Noah Berlatsky is going to objectify women straight to freedom

Noah Berlatsky, contributor to Atlantic Magazine and the Platonic Ideal of cartoonishly worthless liberalism, is a man who thinks a television show about a woman’s prison has too many women. That’s really all you need to know.

Noah Berlatsky, America's Next Top Feminist.
Noah Berlatsky, America’s Next Top Feminist.

Actually, wait a minute, one more thing: To get to his new dissertation on feminism, hosted on that bastion of feminist theory that is Playboy, I had to first decline faceless photos of “a 45 year-old with an amazing booty.” Okay, now that’s all you need to know.

I can’t fucking stand Noah Berlatsky. His college freshman writing style is clunky even for the Atlantic, and his articles on race and gender hit a note between aggressively dull and insultingly shallow; I don’t think I could write a better parody of rudderless dude feminism than his pathetic analysis of the role ass-shaking plays in women’s liberation. But even I couldn’t have guessed the depths to which he would descend in his latest temper tantrum about mean ol’ Meghan Murphy.

If you haven’t read the Feminist Current article that has deeply offended Noah Berlatsky, champion of nude women around the globe, I’d highly recommend it. To quote Meghan Murphy:

“Is it really a sign that we ‘love everything about ourselves’ (which, for the record, I hardly expect anyone to do. Women, especially, are taught to hate their bodies and work to alter them to suit the expectations of a misogynist society. Trans people have received the message that, if they don’t properly fit into the limiting and oppressive gender binary, there is something wrong with them that can only be resolved by embracing the opposite end of the gender spectrum) if we alter our bodies through surgery and hormones? It seems clear that ‘radical self-acceptance’ is not at all what Cox is experiencing or conveying to her audience.”

I really don’t understand how anyone could disagree with the assertion that “radical self acceptance” does not find its fullest expression in spending one’s life savings on genital mutilation and plastic surgery in order to better adhere to the standards of beauty men created ten thousand years ago and imposed on women through violence, coercion, and psychological abuse. And after reading a good hundred or so tweets sent to Meghan Murphy in response — many using misogynistic language and degrading references to female genitals — as well as Berlatsky’s article, I still don’t understand. Noah Berlatsky gives no actual explanation for why what Murphy says isn’t the case. He just says she’s “cruel” for thinking it.

See, the problem with writing any kind of rebuttal to Berlatsky’s article is that it displays a shocking lack of actual analysis beyond simply restating Meghan Murphy’s completely reasonable claims and just kinda hoping that the misogyny of the readership will be enough to ensure their rejection. For example, Noah just throws this out:

“She scoffs at the idea that trans women who take hormones or have surgery are accepting themselves. Murphy suggests that trans women are ‘spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture.’”

As if that assertion is so ridiculous on its face as to not warrant an actual rebuttal. But it’s not. It’s actually a pretty obvious point, Noah. The fact that you don’t see that says nothing about Meghan Murphy’s “coldness” and everything about your inability to even consider the idea that womanhood and surgically enhanced breasts actually have nothing to do with each other.

Berlatsky goes on to describe Murphy as reacting with “disgust, prejudice and horror” at the sight of a black transwoman’s body, which is the first of several deliberate and irresponsible misrepresentations. Murphy didn’t react with “disgust and horror” at the sight of Laverne Cox’s body. She reacted with disgust and horror towards a culture that would define someone’s status as a woman by whether or not people like Berlatsky find them fuckable.

This is the central point that dudes like Berlatsky and his bro-feminist brothers don’t get: Radical feminists aren’t attacking women. Radical feminists aren’t telling women what to do. Radical feminists aren’t “body policing.” Patriarchy is doing that. It’s been doing that for ten thousand years. Radical feminists are simply pointing out that patriarchy has been controlling, manipulating, modifying, and abusing female bodies since the dawn of civilization – and that fact makes a lot of people uncomfortable, so Berlatsky would rather we not talk about. In fact, he’d rather we demonize the women who notice their oppression instead of the institutions of male supremacy that actually enact that oppression.

Noah Berlatsky doesn’t mind that women are fed shit; he just minds when women question the taste.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself right now, “Hey Jonah, this is pretty bad. But there’s no way this white man would use a Sojourner Truth quote to defend his interest in softcore pornography, right?” WRONG. Because just moments after deriding Meghan Murphy for being, essentially, a cold-hearted bitch, he puts out what I have officially labelled as the nadir of popular male feminism:

“Cox, for Murphy, is a cartoon: a plastic-surgery-constructed thing, unreal and, in its parody of beauty, ugly. The loathing and contempt are palpable. With black feminist activist Sojourner Truth, Cox, in her nakedness, asks, ‘Ain’t I a woman?’ And Murphy with cold glee, replies, ‘No.'”

Have you ever read Sojourner Truth’s speech, Noah? It’s called “Ain’t I a woman.” It is not called “Aint I Fuckable,” although the terms are apparently synonymous to you. The idea that Truth’s demand for recognition, dignity, and respect is in any way equivalent to Laverne Cox being displayed for male approval — regardless of any rumored previous consumption of macaroni and cheese — is perhaps the most shameful thing I’ve ever heard a supposed “male feminist” say. I have no witty retort. Just disgust.

