Why Do People Say Fran Lebowitz Is a TERF? — We Explain

As 'Pretend It's a City' makes the rounds on Netflix, many are reminding viewers that Fran Lebowitz is a TERF. Why? Here's what she's said.

Distractify Staff - Author

Jan. 27 2021, Published 2:30 p.m. ET

Fran Lebowitz
Source: getty

Netflix's seven-episode conversation series between Martin Scorsese and Fran Lebowitz is introducing many subscribers to the New York writer and critic.

But several viewers who are eager to learn more about Fran Lebowitz will be surprised to find out that she is widely disliked. Why do people hate this famous complainer so much, you might ask? It's not so much her curmudgeonly attitude. 

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As it turns out, many believe that Fran Lebowitz is a TERF, a term that stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.

Keep reading while we unpack what Fran has said and why it's been interpreted as ostensibly furthering trans-exclusionary ideology.

fran lebowitz terf
Source: getty
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Is Fran Lebowitz a TERF?

Search Twitter for the terms "Fran Lebowitz" and "TERF," and you'll find yourself with quite an array of posts, including a few that date back a couple of years. 

"Can anyone tell me if Fran Lebowitz is a TERF? Apparently she's said some explicit things a decade ago and I'd like to know if she's ever apologized or otherwise said she doesn't believe them anymore," one person asks the platform. "All I know about Fran Lebowitz is that she's a TERF," writes another. 

"Fran Lebowitz was obviously always going to be a TERF, virtually everyone whose world views were fully formed like 35 years ago are," offered a third. "Similar to how everyone 100 years ago was racist."

In order to answer the question of why people think Fran Lebowitz is a TERF, we have to go back to the 2010 documentary Beautiful Darling, a feature-length film about the life of Candy Darling, the trans superstar who was a protégée of icons like Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams.

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You don't even have to watch the whole documentary to realize how deriding Fran Lebowitz is toward Candy's womanhood. In fact, most of the offending language appears in the trailer alone.

"Candy was a man who wanted to be a female movie star," says Fran in the opening of the under-three-minute teaser. "And you know, fell into the clutches of Andy who told her she was."

fran lebowitz terf
Source: getty
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Fran continues, "A 25-year-old man who becomes a 25-year-old woman is not a woman at all, because a woman first has to be a little girl. Candy was never a girl."

Well, you don't need a degree in gender studies to realize that these sentences pretty much articulate the trans-exclusionary position as explicitly as one can.

Writer Stephen Ira took to Twitter to explain why it's important people know this about Fran: "I am bringing it up because, as usual, it's that thing where an older cis lesbian has been just about as explicitly hateful toward trans people as you can be, but because she's an elder or whatever, we're all pretending that never happened."

But, Stephen adds, "Maybe Fran Lebowitz doesn't think this anymore!" After all, this clip dates back to 2010, and a lot has changed since then.

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Has Fran Lebowitz addressed her 2010 comment?

It's well known that Fran is famously a Luddite who doesn't have a cell phone, let alone Google Alerts for her online Twitter mentions.

However, many who are jumping to the critic's defense are pointing to a 2020 article as evidence that Fran has changed her tune.

fran lebowitz terf
Source: getty
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In an interview with AnOther Magazine, Fran took a stance that the outlet called "expectedly permissive."

Here's what she said: "'If someone tells me, 'I was born a boy, but I feel like I'm a girl,' I believe them. How would I know how they feel? If someone tells me they have a headache, I don't say, 'No, you don't,' so I believe them."

"But people are very preoccupied with this," she went on. "It's very upsetting to people, because it's the most profound thing about someone, I mean, biologically. It's the most profound biological thing about someone. Mainly, when people are upset about other people to this huge extent, it's because they're upset about themselves."

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