Confronting the mantra
It’s been an interesting few days in the Land of Transactivism. UK Labour have done two things which, apart from probably being illegal, are viciously and irredeemably misogynistic.
The first thing that happened was a new wrinkle in the selections for National Youth Elections, trumpeted by Lily Madigan as ‘progress’. Women who want to stand in the National Youth Elections must now tick a box to indicate that they self-define as women.
“You must indicate whether you self-define as a woman.” You must say, in writing, that you accept and identify with your servile status as the toilet-washer, cook and tea-maker, your rape, your forced childbirth, your lower pay, your lower employment status, your political under-representation, your objectification in public, your torture in pornography and prostitution for men’s sexual entertainment, the assumption that you will be a nice, compliant helpmeet to the Men Who Do Important Politics. You must say that this is how you define yourself, otherwise you cannot stand for election. That being an adult human female, with all the oppression that goes with it, is the material reality of your life because you have ovaries, a uterus, a vagina, and breasts that grew all by themselves; that you are at constant, relentless risk of sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, murder; that you menstruate and get pregnant and die in childbirth; that you are the half of the population who gives birth and raises infants, on whom society is completely dependent for the production of new members: this, the basic, bloody, embodied reality of female lives, is not enough to make you a woman any more.
You must tick a box that says you self-define as a woman; that you somehow chose to be a woman, although every cell in your body is female whether you like it or not. And you must do this so that an entitled teenage boy who was making rape jokes on Twitter a year ago can claim to be a woman, can shove his way into a position as Woman’s Officer that was meant for you, can claim to represent you while having no possibility of knowledge of the reality of your life, and can then work to erase you as a legal category of person with specific rights, so that he can commandeer womanhood in the service of his fantasy; so that he can be an über-woman.
And the really, really ugly implication, the part of this which is completely Orwellian, completely fascist, is, of course, that if you refuse to tick the box, then you are not a woman, and you have no political status as such. You may not represent yourself as a woman, or stand for election, unless you make obeisance in this new religion. You must acknowledge that it is your self-definition as a woman, rather than your biological femaleness, that makes you a woman; otherwise you are a heretic.
This is pure, undiluted, staggering misogyny. To the perpetrators, I have one thing to say: fuck you. Fuck you and the Bronze Age patriarchal camel you rode in on. Transactivists love calling people fascists. They need to have a long, hard look in a mirror; those swastika armbands would be a really good look right now.
That this is happening in a party which has a history of representing the material issues suffered by oppressed peoples, of standing up for them against the ideological dogmas of state repression, of being socialist, is a shocking, disgusting disgrace. To the senior members of Labour from Corbyn down and especially to the Labour women who are standing by while this is happening, shame on you. You are repellent sexists, and a disgrace to socialism.
This extreme version of transactivism demands that women pretend that our biology is irrelevant to us, that we deny our material reality when it is central both to our oppression and to human reproduction, so that transwomen do not have to confront their own biology, and the immutable fact that they will never be female; so that they can pretend to be women and force society, and specifically women, to collude with their pretence. Being a member of the reproductive sex class no longer has anything to do with being a woman.
This is not a paranoid rant; it is precisely the obliteration of sex as a legal category that transactivists are campaigning for. It is irrelevant to them that this also obliterates women as a coherent class who can fight for sex-based protections. Stephen Whittle, campaigner for the GRA 2004:
“gender identity transforms legal sex…there is no recourse to the sexed body which suggests that the body’s sex as a taxonomical tool has in some way become redundant… Changing sex for the purposes of legal recognition then, is … about changing how sex is legally defined.” 1)quoted in https://www.socfem.net/2017/09/sex-is-not-a-redundant-category. Emphasis mine
Let’s understand exactly what self-identification means for women: it means a man like Liam/Lily Madigan is now a woman because he says so. He doesn’t need a diagnosis. He doesn’t need gender dysphoria. He doesn’t need hormone treatment, much less surgery (and 85% of self-identified transwomen will not have surgery). All he has to do is say he is a woman, and if transactivists have their way, he, a male, will be legally entitled to all the spaces, positions, sports leagues previously reserved for women; the places fought for by feminists, so bitterly and over such a long time. The word woman is effectively emptied out of all meaning.