I feel the same disgust towards Noah’s claim that Meghan Murphy espouses “the logic that led 19th century white feminists to push for votes for white women alone.” The actual “logic” that led to the disenfranchisement and marginalization of women of color is the “logic” that sees them as things to be used by those with power over them, incapable of full humanity — and it is this “logic” that leads someone like Berlatsky to identify the power to give a white man an erection as the greatest possible freedom a black woman might have. Whether through pure ignorance or simple projection, Noah Berlatsky continues to identify radical feminists as the perpetrators of injustice that he himself celebrates.

Not one for avoiding grand declarations, Berlatsky (who at this point I assume just has some sort of contractual obligation to shove a Julia Serano quote into every single thing he writes) decides that now would be a good time to tell women they’re oversimplifying this whole “ten thousand years of male domination” thing:

“Trans feminist and author Julia Serano explained that trans-exclusionary radical feminists ‘subscribe to a single-issue view of sexism, where men are the oppressors and women are the oppressed, end of story…'”

Yes, Noah, they do. That’s what feminism means. It’s the recognition that men as a class dominate women as a class through social, political, economic, and sexual power. It is not just a self-help program for men who are sad about not being able to play around inside the cage they created for females. If you have a problem with the notion that men are oppressors and women oppressed, you don’t have a problem with “radical feminism.” You have a problem with feminism, period.

Fresh from an attempt to redefine feminism itself, Berlatsky continues his forward march through the Approved List of Liberal Dude Tropes – journeying from a ridiculous claim that transgenderism “threatens” the gender binary, past an obligatory reference to “agency,” all the way the supremely creepy final paragraph where he describes his attraction to Cox as though his finding a sexualized female body erotic is the ultimate act of resistance to patriarchy:

“She has very large hands, which are not hidden, boldly displayed. In the photo, Cox lies on a blanket; her body taut rather than relaxed, her head in one big, strong hand, eyes closed, a slight smile on her face — like she’s a little embarrassed and amused at being embarrassed. She’s voluptuous and awkward and sweet all at once. In her simultaneous enjoyment of and discomfort before the camera, she seems, in the frankly staged pose, startlingly natural — and beautiful.”

Clearly Noah Berlatsky thinks his comfort with Laverne Cox posing nude illustrates a depth of progressive thinking that Meghan Murphy simply can’t match; in reality, it illustrates nothing but the obvious fact that a naked black woman splayed out for a white man fails to challenge even the most basic assumptions that misogynistic, racist males have about the place of women of color in society. This bizarre, self-congratulatory account of arousal is, in a way, a perfect example of Berlatsky’s central error: He thinks his feelings are radical expressions of his enlightened mind, when they are in fact just banal consequences of the most boring misogyny.

Berlatsky sees himself as some sort of philosopher-poet, pontificating on the intricacies of sexuality and race, when in fact his analysis rises no further than that of a teenage boy caught by his parents watching Cinemax. It’s all just a flustered attempt to justify the fact that he finds objectified female bodies arousing. His interest in feminism begins and ends there. And if you doubt that, remember this: We’re talking about a man who dares to host his condescending lectures on a platform that offers faceless female asses to men in exchange for likes on Facebook, a man who thinks Meghan Murphy, not Hugh Hefner, is the appropriate target for scorn and derision in the name of feminism.

Strip away all the theory, all the self-congratulatory Sensitive Dude style, and you find the central problem Berlatsky has with Meghan Murphy: He thinks his penis is a better patriarchy-smashing tool than feminist analysis will ever be.

Jonah Mix is a member of Deep Green Resistance and an anti-pornography activist. He runs the blog Gender Detective at and tweets at @jonahpmix.

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  • Kim

    I like how Julia Serano is their token reference as trans feminist they can hide their misogyny behind, except Serano is no feminist and has always denied the reality of sexism, even using their ”past” identity as a man to establish themselves as a true authority on sexism. Remember that gross essay they wrote in yes means yes, arguing that men aren’t raised to belittle and dehumanize women, that the poor men are raised to be seen nonconsensually as predator and that’s exactly like misogyny and rape culture, literally ”NOT ALL MEN”, and bad things happen to women because they desexualize nice guys? ( How this garbage passes as feminist, I will never know.

  • Rosie

    Bravo, this is fantastic.

    Will be interesting to see if Jonah gets as much twitter abuse as Meghan did…

  • Sarah

    I think Jonah must have missed Cox’s article:

    Here’s the title: “Ain’t I a Woman”. You may want to do better research before posting.

    • Mary the Ice Cube

      Okay. I’ll read.
      You’ve done a pretty stand up thing getting some other person to read her words but oh, dear, it’s just more desire for the approval of some rather skeevy men, the sort of men who absolutely should not be pandered to or given any respect at all ever. Men like Berlatsky.

      Truth’s problem was that both black slaves and fine white ladies were finding themselves herded/escorted into vehicles and repeatedly having their children taken away by the men that owned them, only the white lot hadn’t appeared to notice or even care about their potential allies in the “we’re being treated like subhuman tools and exchangeable currency” boat.

      Fast forward to today and Cox, unlike Truth, actually wants to be treated that way,and picked out of a lineup by men who want what they want.
      “Honey. No”, etc. Your value on this earth should not be reliant on appeasing those arseholes, I wish better for you than that. I wish better for everyone.

      Stating this makes me evil, like it did for Murphy, right?

