HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!!! WHOO. We’re going to talk about this person’s opinions and thoughts on radical feminism that doesn’t center males [read: all of it]. I found his channel. I didn’t really know how crazy he was until I watched this video all the way through, at which point I had to scratch my head and go: “You think you’re NOT an MRA?”
Riley J. Dennis is a man who hates women. But, we’re not here to focus on that; we’re going to focus on this fast-talking man who thinks he knows more about feminism than women who are feminists. He makes quite a few points in this video, and I’m going to rebut some, as they are common misconceptions.
- Rad fems think males have penises, females have vaginas.
Yes, that’s just biological reality. We have two sexes. Males have penises. Females have vaginas. There are other biological differences, such as how medicine and vitamins are processed in male and female bodies. We know this. If you’ve taken any sort of Women’s Studies course within the 21st century, you probably heard your professors mention, if they were born in the 40s or so, that doctors would prescribe medicine to women using the same dosage they gave to males. This would cause women to have health problems. Surprise! Female bodies and male bodies process things differently.
Generally speaking, though not always, males have a larger muscle mass than women and build muscle in different areas than women do. This is why we have Leagues of Our Own. The WNBA doesn’t accept males because a six-foot tall man that weighs about two hundred pounds in muscle mass is going to cold-cock a woman if he plays on the court with her. Generally speaking, the women on that team are going to be smaller than a dude, even if that dude identifies as a woman.
You can’t erase biological reality with your opinion, Riley. You aren’t a woman because you say you are; you’re only a woman if you’re born one.
- Rad fems aren’t intersectional.
I am so sick of seeing this term. “Intersectional” is not meant to apply to White males in woman-face. Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term “intersectional” to refer to the amplification of women of color’s voices and concerns in the women’s movement. So, this means referring to the ways in which girls and women of color are more likely to be victims of sexual trafficking via the porn and prostitution trades, domestic violence, kidnapping, abuse, rape, assault. It also means highlighting and learning from the ways in which women of color have managed to create a unified sisterhood due to the intersections of racism and sexism in their lives. In other words, this was a call for White womyn to unify with their sisters of color. It was not a call for all feminists everywhere to start kowtowing to men.
- Sex isn’t binary.
Riley whips out this little thing, and it’s such a fave of mine. Intersex! So, I was maybe twelve when I read a magazine article about a womyn who was intersex and a lesbian. She talked about the immense discomfort with which she came of age, having these unique chromosomes. Intersex disorders are those which, according to the Intersex Society of North America [NOVA apparently now buys into the bullshit that gender and sex are the same thing, so I’m not using them here]: refer to “a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” Nothing in that definition refers to gender, and why would it? Sex is biological, gender is the myriad of social expectations imposed on you due to your sex at birth.
To be intersex is not to be trans. To be intersex is to have an incredibly difficult life. It is incredibly rare, as well, even if the study cited by the Intersex Society of North America is from the 90s. Roughly one in every 1700 births results in an infant that lacks either strictly XX or strictly XY chromosomes; one in 1000 births results in an infant with XXY chromosomes, as Riley fixates on here.
In other words, intersex is a disorder and it is a rare one. That does not mean that intersex people don’t exist or that they shouldn’t be accorded full respect and dignity. Rather, it means that, yes, Riley, for the most part, humans are a dimorphic race. Chromosomes usually do neatly diverge on XX/XY lines. So, yes, Riley, XX chromosomes are female.
- Gender and sex are the same thing.
Feminists have spent centuries fighting this idea. So, fun fact, I’m a graduate, professional student. In my field, law, it was illegal not so long ago for women to practice law. A judge initially refused to admit Myra Bradwell to the bar because her “natural” role, in his eyes, was in the home. Myra’s sex had nothing to do with housework. It was the social expectation surrounding her sex [gender] that confined her. Biologically, Myra was intellectually as sound as any male, emotionally as capable of enduring the academic torture of law school, and so on. It’s just that her gender role, the expectations society used to stifle her ambitions, didn’t line up with that biological reality.
This is why feminists say the idea of a lady brain is sexist. Invoking the idea of a lady brain implies that sex and gender are the same. If sex and gender are the same, then I’d best be changing my driver’s license because I’m clearly not a womyn! I don’t like pink. I rarely wear makeup. I refuse to shave my legs. I’m not a woman under Riley’s standards of gender [the idea that women like cooking, cleaning, wearing painful shoes, impractical clothing, and so on]. So many womyn don’t meet this standard, and why would they? It’s sexist and ridiculous. We’ve fought this mechanism of male dominance [gender] for ages, Riley.
