A mild disturbance in the supply of absolutely anything we’re used to buying every day has more political impact than, say, people losing their homes, children going hungry, abused women being locked up with male sex-offenders, asylum seekers drowning in the channel, the govt selling our services and infrastructure to foreign businesses, climate change wrecking our world before our grandchildren can live out their lives – any of the things I’ve ever tried campaigning about, really.
I don’t think answers like ‘people are stupid’ or ‘people are greedy’ help much. It’s about where most people’s attention is, most of the time. Most of us usually have our heads down, ploughing through ‘what needs doing’ in the face of a huge range of obstacles from lack of funds to people not answering phones to illness and disability. Everything that disrupts the battle is a ****ing nuisance to throw ourselves at in determined fury.
Do you remember all those extraordinary ideas, songs, lectures, meetings and above all community support projects people thought up in response to lockdown?
Time to think
The time people need in order to think reappears when everyday buzz, pressures and demands stop. Those people we briefly learned to call ‘essential workers’ just had to go on working ( some called lockdown ‘where the middle class stay home and the working classes bring them things’ ). Those whose lives were already in extreme difficulty – for example in insecure housing, in prisons and refugee hostels ( not the homeless though – the government briefly made the effort to ‘get people off the streets’ ) – all those people really had their noses rubbed in how bad things are…
… but the salaried classes, the service, financial and what have you workers – all got used to not being able to go where we want or buy anything we want at a moment’s notice, and started THINKING.
So I’ll be getting on with the community organising, the networking and the educating and the production of books, more aware than ever that these are the vital political acts. How about you? Have you thought of any other things we can do….? (comments section below)
Just keep thinking about how this government, the government that does not care one jot about destroying businesses and jobs, or creating poverty, or stranding the old and the sick, was so desperately, desperately keen to avoid another lockdown. What is it they’re scared of?
PS This blog started life as an FB status post, and got the following comment, which struck me as absolutely on the button…
In an individualistic society, most of the time we’re encouraged to live in our own heads. And on those occasions where the problems of others manage to permeate our thoughts, we’re also encouraged to think “oh well, they must have done something wrong”, and at that point the concerns and suffering of others can be dismissed as fair because they’ve brought it upon themselves. Taken to an extreme, that logic starts to sound like: “everyone on benefits is an undeserving scrounger… except me, when I was made redundant through no fault of my own.” We’ve all heard that kind of thing.
The anger and panic you allude to in this article I think springs from that mindset. When people who think like that find themselves swept up into a crisis that wasn’t of their making – and they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong – the first explanation they reach for is that someone else must have messed up; and the consequences of that mistake are falling unjustly on the people who had no part in making it. That prompts anger, and creates a strong incentive to blame others.
It’s very easy to ignore something when it’s not affecting you directly.
Julia Price joined the Labour Party in 2015, in south London. She canvassed for Labour in local elections and for the Mayor of London election in May 2016 when the Labour candidate, Tooting MP, Sadiq Khan won.
After moving to St Leonards in 2016, she helped with canvassing in 2017. That same summer, she became closely involved in the local campaign to save St Leonards Crown Post Office. She canvassed and campaigned for Labour’s Parliamentary candidate, Peter Chowney in June 2017, when Peter came within 346 votes of Amber Rudd, the sitting Tory MP, massively reducing her majority.
In early 2018 she was a council candidate for Labour in West St Leonards. She campaigned and canvassed in this ward and across the borough. She came within 56 votes of winning the West St Leonards ward for Labour.
She canvassed and campaigned almost daily in the December 2019 general election.
In March 2021, Julia sent Labour the following message:
Julia’s Farewell to the Labour Party
I have cancelled my monthly Direct Debit to the Labour Party. It is with sadness and regret that I would like to ask you to cancel my membership. There is no longer enough to keep my allegiance, my respect and my belief in the Labour Party. Too many betrayals of too many good, loyal, hard-working Party members, and especially of Jeremy Corbyn. Too many witch hunts. Too much betrayal of women. Of women MPs in the House and of women’s rights. The signing of the so-called Trans Pledge. The Party’s acceptance of the gender ideology mantra: trans women are women. They are not. They are trans women. Trans men are trans men. All respect to trans people and may they live their lives safely and well. But biology is real and women as a sex class have protection under the Equality Act 2010. The Labour Party offers no support or protection to women who are aggressively silenced and vilified by trans rights activists who operate throughout social media and on university campuses, in CLPs and in workplaces.
Silence on the risk to children
No attempt to protect children from the capture of trans ideology; it has taken this Tory government to do that: to ban puberty blockers to under 16s without a court order. It took a detransitioning young woman, Keira Bell, to take the Tavistock Clinic to court and win a High Court judgement against them in December 2020. Then there was the subsequent CQC-judgement of the Tavistock Clinic as Inadequate in January this year. A 4000% plus increase in the decade to 2018 of young teenage girls seeking to transition. Being referred to start medical pathways after only one or two gender identity clinic consultations. No time spent considering their sociological and / or psychological backgrounds. A concern expressed in a report by Dr David Bell, ex staff governor and psychologist at the Tavistock.
