13 May 1948 |
|Feminist scholar, author, political activist|
Sheila Jeffreys (born 13 May 1948), an English expatriate in Australia, is best known as a lesbian feminist scholar and political activist, for her analysis of the history and politics of sexuality in Britain, and for her controversial views on transsexualism. She was a professor in Political Science at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Jeffreys's argument that the "sexual revolution" on men's terms contributed less to women's freedom than to their continued oppression has both commanded respect and attracted intense criticism. Jeffreys argues that transsexuals reproduce oppressive gender roles and mutilate their bodies through sex reassignment surgery, that lesbian culture has been negatively affected by emulating the sexist influence of the gay male subculture of dominant/submissive sexuality, and that women suffering pain in pursuit of beauty is a form of submission to patriarchal sadism.
In 1979, Jeffreys helped write Love Your Enemy? The Debate Between Heterosexual Feminism and Political Lesbianism. Its authors stated that, "We do think... that all feminists can and should be lesbians. Our definition of a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men. It does not mean compulsory sexual activity with women."
Jeffreys was one of several contributors to The sexual dynamics of history: men's power, women's resistance, an anthology of feminist writings about gender relations published in 1983 under the name "London Feminist History Group." Jeffreys wrote the chapter on "Sex reform and anti-feminism in the 1920s".
In The Spinster and Her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality 1880–1930, published in 1985, Jefreys examines feminist involvement in the Social Purity movement at the turn of the century. In her 1990 work Anticlimax: A Feminist Perspective on the Sexual Revolution, Jeffreys offered a critique of the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
The Lesbian Heresy was published in 1993. In it Jeffreys criticises sadomasochistic practices that involved women. One author involved in sadomasochism cites Jeffreys' views in this book as an example of the "simplistic and dualistic thinking" among anti-sadomasochism campaigners, when she describes sadomasochism as "male supremacist", a re-enactment of heterosexual male dominance and women's oppression, which glorifies violence and uses women's bodies as a sex aid, and as anti-lesbian and fascistic. The author points out that Jeffreys ignores that some heterosexual women may enjoy sex, and that 'tops' may be women who work hard to give their 'bottoms' pleasure, rather than the passive recipients of sex in the way she describes.
The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade, was published in 2009. In it, Jeffreys describes the globalisation of the sex industry, and describes marriage as a form of prostitution. Jeffreys states that "the right of men to women's bodies for sexual use has not gone but remains an assumption at the basis of heterosexual relationships", and draws links between marriage and prostitution, such as mail-order brides, which she sees as a form of trafficking.
Views on transsexualism
The University of Melbourne, Jeffreys' employer until her retirement in May 2015, advertised her services as an expert on transgenderism, transsexualism and gender reassignment. In an interview, Bindel explains that Jeffreys believes transsexual surgery "is an extension of the beauty industry offering cosmetic solutions to deeper rooted problems" and that in a society without gender this would be unnecessary. Jeffreys has presented these views in various forums. In a 1997 article in the Journal of Lesbian Studies, for example, Jeffreys contended that "transsexualism should be seen as a violation of human rights." Jeffreys also argued that "the vast majority of transsexuals still subscribe to the traditional stereotype of women" and that by transitioning medically and socially, trans women are "constructing a conservative fantasy of what women should be. They are inventing an essence of womanhood which is deeply insulting and restrictive."
Jeffreys' opinions on these topics have been challenged by transgender activists. Roz Kaveney, a trans woman and critic of Jeffreys, wrote in The Guardian that Sheila Jeffreys and radical feminists who share her views are "acting like a cult." Kaveney compared Jeffreys' desire to ban transsexual surgery to the Catholic Church's desire to ban abortion, arguing that both proposals bear negative "implications for all women." Finally, Kaveney criticised Jeffreys' and her supporters for alleged "anti-intellectualism, emphasis on innate knowledge, fetishisation of tiny ideological differences, heresy hunting, conspiracy theories, rhetorical use of images of disgust, talk of stabs in the back and romantic apocalypticism."
In April 2014 Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism, a book cowritten by Jeffreys with Lorene Gottschalk, was published. Timothy Laurie argued that the formalisation of social dynamics between men and women in Gender Hurts in terms of "strategies' and dividends" risks "confusing the continued existence of unequal economic exchanges (well documented by R.W. Connell) with the less predictable, but equally important, struggles over what gets labelled 'masculine' and 'feminine' and for what collective purposes".
In May 2014, Judith Butler weighed in on Jeffreys' view that sex reassignment surgery is directly political. In an interview Butler responded to Jeffreys' notion that reassignment surgery is a component of patriarchal control. She claimed that "One problem with that view of social construction is that it suggests that what trans people feel about what their gender is, and should be, is itself “constructed” and, therefore, not real. And then the feminist police comes along…"
Jeffreys stated in a 2014 ABC Radio "Sunday Night Safran" program that transsexual women are either "homosexual men who don’t feel they can be homosexual in the bodies of men" or "heterosexual men who have a sexual interest in wearing women’s clothes and having the appearance of women", provoking criticism from members of the Indigenous and trans communities for racism and transphobia.
