Have Women and Girls Got Too Many Rights?

Do you think women and girls have got too many rights? Should some of these be rolled back now? Are we too equal? Too safe? Too represented? Too visible? Too powerful? Do you believe there should now be a reduction in women’s rights? Has it all gone too far? Are women actually the oppressors now? Would you support policies which would curtail some of those rights? Do you believe that women should have fewer rights?

Well, if you do, you’re in good company. It’s not just Men’s Rights groups who agree with you: there are increasing numbers of public institutions and businesses who believe that women and girls are so equal now that we no longer need the legislative and social protections which were fought for and won by previous feminists. We are so safe now we no longer need the provisions in law intended to ensure our safety. We have such a major voice now that we no longer need the mechanisms intended to increase our political representation. We have so much recognition for our work that we no longer need women-only prizes and awards. We are so equal in opportunity to men and boys that we no longer need any special treatment to level the playing field.

Do you agree? Lots of people do.

Women have so many rights in fact that we can afford to share them. We are not yet required by law to share them, but a combination of female socialisation, the post-Trans Inquiry Guide for Service Providers, and a rampant disregard for the Equality Act from trans advocacy groups, means that we are being compelled to share them. Or bullied into sharing them. Or coerced, or guilt-tripped, or emotionally manipulated. There are many ways.

The result of the Trans Inquiry and the Trans Report is that in public life the issue of trans self-ID has essentially all but been decided, without the need for the upcoming government consultation, and without any debate. Many institutions are already putting self-ID into place, and women and girls are already feeling the effects.

GirlGuidingUK for example, have implemented a transgender policy which effectively changes the organisation from being single-sex, and allows trans-identifying boys to share showers, tents and private spaces with girls, without informing parents first. Topshop has designated its girls’ changing rooms as unisex, based on a complaint from one man who identifies as non-binary. Hampstead Ladies Pond has decided to admit trans-identified males, based on self-ID, after they had some ‘trans-awareness training’. Cabins on the Caledonian Sleeper are suddenly to be separated along the lines of ‘gender identity’ rather than sex.

GirlguidingUK, Topshop, Hampstead Ladies Pond and Caledonian Sleeper are just four examples of what is becoming a trend. Businesses know they need to do a bit of diversity training, they get in their local friendly trans group for a trans awareness day, and suddenly the women working there, or the female customers, have fewer rights than they did beforehand. Many other institutions have come to the conclusion that women and girls no longer need the same degree of protection we once did. We have too many rights, we really don’t need them all. Some can surely therefore be removed without the need to consult with us first. An recent example of female protest, in the form of the group ManFriday, resulted in Swim England retracting their new transgender policy in favour of having a consultation. I have yet to come across a company which sees the importance of consulting with women before changing their policies.

In schools there is a definite move towards ensuring that girls grow up with fewer rights than their mothers had.  A recent story from Transgender Trend documents the methods used to ensure compliance at one school in Essex, which was coerced into converting its girls’ toilets into unisex toilets, after a campaign led by local trans group Transpire. The Equality Act specifically warns against giving one protected group rights at the expense of another, but when this is trans rights versus girls’ rights, trans groups are ignoring it and misleading schools into putting trans rights first. It is always girls who lose out.

Trans advocacy group GIRES has this advice in their factsheet about trans inclusion:

GIRES factsheet Toilets

The advice to schools provided by  LGBT support group Allsorts, in Brighton, follows the same pattern. This is from their East Sussex Schools Toolkit:

 

This advice was written in 2013 and since then the toolkit has been listed as a resource on the Mermaids website, and used by many schools across Sussex to inform and educate staff on trans inclusion. The aim to teach girls that a boy can be ‘in every other respect a girl’ clearly makes absolutely no sense, and moreover it conflicts with all other initiatives in schools designed to empower girls to respect and assert their own boundaries. It also compromises safeguarding practice. The sentence about the trans pupil’s rights under the Equality Act is a straightforward lie.

