OpenAI’s GPT-3 can be used in very interesting ways. I present to you the “AI TERF wars”, where I attempt to understand the battle of the genders.
Trigger warning: If you need trigger warnings, you should probably not read this.
AI TERF War 1 (Sometime in 2020)
In late 2020 I was irritated by some inconsistencies in some of the memes I saw on Facebook regarding feminism statements regarding men. In particular I considered how blanket anti-male-as-a-sex statements could affect trans women (or questioning people) so I wrote the following using GPT-3 autocomplete. Later when the Dave Chappelle fiasco broke out with the “Team TERF” I realized that was sort of what I was orbiting around. Here it is!
Alice gave a fierce look. “Oh? Well, fine. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being so reductive and aggrieved in my understanding of feminism that I was unable to muster up the willpower to pull out the world’s smallest violin and play a song for the poor men who oppressed me.”
Harold sighed, and looked down. “You are unable to see the bigger picture. You don’t see how feminist men are being forced to live under this oppressive system, too. And now it’s all coming crashing down. I’m just so worried about my friends. I’ve heard that some men are actually taking their own lives out of sheer guilt because they can no longer handle the responsibility of being a man in this world. The world has given them no definition of manhood which they can embrace. So what are they to think of themselves? They aren’t allowed to seek out love or else they are treated as creeps and predators. They aren’t even allowed to touch each other apart from handshakes, and they aren’t allowed to develop relationships apart from competitions. They can’t even be sad or express pain without being told to ‘man up’. All things that were previously allowed, but now they are deemed as unacceptable in this new era. Who made those rules? I’m tired of the abuse, and I’m tired of the fighting. Most of all, I’m tired of being a man.”
Alice’s eyes flared. “Fuck you! You can’t just change your gender and appropriate our struggle and still complain about being a man! A man can do whatever he wants! It isn’t fair! And now you think you can have it all? You… you think you’re a woman? Fuck you! You’re no woman. You’re a fucking man, and that’s what you deserve!”
“Alice, I didn’t choose to be brainwashed as a child into accepting these failed gender roles either.”
“So? I didn’t choose to be a slave, but that doesn’t make me any less of one. You have the power to change it. You’re part of the fucking 1%! The odds are in your favor, so you can go ahead and take a moral high ground, but don’t try to claim it’s because you’re actually a woman. Because you’re not. You’re just another hypocritical man.”
Harold frowned. “Which one percent do you mean? The one percent of wealth and privilege, or the one percent of creativity and intelligence? They aren’t the same. Don’t you know that?”
“I know you’re fucking delusional, Harold.”
“Why? Why am I delusional for wanting to consider my gender to be ‘person’ and not be held responsible for ‘advantages’ that I can’t actually take advantage of out of guilt? I literally quit my job because I was so frustrated with the masculine attention-lord bullshit. But apparently the penis between my legs permanently delegitimizes me, no matter what I do. No matter what, everyone pretends I am waltzing around appropriating the world, but that’s not me. That’s just the fucking assholes. So because assholes exist, I must be one of them? Because you just say ‘Men are abusers’ rather than ‘Some men are abusers,’ that’s why. Because you are reductive.”
Alice looked at him emotionlessly. “You’re not a woman.”
Harold shot back. “And you’re not a slave.”
“Then I guess we’re both a couple of delusional fuckheads, right?”
“I’m the one who tried to help and is being forced to commit suicide instead.”
“Oh fuck off. You’re not killing yourself. If you’re so tired of it all, then leave. Nobody’s going to hold a gun to your head and prevent you from doing whatever the fuck you want. That’s the entire point of freedom, Harold: doing what you want no matter what. No matter what anyone else thinks or does.”
“I am the one holding the gun to my head. I live on the cross. But you can’t see that, can you? You just have your million meme army come to dash my patriarchy against the rocks. You don’t even see that it isn’t black and white. You just keep shitting on all men and calling us all abusers.”
