I have a great view of the pincers of sexism from here just now. When we talk about gender being oppression, we’re not just talking about different dress codes.
There have been ructions recently within feminism over women working with right wing organisations – particularly when trans-Atlantic link-ups have blurred people’s view, and led to some unsavoury alliances.
It’s one of the issues where I find myself sitting amidships – I have been encouraging cross-party discussions on several of the women’s campaigns because it’s so very obvious that women of all classes and world-views have issues in common, but we will not gain anything for women if we pass the initiative to people who are so far to the right that they want to “protect” women and girls from what those of us on the left know as liberation.
Meanwhile, those on the left who are opposed to the sex-based rights campaign will happily write off any women who, for example, get an article published in the Spectator or the Times (let alone the Telegraph or Daily Mail). They are the kind who automatically assume the views of a woman at the other end of the Labour Party’s left-right span can be discounted as ‘fascist tendencies’.
So here we are, trying to walk a subtle line, bringing as many women together as we can without running into those “too far right” thickets and then something else comes up that makes it ten times harder: working with right-wingers is beyond the pale but showing the slightest discomfort about working with socialists “just because” they are blatantly misogynist is an unforgivable failure of solidarity.
This is women caught in the pincers of sexism. This is what women mean when they talk of conflicting demands, of unachievable expectations. The most lethal weapon of sexism is gendered expectations. In this particular case, whichever way you look at it, the failure to produce a socialist revolution by next Tuesday can and will be blamed on feminists.
“This is the year our collective righteous bloody-minded refusal to shut the fuck up finally broke the impenetrable wall of ‘no debate’” – Jane Clare Jones on Twitter, 31st Dec 2021 Click here to read the whole message.
So we have won the right to have the debate. Now, we need to win the debate.
Let’s set the terms of the debate
Have sympathy for the young folks who were sold the repressive ideas of gender identity and ‘born in the wrong body’ misfits. Have a bit of respect for their ‘non-binary’ get out clause. We do need to (gently) explain to them that their instinct is right, but that it’s nothing to do with sex. Personally, I think the idea of a gender-neutral pronoun is a good one but not sure ‘they’ will stick, as it’s illogical in the setting of our (largely non-declining) language. If the grammar of your verb doesn’t tell you about case, gender, plurality and so on, you need words that do.
We have successfully reached the government over this, and they have laid down guidelines which, if parents and teachers keep pushing, will get the worst of the misleading ‘education’ out of schools. (Here’s the relevant directive, and an analysis by Transgender Trend of recent changes. )
Have sympathy for the people we used to call transsexuals, people like April Ashley. There aren’t many of them, you know – most are male, most are people who made a full medical and social transition, and attempted to go about their lives without interfering with anyone else’s rights, legal or otherwise. In 2004, they won the Gender Recognition Act – a messy bit of legislation, made by politicians who, if you look at Hansard, didn’t really know what they were talking about. They left some fluff in the works, but nothing that can’t be sorted out when the yelling finally dies down – it did at least solve the problem transsexuals had back then, before same-sex marriage was legal.
The GRA was followed by the Equalities Act 2010, which gave specific protective rights for transsexuals (under the exemption for ‘gender reassignment’) and for females and males as a sex class (under the exemption for ‘sex’). Again, there’s fluff – including lots of surrounding texts and directives with conflicting assumptions and definitions but you could be forgiven for thinking that that solved the big issues, and just left a bit of clearing up to do.
So what’s the problem?
The GRA was not good enough for a lobby of mature males attempting to muscle in on all things female. Mature males, manipulating the situation to change Equalities Law and societal practice to suit themselves, had no regard for the safety, well-being or self-respect of women and girls, let alone GRC-holding, integrated transwomen. That’s the issue.
It’s not all about males?
It’s true, there are females who want women’s rights dismantled in the belief it will help them ‘live as men’. I think they need to think again. Take prisons, for instance. There’s been a lot of noise about our legal system granting males identifying as women ‘the right to socialise with women’ in women’s prisons, but very little traffic in the opposite direction. This is because trans men hardly ever get placed in male prisons. It so very obviously isn’t safe. Your average sex-offender, in his male prison, simply is not going to say ‘oh look, there’s a person with a vagina but I’ll leave her alone because she says she’s a man’. It cannot, and does not, happen. Trans men, just as much as those of us who are happy to be women, are safer in a world where the law understands sex-based provision.
So: The debate so far
First, they touted the idea of ‘self-ID’. Some years ago, the public at large grasped that this was being used to ‘let in’ males who had not transitioned at all, and the public did not like it.
So they stopped talking about ‘self-ID’, and started talking about ‘gender Identity’, but we still weren’t allowed to actually debate it…
“I feel like a woman” “I was born in the wrong body”
TRA (Trans rights activist): I have the body of a male, but the mind of a female.
Feminist: but what do you mean when you say “I feel like a woman”? As a woman myself, I feel like someone whose life has been shaped by female biology – by female puberty and reproductive processes, by the danger of rape and the possibility or actuality of pregnancy and child-rearing, and by all the assumptions society makes about me because of that.
TRA: You can’t understand the feelings of another human. You must just accept that I feel like a woman.
Feminist: but if you can’t understand the feelings of another human, how can you possibly KNOW you feel like a woman?
Feminist: Look, I’m not intolerant. I’m not stopping you living your way. Dress how you want, call yourself what name you want, get a GRC and call yourself a woman if you must, but leave us the spaces and services we ourselves have fought for, to help women and girls get through all the consequences of female biology.
TRA: Shut up, transphobe.
“There is no conflict between trans rights and women’s rights.”
Dying like flies
TRA: but why are you obsessed with trans people? It’s men who harm women.
Feminist: yes, that’s why we are defending the Equalities Act provisions which are based on SEX. Men, you see, are a potential danger because they are MALE.
TRA: What about transwomen? Transwomen are more oppressed, and in more danger of violence and murder than any other group.
Feminist: how dreadful! Could you show us some evidence of that?
TRA: look, here we all are grieving on Trans Day of Remembrance.
Feminist: grieving for who?
TRA: Shut up, heartless terf.
(To be fair, it’s rarely trans people of any variety having these arguments. TRAs appear to be a small group of very noisy students and their even smaller group of older, mostly female, admirers, bulked out on Twitter by endless armies of semi-anonymous males who like being rude to women. Their apparent clout is down to the scurrilous actions of Stonewall and the many organisations who use Stonewall’s approval as a substitute for actual virtue).
After monthsnmonths of the kinds of conversations shown here, Stonewall gave up their #NoDebate position, and offered up CEO Nancy Kelly to talk it through on the radio. According to commentator Jane Harris, it went like this…
“We pass, therefore we are.” and “I wasn’t happy as a male, therefore didn’t benefit from ‘male privilege'”
Women have been making our case on blogs, in any magazines or papers that would take our work, for years. (Lo-o-o-o-ong years.) As have the other side, in separate articles. But it’s only really in the last few months that attempts at debate have appeared much in print. Where they do, the example in the Winter Special edition of Prospect magazine is typical. Under the title ‘gender wars’, “a lawyer and a philosopher respond to seven propositions”, transwoman Robin White and Kathleen Stock lay out their respective cases.
Stock explains that “humans are a sexually dimorphic species”, states that the idea we can “change sex” is a fiction (in law, it is what is known as a “legal fiction” since the GRA 2004). She also demonstrates understanding of, and sympathy for, those who do transition, as well as explaining the many reasons why sex matters.
