[Note: This is a great overview of Madalen Bern’s politics and philosophy from Der Frietag.
The obituary for Magdalen Berns, “Den Kopf hinhalten: Nachruf ‘Your fucking minds are so open your brains have fallen out!’ Magdalen Berns war Radikalfeministin auf Youtube – eine Würdigung” by Charlie Schulze, was published Sept. 14, 2019. I have added an annotated bibliography of his sources at the end.
Original translation from the German by genderdesk, copyright license CC0 “No Rights Reserved”, may reuse, and improve, without attribution. “Den Kopf hinhalten” I have rendered here as “hold your head” which in German means something along the lines of “take responsibility”, “bear the brunt”, or “pay the price”. -GD]
NSFW, including the videos.
Hold your head
Obituary “Your fucking minds are so open your brains have fallen out!” Magdalen Berns was a radical feminist on Youtube – a tribute
by Charlie Schulze
At some point in 2016, the algorithm washed her into my field of vision: a wild-haired young British woman whose videos featured strange titles like “There Is No Such Thing as a Lesbian With a Penis” or “RE: ‘TERF Wars’… Receipts Please? ” and evidently dealt with a topic that was not familiar to me before, but seemed interesting … However, YouTube is a visual medium in which many stimuli are sent in a small space. If someone stands out visually so stylishly cool, it is probably exceptionally in order to start the eulogy of a radical feminist with her hairstyle, because I was exactly like in the comment under one of her videos: “Came for the hair, stayed for the content. “
So there was that terribly confused hair that hung across her overslept-looking face. Hoodie, neutral background, there was more of her mostly not to see – a surely intended optical counterpoint to the pace of content: The videos are well paced in all respects, the cuts mounted fast, tight and focused on statement. Sometimes the angle changes slightly, but she always sticks her head in the camera. And that’s what she’s doing, on Youtube, in a secluded filter bubble, where it’s hysterical and fantastic at times, and the mainstream does not look, but children are watching: She holds her head down. Their education is well-grounded; the arguments are precise, casual and sharply formulated, but not fundamentally polemical, predominantly recounted with the patient-annoyed objectivity of a person who positions logical thinking, scientific definitions, and dictionaries against ideological zeal and perceived reality.
That was Magdalen Berns: feminist, Youtuber, physicist. Eloquent, contentious, informed, coherent. What she said sounded deeply sensible to me and made it clear that in addition to neoliberal flag-waving for the regulation of speech, and political cosmetics vs. stubborn anti-feminist objection, there is another, quite comprehensible, explicitly feminist, explicitly left-wing view of cultural developments. Her videos brought me to a position that was previously unknown to me: gender-critical radical feminism.
Magdalen Berns led debates for which there is still no clearly defined vocabulary in our language. Thus, gender-critical RadFem in the English discourse is a very precise classification – in German, the individual terms would have to be clarified. Starting with “Gender”, in this country in everyday life it is mainly a buzzword of indeterminate meaning circulating among people, who are upset about something, but do not know exactly what, because it’s just easy to have something to look down.
In English, “gender” refers to the social role model to which the attributes feminine / masculine are assigned (gender-critical means here the position that assumes that gender / masculinity / femininity is a culturally dependent construct and nothing more than role clichés that should be overcome and not cemented by the assertion of a naturally given gender) – in distinction to the biological category “sex”, to which there are the attributes female / male (which to the RadFem is an absolutely relevant category, because, in their view, patriarchal discrimination against women is based on their ability to give birth).. Who (like me) thought that this linguistic differentiation would lead to less discursive confusion, can get a different picture with Magdalen Berns. A good part of her videos contains the explanation of the difference between sex and gender — that, too, in English-speaking Youtube, is grotesquely confused, mixed, and interpreted according to the respective concerns.
Most videos by Magdalen Berns are response videos, annotating answers to all sorts of socio-political concerns, bizarre, marginal and insane, circulating on youtube around gender identity issues. Her focus is the controversy between trans*activism and radical feminist lesbians within the “alphabet soup community” (Berns) and in political circles, e.g. universities – but from a radical feminist point of view that has its reflection in society as a whole: where the biological difference between men and women is negated and “self-identification” is equated with physical reality, if shelters and forums by and for women were made available to everyone, women-specific rights would be marginalized again.