    • Dana

      And actually, if Berlatsky’s mental image of Murphy answering “no” to that question had any basis in reality, I wouldn’t have a single problem with it. While I am polite to transgendered people and use their preferred pronouns in polite, face-to-face conversation, I do not in actual fact believe that their physical sexes match their gender identities. Laverne Cox is NOT a woman and she never will be. I call her “she” only because society has decided that she’s met some arbitrary standard to be considered a social woman, but biologically she’ll never get there.

      I don’t say that to punish her, I don’t say that to be cruel, I say it because I refuse to participate in someone else’s delusions. You need two cells to make a baby, so you have two sexes and very specific biological standards to be one sex or the other. Male = has a Y chromosome, female = does not have a Y chromosome. That some bodies are not typical in that some males have more than one Y, some females have one X or three, or some males or females are infertile, doesn’t change that. If you told me that eyes are not for seeing because some people are blind or that orange is a normal eye color because some people wear orange contacts, I would find you equally insane to when you insist that surgery or hormone can change physical sex. Biology is what it is. Leave it alone.

      • Michelle

        How does this biological imperative argument of your differ from saying that human reproduction is strictly based on XX/XY sex and that therefore any kind of human sexuality that occurs outside that narrow reality can’t be considered normal? Using the perceived truths of biology to exclude or otherwise oppress others by calling them abnormal is not a new practice. Men used it to deny women educations because their uteruses supposedly drew blood away from their brains, white people used it to dehumanize black people because their skull shapes “proved” their savagery, and straight people used it repress and persecute gay people who have non-reproductive sex.

        Let me ask you too: what do you really know about the biology involved? You know about chromosomes, but personality, gender identity, sexual orientation, these things originate in the brain, about which we know precious little. Claiming to know the entire biological reality of a living thing (especially when you are essentially making a moral argument about what it “should” be) is a best ignorant, and at worst just plain old bigotry. There is no fundamental difference between what you are saying and the argument that women shouldn’t take important leadership roles because of the monthly variation in their hormones will biologically interfere with their decision making abilities. Or that gay men are biologically predisposed to promiscuity and perversion so they can’t form stable marriages or raise children. You are simply revealing your bias against trans people and using science to try to rationalize your transphobia. It will not work, biological arguments used to perpetuate oppression get defeated and your “chromosomes are destiny” nonsense will fail too in time.

        How kind of you to be “polite to transgendered people”, even though in your mind and on the internet you deny their lived reality. In the early days of women accessing higher education there were “polite” male colleagues who tolerated their presence but knew deep in their hearts that women were biologically incapable of intellectual achievement. Many straight second wave feminists were similarly “polite” to their lesbian feminist sisters, all the while knowing for certain that same-sex desire was biologically a mental illness. You are in the vaunted company of these bigots, making the exact same sorts of points and perpetuating the exact same “biology is king” bullshit that only serves to impede the progress of true human equality.

        • Oh boy, back to the old trick of associating radfems with biological essentialism huh? That shit never gets old to you guys? Because it sure gets old to us.

        • hak

          “gender identity”

          there isn’t such a thing as gender identity. From a biological POV, “bigender/nonbinary/demiboy/etc” identities don’t exist: they are just cultural/metaphysical identities.

          • Michelle

            You realize that homophobes have said the same thing about sexual orientation, right? That it doesn’t exist because biology proves only one kind of sex is natural? I repeat, the brain is a mystery, one that we are far from understanding on biological terms. It is impossible to assert with scientific certainty that gender identity is not a component of the brain, much like it is impossible to state that sexual orientation does not reside in the brain.

          • You do know you are committing the fallacy of argument from ignorance, right? Because we don’t know something doesn’t mean you can just make up any conclusion that suits your worldview. The fact that we don’t have proof for something means we CAN’T say it’s true!

            So far, the adaptationist worldview has failed to demonstrate that any *behavior* or *preference* (yes, including sexual preference and gender prefernce) is innate. So the burden of proof is on YOU, not US. Put up or shut up.

          • Michelle

            Ok, so because I can’t PROVE that gay people aren’t mentally ill and black people aren’t naturally submissive, I’ll just state that biology supports those ideas and challenge everyone else to prove me wrong? Is that really the line of reasoning you’re going with here?

            Oppression is just oppression. Usually “science” to rationalize it is nothing new. That is all I am saying. Accepting that trans identities exist is not a “worldview” it’s just acceptance of human variation. Maybe the science will follow to explain, maybe not. But biology doesn’t “prove” anything, it just reveals who the bigots are based on their misuse of it to marginalize those who are different.

          • hak

            ” I can’t PROVE that gay people aren’t mentally ill and black people aren’t naturally submissive”

            >stop instrumentalizing black people and gay people ffs

            “But biology doesn’t “prove” anything”

            >then demonstrate it (take your time)

          • hak

            >>AND stop instrumentalizing mentally ill people too (gosh, wtf is wrong with you?)

          • “Ok, so because I can’t PROVE that gay people aren’t mentally ill and black people aren’t naturally submissive, I’ll just state that biology supports those ideas and challenge everyone else to prove me wrong? Is that really the line of reasoning you’re going with here?”

            No, what’s going on here is that you did not read what I wrote!

            What I clearly said was:

            If you don’t have evidence that any given behavior or preference is innate, then you CANNOT make such a statement.

