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feminismI would suggest that you go read the full article by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper on politics.co.uk right now, as it describes the situation facing many feminists today.  Increasingly there is no debate, there is only complete acceptance of a set of views or you’re marginalized.  This is not a rational give or take situation, but rather an inquisitional drive for purity.

But I skip ahead – The article is about Germaine Greer deciding not to speak at Cardiff University because of concerns over her personal safety and the resulting fallout surrounding the event.

“In a Newsnight interview with Kirsty Wark, Greer remained characteristically uncompromising. Among the many things she said during that interview, the focus has been on two statements which directly echo Melhuish’s complaints: “I don’t think that post-operative transgender men, ie MtoF transgender people, are women” and “it is simply not true that intersexual people suffer in a way that other people don’t suffer” (given the context, it’s reasonable to assume she was referring to transgender as opposed to intersex people here).

You might not like these opinions very much. You might find them rude, obnoxious, blunt and hurtful. You might think it is disrespectful and unkind for Greer to openly proclaim that she does not share trans people’s perceptions of themselves and their identity. You might think she is mistaken, that trans women are in fact women, and do experience forms of discrimination and marginalisation that other groups do not share. But whatever your view about the truth of these opinions, it requires quite an argumentative leap to define them as hate speech, or to claim convincingly that merely holding and expressing such views is equivalent to inciting violence, hatred and discrimination against trans people. Crucially, Greer was explicit that she was making no statement at all on what treatment trans people ought to have. “I’m not saying that people should not be allowed to go through that procedure. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t make them a woman. It happens to be an opinion. It’s not a prohibition.” She also said that when speaking to trans women, she would “use female speech forms, as a courtesy”.

So Greer said nothing about what rights trans people ought to have or how they ought to be treated, and certainly nothing that could plausibly be interpreted as an incitement to violence. Believing that trans women are men is neither an incitement to violence, nor is it dehumanising, unless you also happen to think that men deserve violence and are not human. So the two main offences she is accused of are ones she openly admits to: not believing that transgender women are women, and not believing that transphobia – prejudice and bigotry towards transgender people – exists.

Both of these offences are solely concerned with the propositional content of Greer’s beliefs. That is, the objection is that she believes things that her opponents believe to be false, and that these beliefs are, for reasons that are never properly articulated, “dangerous”. So what Greer stands accused of is, essentially, thoughtcrime. She is guilty of holding the wrong thoughts, of believing the wrong things, of entertaining ideas and defining concepts in ways that diverge from some doctrine to which all decent people are supposed to subscribe. One must believe that trans women are women, and one must believe that trans people are subject to forms of prejudice and discrimination that others are not, and if you do not hold those beliefs, then you are by definition dangerous, a potential threat to others, and must be silenced. The possibility of reasonable disagreement on these issues is ruled out, ex hypothesi.

The response to Greer and her alleged transphobia is just one example of a creeping trend among social justice activists of an identitarian persuasion: a tendency towards ideological totalism, the attempt to determine not only what policies and actions are acceptable, but what thoughts and beliefs are, too. Contemporary identity-based social justice activism is increasingly displaying the kinds of totalising and authoritarian tactics that we usually associate with cults or quasi-religious movements which aim to control the thoughts and inner lives of their members. The doctrine of “gender identity” – the idea that people possess an essential inner gender that is independent both of their sexed body and of the social reality of being treated as a person with such a body – has rapidly been elevated to the status of quasi-religious belief, such that those who do not subscribe to it are seen as not only mistaken and misguided, but dangerous and threatening, and must therefore be silenced.”

Gender identity is all about the feels, however… strong personal feelings do not trump reality or the facts of the matter.   Women, the feminist movement, and society in general will be in a great deal of trouble if they ever do.

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