Categories
activism Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

2022: Sisters, the campaign starts here

“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?

Transgender woman India Willoughby demonstrates a not uncommon
attitude ‘TRA’s have to the more traditional transsexuals.

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…

Definition of gender identity. Very long, and based on a 'personal perception of a stereotypical assumption'
It’s very easy to get organisations to sign up to protecting
people’s ‘gender identity’, especially if there’s been no debate
to flag up the problems. It seems, on the surface, like a
very reasonable call to let people express themselves how
they wish – but what if such an agreement is a prelude to an
untestable category and a law-change?

The debate

ROUND ONE

“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?

TRA: Bigot!

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.

ROUND TWO

“There is no conflict between trans rights and women’s rights.”

FB meme: If you believe women discussing their rights goes against trans rights, then you have no choice but to accept trans rights are an infringement on women's rights.

ROUND THREE

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…

ROUND FOUR

“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:

Robin White writes: I have done little to alter my speaking voice, as it is something I rely on in my job as a barrister

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…

The famous artist birdy rose commentates on an exchange in which a woman is called hateful, then a man is accepted whilst saying the same things.
Tweets: one complains about 'shrill voices continue in my ears about biology'. Another offers to explain in his 'baritone'.

(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.

Are you ready to win the debate?

I suggest a subscription to The Radical Notion as a good way to start preparing yourself.

Here’s my own statement of the gender critical stance

Here’s my analysis of a recent attempt at debate on the telly

A note on pronouns

We’re going to win this!

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people
Categories
activism Politics Uncategorized women

The gender-critical stance: a review of the basics

***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’.

According to the Green Party, there are those who 'identify as' women and gender variants.
The Green Party is one of many organisations currently forcing applicants to ‘identify as’ this or that rather than just being a male or female human. Don’t accept it – complain!

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.

autistic girls often seem 'masculine' to those who don't get gender pressure and sexism.

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.

Allison Bailey 'affirming lesbian and gay kids as trans 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.

Trans people are not the problem. The ideas of ‘gender identity’ and ‘self-ID’ are the problem. They allow abusers in. If we sort ourselves by sex, ‘pretenders’ won’t stand a chance.

Misogyny

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).

AGP - autogynophilia - is the condition that creates the strident demand for validation.
Bullying stems from the AGP craving for ‘validation’.
Find out more from @kiriino_insouto

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…

Here is some great advice on how to have the conversation. It’s from a publication called Lesbian and Gay News. It’s a great resource for different views on sex and gender issues.

For the legal stuff, go to Sex Matters.

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.

Here’s a recent BBC interview, and my deconstruction of what we call ‘the gender woo’ (that is, being so far up the tree you can’t see the ground).

Here’s Mr Menno who will cheer up any gay men who are feeling battered by all this.

Here is the late, great, ‘Queen of the Terfs’ Magdalen Berns.

There are a lot of women walking around wearing badges proclaiming that they were ‘radicalised by Mumsnet’. If you’re not there already, it’s a great place to dip your toes in. A couple of examples:

And here are the ‘coming out’ banners and profile pics for your soc media accounts to wear on Sunday.

And here are some (now quite famous) gender-critical social media people, a few people who got it badly wrong (you can decide who is which) and some ideas and memes…

It takes a pretty bad policy to make Labour Party women support a Tory over an organisation supported by Labour shadow minister!

Here’s a critique of gender ideology from someone who’s been through some battles over this…

See @JamesEsses for details

And finally, a magic word you may need to practice…

Categories
Book reviews book shops

I know the date the world will end

Every generation, someone says that – and there are other favourite dramatic ideas that come round again and again. And when they do, people rally to them so eagerly. What is belief, that it can light such fires? Some get involved because they’re just longing to believe something. Some get involved because it’s such fun trying to shoot down a stupid idea (go on, admit it – are you one of the ones who clicked through to this blog to tell me I’m deluded, and that I do NOT know when the world will end?)

