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Quiz: Who said it, incel or TERF?

By David Futrelle

So yesterday, I was poking around in the Braincels subreddit, Reddit’s main hangout for incels, and was struck by how often the regulars there discuss trans women.

Some incels like to fantasize about solving their particular difficulty — their “involuntary” celibacy — by hooking up with “traps” (their favorite transphobic term for young trans hotties). But most of the time they’re as straightfowardly hateful towards trans women as any TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist).

Indeed, I was struck by how remarkably similar incels and TERFs sound when they talk about trans women (both generally ignore trans men). So much so that I decided to make this quiz.

I don’t know about you, but I found these very hard to distinguish from one another, to the point that I had to check and doublecheck each quote to make sure which subreddit it came from, even though I was the one choosing the quotes.

So what does this mean? Partly, the quotes sound similar because, well, this is what transphobic hate sounds like. But in other cases it seems as though the incels have picked up certain TERF talking points from reading, or reading about, TERFs.

If you consider yourself a feminist, but your thoughts on trans women are virtually identical to the raging misogynists and ignorant anti-feminists who make up the incel movement, well, maybe you’re not as much of a feminist as you think.

Sources for quotes: Question 1: GenderCritical, Braincels. Question 2: GC, Braincels. Question 3: Braincels, GC. Question 4: Braincels, GC.

H/T — Reddit’s Advanced Search

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Moon Custafer
Moon Custafer
2 years ago

@Lainy, @Nina, @Bina:

I suspect it’s also to do with their worldview in which trans people only appeared (or at least became noticeable) in the past decade, and are all or mostly teens jumping on the gender bandwagon.

Attempts to tell them about the Chevaliere D’Eon, Billy Tipton, etc. probably won’t make a difference.

Snowberry
Snowberry
2 years ago

@Beyond Ocean:

@Rhuu, can I again ask about the purported effort of TERFs to de-legitimize ace people in the LGBT+ community?

Assuming you were talking to @Bina, as that’s the only mention of asexuals in this thread, I’m pretty certain that’s about asexual trans people.

Buuut… there are surprising amount of L’s and G’s who want to kick out some of the letters of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Not all of them want to get rid of the same letters, and their reasoning varies, but in general: B’s because they can theoretically pass as straight if they choose to do so, thus avoid the oppression aimed at L’s and G’s; T’s because transgender is not a sexual orientation, ignoring that even if that were valid, not all trans people are straight; Q’s because it’s a broad category which is largely meaningless to them; I’s because intersex is not a sexual orientation or a gender orientation; and A’s because asexuals don’t experience any form of oppression at all (which is completely false), or because lack of sexual orientation doesn’t belong in a group defined at least in part by sexual orientation, ignoring that some asexuals aren’t aromantic, and can even be biromantic, panromantic, or homoromantic and thus face similar issues.

There was a brief period when such things were taken as serious arguments in mainstream LGBTQIA+ discourse, but now that usually gets deleted or banned quickly. But there are still people who think like that.

TERFs are sometimes lesbians, or bisexuals who refuse to get involved with men for ideological reasons, though definitely not all are. Those would absolutely love to excise the T’s from the spectrum, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they wanted to excise some of the other letters as well. Also, given that there exist TERF organizations which have ties to White Supremacist groups, which are a cesspools of all kinds of bigotry, it would not at all be surprising if TERFs in general weren’t ace-friendly. But this is theorizing, so I cannot confirm this for certain.

Chris Oakley
Chris Oakley
2 years ago

Actually, the correct answer to all four questions is “Who cares? Incels and TERFs both suck.”

Catalpa
Catalpa
2 years ago

@Beyond Ocean

They want to hurt people, and they want to be justified in hurting people. They can be justified in hurting others if the T+ERFs are More Oppressed than their targets are, because then it’s ‘punching up’.

So, you get rhetoric like the following awful shit:

Ace/Aro people aren’t real, they’re just priviliged hets trying to force their way into the LG(BT) community! They don’t face REAL oppression and they’re wasting valuable resources!

