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Gender Critical Redditor: Preferred pronouns are a sop to “ugly men in dresses” who can’t pass as women

The most controversial pronoun of them all?

By David Futrelle

So-called “gender critical feminists” are obsessed with pronouns; they talk about them more often than a 7th grade English teacher, and the discussions often get quite vitriolic.

Despite the profusion of new pronouns in recent years, the pronoun that gets these rebranded TERFs the angriest is one as ancient as language itself: she. At least when it’s applied to women who aren’t cis.

In a notorious (and quickly deleted) Mumsnet post last year (which you can now find archived here), an angry transphobe called Barra Kerr declared that “pronouns are Rohypnol” — at least when the pronoun in question is “she” or “her” applied to a trans woman. As Kerr sees it, calling one of these “men” by a female pronoun is a “cheap but effective psychological trick” that confuses the brain and lowers natural female defenses against predatory males, whether cis men or wily trans lesbians (who in Kerr’s mind aren’t “really” lesbians at all but dudes who pretend to be women so they can pick up lesbians). By this convoluted “logic” the pronoun “she,” when applied to trans women, is the equivalent of a date rape drug.

If Kerr’s is the most radical transphobic attack on the pronouns of trans women, the meanest and most petty take on the subject I’ve seen so far comes in a Gender Critical subreddit posting from a few days ago by someone called vanillaorgtfo — arguing that calling trans women “she” is just a way to make

these ugly men in dresses feel better about the fact that no one is really fooled and everyone can tell they are actually men.

Let’s go through vanillaorgtfo’s, er, argument in detail.

“The fact is,” she begins, “the vast majority of transwomen do not pass.”

Er, maybe the reason you think this is because the other trans women (not “transwomen”) you run across on the regular do pass, meaning that you never notice them. And it’s also possible that some of the women you think are non-passing “transwomen” are in fact cis women with some stereotypically masculine features.

Even the ones I see who try to take a good selfie with all the pretty hair and clothes and makeup and who have gained weight in the face in “feminine” patterns tend to suffer from pretty noticeable “man jaw”, aka the heavy lower jaw and face women rarely get.

There are plenty of cis women with these so-called “man jaws.” And plenty of cis men without them.

That and other body subtleties tend to subconsciously clue a person in to their true sex. But by now most socially adept people can guess from their egregiously girly clothing they want to be called “she/her”.

If you’re going by twenty-year-old stereotypes, I suppose, or confusing trans women with drag queens.

For those who are passing badly or meeting people in a new situation or talking online or on tumblr, whatever, they use the “preferred pronouns”, however, so that people know. It’s a tacit admission that they are failing to adequately convince people of their preferred gender presentation, or that people are regularly pegging them as the correct sex.

Even aside form the fact that many of those who are careful to spell out their preferred pronouns do so because they don’t fit the gender binary, the fact that someone’s gender presentation doesn’t seem “correct” to vanillaorgtfo is less a reflection on them than on the narrowness of her notions of acceptable gender presentation. Some people actually have no desire to “pass.”

In any case, that’s the substance, such as it is, of vanillaorg’s argument, which essentially boils down to “ha ha, ‘transwomen’ are so ugly they have to tell people their pronouns in advance!” Which is not so much an argument as a dubious assertion based on a series of dumb premises.

The real question is why “arguments” like this make so many Gender Crits — generally a fairly indignant bunch — so gleeful. (Vanillaorgtfo’s post fot nearly 70 upvotes and virtually universal agreement from commenters.) I’m going to take a wild guess and say “transmisogyny.”

Indeed, much of what the Gender Crit crowd says about trans women is similar in spirit to what MGTOWs and other manosphere misosgynists regularly say about cis women. Some of the obsessions are not just similar but identical: the last person I recall going on about “man jaws” was alt-Nazi pickup artist Heartiste.

I would say something about “strange bedfellows” here, but it’s not really strange that there are so many parallels between misogynistic manospherans and transmisogynistic Gender Crits. Hate movements gonna hate.

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Bananananana dakry: Short-Haired, Fat, and Deranged
Bananananana dakry: Short-Haired, Fat, and Deranged
8 months ago

@Robert
@Naglfar

And have a grossly inflated opinion of their attractiveness to the groups they hate/ are terrified will hit on them. Honey, nobody wants to bone someone who wants to see you dead.