Parts of the trans*activist scene see such objections as transphobic discrimination, or at least as “exclusionary”, which is why people like Magdalen Berns get the label TERF from them : Trans Excluding Radical Feminist – the meaning of which seems to be a Nazi, within the law of morality of the New Hypersensitivity. In any case, this particular insult applied to Magdalen Berns does not appear in comments as much as the regularly repeated, predictable “ugly dyke” …
Perhaps the core, in any case the object of this controversy, is the question of whether in an inclusive future, which at least seems to be hotly debated on youtube, physically male people “are allowed” to call themselves lesbians – and in ultimate circumstances, expect lesbians to confirm them in their identity and thus as potential sexual partners. For the lesbian and feminist Magdalen Berns, the answer is a clear “Nah mate!”, which needs no explanation, but she explains it again and again from scratch: the choice of sexual partners is by definition exclusive. Rejection, for whatever reason, is not enjoyable, but is a discrimination that must be coped with, and is a part of being “grown up”. “No” means also for a somehow marginalized person “no”. And an expectation that includes sex on demand, depending on the perspective of the old male disposition over the female body looks damned similar, however one identifies itself. By the way: “Go for the dictionary and let me know what you’ve come up with!”
Now you might think that this kind of social meaning of tolerance would be negligible, that it would affect only tiny minorities and free-wheeling singles – however: Not only on YouTube are there highly official sponsored trolls, who shape their ungainly ego-trip along a well-known popular policy, and so it went on, Magdalen Berns was less concerned with the eccentric individual, but more about protesting organized insanity in the name of progressiveness. Her conclusions were partisan, but not always in line with her own group affiliation, when by doing so, logic falls by the wayside: “Stonewall UK”, she summarizes in 2016 in an analysis of an LGBTQ * organization that uses the slogan “acceptance without exception” she declares: “your fucking minds are so open your brains have fallen out! You do not represent us. You are absolutely fucking treacherous money-taking bastards.”
A lot of confusion prevails in debates, minds and on the worldwideweb. The influence of YouTube videos on the very young and other people in search of direction and information should not be underestimated. Magdalen Berns has done a tremendous amount of work in her short life to educate about her position, gender-critical radical feminism. Her videos will continue to help, guide, and, hopefully, reduce the confusion of people in gender- feminism- and identity-politics movements.
Magdalen Berns died at the age of 36 on 13.09.2019 after several operations for complications of a brain tumor. Even so, during the fight for her life, she continued to produce further video commentary on radical feminist interests. Her last video is a shockingly sincere, fragile, proud, brave farewell-just-in-case. Her last profile picture on facebook shows the surgical seam on her shaven head: she held out until the end.
Magdalen, the struggle goes on!
Magda | Community
THANKS ALOT. I did not know her. But I’ll make a bookmark right away.
A glioblastoma – that’s what Wolfgang Herrndorf died of.
Very exciting topics and controversies.
++ Where the biological difference between men and women is denied and equated with “identifying” with physical reality, shelters and forums won for and by women could be made available to everyone and women-specific demands would be marginalized again. ++
This is a very plausible thesis, which also makes clear what and why is argued. It’s like a strange scramble between the sexes and in between as well. Again and again.
Charlie Schulze | Community
Thanks! That was the purpose of the exercise: about the sad occasion maybe a few new interested to reach, in the best case … Youtube is a strange parallel world. Magdalen Berns was / is an important voice in the discussion area of the gender-transgender-feminism-topic – outside of this scene there are practically no publications about her.// This is a very plausible thesis, which also makes clear what and why is argued. //
However, although this did not make sense to me at first – only on the sometimes drastic examples, which are commented on by Magdalen accordingly … In the first video linked above ( here again), she explains quite well the thesis that a neoliberal interpretation of “intersectional feminism “leads to the withdrawal of women’s rights and that antifeminist intentions are selling themselves as” modern feminism “.