In addition to this, girls should get used to the idea of having fewer rights to compete equally in sports:

 

In a tortured attempt to spin the language, Allsorts believes that girls who object to a male competing with them should be ‘supported to do a different activity’. We all know that that really means ‘be chucked off the team’ though. This is a blatant and intentional misrepresentation of the Equality Act. Girls and women are protected under the category of sex, but trans groups going into schools and workplaces are providing materials which deliberately hide that fact in order to prioritise trans people. Women and girls are always the ones adversely affected.

Trans groups providing guidance for schools and businesses include Mermaids, Gendered Intelligence, GIRES, Educate and Celebrate and the Intercom Trust, as well as Allsorts and Transpire. They all believe that girls and women don’t really need all the rights they currently have, and some of these should be rolled back. It is no longer necessary for girls to enjoy bodily privacy as they grow up, for example, or to expect a level playing field in sporting activities. These are unnecessary cherries on the cake of female equality, and can be removed with no consultation and no impact assessment.

Sport at an elite level fares no better. At the University of Brighton in March, Professor Yannis Pitsiladis introduced a talk by Joanna Harper, at an event entitled ‘Beyond Fairness: The Biology of Inclusion for Transgender and Intersex Athletes’. Harper, a trans-identified male, delivered a shockingly biased talk which suggested no possible disadvantage to women from allowing men into their sports. The research evidence was extremely limited in size and scope, but was nevertheless used to ‘prove’ that there was no physical advantage to be gained from having a male body. Harper suggested that it was ‘traditionalists’ who believed sports should be separated by biology, but that ‘others’ believed gender could be self-identified, as if these two positions carried equal weight, and also as if Team Biology was just a bit old-fashioned.

Professor Pitsiladis had introduced the event as being the first in a series of hopefully informative debates on trans inclusion in sports. If the goal is proper debate then a powerful advocate for trans rights should always be matched with a powerful advocate for women’s rights, as it is always women who will bear the brunt of any changes. This did not happen and there did not appear to be any plans for it to happen in future events. Follow-up reading after the event revealed that Harper’s flawed research was the very research used by the International Olympic Committee to inform their policy on trans inclusion. There are already male trans athletes winning against women in sports such as cycling, boxing and weightlifting. There are already trans sportsmen taking the place of women in team sports such as football, Australian rules football and basketball. The uncomfortable truth is that for every trans person who wins a place on a team there will be a woman who will have lost hers. We can’t just pretend that’s not true.

Once again the views of a minority interest group have been allowed to inform policy which has a profound effect on women, without consulting women first. The IOC obviously take the view that women no longer need a level playing field in sports. We’ve had equality for ages now. For example women’s football is no longer banned by the FA. We have little left to complain about. No, women have had too much equality and too many rights, and some of these are no longer completely necessary, and should be taken away and given to someone else. Women after all are supposed to be good at sharing.

Feminists who have concerns about the erosion of the rights of women are currently being characterised as ‘anti-trans activists’ in an attempt to discredit them. It is clear from the examples above that there are many ways that women and girls lose out when trans rights are given precedence, but there is deliberately no acknowledgement of this from trans activists: it is more useful to them to characterise feminists as haters and bigots than to admit there might be a conflict of interest. In fact, to acknowledge a conflict of interest at all would be to acknowledge that there is a difference between women and ‘transwomen’ and this transactivists cannot do. The law itself does differentiate: it allows sex-based exemptions to the equality law where women’s safety, privacy or dignity is concerned. Biological differences are enshrined in law. Trans activists will never accept this: in their view ‘transwomen are women’. This mantra is used frequently to shut down any argument. Here’s a classic of the genre:

Transwomen are women

The repetition of this mantra is not just used to shout women down, it is also used as a justification for not conducting proper impact assessments. If ‘transwomen’ ARE women then there is clearly no need to look at the impact on women of any change in legislation because changes to help ‘transwomen’ will help women. The purpose of ‘transwomen are women’ is not just to be ‘nice’ to trans-identified males and show solidarity and support, as many people seem to think it is. Its purpose is to deny the whole notion of women having separate rights, because it is in this way that trans activists can get every change they want passed without any opposition. It’s almost as if a Trojan Horse dressed as My Little Pony has landed smack bang right in the middle of the women’s movement and now Men’s Rights Activists are pouring out of it intending to get their own way.

