Why Say “This Pussy Grabs Back” When You Can Just Say “I’m A TERF and A Generally Shitty Person”

Let’s just… not.

A certain video has been circulating on social media recently of a white woman at a protest, and has caught on fire especially on Twitter. Drums and cowbells are playing in the background to the beat of protestors chanting “Fuck Donald Trump”, all while this person holds up a sign saying “THIS PUSSY GRABS BACK” (alluding to one of Donald Trump’s repulsive comments) and rhythmically taps her crotch. Yeah. That happened.

Of course, everyone’s taking this phrase and spreading it all over social media, as is the way of things. Twitter is having a field day and everyone is hailing it as a revolutionary feminist message, and by everyone, I do mean white feminists. And by white feminists, yes, I do mean a lot of TERFs. So let me have a field day with y’all too — take a seat, actually take several seats, and let me say it with my chest:

1. This message of “THIS PUSSY GRABS BACK” is not only transphobic, but also cissexist. It’s always so revolutionary to assume women are defined by a vagina, right? And it’s super feminist to erase trans men’s gender identity and just screw over non-binary people, right? But yes, let’s take a step in the direction of feminist icons like riot grrrls y’all! Yeah, pussy power at the expense of non cis people!

2. Hold on TERFs, it isn’t over. There’s levels to this. Not only are you being transphobic and cissexist, but you’re also managing to throw sexual assault survivors under the bus. I’m sure this white lady thought it would be great to throw a disgusting joke back at Donald Trump’s face, but in doing so you make people who have been sexually assaulted the punchline of the joke and further normalize, even make light of, the violence they faced.

3. So you went to a protest, brought this poster. Maybe you even made it into a shirt, wear it on the street, laugh when people give you weird looks. There’s privilege in wearing a message if it means that message is on a cishet body, a body deemed valid. There’s privilege in having the luxury to laugh it off, because for many of us, we don’t get the last laugh. There’s privilege in knowing you won’t be stopped by police for it, no invasive body searches to trigger any dysphoria. There’s privilege in not being worried about people taking your picture, hell, letting the world see it because you don’t have to fear backlash or deportation or getting jumped. There is a privilege in white feminists being able to do whatever they want to do and not having to worry about any repercussions that come with carrying their body out into the world. You have the privilege of autonomy.

No thanks, keep it.

You can’t use the tools of the patriarchy to fight the patriarchy, to fight its twisted brainchild that is Donald Trump. You can’t be transphobic while simultaneously organizing against a transphobe. You can’t be a feminist if you take a rapist’s words and give your own spin on them. You can’t say you’re fighting against patriarchy if you don’t recognize your privilege in this world and actively check yourself. White feminists/academics, I see what you’re doing. I see some of you (definitely not the person in the video) are trying to be radical, decolonizing and deconstructing systems of oppression through your actions and conversations, but to be honest… what a lot of what you are doing is just continuing the cycle of violence, whether knowingly or subconsciously. Why would an oppressor give you the tools to destroy them, and furthermore, how did you build the trust to use such tools? Why would an oppressor give you tools to dismantle and set aflame to beloved institutions that bring them all the power they need to subdue you? You can’t use or try to reclaim a narrative that is inherently misogynist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, that spews hatred and instills fear.

There is no logic in taking the gasoline used to set you on fire to combat an oppressor that created fire, that lives in it, that relishes it.

You can’t use your discourse, whether a phrase or a study, to bring down the very institutions that are the foundation of your discourse. Do more, be more. Push past Western thought and listen to what black, indigenous, brown, trans, poor, femme, immigrant, queer, and disabled folks have been saying. Watch what we’ve been doing. Try to get a sense of the narratives that are erupting from the margins— center us, ask us and do your research before asking. Let there be an exchange of thought that doesn’t tie back to theory riddled with misogyny, let there be an exchange that didn’t originate in classrooms filled and made for Plato and Descartes.