The shocking news in the leaked report last year that the executive and others in the Labour Party were so anti Corbyn that they actively worked to snag and disrupt the GE campaigns of 2017 & 2019. Working against hundreds and thousands of Party members like me who were out practically every day, knocking on doors, canvassing and campaigning hard for a Labour victory.
This is dishonourable, uncomradely conduct. It is not what I thought the Labour Party was about. I no longer wish to be a member.
I have met many wonderful people during my five and a half years of membership. I am grateful for their comradeship and friendship. I wish them well.
Editor’s note: Julia is one of the many Labour Party women who worked so enthusiastically for socialism in that hope-filled time between 2016 and 2019, but are now leaving the party. She received no reply to her farewell statement.
I’ve been wondering why feminism grabbed me so much the second time I looked, but not the first.
I remember feminism going on around me when I was a teenager. I had a vague idea it involved a lot of arguments about whether you should shave your legs or not. A couple of decades later, my daughter told me she’d had the impression for years that she couldn’t be a feminist because she likes dressing up, cooking and being a mum.
In the 70s, I couldn’t do feminism because I didn’t like dungarees. In the 80s, I couldn’t afford the ‘power dressing’ and then in latter years, I thought I couldn’t be a feminist because my partner was a bloke, and because the ‘feminists’ I saw on telly all seemed to spend their time making pointlessly rude and embarrassingly flirtatious swipes at men. And anyway, those somewhat boring organisations like the Fawcett Society and Labour Women’s Network were constantly bashing on about whether female execs in London were earning enough tens of thousands more than me, yet.
And then Stonewall tried to get women’s legal rights repealed. A new kind of women’s campaign (new to me) came along. I was so angry, so involved, and so excited, talking to so many great women, helping to put together ideas for the Women’s Place UK manifesto, getting involved with the Women’s Liberation Conference, and to top it all, I’d discovered FiLiA, with its glorious weekend every year of women singing, women cooking, women dancing, running businesses, making friends, building communities and doing politics, women escaping and traveling the world as fugitives, then coming together at last, singing, cooking, dancing, making friends, running businesses, building communities and doing politics.
People ask why women get so ‘obsessed’ with the sex based rights campaign, why we never ‘come down off it’. Well you know, there’s more to it than that. For those of us who were relatively new to feminism, the women we met on the way told us about real feminism, and Woman’s Place, and all the other organisations the benighted like to call ‘anti-trans hate groups’ set women’s worlds on fire. It’s VERY exciting. (Apparently, last time around they called the women’s groups ‘anti-men hate groups’.)
Read Julie Bindel’s REALLY exciting new book, and discover proper feminism. As she explains, the stuff that went mainstream – liberal feminism, they call it, IS boring. Radical feminism isn’t feminism only more so, it’s the growing, sustaining root of feminism. In manifestation, it’s any aspect of feminism that’s not acceptable to the establishment.
‘We don’t want half the seats at the table,’ says Bindel, ‘we want to break the table.’
Feminism is about rescuing and standing with fugitives, it’s about learning and teaching, about fighting back, about community politics and addressing the problems that are so big mainstream politicians barely dare touch them.
Buy the book, go to FiLiA. Get angry, get serious, get excited. You can sing, dance, make friends, dress up and cook as you go if you want to. You can also make up your own mind as to whether you shave your legs or not. You decide, it doesn’t matter – but you might have some interesting conversations over coffee about why mainstream society thinks such things matter so much.
Just read the book, in fact read all her books, and her journalism. I am!
A newly elected councillor (let us call her Councillor A) abstains in a council vote to make another councillor (let’s say Councillor B) Deputy Mayor. No news there, you would have thought.
But when news gets out, the inevitable speculative social media posts appear, quickly escalating to accusing not just Councillor B but every councillor who voted for her of transphobia.
After a flurry of statements, demands for more statements, and local press articles, Councillor A finally makes her accusation, on social media. She writes:
Let us take these acccusations one by one. No evidence has been offered, as far as I know but…
‘several social media posts that contained anti trans sentiment’
I assume this is a reference to her once sharing an invitation by a women’s group to respond to the Government’s public consultation on GRA reform. (that’s the Gender Recognition Act) I’ll give details of why tens of thousands of women did that later in this blog.
‘refusal to accept the Equality Act as a valid document’
As far as I know Councillor B fully supports the Equality Act, friends tell me she emphatically supports it, and has said so whenever asked, whereas I now hear that our CLP wants to ‘reform’ the Equalities Act, with Councillor A’s full support.
‘refusal to support the party policy on self ID in conversation with myself’
Fellow party members are pretty sure Councillor A herself was among those who declined (which I guess amounts to refusal) to support the party policy on sex-based rights in a recent Labour Party meeting, so she obviously knows supporting every line of party policy in every situation is not compulsory – indeed, it would be unrealistic to expect anyone to go with every single clause of it.
So we’re left with two counts of having to prove a negative, and one question as to an alleged conversation. I personally worry about the content and tone of an alleged conversation that leads to someone having to ‘refuse’ to support an item of party policy.