And so we have the farcical state of affairs where a teenage boy and his transactivist friends are able to hound an able, long-serving and competent lesbian CLP member, Anne Ruzylo, out of her position because she stood up tirelessly for women, which they construed as transphobia; and the even more farcical state of affairs which allows that teenage boy to be elected as a Woman’s Officer. He nominally represents the interests of women in his constituency.
In practice, of course, what this means is that women in Madigan’s constituency have no representation now, because Madigan’s concerns are those of a transgender male, not a woman, and Labour is apparently perfectly happy with this. Corbyn himself has been photographed with Madigan, who says he wants to be Britain’s first transgender MP.
Being Britain’s first transgender MP is, of course, not remotely problematic. Trans people are achieving more visibility, better healthcare, greater social acceptance and hopefully less discrimination and violence, and this should be regarded as an unambiguously good thing. Madigan may do an excellent job of representing the interests of trans people, who are marginalised, and may yet make an excellent MP.
But what is objectionable and extremely sexist is that he is regarded as suitable to represent women, simply because he self-identifies as one; that women are not regarded as a sufficiently coherent group to have both the right and the need for specific self-representation. This is the political annihilation of women, cheered on by left-wing men and their handmaidens, because if women have no representation as a sex class, then there will be no-one to cast the spotlight on institutional sexism. Instead of acknowledging gender as a brutal hierarchy, constructed by violent and dominant men, under which women are oppressed and exploited for their sexual and reproductive labour, and under which gender-non-conforming males are discriminated against for their failure to perform masculinity adequately, we now have a notion of innate gender fit for the 1950’s, in which the dominant class and their subordinated victims are conveniently disappeared, in which self-identified gender rather than sex determines one’s political category and hence one’s representation, and in which gender is regarded as performative and women are to blame for their subordination2)https://antipornfeminists.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/gender-performativity-is-victim-blaming/ retrieved 2018-01-15. It is extreme, virulent, brazen misogyny.
“To theorise sex out of existence is to deny that sexism can exist. It is to refuse to accept that a class of human beings exist who have been economically exploited, raped, murdered, forcibly impregnated, exchanged as chattel, denied a history, a language and a right to their bodies since (literally) time immemorial. If we deny these people an identity based on the root of their oppression we are saying they, as a class, do not exist. Have no shared history. No conceivable political mission. No right to recourse. No community. No grievance. No hope.
A more obscene act of woman hatred than to simply refuse to admit that women exist is hard to imagine. Tidier and cheaper than wholesale extermination, more economically self serving than foregoing the reproductive labour extracted from them, the profound hatred of women qua women such an argument betrays is breath-taking. That it is an attitude espoused sometimes by women themselves is no counter-argument, but a – relatively minor – entry in the ledger of the brutalising effects of patriarchal oppression.”
Welcome to UK Labour c. 2018.
In response to Labour’s antics, the always excellent and concise Rebecca Reilly-Cooper came up with this short list of questions about sex and gender for progressives, which I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing:
“1. Do you believe that being born with the kind of body that has the potential to gestate children – a body with a uterus, ovaries, and a vagina – is of any political significance? Does having that kind of body have any bearing on a person’s likely opportunities and outcomes?
2. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies have historically been subject to any distinct forms of injustice, oppression, exploitation or discrimination? Have they historically been subordinated to the people with penises and testes?
3. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies continue to be subject to any distinct forms of injustice, oppression, exploitation or discrimination?
4. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies often suffer physical and sexual violence, abuse and harassment perpetrated by the people with penises and testes?
5. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies ought to have a label with which to define themselves? Does our language need a word to refer to the people with uteruses and ovaries?
6. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies have a right to organise politically around their shared experiences, and to campaign and work for policies to secure their own interests?
7. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies have a right to associate freely with other people with those kinds of bodies, and to have some separate spaces for their safety, privacy and dignity? Do people with those kinds of bodies have a right to some spaces where people with penises and testes are not permitted to enter?
8. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies sometimes have a right to policies and resources designated towards rectifying their historical and continued marginalisation and oppression?
If your answer to any of these questions is “yes”, you should reject the ideology of gender identity, and policy proposals based on that ideology such as the self-declaration of legal gender.”
4)https://rebeccarc.com/2018/01/14/some-basic-questions-about-sex-and-gender-for-progressives/ retrieved 20180815
Does our language need a word to refer to the people with uteruses and ovaries? Are we entitled to a name? Read and reread, and then read it again. This is why feminists are up in arms about gender self-identity: because it obliterates women, and all our rights, legally and socially. Under self-id, we are no longer entitled to as much as a name, much less woman-only spaces, domestic violence refuges, prisons. A woman who was terrified of men and undergoing a psychotic break was confined in a psychiatric ward with a male who identified as a woman last week, and treated as a bigot when she complained. This is our brave new world.
We are not entitled to call ourselves women, to assume an understanding of ‘woman’ as ‘adult human female’, or to be represented as women, by women, in public life. And with the bros still overwhelmingly in charge, how long do you think it will be before women’s representation disappears altogether? This is patriarchy on steroids.
The kindest thing one can say about gender identity politics is that it is so narcissistic, fundamentalist and oblivious of the harm it does that it can best be described as a cult. The worst is that it is a Trojan Horse for a great deal of deliberate, vicious misogyny. Given the glee with which left-wing men leap on this bandwagon, and the feeding frenzy which erupts when they think they have an excuse to attack women while keeping their woke credentials, I think it is fair to say that it is both, and that a lot of lefty misogynists who have been fed up to their back teeth about having to pretend to accept women’s advancement are delighted to have an excuse to go on the attack again. We have been in a period of backlash against serious feminism for some decades now (post-modern 3rd wave identitarian ‘feminism’ is basically a divide-and-conquer strategy), and a lot of the supposedly progressive support for transactivism is just anti-feminist backlash politics. From “The New Backlash” (which is a long but excellent read):
“I am a woman and a feminist. I fully support the human rights of transsexual people. (I fully support the human rights of all humans!) However, “transgender” identity politics are not about the human rights of transsexual people. Transgender identity politics are about men weaponizing the suffering of transsexual people in order to destroy women’s boundaries and undermine basic feminist analysis.” 5)http://thenewbacklash.blogspot.co.uk/ retrieved 2018-01-18
Welcome to UK Labour c. 2018.
The second thing that happened this week is that Labour illegally opened its All-Women Shortlists to self-identifying women; and feminists within Labour, assisted by those of us who have already left the party over its misogyny, raised nearly £13 000.00 in two days, in order to take them to court to contest this.
All-Women shortlists are permitted as a result of the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002, which permits positive sex discrimination in the case of the selection of election candidates, and is written as an exemption to the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976. Its purpose was to combat the gross and still shocking under-representation of women in the UK Parliament. In the 1990s in the United Kingdom, women constituted less than 10% of parliamentary MPs, and are still only 32% of MPs after a concerted effort, at position 39 in a table of representation, and well behind countries like Rwanda, Sweden and South Africa 6)http://archive.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm.
Labour’s move is patently illegal and discriminatory; gender identity is not yet a protected category in law, and so far, feminist opposition to an Early Day Motion attempting to change this looks like being successful, although the battle isn’t over. Gender reassignment (which was aimed at legally protecting the status of transsexuals) rather than gender identity is still the legally protected category according to the Equalities Act of 2010; Labour are trying to illegally and illicitly jump the gun by permitting self-identification, and women are quite rightly organising to stop them. The immediate success of the fundraiser makes it clear how strongly women feel about this, and how aware we are of the implications.
This has, of course, resulted in the usual outpouring of sexist opprobrium from lefty Labour brocialists who are clearly ecstatic at the chance to put uppity women in their place by shouting ‘transphobia’. Many of them want to block the fundraiser, or demand that Labour take disciplinary action against the organisers. And the resentful subtext of many of the lofty-sounding and sanctimonious complaints is, of course, that we have no right to spend money we earned on a court action against the Bros, to protect our spaces and political representation from their assault on it. They get to tell us what’s what, after all, not the other way round.