If  ever there was a reason for avoiding the language of ‘transwomen’ this is it. Using the phrase ‘trans-identified males’ instead works for women because it serves to clarify the boundaries of the conflicting groups, and leaves no doubt as to the necessity of impact assessments for women and girls before changing legislation for trans people. When most of the rights enshrined specifically for women involve biology to one degree or another, and usually safety, privacy and dignity as well, this is an essential distinction to make. If we are not allowed to make it we can’t fight for our own rights. This is why it has become the preferred language for many women: we have been told ‘transwomen are women’ once too often, and it is never to our advantage.

Feminists are pro-women, not anti-trans. Feminists do not attack and assault trans people, we just know that for women sex-based rights are crucial. When the trans movement is deliberately intent on misleading schools, businesses and institutions, to the detriment of women and girls, the time for being ‘nice’ is over. We have to be honest instead. We have to defend our rights. In every new case of changing trans policy, if there is anyone who needs to budge up, shift over and lose out, it is women and girls. The only way this could be acceptable is if you believe that women and girls have too many rights already. Do you?

 

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Are All-Women Shortlists Transphobic?

A controversy around the subject of trans-inclusion is currently rumbling in the Labour Party: the question of whether trans-identified males, with or without a Gender Recognition Certificate, should be able to access women-only shortlists or become Women’s Officers, or take advantage of initiatives such as the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme to encourage women into politics. A crowdfunder has been set up to legally challenge the Labour Party’s acceptance (without consultation or debate) of trans self-ID, and there is now a counter-petition accusing all those involved of transphobia. This has been followed by what seems to be a hit-list giving details of Labour members with ‘transphobic’ Twitter accounts, and two women have already been suspended from the party based on this evidence.

What is sometimes forgotten in this argument is the reason that women-only initiatives exist in the first place. AWS and similar schemes are necessary in order to correct a historic imbalance in female representation, but it is not just about helping individual women to pursue a career in politics they may otherwise have been unable to do. The reason women need equal representation is that women have different needs to men and that these are often overlooked by male politicians: when male is the default setting women inevitably lose out.

The status of women as second class citizens is perpetuated by a majority male government who, with the best will in the world, do not always see or consider women’s perspectives on law, healthcare, science, education, crime, and all the other areas of policy which affect women and girls differently to men and boys. The reasons for the sex difference fall into two categories: female biology and female socialisation. Politically we need to talk about, amongst other things: the mental health and aspirations of girls, menstruation and the tampon tax, pregnancy and healthcare, reproductive rights, prostitution and porn, childcare and education, FGM and VAWG, emotional labour and caring, and the menopause and pensions. There is a component of female biology or socialisation, or both, in all these areas, and it is generally accepted that having men make all the policy is not best practice. Not all women feel the same way about any of these areas of policy, but the more women there are in positions of power the more likely it is that they will at least be addressed from a female perspective.

The difficulty when considering transwomen in these posts is that they do not share the two aspects of female experience which inform and prop up inequality – that is, biology and socialisation. However much the desire is there to support trans people within the party, to do so via the use of mechanisms designed to promote women must result in disadvantaging women. Female socialisation ensures that many women will support this, seeing transwomen as women and welcoming their inclusion, but is it fair to do this on behalf of the many other women who are trying to escape the socialisation which tells them to put other people’s needs first?