Snowberry
Snowberry
8 months ago

Not openly TERF/FART/Gender Critical/Whatever, but I read an online conversation earlier about the upcoming women’s march (Jan 18, dozens of cities, mostly in the US) which was about how intersectional feminism is “doomed”. It’s full of “gatekeeping purists” and no one will ever be good enough for them. It’s gotten so bad that they’re driving each other away because not even pure enough for each other. Some of them were also whining about how we should be nice to people who are racist, anti-semitic, and/or transphobic so long as they’re pro-women in some sense, because that’s how you build a broad feminist coalition. The few dissenters were dogpiled.

Of course that doesn’t really work. The worst bigots end up demanding to run the show and drive out so many people that it’s not a “broad coalition” for very long. And of course while I’m only peripherally¹ involved in intersectional feminism (most of my fairly limited activism lies elsewhere) that’s definitely not my experience of it.

¹That’s not exactly the word I’m looking for, as in discussions of social groups “peripheral” generally seems to imply someone who’s on the border of “outsider” and “insider”, but I can’t think of a better one.

Naglfar
Naglfar
8 months ago

@Snowberry

Some of them were also whining about how we should be nice to people who are racist, anti-semitic, and/or transphobic so long as they’re pro-women in some sense, because that’s how you build a broad feminist coalition.

This is probably the closest I’ve seen to an open admission that TERFs are down with Nazis.

The worst bigots end up demanding to run the show and drive out so many people that it’s not a “broad coalition” for very long.

I think that the bigots have already taken over. There’s been a TERF problem at the women’s march for some time now.

Crip Dyke
8 months ago

I fucking hate this shit.

IF YOU HAVE RACISTS IN YOUR FEMINIST MOVEMENT, YOU’RE GOING TO DRIVE AWAY WOMEN OF COLOR.

This idea that people not tolerating racists is “splitting” the movement and that we need to be more “united” because then we’ll have a larger, more powerful movement?

Yeah. That’s bullshit. Unless you’re proposing rounding women of color up at gunpoint, including racists in your events is going to mean that women of color don’t show up to your events.

So, now we’re screwed. We’re either going to lose the racists because of their racism or the women of color because they were born with the wrong skin tone.

So, the only thing left to us to do is choose: Which is better, excluding people on the basis of indulging oppressive behavior, which they could choose to change if they wanted and, by the by, is bad for everyone if it persists? Or excluding people on the basis of skin tone, which they couldn’t choose to change (significantly) and which, by the by, hurts absolutely nobody?

My complicated moral stand, which I know might require a philosophical treatise to justify, but which I still maintain has some validity, is that in any choice between tolerating hurting others or tolerating the existence of human skin no matter the color, the slightly morally superior choice is tolerating the existence of human skin, however it exists.

Mutatis mutandis for ableism, cissexism, heterosexism, religious bigotry and the like.

Contrapangloss
Contrapangloss
8 months ago

So, I know this reply is 50 comments late but:

@naglfar

Also, is it just me or does this paragraph make anyone else super self-conscious of how their face looks?

**reading comments, strokes chin, and feels PCOS 5 o’clock stubble**

**tucks chin in sweater neck like a turtle**

Yep. Yep. All my yep is yours.

Naglfar
Naglfar
8 months ago

@Contrapangloss
Sorry if I made you feel more self-conscious.

CarrieV
CarrieV
8 months ago

I’ve wondered this before, but is anyone certain that these supposedly female TERF transmisogynists are *actually* female? I mean, online is online; anyone could be anything online. And what with Operation Lollipop, et al, we’ve seen nasty little MRAs, MGTOWs, and other misogynists purposely imitate feminists in ghastly manners, espousing a feminism that really just mirrors hateful online doodbro opinion.

Unless these female TERF/transmisogynists are on video, I call BS. And even if these TERFs are female, then I call BS on the women.

Snowberry
Snowberry
8 months ago

@Carrie V:

I don’t think that’s a good approach. If there’s a good reason to believe that someone is fake, and a hunch isn’t usually good enough, then by all means voice your suspicions and offer proof.

But questioning the validity of someone’s identity and experiences, and throwing things out just because they “don’t fit”, is the sort of thing that regressive people do, and leads to an oppressive atmosphere for anyone who doesn’t neatly fit into ideological norms.

