What do Socialist feminists say about gender identity ideology
- Why should women be consulted on changes to the gender recognition act. What has it got to do with women?
- Doesn’t gender dysphoria involve real suffering that you ignore and wouldn’t the Act help people?
- Your concerns are simply biological essentialism. If a male lives the life of a woman s/he will experience the same sexism of all women?
- Isn’t it hateful to disagree that Trans women are women and trans men are men?
- Transgender rights are not in opposition to women’s rights, shouldn’t you accept what transgender people are saying?
- Why do you see the threat being from men? Women are also predatory and abusive against Transgender people?
- The Republic of Ireland has had the policy of gender recognition for over two years without any detrimental consequences to women. Why do you remain concerned?
- What evidence is there that women’s spaces are under threat?
- Why do you have concerns about transgender women in women’s sports? Aren’t regulations in place to make this fair?
- Why are you concerned by how statistics are collected?
- Repeatedly feminists refuse to acknowledge the term “cis” women to describe themselves. It is simply a descriptive word, why object so strongly?
Why should women be consulted on changes to the gender recognition act. What has it got to do with women?
The proposed changes by the Tory government to Gender Recognition Act are a fundamental change to the legal definition of the sex categories man and woman allowing individuals to opt into their chosen gender. Women are currently protected as a sex under the equality act. If anyone of the male sex identify into this protected characteristic it renders it meaningless. Males who identify as women will have legal protection but the female sex will lose protection as a distinct category.
We would expect wide ranging consultation on such a fundamental change to the law. Women and feminist organisations submitted evidence to the Maria Miller Enquiry, the precursor to the proposed consultation arrangements, but all of it was ignored. The evidence submitted asked for reassurances about the impact the changes would have on women’s autonomy and access to services that need to be sex specific. None of these concerns have been addressed. The dismissal of feminist concerns is a common theme running through these proposals. We are told that only a tiny minority of people will use the provisions of the Act in which case it is disproportionate response because of its impact on those of us who are female. We are not apologetic for saying that women have the right to be consulted on changes to the law that will directly affect us.
Doesn’t gender dysphoria involve real suffering that you ignore and wouldn’t the Act help people?
Yes dysphoria involves suffering that can sometimes be helped by transition but the bill proposes to allow the self- declaration of gender. Self- declaration is an entirely different matter to people who have undergone gender reassignment surgery as a result of their dysphoria who then live as the opposite sex. In effect self- declaration involves the possibility that the system can be abused and we think it entirely appropriate to seek reassurances on these points.
Under the Transgender umbrella a number of self- identities exist including non-binary, bi gender, gender queer and gender fluid. If the effect of the Bill, is in practice, to give male bodied people access to female intimate space that will be an unacceptable outcome. The stereotypical criticism of women as “pearl clutchers” for expressing concern over access to toilets is a horribly sexist dismissal of the idea of the importance of safety for women and girls. There are concerns about toilets, yes, but also about male access to female sport facilities, to refuges for women fleeing violence and to the female prison estate etc.
We believe that there may be possibilities that strengthening sex discrimination law will have the effect of improving rights to express gender more freely whilst not undermining existing laws that protect women.
Your concerns are simply biological essentialism. If a male lives the life of a woman s/he will experience the same sexism of all women?
Feminists do not conflate sex and gender. Sex is a scientific term for ones biology and this cannot be changed. As materialists we believe the root of women’s oppression lies in her biology, a view underpinning socialist theory for generations. Gender theory does not provide an alternative credible analysis and it is regressive. Queer theorists see the intimate connection between biological sex and oppression and react by trying to dismantle the notion of biological sex whilst socialists and feminists react by seeking to dismantle oppression.
Feminists see gender as a constraint to women who have to adopt feminine behaviours to conform to societies limiting expectations of women’s rightful place. We do not happily acknowledge that feminine stereotypes make a male more womanly or vice versa. Both sexes should be able to express masculine and feminine traits in their sexed body. We are concerned that a change in the law consolidates gender stereotypes.
Some people are dysphoric and want to live as the opposite sex. Often they want to express this as an adoption of the gender they associate with the opposite sex and it is their right to do so without discrimination, harassment or harm. However, as socialist feminists we remain alarmed by the high numbers of natal females choosing to transition, arguably to escape harmful, rigid stereotypes that blight the lives of women and girls.
Isn’t it hateful to disagree that Trans women are women and trans men are men?
We do not accept that transwomen are women and trans men are men. We associate this with unscientific thinking and the demand that it is an accepted truth of progressive politics as worryingly authoritarian. The demand that the left adopts this level of irrational thinking is often associated with vicious misogynist attacks, usually against feminists, on those who will not submit to the lie. There is a worrying trend of silencing women associated with transgender activism, petitions demanding feminists lose jobs, memes suggesting that we are hateful, petty snarking etc. and this is unacceptable. We are confident that our movement will back us and provide support to us in this.
Transgender rights are not in opposition to women’s rights, shouldn’t you accept what transgender people are saying?
We believe there must be a degree of debate and open engagement to have a greater understanding of the fears and disagreements on both sides. We believe that changes to sex discrimination law could strengthen transgender rights without undermining women’s rights. However there cannot be an engagement with those who repeatedly engage in violent, hateful rhetoric against feminists and who demand that our best lifelong female activists are “reprimanded” or “dismissed” from their positions in the movement or their jobs in order to satisfy the hysterical and authoritarian agenda of a minority. We ask those caught up in the moment to pause and consider the actions they are taking.
Many transgender activists demand that women conform to their ideology in its entirety even though there are disagreements and nuances within the transgender community itself. Rational, respectful disagreement is deemed “hateful”. We see this for what it is; a demand that the women’s movement is secondary and subservient to transgender ideology and this is unacceptable. Suggestions that there can be unity on this basis are a sham. We think it’s time that the abusive rhetoric is condemned by those transgender activists who are serious about engaging with feminists. Failure to condemn abusive misogynist rhetoric signifies the weakness in our movement of feminist voices and we intend to rectify this problem. Liberal feminism has failed women and is not fit for purpose.
Why do you see the threat being from men? Women are also predatory and abusive against Transgender people?
We have seen arguments circulating on social media suggesting that women are equally violent as men and an equal threat to Transgender people. We consider this as highly misleading and a reflection of the men’s rights ideology that dominates our society and influences some transgender politics. Male violence harms women and transgender people, male violence accounts for over 90% of all violent crime. Socialist feminists do not fear saying this and in fact consider saying it a necessary part of raising political consciousness. Whist we genuinely acknowledge #NotAllMen are violent we are clear that women and girls, transgender and gay and lesbian people are often the target of male violence. We cannot co-operate with a political ideology that does not recognise the problem of male violence. Male violence is now more prevalent, not less prevalent, with the demise of second wave feminism. Women suffer daily from male violence.
Disagreeing with an ideology that fails to centre women is not violence. Refuting incoherent and unscientific claims is not violence. Women have the right to free speech, a human right.
The Republic of Ireland has had the policy of gender recognition for over two years without any detrimental consequences to women. Why do you remain concerned?
We see reference is often made to the limited impact on women of gender recognition law in the Republic of Ireland. We find this mystifying. Ireland is very different to the UK, largely rural and in reality with a small visible LGBT community. Ireland may have made strides in so called “gender identity rights” but women in Ireland are subject to some of the most draconian abortion laws in the world. Reproductive rights do not exist in Ireland. If we consider an historical materialist way of looking at this the reality of these two things co-existing at the same time begs a few questions.
If women had even some small power in the Republic over the church and the state and their patriarchal forms of expression then abortion would be safe, legal and free. Instead, in the Irish constitution, women do not have the right to bodily autonomy. That means misogyny is functioning at the level of the state in Ireland. Doesn’t that suggest other “advances” are pyric? This is the key to understanding the balance of forces in Ireland, women live in constant fear of unwanted pregnancy and the humiliation of seeking illegal abortion but there is a right to self- identity. Women cannot “identify” out of unwanted pregnancy.
What evidence is there that women’s spaces are under threat?
The left should recognise that in Canada gender recognition law has been strongly resisted by feminists who have similar concerns to us. Powerful men on the Canadian senate specifically refused to provide protections that full bodied natal males be denied access to changing rooms and other women’s facilities in the name of self- identity. In other words they knowingly refused to provide specific protections. In the American military self- identified transgender women are now allowed access to showers and dormitory facilities of females. Women in the American military are briefed that attempting to cover in the presence of a self- identifying transgender woman whilst in the shower is disrespectful to the transgender woman!
