Transphobia in the Academy: Feminist Edition

From Shakesville:

[Content note: transphobia and transphobic hate speech, rape, death, violence.)

Last week, Liss sent me a link to this story at the Transadvocate; it details a chilling letter sent to trans* activist Dallas Denny from a group of anonymous radical feminist academics. She asked if I would try to address the matter as an academic, since I am more familiar with that environment than she is. Academic or no, this is pretty terrible.

The threatening letter was in response to a year-old letter that Ms. Denny and Dr. Jamison Green had penned to Routledge Press. In it, they had expressed their concerns regarding the publication of an upcoming book by Dr. Sheila Jeffreys and Dr. Lorene Gottschalk, Gender Hurts, which included transphobic material.

That was a year ago. On July 26, Denny received a letter “signed” by an anonymous group calling themselves “Women for Academic Freedom,” who are apparently Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs). In it, WFAF claimed that trans* activists were trying to silence women and feminists. They promised, as of fall 2013, to launch a wave of new classes that would indoctrinate teach an entire new generation of feminists to view trans* advocacy as a patriarchal silencing tool, and to distrust and denigrate trans* folk.

My first thought? WFAF’s letter is remarkably reminiscent of the comments left by asshats who show up at Shakesville in response to critiques of Penny Arcade or Fat Princess. Quite remarkably.


The classic hallmarks were all there: conflating critique with censorship (nope!), lots of projection, circular arguments, embarassingly inaccurate reference to Orwell and McCarthy, and threats made behind the mask of anonymity. It’s also reminiscent of right-wing concern trolls: references to a vast conspiracy, the promise to indoctrinate a generation of students into “right” thinking, mistaking criticism for hate speech, and a name invoking quite the opposite of what the group actually does. “Women for Academic Freedom”? Sure.

I’ve seen some pretty bad behavior in academe before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a group of feminists so perfectly mimic fanboy trolls and rightwing assholes. And lest anyone think that we get to hide behind the argument that they’re not “real” feminists, let me direct you to the link Liss Tweeted last week about “real Christians.” I hope you can see the parallel. I don’t get to dismiss transphobic radical feminists as not “real feminists,” but I sure as hell don’t have to let them speak for me. Nor do I have to let their bullshit go by unchallenged.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Transphobia in the Academy: Feminist Edition
%d bloggers like this: