Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Criticism of “Gender”
August 18, 2013
WARNING: The authenticity of this letter has been called into question. Since its distribution none of the signatories have made public comment. While I have been provided with a copy of an email from a person claiming to be Carol Hanisch I am withholding judgement until further confirmation. We have seen many times trans/MRA activists (like Daryl/Sophia Banks) impersonate known feminists in order to harass them. Until further confirmation I am leaving this warning here.
*UPDATE* THE AUTHENTICITY OF THIS DOCUMENT HAS BEEN CONFIRMED. Read full document HERE.
“We, the undersigned 1960s radical feminists and current activists, have been concerned for some time about the rise within the academy and mainstream media of “gender theory,” which avoids naming men and the system of male supremacy as the beneﬁciaries of women’s oppression. Our concern changed to alarm when we learned about threats and attacks, some of them physical, on individuals and organizations daring to challenge the currently fashionable concept of gender.
Recent developments: A U.S. environmental organization that also calls itself radical feminist is attacked for its political analysis of gender. Feminist conferences in the U.K., U.S. and Canada are driven from their contracted locations for asserting the right of women to organize for their liberation separately from men, including M>F (male to female) transgendered people.
Deep Green Resistance (DGR) reports1 that queer activists defaced its published materials and trans activists threatened individual DGR members with arson, rape and murder. Bookstores are pressured not to carry DGR’s work and its speaking events are cancelled after protests by queer/transgender activists. At “RadFem” conferences in London2, Portland3 and Toronto4, trans activists accuse scheduled speakers of hate speech and/or being transphobic because they dare to analyze gender from a feminist political perspective. Both M>F transgender people and “men’s rights” groups, operating separately but using similar language, demand to be included in the Rad Fem 2013 conference in London called to ﬁght against women’s oppression and for liberation.
How did we slide back to the point where radical feminists have to ﬁght for the right to hold women-only conferences and criticize conventional “gender roles”? The rise of Gender Studies may be part of the problem. Language is a wonderful human tool for thinking, understanding, cooperation and progress, so it makes sense that when people ﬁght for freedom and justice against those who are oppressing them, the use and misuse of words—of language—becomes part of the struggle. Originally the term “gender” may have been a useful way around the communication problem that the word “sex” in English has several meanings. “Sex” refers to the reproduction of a species, as well as acts bringing about sexual pleasure AND the simply descriptive division of many plants and animals into two observable categories—the “sexes.” Using “gender” instead of “sex” allows feminists to make it clear that all kinds of social relations and differences between the sexes were unjust, not just sexual relations between the sexes. “Gender” also covers the artiﬁcial, socially-created differences between the human sexes, the overwhelming majority of which are politically, economically and culturally disadvantageous to female humans.
“Gender Studies” has displaced the grassroots women’s liberation analysis of the late 1960s and early 1970s. An early embrace of the neutral idea of “sex roles” as a major cause of women’s oppression by some segments of the women’s liberation movement has morphed into the new language—but the same neutrality—of “gender roles” and “gender oppression.” With a huge boost from the “new” academic theory coming out of those programs, heavily inﬂuenced by post-modernism, “gender identity” has overwhelmed—when not denying completely—the theory that biological women are oppressed and exploited as a class by men and by capitalists due to their reproductive capacity. Women often can no longer organize against our oppression in women-only groups without being pilloried with charges of transphobia. But, as a UK- based radical feminist “Fire in My Belly” wrote in her blog, “Radical feminists recognise that an individual’s ‘gender identity’ cannot, in a fair society, be allowed to ride roughshod over biological sex, which cannot be changed.”5
We do not view traditional sex/gender roles as natural or permanent. In fact, criticizing these “roles” is valid and necessary for women’s liberation. Radical feminist analysis and activism focus on unequal power relations between men and women under male supremacy, with real, material beneﬁts going to the oppressor group (men) at the expense of the oppressed group (women).”
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