- Hormones are like cats, guys.
I think this broke me. No, your body is not a sofa, and hormones are not cats. Yes, hormones can be helpful. I am a depression survivor. I know this thing to be true. I had to get medication to help me. But, it was to help me get back in balance. I didn’t get depression medication to alter my body’s chemistry. That’s extraordinarily dangerous, particularly for children who haven’t gone through puberty yet. So, maybe we should just chill on the chems for a few decades or so.
- Surgery is just like cats, guys.
No, altering your body, and in this case, mutilating it for acceptance with your outer expression of gender to conform with what you see as the inner expression of gender, is mutilation. Riley contends this isn’t mutilation because it isn’t mutilation to him. Merriam-Webster [hello, friend] says that “mutilate” can mean “to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect.” Essentially, destroy or attempt to destroy a thing. But, mutilate also has another definition: “to cut off or permanently destroy a limb or essential part of.” What do you think inverting a penis into a neo-vagina is, if not permanently destroying a limb or an essential part of a limb? Surgery is not just like cats, Riley. You’re impacting the essential function of a penis when you do this.
If you’re talking about physical, external, visible surgery such as implants, that also fits under this definition, Riley. You are cutting up your chest to implant fake breasts. You’re going under the knife to soften a jawline. That’s “cutting up” your body. It is not just like cats. This is an alteration of your physical form, your identity. It is mutilation, and no, surgery is not like cats. Likewise, it is important to ask, what happens if you change your mind and later want to de-transition? That surgery will still mark you as a member of the other sex.
- Rad fems consider womyn “baby-makers.”
Reproduction has, historically and presently, been the key method of keeping women out of certain opportunities. For a long time, women were barred from voting and certain professions (law, medicine) because it was thought we’d be rendered infertile from partaking in such “masculine” roles. Prior to industrialization, the pill, abortion access, women had children constantly, and often died of complications resulting from illegally obtained abortions. It was pregnancy and the frequency of it which kept us out of many opportunities. The ability to control reproduction is crucial in our global fight for complete autonomy from male power.
Ah, and one more thing, Riley. I have PCOS. That doesn’t make me less of a woman. I’m still female. I still have a vagina, a uterus, two X chromosomes. My inability to bear children, or low probability of it, doesn’t mean I’m okay with suppressing female reproductive freedom. If you were a feminist ally, you wouldn’t be okay with this either.
- Rad fems use academic language to erase our terrible bigotry.
It’s not that radical feminists hate trans people. It’s that we, radical feminists, hate how reality is being warped to fit this political agenda. Biology is biology. Socialization and social expectations are, well, social. In other words, they aren’t rooted in nature, but nurture. The worst kind of nurture, too, the male coercion of female liberty. The gender role for woman has been used historically, and presently, to constrain female freedom. Saudi Arabia, Japan, Czech… women in all these nations are treated differently than men because they’re female, because those nations have roles for them based on sexist stereotypes. Stereotypes are not sexes. A man who wears pink and likes cooking is still male. A womyn who wears blue and likes cars is still female. Even if they both identify as ants, that doesn’t change their respective sexes. Your gender identity doesn’t change your sex.
- “TERF” isn’t misogyny, guys!
“TERF” is what trans males call womyn who disagree with them. TERF is used as a rallying cry for men to shout a woman down, and muted. In this way, TERF is no different from “witch,” “whore,” or “feminazi” [hey, Rush Limbaugh, you suck too]. If someone is a TERF, she can lose not just her platform, but her job. The fact that I’m writing under a pseudonym should show you something. Women are persecuted for daring to state that trans “women” are men, when that is just basic biological reality. And it is mostly womyn. Trans men have an odd fixation with gaining acceptance in female spaces, and it sort of echoes the way White people demand entrance into spaces for people of color. No, no you are not owed entrance into our spaces, men.
It isn’t discrimination to want a space for womyn, by womyn, of womyn. Us having our own spaces has allowed us to get the educations we need to succeed, to have careers, to have sports teams to cheer on, and so forth. Riley’s definition of womanhood would take all that away from us by forcing us, once more, to cede the floor to men. Womyn’s sports would eventually just become men’s sports, and I’m sorry, but we have enough male sport teams. Womyn need womyn spaces.
