Author: Kate Elliott (she/her)
Before we go any further: Hi, I'm Kate! I'm a cisgender straight white woman whose pronouns are she/her. I wanted to share some info on TERFs on this platform, but I am by no means an expert. I'm a cisgender woman who doesn't understand the realities of what it means to experience this discrimination and erasure. Given my positioning, it's possible that I have missed out on some important elements in this post, and I welcome feedback to learn/unlearn more.
As a company that is gender-inclusive (and proudly so), we sometimes have TERFs seeking out our content, simply to reply ‘only women menstruate’.
Let’s talk about this.
Menstruation seems to be a particular point of contention for TERFs, who suggest that saying 'people who menstruate' degrades their identity as a cis-woman.
Remember when Always removed the venus symbol from their packaging and there was uproar? I just wonder how many of the people offended by its removal had actually noticed it before…
So, what is a TERF?
TERF is used to describe cisgender women who self-identify as feminists but who are opposed to including transgender women in spaces they reserve for people who were assigned female at birth (AFAB). TERFs often believe that trans folks should be denied rights and sometimes advocate for harm against trans people.
This ideology is extremely problematic and dangerous. Trans folks are disproportionately subject to violence and abuse, particularly BIPOC trans people and Two-Spirit folks.
TERFs perpetuate the idea that trans folks are not worthy of human rights by erasing their identity and furthering the risk of even more harm and discrimination.
So what do cisgender people do?
These attitudes need to be recognized, called out, and stopped. If feminism isn’t intersectional then it isn’t feminism. Trans rights are human rights.
Make sure your feminism is inclusive of trans folks always, including when you’re talking about menstruation.
For example, rather than saying ‘women’ when talking about menstruation, instead, use people who menstruate / folks who menstruate / menstruators / people who bleed / people with periods.
And finally, lots of cisgender women don’t menstruate, so attaching periods to womanhood can be exclusionary among cis women too as it implies they are lacking something because of birth control, age, health, etc.
Head here to read about how Kenny Ethan Jones navigates menstruation as a man.
Huge shoutout to the Canadian brand Aisle who rebranded to be more inclusive and be welcoming to everyone who needs to visit the 'period aisle'.