Feminists Against Women: the Politics of Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism
What makes TERFs tick? Today, there is a sometimes baffling confluence of forces waging a war on trans people (adults and children)—Christian fascists, nominal “secularists,” state powers, and self-appointed “radical feminists.” The latter, widely known as TERFs (Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists), make common cause with reactionary politicians in advancing anti-trans legislation. Pitting trans people’s existence against the interests of “womanhood,” TERFs couch a rejection of transness and trans rights in the language of the political Left, even sometimes describing transness as a conspiracy of global patriarchal pharma-capitalist interests. In this course, a philosophical genealogy of trans-hostility, we’ll seek to come to grips with a movement and body of thought that, in sharing some of the predicates of leftists and trans advocates, presents an all-the-more vexing—and dangerous—challenge to transness and its recognition. How do TERFs appeal to feminist audiences? And how can we understand TERF concepts of work, capital, commodification, sexuality, nature, and the body?
Beginning with Gyn/Ecology (1978) by the American theologian Mary Daly and The Transsexual Empire (1979) by the Catholic nun turned lesbian separatist Janice Raymond, we will read a spread of excerpts from the past 45 years of transphobic feminism, including Material Girls by Kathleen Stock and Feminism for Women by Julie Bindel. We’ll also read critiques of TERFist philosophy by trans radicals, political theorists, and feminist scholars—e.g., Susan Stryker, Juliet Jacques, Cristan Williams, Brooke Beloso, Jules Joanne Gleeson. As we go, we’ll attend to right-wing drift in the politics of identity more generally, examining how, with philosopher Wendy Brown, “certain well-intentioned contemporary political projects and theoretical postures inadvertently redraw the very configurations and effects of power that they seek to vanquish.” Together, we will consider Brown’s concept of “wounded attachments” as a lens through which to view TERFism. By engaging with a series of what are overall violent texts, we will equip ourselves with knowledge that can be of use to trans-liberation struggle. How can a critical study of TERFism, undertaken from an uncompromisingly trans-liberatory point of view, help us, in Susan Stryker’s words, “extract all of our bodies from the coloniality of gender, untether ourselves from the racializing biopolitical assemblages…and heal from the wounded attachments to identity categories through which we live but that can thwart our collective work”?
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
November 17 — December 15, 2022
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Thursday, November 24th.