I feel I must start with the usual disclaimer, and why not borrow from one of the greats:
“Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?
J.K. Rowling, December 2019
Sex differences are not only real, they have profound social consequences. A lot of people on the Left seem to be in denial about that, to the extent that they become flustered, and claim to be mortally offended, when reminded of inconvenient facts. Women’s basic freedoms depend on not letting them off the hook, by falling silent in response to these displays of hurt feelings. Women matter.
The judge in the Fair Cop judicial review recently reminded us that there is no general right not to be offended, a principle which would seem to extend to political cartoons, a direct, shorthand medium not noted for subtlety and sensitivity. Political cartoons are meant to unveil power politics in action, slicing through diversions, disavowals and obfuscation. It seems that some Labour-adjacent parts of the Left weren’t paying attention to the case.
While I was on a Twitter break, the Morning Star published a cartoon which got to the root of women’s objection to the socio-legal fiction of sex change. Before looking at the cartoon, let’s firm up some definitions so we know what we’re discussing. What is a ‘transwoman,’ and what does it mean to ‘transition’? According to Stonewall, a transwoman is a male who “identifies and lives as a woman.” There are no barriers to entry into that category, then, beyond uttering the magic words “I identify as a woman” and adopting the mannerisms of one when out and about. According to the authority, then, for a man to transition to the category ‘transwoman,’ nothing more than language and performance are required. That, in a nutshell, is self-ID: a policy regime (‘Stonewall Law’) enabled by bad law, and deliberate misinterpretations of the law in England and Wales.
The cartoon clearly illustrates the problem: crocodiles (adult human males) are statistically bigger, stronger, and more violent than newts (adult human females), and are driven by instinct to predate on newts who, understandably, want their own safe pond to avoid becoming his dinner. Where a crocodile claims he is in the process of “transitioning” to look somewhat more like a newt, he presents no less of a *statistical* risk to the newts. This risk persists even if he happens to be a vegan crocodile. If anything, his demand that they treat him as though he is not a member of a carnivorous species which preys on newts could be considered gaslighting, and a hostile act against the newts. For the crocodile to eat the newts, you could say, is just nature.
MRAs and TRAs alike (and is there any difference between them beyond how they present themselves, and the precise nature of the access demands they impose on women?) dislike sociological observations which implicate the biological class to which they belong. They always want to be seen as individuals (NAMALT! NATALT!). Well, don’t we all, but individualism is no basis for language, law or policy. It is no basis for mitigating known risks of violence by one group against another.
Let’s remind ourselves of a handful of documented instanced in which males have identified as trans and proceeded to inflict harm on women and children. Could you have determined on sight, in a shop changing room, the probability of these men committing rape, sexual assault, selling images of your daughter as p*rn? Or would you just have experienced that mammalian instinctive reaction – a sense of threat – and hurried to get out of that confined space (assuming you weren’t incarcerated alongside him by the state, or forced to choose between sharing a refuge bedroom with him, or sleeping on the streets)?
The cartoon conveys precisely the message feminists have attempted to communicate with regards to male claims to identify their way into femaleness: we have all the evidence we could ever need that male predators exploit the weakened boundaries around women’s space to access the more vulnerable sex class where they are at their most exposed. It really doesn’t count for anything to state the obvious that not all males who access women’s spaces will act as the men in the line up, above, did. It is statistical risk that matters, that and the absurd injustice of expecting individual women to make risk assessments and somehow enforce decisions against individual males, who will on average be bigger, stronger and more violent than her. That, and the fact that women have no way to distinguish the opportunistic predator from the comparatively benign seeker of the sexual stimulation of ‘validation,’ i.e. compelling women to lie to him that he is the same as us, out of fear of reprisals. Both are male. Next to males, women don’t have physical power at all. Our vulnerability to rape and violence are stark, if unwelcome and disturbing, facts.
The only practical way to maximise women’s safety, privacy and dignity is sex-segregation. The Morning Star cartoon speaks from a female – or newt – perspective. Of course, that won’t do, for the male-lead Left, which suffers from post-truth malaise on this fundamental and – increasingly – vote-determining political issue.
Feminists and gender critical people seek political recognition of statistical fact, of the sociological observations about male pattern violence. It is a phenomenon which is not effected by a man wearing items of feminine attire, or altering the appearance of his body, save that there is an elevated rate of sexual offending and mental health comorbidity among such males compared to the male population as a whole. This is key knowledge repeatedly buried by the Labour movement in this country, and beyond. It is taboo knowledge, even though it is key to preserving women and children’s safety, privacy and dignity. The Labour movement does not, and I believe will not, centre the needs and rights of anyone who is not an adult male, because men come first. Not just that, but time and again it reflexively moves to censor and silence inconvenient female perspectives. How, then, is it to serve women at all, if we can’t speak of our own interests without being subject to backlash and admonished for Being Unkind? Is any other class of person expected to temper their completely reasonable political demands because they hurt someone else’s feelings?
When two trans-identified males, who present an image of “allyship” with feminist critics of gender, complained about the cartoon – presumably because the message interfered with their desire to be granted an exceptional pass to use women’s spaces, on the basis that they have felt so very unhappy about their sexed bodies (a simpler way of saying they ‘suffer from gender dysphoria’) – the publication promptly removed the offending cartoon and apologised for hurting the feelings of members of the male sex class who must not, under any circumstances, feel upset, or be expected to ‘check their privilege.’ Instead, they must be coddled like infants. Disappointingly, LGB Alliance amplified their denunciation, signalling that their intention to be part of the Labour movement trumps their commitment to women’s rights. These men are granted, by Labour, the right not to feel offended, and to be coercively insulated from facts and analysis which do not affirm their worldview. Affirmation only, if you will, in terms of what women are permitted to say (I understand that the cartoonist was a woman). All this in the context of a campaign which is ostensibly about centring the rights, needs and perspectives of women, for a change. How very paradoxical. I detect a conflict of interests.
