Are TERFs – who can, let us be clear, be any women who wish to define gender on their own terms – responsible for the murder of trans women at the hands of men? The “creating the conditions” argument does, at first glance, seem a clever one. How could anyone want to seem even remotely complicit in harm done to another? Shouldn’t cis women shut up about how they feel about gender, just to be on the safe side? This is something one could, in theory, suggest (“your feelings are less important than my life”) but it requires ignoring the fact that trans women are not the only vulnerable group of women. Do the same rules apply to everyone?
For instance, violence against women can and should be seen in the context of a society that dehumanises women as a class. Does this mean that when my colleague is casually sexist he is responsible for creating the conditions in which two women a week are murdered by their male partners? No; he is contributing to an overall atmosphere of sexism but he is in no way a murderer nor is he implicitly condoning murder. He just has an entitled, reductive view of what women are without even realising it, as do most men. There is a difference.
Is this what TERFs do? Probably not; they are less guilty than my colleague. To argue – as some do, in all seriousness – that women who set up shelters to protect others from male violence are “killing” trans women if they cannot provide for them, is entitled, sexist bullshit. To say that one vulnerable group is responsible for another (but not vice-versa), lest the former group be considered as culpable as their mutual oppressor, is to utterly ignore the first group’s needs. It is to see their primary role as providing for others (which is how patriarchy has always seen cis women). This is not okay; this is dehumanising. It needs to be recognised that females are not born with some inbuilt protection from male violence or some magic shelter-building capacity. We are not innately passive, nurturing, there for others but never permitted to set our own boundaries. We are people, too.
So what does contribute to violence against women, trans or non-trans? It is not a refusal on the part of some women to see their primary function as defining others. It is a culture of violence. It is people who argue that women push them until they “snap”. It is people who argue that threatened violence is only “a meme”. It is people who do not respect the physical and mental boundaries of other human beings. It is people who justify violent fantasies on the basis that someone else saying “I am as human as you” is “erasing”. It is cis men having the nerve — the sheer bloody nerve — to sit at their computers and castigate those who run shelters to protect vulnerable women from the violence committed by other cis men (you know what? You may have grown up thinking cis women are all like your mummy, with no visible interior life and endless emotional resources for others, but we’re not. You give your money, time and space. You sacrifice yourself for once. You rein in the anger of your peers instead of cheering it on). Even so, these people – even the people who do all of these things – have not lost the right to be viewed as human beings and they have most certainly not committed murder themselves.
This is something victims of male violence tend to recognise. Those for whom vilifying vocal woman is an internet game, not so much.
Women are not to blame for male violence. Ever.