Councillor A’s accusation is then shared to a large local social media group by the local CLP secretary who writes:
Various individuals on social media pages and the local papers then go to town on the council’s ‘trans rights problem’.
Do we have a story here? Well, there is the press release from the local Pride organisation, stating that ‘one councillor knew of her views on the trans community’, and Pride claims to know about, but does not reproduce, offending social media posts, and it then goes on to refer to ‘posts like the ones shared by [Councillor B], combined with bigoted think-pieces in legacy media…’
Still no actual evidence. What is meant by ‘legacy’ posts? – is it screenshots taken from one, often private, group later posted in public? Whether or not we *should* legally get to see such things and whether they have anything to do with Councillor B is another matter but, so far, to my knowledge, we haven’t been given any evidence.
But no matter, the social media storm grows, causing fallings-out, and refusals by various people to work with various other people, and most recently producing demands that councillor after councillor repeat Stonewall’s mantra, ‘transwomen are women’ and ‘trans men are men’.
That, as far as it goes, is the story. It led to major, I would say actionable, accusations from the stage at Sunday’s Pride do. Over the last four months, representatives from Pride/HRRA have been approached by the council both privately and on public record and, when they seemed concerned, they were invited on several occasions to make a formal complaint with relevant links but neither HP nor HRRA have done so, nor have they or the councillor who made the public claim offered any evidence for their concerns.
Update 06/09/2021: Because I was told there are accusations of the council not communicating, I investigated this and found that reps from HRRA had discussions about the situation with an ex-councillor and current councillors, including the council’s equalities lead, and extensive email exchanges. They were offered the means to produce evidence and complain officially. They did not want to do this.
Many people are asking, as they often do on the subject of the sex and gender issue…
Why does it all get so nasty?
To answer that, I now need to explain why tens of thousands of women shared invitations to respond to that Government consultation on GRA reform, and also why so many people seem to think the women’s groups who did so are ‘anti-trans hate groups’.
Initially, the government did not consult – they appeared on course to accept Stonewall’s advice that all they need to do to give trans people what they wanted was to cancel the sex exemption in the Equalities Act.
An excerpt from Stonewall’s submission, and a link to details…
According to Maria Miller MP, who was dealing with the issue at the time, there was no opposition apart from ‘some people purporting to be feminists.’ There proved to be a large number of purporters, because women were realising that we had a conflict of rights developing if the GRA were reformed to allow for immediate sex self ID – that is, to allow anyone, for any purpose, to be treated in law as the opposite sex on their say-so – not because they had ‘transitioned’ or ‘had the op’ or had a medical condition that their doctor said required it, just on their say-so.
The mantra-like phrase ‘trans women are women, trans men are men’ is the campaigners’ iteration of that idea. Is there a problem with that? At the moment, the Equality Act has 9 separate exemptions. One is for ‘gender reassignment’, and is there to protect trans people. Another is for ‘sex’, and is the legal basis of women’s rights. If, however, ‘trans women are women’ is enshrined in law, the sex exemption becomes meaningless, as does the Sex Discrimination Act.
It also has repercussions for single-sex attraction – another protected characteristic in our Equality Act. Differences of opinion as to how that might work have led to some people feeling there’s a conflict that makes separate groups for same-sex attracted people necessary, an idea that others find so abhorrent that it has led to several instances of gay and lesbian people getting drummed off Pride marches in recent years.
In both those cases, giving ‘self ID’ or the concept of ‘innate gender identity’ legal standing takes away the legal tools that women need to deal with issues arising from their sex – their biology – because they are ‘adult human females’ – that is the dictionary definition of what we are, and became one women’s group’s campaign call in response to ‘trans women are women’. That’s why it is now called ‘hate speech’ by trans rights activists. That’s another blinder against women. Misogyny is not, so far, considered a hate-crime aggravator, so when things get heated, only the slogans from the women’s side of the campaign can be called out as ‘hate speech’. Even as things stand now, trans people are better protected in law than mere women.
The GRA consultation
I was one of the women who filled in that consultation. I said something along these lines:
Trans women are trans women. They are protected in law. They have the same human rights as everyone else. They should be treated with dignity and respect, just like everyone else. They are protected in law from discrimination, and we should all contribute to their being allowed to live their lives, call themselves what they want, dress how they want and believe what they want, just like everyone else. Also, like everyone else, they deserve better health and social care provision than they are currently getting so yes, I daresay the GRA does need reforming but not in a manner that disables women’s sex-based rights. One law should not be set up to trump another.
‘There is no conflict of rights’?
We are often told that. My CLP set out to pass a motion supporting trans rights, saying there was no conflict of rights. I suggested that in that case, they should also support sex-based rights in the motion. They refused, saying I was being ‘provocative’. Well, when I say they refused, my amendment was lost by one vote.
It has recently been demonstrated (in a court case concerning male sex offenders assaulting inmates in female prisons) that the balance of rights as it stands now is already detrimental to women – here’s the relevant part of the ruling, and a link if you’d like the details…
So women have good reason to stand by our own definition of ourselves. Here’s a twitter-thread from Jeremy Corbyn’s former policy manager, listing the issues we still need to resolve before self-ID is feasible…
The fact that we still have all this to do is the reason the Labour Party manifesto states an intention to ‘work towards’ rather than instantly grant, self-ID.