            And yes, that includes beliefs about race and sexual orientation. Unless you can prove the existence of some innate race or sexual orientation, you cannot make any positive statements about it.

            Again, you cannot base a statement of fact on your own ignorance, or on general ignorance. If you have no evidence, then the only reasonable statement to make is a statement of DISBELIEF.

            Again, put up or shut up!

            “Oppression is just oppression. Usually “science” to rationalize it is nothing new.”

            Yes, it’s nothing new. So why are YOU still doing it?

          • corvid

            Radfems have repeatedly pointed out that gender is a socially constructed hierarchy of learned behaviour. As Lierre Keith eloquently put it, it’s “the fist [masculinity/men] and the flesh that bruises [femininity/women.]” I hope you realize, Michelle, that in saying that gender is “in the brain” you are not only making an essentialist argument, but one that bolsters men’s false preconceptions about femaleness, which is exactly what you are accusing radfems of.

          • Michelle

            Yes, but by saying something is “in the brain” that includes the complex psychological factors that cultural and social conditioning act on. Psychology is “in the brain”, no? I was making a point that biological reductionism (ie, gender is in the gonads or the chromosomes) is a fallacy and actually the biological basis for gender is in an organ that cannot be so easily reduced or defined – the brain. I was, in fact, making the OPPOSITE of an essentialist argument.

          • corvid

            You’re treating “gender” as if it were a legitimate thing, though. It’s not. It’s a system of oppression.

          • hak

            What is psychological doesn’t change what is physical.

          • Insolence

            So you’re saying genitals and all other body parts aren’t biologically sexed in the way that ONLY brains are biologically split into “male” and “female”?


          • vagabondi

            Radfems don’t say that gender is in the gonads or the chromosomes, or in the brain either. Sex is in the gonads and chromosomes, but gender is in your circumstances, your conditioning. Like whether you’re a worker or a boss is in your circumstances, not your brain. It is essentialist to say that gender is in the brain, and insulting, just like it would be if you claimed to find some brain structure that determined whether you’re going to be rich or poor.

          • Anna

            Radfems don’t say gender is in the gonads. SEX is in the gonads. Radfems do not believe anyone has a gender. Radfems believe people are people and that assigning a gender based on sex or anything else limits people and puts them in uncomfortable boxes. So no, radfems are not saying anybody’s gender is in their gonads (or their brains, or anywhere else).

            But lol ok moving the location of gender around to a different organ is totally different.

          • corvid

            Plus, nice bit of back-pedaling there. So first gender is an innate component of the mysterious brain that we are BIGOTS for questioning, then suddenly it’s part of malleable psychology? If the latter, which is my view, does that make it good or true or justified? Does that separate gender from its patriarchal origins and devastating effect on female people?

          • Laur

            “It is impossible to assert with scientific certainty that gender identity is not a component of the brain, much like it is impossible to state that sexual orientation does not reside in the brain.”

            It seems to me to be very unlikely if not impossible that there is a gene that controls sexual orientation. Not only that, it would be a good thing for LBG folks.

            Most people who claim they’ve always known they were gay or lesbian re-write their life story, highlighting the parts that go along with this idea and leaving out the parts that, well, don’t. This is what I did when I first came out as a lesbian at age 19. Not only that, many women have specifically said they were making a choice to become lesbian. In the 1970’s in the U.S., women left marriages and came out in droves. Then there are the cultures where men have sexual relations with one another at certain times in their lives but are with women other times. Indeed, for most of recorded history, there has not been this notion that one has a fixed sexual orientation and that one really “is” gay or lesbian despite being married to an opposite sex partner for the past 20 years.

            ANd if there really was a gene for sexual orientation….would that mean that someone who does not have this gene could not be gay? And what would be done if someone was living a heterosexual lifestyle when this gene was discovered in them? The whole thing is absurd. It’s an absurdity I tried to convince myself of when I was much younger and coming out as lesbian but deep inside, it never made much sense to me.

            As for the idea that gender identity is a component of the brain…to me, that makes no sense, either. You can insert the above arguments for sexual orientation and make them about gender identity. Furthermore, the notion that some people just naturally are submissive the most conservative, anti-feminist argument one could make. You have asked people here to stop making biological essentialist arguments; saying “gender identity” is hardwired into the brain is about the most essentialist argument I can think of!

          • hak

            “You realize that homophobes have said the same thing about sexual orientation, right?”

            > ???
            If you’re going to accuse me of being homophobic then prove it. (proving= arguments)

            “the brain is a mystery”

            >What is PHYSICAL isn’t a mystery. You don’t need to be a genius to understand how patriarchy works (males oppress females; also, males and females have different bodies).

            >Moreover, if you think that males and females don’t have different bodies, then just DEMONSTRATE it. Saying that “oh the brain is a mystery lol, so what is physical doesn’t exist” isn’t a demonstration.

          • pjwhite

            I’m with you, Michelle. I have dear friends who are transgender, and they don’t understand it either. They only know that they could not survive as “males”. Perhaps in a utopian future where there is no gender oppression, transwomen will not exist (which I find sad, because the ones I know are intelligent and kind). But for now they do exist, and I stand with my trangender sisters.

        • Missfit

          I think what Dana means is that if you have a penis/produce sperm, you are male/man, if you have a vagina/produce eggs, you are female/woman. Simple biology. It doesn’t mean that being male/man or female/woman defines who you are in terms of personality/abilities/tastes. That is rather what genderists believe.