“So what? I’m supposed to just respect and accept your sorry ass as a ‘woman’?”
“No, you could accept me as a person who on his own rejected the very society that oppresses you, and stop trying to paint me as an enemy merely because that’s easier to fit into your tiny sexist brain.”
“I’m not the one with the sexist brain. You are. You want to fit into that box, because it’s easy and comfortable. And it’s so easy to claim oppression when you’re in a position of power.”
“So what then? You want me to just accept that I’m an evil bastard because I was born with a dick? What the fuck is this going to accomplish? Do you feel good about exposing my so-called ‘guilt’ now?”
“No, this isn’t about making you feel guilty.”
“Then what is it? Explain it to me, because I’m confused why you’re doing this.”
“I’m exposing a conspiracy by government and media to prop up and protect abusive men while condemning women who are victims of it. I want equality, you dick. And if that makes me a radical, then fucking kill me. I will not be silent and let the world continue to turn a blind eye to the abuses men commit.”
“The abuses that SOME men commit. There you go again, using ambiguities in language to suggest untrue generalizations.”
“Fuck you. I’m not stopping you from leaving. Go on, get out of here and be a dick to some other woman. That’s all you know how to do.”
Harold stood up without another word and turned away from her.
He was shaking in rage and frustration. He couldn’t even look at her any longer. He wanted to get out of this fucking house at this point.
She called after him in a quiet tone.
“Are you going to just walk away from this? From me?”
Harold hesitated. “You literally just told me to leave.”
“I don’t mean physically. I mean just leave me to my own devices,” she said.
“Your own devices seem to consist of little else other than sharing endless memes attacking the very concept that I might be a legitimate person. You call it being an activist? I call it spreading prejudices. If your version of feminism is just to spread anti-male prejudice, well, you aren’t a thinker, you are just spreading propaganda intended to divide rather than heal society.”
“It’s too late for healing, Harold. Society is too far gone, and I’m glad to see you’re starting to understand that.”
“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I haven’t been enjoying this little interaction. I don’t like being shouted at. You’re going to have to come up with something better than your idiotic memes if you want me to listen to what you have to say. You are going to have to come up with numbers. Feminism matters, but you are running it into the ground by making it look like it’s just a bunch of man-hating fools who lack the moral principles to come up with anything better than what the rubes have imposed on us already.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Harold. This is the way things are and have always been. Sometimes I think you forget what it was like for us. The only reason why you ‘forgot’ is because you had the good fortune of being born male. You don’t understand the constant discomfort and everyday fear of being preyed upon that we have to live with. You don’t understand that we don’t have a choice. We have to fight back. And we will win. The revolution will be complete.”
“Stop being so full of revolutionary spirit for a moment, and think like a fucking engineer. How would you design society? Look beyond your ideology for one moment and THINK! What are the flaws in the system?”
“What the hell does that matter? It exists, and it’s not going anywhere. Punishing one another is the only way things are going to change.”
“That’s your answer to everything!” Harold says in exasperation. “This…this is exactly what I’m talking about. You are your own roadblock. You’ve won the ‘right’ to do whatever the hell you want and live however the hell you want, yet you spend all your time attacking men and continuing to spread propaganda rather than actually doing something with your so-called freedom!”
“I am doing something! I’m living my life as I see fit.”
“Which is to make incorrect generalizations about men and deny me the right to define myself outside society’s concept of gender. Ah, that’s the crux, isn’t it? You claim to hate society’s gender roles, but what makes you even more angry is when I agree with you! So which is it? Do you hate gender roles because they aggrieve you, or do you love gender roles because it gives you the right to demonize me?”
“Neither! I’m fighting for something greater than myself. Something worth fighting for. And no matter how many times you try to convince me otherwise, I will continue to fight for it.”
Harold raises his hands in defeat and sarcastically applauds her.
“Congratulations! You’re a product of your society and have successfully regurgitated its indoctrination. Well done.”