The mantra ‘transwomen are women’ has been used for years to silence the debate about trans inclusion, but now it is also being used as a form of gatekeeping over who is on the right side of the debate. ‘Do you believe transwomen are women?’ is increasingly being asked as a sort of test of your progressiveness, and there is only one right answer. Many women have been happy up till now to refer to trans-identified males as women, largely out of courtesy and respect, sometimes out of sympathy, but not because it’s actually true. Many of these women now feel that the courtesy and respect has been thrown back in their faces by transwomen acting with what looks suspiciously like a very male sense of entitlement.

The preoccupation with ‘passing’ is an indication that within the trans community itself it is actually acknowledged that transwomen usually look like men. The instinct to recognise sex difference lies very deep within us all, and despite the attempts to discredit feminists, there never was a call for, or a need to, examine someone’s genitals before letting them in to a women-only space. We all know what a man looks like: we can’t not know. It is asking a lot of women to pretend otherwise, but of course we will do so if treated with similar respect in return. What some of us won’t do is be bullied into it.

A good illustration of the attempt to bully women into it was the recent performance of India Willoughby on Celebrity Big Brother. India’s extreme rage and threatening body language, complete with jabbing finger, were very ‘male’ to a woman’s eye. The accompanying repetition of ‘I am … A WOMAN!’ was very like the mantra repeated endlessly on Twitter, and the response from the women was very much that of appeasement towards a violent man. Many of us will recognise that moment when a woman’s expression becomes slightly glazed over in an attempt to do nothing to provoke the man who is angry with her. All the women in the Big Brother House wore that expression. That kind of bullying is employed every day on social media towards gender-critical feminists, and also in real life when feminist meetings are violently disrupted.

If men who identify as women have to go to those lengths to procure compliance then it is very clear they don’t ‘pass’. This means that, when it comes to privilege, they have had the advantage of a lifetime of being seen as male and treated as male. However different you feel inside, the way you are treated depends on what other people can see. However much ‘gender’ is claimed as innate and real, it doesn’t show. Men can have no experience of what it’s like to be a girl growing up, either through socialisation or biology, and this limits how much they can understand the needs of girls and women, even if they identify as women themselves.

Ahead of the recent Women’s March Munroe Bergdorf admonished women for wearing pussy hats because ‘not all women have a vagina’. Bergdorf, a transwoman who ironically benefited from a platform on BBC Woman’s Hour recently to talk about ‘how women are silenced’, tweeted: ‘Centering reproductive systems at the heart of these demonstrations is reductive and exclusionary’. This is an opinion which is mainstream within the trans activist community. (Some of the march organisers tried to ban the wearing of pussy hats after last year’s complaints). If biology itself is seen as exclusionary amongst trans people, then it could be argued that transwomen are actually less useful even than men in representing women politically, because their needs are in direct opposition to women’s.

Coincidentally, it is not the case that transmen are spending much time publicly telling men which body parts they can or can’t talk about, almost as though transmen don’t feel a sense of entitlement over a whole other class of people.

There cannot be a clearer example of how ‘feeling like a woman’ does not necessarily give you a female perspective, and does not give you the ability or experience to represent women’s issues. Notwithstanding all the slogans and mantras in the world, sex will out. If it’s the case that ‘only trans people can talk about trans issues’ (a good reason for aiming for more trans-inclusion in the first place) then it is surely also true that we need more female representation to talk about women’s issues, and that this has to come from women born and socialised female, because otherwise we just defeat the object.

 

What is Transgender?

On the eve of a parliamentary debate on the government response to the Trans Enquiry, it might be useful to look at what people mean when they say Transgender. The rights of transgender people are up for debate, and the Women and Equalities Select Committee who hosted the initial inquiry obviously felt that the government’s response did not go far enough in updating these rights, and are seeking to push them further. The government was certainly cautious in its response, and I would suggest this might partly be due to the confusion over terminology. As it stands, trans rights (in terms of ‘gender identity’ becoming a protected characteristic) are in direct conflict with women’s rights (in terms of ‘sex’ being a protected characteristic). Now, we all know what a woman is. (Well, we used to know anyway: a woman is a female of the species, a grown-up one. A girl is an immature member of the female class). But nobody seems to agree on what a trans person is. It is hard to legislate on behalf of a group of people who seem to shape-shift in their own definition (or other people’s definitions) depending on the circumstances.

