On FreethoughtBlogs, Ophelia Benson shared a platform with a decent number of LGBT allies and people, who were sensitive to trans* people and their issues.
On Butterflies and Wheels, Benson has the place to herself. Thanks in part to the noisy departure, her Patreon was quite successful; when I last checked, she was earning $630 a month from kicking out blog posts (the latest numbers are here). As I pointed out earlier, it’s in her best interest to keep the controversy alive as it feeds into her persecution narrative and keeps her fans (and herself) angry, unable to sit back and critically examine what the critics are saying.
In sum, Benson’s much more free to open up and speak publicly about her views. She has little to lose, and a lot to gain, by doing so. If she truly was a TERF, you’d expect an uptick in transphobia.
I started down the TERF hole that is OB’s blog and she is full-on. Like not even pretending to even care anymore.
That’s come to pass.
[CONTENT WARNING: TERFs]
Back in April, Benson “privately” shared a blog post by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, a TERF blogger she admired and presumably had been following for some time. Over at FreethoughtBlogs, Benson’s never mentioned her. At Butterflies and Wheels, however, Benson was eager to introduce her to her fans. While the article she shared there wasn’t TERF-y, if you click on the “What I believe about Sex and Gender” link, you’ll find this (emphasis in original):
8. Women’s oppression has its historical roots and its ostensible justification in female biology and the exploitation of female reproductive labour. Altering the definition of the word ‘female’ so that it now means ‘any person who believes themselves to be female’ is not only conceptually incoherent (…); it also removes the possibility of analysing the structural oppression of female persons as a class, by eradicating the terminology we use to describe the material conditions of their existence.
A woman is an adult human female. Here is what we know about any given woman:
- She has, at some point, experienced the physical reality of a female reproductive system.
More recently, Benson’s shared some of the writing of another member of “Gender Apostates,” Diana from Neophytia. Anteprepro beat me to that one too, so let’s just move on to the next TERF, Delilah Campbell.
More generally, if you want to hold a women-only event from which trans women are excluded, you are likely to encounter the objection that this exclusion is illegal discrimination, and also that the analysis which motivates it—the idea that certain aspects of women’s experience or oppression are not shared by trans women—is itself an example of transphobia. Expressed in public, this analysis gets labelled ‘hate-speech’, which there is not only a right but a responsibility to censor. […]
How did it come to be the case that taking issue with trans activists’ analyses of their situation (as Julie Bindel has) or hurling playground insults at trans people (as Julie Burchill did) automatically puts the commentator concerned in the same category as a Nick Griffin or a David Irving? [..]
It’s also remarkable how quickly and easily trans people were added to the list of groups who are legally protected against discrimination, and even more remarkable that what was written into equality law was their own principle of self-definition—if you identify as a man/woman then you are entitled to be recognized as a man/woman. In a very short time, this tiny and previously marginal minority has managed to make trans equality a high profile issue, and support for it part of the liberal consensus.
Even ignoring these TERF bloggers, Benson has been discussing trans* people a lot more than she used to. Just in the span of two days, she’s shared a post on a person who committed suicide after transitioning, a study which claimed trans* men who were transitioning had lost brain tissue, a CollegeHumour video which mocked coming out as trans*, and those two pieces from Diana. Someone afraid of offending trans* people wouldn’t talk about them more; offense is the end goal here.
I’ve also noticed an interesting change in the comment section. Back at FreethoughtBlogs, when a notorious TERF jumped into the comment section she was shot down by a number of commenters and regulars (but strangely, not by Benson herself). Her commenters were actively opposed to transphobia, and on the rare occasions that it popped up were willing to call it out. Now, however, we find transphobic comments are a common occurrence.
There’s no such thing as a person assigned male at birth. There is no Gender Cop in the birthing room arbitrarily assigning these things. And maleness is not gender, it is sex. You’re born with it. You have it before you are born. […]
Also, your remarks about traumatized women getting over their trauma by being exposed to the source of that trauma in a safe environment? Those are really gross. If you’re a transwoman, and I suspect you are but can’t be arsed Googling you at the moment, be aware that that kind of thinking is one of the reasons we don’t trust you. It’s guy thinking. Ditch it. We do not need you dictating to us when and how we decide to face our fears. That quite frankly is none of your business.
Transwomen can find safe spaces without butting into women’s spaces. Start some shelters for trans and queer identified people. Bam. Problem solved.
WE had to start OUR own shelters. Fair is fair.
We are born with a body and a personality, that body does dictate some things – like if you are female you are the only sex that will get pregnant – but nothing of that dictates how a person could or should be in terms of human potential. Instead though, we all get slotted into boxes according to our sex and expected to behave in particular ways according to that. None of it really fits properly though.