Clive “On Your Knees, Bitch” Lewis understands the issues really well, he says:
Ive thought & read long &hard on the broader trans-rights issue. Ive listened to arguments on both sides & Im happy to say I think any move to allow trans-women onto all-women shortlists has my whole hearted support.The crowd-funder below is wrong & should be opposed by @UKLabour https://t.co/QpZh3VhlHK
— Clive Lewis (@labourlewis) January 13, 2018
So women, in other words, do not get self-representation any more because the Bros Have Spoken. Clive apparently doesn’t know the difference between gender reassignment, which is a legal change, and gender self-identification, which is not (and in fact it’s doubtful whether he knows the difference between sex and gender), but he asked a handmaiden and she told him that she would think whatever he told her to, so he decided what’s what on behalf of women because he actually spoke to one. Clive is in a self-satisfied little echo chamber.
Other men have gone so far as to raise counter-petitions and request Labour NEC hearings, because these uppity, bigoted women need to be disciplined for their thought crimes.
They are aided and abetted by compliant progressive women like Stella Creasy, who achieved her position as a result of an All-Women Shortlist. This isn’t stopping her from throwing other women who might benefit from such lists under the bus, and betraying the intentions of the women who worked so hard to gain those rights for her and her sisters.
You are mistaken. No man can be on an all-women shortlist. Every candidate on AWS list IS a woman. Proud to have been selected from one and proud to defend them now against these attacks. https://t.co/xDQPWslOnp
— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) January 14, 2018
A man who self-identifies as a woman is exactly the same as a woman in Stella’s mind, and anyone who questions the literal equivalence of these two completely different classes of person must be a bigot; or so she artfully implies. And this brings us to the crux, the thing I really want to address: the mantra. Stella can say something like this – “Every candidate on AWS list IS a woman” – because she has already decided that the transactivist mantra “trans women are women” is literal truth, that being a woman is a matter of identifying as one and nothing more. According to her, this is the ethical starting point from which any negotiation must begin, instead of being a completely wrongheaded piece of propaganda. Therefore, if a man identifies as a woman and says so, he is a woman, and has always been a woman, and his penis becomes a female reproductive organ, so any woman who says he isn’t is automatically a transphobic bigot (and, extraordinarily, a ‘transmisogynist’. And any lesbian who refuses to consider him as a potential sex partner is transphobic. You couldn’t make this shit up, but this is the state of progressive identity politics in the Year of Craziness 2018).
There’s a wee problem with “trans women are women”, of course: it’s not true. In fact it’s a bare-faced lie, which is why it tends to be asserted multiple times, with CAPS LOCK on, and followed with AND NO DEBATE!!!. It has far more in common with fundamentalist religious turn-or-burn-type assertions than with anything that should reasonably be used as a basis for public policy. Yet it has been repeated so many times that it is treated as true, or at least as some unassailably virtuous political axiom like ‘racism is wrong’. People like Stella and the bros recite it as the signal, the dogwhistle that says: I’m a trendy trans ally, my politics are correct and my ethics are in order, and you, madam, are a disgusting, mindless bigot for disagreeing with me.
Unfortunately ‘trans women are women’ is both false and harmful, and any serious feminist analysis has to address the impact of the phrase on women.
There’s a bet circulating on Twitter challenging people to define the word “woman” without recourse to circular definitions or stereotypes. It’s gone from a tenner to about £2000 so far, and there haven’t been any takers. There aren’t likely to be, either.
