Have you heard people talk about how JK Rowling went ‘full-on TERF’? Are you wondering what the hell a TERF actually is? Don’t worry. There are plenty of people in the same boat as you, so let’s try and clear a few things up, shall we?
What is a TERF?
TERF stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.
What does this mean? Well, it is surprisingly simple. If you are are a TERF, it means you are a feminist, but you either believe that trans women and men are not real, or you do not believe that they have the same rights as other people. Basically, if you are a turf, then you are seen as transphobic by the community.
This is actually unique because, for the most part, feminists tend to support trans rights. It is very rare for somebody who classes themselves as a feminist to be regarded as a TERF.
The key part to note in the term is the ‘radical’ part. Many people seem to miss this. There are some people that hold the belief that anybody who is a feminist that is anti-trans can be regarded as a TERF. This isn’t strictly true. You need to be a radical feminist i.e. constantly pushing the feminist agenda. If you aren’t really vocal about the way you speak about feminism, then you probably are not a TERF. Although, of course, that hasn’t really stopped some people using the term anyway.
What is the origin of the term?
Unlike most other terms out there, we can actually trace the origins of the term TERF all the way back to 2008. It was written about by Viv Smythe in her feminist blog. We aren’t 100% sure how she came up with the term, but because she is one of the most prominent feminist writers in the world, the term managed to catch on rather quickly.
Although, to be honest, up until the whole JK Rowling fiasco (which we will talk about in a short while), we are 100% positive most people outside of the radical feminist world had never heard of the term before.
Is it a slur?
There has been some debate as to whether the term TERF is a slur or not. Most people, nowadays, seem to agree that it is mostly used as a slur. Although, we are positive that when the term was initially devised, there was no intentions for it to be used as a slur. It was just another way to describe anti-trans people in the feminist movement.
If you have been keeping up with the JK Rowling fiasco, then you will probably notice that there are a lot of people calling her a TERF, most have absolutely no idea of the meaning, but that is by the by. They are using it to attack her and to use it as an insult. Therefore, it can be regarded as a slur in that regard.
That being said, most people in the feminist movement do see the term TERF as a slur. Not so much as an insult, although the term has certainly been thrown about quite a bit in that regard and it has been used to incite violence and other forms of aggression among people.
The main reason why the term isn’t necessarily loved by the masses is that it is not really used as a form of discussion nowadays. It is a way to try and get people to try and shut up. There is no form of discussion once you call somebody a TERF, it is as if you are constantly disregarding every other viewpoint that they have, rightly or wrongly.
This is not the reason why the term was devised. It was designed to try and open up discussion, not to shut it down. Again, we will draw your attention to the whole JK Rowling thing now. If you look, you will see that she has been unable to explain herself to the world, try as she might. She is simply being shut down because people called her a TERF. Apparently, at that point, your opinion is no longer going to matter to anybody.
How do I know if I am a TERF?
Well, this is a pretty simple question to answer!
If you believe in feminism, but you are anti-trans, then you will be regarded as a TERF by the community. As we said; the term was originally for radical feminists, but the recent news means that it has become pretty much a catch-all term now.
What did JK Rowling Do?
Obviously, we all know that JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books, right? If you don’t, then we are 100% sure you have been living under a rock. You may also know that JK Rowling has become immensely rich from these books. Like most rich people, she seems to be spending a lot of time chatting on Twitter and other social media sites about political topics.
A lot of this has been focused on feminism and related topics. It seems that nearly every statement she makes seems to be taken quite badly by much of the internet, and she always seems to be upsetting a group of people. However, we doubt even she could have predicted what happened a few months ago.
There was an article written that used the term ‘people that menstruate’. Now, obviously, the article would be talking about transgender issues. JK Rowling didn’t like this, and commented that people that menstruate are called women which, of course, triggered the internet. It wasn’t long before she was being called a TERF.
Of course, JK Rowling isn’t really a person to back down from a fight so, shortly after, she posted a tweet saying ‘TERF Wars’. Which, of course, incited people even further. to attack her. While she hasn’t really commented more beyond this, she has released a statement that explains her views.
JK Rowling is from a different time
One thing that seems to be getting lost on a lot of people throughout these so-called ‘TERF Wars’ is the fact that JK Rowling comes from a different time to many of the people who are insulting her.
When JK Rowling grew up, it was the 1970s. Feminism was starting to become much more prominent. However, there was still a bit of anti-trans sentiment within the community. In fact, it is only recently that Feminism has started to open up to transgender women. Back then, this part of the feminism movement was regarded as being a bit on the ‘fringe’ side of things.
JK Rowling only took insult at the fact that she was called a TERF. She did not actually back down from any of the statements that she made online. In fact, she doubled down on the statements.
The last we heard from JK Rowling on the whole situation came from her blog. She gave several reasons as to why she was speaking up about the situation. A lot of them centered on the fact that she believed that using the term TERF was fighting against free speech.
After all, she is actually the most-banned author in the world (people do still think Harry Potter is about Satanism) and that using the term TERF was shutting down opinions. She also believed that gender impacts the charitable work she does, and she believes that it was putting some of the people she helps at risk of violence and the like.
She also talked a little bit about how she does believe gender dysphoria is a thing which, technically, would not make her a TERF. Although, this was a minor part of her writing.
She also talked a lot about something she had never discussed before. This was the sexual abuse that she suffered when she was much younger. She also had a violent marriage that she barely was able to escape from. All of this helped to shape the views that she has. As far as we know, she is probably one of the only people that has defended herself at length like this, and still stuck by her views despite the constant abuse being hurled at her.
Of course, everybody ignored her reasonings and doubled down on the attacks.
Will the term TERF change?
Honestly, we believe it will.
Because of the JK Rowling situation, the term has now entered the general lexicon. Pretty much every major news organization was reporting on the situation and, as a result, a lot of people started to hear the term TERF. This means that it is probably never going to hold the same meaning that it did over the past decade or so.
If you head onto social media, you will see that it is mostly used as an insult nowadays. This is probably not going to change. We reckon that, over time, new terms will come to be used. The term TERF is just way too tainted now. As much as people tried to stop it from being used as a slur, this is something that is no longer going to happen.