Gender Critical Feminism Is A Failed Ideology

Gender critical feminism — a fringe feminist movement — has failed

Gender critical feminism goes by many names. They call themselves “gender critical” because they are critical of what they call the “genderists” aka anyone who believes in such things as “gender identity”, a concept they believe is conceptually bunk and oppressive to “females” under patriarchy. I put “females” in quotes not because I don’t believe in the reality of female biology, but rather, because I disagree with how GC feminists weaponize the concept to dehumanize and misgender trans women, who they see entirely as a warped and perverted version of males.

GC feminism also goes by “trans exclusionary radical feminism” which trans people and their allies usually abbreviate to an acronym which I will not name in this essay because GC feminists have started a campaign to turn this descriptive, neutral acronym into a “slur against women”, which is utter bullshit meant to confuse the general population and make it a wedge issue to drive support to their cause.

For purposes of this essay, I will just call it “gender critical feminism” or “GC feminism” for short.

Moreover, I call it an “ideology” because it is not a set of arguments derived from observable evidence but rather an entire worldview that takes as its premise the idea that trans women are evil men raping women’s bodies and upholding oppressive patriarchal norms by insisting they have a “gender” that is distinct from their physiological features (caveats aside about how gender and sex are more conceptually interrelated than this simple picture assumes).

GC feminists themselves will protest against this telling of the story. They will say their fundamental axiom is not that trans women are men but that females are oppressed by gender and their primary goal is the liberation of females from patriarchy. That trans women are males and therefore men is just a corollary of their view. But that’s just an ideological front. It’s propaganda. And like all effective propaganda many of the adherents, if not most of the adherents, actually buy into that narrative.

In reality, their entire ideology is based on a deep and fundamental dislike and distrust of trans people, especially trans women. Every movement needs its “enemy” and for GC feminists, trans women represent everything that is bad about patriarchy.

They will say “But we don’t hate trans women! We just think they are males and that denying their biology is harmful to women!”

But this is not just an innocent declaration of belief. They actively push for so-called “bathroom bills” that make it illegal for trans women to use female spaces in public such as bathrooms, despite the overwhelming evidence from many localities that allowing such things to happen has no dire consequences on anyone, except of course GC feminists who act like the world is ending.

GC feminists also actively hurt trans women through the very real process of dehumanization, of not giving us the autonomy to live our lives how we see fit, of not respecting our heartfelt identities. These might seem like abstract harms but let me assure you they are very painful indeed. More painful than any cis person can imagine.

But luckily GC feminists are a fringe minority of a failed ideology.

But a very vocal one. Which brings me to my claim that GC feminism is a failed ideology. One might think this is false. After all, if you’re at all familiar with trans politics you might see constant chitter chatter about GC feminists-this or GC-feminists that, about how they are evil and horrible and causing so much harm.

Don’t get me wrong. I think they do an incredible amount of harm and we should take them very seriously, especially as they are starting to connect with the religious right to spread their propaganda.

But I think we need to carefully distinguish between the harmful effects of a movement that is small but very vocal with a few prominent voices but is ultimately losing the cultural fight vs the harmful effects of a movement that is massive, growing, and harmful because of how massive it is.

I am of the opinion that GC feminism is a fringe group that has failed to grow its ranks in any significant form since its inception in the 1970s.

Furthermore, we need to distinguish between GC feminists who understand and accept the ideology of GC feminism vs the generic transphobe who also happens to think trans women are men but for completely different reasons. The GC feminist has an elaborate ideological system of belief based on their analysis of gender and patriarchy (which, in my opinion, is incoherent) whereas your generic transphobe just thinks genitals=sex and doesn’t think much further than that.

Next, when you combine the ways in which GC propaganda works, they ride off the general transphobic sentiment in society making it seem like they have greater numbers than they really do. But this is just a farce. In reality, GC feminism has a small “base” that is largely relegated to a reddit community called “GenderCritical”, the mumsnet forum, a small Twitter community, and a few active blogs. That’s it. It is a far cry from a massive populist uprising.

And if you go on these forums you will often see the occasional post of GC feminists lamenting how they feel so isolated and how they feel like they can’t speak up at work or among their friends or they feel like they are fighting a losing fight against an unending wave of “genderists”.

In other words, the Rebels are losing their morale. The once renegade trans army has become the Empire and the Empire is here to stay. We have the support of the liberal media. We have the support of Hollywood. We have the support of most modern HR departments in big companies. We have the support of many of our loved ones, our friends and family (not to discount the many trans folks who don’t have such support). We have the support of the broader LGBT+ community and their allies.

Gender critical feminism has failed.

Rachel Anne Williams

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Author & writer, ex-academic philosopher. Author of Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics with @JKPBooks — Out now!