“Trans women are women” is an indefensible assertion, but relies on various bizarre and largely incoherent attempts at reasoning: Judith Butler’s notion that sex is a social construction and gender is prior to sex is one. (Butler is a queer theorist who has trolled feminism very successfully, and has a lot to answer for as a result; this assertion has been very thoroughly debunked in this series of long posts 7)https://paulcockshott.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/genders-or-sex-stereotypes-part-1/, and the complete immorality of her position is expounded very well in Martha Nussbaum’s critique of her work here.8)http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Nussbaum-Butler-Critique-NR-2-99.pdf)
There are assorted circular claims: “a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman”, which is about as meaningful as “a snork is anyone who identifies as a snork”, demands to separate gender from sex, misreadings of de Beauvoir, and a plethora of bizarre arguments about intersex conditions including one hilariously deranged appeal to strawberry biology.
Sexual dimorphism in humans is not difficult to establish, and Logical Marcus does a wonderful job of dismissing claims that transwomen are somehow biologically women here, as well as pointing out the obvious, which is that the brain is not a sex organ and does not influence whether you are male or female 9)https://medium.com/@LogicalMarcus/is-julia-serano-right-that-transwomen-are-female-a989dca9d026
The most important point about pseudo-biological arguments is that transwomen are, almost exclusively, not intersex, and appropriating intersex people’s biological conditions is wrong.10)https://oii.org.au/13651/isgd-and-the-appropriation-of-intersex/ They are biological males – members of the class of people who oppress women.
But ultimately, supposed biological continua are not the sticking point. Here is the problem: all arguments that “trans women are women” rely on the demand that women give up the meaning of the term we use to describe ourselves, that we become unnameable, so that men who want to be women can have it. This is misogyny on the grand scale, for the reasons explored above. It is misogyny even if you don’t intend it to be misogyny, even if you don’t believe that it affects women negatively, if you think it is merely “inclusive” of transwomen. It is not “inclusive” of transwomen. It is obliterative of women. It has to be, to be true.
The statement “trans women are women” means: trans women are members of the set of all women. This can only be true if gender identity rather than sex is treated as the defining property of womanhood, and it can only be true if this applies to all women; if a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman, rather than an adult human female. By making the statement, you immediately and implicitly prioritise gender identity over sex as a category. There is no “gender equality” here. It obliterates women as a sex class straight away, in a society in which we are already the subordinate sex caste by virtue of our reproductive biology.
The set of males does not intersect with the set of females, disingenuous appeals to intersex conditions notwithstanding. For trans women to be women, we have to postulate something like gender identity, an amorphous and incoherent concept which is not much better than a feminine soul; and then we have to say that it forms some sort of set of people to which both adult human females and transwomen belong. Furthermore, we have to say that this intangible and invisible something-or-other is the primary property which makes someone a woman; that the immutable and visceral reality of female biology gives females absolutely nothing in common; that we are not a coherent class of being in any meaningful way; that we are an arrangement of random body parts with no coherent form or function; but that we nevertheless have this mysterious essence, this defining quality, because we have been ordered to have it, and that this invented essence, not our bodies, is what makes us women and what we have in common, although none of us have a clue what it is. If there is anything in the brain which reflects such an essence, the most it does is influence our feelings about our bodies; it doesn’t change our physical being. But it defines us now, while our female bodies have been made increasingly unmentionable and obscene – ‘triggering’ – so that this regressive and essentialist fantasy can be propped up and reified. 11)It’s true that female-bodied people could simply agree to give up the term ‘woman’ and agree to call ourselves something else, like uterions, for example. But that isn’t what transactivists want. They want to be conflated with us, so a name change isn’t a solution, as we discussed here.
1950’s sexism said: “you’re sweet and feminine because I say so, dear, and that’s all you are, so stay in your little box and leave the important stuff to the men.”
21st century sexism says: “you’re sweet and feminine because I say so, dear, and that’s all you are, so stay in your little box and leave the important stuff to the men. And by the way, I can do sweet and feminine better than you can, so I’m getting into your box and running the show.”
I don’t think you need me to explain to you where you can shove that little lot.
It gets even more offensive if you assert that gender-non-conforming females do not share this essence, because they don’t worship at the altar of femininity.
They are now no longer women, no longer members of the secret club with the magical essence. Their female bodies alone are not sufficient to make them real women. The best they can do is try to become men; and of course young lesbians are increasingly being pressured to transition.