Trans women aren’t women, they’re just privileged men trying to take advantage of women! They’re a threat and don’t face REAL oppression and they’re wasting valuable resources!

Bi people aren’t really part of the LG(BT) community if they will consider, have or ever had an opposite-gendered partner! They’re just privileged hets trying to force their way into the community! They don’t face REAL oppression and they’re wasting valuable resources!

Agender/Genderqueer people aren’t real, they just want to feel special and force their way into the LG(BT) community! They don’t face REAL oppression and they’re wasting valuable resources!

And so on and so forth.

Basically: if you aren’t being oppressed specifically for being a cis person in a relationship with another cis person of the same gender as you, then you aren’t experiencing oppression and your identity is wrong and oppressive to people who are ACTUALLY facing oppression, and therefore you need to be punished/harassed, etc. (And if you are being oppressed for being in a perceived same-gendered relationship, you’re only experiencing oppression because people THINK you’re lesbian or gay, and not because of your bi/trans/ace/aro identity.) Whatever the identity is isn’t as important as the harassment that these assholes want to inflict, which is why it all tends to sound the same. (Although trans women tend to be subjected to the most hateful and violent harassment.)

The only place I’ve really encountered much aphobic rhetoric is on tumblr, although this may be a sampling error since I don’t really participate in other social media platforms, and I’m not very familiar with the queer communities on other platforms. Tumblr seems to have a lot of ace folks on it, and it’s possible that’s why there’s so many people trying to drive us off it? I dunno.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
2 years ago

Ace/Aro people aren’t real, they’re just priviliged hets trying to force their way into the LG(BT) community! They don’t face REAL oppression and they’re wasting valuable resources!

And this sentiment is definitely not just common in TERF circles. It’s goddamn everywhere.

Beyond Ocean
Beyond Ocean
2 years ago

Assuming you were talking to @Bina, as that’s the only mention of asexuals in this thread, I’m pretty certain that’s about asexual trans people.

No, I was trying to call out to Rhuu, as they specifically brought up this issue in another thread and said they understand TERFs’ reasoning for this.

That thread wasn’t the best to discuss it though, as was rightfully pointed out.

Anyway, thanks for your insights, especially Catalpa. This does make a lot of sense. I knew TERFs are usually also bigoted against bi people, so extending this reasoning to everyone who isn’t their one and only Real Oppressed is to be expected, I guess.

Tovius
Tovius
2 years ago

I got a 2/4. But then, I wasn’t sure which group I was supposed to be picking for.

Scanisaurus
Scanisaurus
2 years ago

As much as I hate transphobes, I really don’t like the use of acronyms like TERF,SWERF,BERF and all the variations of them gaining popularity, because there are many radical feminists who aren’t bigots or transphobes, and my worry is that the more such acronyms are used in the mainstream and people explain the Excluding-Radical-Feminist part of the acronym, it will only lead to more people using it as an excuse to go “see, told you feminists were man-hating puritans” and make it harder for those who want to openly identify as feminists but always feel worried about being lumped together with the worst extremists the wast majority of feminists have already taken a stance against.

Would it be so hard to just call them transphobes instead? And as for specifically calling out bigots hiding their bigotry behind empty feminist rhethoric, why not call them “fauxminists” as Bina suggested?

Megpie71
2 years ago

I tend to go with “neo-Victorians” as a good description for the exclusionist, separatist, “political lesbian” type of pseudo-feminist – their attitudes about sex and gender, far from being actually radical, are very much lifted holus-bolus from the most repressive and oppressive options available from Victorian-era thinking on the subjects.

Strangely enough for feminists, they tend to wind up endorsing typical Victorian-era misogynistic positions, such as the idea that women were so “biologically different” from men that women were not physically suited to being in the public arena; or that women are naturally uninterested in sex and therefore should not be “contaminated” by consideration of sexual matters.

