Articles

Christine Delphy, an Anti-essentialist TERF: Materialist Feminism and the Affective Legacies of the MLF

Author
  • Katherine Costello

Abstract

For the last decade, Christine Delphy, one of the most important feminists in France, has taken profoundly reactionary positions in relation to transgender people, that qualify her as a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF). But while most TERF discourse relies on biological essentialism, Delphy is radically anti-essentialist. As early as 1981, she showed that both gender and sex are socially constructed, a premise that has become a cornerstone of transgender studies. How is one to understand the fact that a feminist whose thinking would seem to inscribe itself in the direction of transfeminism allies herself with the TERF movement? This essay shows that her theoretical arguments against transness can be overcome from a materialist feminist perspective and argues that her transphobia is bound up in the affective aftermath of conflicts in the women’s liberation movement that were cemented through a complex transatlantic intellectual history and never resolved.

Keywords: TERF, Transfeminism, Materialist feminism, French feminism, Genealogy

How to Cite:

Costello, K., (2023) “Christine Delphy, an Anti-essentialist TERF: Materialist Feminism and the Affective Legacies of the MLF”, DiGeSt - Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies 10(2), 65-80. doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/digest.85689

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Published on
11 Dec 2023
Peer Reviewed