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Damn. Just go read it all.

Jane Clare Jones

Normally when I write I make jokes. But this morning I find I really don’t feel like joking about any of this right now. I finished working late yesterday afternoon to discover Graham Linehan telling me on Twitter that Twitter had announced a potential new policy that would lead to the ‘immediate silencing’ of my voice. And when I read the proposed policy I realised, with a wash of sudden cold shock, that he was right. Those of you who know me, know me. You know that I have dedicated my entire adult life to thinking about injustice, and to analysing how mechanisms of domination function to destroy the lives of vast numbers of people, because of their sex, or sexual orientation, or socio-economic class, or race. You know I’ve never bothered much with accumulating civic or financial power, because I think we live in a bankrupt neoliberal patriarchal white…

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Auntiewanda tries her best to explain patriarchy to a dude. Hilarity ensues…

The Twitter link.
The BBC News story link.

 

Good job on naming part of the problem, Dave (from the twitter thread).

 

 

One cannot identify into nor identify out of the class you’re in.  I’m curious as to how many more sexual assaults, in this case, and rapes of females in others it will take before we as a society can acknowledge that importance of grounding the distinctions of biological sex in empirical reality (human beings are generally sexually dimorphic).  Because, clearly, prioritizing the gender feelings of men over the safety and security of women is not acceptable.

My view is that gender is no more real than Victorian ectoplasm, or creationism.
It’s nothing more than an idea that some people hold, one that they are determined to press onto others.

And I think people don’t often enough understand that it exists to GROUP PEOPLE into CATEGORIES based on shared traits.
It’s right there in the root of the word.

Gender = group with shared traits

But people who push the concept of gender now try to make it be two opposing things at once, like a shoe they claim can fit on both feet at the same time.

If you ask them directly what it means, this is what you are told.

First they say gender is an individual, indefinable, intimately personal and subjective thing. It’s different for everybody, no-one is the same. My personal, bespoke, made to measure shoe.

And then, barely drawing breath, they tell me that it encircles an entire group and excludes another; a very distinct class, a group. One that must be recognised by its single communal name.

And when you ask, if it is unique and personal to you, then why am I in this class with you? What are our shared traits that make us a class, yet exclude those others? What is it you think you see in ME that is making you pull me into this idea you have of YOU?

They answer, we cannot tell you these traits we share, but you must stay in this class with us. And we must share the same name. Or, if you are one of the very, very few, you can leave and join that class over there. But we cannot tell you what their shared traits are too. You must decide, you are us or you are them, but there are no criteria we can tell you so that you know which is which. You will feel it inside you.

And this makes no sense. And you sense there is a lie here, a truth being hidden.

And you begin to notice that when they are unguarded, they let things slip. I knew from a child that I was a ….because I liked…..I always wanted to be a …..because I felt….because I wanted…

And the picture of what they really think the shared traits of these groups are begins to take shape, and you understand why most genderbelievers don’t want to answer directly. The things they liked, and felt, and wanted are all stereotypes. Expectations and rules and behaviours and fashions and feelings. And all of them attached, needlessly, to a very, very distinct group that really does have tangible shared traits. Attached to a biological SEX. And the word the genderbelievers are using to describe their gender; these wants and likes and rules and feelings, is also the word used for sex.

So you say, oh wow, I get it, I understand what you want, and you can have it! In fact, it’s ALL yours, all that stuff, I never really wanted it. Take the gender stuff, and like a metaphorical 6 inch heel, hot pink, patent leather spike stiletto, go ahead and put it on your own foot, I’ll be much more comfortable without it, in fact. Take the stuff, but please just detach it from my sex. Have it, but please, leave me the word for my sex, for my body, so we don’t confuse the two things, SEX and GENDER, any more. The shoe is all yours, not mine and good luck to you.

And they say, No way.

They need my foot too. It has to be squashed into that shoe alongside their own foot. My sex, my body, the thing I cannot change, squashed uncomfortably into that gender shoe, with their sex, their body, and both of us under the same name. The name that used to mean my sex. And we won’t talk about our sexes or our bodies any more, we’ll just talk about the single shoe that both our feet are crammed into.

So that’s gender, and that’s why I hate it, and all the lies and obfuscation around it. It’s a stupid, uncomfortable shoe that everyone would do better to throw in the bin, but which has instead become the thing that I am forced to wear if I am to have words to talk about my sex. It has become the thing I always hated that I am ordered to share with people with whom I have nothing in common. It hurts, I want my foot out of it, I can run better without it.

I want to be barefoot. The way I was born.