Political lesbians basically hold to the position that sleeping with men is a form of ideological impurity, and the only true, pure relationship possible is one between two women. They therefore have a definite hate-on for bisexual women – because the bi girls might have or might have had sex with a man at some point, and therefore aren’t “pure”; for asexual people – because the ace folks aren’t having sex because they don’t want to, rather than as an exercise in ideological purity (takes all the fun out of being ideologically celibate, that does); and for transgender people – because they can’t be certain the person they’re planning to have this ideologically “pure” relationship with is actually of the correct gender or not (biology is destiny, after all). They also have a certain amount of well-concealed disdain for the sort of lesbian who has relationships with women because she likes having sex with women… they feel it muddies the waters just a bit – but they do tend to tone that sort of rhetoric down when they’re out in public.

When you get right down to it, a lot of them probably get far more turned on by the idea of having and exercising power over others than they do over anything physical. Certainly they seem to direct all their efforts toward the aim of getting other people to follow their lead on positions of ideological purity, rather than actually doing anything practical to benefit the wider community. It’s not surprising their masculine equivalent is the MGTOW.

Catalpa
Catalpa
2 years ago

@Scanisaurus

Would it be so hard to just call them transphobes instead?

I’m just going to repost another spiel I already wrote with regard to someone
else
who had a problem with the term TERF.

TERF refers to a particular brand of transphobe that cloaks their rhetoric in ostensibly “progressive” vocabulary. […] The term is used to describe specific behavior, behavior that works to infiltrate progressive spaces, and as such the term is a useful tool in bringing awareness to the fact that a person who may share some political ground with you can also be a person who makes this space unsafe for marginalized groups. It is important that progressive spaces be inclusive, and awareness of the type of bigotry trying to get past our radars is important.

Transphobic behavior that comes bundled with conservativism and all of the other assorted bigotries that are associated with that viewpoint is no less awful than TERF-specific transphobia. But it is generally something that is far more easy to see and condemn for the pile of shit that it is, at least in progressive circles.

Aside from that, adjectives mean things. Being concerned that “trans-exclusionary radical feminism” condemns all radical feminism sounds a lot like the people who complain that “toxic masculinity” condemns all masculinity.

Scanisaurus
Scanisaurus
2 years ago

@Catalpa
I think I get your point, but all the same I also think that it’s important to remember that how people should interpret words, and how many people actually interpret them are often two different things. And to use your example with toxic masculinity, I do think it’s great to finally have a word for that concept, but at the same time I have seen tons of people having to waste time on the inevitable “so you think all men are toxic?” counterargument, and I have often wound up deliberately avoided using the term exactly for that reason, because any advantage gained by having a short word or acronym for such things falls flat if you have to spend several sentences explaining them.

There really aren’t any other terms to get the point about their faux-progressivism across without providing fodder for the “all feminists are manhating puritans” crowd?

I also think that relying on acronyms will make it easier for people to misinterpret their meaning, and just makes people waste time explaining them each time they are used, as opposed to using simple self-explanatory words.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
2 years ago

People don’t complain about terms because of the semantics. They do it to derail and silence. There’s no terms on which social justice issues can be discussed that won’t cause indignation from those interested in upholding the status quo.

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
2 years ago

I’m gonna keep calling TERFs ‘TERF’, because they hate the term so much. People also understand it, so you aren’t going “oh, turns out Ricky Gervais is a fauxminist!” And then needing to explain that a) he apparently considers himself a feminist, so ‘fauxminist’ applies, amd also this word isn’t for just anyone who adopts feminist talking points to be repurposed to be antifeminist, but specifically about transphobes who appropriate inclusive feminist language.

TERF is (now) the term to use to say that. If some folx want to try to get another term used, good luck! That won’t be easy.

@Beyond Ocean –

My point is very similar to what others have said. TERFs desperately want to get rid of the T, but that hasn’t worked yet. So they are trying the wedge technique.

If they can get ride of asexual people who, according to them, shouldn’t even be included, because the LG movement is about teh sexxxxxxxing, and if you’re not into sexxing, why would you be in the movement that is about sexxxx?

I don’t know if they believe it, or just are using this as an excuse.

If they can convince people that ace people shouldn’t be included because their thing is the lack of desire for sex rather than being persecuted for wanting to have sex, it isn’t very far to go “but what about the transes, tho????? Them and their ‘gender’ stuff. That also isn’t about the sexxxxx either, right???”