I remember how relieved I was to return to Mumsnet from a long break, only to find that a handful of women had brought WPUK into existence to fight the GRA reforms. I felt like shouting “Hallelujah! Women have woken up!” I have great respect for the organisers of WPUK, and I had nothing less than a peak experience at the Women’s Lib conference earlier this month, because the opportunity to listen to and meet like-minded women gave me hope, encouragement and strategies to sustain my own efforts. But I feel I must ask Kiri, and Ruth, and the feminist women whose overriding loyalty is to influencing the Labour Party from within: what’s it to be? What is paramount? Funnelling left-leaning feminist energy and loyalty towards the party which regularly denounces them as transphobes beyond the pale? Or building an independent women’s movement? Of course, the law of unintended consequences means that both engines can be pulling in opposite directions at the same time, but that might not be what WPUK’s leaders had in mind, and it might not be the best use of resources and goodwill either.
If Labour comes first, this will inherently involve demoting and diluting women’s concerns in favour of pandering to the self-centred demands of a tiny cohort of disproportionately influential men who believe, against all evidence and ethical considerations, that they deserve to be exceptions to the ‘no males in women’s space’ rule. Even though we understand the role that unresolved mental health issues, sexual fetishism and an unslakeable hunger for validation play in those public proclamations of hurt feelings, and ongoing political demands for inclusion at women’s expense. That they call this “progressive” makes me laugh. Progress, for them, means reduced rights and security for women. It means women paying the tab for their shots of validation. ‘Progress’ means, per Alex Drummond, “widening the bandwidth” of what it means to be female – which is none of their business – instead of widening the bandwidth of what it means to be male, something they could legitimately concern themselves with. Can one manipulate women and gaslight one’s way to a better world? No. I’ve reached my limit with TRAs nesting in the socialist feminist camp. Their political demands are obstacles to solving the problem in a way which reinstates women’s rights.
I always think about the trans widows, including those trapped in marriage to prominent trans-identifying Labour activists. I think of all the things they probably cannot say, and the way they are cut off from feminism because they are expected to play along with the narrative that their autogynephiliac husbands are “stunning and brave” for externalising their “authentically feminine” selves, even while teaching impressionable children whose safety depends on a freedom to identify an adult’s sex. I think of the middle aged women expected to play team sports with heavily built, over six foot tall men with long hair, and not utter a word of grievance that their physical safety, exercise, recreation, socialising and enjoyment must be compromised to pander to a man with a profound lack of respect for womankind, so deep that he views women as walking, talking props to fulfil his sexual fantasy of himself as the opposite sex.
I’m fed up of having to talk about the men, and their problems, which should not be our problems. Let them take their problems to other men to work on them. Once men decide to solve a problem, they can be quite impressive, but first they have to properly identify what it is (this is where they fail time and again because they don’t consult women to gain depth of vision). For feminist to prioritise the tantrums of such men is to reveal a serious weak spot, for men cannot be part of feminism: their interests in carving out exceptions for themselves, so they will be actively enabled to continue coping with life in a dysfunctional and fruitlessly socially disruptive manner, and avoid the hard work of looking closely at the source of their cross-sex desires, are antithetical to women’s interests. We can’t have it both ways, and compromising at this point would be to fail women completely.
If there is an element of virtue signalling to all this – tokenising trans-identifying individuals as a pre-emptive defence against accusations of transphobia (why bother? it’s enough to be female and express a mildly heterodox opinion to be tarred with that brush) – then it needs to stop. Feminist women need to realise that it doesn’t matter what you do or say – the moment you step away from being a useful idiot to TRAs – including the ones who claim to be gender critical (an impossibility, as trans identity relies on the existence of gender stereotypes and sex-segregation to ‘play’ with by transgressing boundaries) – you cross beyond the pale, from a male perspective. You step into women’s space, psychologically and politically. You become patriarchy’s original outsider, and a gender rebel. We need to be confident in ourselves as decent women with honest and worthwhile motivations, and the truth that there is nothing irrationally phobic about upholding women’s spaces and resisting self-ID. Hopefully, the authorities are currently digesting this memo, too, and won’t feel the need to escalate by prosecuting and sacking more women for fighting for our rights.
We know how authoritarian, brittle and hypocritical the Left tends to be when it comes to free speech, more often than not silencing inconvenient female voices to bully followers into an unstable consensus which always prioritises what men believe matters most. Of course, feminist women must be as free as anyone else to choose where to invest their energies. Who knows, maybe the identitarian Left is not a hopeless case. Maybe a few strong women can somehow reorient the Labour party towards inclusion of female concerns. On balance, it is better that there are intelligent women working from within the party, rather than abandoning it completely to the ideologues. However, if that strategy means letting go of the clarity we need in the self-ID debate, I consider it a step too far, and WPUK can count me out. It is too close a position to negotiating away women’s rights, piece by piece. We know men take a mile, given an inch. We know sex-segregation of spaces like toilets, changing rooms, prisons, DV shelters, rape crisis centres, is the only way to meet women’s needs. There is no room for negotiation when boundaries require strengthening and shoring up. If self-declared “true newts” are allowed in, there is no practical way to keep any crocodiles out. And they will carry on eating the newts.
Once again, women’s rights weigh less than men’s hurt feelings, and that’s what I find offensive, not to mention depressing. To me, that looks indistinguishable from patriarchal conditioning of females the put ourselves second. I refuse. The more of us who reject this trade-off, the better the chance of building an effective, non-partisan women’s liberation movement which isn’t hampered by false allegiance to male sex rights.