The difference between sex and gender is not always well understood, so here is the definition according to the World Health Organisation (with thanks to @sueveneer on Twitter for flagging this)

WHOWHO 2

Some of us understandably struggle with the idea that a socially-constructed set of characteristics can be experienced as ‘innate’, but this is exactly what the notion of ‘gender identity’ asks us to believe. It becomes even more ludicrous when applied to children, who do not yet have the context in which to understand the world around them, and the way in which it operates to instill social norms. The whole notion of being ‘born in the wrong body’ only makes sense if you believe that certain personality traits are intrinsically linked to certain body types.

Trans activists argue that it is nothing to do with toy choices, hair styles etc, but that trans identity is deeply felt and believed and A REAL THING ON THE INSIDE. This is asserted, notwithstanding that all the kids showing up at gender identity clinics are doing so because they present with ‘non-typical gender behaviour’ ie boys with long hair wearing dresses and girls with short hair who don’t like playing with dolls. These children might also be convinced they should be (or in fact ARE) the opposite sex, but if this conviction alone is used as proof of genuine trans status then the obvious problem is HOW DO THE REST OF US KNOW? And if we can’t tell a genuine trans person from a simply gender non-conforming one, how can we legislate and, if we do legislate, how can we then stay within the law?

To illustrate the problem here are some pictures of men (I use the word to mean adult human male, obviously) who have unconventional gender identity or presentation.

These two people identify as women:

 

One of these two people identifies as a woman, the other as non-binary:

 

The two people here identify as male, but also transvestite, transsexual, cross-dressing or transgender as well:

 

And finally, these two people retain a sense of humour about the whole thing*:

 

With respect, can the Women and Equalities Commission tell me which of the above people, if any, I should be worried about if they were to enter a public toilet or changing room I was using? (I know which ones I would be worried about, but obviously, it’s not about me…) And can the trans lobbyists tell me which ones are ‘genuine’ trans people who come under the protection of the trans umbrella and which ones do not warrant this protection? And why? And when you say ‘Trans women are women’ which of the above are you talking about? And why?

Because if you can’t answer these questions (and probably, even if you can, because there will be disagreement depending on who you ask) the proposed change in legislation might just as well be “Anyone who feels like it can use the ladies toilet and if you object to that you’re a bigot!” That’s because if the law is changed we will all have to act *as if* the male-bodied person next to us in the changing room is a trans woman or girl, because we are the ones who will be in trouble if we get it wrong: we will be guilty of a hate crime. How to remove at a stroke the rights of women and girls to set boundaries and protect ourselves!

This has never been about demonising trans people, as the lobbyists would have you believe, but about defining trans anti-discrimination legislation in a way that is robust enough to minimise adverse effects and to take account of the risks of exploitation. The proposed changes to the laws surrounding trans equality leave women wide open to abuse, as they remove many of the sex-based protections that help to keep women safe in public life. The fact is that we are on the brink of taking a backwards step regarding the rights of women and nobody seems to be talking about it (except for radical feminists of course, particularly lesbians, who have seen the writing on the wall for a lot longer than most of us).

More details on the disproportionate effect on women that the proposed trans legislation will have can be found here.  And to the MPs who will be discussing this in the house next week: before you decide to remove women’s rights in favour of trans rights, please can you tell us what your definition of transgender is, what your criteria will be, and, most importantly, when we are in a public sex-segregated space and feel threatened by the presence of an unexpected male, HOW CAN WE TELL?

*Thanks to Miranda and Hope for letting me use their pictures

Edit: The World Health Organisation has removed its page on the differences between sex and gender so I have inserted the screenshot of the page as it was. I have asked them to show any new evidence which has necessitated a change of information but so far none is forthcoming.