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Hastings Labour media Politics Uncategorized women

Anatomy of a witch hunt

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:

"In May I abstained from voting for Councillor [redacted] to be deputy mayor on grouns of conscience following her posting several social media posts that contained anti trans sentiment, as well as her refusal to accept the Equality Act as a valid document and her refusal to support the party policy on Self ID in conversation with myself."

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’.

It’s because…

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…

https://womansplaceuk.org/references-to-removal-of-single-sex-exemptions/

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…


https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2021/1746.html

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…

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1430569612748414977.html

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?

=========================

=========================

Further info:

The Labour Party Manifesto 2019, page 66

"nsure that the single-sex based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision." - 2019 manifesto, p66

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.

Categories
activism Labour Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

Solidarity? It’s out here!

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’.

By the way, on the left Red and Green used to be friends

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)

https://mobile.twitter.com/Obsolesence/status/1428267078860132353

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…

https://fb.watch/7wCSyheyIy/

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.

https://filia.org.uk/latest-news/2020/6/21/women-uniting

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.

Categories
activism Corbyn economics Election Labour Politics Uncategorized women

Dwellers on the threshold

List A: Things you can do without being a member of a political party

Set up and promote petitions

Go on demos

Organise 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!

Image by Lily Maynard https://lilymaynard.com/womens-liberation-2020-a-wpuk-conference/
https://www.counterfire.org/
https://filia.org.uk/
https://www.stopwar.org.uk/
https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-a-union
https://climatenetwork.org/
https://www.facebook.com/Keep-Our-NHS-Public-Hastings-Rother-106432804464520

Please feel free to add more ideas in the comments.

Categories
activism Book reviews Labour Politics prejudice women

On re-uniting the left

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.

‘Cynical Theories’ by Pluckrose & Lindsay

Mike Cushman on the slippery slope of tropes – One example of how the dictats of rigid Critical Theory are used, or not, according to who you want got out of your way.

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activism NHS Politics Unite

What I did on my holidays

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.

The demo at the Town Hall – Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, Saturday 7th August 2021

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.

Born in the NHS teeshirt

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!

More info at 999alstonmoor.com

Categories
activism Book reviews book shops Politics women

Does gender-identity = misogyny?

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.)

Click here to read Helen Joyce’s response to antisemitism claims

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.

‘Trans: when ideology meets reality’ currently at no 7 on the list

The main causes of the ‘sex and gender’ conflict are patriarchy and male sexuality. Here’s how it works…

Patriarchy

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.

Male sexuality

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.

Book signing at sexmatters.org

[I have written two versions of the concluding paragraph – please pick the one that suits your politics]

For socialists

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.

Categories
media Politics Uncategorized women

Everything is fine, nothing to see here!

“Do what you can”   “Choose your battles”

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.

Imagine….

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.

Self-harming

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.

  1. You are re-enforcing the idea that only boys can behave how they want to behave.
  2. Girls love to – need to – look the part – and that means breast binding, which limits breathing and movement, and so damages their health.
  3. 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.
  4. 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…

Kiera Bell’s story

A therapist’s story

The young woman’s burden by Janice Turner

Safe Schools Alliance

Transgender Trend

Sex Matters

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.

Categories
activism Corbyn Politics Uncategorized women

Who or what is coming home?

If football ‘comes home’, I have a question or two.

I think I have watched about two ‘proper’ football matches in my life. I really don’t do international level sport-as-a-spectator stuff. So I’m a bit worried about how you go about writing a blog about football.

It’s like this – it’s clear ‘football’ has changed. Even Craig Murray found himself unable to hate the England football supporters in London last week.

Does that mean it’s gone all middle class and respectable, like rugby? Not quite. There’s something else, isn’t there. Remember this….

…. I know, the anti-austerity movement was gaining ground before Corbyn, and I know there are those who hope and pray that the movement that for several years focused on Corbyn as Labour leader has gone forever but it hasn’t, and – well, we knew it would crop up again somewhere, somehow, and… I don’t know when it started re-forming around football. If you’re a fan, you probably do, but it’s good to feel that feeling again. The first time I personally noticed it in football was when Marcus Rashford spoke up for the kids the government was doing out of their school dinners, which led to loads of social media claims that he was making a better job as leader of the opposition than Starmer was (admittedly that’s a pretty low bar, but…)

Now, there’s definitely a feeling that whether football ‘comes home’ or not, the popular movement is back, with a new focus to keep it rolling. Now surely, surely that is a good thing…

Looks good.
Looks good!
Looks go-o-o-o-o-d!