          ‘Let me ask you too: what do you really know about the biology involved? You know about chromosomes, but personality, gender identity, sexual orientation, these things originate in the brain, about which we know precious little.’

          What we know is that all mammals are divided into males and females, with a small number of intersexed. Do you think we should do brain scans on mammals before we get to say if they are male or female? No, because to determine the sex of a mammal, you look at their genitals. Personality and sexual orientation do not change whether you are male or female or intersex. Your sex is based on your genitals/reproductive system, not your brain. I can say I have a female brain only because said brain is attached to a female body. I know my daughters are girls from the day they were born because I see their vulva, clitoris, vagina. There is nothing being wrongly assigned here; I don’t need to wait for my daughters to grow up and be able to tell me what activities they like or what patriarchal depictions of the sexes their prefer before I can say they are girls.

          Seriously, if you think there are other qualities needed to qualify as a woman than having a vagina/female reproductive system, what are they?

          • Michelle

            Once you introduce animals into the conversation as a way of “proving” that there is a natural or unsocialized reality you have to contend with the fact that the Christian Right has tread the exact same territory. They’ve argued that homosexuality is rare or non-existent amongst animals and that male dominance is prevalent among many animal groups. Are you ok with hitching your theoretical wagon to a viewpoint used to argue for compulsory heterosexuality and male supremacy?

            It is intellectually dishonest to use animals to make a moral argument on a supposed biological basis. It is a common misconception that animals do not have social structures or experience socialization pressures that shape their behavior, thus you can’t use them to prove some sort of “pure” unsocialized reality. Would I look at a mammal’s genitals to label their sex? Sure, of course I would. What does that have to do with the “maleness” or “femaleness” of their behavior? And please remember just how much observer bias there exists in this kind of research. This is what feminists have pointed out time and time again to disprove “natural” male supremacy in the animal world. Yet when it’s convenient to your transphobia here comes the same argument to prove that there is a “natural” gender binary. The hypocrisy is staggering.

            Why would anyone do a “brain scan” on an animal to prove their sex? For that matter, why would anyone scan a human brain for that purpose? You can use the phrase “female brain” all you want, but from the point of view of brain imaging that is a meaningless statement. There is no brain imaging capable of predicting the subject’s chromosomes, genitals or sexual orientation. Perhaps as our technology and understanding of the brain advances, but right now there is no such thing as a “female brain”. There are simply human brains, and they are complex beyond our current scientific understanding.

            And of course you know that your daughters’ external genitalia do NOT tell you what their chromosomes are, right? Likewise you can’t be certain that they have ovaries or will produce ova someday. Furthermore their bodies don’t tell what their sexual orientations will be when they grow up. My point is that you cannot reduce someone’s entire reality to their visible gonads, the biology is much more complex than that. Anyone who uses a selective and weak understanding of biology to disenfranchise or deny the existence of a group of people is in the same company as male supremacists, white supremacists and homophobes.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I think part of the point is that radical feminists aren’t reducing women to their reproductive functions, but that patriarchy has done that. Women are oppressed because they are born female and then socialized into femininity. There is no ‘female essence, yet patriarchy has long treated men and women as though they are innately different, dude specifically to their biological sex. Feminism challenges this.

          • Michelle

            Absolutely, but then you need to challenge the biological essentialist arguments being made on this blog by your commenters, because that is not the same thing that you are saying. You can’t pick and choose which biologically reductionist viewpoint suits your political goals. Either male/female are fixed and permanent categories or they aren’t. Either non-reproductive sex is unnatural or it isn’t. Either we agree to oppress people based on our incomplete understanding of biology or we don’t. It doesn’t work halfway – if you embrace a “biology is destiny” viewpoint then you have to embrace the rich history of oppression behind that viewpoint. You can’t work to dismantle a homophobic argument and then reinstate it to serve your own transphobic interests.

          • Anna


            woman = female genitals = vulva = essentialist

            woman = female brain = NOT essentialist

            Why? Can you explain?

          • corvid

            Who in the actual fuck on this website has said anything equating to “hey, let’s oppress trans people!” Like in what way is it oppressive to disagree with an assesment of sex and gender which *is itself* oppressive to women? In what way is it oppressive to point out where the LGBT movement is fiercely supportive of objectification, porn, prostitution and genderism, all things which oppress female people? Please explain.

          • Missfit

            I don’t introduce mammals to make a parallel to humans; humans are actually mammals. There is no unsocialized reality, but I am not talking about socialization here. Biological sex is not the result of socialization (although biological sex do have consequences on our socialization).

            ‘Why would anyone do a “brain scan” on an animal to prove their sex? For that matter, why would anyone scan a human brain for that purpose?’ You tell me, you are the one who seems to imply that the sex of a person resides in their brain and not their genitals/reproductive system.

            My daughters’ external genitals tell me they are female. It doesn’t tell me their sexual orientation, so? Whatever their sexual orientation, it will not change the fact that they are female.

            You say: ‘My point is that you cannot reduce someone’s entire reality to their visible gonads, the biology is much more complex than that’. I’m not reducing someone’s ‘entire reality’, whatever that means, to their gonads; just their sex. Biology is not that complex when it’s time to determine the sex of a person. They can even tell when the fetus is still in the womb.

