Miranda is absolutely right that…

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A Twitter thread by @radicalhag

Miranda is absolutely right that ‘trans women are women’ is an ideological position. So far no-one has successfully answered the ‘define woman’ challenge in a way that makes it objectively true, appeals to clownfish and strawberries notwithstanding.

If it is ideological then we accept or reject it on the grounds of moral worth, not objective truth. Is ‘trans women are women’ a principle of social organisation we want to adopt because it makes ethical sense, like ‘black people and white people are equally valuable’?

Initially most of us on the left say yes, because we have some understanding that trans women badly want and need to be seen as women and will go through a great deal of effort and suffering to remake themselves as the best facsimile of women they can achieve.

We sympathise with this because we do not want to make them feel outcast. We also live in an era of idolisation of individual identities, which asserts that individuals are the only people who can make and assess claims about themselves. (It hasn’t always been like this.)

So we say that a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman, deride people who say a woman is an adult human female as bigots and biological essentialists, and pat ourselves on the back for being very virtuous.

But the next, and more difficult question is: how does this affect everybody else? In particular, how does it affect other members of the class of people – women – which trans women identify as? And this is a valid feminist question.

Given the history of women’s subjugation at the hands of men, and the unique biological issues women face as the reproductive class, this is not a trivial issue, particularly when measures like self-identification of gender are on the table.



Males – the oppressor class – demand the right to identify as women – the subjugated class – and thereby gain legal status as women and access to all our spaces on their say-so, and with less and less gatekeeping. This should ring alarm bells for any feminist.

Apart from the enormous privacy and safety issues, women as a sex class lose definition if the word to name us can be taken away from us this easily. We cannot name ourselves, we cannot name sexism, we cannot organise without men to discuss our response to it.

The sexual abuse of lesbians, and harassment and no-platforming of women’s groups wanting to discuss this make it clear that this is not idle fear. Women qua women are being silenced, bullied, harassed, shut down, told that they are transphobic for refusing demands for sex.

In fact the conflict between transactivists and feminists so far demonstrates that far from being an unambiguous social good, the position ‘trans women are women’ leads to large-scale misogynistic abuse and censorship of women.

The claims of victimhood, demands for access and centering in all women’s spaces, and accusations of bigotry for refusing sex are very similar to those demonstrated by Men’s Rights Activists, and the two movements are more similar than different in their misogyny.

So if we claim to object to misogyny as a society, then we have to accept that the position that ‘trans women are women’ is not an unambiguous good, but in fact has extremely negative consequences for women, who are already oppressed. And we should respond appropriately.

Feminists should judge all commentators by their willingness – or not – to address this, and we should not hesitate to call out misogyny for what it is. Gender identity and sex as categories are in direct competition

None of this precludes supporting rights for trans people, and many trans people who are horrified by trans activism are engaged in a productive conversation with feminists about how to resolve this while enhancing the lives and rights of both groups.

But that requires us to acknowledge difference and competing rights, and not pretend that we can safely conflate members of an oppressor class with an oppressed class without there being consequences. Society exists.

Finally a note on the postmodern glop that got us into this mess: the map is not the territory. But the better the map symbolises the territory, the more useful it will be. If you detach the map from the territory and pretend there is only the map, you just end up lost.