SWerfs/Terfs, the Westboro Baptist Church of feminism.

Posted on August 3, 2013


Swerf = sex work exclusionary radical feminist Terf =trans* exclusionary radical feminist. They go hand in hand.

The loudest non religious voices opposed to sex workers rights, Bindel and Burchill in the UK, Dworkin, Brennan, Farley, among others, describe themselves as radical feminists.  I leave the argument of whether they are feminists to others, it’s the radical that intrigues me. Since the 1960s a certain cachet has been given to groups who are counter cultural, linkages are made between organisations who stand against the dominant narrative of western capitalism and heteronormative values. This was seen in the Occupy camps, where many disparate groups with different reasons for existing were united far more by what they opposed than by what they supported. We cannot escape history, and as the third generation since the 1960s takes to the streets we have absorbed ideas about how “radical” groups look, sound, behave.

The fact is though radical feminists are extreme social conservatives with attitudes towards sex that Pope Francis would approve of.

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Ann Tagonist‏@radscummery

@kittystryker sex work is so much better. u only get fired for refusing to have your face ejaculated on and you’re never sexually harassed!

 The attitude towards facials, as the most disgusting sex act possible is just one aspect. BDSM, group sex, anal, bisexuality, pansexuality, almost every sexual act that your Great Grandad would have (publicly) disapproved off is also disapproved of by the radical feminists. That is even before you get into their disapproval of women daring to make money from sex work and challenging the patriarchal idea that men are the gatekeepers of female sexuality.

Why then the insistence on calling themselves radical? When your attitude to porn is ban it, when your attitude to sex is only with the lights off and never with any acts that might not be papally approved, when your views are those that reinforce patriarchal tropes of the whore /madonna split, what is radical?

We need to go back to the opening sentences, and I think look at the worlds second biggest group of real life trolls, the Westboro Baptist Church.  The world is a far more complex place than it was 50 years ago,  Old certainties, especially when it comes to sex have been overturned.  Books like The Happy Hooker may seem unnuanced to us now, but along with others a different, more open, more empowered attitude to sex, relationships and sexuality was espoused. We live in a world where the Conservative party passes a same-sex marriage law and millions of women fantasies about being tied up and beaten by their own Mr Grey.

Not liking certain forms of sex is fine, not personally wanting to do X,Y or Z is the right of every human being. However being squicked by tit, pulling a Tebbit and finding them morally wrong, purely based on your squick is something, quite rightly, most people do not think should any longer be the basis for law and policy. Radical feminists are left between a rock and a hard place, wanting to be radical, because history tells them that is a good, powerful thing to be, whilst having personal views that are anything but.

So, looking around they dig out extreme theories that confuse radicalism and bigotry. They confuse not being mainstream with being counter cultural. When the WHO and UNAIDS support decriminalization then opposing it is certainly not mainstream, and becomes a core value for people desperate to find something radical to cling to. Look, they cry, I am not boring or conventional, I hold a radical view! Those with an external locus of evaluation need others to approve of them, to support their view of themselves, and thus conferences are held, blogs written where people prove to each other that they are radical, since they all believe it.

Which brings us rather neatly to the Westboro Baptist Church.

If you have got this far I am sure you can see the parallels. They take the bible and selectively quote and misinterpret. One of their big claims is that they are the only true Christians. The more Christians and non-Christian groups call them out, the more their belief in themselves as a persecuted minority who know THE TRUTH is reinforced. For WBC their internal view of themselves is built on being the only Christians.

For radfems it is built on the idea they are radical and counter cultural and the only true feminist. Both refuse to listen to others who read their doctrines and interpret them differently, both have little contact with those outwith their cult, and both respond with violence, anger and hatred to anyone who challenges the walls they have built up  to keep out the ever-changing progressive world.

Which is the other aspect of this mentioned in the title. Now some people are transphobic through fear and ignorance. It is not acceptable, but like many forms of prejudice can be tackled through education.  This may be the case for some radfems (again fitting with my argument they are in fact personally social conservatives attempting not to be seen as such). However the vehemence with which trans* women are attacked suggests a dogma, a belief that is at the core of the cult, in the same way WBC pickets the funeral of dead service men and women. Many Christians are homophobic, only WBC have raised it to being the corner stone of their faith. In the same way radfems have mistaken radicalism for extremism.

Sex workers and trans people are dying because of the stigma against them, it is time for all people who oppose bigotry and prejudice to stand up against it. There can be no compromise. Just as there are wonderful groups, from hells angels to parents who now turn up to shield the mourners at funerals the WBC picket we need allies to block out the terfs and swerfs,  do not allow their voices to be heard, oppose their meetings, challenge them wherever they push their beliefs. Only by excluding them can you be on the side of those oppressed and marginalised.

Posted in: Feminism, stigma