But but but – FOOTBALL?

That’s great but – you know, I’m sure it’s well-meaning and if it works then great but – FOOTBALL?

This football?

the undisputed connection between football and VAWG

… even when you realise that, win or lose, a big football match leads to domestic and other sex-based violence? Okay, the football doesn’t cause it but for many, football evokes and provokes it. Did you notice, in Craig Murray’s comment up there, he was just fine until he was scared by a bunch of women enjoying themselves?

Do I worry unduly? – true, the fantastic coming together against the capitalist ‘superleague’ touts revived the nation’s battered ability to find solidarity after Corbyn but can football really escape from its violent, misogynistic, nationalistic, divisive cultural base? If I doubt it, it’s firstly because people keep telling me how many, many years it is since ‘England’ had a decent win. But – I remember this….

‘England’ is also a women’s team – but who cares?

Virtue signaling

That’s what I fear. is this really a movement for everyone? All those stories of loving, giving mothers and sisters helping on the way to footballers’ stardom puts me in mind of an incident at a book launch years ago. An author was waxing lyrical about his gratitude to his wife and various other women for the hournhours of work they’d put in to support the gestation of the book, when someone put their hand up and said, “if the book could never have happened without your wife’s research skills etc etc, she must have been doing that instead of furthering her own career, so why isn’t her name on the cover?”

…. so as a feminist I am very dubious about England as football ‘coming home’ to be the new people’s movement, not least because I worry that like so many lads-based cultures, their response to anything women may have to say about women’s legal standing in these turbulent times will be “just be kind…”. I can just see all these enthusiastic sporty types claiming that sexism and all its attendant cruelties are history – I hope they won’t, because they will probably at least have heard of sporty people like Martina Navratilova and Sharon Davies. and the Olympics are coming up and they must have noticed a problem there, surely – swimming caps? Breast-fed babies? Weight lifting? If they can ignore all that, they ain’t for me – and that ability to ignore, or instantly know best, on ‘women’s issues’ was for me and thousands of other women, one of the harbingers of the end of the Corbyn movement. Please gods, don’t let that happen again.

Oh and by the way – Scotland exists. Also Wales. But here’s hoping…

Categories
activism Housing Politics Uncategorized

How to be patriotic

I spent this morning at work in my garden. A very, very British thing to do, weekend gardening.

I spent this afternoon listening to Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Burgon talking about patriotism and national security. How quickly we forget what it was like when the good guys were getting to do all the big political speeches.

Patriotism is looking after the people and the land around you. Community work and environmental work, in other words. Oh and gardening, of course.

Security

National security is about dealing with the threats the people are facing. What threats are our people facing? Climate change, pandemic, global conflict – so build relationships across the globe to address global-scale problems, recognise that you can’t put a fence round one little island in the North Sea to stop viruses, extreme climate events or nuclear missiles at the border.

We need to stop UK companies selling chemicals and weapons to the countries creating the conflicts, causing the disasters, driving the refugee tides. What other threats do our people face? Shortage of housing, of wages, of food – so we need to build council houses, create jobs, pass laws making food a human right, and look at how we produce and price food. What else? Threats to our health service? so we need to re-instate and re-fund the NHS. Where will the money from all that come from? I know, says Jeremy Corbyn – let’s use the billions the current government are planning on putting into creating weapons to feed more wars.

Farewell to Prince Philip

Go on, give him a couple of minutes thought, or however long you generally spend on someone you’ve heard of, who’s died. Patriotism, and national security, depend on us recognising that no one person is more important than the others, but keeping faith with the rule that every single one does matter. Let us hope that the current generation of young royals will put the monarchy idea peacefully to bed now – maybe when their gran passes on.

Our job

Meantime, we – all of us – need most urgently to find out how to get control of the rest of the elite who are wrecking the world – the aristocracy, the billionaires, the privileged, public school set who think they own the country. Please put your mind to it, and help with finding the ways. It’ll take all of us – and it’s the most patriotic thing you could be doing with your time.

This seems to be playing in my head, so here it is – you’d better listen to it too.

Oh, and this….

Categories
activism media Politics women

Telanon

You don’t just not need the mainstream media – you need to liberate yourself from it. I focus here on one newspaper and one TV channel because they tend to be the last ones people give up – the ‘best of a bad bunch’, as it were.

Like many people (including you, probably, if you’re reading this) I worked this out gradually, over the course of a decade. I was ‘not watching TV much’ 20 years ago. I went from not buying mainstream papers much to not buying them at all around 15 years ago, when the Guardian went completely insane, obsessing first over how much the editor and all its obedient little reporters hated Julian Assange, and then they all went completely hysterical over how much they hated Russell Brand – just when he was providing a very efficient media-deconstruction service to young people, strangely enough.

