On an Alleged Case of Propaganda: Reply to McKinnon


In her recent paper ‘The Epistemology of Propaganda’ Rachel McKinnon discusses what she refers to as ‘TERF propaganda’. We take issue with three points in her paper. The first is her rejection of the claim that ‘TERF’ is a misogynistic slur. The second is the examples she presents as commitments of so-called ‘TERFs’, in order to establish that radical (and gender critical) feminists rely on a flawed ideology. The third is her claim that standpoint epistemology can be used to establish that such feminists are wrong to worry about a threat of male violence in relation to trans women. In Section 1 we argue that ‘TERF’ is not a merely descriptive term; that to the extent that McKinnon offers considerations in support of the claim that ‘TERF’ is not a slur, these considerations fail; and that ‘TERF’ is a slur according to several prominent accounts in the contemporary literature. In Section 2, we argue that McKinnon misrepresents the position of gender critical feminists, and in doing so fails to establish the claim that the ideology behind these positions is flawed. In Section 3 we argue that McKinnon’s criticism of Stanley fails, and one implication of this is that those she characterizes as ‘positively privileged’ cannot rely on the standpoint-relative knowledge of those she characterizes as ‘negatively privileged’. We also emphasize in this section McKinnon’s failure to understand and account for multiple axes of oppression, of which the cis/trans axis is only one.

Author Profiles

Jane Clare Jones
State University of New York, Stony Brook (PhD)
Sophie R. Allen
Keele University
Holly Lawford-Smith
University of Melbourne
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