White spends a large amount of the page-space listing all the things he’s done which he believes make him look like a woman, and presents this as the main reason he deserves to be treated as one. (NB most women do, and always have, accepted that, socially, and will use the pronouns and everything. That’s why most transgender women think they ‘pass’). Extraordinarily though, this professional arguer of cases, this lawyer, then presumably unwittingly gives one of the clearest examples I’ve seen of why women desperately need special provisions in law on the basis of sex:
Many women, through all too real life experience, can confirm the low status women’s voices have in the arena of the justice system. This assumption that women’s voices don’t count runs though many areas of life. Take, for example, the situation described above, where trans women have managed repeatedly to be heard stating their need to be moved into women’s prisons. Bizarrely, although it’s recognised that trans men would not be safe in men’s prisons, women in women’s prisons are just assumed to be able to put up with the presence of male sex-offenders. The doubts and fears of female prisoners simply have not been heard where it counts.
James Max gets irritated by women being audible…
(These conversations are among those that appeared in response to James Max’s extraordinary brush with Posie Parker, analysed here by Clive Simpson )
We are winning the debate
Don’t stop now!
We are winning the debate, but it has only just started. Please keep talking to everyone, keep writing those emails, keep going to those conferences and demos – we do need to win it, because our children need rescuing from the ‘gender identity’ smoke and mirrors, and because mature males who’ve scented a potential advantage won’t let go of it easily.
We’ve won the right to have a debate. It’s looking good so far but it’s a long way from over. Stay patient, stay polite. There are people out there who still haven’t grasped the basics. They would appear to include a lot of our politicians so hone your arguments, and get ready to win the debate. It’s not just about explaining how, in our sexist, porn-soaked society, unregulated male access is so dangerous for women and girls. It’s also about communicating the wider human context – that every human society, everywhere, liberated or otherwise, has always allowed some kind of ‘women’s place’ within its structure (as far as we can see, those ‘third genders’ that were touted around for a while did not have access to women’s spaces – they were just excused male warrior rites, probably because they were gay). And for the women who have let all this float past them, it’s about explaining the value of women’s groups, women’s politics, women’s sports and all the rest of what we created for ourselves, through a hundred years and more of campaigning, about how all those things demonstrate to our girls that they don’t have to pretend to be men, or reject sex altogether, in order to get some kind of a grip on life.
Like the vast majority of people, I used to politely use whatever pronouns people wanted me to use. That goes right back to my teens in the 1970s, when I knew gay people, and camp entertainers, who were male, but liked to be called ‘she’. Why would one not go along with it?
As to me, I don’t claim ownership of any pronouns but I do have preferred adverbs. If you are describing my actions, I require that you use the adverbs ‘gracefully’ and ‘intelligently’. Not using them in relation to my actions is really rude. It’s denying me validation. It’s denying my personal vision of how I am.
Yes, it really is that cheeky, telling people what words to use when they talk *about* you. Telling people how you want to be addressed is one thing but instructing them on which words to use when talking about you is a particularly overt kind of bullying.
it also lays *you* open to bullying. If you put your faith and your confidence in others speaking about you the way you want them to, you are handing them a weapon to hurt you with. School kids sense this, and they use it.
Like many people, I’ve been pondering this ever since I realised how the ‘transwomen are women’ campaign constantly shifts its ground, pursuing any form of words women find that allow them to talk about sex, and declaring those forms transphobic.
That is a deliberate sabotage tactic, and requires a response. By all means, let’s call people what they want socially, when we’re talking *to* them but when we’re trying to debate, particularly when we’re trying to talk about sex based rights, I am going to use pronouns according to what sex I perceive people to be. It’s the only way to talk clearly, and is therefore necessary. It’s also our right, under several clauses in Human Rights law, and was newly confirmed in 2021 both by the Forstater case and the Harry Miller case.
I used to think I lived in a free country – born in the UK in the 1960s, it was a long time before I questioned the idea. Even when I discovered it wasn’t entirely true, I was still aware that as countries went, our country in the 20th century was relatively good on freedom of expression and freedom of speech.
My but it’s changed, and not in a good way. Politically, we now have pressures on our freedoms from both right and left, each in their own way, and for their own reasons. Can you tell which is which? Do you judge both varieties in the same way? You might like to test your attitude to one or two of these: (or skip straight on to ‘a failed workshop’ below, if you already know what I mean).
The first thing is to see that we are – understandably – very confused. Three examples from my direct experience…
A failed workshop
Long ago, before covid, I was at a literary festival (no wait – let me think – this matters – it was 12 years ago) I ran a workshop on freedom of expression. I did it because I’d recently published a book which I thought might be controversial. It was about child abuse, and incest, and other nasty things – but the arena in which these things played out was a small-town Christian community so when we published, I was kind of waiting for complaints.
I got complaints. What surprised me was that they weren’t about religion. They were accusing the writer of appropriation because she had a main character who was lesbian. It was only a handful of complaints, and every single one backed off when I said to them ‘do you know the author? Why do you think she’s not a lesbian?’
So, I figured, the complaints were ideological so, when I was asked to set up a series of festival workshops on issues relevant to writers, I decided I wanted to know what writers thought they could or couldn’t express. I set out to explore our writing and publishing world in search of taboos, and find out what the workshoppers thought could not be set down in print. The workshop was a flop. None of the attendees could think of any taboos. They were utterly sure that artists of all varieties could and should say anything they want to. I had to prompt them to get a grudging agreement that you probably shouldn’t name living characters and slander them.
I admit I concluded they mostly weren’t professional writers or else they weren’t being honest, but just think how different that workshop would be in 2021. The complainers about that probably-not-a-lesbian author were a small minority on the other end of email exchanges, no-doubt forerunners of the post-modernist tide demanding ‘authenticity’.
I think attempting authenticity is a good idea when, for example, a film director looks for black people to play black parts, disabled people to play disabled parts and so on – but to say that authors are only allowed to write about people like them – that fiction authors are only allowed to use their real life standpoint – is a step too far for me. As Ursula le Guin put it, ‘it’s fiction. We make stuff up.’
A Mantel Piece
In Hilary Mantel’s collection of her journalistic writings, she includes an essay on the censorship she experienced around her when living in Jeddah. Writing in 1989, she is explaining the concept of censorship, on behalf of a UK readership whom she assumes have not heard of such things. She gives examples: my favourite was the scouring of the recipes on the back of packets of imported sauce mixes, in order to strike out (and I quote) ‘that dreadful word, “pork”’. Mantel explains that
…you cannot abolish the concept of pork from the world, but if you are assiduous you can unsay the word; if your felt tips are busy enough, and numerous enough, you can take away its name and thus gradually take away its substance, leaving it a queasy, nameless concept washing around in the minds of unbelievers, a meat which will gradually lose its existence because there is no way to talk about it.
Does that situation sound familiar to you at all? She then moves on to talk about the UK’s reaction to the Rushdie affair. In case you’re not old enough to know, the Ayatollah of Iran condemned a book Rushdie wrote, called The Satanic Verses – in fact, he went so far as to condemn Rushdie himself, calling a fatwa against both Rushdie and his publishers.
Mantel observes that some authors and commentators in the UK responded by asking whether the book was, in fact, bad form in some way. Mantel comments, ‘politeness may be the ruin of the West’. She serves up a typically English (ie, devastatingly polite) verdict on those in the UK who ‘cast doubt on Rushdie’s integrity’ or called for ‘the withdrawal of the book’.
‘Perhaps,’ she writes, ‘it is understandable that the authors of children’s books and light social comedies should decline to defend The Satanic Verses. Their freedom of expression is not at issue.’