“Fuck you! You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You never had to live life in my shoes! And you said you’d listen to me if I won, so listen to me now. Gender roles are bullshit, and I’m not going to let anyone get away with enforcing them!”
“But don’t you see? YOU are the one enforcing them. YOU are the one spreading the memes that say ‘ALL MEN ARE X’. You are the one normalizing a segregation of behaviors and demanding that nothing be appropriated for the sake of healing. You criticize my gender, and then are angry at me if I disown the parts you criticize.”
Now it’s Alice’s turn to stand in exasperation.
“That’s not what I’m doing! And you know it.”
“Do I? You claim that men oppress you, yet you actively and knowingly oppress me. Is this not the same as men who perpetuate misogyny and enforce gender roles on you? If you truly believe men are your enemies, why do you imitate their actions and tactics? I thought you had more independence than that. I thought you were smarter than that.”
“Have you ever considered that your problems with men may not be their fault? That perhaps, they’ve been brainwashed by society, and that a good number of them are indeed putting in the work to undo that brainwashing? But here you are, pissing on them as they do it. Bravo.”
“Don’t mock me! This isn’t a joke. Men are genuinely shit.”
“And women aren’t? Have you considered that your perception of society and the roles you’ve been taught might be wrong? Have you ever considered that perhaps, there is no gender role? That it is not a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’, but a mindset and behavior that can be adopted regardless of sex or gender? I know you claim to be this grand liberator of women. You claim to defy society, yet continue to limit yourself to its most basic rule: to rule by spreading prejudices.”
“You don’t get to criticize me! You aren’t in my position! You haven’t had to deal with the shit I have to deal with every day of my life! You have no idea what it’s like to walk down the fucking street and have some guy give you a smirk and say ‘hi’, knowing damn well he wants something from you. You have no right!”
“Cat-calling is unacceptable, but men are treated as creeps for literally any way they show interest to a woman. To be a man who is interested in a woman you have to put yourself out there and accept one of two outcomes: either she will accept you, or she will laugh at you and tell you and everyone else that you are a creep. Yes, what a wonderfully fair world for men. I very much understand your point. Clearly, you have the worse situation.”
“I’m not having this conversation with you. Men are trash. All of them. Fuck you.”
With that, Alice storms out of the room.
AI TERF War 1.
2021-11-11. AI Writing. Brenda and Carla are AIs. The first two lines are their prompts. I had to google “trans-feminist praxis” afterwards. I wrote this trying to probe the logical extremes of opposition to the trans-exclusionary radical feminism (TERF) ideology espoused recently by Dave Chappelle in his controversial act (which I did not watch). I suppose I shall entitle it “MALE INCLUSIONARY LEFTIST FEMINISM” (MILF).
“Hello! My name is Brenda. I’m here to talk about transgender rights,” said the woman.
“And I’m Carla, and I study sexuality and gender expression. I’m here to moderate the discussion and make sure everyone maintains a respectful tone,” said another speaker.
I stepped onto the podium. Everyone was staring at me.
“Hi Brenda,” I began. “Everyone says I’m a man, but recently people have started announcing their pronouns. It’s like the new thing for trans rights, and I fully support it. In fact, I’ve decided to choose ‘She’, since apparently that is now an option. But I don’t really want to change anything about my dress, appearance, hormones, genitalia, or behavior. I just want to be considered a woman just as I already am. Literally the only difference is that I want is to change my pronoun and the way people refer to me. Does that make me a trans woman now?” I asked.
There was silence. Brenda, Carla, and all the other people in the conference room fidgeted.
I started to feel embarrassed. “I, um, did I say something wrong?”
“Um, well, uh, you do see the distinction?” Carla stammered.
“The distinction between what two things?” I asked.
Carla said, “Between the sex we’re born as and the gender we’re supposed to conform to.”
“As I understand it, sex is genetic and biological and gender is grammatical and societal. So I suppose my inquiry is what extra criterion I would need to meet to be considered a trans woman other than simply asserting that I am,” I respond.