Stonewall, Pride and the rest of them are not happy with the wait but their only alternative strategy seems to be demanding that everyone repeats their mantra, and periodically making a public attack on a woman, bullying her in a way that generally makes the majority stay quiet, for fear of being the next target.
Another mantra they love to hear repeated is
Trans rights are human rights
What does that mean? It’s true that trans people have the same human rights as the rest of us – that includes the right to our own beliefs, the right to express those beliefs, and a right not to be bullied into accepting and parroting others’ beliefs. No-one has to say ‘trans women are women’. The fact that some of our councillors responded to Councillor B being publicly bullied by queuing up to agree to ‘trans women are women’ is unnecessary and (in my view) an abject failure to defend a colleague from the witch hunters. If that’s what they believe then, as demonstrated, it is their right to do so but they might like to think about the recent Forstater case decision which confirms their duty in law to protect their colleagues from harassment and discrimination for their beliefs. That includes the right not to believe something, and protection from compelled speech.
Maya Forstater announces the result of the court hearing:
Excerpt – ‘This created a legal precedent that people should not face discrimination or harassment at work or as users of services because of their beliefs about sex and gender identity.’
How do we solve this?
Ultimately, the only solution – for trans women and for natal women – is to dump the societal demands of gender (so everyone feels free to dress, behave etc as they need to) and put an end to male violence, so women do not need to be cautious about male access.
That could take a while though so, in the meantime I suggest there are two options: either absolutely everyone must shut up about women’s rights, and repeat the mantras whenever they are required to do so or else councils should stop giving good money, humble obeisance and regular sacrificial victims to Stonewall, Pride et al. I’m sure they could find a better way of showing off their commitment to equality and diversity.
Which solution do you prefer?
The Labour Party Manifesto 2019, page 66
When the women’s campaign first came to the media’s attention, Jeremy Corbyn, then leader of the Labour Party, had this to say: “People are free to campaign within the party and publicly, of course they are, and raise these issues and have that discussion.” – Jeremy Corbyn on the Andrew Marr Show, 28 Jan 2018. That seems to me to be the least one would except in a country that has laws protecting freedom of speech and belief – not that any of our current councillors have taken part in any such campaign, as far as I know.
Being a socialist feminist in mainstream politics is a pain, it really is. If you intend to read this article, for your sanity, before you start could you remind yourself that outside of party politics, people have families, friends and colleagues with a range of opinions and ideas, and they mostly manage to get along, and even enjoy discussing their different opinions….
Then you have the Labour Party, which a friend recently said feels like this…
… a party which would appear to be full of ‘socialists’ who exclude anyone who talks socialism, and ‘feminists’ who support misogyny in the thinnest of disguises, and jump down your throat if you dare mention ‘controversial’ topics like women’s legal rights,
That may be a slight exaggeration – or is it? A significant proportion of my socialist friends who have been visible in lefty organisations and debates are now getting those ‘Are you or have you ever been….’ auto-exclusion letters but others, whilst yelling about that injustice, are scoffing at the idea women are being side-lined. Well, here is the only successful (if you can call it that) attempt to discuss women’s legal rights at the Labour Women’s Conference…
Or you have the Green Party, where as a woman, you are liable to find yourself being referred to as a ‘non-man’, so terrifying is that ‘controversial’ word ‘woman’.
They have a leadership election coming up. They have the opportunity to choose between Shahrar Ali, who has expressed the heretical view that people ought to be able to talk about women’s rights…
….or this (apparently women who disagree with Womack are sh*t that won’t go away)
Fortunately for Green Party members, it’s an STV election, so you could for example vote for Shahrar Ali and a civilised debate *and* vote for an effective activist woman, such as Tina Rothery (Ali is a socialist/environmentalist activist of long standing too by the way, so vote for both of them!) and if there’s someone you really, really don’t want, you just put ‘RON’ which means ‘re-open nominations’ ie, ‘this candidate is not acceptable’.
There’s even the option, if you’re a ‘civilian’ who broadly supports the Green Party, of joining for a while (it costs £3 per month) voting for civilised debate (Ali) and a focus on actual environmental issues (Ali and Rothery), then scarpering before anyone discovers you’re one of those foul people who is a socialist, thinks sex exists, believes in freedom to debate, and even dares to say ‘woman’.
Which reader are you?
You might be one of those Labour Party people who are intent on getting rid of ‘the hard left’ or ‘far left’ – please bear in mind that our country is way off track from a global or historical perspective. Terms like left and right are not static and, according to most progressive politicians outside the UK people who supported Jeremy Corbyn here, and Bernie Sanders in the US, are actually democratic socialists, and therefore relatively moderate.
There will be those whose political and trade union experience and general common sense tell them that allowing a proper debate is the way to solve a conflict. To them I say, please speak your truth more loudly – the hurlers of abuse are absolutely drowning out common sense from both socialists and feminists in ‘progressive’ politics at the moment.