I cheer on Mantel’s view here. The authors she describes are an example of the ‘sheep’ of our society. Rather like the attendees of that workshop I ran, they probably don’t even tell themselves about self-censorship, so can’t possibly tell anyone else. In more recent years, in publishing particularly, we have seen what I consider to be an extremely craven backing away from any colleague who has been accused of anything that people seem to fear might ‘rub off’. The consequence is the enabling of mass bullying, which those authors appear to manage not to notice.
In recent years many women, particularly if they’ve been active in the trade union movement or party politics, have had much to say on the pressures being applied over how people talk about sex and gender. I for one have expended a lot of energy defending the vocabulary women need to describe our political and social experience, and to maintain safeguarding boundaries. Our statements on the topic are often met with determined efforts at making us stop it.
I did suggest to my sisters at one point that perhaps we should concede the whole pronoun thing – I’ve always been of the opinion that a gender-neutral pronoun would be a useful addition to our language – I suggested it because I thought it was more important that we get ‘female’ and ‘woman’, and the language of childbirth clear. (Not just because of the women’s rights v trans rights debate but it really is still very hard for people like midwives and doulas to converse on social media, because of the tendency of the sites to assume naming women’s body parts can only equal pornography).
But I have changed my mind. ‘Misgendering’ is being treated as though it was a crime. It has taken several court cases to assert that using ‘wrong’ pronouns is not a crime. (See Maya Forstater and Harry Miller ) The assumption that we are morally obliged to apply people’s required pronouns when talking about them is a whole lot different to politely referring to people according to their wishes when talking to them. The latter is often useful and usually harmless. The former is accepting censorship.
Fortunately, I believe, the refusal of ‘required pronouns’ has been more widespread amongst the young than many suppose. A recent survey reported in ‘Prospect’ magazine (‘Gen Z explained’ in winter special 2022) states that 75% of ‘Gen Z’ respondents would agree to a designated pronoun for someone – but these are university students. I’d put it at less than half if taking a sample from secondary school students I’ve mixed with lately.
I’m less concerned about that though, now we’ve established it is NOT a matter for criminal law – I will make my own decisions when presented with pronoun requirements, because I know can. We still need to push back against workplace and judicial bullying on the issue, though. Women in prison can find themselves punished for ‘misgendering’, and that report about ‘Gen Z’ somehow managed to have a whole section on attitudes to gender, identity and sexuality without using the word ‘sex’. It suggests to me that ‘sex’ has become a ‘queasy, nameless concept’ for the report’s authors (see ‘pork’ above). It suggests serious bullying has led to serious self-censorship.
Authoritarianism, bigotry and bullies
I reject censorship and compelled speech, especially when enforced by police officers and employers because it’s directly against our beleaguered human rights. I spoke to a woman recently who is considered one of the ‘extremists’ in the women’s rights v trans rights situation. What makes her ‘extreme’ is her practice of calling a male a male, however they ‘identify’. Speaking to her, I found her view both reasonable and useful. Many women struggle with the current constraints, especially if they have been abused, or need to express safeguarding concerns about a sex-related issue. This ‘extremist’ woman told me she had seen such relief on the faces of women hearing her forthright words. They needed a model of someone calmly and unwaveringly expressing what they could see but not say. She considers her stance far from extreme, she considers it a kindness and a necessity.
I think she’s absolutely right and, as long as no-one starts laying down the law about such situations, your decision about words you say is just fine, whatever it is. I suggest being diplomatic when it seems right to you, and being forthright when you see a need.
I reject ‘cancel culture’. I consider it anti-fa gone mad. Young people have picked up on the techniques their elders have used to contain genuinely violent fascist movements, and a noisy minority are adding rowdy bully-tactics to boycott actions such as were applied so successfully against apartheid South Africa, in attempts to put a stop to anything they happen to disagree with.
The inability to accept others having meetings, giving lectures or writing books you disagree with is called ‘bigotry’. I don’t know where this idea got turned on its head but bigotry means intolerance of others’ views. Those militant youngsters and their refuse-to-grow-up grey-haired apologists are bigots, and bigotry leads to bullying.
Decency and respect
I think the vital point which gets missed, as our country sinks into ever more authoritarian attitudes, is that you don’t need laws, or rules, or bullies, to maintain decent social behaviour. As an editor and a publisher, I was a ferocious defender of the author’s right to lay down whatever words and ideas they needed to but I would from time to time go back to authors and question what I considered to be unnecessary or harmful passages.
I abhorred a large proportion of what I saw on telly when I was a kid, because, long before I had the vocabulary to express the idea, I found both news and entertainment were regularly racist, sexist, classist and gratuitously violent and sensational. Many of the things I abhorred are now actually removed from viewing schedules, because decency has prevailed. At least I thought it had. I hope it was decency, because if it was enforced censorship, I disapprove. I refer you to Eveline Beatrice Hall: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
A decent society does not encourage gratuitous vulgarity and abusiveness, nor does it allow vulnerable minorities to become scapegoats or the habitual butt of jokes. We should be sensitive to how our national conversations are going. I actually left out a line in one of my quotes from Hilary Mantel above because I thought, on its own, published in 2021 as opposed to when she wrote her piece, it would look unnecessarily critical of Muslim culture as a whole. There is a nasty tendency for that in our society at the moment, therefore decency requires avoiding anything that appears to support that tendency unless that something is 100% accurate and necessary. (Please pay attention – I’m NOT saying Mantel said anything wrong. Don’t think of ‘cancelling’ her!)
You can’t easily made decisions like those I make as an editor in an authoritarian country full of bullies. That’s why defending freedom of expression is vital.
Now, if you don’t know why I’ve called this piece ‘Janice’s Goats’ but you were polite enough to read it anyway, this would be a great time for you to read Janice Turner’s article in the Times, 24th Dec 2021. Here’s a link.
Oh and one more thing…
Just in case I haven’t convinced you, neither official censorship nor mob-attempts at cancel culture work. Why is that…?
***Long read for the weekend*** for those thinking about Coming Out on the 19th
The core principle: sex and gender
There is ‘sex‘ – our species is naturally divided into male and female: not just us though. We are one type of the huge biological group called ‘mammals’. There has never been any doubt. Women and men, like cows and bulls, rams and ewes and all the rest of the mammals, come in those two distinct categories (‘intersex’ is a misnomer for disorders of sexual development (DSDs) which has been callously used to argue for ‘non-binary’ identities. DSDs USED TO cause confusion as to the sex of some babies. Those days are gone. Doctors do not guess. In almost all cases, they can immediately tell whether DSD babies are male or female. Human biology is binary.)
And then there is ‘gender’ confusingly, the word is often used when people mean ’sex’ but gender is a social thing. It’s a set of norms and expectations a society imposes on male and female people – men wear trousers, women cry more easily – stuff like that. We know that is not biology because the rules of gender are different at different times, and in different societies, and anyway, it’s easy to break the rules if your character is stronger than social influence. You can’t change your sex, though.. Sex has always been the same, everywhere.
If you believe that women and men should be allowed to dress, speak, behave and design their lives according to their own preferences and talents, rather than feel obliged by society’s gender rules, then you are gender critical. It’s not unusual. Nor is being ‘gender non-conforming’ (being a ‘butch’ woman for example, or a man who chooses what gender-norms designate as ‘women’s’ colours or styles). Unfortunately, for some years now, our schools and universities have been led astray by ‘queer theory’ under the ‘Q’ and ‘+’ bits of LGBTQ+. They teach young people that gender is innate, and that the road to liberation is not to reject gender rules but to reinforce them by developing and defending their supposed ‘gender identity’.
