doing the patriarchy’s work and calling it feminism: the TERF

there’s been a whole bunch of publicity and hate flung around about the Federal court decision last week that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must pay for genital reconstruction surgery for Michelle Kosilek. if you haven’t read the actual ruling, i strongly suggest you do before commenting on the appropriateness of GRS for Ms. Kosilek (the ruling, in PDF format). see, Ms. Kosilek was sentenced to life without parole, as she was duly found guilty of first-degree murder back in 1993 and that’s the sentence murder one carries in Massachusetts; as a result, she ends up in the position of being a person whose medical care is the responsibility of the Commonwealth, and Massachusetts must thus provide proper medical care for her.

you have four choices here, folks:

1) don’t provide for medical care for prisoners. this is barbaric and cruel and leaves skid marks on both the Commonwealth and US Constitutions, so it’s not an option.
2) don’t provide care for transwhatever prisoners. this isolates us as a class and codifies discrimination. no thanks!
3) abolish prisons altogether, which saves taxpayers a mess of money. whether or not you’re comfortable with this depends on if you think the penal system works.
4) go along with the reality that this is medical care that Ms. Kosilek needs, which it kind of is, and, well, we as society locked her up, we as society must accept the consequences. that’s how the Eighth Amendment works, dawg.

don’t get me wrong: Michelle Kosilek is a loathsome, awful person. i don’t like her one bit, the evidence was overwhelming, and oh yeah, she killed her wife apparently mostly because she wanted a divorce. most of the articles about the murder, the trial itself, etc. are lost to the sands of time and the boston.com paywall, but i remember the case vividly because every damn day the Hartford Courant covered the case in lurid detail and i realized what people thought and portrayed transsexuals as. my little Ericaish heart really hurt to read it.  anyways, some trans women are going to be awful people: i’m sure most of you know Anne Lawrence is on the record as having committed sexual assault and all…listen, trans women, like all people, will come in good and bad. some of us will be murderers, some of us will be singers, some of us will be software engineers, and some of us will be bus drivers. that’s how it works: our common thread is that we’re women and that we are identified as trans for one of a number of reasons. i mean, after all, there are cis women who do all these things, too.

the TERF, the trans-exclusionary radical feminist, seizes upon any example of “bad” trans woman they can find, and while i won’t do them the pleasure of being recognized here, the commentary has been flying so hot and heavy that it feels like there’s a rain of flaming oxen falling from the TERFworld about Ms. Kosilek. they have a “bad” trans woman to seize upon and they’re seizing like a Honda Civic on the freeway with no oil in the engine. the TERF talks about things like “peak trans”, a collection of discussion about awful trans women they’ve dealt with. and listen, i’m really sorry you had to deal with being treated like shit by someone, regardless of their gender identity. but this isn’t really what “peak trans” is about, and humiliating trans women based on the behavior of one trans woman is obviously a form of confirmation bias…the TERF attempts to look neutral and “pushed too far” nevertheless. the thing about the TERF is that the TERF is actually a cog in the machine of the patriarchy and the TERF knows damn well this is true.  because of this, i think it’s time to talk about the reality of the TERF: the TERF is actually a plant within feminism who acts in a manner that upholds the kyriarchy, and as a result the patriarchy, at all costs.  the TERF is the plant Janice Raymond warned you about, she just got the mechanics all wrong. women are ripping apart feminism from within, but they’re not trans women. women are quietly working to discredit and destroy feminism, but they’re claiming the high ground to feminism generally.

you heard me right: Cathy Brennan, et al…they’re patriarchal shills. they granulate and divide women and tell us our feminisms aren’t sufficient. they don’t bother with attacking the scourge of anti-feminism and they don’t really bother with important things to feminism like, you know, equal pay for equal work. go ahead and Google the following search: “Cathy Brennan”  “Lilly Ledbetter” (together, both in quotes) and you’ll get nothing from Ms. Brennan on the matter, a fact i find interesting. or how about a law codifying funding for programs to stop violence against women? again, Google “Cathy Brennan” VAWA and you’ll see what i’m talking about…nothin’ doin there, especially given how contentious VAWA’s reauthorization was in 2012 and the ongoing concerted attacks from the far-right against VAWA which have continued apace since US v. Morrison. despite Ms. Brennan’s squallings to the contrary, i’m a woman and things like equal pay matter to me; i have my criticisms of VAWA but that’s probably something for another time. 