Intersex is a huge red herring, the fact is humans sexually reproduce and the vast majority are typically fertile males or females and that there are a few infertile outliers doesn’t change this fact. Biology and the gametes we produce won’t change no matter how many people try and chant it’s all a construction. This is used typically to deny women, who are female, the right to define themselves using their shared biology and mean others can simply identify as such without having that biology or lived experience.
This is so true thank you for saying this. I am what many would consider ‘a known TERF’ though I would obviously reject that description. My firm belief (like most women labelled ‘TERFs’) is that all gender non conformity by anyone is a positive thing because it’s an oppressive system that subjugates women and people should just be free to be themselves. […]
Just in case there’s a language issue here, I’ll state the definitions I’m using (which I think are generally accepted):
Gender = Feminine / masculine = social roles/stereotypes/behaviours
Sex = Female / male = biological reality
Man/men = adult human males Woman/women = adult human females (akin to sow/boar, mare/stallion, doe/buck in other animals)
And this time around, few people are pushing back. There are exceptions, and I’m quite thankful for those people, but opposing transphobia has become the exception instead of the norm.
And at the centre of it all, Benson’s transphobia is gradually coming out of the closet. Consider:
The latter part is uncontroversial, but that first part… oy. Is Benson seriously arguing that pushing back against harmful sex-related stereotypes doesn’t qualify as feminism? That combating improper or inadequate medical care because of one’s sex doesn’t qualify as feminism? I fail to see how trans activism isn’t feminism, and I’m not alone.
[the CollegeHumour video] mocks the earnestness of a certain kind of very young social justice type. (Yes I know, ageism…but I “identify as” a very young person myself, so it’s ok.) It mocks the rhetoric of that brand of social justice (identify as, appropriation, my truth, I feel safe saying, everyone knows that star signs are on a spectrum, thanks for being an ally). It mocks the instant enforcement of each new identity and the righteous indignation at the skeptic (“how dare you!”).
It mocks a bunch of silly shit. It really is possible to find that kind of thing hilarious even when it’s your silly shit that’s being mocked.
Says the person who isn’t being mocked. Has Benson considered that while she might enjoy being mocked, others might not? Or would she rather keep identifying as various things, to trivialize the process of coming to terms with your own gender identity in a world where the wrong identity can get you assaulted or provoke threats on your life?
Is it also mocking the basic idea behind “trans women are women, period”? Yes, while at the same time saying that trans people are not the targets.
The video was mocking the idea that trans* women are women, but since it wasn’t targeting trans* women it was totes cool? By the same line of thought, it’s peachy-keen to mock the basic idea behind “women have equal rights” so long as you don’t mock women.
I’ve never surfed in Tofino, sampled wine in Osoyos, downhill skiied at Whistler, taken shelter from a tornado in Moose Jaw, watched a Roughriders game in Regina, shot at polar bears in Churchill, portaged near Thunder Bay, taken maple syrup straight from the tree in Saguenay, dodged moose on the road to Moncton, nor had lobster fresh off the boat in Rocky Harbour. Am I less of a Canadian than someone who has done those things? Of course not; Canadians have radically different experiences from one another, and ignoring statistical patterns like geography the only thing we all have in common is that a government database calls us Canadian. Have that electronic mark? Canadian. Lack that mark? Not Canadian. Have that mark inserted? Canadian. There’s no shades of gray.
The country metaphor actually argues that trans* women are women…. unless you begin by assuming they aren’t. It doesn’t matter if you’ve stood on Mount Temple, or hiked in the sun at 1 AM, or swam in Three Isle Lake, or touched an iceberg in Berg Lake, or met a marmot atop Cirque Peak, or anything else a Canadian has experienced, you will never be a Canadian as long as you’re excluded from that database.
Benson’s showing her true face, and it looks remarkably like that of a TERF. Will her long-time fans notice, or will they buy into the narrative she’s constructing?
The usual suspects are of course accusing me of “doubling down” all over the place…when the reality is I just haven’t been convinced by the people yelling at me. […] So here I am reprehensibly doubling down and continuing to ask questions. How very dare I. […]
There is this insistence that you have to accept what you’re told by the Approved People, and that not doing so is itself transphobic. What kind of epistemology is that? It’s not a kind I ever signed up for, I can tell you that.
And there’s also the attitude to heresy, which is what you would expect from believers.
The story they’re telling is that I simply can’t tolerate disagreement. That’s bullshit. […]
But to find anything to accuse me of they had to go combing through what groups I’m in on Facebook and what I “Liked” in those groups. Really? […]