One of the reasons that people need a gender-critical ‘coming out day’ is that speaking out on a topic most people misunderstand is confusing, especially when so many organisations (such as the Green Party above) are using the language of gender ideology. There are still a lot of people who just don’t get what the sex-and-gender row is all about. They have been persuaded that gender-critical views are ‘anti-trans’. It’s hard to risk exposing yourself to a misunderstanding that entrenched – but you know, there are more gender-critical people than you might think.
The fact that biology is real and gender is imposed is the core principle of feminism. Many people are beginning to remember that, and many more older women never forgot it.
(The help and encouragement bit of this blog comes further down, under the heading ‘How to do it’. First, the nature of the problem…)
We need to challenge acceptance of queer theory’s gender-identity ideology, and the so-called ‘trans rights’ campaign that relies on it because…
1. Trans rights activists (TRAs) don’t get that it affects women
It’s a legal problem: Our legal rights are sex-based. The services, funding and political space that are available to women are protected by the sex exemption in the 2010 Equalities Act, one of the nine special provisions for those recognised as likely to be unfairly disadvantaged in society. There is also a provision there for ‘gender reassignment’ so trans people are also protected but, Stonewall and other grant-chasing organisations now have a much greater interest in trans people than they do in women because, currently, there is far more funding available for trans projects. That’s why, a few years ago now, Stonewall petitioned the government to end the ‘sex’ exemption, replacing it with ‘gender identity’, so that both exemptions would work for trans issues rather than one for trans and one for sex-based women’s issues. (That’s also why there are a lot of very angry feminists out there).
It’s also a status problem: Stonewall, Pride and other trans-funded organisations have been pushing for language changes that enable their change of emphasis – changes such as describing the ‘female gender’ as consisting of trans women and cis women – thus denigrating the female sex to a sub-set of women. There was also a large and surprisingly successful campaign to persuade people that ‘adult human female’ is a terrible thing to say. Not everyone is aware of the consequences of such vocabulary policing in the large scheme of things. Those who are aware are probably already campaigning to maintain the status of women. If you don’t see why it matters, talk to someone who knows a bit about developmental psychology about how all the words and phrases specific to women and girls are being denigrated or side-lined, and how that is likely to affect the self-esteem of girls growing up in a sexist society.
2. TRAs don’t get that it affects girls
One of our local councillors, who I had thought of as a reasonable person, laughed at me and used ageist jokes on Facebook to try and jolly me out of believing that much of the pressure to transition is coming from schools, that schools’ ‘equality training’ based on Stonewall’s campaign led children to base their belief in trans children on sex-stereotypes. The average teacher is very young these days, the teaching profession having become one most people very quickly start looking for ways to get promoted out of – and one of the results of that is that there is a desperate shortage in secondary schools of women who are old enough to have experienced the full malevolence of a sexist, ageist society. The parents don’t know the extent of the harm done to girls because the teachers don’t get it.
3. TRAs don’t get that it’s a bullying issue
Of course, some teachers do get it. I suspect there is no institution in the land that doesn’t have anyone who’s seen through the smoke and mirrors. And when people do finally see through it, they also become aware of the weight of the ideology that has captured education and most of the arts and media world. Speaking out takes courage, especially if you fear you’re going to be the only one. As one women I know put it, it’s hard to know what words exactly will work, when you’re ‘speaking into the void’. There is no one visible bully, there is no specific threat but the sense of doom is there.
The most likely consequence of speaking out is no worse than the embarrassed silence of a roomful of people trying to digest that you’ve just said something powerful and dangerous. For most people though, silence is bad enough. In some ways, an immediately visible bully would be less scary than the weight of a well-funded publicity campaign working against people trying to understand you.
4. TRAs don’t get that transition is a sham
It takes a while to understand that knowing you can’t really change sex is not the same as seeing trans people as ‘bad’. They are, as one transwomen put it to me, ‘gender refugees’. You can’t actually change sex, as Nancy Kelly, CEO of the main perpetrator, Stonewall, finally admitted when she was cornered in an interview on radio 4. You can only ‘change your sex characteristics’ that is, appearances. And it’s not a one-off job. Those who attempt it are signing up to be a lifetime medical case, requiring regular chemical, surgical, cosmetic and training treatments to keep up the camouflage – forever. Because it’s not a natural thing. It takes a lot of engineering to maintain.
That’s why transitioning used to be the preserve of menopausal males with good quality health insurance. They can afford it, they’ve had time to think it through, and have been adults long enough to understand why they want to. And it is a want, not a need. Transitioning is not the only way of dealing with the feeling that you’re at odds with the world and your body just doesn’t work for you. Younger and less well off transitioners have a terrible time trying to get all the treatments out of the health service in a timely manner.
That is the only part of the trans rights campaign that has evidenced legitimacy, and that we must all have sympathy with. Appearances are desperately important to the young. If you have led young people to transition, if you have not explained to them that there are other options, other ways of learning to be content in your own skin – if you’ve done that to your children – as in many cases we have, thanks to Stonewall’s ‘training’, then it is cruelty upon cruelty to then drag our feet over helping those young people either to desist or to transition as effectively as it is possible to do.
Instead, we persuade them transition is the only way, then abandon them to an over-stretched, underfunded health service. They suffer. Trans people already have protection under the Human Rights act, under the Equalities Act and via the GRA, but what is missing is health care. Where young people have been persuaded to transition, whether or not they continue to want to go through with it, the appropriate care and treatment must be there for them in a timely manner.
5. TRAs don’t get that gender-identity is a sham
But if the young people hankering for trans treatments are doing so because they are autistic or lesbian, and have been bullied into believing ‘trans is cool’ and it will save them from bullies, or if they are one of the many girls who are dysphoric due to abuse-trauma or a sense that being a woman is being a second class human, then somewhere down the line, they are going to realise that they don’t really have this gender-identity that transing is supposed to serve. They will see that they are on a never-ending road to a goal that won’t solve the problem anyway.
6. TRAs think it’s a no-brainer civil rights issue
Stonewall and all the other grant-farmers were very clever in that they hitched the ‘trans rights’ movement onto the back of gay lib, which most of us now agree was 100% right and necessary. The reason that was a brilliant trick was that the main focus of gay lib was combating Section 28, Thatcher’s declaration that schools must not ‘promote homosexuality’, so when we now say schools should not promote transitioning children, it sounds like ‘conversion therapy’. When you see through the trick, it becomes obvious that the opposite is true – ‘transing’ children is conversion therapy.
The false equivalence between this and gay lib allows trans activists to write off concerned parents as ‘far right religious bigots’. The reason this is all so misleading is that schools never did ‘promote’ homosexuality, they just helped children understand and accept it. There was never any danger of schools ‘selling’ homosexuality. It’s not like double glazing. You can’t sell it to people who it doesn’t come naturally to – and homosexuality *does* come naturally to a lot of people. But being ‘the other sex really’ just doesn’t.
People tend to think it does if they have a sexist attitude. A gentle, gay male child might seem ‘girly’, or a lesbian or autistic girl may seem ‘tomboyish’, but only if you think you know how boys and girls respectively ought to behave. That notion is deeply sexist, and more ingrained than people realise, now our children have the misfortune to be growing up in a deeply sexist, sex-obsessed, pornographic society. We need to rescue them from all that by challenging sexist society, and affirming children’s right to express themselves in any way that feels right, to experiment with different appearances and interests, not medicalise them to fit the appallingly extreme gender stereotypes that are forced upon them.