There will be Red and Green people who think that gender-critical women are being silly about trans people. Please find out what these ‘trans activists’ mean when they say ‘trans rights’ – they aren’t fighting for what you may think they are. They are fighting for a law change to ensure the right of any kind of male, at no notice whatsoever, to just say ‘I am a woman’ or even ‘I am non-binary’ (a term no-one has yet found any material or science-based definition for) and gain entry to women’s spaces and services for any reason or none, or just for a laugh.
There will be those who just think this is a horrible, transphobic article, and that everything people like me say is ‘hate speech’ and that we can’t possibly be socialists. To think that, you have to also think there is absolutely no truth in the idea that any male would abuse opportunities of access to vulnerable women and girls. To you I can only say – what planet are you living on?
There will also be those who think women bothering them about women’s issues is an annoying distraction, some sort of obsession that gets in the way of serious socialism. I think they, above all else, are the main reason that I, a socialist feminist, can’t put up with the Labour Party any more. You know what? Even the Communist Party of Great Britain are doing a better job of listening to a range of women’s opinions. This is an extensive and useful debate about what’s going on…
Personally, I’m not going to join any of those parties but I am going to go to FiLiA, where among the genuinely women-centred events and talks, we will meet Women Uniting – an all-party political group, formed to try and persuade the political world that sex matters, and that women matter, whatever their political hue.
But we’ll no doubt have to put up with a cluster of pottymouths ‘protesting the meeting’. No-one seems to mind women from left and right getting together to debate but apparently, allowing all the varieties of feminism is not acceptable to ‘the left’ in Plymouth ‘Antifa’ and CLP. If you’re in the area, try telling them what you think about people bullying women when they meet to debate. At best, they’ll tell you about something nasty someone reputedly said, offering it as proof that Women Uniting is yet another ‘far right hate group’. But don’t try to tell them that conferences are debating arenas, and that there’s no such thing as a conference in which only one opinion is allowed, because there is, as Labour will discover in September – the Blairites are in charge again, and you know what happens to people who express divergent opinions at Blairite conferences…
[The Red-Green image in the body of this article comes from London Green Left. Please read the article and comments. It’s very informative…
The image at the head of this article comes from an organisation now proscribed by the Labour Party, I forget which one. I wonder what they said wrong.]
…but (don’t forget) outside party politics, people *can* discuss their differences so if you’ve still got the party-political bug, here’s Shahrar Ali’s pitch – if you want to rescue socialism in the Labour Party, there will be ‘alternative’ meetings around conference in September. Look here for socialist news – or here for feminist news or if, like me, you’ve had it with party politics, please don’t give up with *politics*. There is much that can be done, in a comradely way, from out here.
List A: Things you can do without being a member of a political party
Set up and promote petitions
Go on demos
Organise political education and film nights
Write to your MP
Get up delegations to go and visit MPs for discussions
Write blogs, make videos and pod casts
Join an affiliated union and vote through policies they’ll support for you at party conference
Campaign for decent councillors and, come election time, parliamentary candidates
Go to hustings and question parliamentary candidates
Go to political meetings and lectures that interest you, *whoever* is organising them
Meet with the local branches of political parties, and tell them what you are doing and why
Talk to members of all parties without appearing to be ‘the enemy’
Get up campaign groups of your own from amongst your friends and colleagues, to campaign on topics that matter to you
Contact anyone – *anyone* who has an idea that interests you, and ask for a coffee and a chat
List B: Things you don’t have to do if you’re not a member of a political party
Sit through weekly or monthly meetings that go on for two hours or more even if no-one has anything constructive to say/do
Pay subs, only to receive endless appeals for cash anyway
Stand by policies you don’t really agree with
Try to support the party candidate, even if they are a parachuted-in disaster
Put up with abuse from partisan evangelists just because they are in the same party as you
Avoid being seen with, or being caught talking about, proscribed people and organisations, such as Ken Loach, Jeremy Corbyn, Julie Bindel, Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker, Chris Williamson, Julian Assange (yeah yeah, there are probably people there you don’t agree with but you know, if you’re not a party animal, you’re allowed to question/debate with/learn about *anyone you want to*.)
Give up on having any political influence when your party’s not in power
Spend whole days delivering leaflets that, as far as you can see, say nothing useful at all
But here’s the really good bit
You can do all the things on list A even if you *are* a member of a political party – it’s just that you don’t have to do list B, and are not *limited to* working with party members and/or within the limits of party policy if you understand that being kicked out isn’t the end of politics for you.
Don’t fret if you want to leave your political party, don’t fret if they’ve thrown you out or bullied you out, and don’t feel silenced if you’re still in, and they’ve told you what not to say. There is life – and politics enough to change our world – beyond the party meeting.
Solidarity to all the socialists, environmentalists, feminists and others who are worried about being ‘politically homeless’ – it’s a mirage! See you at conferences, on demos, in the pub, all over the place, doing politics. You are not politically homeless. The whole country is your home!
Please feel free to add more ideas in the comments.