Jeffrey's views on transsexualism are increasingly being disputed by mainstream feminists, who take a more inclusive viewpoint toward trans people.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (1987). The Sexuality debates. New York: Routledge & K. Paul. ISBN 9780710209368.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (1990). Anticlimax: a feminist perspective on the sexual revolution. London: Women's Press. ISBN 9780704342033.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (1993). The lesbian heresy a feminist perspective on the lesbian sexual revolution. North Melbourne, Victoria: Spinifex. ISBN 9781875559176.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (1997). The spinster and her enemies feminism and sexuality, 1880–1930. North Melbourne, Victoria: Spinifex. ISBN 9781875559633.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (2003). Unpacking queer politics: a lesbian feminist perspective. Cambridge Malden, Massachusetts: Polity Press in association with Blackwell Pub. ISBN 9780745628387.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (2005). Beauty and misogyny: harmful cultural practices in the West. London New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415351829.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (2008). The idea of prostitution (2nd ed.). North Melbourne, Victoria: Spinifex. ISBN 9781876756673.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (2009). The industrial vagina: the political economy of the global sex trade. London New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415412339.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (2012). Man's dominion: religion and the eclipse of women's rights in world politics. Abingdon, Oxfordshire New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415596749.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (2014). Gender hurts: a feminist analysis of the politics of transgenderism. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. ISBN 9780415539401.
Chapters in books
- Jeffreys, Sheila (1992), "Pornography: creating the sexual future", in Hornsby, Jennifer; Frazer, Elizabeth; Lovibond, Sabina, Ethics: a feminist reader, Oxford, UK Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Blackwell, ISBN 9780631178316
- Jeffreys, Sheila (1996), "Return to gender: post-modernism and lesbianandgay theory", in Bell, Diane; Klein, Renate, Radically speaking: feminism reclaimed, North Melbourne, Victoria: Spinifex Press, pp. 359–374, ISBN 9781875559381
- Jeffreys, Sheila (1996), "Heterosexuality and the desire for gender", in Richardson, Diane, Theorising heterosexuality: telling it straight, Buckingham Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Open University Press, ISBN 9780335195046
- Jeffreys, Sheila (1997), "The queer disappearance of lesbians", in Mintz, Beth; Rothblum, Esther D., Lesbians in academia: degrees of freedom, New York: Routledge, pp. 269–278, ISBN 9780415917018
- Jeffreys, Sheila (2004), "Prostitution as a harmful cultural practice", in Whisnant, Rebecca; Stark, Christine, Not for sale: feminists resisting prostitution and pornography, North Melbourne, Victoria: Spinifex Press, pp. 386–399, ISBN 9781876756499
Essays and pamphlets
- Onlywomen Press (1981). Love your enemy?: the debate between heterosexual feminism and political lesbianism. London: Onlywomen Press. ISBN 9780906500088. A pamphlet by Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group. Pdf version.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (September–October 1994). "The queer disappearance of lesbians: Sexuality in the academy". Women's Studies International Forum (Elsevier) 17 (5): 459–472. doi:10.1016/0277-5395(94)00051-4.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (15 February 2004). The legalisation of prostitution: a failed social experiment. Sisyphe.org.
- Spinifex Press – Sheila Jeffreys
- "Jeffreys, Sheila". Library of Congress. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
ECIP data view (b. May 13, 1948)
- SAMOIS (1987). Coming to Power: Writings and Graphics on Lesbian S/M. Boston: Alyson Publications. p. 88. ISBN 0-932870-28-7.
- Vance, Carole S. (1992). Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. London: Pandora. p. 302. ISBN 0-04-440867-6.
- Gilbert, Harriett. (1993). The Sexual Imagination from Acker to Zola: A Feminist Companion. London: Jonathan Cape. p. 133. ISBN 0-224-03535-5.
- Denfeld, Rene. (1995). The New Victorians: A Young Woman's Challenge to the Old Feminist Order. New York: Warner Books. p. 35. ISBN 1-86373-789-8.
- Bindel, Julie (2 July 2005). "The ugly side of beauty". Guardian.
- London Feminist History Group (1983). The Sexual Dynamics of History: Men's power, women's resistance. London: Pluto Press. p. vi. ISBN 0-86104-711-7.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (1993). The Lesbian Heresy: A Feminist Perspective on the Lesbian Sexual Revolution. Spinifex Press.
- Stein, Atara (28 September 1998). "'Without Contraries Is No Progression': S/M, Bi-nary Thinking, and the Lesbian Purity Test". In Atkins, Dawn. Lesbian Sex Scandals. Haworth Press (published 1998). p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7890-0548-9.
- Bindel, Julie (12 November 2008). "'Marriage is a form of prostitution'". Guardian.
- Jeffreys, Sheila (1997). "Transgender Activism: A Lesbian Feminist Perspective" (PDF). The Journal of Lesbian Studies.
- Kaveney, Roz (25 May 2012). "Radical feminists are acting like a cult". The Guardian.
- Laurie, Timothy (2015). "Masculinity Studies and the Jargon of Strategy: Hegemony, Tautology, Sense". Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities.