this week that have left fans angry and confused, given their generally shitty arguments.
The first is a column by Rosie DiManno called ‘Why can’t we say ‘woman’ anymore?’. Which couldn’t sound more like TERF self-victimisation even if it tried.
good news, we still can! big fan of your fiction on the dangers of enforcing extremely rigid bio-essentialist ideas about gender btw— michael wave: gourd boy edition (@SzMarsupial) October 19, 2021
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, TERF stands for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’, and refers to types of women who identify as feminists but refuse to see trans women as included in it. Essentially, TERFS don’t see trans women as real women.
Anyway, the article pretty much does what it says, claiming the word woman “is in danger of becoming a dirty word… struck from the lexicon of officialdom, eradicated from medical vocabulary and expunged from conversation.”
Right, because people expanding their existing vocabulary to include historically marginalised and erased people is somehow the same as *checks notes* completely erasing women? Sure, Jan.
This is *exactly* how many men reacted when feminists used to argue for gender inclusive language like “congressperson” or “he or she”.— Dr. SCARE-en James ???????? (@kejames) October 19, 2021
I could write an in-depth article debunking the ridiculous, harmful, and straight-up false claims by DiManno, but I really don’t think it’s worth giving her work the oxygen. So instead, I’ll direct you to this writer, who fact-checks some of the claims here.
Atwood was immediately flooded with responses calling out the harmful rhetoric being shared via her tweets, though she claims that none of what she’s sharing is hurtful to trans people. Multitudes of trans people say otherwise, and I think it’s safe to say they would be the authority on the subject here.
And see, what’s likely going to happen next is any trans or nonbinary person who came into your mentions to try and correct the misinformation you shared in this article will soon be flooded with transphobic replies that attempt to erase OUR identities. Happens every time.— Mx. Amanda Jetté Knox (@MavenOfMayhem) October 19, 2021
The second article she shared, earlier today, is called ‘Trans rights? Yes. Toxic, in-your-face activism? No’. The article condemns the public’s anger at transphobic figures like JKR, calls for more palatable behaviour from trans rights activists, and tellingly, claims it’s apparently too easy to adopt a trans label these days.
It’s actually wild to me that some people think gate-keeping and bureaucratising gender identity is progressive, as if putting institutions in charge of deciding whether someone is trans enough is the answer. But, I digress.
People on Twitter were quick to point out that no human rights were ever won by being polite — and that actually, in-your-face activism is exactly how most successful movements resulted in the wins that they did. Stonewall was a riot, for one.
I'm stunned you'd endorse an opinion piece that has the line "inclusion must be reasonable." I assume you read it through? Wow.— Ubaka Ogbogu (@UbakaOgbogu) October 23, 2021
"Please do not ask for human rights in a way that bothers anyone. Do so quietly"— The End of Policing (@ajmarquis) October 23, 2021
Amazing how people will be all "well-behaved women rarely make history" untill the women in question are trans— very haunted typewriter ???? (@madseance) October 23, 2021
remember when every protest movement was polite and respectful to their oppressors and waited patiently to be given equal rights— Crowsa Luxemburg (@quendergeer) October 23, 2021
Trans inclusivity doesn't come at the expense of cis women's rights, as this article suggests. It's disappointing you're going down this path.— Jacob Silverman (@SilvermanJacob) October 23, 2021
With JKR, and now Margaret Atwood, there seems to be a pattern of older white women aligning themselves with TERF politics. Maybe it’s just some classic boomer denialism regarding change.
Or maybe it’s because some of these women fighting for feminist spaces have an attachment to their gender identity because its the only form of oppression they experience, so they’re weirdly, often hatefully, protective of it. If you can’t use the word ‘woman’, how will you signal white femininity, amirite?
All this to say, I knew this was coming, and I’m not surprised. Just disappointed.