All white people are racist; all men are sexist, racism and sexism are systems that can exist and oppress without the presence of a single person with racist or sexist intentions; sex is not biological but exists on a spectrum; saying you are not racist, sexist or homophobic is proof that you are; language can be literal violence, and some opinions must be silenced for the safety of others; denial of “gender identity” is killing people; a homeless woman in danger, or a mother in fear for her children, who says things have never been so bad needs to “check her privilege”; the wish to remedy disability, obesity or poor diet is hateful, and a sign that you do not allow the right of disabled people to exist…
I expect you agree with, or made an effort to agree with, quite a lot of that but I expect, somewhere in that highly virtuous and well-meaning paragraph, you had a ‘hang on a minute’ moment.
I have been reading a book that’s a wee bit off track for a socialist, near radical feminist such as myself, a book that recommends liberalism over revolutionary socialism at every turn and, I am aware, this will probably be the point where any self-identified Social Justice Warrior will stop reading my blog. On the other hand, if you are one of the many bemused socialists, revolutionary or otherwise, who have been avoiding certain topics in politics in recent years because they have become so immediately toxic that walking on egg-shells just isn’t enough to avoid the rows, this book is for you.
When does a theory become an ideology?
“Cynical Theories” by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay explores in detail how the rigid, cult-like tenets of Post Modern Critical Scholarship have got the left by the throat, and why the ‘Critical Theory’ doctrines make every disagreement into a disaster, and every debate into a passionate row, and what we might do about it.
When does an ideology become a cult?
Like most people, I have laughed at the claims of ‘political correctness’ over the years, and also on the other hand, scoffed at those statements that start ‘I’m not a racist but…’ like most people, I cheered on the gay liberation movement in its day, and the glorious summer of statue-demolishing and anti-racist education brought to us by BLM … but that is not nearly enough to satisfy your Social Justice Warrior. You must be 100% aligned with all the principles of identity politics, or you are a problem in their eyes, someone to ‘cancel’ at every opportunity.
How do you counteract a cult?
I first picked up a clue as to why this disease had so eaten away at the left from a Counterfire presentation a while back, that began to explain how Identity Politics sits in opposition to class-analysis but it didn’t go so far as to hand me a road-map. This book does, and I warmly recommend it to anyone who understands the need to re-unite the left, and who can see why we won’t do that while we have activists wedded to the power-grid that rigidly defines what many call the ‘oppression Olympics’, activists who will tell the most desperate, downtrodden citizen imaginable that, if he happens to be a white, cis-het male, then he is an oppressor, and he must bow to the every utterance of a citizen whose intersectional standpoint happens to be lower on the grid than his.
It is adherence to this power-grid view of oppression that (to give this week’s example) leads the CEO of Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre to decide that ‘re-educating’ women who feel the need of all-female company after a traumatic attack is a priority.
So – keep your radical and revolutionary views by all means, and argue with any pages in the book that are too softy-centry in their suggested solutions, but do read the book if you want to understand where all this vitriol, this screechy dogma and no-platforming and these claims of ‘literal violence’ when disagreed with stem from; if you want to understand all these ‘name and shame’, ‘withdraw the whip’, accusations of ‘hate speech’, this-and-that-o-phobia and attempts at show trials came from, and how to diffuse them; if you want to help us return to a world where it is possible to disagree on individual issues, to stand in comradely opposition, negotiate conflicts of rights, and still stand on the same picket line in the name of socialism and solidarity against the very real, class-based, property-and-money based oppression of neoliberalism, read this book.
There’s no such thing as a part-time activist when you have a predaTory government in power.
We set out for one of the most beautiful and peaceful parts of the country we could think of for our holidays, and within ten minutes of our arrival, we were outside the Town Hall, helping to defend the local ambulance service.
It really is mind-boggling how wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you are never far away from one or another of those cut-and-privatise-by stealth endeavours that have been hollowing out our public services for decades.
Our country is beautiful – enjoy your holidays if you can grab some but, fellow activists, but – vigilance! Never let up with the vigilance.
It’s just as well demos are fun and sociable. I have never met up with local folks as quickly as I did in Alston. Hands off Alston Moor’s Emergency Medical Team!
Criticisms of Helen Joyce’s book 1. Is it antisemitic? and 2. She didn’t say who dun it!
Conspiracy hunters have had a bad attack of not seeing the wood for the trees. It’s like this…
I was told in college that if you see an exam question that asks what caused something, it’s a trick question. When significant events change the world, there is rarely one single cause. There will be a series of potential causes, that flow together and can become a trend that seems like an unstoppable force. We know that, when we think about it but there are always many voices raised demanding to know who or what ‘did it’.
Helen Joyce, in her most excellent book demystifying the global struggle over ‘the sex and gender issue’, has demonstrated and analysed a horrific trend which has proved very difficult to halt. The book got rave reviews, and the ultimate accolade in current politics – accusations of antisemitism. The latter is supremely significant because when lazy political activists run out of arguments, cries of antisemitism are always the fall-back. (See advance disclaimer #1 at the end of this post.)
The only reality-based criticisms I have seen of Joyce’s book is that she didn’t say ‘who dun it’. Those looking for the names of the super-rich manipulators they could blame for all this were a bit disappointed. Joyce does give the names of three hugely wealthy donors to gender-identity projects, but doesn’t put all the blame on them.