And then bam, they get rid of the trans people as well, because if the greater community will agree with them about ace people, why not about trans people?

To be clear, though, this is just what i gather from discussions about the topic that i’ve read. (Also from the reaction of IRL L and G people at pride to the idea of asexuality being No Fun, but this was a good few years ago, and maybe it’s changed.)

I also look at how they convinced a bunch of tumblr people that ‘queer is a slur’, which is frustrating as hell. Queer has been reclaimed pretty thouroughly. If people don’t want to use it as personal identifier, cool. But others using it is fine, and not a slur.

They hate it because it doesn’t specify gender, which makes it open to trans and enbies and gnc and genderfluid (etc) people.

I also tried to read the ace tag on tumblr, but it was all ‘aphobes stfu’ or ‘wtf, asexuals, you aren’t oppressed or even real!’ And i couldn’t deal with that, so haven’t touched tumblr in ages.

Hopefully that explains my throw away comment, from before! Also, sorry if some of this is retread from the previous response, i had actually typed up a response before Lainy pointed out that there was a time and place… and now i can’t remember which points were in which post.

Catalpa
Catalpa
2 years ago

any advantage gained by having a short word or acronym for such things falls flat if you have to spend several sentences explaining them.

Any new word we come up with to describe the TERFs will also require that explanation, though. Probably more explanation, since any new term won’t be as well known or widespread as TERF.

And also? If I have to make a choice between having a term that lets trans people immediately know that bullshit “progressive” transphobia isn’t fucking welcome here, and a term that will ostensibly somehow make people who already hate feminism play any nicer? I’m going to pick the first option every time.

I’m not going to throw trans people under the bus to make potential feminists more comfortable calling themselves feminist.

Scanisaurus
Scanisaurus
2 years ago

And also? If I have to make a choice between having a term that lets trans people immediately know that bullshit “progressive” transphobia isn’t fucking welcome here, and a term that will ostensibly somehow make people who already hate feminism play any nicer? I’m going to pick the first option every time.

I’m not going to throw trans people under the bus to make potential feminists more comfortable calling themselves feminist.

I get that point, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel driving away people who are on the fence would only make things worse in the long run.

To be very clear, I am not in any way saying anyone should tolerate transphobia and bigotry in any situation or stay quiet when people say a bunch of transphobic stuff, I’m just saying calling them a Terf won’t help anyone and the term and might instead just be appropriated by anti-feminists just the same way these “feminists” have already appropriated feminist rhetoric to shut down other people.

And especially seeing so many (myself included) being unable to tell their rhetoric apart from incel quotes above, why wouldn’t it be better to have a term that applies to both groups alike to drive that point home?

I’m gonna keep calling TERFs ‘TERF’, because they hate the term so much.

Wouldn’t it be even more effective to use a term that highlights the fact that they literally say the exact same stuff as incels and open misogynists? That they aren’t the brave feminist rebels they think they are and just repeating the same BS as the groups they are ostensibly opposing?

Beyond Ocean
Beyond Ocean
2 years ago

@Scanisaurus

For what it’s worth, I think your concern is misplaced.

The only group who would stand to gain from pushing the idea that “all feminists are manhating puritans” are right wingers. Buuut… they are more likely to praise TERFs as being the only real feminists, not like those evil third-wavers, precisely because TERFs are interested in keeping trans people down and upholding gender essentialism.

I mean, we’ve seen it here on Mammoth, if I remember correctly.

@Rhuu

Thanks! Seems unbelievable some people would try to turn LGBT+ movement into being strictly about having sex, but these days…

kupo
kupo
2 years ago

I get that point, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel driving away people who are on the fence would only make things worse in the long run.

Who are we driving away who is on the fence? Are you hey the same mythical people on the fence about toxic masculinity who would have totally been on our side were it not for using an adjective? Do you have any evidence to back up your claim these people are both legitimately on the fence and would be pro-feminism and pro-trans-rights if we just didn’t use the acronym TERF?

