The fanatical opponents of radical feminism are always trying to coin new words to further attack, marginalize and slander radical feminism. First there was TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminists) and now there’s SWERF (sex work exclusionary radical feminists).
Now the term TERF is easy enough to understand. Radical feminists are trying to make female-only spaces, which are, as history proves, the main means of female liberation. Anti-feminists must therefore attack these spaces with urgency, and they do so by accusing radical feminists of “excluding trans people.”
I do want to point out that, although the term is used as a slur, the accusation is partially correct. Female-only spaces must exclude trans women, even though they call themselves women, because they were socialized as men and therefore still think and act like men. The aggressiveness with which they threaten and attempt to silence women is a testimony to that fact. They cannot cooperate with radical feminists because they were born with male privilege and have no understanding of it.
It’s also important to point out that regardless of it’s origins, “terf” is used to demonize women who prioritize women. End of story. Women deserve spaces free of males, and apparently we deserve to die for saying that?
The incorrect part lies in the assumption that there are some radical feminists who are “trans exclusionary,” which seems to posit a distinction between those and the radical feminists that aren’t (“trans inclusive,” one assumes). To my knowledge, apart from a rare unicorn (as unlikely as it seems, there are trans people who claim to be radical feminists), the latter simply do not exist, which makes the attempt to divide-and-conquer all the more puzzling. Who are these “trans inclusive” radfems who must be differentiated from all the others?
The use of the term “exclusionary” is very matter of fact. It is therefore puzzling to me why it was chosen as a slur. Any movement must exclude people, otherwise it wouldn’t be a movement. The radical feminist movement must exclude people who were raised as men, if it is to be a feminist movement at all.
Unlike anti-feminists, I do not feel particularly vexed by this fact: in fact, I’d be rather worried if radical feminism was not “exclusionary,” because no movement can survive by incorporating its enemies. Liberal feminism accepts with open arms rapists, pedophiles, pimps, porn directors who spread HIV and other STDs to women, and other women-haters, therefore it cannot fight for female liberation.
So now we have a new term, SWERF, which stands for sex work exclusionary radical feminists. This is a much more muddled term than TERF, for many reasons. First, there is no such thing as “sex work.” Prostitution and pornography are not “work,” insofar as “work” does not involve exploiting people’s bodily integrity (and any job that does is just as evil). Therefore using the term “sex work” assumes as its premise the validity of the exploitation of women’s bodily integrity.
But most importantly, no radfem wants to exclude female prostitutes or porn actresses from female-only spaces, from feminism, or from anything else, by virtue of being prostitutes or porn actresses. So the slur, in this case, is simply false; there is no such thing as a “sex work” exclusionary radical feminist.
The term SWERF, I think, comes from the following rhetorical attack used by anti-feminists: radical feminists claim that “sex work” is the exploitation of women’s bodily integrity; this is a personal slight against “sex workers”; therefore radical feminists are against “sex workers.”
If you don’t see the problem with this attack, then compare this with the following “reasoning”: libsocs claim that wage labor is unjustifiable and exploitative; this is a personal slight against employees; therefore libsocs are against employees.
The “reasoning” is preposterous because it equates an attack on an unjust system with an attack on the innocent people who are trapped in it. In fact, the opposite is true: attacking an unjust system is an act of solidarity with those people who are trapped in it. It’s incredible that such a large number of people have been indoctrinated so thoroughly that they believe fighting a system of oppression means fighting its victims. Here we’re going beyond the province of lying and into the state of delusion.
Radfems support the Swedish model against prostitution and sex trafficking, which consists of decriminalizing prostitutes, helping them integrate society, and criminalizing pimps and john. Since 90% of prostitutes want to leave their situation, they should be helped in doing so: anything else is a direct silencing of their voice, and supporting the system that keeps them trapped is violence against women.
This makes it even more ironic when anti-feminists claim that radfems don’t listen to prostitutes’ voices. What they really mean is: radfem don’t listen to pimp organizations when those organizations preach the legalization and the moving indoors (out of prying eyes) of rape and abuse. But radfem do listen to the voices of the ex-prostitutes who speak up against the rape and abuse inherent in prostitution. To pimps and their anti-feminist supporters, those voices must be silenced at all cost.
The terms TERF and SWERF are used by the most hateful anti-feminists, the vast majority being male, out there. Do not mistake these people for innocent bystanders. Their objective is clear: to silence women, prevent the continuation of female-only spaces, and by doing so destroy feminist awareness.
It has been a historical constant that every time women come close to understanding the nature of their oppression, they must be isolated, gaslighted, invalidated, told to practice thought-stopping, and so on. Women’s issues must be compared to other issues and declared trivial, a waste of time, made-up, or even the proof of “female privilege.”
And yes, I include trans advocates in the anti-feminist category. As fanatical genderists, trans advocates are guilty of participating in gendered oppression.