Barracker

  Found on Fair Play for Women, and wow if you ever needed a helpful guide to navigate the arguments that crop up with transactivists and their regressive buddies, this is it.

 

 

So, in light of this, I have a few very obvious and easy-to-explain questions that left-wing progressives need to ask themselves, on both a personal and political level. After all, one is not a socialist without class analysis and women are historically and currently the largest and most comprehensively oppressed class on the planet. Underneath each one, I’ll examine the potential answers.

 

1) Currently, you are holding these two beliefs in your mind at the same time: a) Anyone who self-defines as a woman IS a woman, and b) women are oppressed. Can you explain how women are oppressed?

Possible Answer a) “Women are oppressed because of their biology”.

But you just said that anyone who defines themselves as a woman is a woman. That removes biology from the equation. The women who you are calling transphobic bigots also believe that women are oppressed because of their biology, and that’s why they believe that self-definition is offensive and dangerous. The Equality Act also believes this and thinks it is so important that it is enshrined in law. This has got nothing to do with hating trans people or wanting to hold them back, it is purely about not wanting subjective feelings and beliefs taking precedence over scientific facts, ie not denying that woman is a biological fact.

Possible Answer b) women are oppressed because they are women.

Um, that’s not an actual answer. A 4-year-old child couldn’t get away with answering “a square is a square” if a teacher asked them what a square is. The only possible meaning that the statement “women are oppressed because they are women” can have is that the natural state of a woman is to be oppressed. To say this is to naturalise the notion that women exist to be oppressed, that it is our innate reason to be, and that to be a woman – to identify as a woman – is to accept this. Which leads us to…

 

2) If women are oppressed and woman is something you self-define as, doesn’t that mean that to self-define means to accept oppression?

Possible Answer: Um, no, because…

Exactly. There is no way around this glaringly obvious point. If women are oppressed and being a woman is a matter of self-identification, then this can only mean that women CHOOSE to be oppressed. Just like the misogynist term ‘cis’, meaning you agree with what gender says about you, self-identifying as a woman can only be a declaration that women accept oppression, accept being supposedly inferior, accept their lesser lot in life. And if we are led to believe that this is true, that this can only mean some very seriously offensive and dangerous things for women: a) if women don’t want to suffer oppression, do they have to self-identify as men? Even if this happened, it would still lead to a huge underclass of women who society and possibly even law deemed it right and natural to oppress – how it that progressive, and for whom is it progressive? and b) if women choose oppression, then there is no need to do anything about oppression. Oppressing women is the right thing to do – in fact, do they not actually need more oppression to support their self-identification?!

 

3) If one self-defines as a woman because you ‘feel’ like a woman, what does that actually mean if biology doesn’t  make you female?

Possible Answer: You feel like a female because you feel female.

Again, that’s circular thinking which isn’t any sort of answer. Women don’t feel female, they are female. If you don’t have female biology, then there is nothing for a person to base their ‘feelings’ of womanhood on except for gender stereotypes. Gender is a social construct designed to enforce and naturalise the idea that there is an innate human hierarchy with superior males at the top and inferior females at the bottom. To be a feminist is to reject gender stereotypes. To want even basic rights and equality is to reject them. To express any opinion is to reject them. To be involved in politics is to reject them.

To say that feeling female because of stereotypes is a legitimate truth, meanwhile, is to utterly uphold and legitimise them. There are no ifs or buts about this. Gender can’t be offensive, untrue and damaging when it comes to the gender pay gap, expecting all women to have children and denying them abortions, to #metoo and so much more, but empowering, true and progressive when it comes to biological males saying they are female because they feel more closely aligned to feminine stereotypes than masculine ones. It is disingenuous, not to mention pointless, of feminists and socialists to fight and condemn gender stereotypes UNLESS transwomen say they give them their gender identity and then they mystifyingly become not just accepting of those stereotypes but applaud them. Is this massive cognitive dissonance in not seeing the glaringly obvious dichotomy here? A deliberate, cynical political choice to jump on a trendy bandwagon? Or is that people aren’t genuine feminists and socialists and don’t really care about women?

 

4) What does self-definition actually mean?

Possible answer: self-definition means defining who you are, obviously.

Well, no, it’s not that obvious, actually. When you ARE something, you don’t need to define yourself as it. No-one self-defines as a human. No-one self-defines as alive. People with adequate vision don’t self-define as sighted. The very act of self-definition means to present yourself as something you are not. It is, bluntly put, to tell a lie and ask others to agree to pretend it is true. Believing that self-defining as a woman makes one a woman is magical thinking, it involves the suspension of logic, fact and critical reasoning, it is prioritising the subjectivity of the individual over objectivity – what happened to “religion is the opiate of the masses”, Comrades?! Or the masses themselves mattering more than the beliefs and feelings of the individual, for that matter? That is simply not Socialism in any recognisable form.