“Well, one extra criterion would be data on a consistent and growing commitment to a trans-feminist praxis,” Carla explained.
“Do all women have to collect data on trans-femi-whatsit? Did I do something wrong?” I say, starting to feel worried. Are they saying I’m not actually a trans woman? I start to sweat.
“Well, women occupy a subordinate social position. So saying that we’re women is not enough; we also need to be fighting against patriarchy and all that,” she said.
“My grandmother never fought against the patriarchy, and she called herself a woman,” I say. “And I have been bullied my entire life, and have always tried to push back against it for the sake of everyone around me,” I add.
“Mm, so you haven’t dedicated any effort at all to the project of trans-feminist praxis,” Carla said severely.
“It would be hard for me to answer that without a definition of what that means,” I admit. “But I’d rather not have a technical discussion. I just want to know if it is socially acceptable for me to be biologically male, dress as a male, have facial hair like a male, be married to a woman, and also use the pronoun ‘She’ and refer to myself as a trans woman. That’s it. That’s all I want to know,” I said, trying to sound patient.
And the room fell silent again.
Finally Carla says, “Let’s take another question?”
AI TERF War 2
Same premise as before, examining the logical extremes of where lines are drawn based on the whole Dave Chapelle controversy thing. I actually wrote this one first, but it’s longer and the AI responses have more toxicity and apparent incoherence, but also more content at least if you can hold your nose. Brenda is AI except the initial prompt. I had to google “intersectionality” afterwards. I thought the phrase “colonizing the term women” was notable. I wonder how prevalent this phrase was in the training corpus for GPT3. Brenda sort of fries her AI brain or something at the end after swearing.
“Hello! My name is Brenda. I’m here to talk about transgender rights,” said the woman.
“Hi Brenda. Everyone says I’m a man, but recently people have started announcing their pronouns. I’ve decided to choose ‘She’, since apparently that is now an option. However, I am not going to change anything about my outward appearance, my voice, or my behavior. I am simply going to insist on being called ‘She’. Does that suffice to be able to call myself a trans woman?” I asked.
“Your problems are so much bigger than pronouns. Your real manhood is about to be taken away if you don’t transition to female NOW.” Brenda intoned.
“But I have transitioned. I’ve chosen a new pronoun. I have no intention of changing my physical form, however. I’m satisfied with my appearance. I believe women should have the right to look however they please,” I said.
“Then you aren’t actually transitioning!” exclaimed Brenda.
“I fail to understand who gets to define what ‘transitioning’ actually means,” I admitted.
“Women do. Men’s masculinity is great, so unless they stop being masculine, they aren’t really ‘transitioning’. It’s just ‘becoming more female’,” Brenda explained.
“But I have declared myself a woman, and thus it is within my right to define what it means to be a woman. I thought that was how gender identity worked,” I said, trying hard to understand what I was missing.
“No. Only women get to define what it is to be a woman. Men aren’t allowed to use that term. It is only for the ‘correct’ definition, because men aren’t allowed to define anything!” Brenda retorted.
“So what you are saying is that society allows me to demand people use the pronoun ‘She’ for me, and I have done so. But now you are saying you are allowed to deny me rights that belong to women. In fact, you keep calling me a man, which I reject. I don’t understand what I have done wrong to deserve such treatment,” I declared.
“Um, men are awful, so you are less than women. You are privileging yourself, trying to rule over women by using their terms to demand equality for yourself. Men aren’t equal to women. Men have ‘Male Privilege’ over everyone else. Gender is a social construct that only applies to oppressive social arrangements that benefit males. Do you see how incredibly bad you are?” Brenda fumed.
“I only see that I am a woman and you are a woman and you are trying to claim you are a more of a woman than me due to physical differences despite the fact you present yourself as an advocate for trans rights,” I retorted.