7. TRAs think ‘gender critical’ means ‘anti-trans’
They just don’t get that until the last ten years or so, those people who did choose to transition managed to get on with it without pretending that they really had changed sex, let alone demanding that everyone else, including our politicians and judiciary system, must also pretend. You can be gender-critical, and understand, empathise with and support trans people. I do. I get that they have found a personal, individual way of protecting themselves from sexism. That doesn’t mean they’ve magically changed sex. My trans friends do not demand that belief of me, and in social circles, I have no problem calling them what they like to be called.
That’s personal, individual and just fine. Caveat: you’ll feel quite exuberant when you finally speak out, and find yourself among gender-critical friends. You’ll find you have quite a lot of steam to let off, and you must do so. Holding back after you’ve been bullied or silenced is very unhealthy so great – get ranting! But please don’t be tempted into being rude to genuine, rational trans people. They have chosen a hard road, and have quite enough trouble with real transphobes (who are generally gung-ho wanna-be alpha-males). I respect my trans friends, as I respect anyone who is different to me, so long as they equally respect who I am. We can and must all do that.
Of course, there are some people who DO understand all the points above, but just feel an affinity with gender-identity theory because they like a philosophy that puts women down, and/or they like the opportunity to be rude to women. I think we can and should disregard those people.
… and then there are unresolved AGP people (but we’re not allowed to talk about that).
Gender critical coming-out day, 19th December
How to do it
You are probably worried about doing it alone, about finding yourself ‘speaking into the void’ at work or college or wherever – so first and foremost, have a good think about the people around you. Lots of people are gender-critical – or at least, ‘questioning’. Many are quietly trying to signal their concerns. Try to find some of those people and have an experimental chat with them first. Message a few seasoned ‘out’ feminists online.
You may be worried about running into difficulty with those who have authority over you – your bosses or others who can affect your education or livelihood. The ground is gradually clearing there. Make sure you do know your rights. Human Rights law covers freedom of expression and freedom of belief, so long as you aren’t rude or abusive to anyone (make sure you are not!) and the Forstater ruling this year confirmed that does include gender-critical beliefs. Be prepared to assure them that you aren’t ‘anti’ anyone, you just have your own views about gender and sexism.
Your organisation is probably having doubts already, at some level – they will know many organisations have pulled out of Stonewall’s ‘equality’ schemes in this last year. They may already have realised that Stonewall’s version of the rules is just plain wrong so now, if you say ‘I have a right to think this, I have not attacked anyone’, you have legal back-up, and if the boss doesn’t know it yet, they will soon find out. Just refer them to the Sex Matters website, or the legal case, which Fairplay for Women won, to have sex addressed properly in the census, or send some clips of the growing number of politicians who have pointed out the problems that have been occurring.
So, get some allies around you if you can, make sure you know the law, and don’t just dive in and shout at everyone. As the Coming Out Day campaign put it, come out ‘as much as you can as safely as you can’. Maybe choose a few people to speak to first – think it through, and go a step at a time. If you’re worried about your kids, or your livelihood, maybe see the 19th as the start of a longer, more careful journey – but make sure you decide upon, and take, the steps you can – you’ll feel so much better when you have friends you have discussed this with.
From here on, this is stuff to browse while you think it over…
For the women’s campaigns – well, there are loads now – do a search but here are a sample selection: For Labour Party women, LWD. For other women in politics and campaigning, especially Trades Union women, Womens Place UK. For sports, Girl Guiding and other specialist campaigns, Fairplay for Women. (they are also good on the legal stuff). For women in Scotland, Forwomen.Scot. All these groups, and many more have facebook pages where you can go and have a chat with like-minded people.
When I was younger, most people who weren’t on the fairly far right politically thought prisons were a safe place to put people who were a danger to others. Knowing that there are very few women who are seriously a danger to others, I went along to a meeting about prisons recently and discovered that whilst there are maybe 4 or 5 thousand women in prison in the UK, only perhaps a few dozen are seriously violent. So, the meeting asked, why do women get incarcerated? What does that do?
More on that here…
But another question I came away with was, who are these dangerous women? How does that happen? Well on the one hand, there are women who have been brought up in chaos and poverty, who have been victims of male violence, deceit and exploitation from the start, and who have eventually been pushed to a point where they fight back – with the force of a lifetimesworth of desperation. If you’ve a strong constitution, you can find out how that works by reading about Emma Humphreys.
More on that here…
Last week, my local women’s group invited a woman who used to work in the prison service to tell us more – and the more that she told us was profoundly shocking.
International drug smugglers
They are really bad people, aren’t they. They ought to go to prison for the longest time, shouldn’t they? Are you, like me, imagining oily men with expensive leather coats and hidden guns, driving to sleazy night clubs in long, low cars? Well, those guys are in the equation somewhere but the people who regularly get the 20-year sentences for that particular crime are usually women from Jamaica or certain African countries, whose children have been kidnapped, who have been beaten and threatened and told in no uncertain terms that if they complete a piece of business that involves a plane ride, their kids just might come out of the deal alive.
What would you do?
You remember that few dozen seriously dangerous women they have in prison? I wonder how many of them are lost, confused, desperate ‘international drug smugglers’ who will probably never see home or family again, and never know if their kids survived the failure of the piece of business.
Place of safety
The other thing I found quite shocking was the discovery that women who have been abused and exploited all their lives, women like Emma Humphreys, often go to great lengths to avoid being let out of prison because for them, for all its unpleasantness and frustrations, prison has been the only place they’ve ever felt safe from imminent attack.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of men’s prisons. Many of the inmates of men’s prisons are dangerously violent and the atmosphere is febrile and permanently close to violence. That’s why it seems doubly awful that violent men can now avoid the kinds of things that happen in men’s prisons – such as workshops to tackle sex-offending – by getting themselves moved into women’s prisons.
So – why are women in prison? First and foremost, women are in prison because poverty, deprivation and male violence corner them into desperate acts. Second, women are in prison because they commit crimes such as international drug smuggling, or defending themselves by attacking with kitchen knives, crimes that voters like to hear get long sentences. Politicians know this, but they also often like the short route to pleasing voters.
Please help to change this
How? Well, the first and easiest thing would be to help us tell more people why women are in prison. Another would be to join campaigns against poverty, deprivation and male violence.
In November 2021, the news hit Hastings that a group of refugees had drowned trying to cross the channel. It hit us hard, because being a southern coastal town, the victims of failed attempts tend to wash up on our shore. This has never been a problem we are able to ignore. Local reactions are varied as they are everywhere but on this occasion, as the news came out that those people had had a mobile, and had called both French and English authorities for help and been denied by both, anger rose.
Quite where that anger was directed depended on people’s knowledge and political position. Some feel that looking after refugees is our responsibility because our society, our government are as much to blame as any for the number of displaced people currently crossing Europe looking for safe haven. Some feel that the UK have done all they can, that money and housing are short, so we can’t help any more. Others feel that we have room, and we have housing, but we have a government that won’t allocate resources to match needs. Many more, regardless of their political stance, are unbearably distressed by the arrival of cold, wet, terrified people on our beaches, and want to help whatever the cost and whoever pays it.
I was particularly struck by one man’s comment that managed to cut down the middle of all those views. He said something along the lines of “if I was in their position I’d do the same, but how are we going to cope with them?”
That’s a discussable position, and a good starting point. But why is a middle-of-the-road, negotiable view of current events – any events – so rare? Why are we so ready to withdraw into opposing camps and shout about things, rather than trying to solve problems?
Party politics? Social media encouraging anonymous, irresponsible scatter-gun commenting? Shortage of money, housing and work making people defensive? I’d say yes, all those things but what we need are answers, and I suspect cross-cutting is one of them.