so apparently Ms. Brennan is absent when it comes to caring about Federal law designed to protect women. and guess what? if you believed the law doesn’t do anything to protect people and abstained from caring about the doings of law because of this, you might have a pretty good case for your absence from such matters. trouble is, Ms. Brennan doesn’t have such a belief toward the law at all, instead choosing to venerate it uncritically in working for Hudson Cook,  a law firm with really savory clients like payday lenders (that’s what “CashNET CSO of Maryland” is) …or Ocwen Financial, a notorious foreclosure fraud perpetrator. so don’t you think that someone like Ms. Brennan would probably choose to direct her passion toward something besides upholding one of the most patriarchal elements of the American landscape, financial institutions run by old white guys in suits? apparently not, and that’s a huge part of the discord: a TERF like Brennan probably would have at least some statement of criticism of the system they work in to identify their political discord.  Ms. Brennan has made no such statement, and frankly once you’ve made partner i suspect that you’re not exactly working inside the system to destroy it.

i find these two things most queer, but the queerest thing of all is that many TERFs (Ms. Brennan included, and that’s the last of her i’m mentioning) identify as something called a political lesbian. this faction reduces being a dyke to a lifestyle choice…i’m not even kidding here…and that to do so means standing against patriarchy. okay, on the last part, any relationship between women inherently disempowers the patriarchy (and i swear i never used that as a pickup line in college other than, like, ten times) and that’s a good thing to disempower the patriarchy, but i think a woman being true to her sexuality and not claiming it’s a politically-based choice destroys the patriarchy, too. you know, female empowerment and all that stuff we get mocked for talking about over here on Team Feminist. the very essence of political lesbianism is that your sexual orientation doesn’t matter to them because if you’re straight, you’re a product of compulsory heterosexuality, and if you’re not, well…it’s a choice? it’s the same logic used by people who operate “reparative therapy” facilities that prey on queer youth, and as someone who made it through reparative therapy (yep, STILL GAY) i can tell you it sucked and it is not something i’d wish on my worst enemy. the “you must be straight” shit that i deal with from society every damn day was boiled down into its most concentrated, hateful form, and it’s really hateful and insulting to see someone claiming that who i sleep with is automatically  a choice when that’s not the reality a lot of us who are queer have. yes, in some cases, it’s a choice for some people, and that’s cool! it’s the idea that sexual orientation is inherently a choice for women which seems to be aimed squarely at discrediting the very lesbians many TERFs claim to be “protecting.” it’s actually, hilariously, a total parrot of what transfundamentalists say when encouraging mandatory heterosexuality…i’m sure that’s a coincidence. i’ve never had a choice; i’ve tried to will, drink, cut, and therapy myself straight, and you know what? it’s a whole hell of a lot easier to just be who you are. it took me a very, very long time to accept that it was okay to be a lesbian; some days i think i’m still working on it.

i posit that the TERF is indeed an agent, knowingly so, of the patriarchy. they are ridiculing lesbians by denying our agency in our sexual orientation, they seize upon limited examples to claim the evil of trans women yet ignore critical feminist issues, and they persist using a number of divisive tactics to try to split feminism from forward progress. one of these is the insult they bandy about, “funfem”, to claim that feminists who don’t follow their brand of feminism aren’t feminists and are instead obsessed with….uh, whatever they’re getting at with “funfem” but denigrating the idea that a sexually active heterosexual woman can be a feminist. i think Ellie Smeal probably would have something to say about that, and the TERF mindset loudly attacked her for having the gall to be running NOW and married to a man.

the TERF is obsessed with dividing feminism at all costs and commenting negatively on women’s sexuality. sex-shaming is a historical patriarchal tool to remind those of us who are women of the position the patriarchy wants us to hold: inferior.  the TERF is loud about sex work being evil, ignoring that for many trans people and for many people of color, sex work is the only work there is. sex-shaming is the final nail in the coffin because it shows the TERF is supported entirely by the skeleton of patriarchy even if its skin is that of feminism…the TERF claims that only some women can be feminists, and then goes on to divide those “some women” even further; this is actually something Raymond suggests in The Transsexual Empire that “transsexuals” will engage in to attempt to preclude cis women from women’s space. in other words, Dr. Raymond nailed it that someone would try to fragment and break feminism, but it wasn’t those of us who are trans women…the TERF is the real threat to feminism. to paraphrase Dr. Raymond, the TERF is the spy for the patriarchy, the TERF is the patriarchy’s tool in female form. when all you do is anoint the kyriarchy, you become indistiguishable from the kyriarchy.