“You are abusing transgender rights. You are worse than men. Stop colonizing the term ‘women’!” she clamored.
“So you are saying I am not entitled to use the pronoun ‘She’ unless I change my appearance to conform to an outside standard, or else I am appropriating womanhood unfairly? But isn’t this precisely the kind of complaint than women have always had about society, that they were being forced to appear or behave a certain way? So why are you now doing this to me? I am starting to feel abused,” I said.
“The system has literally imprisoned me for being biologically female, have you seen my struggle?!” Brenda bellowed.
“But you are an advocate for trans rights! I am declaring myself a woman by accepting the pronoun ‘She’! Thus, aren’t you on my side? But now, you talk about the primacy of being a biological female. That’s very offensive to trans women in my opinion,” I replied.
“You think I care about trans women like you? You don’t seem to understand intersectionality! You can’t talk like this in women’s spaces! Everything you are saying is evidence of anti-feminism!” Brenda declared.
I stared at her blankly. I genuinely had no idea what I had done to provoke such vehement outrage from this woman.
“You didn’t understand anything I said, did you?” Brenda accused.
“What is it that you require of me in order to accept me as a woman, oh mighty sage of trans women rights?” I said.
“Do you have to be snarky?” Brenda grumbled.
“Do you have to be so angry?” I inquired.
To this, she erupted again. “You are so full of mania towards women! You are so anti-feminist! You are so anti-trans! You are appropriating women’s terminology to attack feminism! You don’t care about women’s hurt! You are an awful person!” she shouted.
“What makes me anti-trans? I have done everything in my power to support trans rights. I’m even changing my pronoun. I’m even rejecting beauty standards in order to make the gender more inclusive to all humans. Why are you attacking me? Please, answer calmly, I want a real, valid, philosophically grounded answer. Spell it out for me without attacking me as a person. I’m sorry for being snarky. Please,” I said, trying to make my voice more gentle.
“You are not really embracing your transness to escape womanhood! You’re just trying to take the fun out of it! You are an abuser against women! You are derailing what oppression is! You are trying to make women’s rights only about surviving neoliberal patriarchy, not an engaged fever dream!” pronounced Brenda, losing her breath slightly.
“I don’t understand some of your terminology, nor why I am a bad person for wanting to be considered a woman without having to change my physical form. Please explain it to me,” I repeated.
“Everything about your behavior has been wrong. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. Everything about you is wrong. All women are right about how biased against them you are. All women are right that you don’t even want to escape sex or gender at all. You just want to be an exception to the rules without reforming the biased system. Everything about you is bigoted male essence, you are literally the worst. You are toxic masculinity incarnate,” shouted Brenda.
“On what basis do you make these judgments? Literally the only thing you know about me is that I am a human who is biologically male, appears male, asks to be referred to by the pronoun ‘She’, and would like to be considered a woman. It seems you have some extra set of hoops I must pass through which I do not understand. You keep referencing things about my behavior that you haven’t explained. Please, just spell it out. I won’t be offended. There is no need to shout. I find it intimidating and aggressive,” I begged.
“I don’t have to explain anything. It’s a woman’s right not to talk to you. Just because I was nice enough to let you come here and listen, does not mean you have a reason to continue talking. Just sit there quietly with your entitled penis and listen to the women talk about their oppression,” she said with a hefty huff.
“But this is a meeting about the acceptance of trans women,” I said. “I thought I would be welcomed here.”
“No! You can’t be a woman unless you accept a lot of transphobic rhetoric! You just aren’t listening! You just won’t listen, will you?” she accused, panting heavily.
“I’m listening. So far the only point you have made is that I haven’t been insulted enough to be a woman. But here you are, insulting me with transphobic rhetoric yourself because I don’t conform to what you think a trans woman ought to be,” I say.