This is sexism in its purest, most naked and most virulent form. There is nothing remotely progressive about this; it is backward essentialist nonsense on a par with forcing women to veil to demonstrate their modesty. It is causing the physical and mental maiming in large numbers of young women who feel they have no option but to transition (see the discussion of ROGD here12)https://4thwavenow.com/2017/12/07/gender-dysphoria-is-not-one-thing/ ), and who are unsurprisingly beginning to detransition after doing themselves irreparable harm.
In the diagram, I’ve shown males above females to illustrate that sex, the most violent, brutal and persistent axis of oppression on the planet, gets completely obscured by such post-modernist religious appeals to internal essences and obfuscatory blathering about ‘nuance’; this is not accidental, as Somer Brodribb showed. 13)I’ve largely left transmen out of the diagrams for the same reason; their situation is not symmetrical as they are “identifying up”, so to speak, and attempting to gain male privilege. (Good luck with that; so far, most transmen who’ve made the news have done it either by having a baby or by being raped. Sex-based oppression is brutal and it doesn’t care how you identify.) We need to stop obscuring it; the hierarchical and oppressive nature of gender needs to be put on full display once again, so we can throw rotten tomatoes at it and jeer. Transwomen may be discriminated against and subjected to violence by men who object to their failure to perform masculinity appropriately, but they still have male privilege over women. Their assumption of the word “woman” means that adult human females are legally, socially and verbally obliterated. We cannot define ourselves or speak for ourselves; a growing layer of low-status gender-non-conforming males identifying as women is taking our roles and places in organisations we fought extremely hard to create, such as university femsocs, AWS lists, Women’s Officers in political parties etc, with the connivance and approval of ‘progressive’ men who would much rather deal with them than with women. (And this is exactly what is happening in Labour, of course).
If we protest our erasure, we are grudgingly permitted the deeply insulting term ‘cis’, which first of all says that we somehow identify with the degrading, objectifying and constraining stereotypes about women which make up the chains of gender. It says that what we have in common is not biology, but femininity, the magic essence; the rules men impose on us to keep us subordinate, the picture of us that satisfies their view of what women ought to be. As Mary Daly said, femininity is a male fantasy. It has less than nothing to do with being a woman. It is a cardboard cutout version of a sexy woman in a man’s head; what men project onto us, to our infinite harm and degradation. It’s something men wank to. And this is what is supposed to define us now.
And then, to add insult to injury, cis-trans is posited as an axis of oppression, as though transwomen, instead of being invasive males, were some special kind of particularly oppressed woman that the ordinary, nasty sort of female is somehow extracting resources from. And by insisting on excluding males from our spaces regardless of how they identify (because males are the ones who violate our privacy, expose themselves, assault us, rape us and murder us), we somehow make ourselves equal to segregationists refusing to allow black people access to taps.
This is utter rubbish, of course, and is, again, only possible in an upside-down post-modern fantasy where the Big Kahuna of axes of oppression, sex, has been obscured, so that men don’t have to confront their behaviour.
Here’s how it actually works:
(from Mumsnet) – idiot compares women having a FEW spaces away from males (just to change/sleep/discuss our own issues) to racial segregation – gets sensible reply. pic.twitter.com/Lv4ofM8OYX
— Eve Endor (@EveEndor) January 15, 2018
The Mumsnet thread said:
Exactly. It’s #womanface. We are being colonised. We recognise how profoundly offensive this is when the boundary being violated is race. We fail to recognise it when that boundary is sex, and postulate women as the oppressor instead. This is not because women have so much more privilege; it is because we are so much more despised, so much more expected to be accommodating, so much less recognised as a separate group with needs and priorities of our own; our job is to be handmaidens, and society acts very fast to suppress any suggestion that we might not be.
Feminism seeks to create space for women in opposition to males, for safety, for peace and for organisation. It is male-bodied people who are a risk to us; how they identify matters as much as what movies they like. It is fists that batter women and penises that rape us; no-one has yet been raped with a gender identity to my knowledge. To say we may not create such spaces is to say that our lives and physical safety matter less to society than permitting a man to tell himself a lie. We are entirely expendable, but men may not be asked to tolerate any mental discomfort. Let that sink in.