And if a biological male can self-identify as a woman, that leads to the next two obvious questions…

 

If you can self-identify as a woman, can you self-identify as anything? Black? Disabled? A different class? A different age? A different species, even?

Possible Answer: Of course not! Don’t be facetious and offensive!

Why is that facetious and offensive? Why is it perfectly acceptable to self-identify as a woman but not anything else? Why is that somehow more truthful – and more importantly, why is that not offensive when the others are? In Canada, where self-identification is a legal right, there are white men identifying as women of colour, and middle-aged men identifying as sexualised little girls (google ‘Stephonknee’ if you have a strong stomach). These men have positions of power and even inform the Canadian government on gender issues. Gender Dysphoria is not the only mental illness where people believe they are trapped in a wrong sort of body. It is in the same category of illness as Anorexia Nervosa and Body Dysmorphic Disorder – as well as transracialism, transablism, transspeciesism, etc. All of these are very real things that people suffer from, and there is zero real medical evidence to prove there is any factual, scientific truth to any of them. In fact, the more scientists understand about the human genome and neuroscience, the more we know that everyone is immutably sexed down to the cellular level, and that there is no such thing as brain sex in terms of anything other than being comprised of XX or XY cells, all disproving the idea that people ‘can’ somehow have a body that is ‘wrong’, or a different sexed brain to their body. Why must we agree that a male can self-ID as female but must not agree to tell a 5 stone anorexic that she is fat?

The answer is, of course, patriarchy. In our society, what men say *must* be true; truer still, that angry men must be appeased. Misogyny is so normalised, institutionalised and prevalent in every aspect of life that it is invisible so much of the time. We are all brainwashed from birth by the social construct of gender – the very thing that self-definition seeks to enshrine as truth over science – to see men as the default, the real human beings. Everything designated masculine is superior and right. Everything designated feminine is inferior and stupid. Women are seen, and treated, as existing to serve men, in every way possible, to be defined by men; their desires, their domestic needs, their necessary shitwork. Shitwork such as the myriad unpaid, thankless tasks undertaken by women that keep the Labour Party running, for example. Reducing women to a mere definition buys 100% into this highly offensive, wrong, misogynist, patriarchal thinking and acting: men are real, women aren’t. Women are whatever men say they are. The only way to believe that one can be a woman if you self-define as one is to think that a) women aren’t real in the way men are and b) that to be a woman is so demeaning, horrible and inferior that no-one would say they were one unless it was true. Both wholly misogynist beliefs.

The bottom line is that it is as offensive and unacceptable for a male to self-identify as a woman as it is for a white person to self-identify as black and an able-bodied person to self-identify as disabled. To make self-definition the actual definition of a woman is the active choice to deny the history and reasons for the oppression of women and the physical reality of being a woman.

 

6) What about self-identifying as men? Where is this in the debate? Why is the focus – yet again – only on transwomen?

Possible Answer: Because this is about women.

That’s not what I was asking. It is a perfectly reasonable question to ask. Why is all the political (and socio-cultural) focus on transwomen? Why the push to get more transwomen into politics but not transmen? When the media talks about transwomen, it is nearly always about a transwoman achieving something in politics, business and sport – and usually in positions supposedly designated women-only under the Equalities Act – whereas if transmen are even remembered at all, it is for being pregnant/having a baby. How curious that people talk about those born biologically male for their agency and achievements just like other biological males, and those born biologically female for their reproductive capacities just like other biological females…

The fact is, the focus on transwomen in a patriarchal society actually proves that people don’t genuinely see them as female, however much they say they do. The lack of interest in promoting transmen in a patriarchal society proves that no-one sees them as male or is particularly interested in appearing to do so – because if people truly believed transwomen were women and transmen were men, all the focus would be on transmen.

I would love to know if all the left-wing men supporting self-identification as women would also support self-identification as men. Would they give up places and spaces and right for them and agree that vaginas are as male as penises are? Somehow, I don’t think so. The fact that women are conversely expected to do all that and more for transwomen proves just how far we have to go in terms of any real equality.

 

7) If biology cannot be used to define women (and remember that trans activists insist that it mustn’t be, they refuse to accept even the idea that ‘woman’ can be both a self-definition AND biological, which they say is transphobic), then what is left to describe what a woman is?