That feminists routinely speak about womyn spaces using biological language doesn’t magically transform our language into bigotry. First, Riley, yes, you should be respected as a person (your ideas are stupid, though). Next, womyn maintaining our spaces and our freedom doesn’t impinge on yours. Go ahead and wear your skinny jeans or makeup or whatever, just don’t demand entrance into spaces that aren’t yours. You will not erase us. That’s what radical feminists are, reasonably so, terrified will happen. We don’t want womyn to be erased in favor of these trans dudes, and it might be happening already. I mean, “menstruators” and “pregnant people” aren’t too uncommon in the reproductive justice discussion these days. Those “people” aren’t vague nothings, but womyn.
Failure to recognize that womyn are womyn, that we like our spaces, that we want fundamental reproductive freedoms, and that we don’t want to be erased by men calling themselves womyn is misogyny. So is the idea that lesbians should have sex with trans males. No, lesbians are attracted to same-sex persons [WOMYN]. Womyn as a class shouldn’t be silenced for speaking the truth, or even opinions you disagree with, Riley. This is misogyny. The fact that you, Riley, un-ironically call a womyn who disagrees with you a TERF means you hate her, because you are trying to smudge her out so that your feelings can reign over her dignity and personhood.
- The original feminists were racists!!!
A lot of the frustrations voiced by older members of the movement, from Anna Howard Shaw to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony arose out of dissatisfaction with the abolition movement. Many Suffragists were fans of abolishing slavery. The mistreatment they faced as women in the abolitionist movement led them to renounce men of color and White male allies who refused to consider adding female suffrage to the political platform. I’m not saying it was right to lash out, but this “boys will be boys” montage has unified men across racial lines even in modern times. We’d be idiots to overlook the fact that men of color can be, are, and were sexist.
Alice Paul’s suffragists in the 1920s did allow more Black womyn to participate. To keep the White Southern womyn’s support, Black womyn were supposed to march in the back of the parade in Washington, D.C. Ida B. Wells-Barnett moved to the front to be with the rest of her state’s womyn. There was friction, but I don’t think it’s entirely right to say that the Suffragists were White supremacists, when clearly that wasn’t the case.
In the so-called Second Wave of feminism in the 1970s, there was friction yet again between White womyn and womyn of color. Some womyn of color broke off to form their own organizations like Black feminist groups or the political movement known as womanism. Others remained in feminism. You might have heard some of these names: Adrienne Rich, Florynce Kennedy, bell hooks, Audre Lorde. Ignoring their presence doesn’t change that they were on the front lines, fighting alongside White womyn against male dominance from all fronts.
Sexism is layered, that’s what is at the core of this discussion. Womyn of color face the added difficulty of living in a White society that devalues them twice: once for not being White, twice for being female. It is worth noting again that feminism is about dismantling male dominance over females. Race and ethnicity will impact how a womyn faces sexism, but it will not change the fact that she exists under male domination.
In other words, Riley: regardless of her race, a womyn will face sexism because she is subject to male domination.
- “Womyn” is trans-exclusionary.
Riley thinks this term was crafted so that natal women can one-up trans women. No, this term was made so that womyn can center and describe ourselves, our experiences, without using the term “man.” Males are, historically, the oppressors of females, and that holds true today as well. Womyn didn’t want to talk about female personhood through a male lens, or even invoking that male lens. Hence, we claimed “womyn” as both singular and plural. If Riley really was a womyn, and a feminist ally, he’d have looked that up in well-known and crucial feminist works like those by Audre Lorde or Andrea Dworkin or Kate Millet, Mary Daly, bell hooks. He’d have read more than just the neoliberal trash on Tumblr. And, this gets at the core of female personhood here, Riley: you are an outsider. Of course, this all seems ridiculous and trivial to you because you’re a man. Anything the evil witches are up to is ridiculous and trivial, worthy of death and dismemberment, because it’s about demolishing the power structure you and so many other men not only have put in place, but are perpetuating with this “sex and gender are the same” drivel. We are both threatening, and non-threatening not because we’re “trans exclusionary,” but because we, womyn, seek to dismantle male dominance over womyn.
And, thanks Riley. I might consider using “womyn” more often on this blog. Hats off to you for giving me that tip.