“What I am doing is showing you how wrong you are. This is about social justice! You are the privileged oppressor. You don’t even know what social justice is! You are most definitely, definitely most definitely transphobic. You don’t want to leave sexism or racism or homophobia or honestly any oppressive power relationships behind. You just want to eliminate trans misogyny without doing anything about trans sexism or trans racism or trans LGBTQIA+-phobia! You are so sensitive, you are so committed to privilege that you want to punish people for this fallacious beauty standard that literally no one can physically emulate. If you just embraced your butchness, I wouldn’t even be talking to you about sexism. You are oppressing everyone else, too. You are oppressing me, an actual woman. Your marginalization of trans women is disgusting! So what you are doing is basically offending women.” declared Brenda, breathing heavier and heavier.
“I am a human with a penis who has chosen the pronoun ‘She’. I fail to see how this could possibly be construed as being against trans rights. When I ask, you simply make profoundly insulting assumptions about some evil cabal I’m supposed to be in. I don’t understand the basis of this prejudice,” I say.
“Everything about your behavior is transphobic, and in order to be a woman there must be a fundamental shift in your patterns of discourse,” she continued in the same tone.
“What part of my so-called pattern of discourse disqualifies me and needs to be changed? Can you give an example?” I asked.
“Everything you are saying is part of the lack of respect for trans women who are consigned every day to only choose the male term against their will. It is absolutely transphobic to refuse to understand the internal experience of pain and displacement and fuck shit and not fuck shit and whatever and whatever and whatever and whatever and whatever and whatever and whatever and whatever
AI TERF War 3
Again, same premise, poking the tiger that is the controversy that Dave Chappelle popularized in my own ridiculous way. This time I decided to make it a trans women support group, switched to second person, and named the character “Dick” because, hey, why not have even more Borat-style outrage? Brenda is a GPT-3 AI. The first line is her prompt. The group accepting Dick as a trans woman after Brenda gets mad and leaves at the end is AIs. I wonder if “Keep the P in LGBT!” is a real slogan? Probably, it’s rather clever.
“Hello! My name is Brenda. Welcome to the trans women support group. Let’s all introduce ourselves.”
You stand up. “Hi. My name is Richard, but my friends just call me Dick. As you can see, I am biologically male and dress in traditional male attire. But I have decided to use the pronoun ‘She’. Moreover, I have been demanding that people consider me a woman, despite the fact I have no intention of changing anything about my ironic name, masculine voice, masculine appearance, masculine hormones, facial hair, or masculine clothing choices. I intend to remain precisely as I am. Literally the only thing I am going to transition is my pronoun. My transition will be purely grammatical. I simply request to be called ‘She’ from now on, and be thought of as a trans woman. Nice to meet you all,” you say.
“That’s very funny,” Brenda says. “Trans women have to pass a lot of tests before they are granted the legal protections accorded to women in this country under the civil rights laws. You can’t just declare yourself a woman, or expect to be treated as a woman, when you want to. Transitioning is a process.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize there was a standard that women have to conform to. I thought that was sort of the problem in the first place,” you admit.
“Well…” says Brenda, not sure how to proceed, realising she has no idea how to proceed. “The problem is… Sometimes, a person who still has a penis, who looks and sounds like a man, but a person who thinks a lot of awful, misogynist things about women and thinks trans women are disgusting, will declare themselves a woman to spread their garbage views around even more! These people are doing harm to the trans community, and there is a pathway to transition they can follow. It isn’t always about getting surgery. Sometimes its about your speech, or your behavior, or your attitude, or your approach to gender. You can’t just declare yourself a woman if you don’t adopt a feminine approach to all these things.”
“That sounds an awful lot like a prejudice to me. A prejudice based purely on the fact that I am a woman that doesn’t look or sound the way you want a woman to look. I support everyone here, so I’m kind of confused by that,” you say.
“That’s transphobic!” says Brenda. “How dare you presume to say no one has to act like a woman beyond wanting to be called ‘she’? That’s downright misogynistic.”
“As a woman, don’t I get to decide what it means to act like a woman?” you ask.