Possible Answer: Whatever a woman says makes her a woman.

Really? I mean, apart from that being absolutely nonsensical, the implications of that are as horrific as they are irresponsible. There is nothing left to define women but gender stereotypes – the very things that exist to oppress us and which we have been fighting for so long. Every right we have fought for and won can be reversed if we change the meaning of woman from biological to gender stereotypes – and, indeed, if we must now accept that gender stereotypes hold any truth about what makes one a woman, then we should reverse all women’s rights in both personal and public life. As I said earlier, gender stereotyping cannot be simultaneously untrue and true when it suits you. If gender stereotypes are a truth that makes a biological male female, then they are truths that make biological females female too, obviously. If gender stereotypes are a truth that defines us even more than biology, then women must stop having jobs, money, the right to vote, the right to be out in public unaccompanied, the right to have any decision about their own reproduction or children, the rights to say no to any sexual activity and so much more. This is not hyperbole, this is what gender says is right and proper. This is the purpose gender was created for and this is how and why gender has allowed men to oppress women because of their biology for millennia. Gender is upheld not to empower males who prefer to wear dresses to trousers, but to keep women as the subhuman chattels of men. This is what feminists and all true progressives have been fighting for a long time: gender is a lie. It is the enemy. Not the women who correctly call it out for what it is, acting as modern-day Cassandras trying to get people to see that any collusion with the idea that gender contains truth is active participation in misogyny and patriarchy.

 

8) Why are so many women (and men) so worried about the implications of self-identification?

Possible Answer: Because they’re all conservative, narrow-minded, regressive right-wingers who are probably Christian fundamentalists to boot?

Thing is though, they’re not. I mean, even if you just look at comments on Twitter, you can see that nearly all the women expressing concern are Labour Party party members or at at least voters. Many others vote Liberal or Green, or are Marxists, Communists or Anarchists. Most are atheists or have no religious affiliation. These are the women who have fought for all the rights women currently have, or adhere to the type of feminism (Second Wave/Radical Feminism) that the women who fought for them did so because of that feminism. Equal Pay, domestic violence shelters, rape support, making rape illegal within marriage… the list goes on and on. These are the women who were at Greenham Common and the daughters of those women. These are the lesbians who were supporting gay men dying of AIDS in the 80s when everyone else shunned them, even medical staff. These are the women whose campaigning brought about the protections women so desperately need under the Equality Act. These are the women who made all-women shortlists a thing. These are the women who have been involved in just about every left-wing, progressive cause, march, campaign, etc., you can think of and more besides. These are women who have not just fought for their own rights, but the rights of everyone else. So you have to ask yourself why these huge numbers of women from every possible background, left-wing women who support all the causes you do, who’ve done more campaigning than most people reading this, so many of them lesbians with decades of LGBT campaigning under their belt, women who all understand oppression inside out because it is the ticktock reality of their daily lives, are suddenly horribly bigoted on this one issue. Are suddenly the supposed oppressors with privilege and entitlement over people born and raised male. It just doesn’t make sense, does it?

This is because they AREN’T horribly bigoted. There should be no clash between women’s rights and trans rights, but it is trans activism making this so, not feminism. This is not about inclusion, it is about colonisation, and we are merely exercising our rights to boundaries. The women concerned by the issue of self-identification don’t want trans people to not have any political representation, voice or rights, or want them to face oppression. You need to ask yourself why you are so quick to call women wanting to stand up for the meaning of women bigots and why you presume that women wanting to retain rights and the meaning of their own being means they want to or could somehow harm any other group. No other marginalised group has ever demanded that the meaning of a far greater marginalised group be utterly changed and made a nonsense of to protect their rights, except recent Trans ideology. That needs examining.

As for regressive, the only regressive belief in this whole scenario is the belief that gender represents any kind of truth, especially about women, or that people can be ‘born in the wrong body’ or have a sexed brain that doesn’t correspond with their body. That is all anti-science, anti-logic, irrational and prioritising the individual, all of which goes against the class analysis central to socialist belief. These are women offended and worried by the growing pressure to make gender the overriding definition of what is a woman rather than the truth of biological fact. To not be worried about that would be like turkeys voting for Christmas! Denying science is regressive. Believing stereotypes are true is regressive. Believing ‘woman’ is merely a label or a choice while men are real is regressive. And all of those things are what socialists call out right-wingers for every single day… except for this one issue.

A final note: It has to be understood that denying, removing and attempting to make illegal/forbidden the ability or right to describe one’s own oppression is not only oppression in itself but totalitarianism. And telling women that being female is anything other than our biological truth is that very denial and removal. Leaving us with only stereotypes that posit us as subhumans to describe ourselves is barbaric.

