An internalised liberation — the creation of an inner safe space — is neither frivolous nor self-indulgent. Women have a right to their own inner lives, their own words, their own ways of reading their physical reality and their own interpretations of whatever abuses they suffer. Constant demands that women open themselves up — whether this is meant physically or metaphorically — are both anti-feminist and inhumane. The age-old notion that those born female are required to suck up whatever interpretations of their reality those born male wish to impose on them cannot be part of any feminist project. Nor can the belief that a superior breed of female — those who have aligned themselves with maleness through claiming a trans or genderqueer identity, or through claiming to have been penetrated by a sufficient number of penises — represent the only females fit to judge what “Woman” really means. Feminism is not screw or be screwed. Feminism prioritises active consent and the integrity of every woman’s physical and personal boundaries.
The “e” in TERF or SWERF does not really mean “excluding” or “exclusionary”. It doesn’t even stand for anything starting with “e”. It means “non-compliant”. It means “having the temerity to be female — to be walking the earth with that hole between her legs, that body and mind that invite invasion — and still having the nerve to say no”. The demand that women do not “exclude” is really an insistence that they abandon this right of refusal. It is about recontextualising experiences of abuse (including rape and physical assault) so that their relationship to one’s female body is denied. It is about ceding headspace so that one’s conception of oneself as a full, rounded human being — non-binary and fluid, like a person — is denied. It is about saying “I don’t mind — I don’t mind objectification for the sake of your self-definition, I don’t mind the violence of gender for the sake of your self-esteem, I don’t mind being less so that you can be more”. It’s about gritting your teeth and staring at the ceiling because hey, you owe him. You can’t back out now.