            My point is that being a woman is based on having female reproductive organs. I repeat my question to you: ‘if you think there are other qualities needed to qualify as a woman than having a vagina/female reproductive system, what are they?’

          • Rich

            “you have to contend with the fact that the Christian Right has tread the exact same territory.”

            Why does anyone have to “contend with” that? Because group A makes an argument, group B has to argue something else?

            Seriously, what kind of an argument is that??? Most Christians believe that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. As an agnostic, should I be concerned about this?

          • Laur

            “Once you introduce animals into the conversation as a way of “proving” that there is a natural or unsocialized reality you have to contend with the fact that the Christian Right has tread the exact same territory. They’ve argued that homosexuality is rare or non-existent amongst animals and that male dominance is prevalent among many animal groups. Are you ok with hitching your theoretical wagon to a viewpoint used to argue for compulsory heterosexuality and male supremacy?

            Look, radical feminists are against pornography and prostitution, but for reasons of sex equality, not morality-based reasons or because we believe it is a “sin.” Many other-wise well-meaning liberals and leftists will think the only people who are against pornstitution are religious folks. So it’s true, radical feminists are against pornstitution and right-wing christians are against prostitution, but for very different reasons. Thus,I don’t think saying, “you’re like the Christian right in such and such way” should hold much water.

            Your absolutely right that “female brain” is a meaningless statement. The very idea of a “female brain” is essentialist, no? Yet it is transactivists who say they want their “brain sex” to match their physical body. This reinforces the idea of a female brain. No such thing exists, nor can such a thing likely be proven to exist. (What about females who don’t have such a brain sex? What about people saying their trans who do not have a brain sex that matches the sex they identify as?)

          • pjwhite

            I agree Michelle. I am a radfem and I stand with my transgender sisters!

        • Laur

          “How does this biological imperative argument of your differ from saying that human reproduction is strictly based on XX/XY sex and that therefore any kind of human sexuality that occurs outside that narrow reality can’t be considered normal? Using the perceived truths of biology to exclude or otherwise oppress others by calling them abnormal is not a new practice”

          Feminists are not concerned with what’s “normal.” Feminists are concerned with what’s good for women and with equality more generally speaking.

  • Wow, a dudebro accepts transwomen because he can wank off to them. Are we supposed to applaud him or something? Should we put a garland around his almighty penis?

    • Victoria

      Yeah, “he’d hit that” so not objectification at all. Empowerment!

    • Australopithecene

      This might work though. If all the dudebros get together with all the transbros, they can be happy together and leave feminists alone.

      • From your lips to God’s ears!

      • If only. Unfortunately both groups require women to submissively validate their sense of sexual entitlement and chosen gender role. Otherwise they can’t really be sure that they are men, or lesbians.

  • Laur

    Since when do men have the right to decide which women are feminists and which are not? The men with radical feminist politics I have known are generally very careful not to judge women’s choices. They certainly would not judge them publicly by writing a slanderous piece for a men’s magazine.

    Berlatsky would better fit in with MRAs than with any version of feminism I am familiar with. Whining about too few male characters on one tv show women, particularly lesbian women, tend to like? Give me a break. I’ve read Piper’s autobiography, and the scene with scary men in transport was based on something that actually happened. But apparently that doesn’t matter because it gives men a bad rap.

    Does Berlatsky realize Meghan Murphy is a *human being* who is sticking herself on the line over and over again, getting verbally attacked from anti-feminists as well as some inside the feminist movement and a poor, writer, determined to write her ideals and not sell out? It would appear not. He’d rather help anti-feminists and others disappear Meghan Murphy from the Internet altogether. He’s willing to write for a major magazine, Playboy. I wonder how much he got paid for his mean-spririted depiction of MM?

    When your ideals involve tearing women apart, it’s easier to get published. And Berlatsky’s just one more man willing to write misogyny, though he tries to distinguish himself by claiming “feminism.” Really, he’s just spitting the same drivel as George Will.

  • Jacqueline

    Thank you so much for this article, Jonah. On a day when I woke up to #FeministsAreUgly trending on Twitter, it was great to read the thoughtful words of a true ally. This was excellent analysis. Feminist Current is increasingly becoming my shelter from the storm.

  • Abbie

    What is this 10,000 years ago figure? What culture in 8000 BCE had the female beauty standards that, somehow, remained constant until today?

    • The author didn’t say a single beauty standard has been constant for 10,000 years, but that males in this culture have dominated females for 10,000 years. Good video on how gender oppression originated with and made possible the expansion of agriculture, and the links to classism, racism, and ecological destruction: “Misogyny and Ecocide”

      • Dana

        Actually, I think the development of agriculture was what led to gender oppression. Why? Because some dude observed what happened when you planted seed or when two domesticated animals mated and a lightbulb went on. “If I control this woman, I get even MORE KIDS!” He couldn’t have gotten away with that when everybody was still hunter-gatherers because it was impossible to keep the children safe if each family had four kids under the age of five. You had to wait til one was walking very well and able to obey Mom and Dad before you tried for another one. Also, people constantly moving around made them more vulnerable to Nature, and one sex dominating the other would have meant the people didn’t trust one another and couldn’t rely on one another in an emergency. Once you’ve settled down and built houses and city walls and the whole bit, you can afford to be lazier about safety, so it doesn’t really matter which of your family or neighbors trusts you.