Now tell me again how progressive you are.

 

Isn’t it interesting that this sort of experiential sharing can only go one way.  This sort of paradoxical thinking is rife within transactivist ideology.  Consider the claim of being ‘non-binary’.  The only way this term works is by creating, you guessed it, another binary between “cis” people (those who mostly follow gendered expectations) and “trans” (those who mostly go against gendered expectations).  Or…  the other possibility within the gender spectrum idea is that, in fact, we’re all non-binary as we all possess a distinct combination of masculine and feminine gendered traits and behaviours.

As with most debates when it comes to gender, there is always a good deal of heat and friction, but not much desire to go outside of established positions.  As food for though, consider what Rebecca Reilly-Cooper has to say on the subject of gender:

“Once we recognise that the number of gender identities is potentially infinite, we are forced to concede that nobody is deep down cisgender, because nobody is assigned the correct gender identity at birth. In fact, none of us was assigned a gender identity at birth at all. We were placed into one of two sex classes on the basis of our potential reproductive function, determined by our external genitals. We were then raised in accordance with the socially prescribed gender norms for people of that sex. We are all educated and inculcated into one of two roles, long before we are able to express our beliefs about our innate gender identity, or to determine for ourselves the precise point at which we fall on the gender continuum. So defining transgender people as those who at birth were not assigned the correct place on the gender spectrum has the implication that every single one of us is transgender; there are no cisgender people.

The logical conclusion of all this is: if gender is a spectrum, not a binary, then everyone is trans. Or alternatively, there are no trans people. Either way, this a profoundly unsatisfactory conclusion, and one that serves both to obscure the reality of female oppression, as well as to erase and invalidate the experiences of transsexual people.

The way to avoid this conclusion is to realise that gender is not a spectrum. It’s not a spectrum, because it’s not an innate, internal essence or property. Gender is not a fact about persons that we must take as fixed and essential, and then build our social institutions around that fact. Gender is socially constructed all the way through, an externally imposed hierarchy, with two classes, occupying two value positions: male over female, man over woman, masculinity over femininity.

The truth of the spectrum analogy lies in the fact that conformity to one’s place in the hierarchy, and to the roles it assigns to people, will vary from person to person. Some people will find it relatively easier and more painless to conform to the gender norms associated with their sex, while others find the gender roles associated with their sex so oppressive and limiting that they cannot tolerably live under them, and choose to transition to live in accordance with the opposite gender role.

Gender as a hierarchy perpetuates the subordination of female people to male people, and constrains the development of both sexes

Fortunately, what is a spectrum is human personality, in all its variety and complexity. (Actually that’s not a single spectrum either, because it is not simply one continuum between two extremes. It’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, humany-wumany stuff.) Gender is the value system that says there are two types of personality, determined by the reproductive organs you were born with. One of the first steps to liberating people from the cage that is gender is to challenge established gender norms, and to play with and explore your gender expression and presentation. Nobody, and certainly no radical feminist, wants to stop anyone from defining themselves in ways that make sense to them, or from expressing their personality in ways they find enjoyable and liberating.

So if you want to call yourself a genderqueer femme presenting demigirl, you go for it. Express that identity however you like. Have fun with it. A problem emerges only when you start making political claims on the basis of that label – when you start demanding that others call themselves cisgender, because you require there to be a bunch of conventional binary cis people for you to define yourself against; and when you insist that these cis people have structural advantage and political privilege over you, because they are socially read as the conformist binary people, while nobody really understands just how complex and luminous and multifaceted and unique your gender identity is. To call yourself non-binary or genderfluid while demanding that others call themselves cisgender is to insist that the vast majority of humans must stay in their boxes, because you identify as boxless.

The solution is not to reify gender by insisting on ever more gender categories that define the complexity of human personality in rigid and essentialist ways. The solution is to abolish gender altogether. We do not need gender. We would be better off without it. Gender as a hierarchy with two positions operates to naturalise and perpetuate the subordination of female people to male people, and constrains the development of individuals of both sexes. Reconceiving of gender as an identity spectrum represents no improvement.”

Essentially, creating new ‘gender-identities’ is akin to making new prison cells with the penitentiary system we call gender and then insisting that your prison cell is more oppressed that some other persons prison cell.  Why not buck the system instead and drop the gendered stereotypes that the penitentiary is based on and that are currently hurting everyone.  Dispensing with the gender hierarchy is the goal we should be striving for, not gilding our particular cells at the expense of others.

 

 

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