Did you, like me, immediately think ‘oh yes, that’s the difficult way of cutting wood’ – but I’ve just seen the term in an entirely different context. I have just started reading The WEIRDEST book…
In (very) brief, Henrich and his colleagues had a startling moment when they realised that almost all the psychology studies they were relying on for information about humans had used US university students as subjects for study, and they had precious little to go on as to whether there were other kinds of humans in other places who thought in different ways.
There follow 500-odd pages of ‘us and them’ discussions about different societies, about how our own society developed and why, and what the alternatives might be. One of those discussions hinges on a study of a people in New Guinea called the Ilahita, a society that, although broadly tribal, seemed unusually good at growing and assimilating in-comers without strife. The key point, the study found, was how the communities developed interdependence. Not the kind of interdependence that is vital for survival – our modern society has no shortage of that – witness the panic whenever supermarkets run out of anything, or the power goes off – we’re really useless at shifting for ourselves as individuals, however many cans of beans we have in the cellar. No, this is about social interdependence.
Ilahita communities were crosscut, in that every village was sub-divided into extended-family clans, but also into ritual-organising groups that cut across clan groups, and groups who worked together for other purposes that cut across *those*. It meant that people were used to being ‘the same’ as another person on one issue, but ‘different’ on another. As a result, they had no problems with the idea of adopting non-blood relatives, or integrating new people into a community when they needed to.
The idea struck a chord, and I remembered reading Always Coming Home – It’s an epic by Ursula le Guin, whose speciality was writing ‘what if’ books about different ways of living. In this particular book, she builds a detailed crosscut world, where people’s ‘kin’ allegiances were crosscut by membership of community ‘houses’ – and other group allegiances both distinguished and interwove them socially and emotionally.
Like many of us, I got deeply involved in politics during the last decade, feeling that the time had come to agitate for change. I joined first the Green Party and then, when Jeremy Corbyn offered a new way of going on, the Labour Party. The switch from one party to the other felt odd to me. I was aware of changed perspectives, and also of a change in who was rude to me, and who gave me house-room. I made a point of still trying to talk to, and work with, Green Party people, and was enthusiastic about the ‘Progressive Alliance’ for a while.
And then the ground moved. I was also involved with the women’s sex-based rights campaign, and was shocked to find that sizable elements in both the Green Party and the Labour Party had decided this was not acceptable and worse, they had decided being rude and destructive towards gender-critical women’s groups didn’t count as bad behaviour, because we were ‘the enemy’.
I stuck around in the Labour Party and then some other lefty groups for while, and tried to build bridges, talking to trade union people, to shadow cabinet MPs and other party members about how they had been blinded by the demonisation of the women’s groups, and talking to women about how our views of the politicians involved were becoming skewed and polarised. I thought about how (former?) comrades were completely unaware of how insulting and dismissive they were of my views on this issue, or how infuriating that was for me and, as a result, tried to think more about the affect my words had on others.
In February 2020, Woman’s Place UK ran a Women’s Liberation conference at UCL in London, to which over a thousand women came. I collaborated with a woman from the Green Party to present a workshop there about how to work on women’s issues within political parties. The women who came to that workshop, and worked together for the afternoon, included Conservatives, Lib Dem, Labour, Green Party and Communist Party members. They worked well together because we were all feminists and, as women, facing a lot of common issues.
The nature of that group was in itself liberating and I tried to bring that mood back to my other political groups. The trouble is, political parties are more or less the opposite of that Ilahita culture. It became too much of a strain for me in my local Labour Party, and I left and soon afterwards, I left the other lefty groups I was in, feeling suddenly aware of just how worn down I was by tribal disagreements and blindnesses – I still can’t decide whether that was sensible self-protection or a failure of nerve.
I still try to maintain the diversity of stance in the women’s groups I work with. When I find a woman backing away, thinking a group is too far this way or that way, I sympathise. There are always going to be people at the extreme ends of every opinion within a group, and it’s hard work being one of those people – but I don’t want them to leave, because it narrows the scope of the group and someone else finds themselves being ‘the extreme’.
I don’t think that would happen in a properly crosscut society.
There are so many current issues and behaviours that encourage polarisation. Brexit, responses to COVID (here’s an interesting take on that – I don’t agree with everything said in this article but there’s plenty worth thinking about ), the sex-based rights campaign and, of course, how we deal with refugees and other in-comers. But is it actually the issues that are divisive, or the way we approach difference? It’s well known, for example, that the damage wreaked by racism is much *lower* in areas with well-mixed communities, where people maintain allegiances to ‘their own kind’ but also manage to function in different aspects of the wider community.
I hope and trust that Hastings will resolve its differences over refugees because there are huge overlaps between the fishing community, the RNLI, the refugee support groups and the coastal-dwellers generally. At the moment, a minor altercation on the beach has become national news, and the national media are world champions at driving a wedge into a small dispute to make a big story – but I see that members of all those crosscut local groups are investigating, and trying to heal the division. Good for them.
Let’s mix it up some more, and get on with what needs doing. I place hope in the politicians I see around social media currently looking to be (or forced into being) independent MPs and councillors. That could be a disaster, a fracturing of power – but it could also be the beginning of people mixing it up more, and having complimentary allegiances that *work*.
If you’ve read this far, please join me in resolving to crosscut our lives more. Look at your communities, your allegiances, and your attitude to ‘others’. How can you broaden it, and learn some new angles? Also (I guiltily say to myself) look at who you think it’s okay to be rude to, and who you assume you have nothing to learn from, then look again, a different way. This is the call to adventure.
This week on the BBC, we saw a stand off by the two sides of the deepest and most harmful split I have ever seen in left politics, one that I am still waiting for many on the left to even acknowledge.
I believe that the resurgence of the establishment wing of the Labour Party re-establishes their inability to see what most people see – that we are once again faced with a Labour Party that can’t communicate with ordinary people. I also believe that the lines in the sand are not where they appear to be. All those lefty unpaid interns and academics who were brought into the limelight by Corbyn and MacDonnell a few years ago really do not count as ordinary. They were popular because they brought in ‘the new economics’ that we needed, to challenge the corporate stranglehold on our economy, but they were not ‘ordinary’ people so no, this dreadful split is not about left and right, but it IS about class.
The trendy left who had such a good time during the Corbyn movement era are every bit as off-key on this issue as the ‘centrists’ who are now in charge. It shows up painfully in the interview with Rosie Duffield and Ellie Mae O’Hagan, which many lefty commentators have automatically responded to by rushing to defend O’Hagan’s side of the debate.
Ellie Mae O’Hagan is a member of ‘CLASS’ but, as the average working class person does not get to expound their views on the telly, I think wherever she started from, she now belongs with the ‘trendy left’ rather than the working class. This would explain why she completely misses anything that could be understood by a class analysis of the point in question.
Rosie Duffield is also a maverick here. The perfect example of the misfit who by their very existence flags up hidden problems, Duffield rode to victory and became an MP (well-paid middle class professional by definition) on the wave of the Corbyn movement. When she says that before that, she was ‘just normal’ it is far more true than it is when most MPs say that. She can remember having an ordinary job that didn’t easily cover ordinary needs. I was among many who were underwhelmed by her in 2017 because she did not acknowledge the movement that carried her to victory, so one would expect to think of her as on the ‘establiishment’ side of the debate. It feels odd to be fighting her corner, but here’s the thing:
It all hinges on whether you’re willing to pretend you don’t know what the vast majority of people mean when they say ‘woman’, and if you follow the currently fashionable mantra that trans women are women (TWAW), or whether you are one of those who think sex matters, and real women – vulnerable, ordinary women, can suffer terribly if you sit in a well-protected, middle-class professional space, and pretend it doesn’t matter, that it’s all a case of applying good drawing room manners and being ‘nice’.