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
2 years ago

@Scanisaurus

And especially seeing so many (myself included) being unable to tell their rhetoric apart from incel quotes above, why wouldn’t it be better to have a term that applies to both groups alike to drive that point home?

We do. It’s mysogynist. Or ‘hateful asshat’.

But we as humans need different words to be able to talk about the different flavours of things.

Like chocolate. Or chocolate bars. Or Aero. Or Smarties. Or dark chocolate. Or milk chocolate. Or 80% dark chocolate. Or ‘chocolatey flavour’ (may not contain chocolate at all). Or organic 80% fair trade local artisan made dark chocolate. We’ve got the umbrella term ‘Chocolate’, but we need all of these different words to specify just what type it is we are talking about.

Because if you have (and use) a word that means “TERFs but also all those who are shit heads to everyone but cis-men”, you are talking about so many people, with so many different flavours of hate.

The point of the quotes being so similar isn’t that now we need a new term that lets everyone know that TERFs and incels (and the christian right) share many thoughts/ideas/expressions/etc, but that *they share them at all*.

Call a TERF a TERF. Call a SWERF a SWERF. Label that shit. Labels let us discuss the assholery.

Wouldn’t it be even more effective to use a term that highlights the fact that they literally say the exact same stuff as incels and open misogynists? That they aren’t the brave feminist rebels they think they are and just repeating the same BS as the groups they are ostensibly opposing?

We do. That term is ‘TERF’.

Be Gay. Do Crimes. Punch a TERF.

@Beyond Ocean –

Yeah, it is pretty shitty to try to distill all the possible experiences one would have being Not Straight to ‘who are you lookin’ to bump uglies with????’ but…

There was (is? I don’t know, I quit tumblr because I couldn’t deal with this bullshit a few years back) a huge push back against the split attraction model, because cis-gays and lesbians were salty about being told that their attraction was ‘sexual’ in nature.

But that wasn’t the point? They didn’t see that you could have BOTH a sexual AND a romantic orientation, and that calling them ‘allo’ didn’t mean that people using that were reducing their relationships to just the sexual level…. But rather saying that they weren’t ace.

And then people were going “don’t use ‘allo’ or the split attraction model, it’s mean to non-ace people, we don’t want to be discrimatory” and I’m just screaming “DON’T YOU SEE THE SIMILARITIES HERE WITH HOW THE Ls AND Gs HAVE HISTORICALLY BEEN TREATED AHHHHHH”

Catalpa
Catalpa
2 years ago

@Rhuu

Nicely put, although the “punch a TERF” part isn’t something that should be said here. Comments policy, no avocation for violence, all that.

@Scanisaurus

Incel rhetoric is still relatively unknown (aside from the mass murdering part, that’s becoming more well known), so having some term that suggests that TERFs and incels are cut from similar cloth would be pretty confusing to the layman.

Besides, groups can be shitty without being equivocated with other groups. TERFs are shitty because they’re transphobic, not because they’re doing the same thing incels are.

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
2 years ago

@Catalpa: Ah, of course, you are correct. I am sorry, no violence. If I could edit it, I would!

Glare at a TERF.

Jesalin, Goddess of Lust & Pleasure
Jesalin, Goddess of Lust & Pleasure
2 years ago

Whooo nice concern trolling there, I give it a 7/10.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
2 years ago

Scatter Legos in front of TERFS so they may step on them.

S. P.
S. P.
2 years ago

In my experience, intra-community gatekeeping is usually:

1. Authoritarians trying to make a grab for the driest seats on a sinking boat
and/or
2. Marginalized people making themselves feel better by attacking people that they can convince themselves aren’t marginalized, because the actual seats of power are too dangerous to attack
and/or
3. Abusive people using it as an excuse to harm others and get social approval for it.

Jesalin, Goddess of Lust & Pleasure
Jesalin, Goddess of Lust & Pleasure
2 years ago

Makes a new triangular Lego

It’s based on a really old design!

Oh wait, it’d just be easier to use a bunch of d4.

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
2 years ago

I’m sorry, S.P., but who is your post directed to?

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