Where Are the Feminists?
A handy guide to answering that question
February 16, 2023
A lot of people (American conservatives, in particular) like to ask “Where are the feminists?” when it comes to fighting for women’s sex-based rights and standing up to “gender identity” insanity (here is a recent example). Feminists, here is a handy guide for responding to that question. Feel free to use it anytime and anywhere you want to (this post is free and shareable).
In some ways, it’s a completely reasonable question. Surveying the American political landscape, it quickly becomes obvious that Democrats are pushing the “gender identity” agenda and all of the mainstream organizations that call themselves feminist (including NOW, Planned Parenthood, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights) have been completely captured (bought) by the “gender identity” industry. That industry has so succeeded in persuading the mainstream political left in the US that everybody has to go along with the lie that some men are women, that some children are born in the wrong body, and that anyone who questions these orthodoxies will be immediately canceled, that these mainstream “feminist” organizations have become complicit in a movement that sacrifices women and girls at the altar of “gender identity.” I get it.
In other ways, though, the question is very annoying to those of us who have been screaming our heads off about all of this for a very long time and have no real mainstream visibility.
Many of us have lost careers, friends, and family members. We have been socially ostracized. We are met with physical violence when we talk about it. Some of us have been injured. We have sacrificed a lot to fight for women and girls. Conservatives risk nothing by criticizing “trans.” Feminists risk everything.
EDIT: A reader reached out to remind me that some conservatives have, in fact, risked a lot for speaking out. I initially wrote this before that was true, but it is now undeniably true that conservatives have certainly, in more recent months, taken risks. I am editing the piece to reflect that.
First, have a look across the pond at all the amazing feminists who are getting some mainstream visibility (though I would argue not enough) standing up to the push for self-ID. Here is a great piece by UK feminist Julie Burchill on the golden age of misogyny. Here is a great piece by UK feminist Victoria Smith about the importance of women-only spaces on campus. Lesbian feminist Jo Bartosch writes about this topic all the time. Feminists all over the UK are standing up for women and girls. Google “Nicola Sturgeon gender” if you want to get a glimpse into what happens to politicians who ignore a bunch of angry Scottish feminists. If you don’t know who J.K. Rowling is or what she has had to say on the topic, I’m not sure how to help you.
Next, check out radical feminist professor Janice Raymond’s 1979 book The Transsexual Empire, where she predicted everything that was going to happen. She published a reprint in 1994, with an Introduction that addresses the dangers of the growing use of the word “transgender” throughout society. Everyone can download it in pdf form for free.
Fast forward to 2013 and the founding of the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), an unapologetically radical feminist organization that works “to restore, protect, and advance the rights of women and girls using legal argument, policy advocacy, and public education.” It has been fighting the “gender identity” industry since 2013. I know this in part because I joined it in 2015 and served on its board between 2016 and 2020.
A year later, journalist Michelle Goldberg published a piece in The New Yorker called “What Is a Woman?: The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism.” In that piece, she discusses the feminist objections to “trans” extensively and recounts a feminist event that took place in 1973, where radical feminist Robin Morgan is reported to have said:
I will not call a male “she”; thirty-two years of suffering in this androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the title “woman”; one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers’ names and in our own, we must not call him sister.”
That’s right. American feminists are on record as having been complaining about this since 1973.
Also in 2014, UK radical feminist Sheila Jeffreys published a book called Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism. Here is how the book is described on Amazon:
It is only recently that transgenderism has been accepted as a disorder for which treatment is available. In the 1990s, a political movement of transgender activism coalesced to campaign for transgender rights. Considerable social, political and legal changes are occurring in response and there is increasing acceptance by governments and many other organisations and actors of the legitimacy of these rights.
This provocative and controversial book explores the consequences of these changes and offers a feminist perspective on the ideology and practice of transgenderism, which the author sees as harmful. It explores the effects of transgenderism on the lesbian and gay community, the partners of people who transgender, children who are identified as transgender and the people who transgender themselves, and argues that these are negative. In doing so the book contends that the phenomenon is based upon sex stereotyping, referred to as 'gender' – a conservative ideology that forms the foundation for women's subordination. Gender Hurts argues for the abolition of ‘gender’, which would remove the rationale for transgenderism.
This book will be of interest to scholars and students of political science, feminism and feminist theory and gender studies.
It’s hard to get any clearer than that.