In this case, rejecting someone’s presumed femaleness due to bad behavior or crappy views rather than making it clear that women don’t get a pass for those things is gaslighting and not much better than the type of oppressive nonsense that TERFs themselves engage in – or for that matter, the dudebro “there are no girls on the internet” / “tits or GTFO” type of nonsense which used to be common.

We should be better than that. And yes, that means we’ll be successfully suckered occasionally, but it’s worth the risk.

Crip Dyke
8 months ago

@Snowberry:

In general I agree, but if, say, I was on a panel with an actual TERF at a conference of some kind, and the TERF was advocating that we must prove femaleness to be accepted as women, then whatever she made the criterion (chromosomes, genitals, whatever) then IF it was something that we couldn’t obviously verify without additional info (like “women = the set of all people who have two hands” and she’s waving her hands about so we can see them), then I think it’s actually perfectly appropriate to say, “You prove your womanhood first.”

If that means a chromosome test or showing off genitals or whatever, I think she should be rightly outraged that a person wants access to her medical history or her intimate body parts. But I also think it’s a fair challenge because it lays bare the actual consequences of the definition and policy being advocated.

FTR: I wouldn’t expect her to ACTUALLY show me or anyone her medical records or genitals or whatever she considers definitive proof of womanhood, but I think making the challenge can be legit.

I worry that your admonition against

questioning the validity of someone’s identity and experiences

wouldn’t allow such a challenge. But of course, reflecting her implied challenge and making it obvious, overt in order to reveal just how damaging it would be to embrace her proposed definition and policies is very different than seriously proposing that we deny a feminist’s right to participate in discourse or move past questioning to actually reject the validity of someone’s identity and experience.

Perhaps you would agree with a challenge in the circumstances such as I’ve proposed, so long as it doesn’t form part of an actual rejection of identity/experience?

If you do agree, then I think that there’s also a place on the internet for a similar challenge, of the type,

Well, if trannies are trying to sneak into feminism so that they can ruin it from within, shouldn’t we be skeptical of whether or not you’re a cis woman and true feminist unless and until we have proof that you satisfy your own definition of woman?

I go through all this because I read CarrieV to be advocating this as a tactic to demonstrate that TERF proposals cannot be implemented in the real world – certainly not on the internet, and not even outside of it if chromosomes are in any way referenced in the definition then not even then – not least because it would mean that poor women are shut out of conversations for inability to afford medically unnecessary tests to prove their “validity”.

Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I read CarrieV’s comment.

transmascthey
transmascthey
8 months ago

afab trans here bullied all my life for my masculine features. So does this terf think MY gender is valid bc Im not pretty enough?

Its extremely hard to stand up for my pronouns and I love when cis people put them in their profiles or give them

contrapangloss
contrapangloss
8 months ago

@Naglfar:

Nah, you’re cool. The TERF OP? Not cool.

I can’t fault you for making literally the exact same observation about the OP’s paragraph that I’d have made.

All Turtle blame can be squarely directed that-a-way, not your-a-way.

Crip Dyke
8 months ago

@snowberry:

I think it’s legitimate to challenge TERFs to prove that they live up to their own standards/definitions (proof of genitals/ chromosomes/ whatever) if in doing that the point is to show that these demands are unreasonable and we don’t want to live in a world that demands conformity to such definitions AND the context makes clear you’re not really expecting them to disrobe or give a blood sample right this second.

So I think

questioning the validity of someone’s identity and experiences

can be acceptable in certain circumstances, although I agree that

throwing [a feminist or her contributions] out just because they “don’t fit”

is unacceptable.

CarrieV
CarrieV
8 months ago

@Snowberry

Do I have more than a suspicion that these online personae claiming to be female TERFs are anything but [bigoted] females? Nope, I don’t have anything more concrete than a WHTM-fed hunch.

But after reading this site’s articles for years and learning how many bad actors have purposely pretended to be 1.) anti-feminist women when they’re really doodbros, 2.) Blacks supporting terrible, racist candidates when they’re really terrible white men who support terrible, racist candidates, 3.) absurdity-level SJWs when they’re really status quo reddit boys, and so on. Like the long-ago reported Operation Lollipop and #YourSlipIsShowing, wherein David shared the actions of rather convincing frauds pretending to be their intended victims, pushing the agenda that feminists, SJWs, and Blacks, etc., are awful people trying to get awful ideas trending.

