Radfems Respond Backlash: Suppression of Dissent Against Gender Orthodoxy

I’m helping to organize a conference called Radfems Respond.  This event is open to the public, and exists to try and promote frank discussion of two controversial elements of radical feminism: Gender abolition and prostitution abolition.  Predictably, some people would rather shut down dialogue and suppress debate.  This petition has cropped up to try to deplatform this event, which again, is open to the public.  This backlash throws all rhetoric about opposition to “exclusive” women-only events into question – if we receive the same backlash, from the same people, for an event that’s open to the public, then what is that backlash really about?

Here is a partial list of the many, many lies in the text of the petition:

Lie #1: Radfems Respond is an exclusionary event.

Truth: Radfems Respond is open to all people of all identifications and political positions. The event itself is designed to help those who are not radical feminists (including transpeople) ask sincere questions of those who hold gender-critical stances. We welcome anyone who has a sincere desire to learn more about radical feminism. The only individuals who will be turned away are those who have shown a propensity for threats, abusive behavior, and/or violence.

Lie #2: Radical feminists have petitioned to have human rights protection removed from transpeople.

Truth: The radical feminists involved with Radfems Respond believe that human rights are universal, regardless of identity. However, inalienable human rights do not include the right to unlimited access to female-only spaces. Radical feminists seek increased protection for female-only spaces, and have been accused of being responsible for violence against trans people due to this stance. However, desire to protect one group does not mean desire to remove or infringe upon the safety of others. Radical feminists support the rights of transpeople to organize and meet in their own spaces.

Lie #3: Lierre Keith, Heath Russell, and Rachel Ivey are transphobes.

Truth: Lierre Keith, Heath Russell, and Rachel Ivey are deeply opposed to transphobia and have spoken out against the violence transpeople endure from violent men. They are being accused of transphobia because of their gender-critical stance, which sees gender not as an identity or personal choice but as a caste system designed for the perpetuation of male supremacy. Recognizing the reality of biologically female bodies and acknowledging that women face distinct oppression is not transphobia. It is not transphobia to assert that no human body is “wrong” and that surgical operations to remove healthy, functional organs is a kind of self-harm that is often assisted by the medical establishment. Arguing that a desire to abolish gender means a prejudice towards transpeople is like arguing that a desire to abolish capitalism means a prejudice towards the proletariat. Attempting to abolish a system in which certain individuals reside does not mean one is attempting to abolish those individuals.

Lie #4: (Deep Green Resistance and other) radical feminist organizations have harassed, abused, or otherwise mocked transpeople online.

Truth: Any (member of DGR or any other) radical feminist organization represented at Radfems Respond who harasses, abuses, or batters any living creature would be immediately removed from the group and the community. Radfems Respond is being held in the spirit of open dialogue and we welcome civil disagreement that is respectful of everyone’s humanity.

None of the speakers or organizers has ever violated transwomen’s privacy, threatened the lives of gender non-conforming individuals, or otherwise encouraged abuse. In fact, the internet and police records prove that some trans activists and supporters have repeatedly sent threats of rape, death, and bodily mutilation to prominent radical feminists, and the ferocity of those threats intensifies whenever radical feminists seek to assemble politically. These threats are being committed by a small group of malicious trans activist persons, and a similarly small number of trans activists condemn them publicly because many are cowed by the negative consequences such threats portend. We ask that people please be brave and speak up if you think threatening tactics that demand women’s silence are inappropriate.

Lie #5: Cathy Brennan’s Gender Identity Watch is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Truth: Gender Identity Watch is not listed as a hate group by the SPLC, nor has it ever been. Cathy Brennan and other radical feminists are on record as supporting the SPLC in the past and present. Brennan wrote to the UN asking them to consider the ramifications of specific language in recent gender identity legislation on legal protections for females that are based on sex. The text of that letter is here, and it contains no recommendations to deny human rights to anyone. SPLC does important work confronting real hate groups, and to claim radical feminists a hate group cheapens the reality of racist, anti-woman, and male-pattern violence against people who do not conform to gender stereotypes.