Most of us (I think) laugh at those ideas about illuminati and lizards and things but most of us have also, at one time or another fallen for ‘the myth of the day’. Perhaps it was the one about how leaving the EU would automatically make us rich and powerful, or the one about Jeremy Corbyn being anti-semitic, or the one about COVID being a government plot (or a Bill Gates plot). Or perhaps you reckon those are true, and some of the things I believe are red herrings. Please don’t worry about that – I know either of us could be right or wrong on some of them.

Are you sure the world is round?

Cover - the end of the world is flat by simon edge

Surely no-one would doubt that….. Surely? ……. What many of us are currently worried about is how quickly and efficiently those mad ideas spread, now we have social media, and that is why I’m recommending a Simon Edge novel today. He planned the book with one particular wild-idea effect in mind but he chose his own myth – that of the world being flat, and imagined how someone well placed to do so might spread the idea.

I asked Simon how he found out how it was done. He really appeared to have a startling amount of inside information. Turns out, he didn’t. He told me he’d looked at a series of the plague-like myths that had flown round the world, looked at the people who appeared to be behind them, and asked himself how he would go about such a project. Read this book! I think he’s right!

I asked which particular plague-like myths he had looked at. He replied…

Part of the power of social media is that it allows us to sort ourselves into self-selected bubbles where certain narratives dominate and, in some cases, go completely unchallenged.

During Brexit, the Leave campaign worked out they could use Facebook to target a particular anti-foreigner line to anyone they thought would be receptive. Remainers never even saw the ads – which meant the other side could get away with whatever false claims they wanted.

Twitter doesn’t permit that kind of covert operation, because all posts are available for everyone to see (unless you’re blocked). Nevertheless, it does organise people into echo chambers which can be immensely deceptive. If you support a certain party at an election and you spend a lot of time on Twitter, you can get a nasty shock when not everyone in the real world votes the same way as your bubble.

In those bubbles, misinformation and disinformation can spread like wildfire. The anti-vax movement has come out of nowhere, gaining extraordinary traction. My hunch is that it stems in large part from fear of needles: the entire conspiracy is a way of refusing the jab without admitting to the phobia.

Meanwhile two-thirds of Republicans still believe the November 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, despite zero evidence. That’s frightening: if they sincerely believe the election was rigged, which they genuinely do, it’s no wonder they’re angry and mutinous.

So those are three pretty major con tricks, but the one that drives me up the wall is the distortion of my own history. No, a transwoman didn’t throw the first brick at the Stonewall riots, because the person in question a) was a gay man and b) wasn’t even there until much later. This narrative has been deliberately created for political reasons, to make ‘LGBT’ seem like some natural grouping, rather than an invention of the past six years. Thanks in large part to social media, it has stuck fast.

– Simon Edge, author of The End of the World is Flat

You’re probably with Simon on some of those issues and not others – but either way, we all need to understand how the plague-ideas spread, and what the consequences can be.

The consequences of believing your own soc media bubble

My own favourite example of the blinding effect of social media is the recent battle for the top job at Unite. Looking on Facebook and Twitter, I was sure, like most of the people I knew (on Facebook and Twitter) that it was a battle between Howard Beckett and Steve Turner, and we were all worried about whether the vote would split between those two, and allow a third candidate, Gerard Coyne, to get the job. Well, we all know what happened. There were FOUR candidates. But one of those candidates wasn’t spending so much time battling for our social media likes. She was touring the country, talking to Unite members about their workplaces. Guess who blind-sided all of us, and won the top job!

Sharon Graham, GS of Unite

If you are one of those who *did* notice Sharon Graham, you will understand why those of us who *did* think sex matters had a good old laugh the day the social media hacks finally noticed us. On the left, one poor soul who thought the mysterious appearance of a journalist who wanted to talk about women – lesbians in particular – must have been nobbled by some kind of BBC Stazi. On the right, a bunch of his friends who thought we must have come out of nowhere. In their twitter-bubbles, they had actually convinced themselves that only ‘transphobes’ and conspiracy theorists knew, or cared, about why sex matters.

But battles over delusions started long before social media. Why else have we all heard of the Spanish Inquisition?

