Your average woman is more likely to spend more time putting on make-up than thinking about the erosion of women’s rights at the hands of the transgender lobby. This is understandable and not a criticism of individual women; being pretty is what we have been trained to do since infancy. It’s a sad truth that most women are not consciously aware of their oppression.
Moments of shared experience, like when you catch the barmaid’s wry smile as she’s humouring some dullard mansplaining Brexit, are precious but from my experience, rare. There is a seam of knowing that runs through all of us, but it is buried deep and sometimes hard to recognise. We are expected to smile, compliment hairstyles and remember birthdays and we implicitly know to plan our walk home to avoid attack or harassment by men. These are just a few of tiny details that comprise the female experience; they are the price we pay to exist in a man’s world.
When I am the only woman in my workplace who objects to being called a ‘girl’ I sometimes feel like it’s me who needs to lighten-up. I feel similarly frustrated when local women’s services and ‘experts’ refer to ‘gendered violence’ rather than calling it what it is; men’s violence against women. As gender critical feminists, (or ‘feminists’ as we were previously known), there is a tendency online to be pulled into comforting blanket statements about women as a class. That ‘women are not being listened to’ is a common refrain. This isn’t entirely accurate, it is because some women such as Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee Maria Miller and Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt are ‘listened to’ that the interests of all women are being eroded. Of course, they are listened to precisely because what they say is not threatening to male dominance. When you think about culture at the centre of politics and power it is no surprise that the women who stick it out tend to do so by swallowing sexism.
Most women in politics, and indeed some conceited lefty men, will airily call themselves ‘feminist’ without any real understanding. It’s easy to see why; fighting for the rights of women and calling-out male violence will win them few votes and attract a lot of hate. It’s much easier to say ‘gender equality good’ ‘gendered violence bad’ particularly when you’re also supposed to be an expert on wind farms, the NHS and the global economy. Added to this the bar is set unattainably high for women in the public gaze; compare the reaction to Emily Thornberry’s comments on twitter about ‘white van man’ which led to her resignation from the Labour Party’s front bench with Boris Johnson’s catalogue of gaffes in his safe position as Foreign Secretary.
Online feminism has raised my consciousness and I have no doubt many of my male friends would complain it has radicalised me. The problem is women like me might seek to represent the interests of the many, but feminist women are a privileged few. There seems to be a taboo in the feminist community about criticizing, or even noticing, that actually many of those bleating ‘transwomen are women’ are, in fact, ‘uterus bearers’ themselves. The first cohort to complete the Jo Cox leadership programme who signed a letter condemning transphobia were women. Most of the clicktivists who signed the #iseetara petition to have a violent prisoner moved to the women’s estate without a gender recognition certificate were women.
The behaviour of women is fiercely policed not least by other women; we must all be ‘nice’ and support our sisters, even transwomen who like Tara Hudson (above) have bar brawls and boast about the size of their penis. The fact that ‘transwomen are men’ will seem unspeakably cruel to most until their consciousness is raised. Yet again this is women competing for male attention against our own interests, and it is easier to hurl abuse at other women than it is to recognise oppression. ‘Women’s Work’ is always thankless; feminist activism is no exception.
A pen, a penis and a half-formed opinion seem to be enough to ensure the pages of the Guardian are full of trans sob-stories. A few courageous women like Janice Turner and Helen Lewis have broken through, but most of us are left isolated in the liberal communities we were once a part of, or preaching to the online choir. The power of seeding questions through real life conversations should not be underestimated.
My opinion was changed when two women I respected explained the obvious to me: that transgenderism is based upon sexist stereotypes and that it is possible to modify one’s body, but not to change sex. My initial reaction was tearful and hostile. Later I began to research, learn and crucially to begin to recognise the experience of sexism that I share with all women. Those who had the courage to speak to me gave me the confidence firstly to question myself, and then to speak to others. When I found my voice the logic of the gender critical feminist argument spoke for itself; in person over a cuppa the conversations can continue beyond the circular ‘transwomen are women.’ I’ve had only a few negative reactions, most of my friends and family now share my understanding that without constraints of gender there would be no gender to ‘trans.’ From my experience people outside of ‘woke’ progressive politics often accept that it is impossible to change sex as a simple matter common sense.
Over the past few years I have seen the fightback against transgender ideology grow in the face of ever-more vicious abuse. Arguably the volume and vitriol have increased precisely because more people are beginning to recognise the absurdity of trans activist claims. Attempts to derail arguments with claims that, for example, because the Bugis people recognise five genders biology itself is a social construct are shown to be ladee balls when one asks the simple question ‘what sex was the person who gave birth to you?’
I gain great comfort from online radical groups. They remind me that we are not alone and that we are justified in our struggle. Indeed, talking with feminists on social media has helped me open conversations with questioning friends. However, the warmth and support of online groups can sometimes lull one into a false sense of security about the strength of the sisterhood. If we are to make progress it is important not to be so naive as to think women will always act in their own best interests; indeed generalisations such as ‘The Labour Party doesn’t listen to women’ can harm our arguments as they are so easily refuted. Many women are so wedded to the notion of being ‘nice girls’ questioning is internalised as intolerance and thoughts are policed. We might be fighting for all women, but we must remember, we don’t yet speak with one voice. Trans arguments are illogical and flimsy, they inspire a cult-like belief that can be easily punctured by simply stating reality. Reaching out to other women and raising their consciouness is central to this. I firmly believe we are on the cusp of a gender critical mass – now is the time to overcome our ‘nice girl’ socialisation and speak out – Now is the time to be brave and ‘Call a Dave a Dave.’