If there is such a thing as a cis-trans axis of discrimination, it exists among men; and one of the privileges the lefty dudebro brigade retain for themselves is the right not to treat transwomen as potential relationship partners, as this remarkable thread demonstrated:
So here is the ugly, sexist truth: men know perfectly well that transwomen are not women, and if they are straight men they will refuse to have sex with them. They will expel them from the class of men for not being masculine enough, but they will nevertheless accuse women of bigotry and transphobia for not allowing transwomen into all our spaces, so that men don’t have to widen their definition of what it means to be male. A man who won’t have sex with a transwoman is unremarkable. A lesbian woman who won’t have sex with a transwoman is a transphobic bigot.
Men do not have to believe that trans women are women. Women are forced to pretend that we do, and we may not say otherwise. This is what left-wing male supremacy looks like, and it is some filthy hypocritical shit.
For women, it’s the other way round, as usual. We are still at the bottom of the pile, and now we are one step further removed from any sort of political representation or liberatory politics, while we have nowhere – nowhere – to be free from the misogynists, even for a few minutes while we pee.
Welcome to UK Labour c. 2018.
By contrast, if we answer ‘yes’ to any of Rebecca Reilly-Cooper’s questions, if we agree that women have the right to have a name, to organise, to have political representation, then this is the picture:
In this view, sex remains a protected characteristic which is not superseded by “gender identity”. Women are still oppressed, but at least we have the right to name ourselves, to organise, to seek political representation as women. And trans women are clearly not women.
Here is the important bit: Nothing in this view says that transwomen have no rights, cannot organise, cannot seek representation as transwomen, cannot be granted specific protections in law, cannot have parliamentary shortlists, for that matter. Nothing discriminates against them. In fact, nothing says that feminists can’t be their allies against high-status men, and we frequently are. But it requires the one thing transactivists won’t do: acceptance of reality.
This isn’t true of all trans people, of course; we have many wonderful gender-critical trans allies who freely acknowledge that they are male-bodied, who are respectful of women’s biology and need for our own spaces, and who have absolutely no illusions about the misogyny in the trans movement. 14)http://genderapostates.com/transwomen-and-narcissistic-rage/
For those of us, women and transwomen, who are unafraid of material reality, Free Range Tranny’s wonderfully self-aware tweet evokes nothing but compassion:
It’s indulging a fantasy. Every time a TW says “I am a woman,” they really mean, “I wish I was a woman. I want to be a woman. Please accept me as one even though I’m not.” Then it starts to make some sense.
— Free Range Tranny (@trans_nitemare) January 7, 2018
Of course we understand that. Of course we know it hurts. Of course we will help you become the best facsimile of a woman you can. Of course we will be your political ally. Of course we will do our best to collude with you about your social role. But we won’t erase ourselves for you. You can’t ask us to do that, and we trust you not to.
From this position, where we can set our boundaries while still being willing to understand the other, we can go forward; we can find a politics that is genuinely inclusive of both women and trans people.
We can follow Chimananda Adichie’s graceful but firm assertion that trans women are trans women, and take it from there, if we are allowed to state the truth; we can negotiate boundaries, decide when to share and when to be separate, when to ally and when to go our own way. Trans women can reflect on what they are and what that means, what it is to be a male who longs to be a woman in this society, what they need in order to be accepted and respected; and we can all work to meet those needs. We do not obliterate one another; this is what a relationship based on mutual respect looks like.
In this model, transactivists do not get all their demands met; but they do get a fair deal, and so do women.
But for today’s transactivist, this is not acceptable. Women must, as always, give way to male demands, or have male violence projected onto us; we become a fantasy villain with genocidal power and murderous intent.15)http://www.troubleandstrife.org/new-articles/you-are-killing-me/ We become monstrous: Witch. Terf. Cunt. And so males generate their justification for violence against us, as they always have.
Some women have penises.