@ MagdaTo clarify the conflict line “2nd-wave” vs. “3rd-wave” feminism in the context of the history of the women’s movement, I also highly recommend the also transparent, eloquent (and extremely entertaining) Julie Bindel , who has personally participated in the last 30 years of “identity politics”.What I can not really appreciate is whether this debate will only be in English, because in UK, USA, Canada the discourse will be a few years ahead? Or if there is no German equivalent because we lack the vocabulary? In any case, the only detailed German-language article ( link ), which I have found so far, even a translation.
- feminist. 1 Reason Everyday Feminism Is Bad For Women:”In this video Magdalen Berns will present a critique of “Everyday Feminism”’s neoliberal re-branding of feminism as a “movement to end all oppression” rather than a movement for women’s liberation.”
- youtuber. Reading Channel Hate Comments:”To celebrate reaching 4k subscribers this week, Magdalen Berns reads out some hate comments she’s received to date and mocks them.”
- explanation of the difference. Gender and sex: anti-feminist, trans activist and feminist interpretations:”In this video Magdalen Berns outlines the basic definitions of sex and gender and then provides clarification on the key fundamentals of the anti-feminist, trans-activist and feminist interpretations of those terms.”
- questionable. Transing a 5 Year Old Tomboy
- bizarre. RE: This Is What a Woman Looks Like.”Magdalen Berns presents her Christmas message – a takedown of Men’s “rights” transactivist Theryn Meyer’s flawed reason and logic with regard to the transgender identity of Danielle Muscato vs him who has gone to “so much effort” – cool story bro… yer still a bloke.”
- marginal. Feminine Consultant Teaching Transwomen How to Play Women.”Response to a vice broadly production about an NYC image consultant who teaches rich blokes how to look more feminine.”
- insane. Non Binary Bullsh*t.”Magdalen Berns responds to a promotional video featuring a chap called Alok, who sees himself as non-binary because he identifies with the feminine.”
- controversy. RE: “cis” lesbians react to “terfs” | #getthelout.”In this video Magdalen Berns deconstructs some anti-lesbian nonsense from queer ideologues, Stevie and Zoie who don’t seem too impressed by the recent Pride in London action by lesbian-led feminist group #getthelout.”
- again and. RE: “your dating preferences are discriminatory””In this video Magdalen Berns responds to Riley J. Dennis’ demand that the so-called “queer community” pretend to be interested in dating members of the opposite sex in order to validate the gender identity of the TQ in LGBTQ. In Riley’s video “Your dating “preferences” are discriminatory”, he argues it’s “pretty discriminatory and hurtful” that lesbians sexually reject “people with penises” (i.e. blokes) – according to Riley’s brand of “everyday feminism” rejecting dick is some cruel form of systemic oppression… You. Couldn’t. Make. This. Shit. Up.”
- again. RE: “your dating preferences are discriminatory””In this video Magdalen Berns responds to Riley J. Dennis’ demand that the so-called “queer community” pretend to be interested in dating members of the opposite sex in order to validate the gender identity of the TQ in LGBTQ. In Riley’s video “Your dating “preferences” are discriminatory”, he argues it’s “pretty discriminatory and hurtful” that lesbians sexually reject “people with penises” (i.e. blokes) – according to Riley’s brand of “everyday feminism” rejecting dick is some cruel form of systemic oppression… You. Couldn’t. Make. This. Shit. Up.”
- from scratch. RE: “Are genital preferences transphobic?””Give it up, Riley! Riley thinks “the answer is more complicated than you might think”. Magdalen has heard the line #TheresMoreToItThanThat many times before and isn’t buying what Riley is selling either…”
- she summarizes in 2016. What Kind Of Fools Do Transgender UK and Stonewall Take Us For?
- last video. My ladybrain update #2 | Glioblastoma
- Julie Bindel. Julie Bindel on Identity Politics. Julie Bindel’s remarks from the Battle of Ideas panel “The Personal Is Political: Is Identity Politics Eating Itself?”
- the only detailed German-language article ( link ). “Gender ist keine Identität, es ist ein Werkzeug des Patriarchats: Eine feministische Sicht auf Genderidentitätspolitik.” (Gender is not an identity, it is a tool of patriarchy: a feminist view of gender identity politics)