> A Note From The Turf War Zone

A Note From The Turf War Zone: A Response to John Stoltenberg


TURF: Transinclusively Undermining Radical Feminism.[1]

TRANSUDE: verb (of a fluid) to ubiquitously ooze or pass through interstices, pores, or small holes.

January 2016

Dear John,

Your recent enthusiastic Happy New Year's announcement of “The Conversations Project: The Radical [sic] Inclusivity [sic] of Radical [sic] Feminism [sic]" came as quite a surprise. It was naive, ill-conceived, and irresponsibly executed.

So-called Second Wave feminists, most notably among them Andrea Dworkin, had very urgent and important priorities, as you know, such as ending battery, rape, pornography, prostitution, incest, racism, left-wing and right-wing misogyny, and radically interrogating sexuality, Zionism, and white male control of language and writing.

In "The Conversations Project" glossary, every one of those revolutionary priorities is crushed into two words, the mainstream media-imposed backlash term: "Women’s Lib." What's so radical about that, John? That is surely not what I would call, as you said, "preserving the nuance of history and discursive context.” [2]

In fact, the glossary is sadly unnuanced. Why not take the trouble to spell out the word 'Liberation' in what is mistakenly claimed to be a glossary inclusive of radical feminism? 'Women's Liberation' references the emergence of women's radical agendas beyond liberal campaigns. How is it responsibly pro-feminist to disappear that history by reducing the terminology to its most dismissive and belittling abbreviation? Blatantly deleting issues that thousands of feminists, including Andrea, have spent our lives fighting for is not only ironically exclusionary but an epic fail. [3]

Beyond all that, you are remodeling Andrea’s life. You've transfigured a few forty-year-old passages from Woman Hating while invisibilizing all the major themes of her work, subordinating them in deference to your own. Your private conversations at home are one thing, but neither you, nor anyone else, can second guess or project Andrea’s reasoning or strategies into 2016, from work published in 1974. So, this becomes the newest phase of you endorsing a revision of Andrea’s public political perspective while also compromising her personhood. 

A past example was your successful advocacy of Ariel Levy as the author of the foreword to the twentieth anniversary edition of Intercourse, as detailed in Over Her Dead Body: How Ariel Levy Smears the Ashes of Andrea Dworkin. [4]

John, I know your sincere desire is to bring Andrea’s ideas to a broader audience. But you have not done justice to Andrea by inserting her name into this frenzied quagmire of controversy, effectively pitting her against radical activists who were her allies in life, on the front lines of the war against women. These, her passionate friends and colleagues, the ones who stood by her when no one else would, are betrayed and justifiably outraged by actions you've taken in Andrea Dworkin’s name. 

Any of us who really knew Andrea knew her to be such a unique voice, never, ever jumping on board to promote herself as siding with a liberal cause. Integrity was everything and the meaning and memory of her words mattered more to her than her own well-being. She is now discredited with yet another lie—not just “a man-hater,” not just someone who thought “all sex is rape,” but as someone who you are strategically positioning to be a key reference point in a battle raging on over ten years after she died, that she quite intentionally never chose to be part of.

If you, as a self-IDed “penised person,” [5] choose to erect your intellectual property on faux radical turf, then so be it. My objection is that you are publicly and problematically using Andrea’s name, reputation, and integrity as a bridge to get yourself there. [6]

Nikki Craft


[1]Dear transuders, I am introducing this new acronym, TURF, as a counterpoint to one spread around online for years. "TERF" stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Despite claims to the contrary, this is neither a welcome nor respectful term. While radical feminists deeply interrogate concepts of gender, including liberal queer and transgender theory, none I know identify themselves as "TERFs." Beyond the smoke and heat of this acrid flame war, there actually are many trans* and nonbinary people who agree with some if not most Gender Critical analysis. Pretending these are distinct rival camps--radfems vs. trans-inclusive feminists--is erroneous and spurious. The respectful phrase to use is Gender Critical Radical Feminist, or, if you must: GCRFs.