— Danielle Muscato (@DanielleMuscato) March 8, 2017
So when we are faced with the “trans women are women, you terf cunt” brigade, the ones who want to trample our boundaries and force our erasure down our throats, as men have done since time immemorial, when we are told that we have been redefined and we will like it or be raped and murdered, when we are called bigots for mentioning our bodies and their functions, when lesbians are ordered to ‘get over’ their vagina fetishes and have sex with male transwomen with penises; when we may not say that we are women by virtue of being female, but are ordered to believe that trans women are women, and to recite it like a mantra, which is all it is, then we need to stop and think about our response. We need to understand that where the hatred of women is concerned, the left is no different from the right, and that we have no political friends if we are feminists. We need to decide whether we will comply with sexism, with male supremacy, with a demand that we obliterate ourselves, in order not to rock the boat. We need to think about the social and legal consequences of such compliance, and recognise that it impacts not just us, but all our sisters.
And if we decide to stand up for women, for once in our lives, to draw a really hard line and refuse to tolerate misogynist bullying, then there is really only one feminist answer to the mantra “trans women are women”:
“‘Woman’ is taken. Get your own damn word.”
And if you won’t say this, if you keep reciting the mantra so the bros will approve of you and your trendy political credentials will stay intact, if you won’t stand up for your sisters when they most need you to, then for fuck’s sake don’t embarrass yourself and everybody else by calling yourself a feminist.
I’ve been a feminist for forty years, and in all that time, extreme transactivism is easily the most callous and blatant woman-hating, the worst sexism, I’ve ever seen, by a wide margin. It makes sense that it should be like that. We are dealing with a population of men who hate us as much as other men do, but on top of that they want to be us and can’t, so we are the targets of all the frustration and narcissistic rage that that creates. If we are feminists, we need to recognise it as misogyny and then defend ourselves with vigour, and we shouldn’t have any illusions that it will be a pleasant or easy battle.
To women, I say: if this is the best Labour can do for women, then they are not fit to represent us. You don’t collude with people who want to legislate you out of existence. Get out of the party if you’re still a member, and don’t vote for them, ever. Let’s #XXit, as someone much wittier than me said.
To UK Labour, I say: if this is Labour policy, this complete and utter erasure of women qua women, then the dustbin of history is too good for you. You belong in the sewer, and women will do our very best to dump you in it as soon as possible, and clean up the political landscape. We’re good at cleaning things up.
And finally, if you are a Labour woman, a trendy liberal politician, if you think that transactivism is a cool social justice issue, a vote-getter, a signal to everyone of how progressive and open-minded you are, if you do not look at what its ideology really proclaims, and what that really means for women, then this is what you deserve: to go down in history as a brand of particularly vicious female misogynist who set out to undo everything that feminists have gained and hand it back to men, who set out to deliberately deprive women of the small space we have managed to carve out in public life, to be remembered as a traitorous anti-feminist, as an oppressor, as a handmaiden, as a betrayer of women. We can’t stop you calling yourself a feminist; but that makes a travesty of the word, as your politics make a travesty of the word woman.
It’s time for some real feminism. And feminism is for women.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||quoted in https://www.socfem.net/2017/09/sex-is-not-a-redundant-category. Emphasis mine|
|2.||↑||https://antipornfeminists.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/gender-performativity-is-victim-blaming/ retrieved 2018-01-15|
|4.||↑||https://rebeccarc.com/2018/01/14/some-basic-questions-about-sex-and-gender-for-progressives/ retrieved 20180815|
|5.||↑||http://thenewbacklash.blogspot.co.uk/ retrieved 2018-01-18|
|11.||↑||It’s true that female-bodied people could simply agree to give up the term ‘woman’ and agree to call ourselves something else, like uterions, for example. But that isn’t what transactivists want. They want to be conflated with us, so a name change isn’t a solution, as we discussed here.|
|13.||↑||I’ve largely left transmen out of the diagrams for the same reason; their situation is not symmetrical as they are “identifying up”, so to speak, and attempting to gain male privilege. (Good luck with that; so far, most transmen who’ve made the news have done it either by having a baby or by being raped. Sex-based oppression is brutal and it doesn’t care how you identify.)|