Last year, The New Yorker published an article titled, ”What is a Woman? The Dispute Between Radical Feminism vs. Transgenderism” (August 4, 2014). As a feminist who has founded much of my writing on the concept of radicalism (Radical Snail Press), it is disheartening the term “radical feminism” (as self-defined by such feminists) is used to describe a sect of feminist theory that excludes gender identity. Radical is a progressive word by nature. It should not be utilized to marginalize the transgender community. It should maintain inclusive of transgender people. “Extreme Feminism” or “Feminist Extremism” would be more accurate terminology for a sect of feminist theory that promotes marginality.
I look to the women in my life, my grandmother and all of the maternal feminists I know, for the hard work and hardships they have endured so I can live the radical feminist life I do: without adhering to hetero-normative gender roles; for the ability to be gender fluid, not gender defined; to
be sexually liberated and independent in personal nature.Why would any sect of feminism not include the transgender community? What is the point of
making gains in a cause if, once liberated in one aspect or another, those successes are not then utilized to the benefit and safety of those who remain oppressed?
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), print edition 1971, defines the word radical: “n. An advocate of ‘radical reform’ [thorough reform]; one who holds advanced views of political reform….” Based on this definition, wouldn’t it be thorough to be inclusive of the transgender community? Would not this then be an advanced view of feminism, rather than a regressive one?
The word radical can also be defined by its scientific nature, synonymous with “root,” which I believe to be the foundation for the case of “self-defined radical feminists” who hijack it for the purpose of staunch righteousness. If radical means root, or origin, then the definition becomes too archaic, too old. It remains outdated and stuck in a time that has moved light years of progress for women. The advent of “radical feminism” began in the 1970’s during second wave feminism, rendering the term even more outdated in 2015.
Radical Feminism deserves and demands a change, politically as well as linguistically. Women should remember their roots, but do not need to remain puritanically attached to them.
According to The New Yorker article, radical feminists go as far as to “insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public restrooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women” (page 24 in print). To me, this is just as patronizing and misogynist as men who impose rules/definitives on cisgender women. Definitives such as: lower wages, housewife, bad driver, bitch.
How can restriction ever liberate?
Another definition of radicalism I especially admire, also from the OED 1971 print edition,
is “Of qualities : inherent in the nature or essence of a thing or person.” This definition echos language from the Constitution of the United States, a language of unalienable rights, a language that might be too extreme for exclusionary radical feminists to amend: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…”
Why not fight for this?
Sondra Morin is a Chicago poet and essayist. She is an alumna of the Juniper Summer Writing Institute and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Poems, essays, and radio interviews appear in American Public Media’s Marketplace with Kai Rysdall, Chicago Artists Resource, Curbside Splendor, The Rumpus, Similar:Peaks::, and more. You can find more of work by visiting sondramorin.com.