        Jared Diamond called agriculture the worst mistake in the history of the human race. I don’t think he’s ever understood just how right he was.

  • Really, though… Noah Berlatsky? That’s the best they could conjure and they think they’ve redefined feminism? Good luck with that.

    • Meghan Murphy


  • purple sage

    Thank you, Jonah

  • Victoria

    Yeah, the Atlantic article on OITNB is a great example of Noah’s feminism.

    This is from the cited article about OITNB by Berlatsky:

    “Why should OITNB, unique in being devoted to women, bother with more men?

    The reason: While media is full of men, real-life prisons are even more so. Men are incarcerated at more than 10 times the rate of women.”

    Yes, Noah, however women have been the fastest growing segment of the prison population since 1980.

    The number of women in prison
    has been increasing at a rate
    50 percent higher than men
    since 1980. Source:

    So maybe it was just time for television to feature a show based on a woman’s actual story of having been incarcerated, Noah. Ya think? I mean can you allow us that Noah, seeing as how female incarceration has increased almost tenfold in that time period?

    Can you endure the hurt, Noah, of males not being centered in just ONE TV show? Better yet, as a good liberal and a supposed feminist male, could you possibly do some advocacy on behalf of imprisoned women, who often are sole caregivers of children at the time of their arrest and who are very often involved with the justice system because they are connected to men who commit crime?

    If you can’t do that, maybe just be less of a dick and do some fact checking before you write about stories by and for women.

    • Dana

      It’s a women’s prison, too, innit? Why in the world would a show set in a women’s prison have any men in it who weren’t guards or the occasional visiting partner or relative?

  • Jane (the first)

    Good post. What men like Berlatsky are pushing is just a neoliberal permutation of hippie free love earth mama bullshit dressed in hipster clothing. Catering to the male predilection for porn and prostitution is actually female liberation! On top of that, females are the nurturing class who exist to provide constant validation and unrequited political labor to males like Laverne Cox who claim to be women. Let men like Berlatsky groom you into playing the codependent enabler to an endless string of broken users, or they’ll denounce you as a TERF. Third wave feminism is essentially a grooming process.

    I am also beyond tired of liberals like Berlatsky erasing radical feminists of color, and of their cynical “intersectionality” pose. Signaling our adoration of Laverne Cox’s T&A pics isn’t at all a feminist concern. Unfortunately the white males who drive transactivism, with the support of white liberal men, have hitched their wagons to women of colors’ legitimate grievances against white feminists, grievances that have nothing whatsoever to do with transwomen. They say, in effect, “White feminists did X to black feminists like Audre Lorde, and therefore must repent by centering transwomen.” No. This equation is false. White women have amends to make to women of color, but it does not follow that they or the feminist movement owe transwomen anything. Women still have the right to organize and self-define as a class. The noxious “no shared girlhood” meme is simply a liberal attempt to prevent class:female from setting its own boundaries and priorities.

    Sadly, there are some women of color among the libfems who encourage the parasitic entryism of transactivists, and Berlatsky is only too happy to use them as cudgels against white radfems. I don’t understand how Zoe Samudzi et al can believe it benefits women of color to help Berlatsky demonize radical feminism. I think they’re partly motivated by resentment of radfems for daring to critique things that get them off, but will leave it at that. Berlatsky’s interest in keeping libfems true to the neoliberal, individualist line, on the other hand, is only too obvious. I expect no less from a man who considers Julia Serano and Melissa Gira Grant his mentors in feminism.

    • Derrington

      Pro sexism feminism feels like a cancer of hypocrisy within the movement. Calling oneself feminist whilst backing male dominance in the bedrrom (does it ever just stay in the bedroom?) is an oxymoron. There were plenty of jews that worked in the death camps and women that help drown witches are just as dangerous as their menfolk. In my experience.

    • jo

      “Third wave feminism is essentially a grooming process.”

      Definitely. Very blatant when it comes to anything about sex. They learn to not be critical of anything because choice! Shaming!

    • pjwhite

      I am a radfem and I embrace transwomen as sisters. I’m sorry if you don’t, but that has nothing to do with the fact that I’m sorry Ms. Cox felt a need to adapt herself to the pornographic gaze.

  • Jonas

    Another great article on FC. This site just keeps pumping out awesome material.

    Thank you.

  • lizor

    “Noah Berlatsky doesn’t mind that women are fed shit; he just minds when women question the taste.”

    “It [feminism] is not just a self-help program for men who are sad about not being able to play around inside the cage they created for females.”

    Love these lines.

    Thanks for this article, Jonah.

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  • It’s so good to hear yet one more clear-thinking voice. The daily pounding on my mind that is the rest of the world lifts for a while.

    George Orwell was on to something. Use words any old way and you really can destroy our, at least my, ability to think.

    Wandering into Berlatsky-type messes where up is down, bondage is liberation, oppression is really oppression of the oppressors, and women-don’t-exist-there-are-only-dolls, it makes me feel like I’m in one of those eight million spider cobwebs. I’m so desperate to get out I can’t even figure out what’s wrong. There’s this mass of revolting sticky stuff smothering me.

    The transactivism is really starting freak me out. Initially I was all for it. The more tolerance for differences, the better, I thought. I didn’t realize they didn’t plan on having the same attitude to me. Once again, some four billion women really need to wait their turn because, look!, over here there’s somebody else whose needs are obviousl, always, forever greater.