These awful TERFs could absolutely be actual women. But they could also be people pretending to be “feminists” so as to make actual feminists look terrible and regressive.

TacticalProgressive
TacticalProgressive
8 months ago

@CarrieV

I think it be better approached to view such individuals on a case by case basis should the information be an obvious enough tell.

Granted the likely hood that either option being the case could be of equal plausibility…but unfortunately; unless your in meat-space (and even than it’s not always a 100% assurance one way or the other); poes law unfortunately applys.

Masse_Mysteria
Masse_Mysteria
8 months ago

@CarrieV

These awful TERFs could absolutely be actual women. But they could also be people pretending to be “feminists” so as to make actual feminists look terrible and regressive.

Nothing stopping “actual women” from pretending to be feminists, though.

Tizio
Tizio
8 months ago

From my personal experience, ALL transphobes have the following three beliefs:

1) There’s only two separate human sexes. Exceptions either don’t exist, or are extremely few in number; in either case, we can ignore them.
2) We need to correctly determine everyone’s sex, through a specific method that involves looking at certain sex-determining characteristics. These characteristics must be objective and measurable (therefore no subjective stuff like “I feel like a woman” or “I dress like a woman”).
3) Anyone who disagrees with points 1 and/or 2 is wrong and dangerous. (We’re talking “if we allow trans women to call themselves women, then cis men will be free to invade women’s spaces and sexually assault women” dangerous.) It’s VERY FUCKING IMPORTANT that we attack those people, and reject their beliefs.

Here’s the catch: every single transphobe, in one way or another, disagrees with point 1, point 2, or both. And, according to transphobes, I must reject the beliefs of anyone who disagrees with points 1 and/or 2.

Conclusion: according to transphobes themselves, I must reject their transphobia.

Werecat
Werecat
7 months ago

Holy sh…..t😨

That’s absolutely true.
By the way like one of the guys above said, let me repeat in my words.
Why the f… would I want sex with a nazi who want to kill me???!!!

After all this facist scum who calls themself “lesbian” but fucks with transMEN (POST OP, they are on testosterone and and have got a PENIS)😟
And claiming still to be lesbian??
Are i dreaming crazy stuff again? No, it’s true…. They not even hurt his feelings by seeing him as a woman, they are having sex with a person who indentificates himself as MAN and call themself “LESBIAN” Sorry, what is the definition of lesbian? A person who is a transmisogynic bigot, is envy of every penis, even the removed one. Haves sex with transmen and and only women if they are looking supermasculine and using a strapon???
Ok maybe im not a lesbian
(I know some femnazis are hating trans men tii)

Strange, i NEVER heard about GAYS claiming transMEN would be female rapists who are just disguising as men to make them straight….

It would be nice if there would be dating apps just for homosexual transgender people.
Because i not want to be sexobject for men and just that’s im lesbian not means i would want a female facist who calls herself lesbian…. I want to be with anOTHER transwoman. So im gay for friends and enemys XD.
It’s not about sex, it’s about being understood.
Im not sure why i write this, but i want to say my opinion.
It would be totally ok for me if there would be spaces for trans and cis.
A transman would never assault me, and a lesbian transwoman can dislike my religion, political opinion, or my taste in music (folk metal) but she can not hate me for being born with the wrong genitals. (For what the hell are chirogues???!)

Why not 2 toilets “trans” and “cis”
Instead of “cis men” “cis women”?
It would be ok, and the nazi women had no need to fear being wtf ” raped” by a transwoman. (Suuuuuure, a woman whi suffers every time she sees a pretty woman and is remind she’s not wort to exist . is hated, just because she’s disfigured would rape her….that’s the vilest and most stupid BS ever. Worse then the spacelizard. People there is 1% chanche all rich and powerful people are blood drinking, baby eating space lizards… What i NOT believe… Butt 0% chance a trans woman would rape. We HATE our penisses. Most of us would cut then off if it nit would hurt and make difficult for the chirurg to for it to a vag.)

Excuse my language, im not from USA.
Have a nice day,

M.S.