Duffield can see what her constituents experience, and therefore does not think that TWAW is sufficiently captivating as a progressive idea that she can forget what ordinary, unprivileged women go through when women’s spaces and services are inadequate.
Here’s the interview, with its groovy, trendy header quote and my comment and transcript below:
Let’s look at (my attempt to produce) a transcript, with some interpretations added, then I’ll say a bit more about why I think Duffield is the way she is.
The unasked and the unanswered
It’s not unusual to listen to TV interviews and hear yourself squeaking in frustration because the interviewees are not answering the questions asked but this is a particularly strange case because there is such a hammered-on script for the TWAW stance that I found I could hear the unasked questions O’Hagan was actually answering, so I am going to reproduce that conversation, and try to shine some light. At the end of this commentated transcript, I will say a bit about the situation we are in, and why mavericks like Duffield are appearing.
The video cuts in slightly oddly, but I think we can imagine how it starts. Interviewer: “… views that are expressed by Rosie that are held by many in society and yet they seem to be unacceptable to express, certainly in some forums – why?”
Ellie Mae O’Hagan: “Well the first thing to say is that the majority of women actually do support transgender rights and they do say that a trans woman is a woman and so actually it may be held by some in society but it’s not the majority view of women I think that’s the first thing to say.”
My response: The question O’Hagan actually answered was ‘do you think we should support people’s right to live and express themselves as they choose?’ O’Hagan is being extremely rude to Dufflield by assuming that Duffield’s opinion is that they should not. I suspect O’Hagan knows perfectly well that most of us, including Duffield, accept trans women as women socially, but she is stretching this to assume most of us accept them as women legally, which is what self-ID, and gender-identity theory, require, and what the ‘trans rights’ campaign is actually asking for. Duffield has not rejected trans women socially. I can’t believe that O’Hagan doesn’t know that, so why is she answering a different, unasked question? I suspect because neither published polls nor experience in the real world support the idea that a majority accept trans women as women legally. People like O’Hagan prefer to fudge the issue, and just make the social argument (which really is a ‘no brainer’ in most cases, and is covered by ‘be nice’).
The interviewer realises this, and tries to sort it out by asking: “But what about the definition of woman as by your biological sex rather than as by your preferred gender identity?”
O’Hagan answers: “You know I actually don’t know why some people are women and some people are men. No-one on this panel does and anyone who claims to know the answer to that question is a liar. All I care about is the principle of live and let live, and showing one another respect, and if a person says ‘yes I was born a man but I am a woman and this is how I live my life’, I want to respect that person as who they are because I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong and they are certainly not bothering me in any way so I think the ultimate important principle here that we should all share who want a free and accepting society is ‘live and let live’.”
My response: Although it was not asked, the question O’Hagan actually answered is ‘do you think it is dangerous to pretend we don’t know the physical difference between men and women?’ This is the key point because O’Hagan’s answer is that it is not dangerous to her. She is not a sportswoman, or a young girl in a badly managed, mixed school. She’s not likely to end up in prison, or a hostel, or insecure housing in a dodgy area, and her answer therefore is ‘I don’t care about women in those situations.’ That’s why I call her TWAW stance a luxury belief.
She has already negated her claim that she believes in ‘live and let live’ by dumping the fears of vulnerable women, in effect saying ‘live fashionably and let them take the hit’ and she has negated her claim to value ‘showing one another respect’ by telling Duffield to her face, and viewers by default, that they are liars.
Duffield then explains who the women are who are at risk: “if you are a woman who has been abused all of your life and ended up in prison you may not feel quite that liberal towards someone in a male body …. It’s usually working class women who haven’t necessarily had the best start in life or the best experience that are really worried about this, and are the ones that are having to deal with it, rather than politicians.”
O’Hagan retains her claim that “the majority of woman actually agree with me on this issue” She hasn’t answered the point at all, so I suppose we must take that as a re-iteration of ‘I don’t care about the women who are vulnerable.’ But the interviewer does stop her and press for a proper response, and Duffield manages to get in an important question – is she “talking about self-ID particularly?”
O’Hagan answers: “No, I’m talking about the broad, um, the broad principles of supporting people to change gender which they’re legally allowed to do.”
My response: so she does know she’s not really answering the issue Duffield has presented. She then busily talks over Duffield’s “so do I”, and pushes on before we get a chance to think about the difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’, which is the smokescreen she is using. She is now answering an imaginary question along the lines of ‘why is Duffield so old fashioned, when we are so progressive?’
Then she goes on to answer a second imaginary question … “So let me finish my point. Um, I think you know, we’ve seen other issues like um, abortion for example where, er people who oppose often use the most extreme er cases to argue against in principle against what are positions we could all agree with which is people should be respected for who they are, and actually when we’re saying that a small group of people should not be allowed to live as they are because other people might be upset about it well that is the very essence of discrimination and I don’t think that most of your viewers watching this would support that.”
My response: So O’Hagan has now re-imagined Duffield’s position completely and appeals directly to the viewers not to support people ‘being upset about’ an ‘extreme example’ – that is, ‘please forget about the very real and present danger to a vulnerable woman of being confined with a male sex offender’.
Can you imagine the horror of that situation? Because it is happening now, in our prisons. In the face of that, why should we do as she says? Because in her view, recognising a male as a male makes you a liar, even if he is a violent, in tact, male. In this situation, says O’Hagan, standing by your legal right to recognise sex as reality is ‘the essence of discrimination’.
She has now turned the law, and our lived experience, completely on their heads. If I was that interviewer, I would now ask O’Hagan if her trans friends would really thank her for persistently confusing them with self-IDed male sex offenders.
Duffield is asked if she agrees. She pulls the conversation back to the real point by saying: “I fundamentally disagree that we should impose male-bodied people on single sex spaces and if that’s called discrimination I think that ‘s really unfortunate. I think we need a conversation about…”
O’Hagan interrupts: “I’m really glad you said that because I think you’ve hit on exactly what the problem is there. So instead of saying, first of all there are transgender men which don’t seem to be part of this conversation, but what you’ve said there is ‘male bodied people’ and I want the viewers at home to really think about why it might be upsetting for a transgender woman who has suffered a lot – I have a few friends who are transgender women, who have had periods of their lives where they have not been able to leave the house because they are abused in the street and where the process of changing gender has been quite distressing and difficult and to go through all of that and to have somebody in public life who is a representative of the public and has a big public platform and a lot of responsibility to call them male bodied people, I think what is being communicated there is ‘I don’t accept and respect you for who you are, I am not interested in your journey’.”
My response: This is a baffling response by O’Hagan, but one I have seen many times. Duffield is talking about male-bodied people – that is, people whose only concession to ‘transition’ has been to say ‘I am a woman’. That is self-ID, and it is what is happening in prisons, and it is why Duffield and others are objecting. These self-ID males arrive in prison with all their bits, and a history of sexual violence, and cause dread, fear and danger. It seems to me very obvious that they are the people Duffield is talking about.
But O’Hagan’s answer doesn’t address this. In effect, she says: I have friends who have transitioned, who have taken every step available to them to leave the estate of men – they’ve had surgery, they’ve taken hormones, they have no history of sexual offending, and they will be very upset when I tell them you have called them male-bodied people.’