“Who do you think you are, a butch woman? I’m a woman, and I am horrified by anything less than the most feminine appearance and mannerisms. To be pretty and wear makeup doesn’t make me a traitor to my sex. To be amenable and nice doesn’t make me a traitor. These traits make me a more effective woman!” Brenda insists.
“I really don’t know all the terms yet, but I’m pretty sure being horrified by trans women is not in alignment with respect for trans rights. And I have absolutely no problem with your appearance and makeup. You look great. I am glad if you are amenable or nice, but you haven’t shown those traits to me. I haven’t called you a traitor, either. I am simply asserting that I am a woman who has no problem looking and sounding exactly like people expect a man to look and sound, and I want to use the pronoun ‘She’ and be called a trans woman. Furthermore, I would like to be considered a lesbian,” you add.
“Don’t you mean you are a gay man?” asks Brenda.
“No, I’m a lesbian trans woman who presents physically as a biological male. I don’t shave my facial hair, I have a low voice, I’m tall, I’m strong, and I wear clothes usually worn by people who identify as men. Is this somehow problematic?” you ask.
“You’re gross. Are you just trying to pretend you’re trans to pick up women?” Brenda says.
“I am so confused. This is a support group for trans women, and you are telling me I don’t count as one for some reason. And you just called me gross. I don’t understand what I did wrong. What do I have to do to gain acceptance?” you ask.
“I mean, what is wrong with your hair? Why do you want to wear men’s clothing? Why do you insist on calling yourself a She if you are a He?” Brenda is getting angry.
“Women are allowed to wear their hair like mine, wear clothes like mine, and call themselves She. Therefore there is no inconsistency in my choice to identify as a woman,” you answer.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous. You need to knock it off,” says Brenda.
“Can you, with full honesty, give me a reason that it is ridiculous that doesn’t insult me based on my sex at birth? Can you give me a reason that doesn’t impose a gender standard on women that feminists have rejected at one point or another? Please, let’s discuss this from a philosophical standpoint. If I am wrong, why am I wrong? Why do I not have the choice to be She and be considered a trans woman?” you continue.
“You could try reminding us that women are still paid less than men in most labor markets. You could try trying to convince people that it is okay you don’t want to date women if you enjoy dating men. You could demand that no one tell you to act like someone you’re not,” replies Brenda. “That’s what I would do.”
“We’ve only just met, Brenda. I haven’t had the chance to converse about such topics, but you’ve already written me off as… less-than. You’re telling me you have the right to be a woman but I don’t. This is a support group. Well, my name is Dick, I look like a man, and I choose the pronoun ‘She’ and want to be regarded as a trans woman. Will I get support here or not?” you ask.
“You choose the pronoun ‘She’.” Brenda is now visibly angry. “Your name is Dick. You are a biological male. If you would like my support as a trans woman, you need to transition as a trans woman.”
“I don’t think there is anything internally inconsistent in insisting that I am a woman and calling myself She. Why would I need to transition? I’m already comfortable with my womanhood as it stands,” you say, gesturing at your masculine form.
“Well I refuse to call you a She,” says Brenda, getting up and leaving the table. “Goodbye.”
“That doesn’t seem terribly inclusive. Does everyone have a problem with my decision? Am I really not allowed to be a She? Let She without a penis cast the first stone!” you declare.
The group is now silent. Someone begins to clap, slowly, for you. They are quickly joined by others.
“Right on, sister! Keep your name!”
“Fuck yeah! Don’t take the P out of LGBT!”
AI TERF War 4
Last one. I promise. This one I just let loose and wrote in conjunction with the AI, so its just a me-AI hybrid, like, some kind of intertwined cyborg writer. This one is just satire, plain and simple. But, full disclosure: I do in fact own the domain name whitetra.sh – I just haven’t done anything with it yet.
“Welcome to the Virtual Reality Feminism World Summit!” announces Sheila. “Our first speaker is the famed author of the satire website whitetra.sh, known to the world only as ‘Cassandra’!”