As an antifeminist aim-and-shame phrase, "TERF" has become a speech-weapon of choice, a wedge noun used to splinter and insult gender critical feminists. It is dehumanizing, divisive, and bullying. It is directed, especially, at white radical lesbian feminists, further marginalising and stigmatizing them in their own LGBT+ communities. Not only that, but It systematically misrepresents radfem agendas and allegiances.

Transinclusively Undermining Radical Feminism (or TURFing) appeals to white liberals who have little to no awareness of the veridical breadth and depth of radical feminist analysis and activism--activism accomplished by women of all colors working diligently together. Whether or not there is awareness of past radical campaigns against racist patriarchal atrocities, this flame war is very appealing to white conservative, liberal, and progressive men. It also is appealing to the dominant culture's insatiable woman-hating appetite to portray two oppressed groups as though they are each other's worst enemies.

TURFing is accomplished in the following ways.

An appeal is made to mainstream and social media with critiques only of those feminists who have been threatened and alienated for taking action to end misogynist atrocities over forty years. The most powerful group is not centrally targeted: racist capitalist patriarchs. Conspicuously absent from the TURFer's glossary is an acrimonious acronym for these men; nor is there any comparable media campaign to malign them. As usual, gender critical feminists are a safe-enough target as we are without the access to institutional power they nevertheless ascribe to us.

With that structurally in place, a small group of trans activists and their allies attract liberal to progressive media interest. They run statement after statement targeting a few radical feminists as a key obstacle to their liberty. Appeals are made to white liberals who are generally unaware of or are preconditioned to trivialise radical feminist analysis and accomplishments. This is easily done because, from the mid-1970s forward, the reality is that those in power never embraced what radical feminists were achieving. They fought us at every turn in the most callous, vicious ways imaginable. In too many ways, they won.

TURFing employs the decades-old political tactic--an approach that has historically and presently been directed and orchestrated by men's rights activists, pornographers, reactionary academia, neocons, and media, all of whom hope radical feminism dies once and for all.

On-going transuding occurs: anti-radical, anti-feminist biases and attitudes are flooded onto increasingly contested political terrain, such as the very places radical and lesbian feminists choose to organize. They organize to continue the fight against racist heteropatriarchy, to take on the forces that seek to take out all of us--all women, all queer people, all people of color. Not without gaps in consciousness or unowned privilege, but with fierce hearts and sharp minds, focused on liberation for everyone. TURFing misdirects anger and animosity toward many of us who are survivors of incest, harassment, battery and rape.

It is gaslighting and triggering to create websites that are simultaneously radical feminist-identified and unduly critical of key figures in any wave of feminism. It is one thing to vehemently disagree about a very problematic passage, speech, or book. Or to have a history of nasty exchanges online. Or to come down on another side of a particular campaign. But for those radical feminists who have been down in the trenches for decades, verbally if not otherwise assaulted from many sides, it is only anti-feminist to reduce such women, essentially, to "TERFs."

Those of us oppressed by sex, race, sexuality, or class are threatened and imperiled--but not by radical feminists. It is misogynistic to claim otherwise. Portraying an increasingly marginalized and maligned group of women as having more power than those who oppress all of us, is wrong. It it time you stopped. And it is time your colleagues called you out on it.BACK


[3]From that glossary: "2nd Wave [sic]: Feminism from around 1960 – 1980. This wave of feminism was focused on Women’s Lib. To the dismay of intersectional 2nd [sic] Wave feminists, privilege-blind optics became a problem within 2nd [sic] wave feminist discourse. At this time, Janice Raymond’s Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male gained favor."BACK



[6]http://www.amazon.com/The-end-Manhood-John-Stoltenberg/dp/0452273048 especially: "GONERZ is John Stoltenberg's first novel. He first conceived it in conversations with Andrea Dworkin, his life partner of 31 years, and he drew on his earlier years as a playwright when the characters began to come alive.BACK"

A link to this page will reside at the Andrea Dworkin Memorial website site, and as a listing on her primary domain index.