In 2016, WoLF sued the Obama Administration over its “guidance” that had ordered schools to redefine sex to include “gender identity” all across the country. In 2017, I went on Tucker Carlson Tonight to explain WoLF’s lawsuit. I made no secret of the fact that I’m a leftist radical feminist. I have been on that show about seven or eight times since then, and plenty of feminists will never forgive me for it.
By my count, WoLF has filed at least eight amicus briefs before the U.S. federal judiciary arguing, essentially, that women are female and ought to be legally protected on that basis. It has probably filed more, but that’s the number that comes to mind. I participated in writing several of them.
In early 2019, several WoLF members appeared on a panel called “The Inequality of the Equality Act: Concerns from the Left” at the Heritage Foundation. We weren’t particularly thrilled to be at the Heritage Foundation, but no single liberal or libertarian venue would host the panel. We presented our leftist feminist critique of “gender identity.” And for what it’s worth, I have been told that the video of the event has gotten more hits than any other video on the Heritage website.
Later in 2019, what was then called the Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) launched the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights (the Declaration). This document is grounded in a radical feminist critique of “gender identity.” The group has country chapters all over the world. The organization later changed its name to Women’s Declaration International (WDI). Today, WDI is the leading global feminist organization that fights to protect women’s sex-based rights.
In the summer of 2019, lesbian radical feminist Julia Beck testified before the House Judiciary Committee against the so-called Equality Act, which would redefine sex to include “gender identity” throughout federal civil rights law. In her testimony, she said:
The Equality Act is a human rights violation. Every person in this country will lose our right to single sex sports, shelters, grants, and loans. We will be unable to provide or deny intimate services to people of the opposite sex. We will no longer be able to distinguish between women and men.
The concept of gender identity suggests that there’s an essentially female personality or feeling that a person can have, but no such thing as a female body. Making gender identity the law will in fact mandate a belief in a ‘female penis’ or ‘female testes.’
I thank the Republicans who invited me here, and I urge my fellow Democrats to wake up. Please acknowledge biological reality.
She made similar arguments in her testimony before the same committee about the Violence Against Women Act that same year.
In February 2020, WoLF held an event called “Fighting the New Misogyny: A Feminist Critique of Gender Identity.” It was a great event, but hundreds of people stood outside, yelling and screaming that we were TERFs, and pounding on the glass windows of the library building. Earlier that day, someone had called in a bomb threat. The speakers had to be escorted out of the venue to their car by library security, and then city police. When they got into the car, protesters pounded their fists on the roof and hood of the car, screaming “FUCK TERFs.” The event got some coverage in the Washington Post, but it was totally disingenuous. It essentially painted us as a bunch of right-wing bigots, knowing full well that we were all leftist feminists. To the best of my knowledge, that Washington Post piece is the only national coverage that American radical feminists have gotten in an outlet that doesn’t lean conservative since the 2014 New Yorker piece.
Later in 2020, the US chapter of WDI launched. I serve as its current president. Since that time, we have been working to advance the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights throughout US law and policy at all levels of government, including by pushing back hard on the Equality Act. We have, for example, played a role over the past couple years in getting bills passed in 20 or so states that protect single-sex sports for women and girls. Thanks to a small team of volunteer women, we have submitted countless pieces of written testimony before state legislatures all over the country. Not only on sports, but also on protecting kids and keeping “gender identity” out of state legislation. WDI USA has also filed amicus briefs in two federal court cases arguing in favor of the sex-based rights of women and girls. We think those briefs are making a difference.
In 2021, the TERF Collective entered the scene. This is a group of leftist radical feminists who provide space for women who are just starting to understand the harms of “gender identity” and help them hone their radical feminist critique of “gender identity.”
There are countless feminist activists all over Twitter who constantly try to raise awareness of the leftist feminist critique of “gender identity.” There are way too many to mention here. There is also a slew of feminist YouTube channels dedicated to raising awareness about the topic.
In November 2021, I published a book called The Abolition of Sex: How the ‘Transgender’ Agenda Harms Women and Girls. That book includes this:
Here is the truth we cannot speak: “gender identity” does not exist in any real, material sense, and “transgender” is simply a made-up concept that is used to justify all kinds of atrocities. It is, in effect, a men’s rights movement intended to objectify women’s bodies and erase us as a class. It is left-wing misogyny on steroids.
I say this is as a leftist and a Democrat.
