J.K. Rowling tweets support of Maya Forstater: What is the meaning of ‘TERF’?

J.K. Rowling posing on the red carpet
J.K. Rowling tweeted in support of Maya Forstater, causing many people to call her a TERF. Pic credit: ©Imagecollect.com / Landmark-Media

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, has waded into the Maya Forstater controversy by posting a tweet in support of the former researcher who lost her job after tweeting “men cannot change into women.”

The British author and film producer tweeted Thursday afternoon: “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?”

Rowling received a mixed response to her tweet online, with some applauding her for her stance.

However, many folks condemned her tweet, calling the Harry Potter author a TERF.

What is the meaning of ‘TERF’?

TERF is an acronym for trans exclusionary radical feminists. The word is generally considered a slur to those who use it. It is seen as a controversial term in itself, referring to a group of feminists who many see as holding transphobic views.

Cosmopolitan argued that the word describes those who claim to support women’s rights, but only include women who were assigned the female gender at birth. They state that TERFs don’t believe transgender women are women, so, therefore, shouldn’t be treated as such.

Critics of the term point to its use as a catch-all term of abuse that can be accompanied by violent rhetoric and have accused users of the term of using it as a “bullying tool.”

The term is thought to have been coined by freelance writer Viv Smythe; she says it came about as a short-hand word to describe a particular group of feminists, to save her continuously rewriting a long-phrase over and over again. She says she has no control over how people use the phrase.

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