An Evangelical-TERF Alliance Shouldn’t Surprise Anyone

An Evangelical-TERF Alliance Shouldn’t Surprise Anyone February 21, 2017

The conservative evangelical magazine, WORLD, is ecstatic. “Christians, feminists unite to fight transgender restroom policies,” a headline declared last week

The debate about transgender restroom access has forged unlikely allies. Last month, the conservative Family Policy Alliance (FPA) and the self-described “radical feminist” Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), co-filed a brief with the Supreme Court opposing efforts to allow transgender students to use the restroom of their perceived gender identity. 

Can you see how positively giddy they are over this? And it’s not just them. The Family Policy Alliance (FPA) put out a video touting this alliance, which begins as follows:

“We care about the privacy and safety of women and girls, and we know you do too. But we’re not the only ones! We’ve had the opportunity to partner with an unlikely ally on this important issue—a radical feminist organization called Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF.”

The video finishes with this phrase, spoken by the FPA policy director:

“How wrong does something need to be for a Christian pro-family organization and a radical feminist organization to oppose it together?” 

This is what happens when people who don’t know anything about feminism pretend that they do. It is neither surprising or novel that a radical feminist group would oppose transgender bathroom access. The problem here is that the Family Policy Alliance and WORLD magazine see the term “radical” and assume that means extra feminist. These are like the most feministy feminists, right? Um, no.

If those at the Family Policy Alliance and WORLD magazine had ever heard the term “TERF” they would know why their netting of a “radical feminist” group as an ally in their fight against trans rights is no coup at all. TERF stands for “trans exclusionary radical feminist.” It’s a well-known phenomenon, and TERFs are not well received in most feminist circles, which tend to be accepting of trans identities.

There’s also this, as PinkNews notes:

PinkNews could find little evidence of WoLF campaigning on any women’s issues unrelated to transgender people, despite claims on their website that they “lobby for pro-choice legislation” and “defend women’s bodily sovereignty”.

This feels strikingly similar to New Wave Feminists, a group that promises the creation of a “new” feminism but, despite affirmations of women’s equality, focuses only on opposition to abortion and birth control. And yet, all over the conservative internet, evangelicals are excited about their new amazing alliance—I mean how bad does something be to be opposed by both evangelicals and radical feminists?! Except that—again—that is not how this works.

Evangelicals have been decrying the decline of civilization due to “radical feminism” for decades now, but when they do so they are not using the term in the same way it is used in feminist circles. Radical feminists are not extra extreme feminists. In fact, radical feminists tend to agree with evangelicals on a surprising number of things—transgender issues, pornography, and prostitution, for starters. In some cases radical feminists can engage in a surprising level of biological essentialism, elevating the role of “mother” and emphasizing pregnancy.

I understand that words change over time and that terms are not always used the same way by different people. But I very much suspect that neither WORLD magazine nor the Family Policy Alliance spent any time at all researching what a “radical feminist” was before beginning to spread the joyous news of their “surprising” alliance. Do they know what differentiates “second wave” feminists from “third wave” feminists, or what an “intersectional” feminist is?

It might behoove conservatives and evangelicals to learn more about feminism before assuming they already know all they need to know—they very clearly don’t.

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