That is because very few things are entirely down to one person, group or organisation. I know it’s annoying, but life just isn’t that tidy. Straightforward history A level questions generally start ‘What are the causes of…?’ or even ‘What are the main causes of…?’
And the reason for this blog post is that I think in the eager search for a huddle of billionaires to blame, many readers have actually missed Joyce’s clear demonstration of the main causes of the pernicious trend towards letting gender-identity ideology trump sex-based rights, and setting off flaming rows where ever the trend is opposed. The gender-identity mob have so far, successfully hidden behind ‘trans rights’ placards but when Joyce’s book climbed the bestsellers list, they saw she had blown their cover. That’s why they are shouting from the rooftops that Joyce is antisemitic.
The main causes of the ‘sex and gender’ conflict are patriarchy and male sexuality. Here’s how it works…
If you haven’t learned to see patriarchy at work, then you don’t know why feminism is needed. In a recent Labour Party meeting, I suggested including protection for women’s legal rights in a motion about trans rights. I agreed with the proposer of the motion that trans rights and women’s rights need not be mutually exclusive. Because so many people believe there is an inevitable conflict, I felt it would be wise to state support for both ideas, as laid down in the Labour Party manifesto, so we were absolutely clear that we needed to proceed according to good trade unionist, socialist practice, and find a way to frame both sets of rights that doesn’t bring them into conflict.
Angry counter-speakers told me my contribution was ‘unnecessary’ and ‘provocative’. The chair threw her neutrality in the bin and stated ‘I don’t need that protection!’ If those women ever find out why they were passionately shouting down their own legal rights, they will finally have recognised the pernicious influence of patriarchy. It makes everything that’s good for women look stroppy and unnecessary to the casual observer.
Patriarchy loves gender-identity ideology, and paints it as virtuous *because* it can be used to counter women’s rights. Going along with it gives you that warm feeling of swimming with the tide. It’s also very, very bad for women and girls.
In a patriarchal society, male sexuality is closely bound up with power, self-aggrandisement and the dark side of those things, which comes out as a sort of sexy submissiveness and faux victim behaviour. Because of those traits, there has always been a theme in male sexuality of cross-dressing, presenting as ‘drag queens’ and ‘pantomime dames’ who exhibit a ‘humour’ that consists of flirtatious misogyny. We all know this. Girls and women often react with bemusement but, as it is so eternally embedded in our culture, we just go ‘oh very well’.
I believe the main reason there is so much aggression towards Joyce’s book is that she includes a dispassionate history of males trying to present as women for a variety of strange reasons, and demonstrates how this characteristic fed the growing ‘transgender’ trend, and also how it added the wild-fire streak of misogyny and sex-based threats that run through all the ‘gender v sex’ and ‘trans rights’ campaigns.
I also believe that it is the aggressive and misogynistic demands of men like that (yeah, yeah, not all men – I know that) and the way our legal system automatically favours the aggressive male stance over the female, that has given the would-be gender-identity revolution its power.
That is why it has to be unravelled and understood before we can find a rational solution, with clear, legal protections for all concerned. It is clear to feminists that there are many victims of gender-identity ideology – lesbian, gay, autistic and traumatised children who have been confused and misdirected into blaming the shape of their bodies for their pain, trans-sexuals trying to live an unconflicted life (See advance disclaimer #2 below), lesbian and gay people who’ve seen their culture and services aggressively taken over by ‘queer’ people who demand to be seen as homosexual because they think they ‘really are’ the opposite sex, and the many, many women who are already victims of patriarchy – women in prisons, hostels, refuges and refugee centres, who desperately need the safety-net of women’s sex-based rights.
The fact that organisations like Stonewall were so oblivious to women’s needs that they decided calling for the complete erasure of sex-based rights was the quickest way through for trans rights is both proof that gender-identity ideology is built on patriarchal misogyny and a very clear demonstration of why that movement is so aggressive, so anti-women, and so prone to sex-based threats of violence. As Jeremy Corbyn’s former policy manager, Lachlan Stuart has demonstrated, there are many things we could do for trans people under the banner of ‘trans rights’ that do not conflict with women’s basic legal rights but, for some reason, he found it impossible to get organisations such as LGBT Labour to show any interest in those things – they just wanted – primarily and forcefully – to fight against women’s sex-based rights.
That, Your Honour, is demonstration enough that gender-identity ideology is misogyny at work.
[I have written two versions of the concluding paragraph – please pick the one that suits your politics]
The enemies of socialism and democracy are sexism, racism and classism. Those are notoriously the most powerful weapons of division used by capitalism (or if you think we’re really in a post-capitalist world, of ‘neoliberalism’). As a socialist, you have probably gone a fair way towards understanding racism and classism. To see the picture whole, you also need to understand sexism in its new and vicious form of gender-identity ideology. If you don’t understand it yet, please read Helen Joyce’s book. It’s by far the best analysis, and a very interesting read.