In the name of rights to “gender identity” we are in danger of over- riding female sex based protections. These protections are real and meaningful. On many occasions, such as the right to sex segregated toilet facilities in workplaces above a certain size, they have been won as progressive demands of the trade union movement and placed into health and safety law.
Why do you have concerns about transgender women in women’s sports? Aren’t regulations in place to make this fair?
Several transgender women could compete as women at Rio Olympics. Their testosterone levels must be below 10nmol/L for at least one year prior to competition. It is still not understood if male anatomy and female anatomy utilise testosterone differently so even reduced levels in males who now identify as transgender could provide advantages. There are also other factors that can contribute to male advantages in sport such as muscularity, skeletal size and vascular heart lung capacity. We believe there will be an impact to detriment of women on elite sports.
Self- identity will also impact on school, college and local community sporting occasions. How can local sports clubs and schools become involved in questions of testosterone levels etc? It will be impossible and also inappropriate. Where transgender athletes are often celebrated as “brave”, girls will learn to acknowledge their place is secondary and be expected to make room in their teams and their competitions, becoming peripheral to their own sporting occasions. Already self-identifying transgender women athletes are taking women’s prizes in sporting events. Famously there is the case of Fallon Fox, a transgender woman boxer, who has hospitalised women in fights. In the name of “self identity” the left have not protested such blatant abuse.
Why are you concerned by how statistics are collected?
The sex classification of statistics remains hugely important in society that has structural inequality between men and women at its heart. If self- identity were to undermine sex category reporting of pay, promotions, part time working with regard to female employment for example, we would lose a tool of analysis that provides us with the ability to challenge these inequalities.
Similarly concerns exist for offending. Currently male violence is easily categorised and reported. It shows the huge problem of male violence. Never the less “women” are already being reported as rapists. In law one must have a penis to rape, yet reality is already being blunted. Where men are in the majority of violent offenders just a small number migrating to female statistics will have a disproportionate impact hiding the size of the problems of inequality between men and women and obscuring the male violence that infects society.
Repeatedly feminists refuse to acknowledge the term “cis” women to describe themselves. It is simply a descriptive word, why object so strongly?
Our view is that women’s struggle for rights are part of a wider class struggle and should be at the centre of our movement. However gender theory denies us the vocabulary to discuss our biology or be explicit that even reproductive rights are for women. This is not just a problem in Ireland; recently students at Oxford University demanded the removal of references to women’s biology from abortion rights literature on the grounds that they were “transphobic” and “cis sexist”. Not only did they demand the removal of words describing female biology but they also threatened disaffiliation from abortion campaigns.
Language determines consciousness, or to put it less strongly, the structure of language influences cognition and world view. Therefore we will not simply shrug our shoulders at attempts to re-classify the meaning of a word as fundamental as “woman”. By demanding that we drop some words that describe our reality but insisting that we utilise others that frame a new context, gender theory is seeking to determine new classifications. At a minimum the left should try to unpack these new frameworks to understand what lay behind these motivations.
We should always try to understand the relevance of seeking to reframe language both in relation to the world around us and in relation to power. To place the word “cis” in front of the word woman immediately makes the actual woman/ adult human female “other”. In this classification anyone who “self identifies” is more oppressed than a “cis woman”. It creates a hierarchy of women, soon to be manipulated into new insidious classifications such as “cis women” having “privilege” or in some way being oppressive to those who “self-identify” as non cis or part of the transgender umbrella. These kinds of mental gymnastics have resulted in the absurdity of a major British political party, the Greens, calling women “non- men”. In this post- modern construction feminists become “cis sexist” and are then the valid target of abuse, this abusive behaviour, not surprisingly, follows familiar patterns of misogyny but that now have the cover of the cis / trans binary.
This is the pit in which liberal feminism currently thrashes around, a post- modern word salad, insisting feminism must centre everyone, except ourselves. This will not do. Instead we want a socialist feminism that unapologetically centres women, particularly working class women, in our movement. We say, unapologetically, feminism is for women.
Solidarity, sisters and brothers.