  • Delilah

    Excellent piece; spot on. I’ve been fatigued for so long with liberal males and “anything sexually explicit and graphic always means sexually progressive and enlightened thinking.”

  • Nicole

    Yeah, I agree with quixote. I initially was all into transactivism as well until I realized how much they were silencing my voice as a female. It was like…wait, wth? Isn’t feminism for ME, a woman? Oh wait, not allowed to say the word woman anymore, can’t talk about periods anymore, might “trigger” someone, gotta let the transwomen talk over me because they are “more oppressed” than “cis-gender women” (LOLZ). And btw, that is the most insulting shit ever to hijack such a meaningful word as “trigger” which usually correlates with someone who has PTSD from a near death experience or rape (which I have) and say that it applies now to men who feel like they are women but are sad that they don’t have periods. What the hell is woman-identified anyway? HA! Like that shit is so blatantly misogynistic. We can’t even talk about the REAL differences between males and females anymore because “there’s no such thing as males and females”. Right…all the cramps, periods, pregnancy scares are just feelings right? It’s just something I “identify” with. Like this whole transactivism thing literally is illogical. So if I stop “identifying” as a woman does that mean my periods will go away? Cuz that would be cool. Oh yeah, that’s not how it works. K, you can go home now transactivists. Sit back down.

    • Rich

      “Oh wait, not allowed to say the word woman anymore”

      Exactly. The term “women” is too grounded in reality. It won’t do. There is a need for a term that will make actual women sound like the same kind of phony construct as “trans-women.” Hence the term “Cis-women.”

      • pjwhite

        Some people I dearly love are transwomen and they do not behave this way. Please don’t lump them all together. I will never turn my back on transwomen, and the ones I know would give anything to have cramps, periods, and pregnancy scares. I am a radical feminist and I stand with transwomen.

  • Hannah

    The majority of women know that there’s something wrong with porn and the compulsory nakedness and objectification of women in every aspect of media we consume.
    This pro porn “feminism” being shoved down women’s throat feels like a form of gas lighting. The idea that porn is “liberal” despite the data that shows that men in conservative states are some of the biggest porn consumers can be very convincing and hard to resist, and I know this as a recovered “sex positive” liberal feminist.

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  • Jane (the first)

    While firing a dozen Tweets at a gender critical trans woman he’s already blocked so she can’t respond (such a brave guy), Berlatsky drops this gem:

    “Why does it matter how heterosexual men see her or don’t see her?”

    All right, Noah. Two can play that game. Why does it matter how radical feminists or other women see Cox? Oh right, men are allowed to have minds of their own, while women exist to mirror back to you whatever you wish them to.

    The whole point of Berlatsky’s article is to excoriate women like Murphy for daring to question the liberal assumption that T&A pictures are liberating and subversive if it’s your intent that they be perceived as such. I want this to be seen as radical and brave, so mote it be! End of! We mock such solipsism because it’s laughable.

    Berlatsky says it right here: men are allowed to have their own opinions on things. Women, by which he means the female sex class liberals like him claim doesn’t exist, do not. Thank you for making yourself clear, Mr. Berlatsky.

  • Saint

    “What On Earth To Make Of Azealia Banks’ Whiteface Music Video” – well let Noah Berlatsky explain it to us…not Banks (not sure if he asked for her opinion).

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  • Laur

    At this point, I have read a number of Noah’s articles. One thing I have noticed is his obsessive focus on women’s choices. I have yet to seem him look at male power. As a male writer particularly, his focus should be on men and men’s choices, not on women and women’s choices. Yet, he feteshizes female “choice” while spewing hatred towards women he disagrees with. He gets to hate on women under the guise of feminism. And supposedly he feels Meghan and other radical feminists are the ones hating on women, when what we’re saying is that women’s choices are complex, and we should be focusing on male power. Some male ally!

    • Meghan Murphy


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  • We Call Bullshit

    Noah Berlatsky is an irrelevant hack Internet writer. The worst kind. Click-bait, troll. He doesn’t even deserve this articles thoughtful dissection of his “work.” But if it will help end his career faster, then job well done. We have a duty to rid the Internet of “writers” like Noah Berlatsky.

  • pjwhite

    The Atlantic is a fairly conservative magazine. Most of its readers are white and well-off. They would never accept a Black transwoman who didn’t have breast implants or “pass” as well as Ms. Cox does (confession – I love Laverne Cox. I’m a big fan. And I’m sad that she thought she had to pose nude to be accepted as beautiful). Also, many transwomen cannot afford surgery, and these women are much less accepted by society than women who “pass”. This is an issue that is almost never discussed.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Right. Also, do we talk about how capitalism plays into the trans narrative? That trans women are expected to spend all this money on cosmetic surgery and the profits made by cosmetic surgeons and Big Pharma don’t seem to be discussed as problematic at all by all the so called progressives and activists. It’s totally weird that any anti-capitalists wouldn’t think about this angle. Makes ya think they aren’t actually anti-capitalist at all, but rather they’re just posing as progressive to push sexism and capitalism onto us. Like Chris Hedges said, people have really lost the ability to think critically. (Sidenote: I don’t dislike Laverne Cox at all — I was just annoyed by this ’empowerment’/’liberation’ narrative they were pushing on us. Capitalism and objectification aren’t liberating.)