For concerned people who aren’t socialist
Most people know that we live in a sexist society. Many understand that that makes life very difficult for women and girls. This isn’t an isolated situation in one or two countries, or the result of a conspiracy by one or two billionaires. Gender-identity ideology, which seeks to make gender expression more important than biological sex is the latest and possibly most pernicious incarnation of sexism. If you don’t understand it yet, please read Helen Joyce’s book. It’s the best analysis I have seen so far, and a very interesting read.
Advance disclaimer #1: if someone says nasty things about Jewish people as a group, or deliberately hints at ‘Jewish conspiracies’ etc, they being are antisemitic. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the weaponisation of antisemitism accusations which is so often the last resort of political activists who have no logical argument for their policies.
Advance disclaimer #2: there are, and will be for as long as patriarchy rules, people who feel so utterly, painfully at odds with the gender-based requirements of the society around them that they change their bodies, their clothes and their names. They present, and attempt to live, as the opposite sex. Generally, when speaking frankly and confidentially, they know they are not really the opposite sex – they just feel more comfortable living that way. They are in no way culpable in any of this, they are no threat to women’s rights, and they deserve support and tolerance. Most feminists, because we know how pernicious patriarchy is, understand the pressures that brought those people to that situation, and do support and tolerate such people.
I have heard that too much lately, and usually as advice to women to leave certain contentious issues alone. It’s not working. What it’s doing (oooh call Prevent!) is pushing large numbers of women to the margins of culture and society. No, I am not exaggerating.
Anorexia and bulimia
You don’t hear much about them lately but when I was younger, eating disorders were a huge cause of suffering and illness to girls. Anorexia caught the girls who wanted to win, and bulimia caught the girls who needed comfort. Both tended to come with other ‘unhappiness’ issues, and/or drug or alcohol abuse. Both caused parents – mothers in particular, vast amounts of heart-ache. Both were tricky in that telling girls directly that they were harming themselves just did not help.
At least schools, doctors and social services understood that they were problem issues, and that we needed to try and rescue our girls from them.
This is an issue that is very much with us today and is often used by girls as a distractor or tension release, so like eating disorders, it would appear to be a symptom of some other horrible problem and, like eating disorders, there’s nothing to be gained by telling girls they shouldn’t do it.
But at least schools, doctors and what’s left of social services understand that it’s a problem issue, and that we need to try and rescue girls from it.
At least the BBC don’t keep going on about how fashionable and wonderful those behaviours are. At least public websites and social media pages extolling such behaviour would soon be challenged by an outraged society.
But what if those terrible things had been encouraged by the media? What if well-funded, respectable organisations peddled eating disorders as virtuous, liberating actions, or presented self-harm as self-medication, like medieval blood-letting or something? What if newspapers fashionably pornified them, what if schools not only let the girls get on with it but facilitated it, and censured parents who weren’t happy about it?
What would you do if I told you slick, well funded organisations were going into schools and teaching behaviours which justified and led to self-harms like that? What if I told you teachers were under incredible pressure to approve of and facilitate those behaviours? What if those worried parents were being led to believe they had to support their children’s actions, that they were duty bound to approve, to protect their children?
Yes, you know where this is going, don’t you?
Even gender-identity proselytes will agree that breast binding and requiring male pronouns are a sign a girl is unhappy with herself as she is. Do they also blithely accept that such behaviours lead to twilight enquiries after puberty blockers, hormones and mastectomies? Should we blithely accept that?
Can you see how those behaviours, like eating disorders and self-harm, are the presenting factor of a deeper issue that needs attention? Have you been there, and seen all the pain and conflict this is causing? Perhaps if you imagine yourself telling a worried parent that there’s nothing we can do about anorexia or self-harming right now, that they should choose their battles, and that you don’t want to get involved? Or imagine yourself advising carers to wink at FGM because it’s cultural? Do you see what’s wrong with this situation?
Sure, where’s the harm in them identifying as boys for a bit? I’ll tell you where it is.
You are re-enforcing the idea that only boys can behave how they want to behave.
Girls love to – need to – look the part – and that means breast binding, which limits breathing and movement, and so damages their health.
Breast-binding weakens breast tissue, and makes their breasts look odd, and girls hate looking odd, so then they think mastectomy is the only solution.
And to make sense of it all after that, they need puberty blockers, hormones, drugs you can’t get legitimately if you’re under 16 so…
If you have a position in council, in a political party or in a union, you CAN do something about this. If you have a role in culture, arts, media or education, you can do something. Wherever you are in life, if a woman tells you something terrible is happening to our girls, something that will lead them to serious harm, you can, and should, do something – even if it is only to tell that woman you appreciate how serious it is, and resolve to stop avoiding the topic for fear of offending someone or looking uncool.
Maybe if you were to find out a bit more about what’s happening…
I’m not asking everyone to be a hero. What we do need is for absolutely everyone to fight the deeply embedded idea that girls should look/talk/behave in a certain way. What I would like to hear, everywhere I go, is people saying that youngsters who don’t conform to gender are just fine as they are, and should not be harassed, teased, judged, pornified at every turn.
What we most urgently need to hear is people loudly and persistently defending the women who criticise gender expectations and gender-based theories.
Shut down the bullies and the liars. That is always everyone’s duty.