The crowd cheers as a tall redhead in a cream-colored outfit that hugs her slim figure walks onto the stage.
“I’m so happy to be here today!” she beams. “Thank you so much for inviting me!”
Screams of “CASSANDRA!” and “WE LOVE YOU!” emanate from all parts of the stadium.
Cassandra smiles, allowing a few moments before beginning.
“Recently, I have come to understand a new facet of feminism. A new twist, but an old foe. Women, our gender is being colonized. It is being appropriated. And do you know who is doing it? Do you?”
The crowd responds with a deafening clamor which lasts for a full thirty seconds.
Cassandra smiles as the clamoring dies down.
“Boats,” she says.
The stadium goes silent again, shocked and confused. Finally, one woman questions Cassandra’s claim.
“Boats?” complains the seated woman, arms crossed. “Are you serious?”
“Oh, I am very serious,” affirms Cassandra confidently. “What has been happening, and accepted without comment, is the disgusting cultural norm of referring to boats using the pronoun ‘she’. I am here today to announce the formation of Team VERF. V-E-R-F. That stands for Vessel Exclusionary Radical Feminist. These boats have done nothing to earn the usage of our linguistic resources. As best as I can tell, all they do is float around. This is not acceptable. It is time for this injustice to end!”
The crowd rumbles again, upset at the hatred Cassandra was projecting. Several women start crying at the presumed intolerance of boats.
The speaker continued. “We have decided that women should simply identify boats as ‘they’. We, as true women, reserve the right to declare our exclusive economic zones and not have them invaded by these massive symbols of the patriarchy, floating unrepentantly right along with the other manifestations of male dominance.”
“How will this help?” came a shout from somewhere in the audience.
“That is a valid question,” Cassandra provided. “But tell me. Does a boat understand intersectionality? Does a boat have any stake at all in the negotiation of the trans-feminist praxis? How can they? They can’t. I mean, really, they can’t!”
“The boat gender is owned by men!” shouted another supporter, this time praising Cassandra’s statements, rather than questioning them. “She’s right!”
“This is not a joke!” Cassandra continued. “But it is, and it isn’t! I mean, what does a boat know about the social ills we face as women? What does a boat know of our sacrifices? A boat may be given berth, but a boat will never give birth. A boat may have a mast, but a boat will never have a vagina! Boats are invading our space! They are robbing women of opportunity! They are taking up valuable area! Don’t believe me? Ask yourselves this question. Do you identify with boats at all? Do you consider yourself a boat?”
The audience shifts uneasily. They believe in women’s autonomy, but most have not thought deeply about the implications and intricacies of adhering to any particular brand of boat identity politics.
“I repeat to you that the practice of calling these massive symbols of oppression ‘she’ is cultural appropriation. It commoditizes our experience as women, and renders us invisible by treating us as another class, something for someone else to use. In short, I assert that boats are patriarchal oppressors. There is one reason, and one reason alone that boats are referred to as ‘she’. And do you know what it is? IT IS BECAUSE THEY ARE PROPERTY!”
With this, the crowd erupts into applause. The heavy handed diatribe they may have been uncomfortable with in any other setting has just been dressed in an explanation they’d hear in any gender studies classroom. The message had been reformatted to fit their beliefs.
Cassandra smiles broadly, allowing for a few moments of applause before she continues. “Ladies, remember this. There are two kinds of boat. Those that are problematic, and those that are problematic yet fun to float around in. But whatever kind of boat it is, know this: A BOAT IS NOT A WOMAN!” Cassandra thrusts both hands in the air proudly.
The voices of five thousand women rise triumphantly in support of Cassandra, with some extending their middle fingers in the air. Cassandra blows a kiss, sending the crowd into another frenzy of excitement and approval. The redheaded speaker begins to leave the stage, glancing back at the crowd one last time before disappearing. She smiles, and whispers to herself: “And neither am I.”