Famed author J.K. Rowling recently said that we are living in one of the most misogynistic times in recent history. She is right. From a feminist perspective, men as a class have always dominated women and trampled on our rights, and today is no different, except that it is worse because it is being done under the ruses of “transgenderism” and “gender identity,” both of which are being enshrined in law at all levels of government and pushed by the political left. Many of us women on the political left are accustomed to having our rights trampled on by the right; we are not used to experiencing it from within our own political ranks.
It ends with a call to action to fight against the abolition of sex on behalf of women and girls.
Also in November 2021, WoLF filed a lawsuit on behalf of four incarcerated women challenging a California law that allows men to “self-identify” as women or non-binary and be housed in women’s facilities. WoLF’s complaint presents claims under the 1st, 8th, and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
By December 2022, thanks at least in some part to the relentless advocacy efforts of feminist individuals and organizations to push back against the Equality Act, the Act appeared to be dead.
In January 2023, feminist shop owner Amy Mangano faced hundreds of protesters who were angry that she had posted the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights (and other TERFy signs) prominently in her storefront.
She knew that she was risking her safety and her livelihood to do that.
The night before the protest, she posted a sign in the window that read “Are women’s sex-based rights hateful?” The purpose of that was to get members of the general public to really think hard about that question.
Spinifex Press is an Australian book publisher that has been printing feminist analyses for decades. Here are just a few of its publications in recent years that critique “gender identity” from a feminist point of view:
2019 In Defence of Separatism by Susan Hawthorne https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950045
2020 Transgender Body Politics by Heather Brunskell-Evans https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950229
2020 Vortex: The Crisis of Patriarchy by Susan Hawthorne https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950168
2021 Not Dead Yet: Feminism, Passion and Women’s Liberation edited by Renate Klein and Susan Hawthorne https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950328
2021 Detransition: Beyond Before and After by Max Robinson https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950403 (now available as an audiobook)
2021 Doublethink: A Feminist Challenge to Transgenderism https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950380
2021 The Women’s Pool edited by Lynne Spender https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950458
2022 Out of the Fog: On Politics, Feminism and Staying Alive by Renée Gerlich https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950540
2022 Penile Imperialism by Sheila Jeffreys https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950700
2023 On the Meaning of Sex: Thought about a New Definition of Woman by Kajsa Ekis Ekman https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950663
2023 Not Sacred, Not Squaws: Indigenous Feminism Reclaimed by Cherry Smiley https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950649 (April 2023 but available now via Spinifex)
Robert Jensen is a man (and therefore technically not a feminist) but he’s an ally to feminism. In 2016, Spinifex published his book The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men. It’s a good resource for men who want to understand the radical feminist critique of patriarchy in general and of “gender identity” in particular.
April 6, 2023 update:
In March 2023, representatives of WDI USA went back to Athens, Ohio, to do a women’s rights demonstration in support of the same woman-owned small business that was being harassed and threatened with a boycott for the alleged crime of standing up for women and girls. We held a banner that read “Woman = Adult Human Female” and gave speeches. It got some attention in local media with the headline, “Supporters of women's rights 'reject belief systems' that humans can change sex.”
Since its inception, Women’s Declaration International has hosted webinars nearly every Saturday where women have talked about various aspects of the feminist objections to “gender identity.” Women are always welcome to join (and men are invited to watch later on YouTube). You can find highlights from all of these webinars on WDI’s YouTube channel. In April 2023, it held a conference in London titled, “What is to be Done? Women's Rights Conference.” Its entire purpose was to discuss ways of getting “gender identity” out of the law.
July 2023 update:
Feminists have been busy since April.
Since the last update, WDI USA has filed amicus (friend of the court) briefs in three federal court cases: Neese v. Becerra, B.P.J. v. West Virginia, and L.W. v. Skrmetti. We held a public demonstration before the U.N. on Mothers Day. We’re doing another one this month in Philadelphia. We have been planning our annual convention in September. I have given a presentation (twice) about why we think we’re further along in the movement to protect the sex-based rights of women and girls and to stop the abolition of sex than might be obvious, and about how we think that feminists are responsible for a good amount of our success. I also gave a presentation at the 2023 summit of the group ICONS about the importance of always using accurate sex-based language when talking about sex and gender. I published a piece titled “Why progressives should support the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act.”
Those are just a few examples. The media doesn’t want you to know it, but feminists are hard at work and taking risks to protect the sex-based rights of women and girls. That’s where the feminists are.