Up till then, I was one of those who said “oh but they have some good writers, I don’t read the silly ones” – but during the Assange and Brand assaults, I noticed that the ‘good’ writers were, consistently, whilst being sensible and interesting, including some kind of bitchy side-swipe at the current scapegoats along the way, to keep in with the boss, I suppose. Drip, drip, drip, and we all subliminally half-believe Assange, Brand – Corbyn more recently – are dodgy. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it. It’s pathetic.

Most people think most people watch telly so that they know what most people know … but what if most people *aren’t* watching telly?

The mainstream media have a hysterical edge quite often now. They know their power is slipping. For example, when a confident, well connected writer gets into hot water with the Guardian and decides to walk, it’ll take her about 5 minutes to find her own online platform and gather in her loyal readership. She’s not lefty enough for me (and she’s not quite given up the Guardianista talk – see Russell Brand link above) but if she was one of your favourites, be assured, you don’t need to follow her to some other mainstream newspaper. Go find her own words, online. She’s worth more, her readers know, than any dying rag.

So, having become better informed, and with more time to do my own thing, since ‘hardly ever’ became never, I spent a few years being frustrated by people who kept doing ‘common sense’ at me, telling me the things they’d gleaned from the mainstream media, things they’d sensibly worked out by ‘reading between the lines’ of their papers, or watching BBC coverage ‘critically’. Yeah, some good stuff occasionally – and you may spot when it’s laced with misleading crap, but how do you spot what it’s missed out altogether?

I’m a socialist a feminist, and an environmentalist and an anti-racist so when the very obvious mass reaction to a well-cared for 99-year-old man dying in his bed was “why the f*ck can’t I watch my favourite telly program!” my first thought was well, I’m glad the fascist, sexist, tiger-shooting racist old so-and-so wasn’t the nation’s favourite after all – but my second thought was more sobering.

Are people really so stuck in their ritual BBC/ITV ogling? Are they only angry at the royalist propaganda because it interfered with their weekend viewing list? Jonathan Cook tells the tale, of the BBC being so inundated with indignation they put up (then hastily took down) a special, dedicated complaints page. It didn’t help.

Listen to the language of people who ‘don’t watch TV much’ – it’s remarkably similar to that of people who ‘don’t drink much’ or ‘don’t do drugs much’. So this is for people who are beginning to feel uncomfortable with their mainstream media habit, who are vacillating between a desire to give it up, and a clinging fear that people like Assange, Brand and Corbyn may really be a bit evil, and that they couldn’t have worked it out on their own.

Shouldn’t you rather be worrying what embarrassing daft ideas you are repeating because they were seeded into your news by the Beeb?

So many people are dithering on the boundaries now, feeling that they just can’t quite ‘give up’ this particular paper, or that particular program. Thing is, there is absolutely nothing to ‘give up’.  I may not know who won Bake Off, but I know far, far more fascinating things than I ever found out on the telly – including stuff about how to cook and what famous actors are up to – I am also more up-to-date with politics and current events than I used to be when I wasted the best part of an hour a day on BBC news.

You’re reading this blog online, are you not? That last program, or that long-loved writer who you flag up as your reason for occasionally dipping into TV or papers are also online. There’s hardly a journalist alive who doesn’t have a blog nowadays, and on their blogs, they are more themselves than they ever dare to be in the corporate papers. And any program aired on TV that’s worth its salt will also be available online somewhere. Even BBC news clips get passed around social media on the odd time they manage to say something interesting and important but, once you get used to looking wider, you’ll find there’s more and better coverage of most things being produced and published by better people on YouTube, on blogs on things like Patreon or Medium or – I don’t know what’s which, there’s so much to choose from and all you have to do is join a few social media pages that flag up indies, and take your pick.

Do yourself a favour – hang onto the best of what we learned in lockdown – let’s carry on finding our own stuff to read/watch/talk about in the pub. Until the pubs open, our mates are on zoom, but even after that, so are universities, political groups and specialists in anything we could possibly wish to learn about and discuss – and most of your favourite musicians and comedians, not to mention the world’s favourite classic movies – are all over YouTube. (If it’s your favourite alternative comedian you’re stuck on, think again – ask yourself why the telly’s hung onto Ian Hislop, but dropped Nish Kumar). Let’s keep, and build on, the new freedom. It’s telly-out-the-window time.