Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wildfires ravage California and student debtors groan under mountains of debt. Meanwhile scholars debate transphobia

More than 5,000 wildfires burned in California this summer, incinerating more than 1 million acres of forests and several thousand homes.  For Californians, 2018 is truly the year of the holocaust fire.

Approximately 45 million Americans groan under the burden of $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans. As one dentist has demonstrated, it is now possible for a person to accumulate $1 million in student-loan debt. For millions of people, student loans have incinerated their financial future--a holocaust of another kind.

Meanwhile American scholars debate this important issue: Is the acronym 'TERF' a transphobic slur?

If you don't know what TERF means, you're probably a misogynistic bastard, and  you're definitely uncool.  So I will tell you. TERF is the acronym for "trans-exclusionary radical feminist." As Colleen Flaherty explained in Inside Higher Ed, the term describes "a subgroup of feminists who believe that the interests of cisgender women (those who are born with vaginas) don't necessarily intersect with those of transgender women (primarily those born with penises)."

Here's the nut of the debate. Some feminists believe that the experience of having lived as a male for some time is important to feminist discourse, "but some trans scholars and allies say that notion is of itself transphobic, since it means that trans women are somehow different from women, or that they're not women at all."

As Inside Higher Ed informs me, Rachel McKinnon, an assistant professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston, argues that TERF is "a modern form of propaganda where so-called trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) are engaged in a political project to deny that trans women are women--and thereby to exclude trans women from women-only spaces, services, and protections."

This is all inside baseball to me. Nevertheless, as I read the Inside Higher Ed article about this debate, I became curious about the College of Charleston, where Professor McKinnon teaches. I learned that C of C is a public institution of about 11,000 students located in Charleston, South Carolina. The college accepts almost 4 out of 5 applicants for admission and it costs a South Carolina student about $29,000 a year to study there (tuition, room and board).

An out-of-state student, however, will pay considerably more to study at C of C: about $49,000 a year. So a Californian who enrolls at the College of  Charleston to study TERF bigotry with Professor McKinnon would have to borrow a considerable amount of money--at least $200,000--to get a 4-year degree.

Would that be a good investment? You can answer the question for yourself. As for me, I question whether scholarly debates about trans-exclusionary radical feminism is a good use of public money in these unquiet times when 5,000 wildfires blaze in California, 72,000 people died from opioid overdoses last year, and millions of  Americans struggle to pay their student loans.

Professor Rachel McKinnon speaks out against TERFs







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