Let’s face it, we’ve learned to expect them

If you haven’t been involved in any of the battles of our generation, I think it’s really important to better understand how the rich and the powerful manipulate the public conversation, so please consider reading Edge’s novel, and join the conversation about how they happen, and how societies can find their way back to demanding evidenced truths.

If you have been involved in any of those battles, I think it’s really important that you get some relaxation, therapy and reassurance that you’re not mad. Edge’s novel will do that for you. Read it!

Cover - the end of the world is flat by simon edge

It’s also a seriously good laugh – especially Edge’s examples of what passes for conversation on Twitter. I really did hurt my ribs, reading those.

Buy The End of the World is Flat from Foyles

Categories
activism Book reviews book shops Politics Uncategorized women

Really useful feminism

Why we should all read Julie Bindel’s new book

I’ve been wondering why feminism grabbed me so much the second time I looked, but not the first.

I remember feminism going on around me when I was a teenager. I had a vague idea it involved a lot of arguments about whether you should shave your legs or not. A couple of decades later, my daughter told me she’d had the impression for years that she couldn’t be a feminist because she likes dressing up, cooking and being a mum.

In the 70s, I couldn’t do feminism because I didn’t like dungarees. In the 80s, I couldn’t afford the ‘power dressing’ and then in latter years, I thought I couldn’t be a feminist because my partner was a bloke, and because the ‘feminists’ I saw on telly all seemed to spend their time making pointlessly rude and embarrassingly flirtatious swipes at men. And anyway, those somewhat boring organisations like the Fawcett Society and Labour Women’s Network were constantly bashing on about whether female execs in London were earning enough tens of thousands more than me, yet.

And then Stonewall tried to get women’s legal rights repealed. A new kind of women’s campaign (new to me) came along. I was so angry, so involved, and so excited, talking to so many great women, helping to put together ideas for the Women’s Place UK manifesto, getting involved with the Women’s Liberation Conference, and to top it all, I’d discovered FiLiA, with its glorious weekend every year of women singing, women cooking, women dancing, running businesses, making friends, building communities and doing politics, women escaping and traveling the world as fugitives, then coming together at last, singing, cooking, dancing, making friends, running businesses, building communities and doing politics.

People ask why women get so ‘obsessed’ with the sex based rights campaign, why we never ‘come down off it’. Well you know, there’s more to it than that. For those of us who were relatively new to feminism, the women we met on the way told us about real feminism, and Woman’s Place, and all the other organisations the benighted like to call ‘anti-trans hate groups’ set women’s worlds on fire. It’s VERY exciting. (Apparently, last time around they called the women’s groups ‘anti-men hate groups’.)

Read Julie Bindel’s REALLY exciting new book, and discover proper feminism. As she explains, the stuff that went mainstream – liberal feminism, they call it, IS boring. Radical feminism isn’t feminism only more so, it’s the growing, sustaining root of feminism. In manifestation, it’s any aspect of feminism that’s not acceptable to the establishment.

We don’t want half the seats at the table,’ says Bindel, ‘we want to break the table.’

Feminism is about rescuing and standing with fugitives, it’s about learning and teaching, about fighting back, about community politics and addressing the problems that are so big mainstream politicians barely dare touch them.

Buy the book, go to FiLiA. Get angry, get serious, get excited. You can sing, dance, make friends, dress up and cook as you go if you want to. You can also make up your own mind as to whether you shave your legs or not. You decide, it doesn’t matter – but you might have some interesting conversations over coffee about why mainstream society thinks such things matter so much.

Just read the book, in fact read all her books, and her journalism. I am!

Video: Julie Bindel in conversation with Claire Horchan

The book…

Categories
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 Corbyn Labour media Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

That horrible anti-transgender campaign

It would appear that Jeremy Corbyn is the latest victim of the smoke-and-mirrors campaign. Why on earth would anyone be so mean as to campaign against transgender rights? The notion of a socialist doing so is especially absurd. No wonder people are angry!

Categories
activism Corbyn Hastings Labour Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

Right of reply

I don’t normally go in for this refutation lark but there is a thread on Facebook, on a personal but public page of a fellow member of our local Labour Party, which is getting sufficient attention that I think its worth saying my piece.