Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
The way my encounter with the TERF group began was bad enough- but trust me, it’s been all downhill from there.
People who don’t embrace their discriminatory ideology aren’t just alleged supporters of the rape and murder of women- we can just as easily be cast into the role of white supremacists. A salient marker of my discussions with them was that I noticed that outsiders can be (and are) immediately demonized. During the discussions I put up a video link of a transgendered person being attacked by two women. The point being to show the very human vulnerability of trans people.
This was met with immediate accusations of racism. Why? Apparently because the attackers were African American- and so obviously, I’m a racist. Other members of the group picked up on the word, and from there it was repeated, and repeated, and repeated. And within that subset of people, I am now labeled a racist. White supremacist, even.
This is a combination of three phenomenons:
Reason be damned. No evidence of racism was actually required for them to demonize anyone questioning their ideology. When I originally referred to TERF’s as a cult, it may have sounded like hyperbole, but the more I observe of their behaviour, the more it seems an accurate description.
What first led me to say the word cult at all, was an appeal to adherence to the group:
Note how Safe Space here is used as a codeword. The woman in question is on the internet, separated from me by an ocean. She insulted my intelligence, I returned the favour. She was never threatened, and yet claimed she was not safe? Not only was she not safe, but if the blog admin didn’t go along with her requests, the implication was she would no longer be considered part of their group: I thought you were a feminist*. The lines were drawn: Exclusivity was established. Fall in line, or else. (*Also note how she appropriates the word feminist itself. The implication is she gets to define and exclude.)
And then there was the confirmation bias: tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. (also applicable to the white supremacist comment above.)
Have a look at this exchange:
The response? A loud dog whistle intended as a call to arms to the rest of the group:
She completely dismisses everything in the comment, except pronoun usage which confirms her pre-existing ideas and ideology. In fact, she doesn’t even consider the coherence of what she’s saying… because we all know that in Islam it’s the she’s who impose the rules, right? All those female mullahs and lady-clerics.
To conclude, most aspects of the way this group functions are squarely in line with cult dynamics. Submission, exclusivity, special knowledge, indoctrination, sectarian jargon and even:
The last point can be highlighted by their opposition to the term TERF itself. It means Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, which seems an adequate description of the group’s ideology, and yet according to their sect, the term cannot be used because it’s a “slur”. If they can take a straightforward description and call it a slur, maybe they should be asking themselves why? If it’s disparaging to say a group excludes trans people, perhaps not excluding them might solve the problem.