But Duffield did not say that. It is trendy lefties like O’Hagan here who are creating the fear and hatred her friends felt in the street, by pretending they have so many ‘anti-trans’ enemies. Thankfully, the interviewer interrupts at that point and says “Rosie, is that what you mean? And does Rosie have rights that she is also trying to protect here?”
Duffield replies: “51% of the population are physically female and have the right to at least debate or talk about whether people in a male body are allowed in single sex spaces without any debate or discussion.”
I say well done Duffield. If you cut through all the crap that went before, you have the key issue there in her final statement. Women currently have legal, sex-based rights that are being infringed by people who try to claim that sex does not exist, or is not evidencable. Women who have harder lives, who live in the real world, understand the dangers. Those women could answer O’Hagan’s point about why trans men are not mentioned in the context of prisons. They are not mentioned because trans men (who are female) are not queuing up to be admitted to male prisons, because they simply and obviously would not be safe there.
Why can’t MPs and celebrities see why so many women are rebelling over ‘TWAW’?
I wrote about Duffield once before, along with J K Rowling. Do you know what those two have in common? Something that comes before the somewhat overplayed rags-to-riches stories? If you don’t, here’s the story. They both started out in a sufficiently ordinary place that they can remember being truly vulnerable.
And here’s another clue. Afshan Arad is pretty much the only member of the cast of the Harry Potter movie who chose to stick up for J K Rowling, and the reason would appear to be that Arad understands all too well the fear and the danger women encounter, when there is no getting away from a violent male.
I once had an apparently useful conversation with John MacDonnell about this. He seemed genuinely concerned but men of the left, like the privileged, protected women who reach political circles, are not in the firing line on this, and can easily disregard the fear and the danger. I’m sorry to say that he’s lost it. On seeing this interview, he immediately took to twitter to join the charge of the blind, encouraging women to address this real, legal threat to their safety by ‘being nice’.
Women who are actually using their brains responded thusly…
That era when we thought ‘the many’ would take over party politics has passed. Very few MPs, left right or centre, are going to get this. They all live in protected space. The left has deserted working class and other vulnerable women. It’s up to the rest of us – ordinary women with no special privileges, those of us who have experienced, or have been near enough to imagine, the fear and the dread of ending up in a prison or hostel, facing a violent male. We must drop party factional politics and fight this on behalf of those women who are facing that fear and dread right now.
Imagine Neptunian people are your thing (I know, I know but just imagine… ). Imagine the Neptunian Support Group has been the centre of your life and activity for decades. Then one day, the Neptunian Support Group is offered a load of funding for promoting Plutonian welfare. I mean, Plutonians are nice and all that, but how are you going to react when the charity you volunteer for because of your love of Neptune says you must not do anything without mentioning Plutonians, then progresses into telling you that Neptunians don’t matter, and in a way don’t exist, and you must not mention them because to do so would be ‘Pluto exclusionary’.
It’s bizarre, isn’t it – in no time at all you’d be getting frustrated and saying quite rude things about Plutonians. What if you were then roundly told off for being ‘anti-Plutonian’ when you talk about Neptune? If you were sensible, you’d probably walk away from the not-very-Neptunian not-very-supportive-Support Group at that point and refocus your attention, maybe start another group for Neptunians. What if the former Neptunian Support Group then called your group an ‘anti-Plutonian hate group’, and started trashing anyone who had anything to do with your organisation?
I expect you’ll agree with me that that Neptunian Support Group has done real and lasting harm to both Neptunian and Plutonian welfare by turning what was a lot of good work by very committed people into a bitter war.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the powers that be were aiming to make all those people hate each other but no, it’s just money. It’s always money. For the last 30 years or so, there have been huge streams of funding available, usually coming from the USA, for Plutonians, so Neptunian charity and political organisations have been determined that Neptunians should shut up while they rake it in.
What if, as trusted, benevolent charities, several Neptunian Support organisations have been going into schools and recruitment organisations, teaching them to prioritise Plutonian needs over Neptunians? What if they even have quasi-academics arguing that Neptunians don’t really exist as a meaningful category, and extrapolating on this, have attempted to persuade the government to cancel Neptunian legal rights in favour of Plutonians’? What if their activist base is a bunch of angry kids who’ve been convinced Neptunians are their enemy?
It started out as ‘LGB’ – a grouping of people with same-sex orientation. Then more and more categories – categories that were *not* same-sex orientation were added – to grow the organisations? To attract more funding? Heaped on top of a series of bad decisions made since funding streams changed back in the late 20th century, Stonewall and other organisations have been neglecting and negating actual L G and B people, and yet have decreed that L G and B people should not go off and set up their own organisations.
The main reason Pride marches have hit the news for most of us in recent years has been amateur videos of incidents where members of LGB organisations have been hounded off marches for being ‘exclusionary’. Now, the Labour Party has joined in the trouble-making by making two extremely contradictory decisions.
They have recently accepted ‘Labour Trans Equality’ as a ‘Friends of Labour’ group, and then told ‘Lesbian Labour’ they cannot be Friends because there is already an LGBT+ group affiliated to the party, and ‘it is against the rules to establish new groups that might duplicate the work and status of existing groups’. So you can break away from the many-headed LGBT+ to set up an additional T group, but you can’t have one that’s only L, G or B? Looks like a clear case of discrimination against a protected characteristic to me. Oh my, here come *more* court cases….
The malais is spreading to the mistreatment of other protected characteristics. London has taken to putting apparently LGBT+ friendly road-crossings all over the place, causing people to complain that road crossings no longer look like road-crossings, and reps for disability groups say they are causing confusion and danger. Councillors are following the well-funded habit of being aggressive in ‘defence’ of LGBT+.
Fortunately for the UK, this situation will not last. Gay men have a good voice whatever their opinion.
And lesbian politics has always been a strong force within British feminism. Fortunately, no-one has ever known how to shut them up. One day, someone will ask why so many powerful organisations *try* to shut them up. Maybe someone should have asked that back at the start of the century, when Julie Bindel warned Ruth Hunt (CEO of Stonewall) that tacking the T onto LGB to court funding would cause conflict.
It’s a contentious thing, being a feminist. There are always plenty of vocal people wanting to loudly disapprove of you. Not least of the obstacles that need to be addressed is that of class. I read a story recently about a woman who told those less well off than herself to save money by cooking fish heads. The response was, “really? So who’s eating the rest of the fish?”
I have no idea if the story is true, or whether the feminist concerned deserved the jibe, but I do wonder whether it’s why some citizens of Hastings responded to suffragette meetings in their day by throwing fish heads at the women.
Ann Kramer’s book, Turbulent Spinsters, gets its title from a long-ago letter in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, giving that description of local votes-for-women activists. A bit different to this week, when that same paper gave their front page to an event by Kramer’s organisation, Women’s Voice…
Ann Kramer, chair of Women’s Voice, said: “What we’re protesting about, what we’re marching about, today is demanding an end to violence against women…”
These days of course, there are other issues that feminists get shouted at over. ‘Turbulent Spinsters’ – was that a fair description? Reading Kramer’s book, I discovered that a lot of the Hastings suffragettes were married and that, although there was a pretty dramatic incident of fire-raising, the finger of blame for it was pointed at that turbulent lot from Brighton.
There is though, plenty to tell about the local suffragettes, including the story of Muriel Matters, after whom our local council offices were named (with a fair degree of turbulence as a consequence). So whilst they weren’t, on the whole, spinsters, there was a fair bit of turbulence.
Thus, feminism down the ages always comes in for some colourful criticism. If you’d like to know what the suffragettes of Hastings and St Leonards really did get up to, and how the town responded, Ann Kramer’s book is for you. There are some quite dramatic surprises.