This International Women’s Day weekend, women in cities around the globe came together to celebrate the social and political advances made by women over the last century, and to protest the many injustices still standing in the way of equality and liberation. From Serbia to Liberia; Berlin to Mexico City; Dhaka to London, women marched for reproductive rights, for freedom from sexual exploitation and poverty, and for an end to male violence.
Footage of the march that took place in Melbourne, Australia shows large crowds of people marching through the city streets chanting, “Say it once, say it again! No excuse for violent men!” However photographs also reveal that these chants were being heard in the shadow of a large black banner, held high and slashed with bloody red capitals: TERF GRAVES ARE GENDER NEUTRAL BATHROOMS. The cognitive dissonance required to believe simultaneously two such contradictory statements: that women have a right to live free from the fear of male violence, but also that women who believe in the reality and importance of biological sex as a social and political category deserve to die and have their graves urinated upon, appeared lost to many.
On 22nd February this year the Independent newspaper published an article written by Sports Editor, Jonathan Liew, proclaiming that arguments against trans and intersex athletes were based on prejudice and ignorance. Quite apart from lumping biological males who self identify as women and biological females with measurable disorders of sexual development into the same category as though they have something fundamental in common, Liew appeared to feel perfectly comfortable asking out loud and in public whether, if women’s sports came to be dominated by trans women resulting in female people being pushed out of sporting life entirely, it would matter. Why would that be bad, he asked? Really, why? Might it not be inspiring?
Which rather begs the question: inspiring to whom? To all the young girls day dreaming in classrooms of gold medals, stardom, and The Olympics? Or the young women sacrificing their social lives in the pursuit of sporting excellence, so that they may one day soon stand atop the podium? Perhaps it is inspiring to current elite female athletes with titles and records to defend? The response from such sporting heroines as Dame Kelly Holmes and Martina Navratilova would suggest not.
Of course the erasure of female people from elite sporting life only matters if you think female people matter. In the space of a few short paragraphs, Jonathan Liew managed not only to convey his own personal disregard for women and girls, but to get right down to brass tacks exposing, without an ounce of shame or awareness, his (and many of his fellows) true response to the question of conflict between women’s rights and the demands of trans activists: yes we know women may lose out entirely — but who frankly cares?
Here lies the nub, and it is one can be quickly transposed onto any issue. An acceptance that biological males who make any claim to identify as a woman are literal women will lead to women losing out in all areas. If biological sex is erased as a political and social category in favour of gender identity, sexism will become impossible to monitor, fight, and successfully legislate against. Women, who struggled so hard and so long for their sex based rights, will lose them. Women, who are still woefully underrepresented in political and public life, will face still less representation. Men like Jonathan know this, and way beyond any academic arguments around testosterone levels, the innateness of gendered behaviours, or the ability of those socialised male to understand sex based oppression, simply do not care.
In August last year, the BBC published findings from a Freedom of Information request sent to the Ministry of Justice. These findings confirmed those of women’s rights campaign group, Fair Play For Women, suggesting that roughly half of all trans prisoners serving custodial sentences in British jails were sex offenders, as compared to 19% of the general male prison population. Following this in October, Karen White, a self identified trans woman who had sexually assaulted female prisoners whilst on remand in HMP New Hall, was given a life sentence and ordered back to the male estate. Then in February of this year the MOJ announced that they would be creating a separate facility — a prison within a prison — for trans women at HMP Downview: a working compromise designed to keep both trans women and women safe. But again on International Women’s Day, a group of trans activists made to occupy the MOJ’s offices in protest at this decision. To be kept separately from a male estate in which trans women felt understandably threatened was not good enough. Nothing less than forcing women to be locked up with biologically male sex offenders against their will would suffice.
Gender ideology has forever been a misogynists wet dream. Its insistence that women as a sex do not really exist, have no special common rights or interests, yet systematically oppress all males who identify as anything other than staunchly masculine, brings all the sexist piggery to the yard. It is the increasing social acceptability of these attitudes — attitudes that until recently would have been considered the very antithesis of feminism — that have emboldened trans activists and led us here.
Here is a place where Australian women who believe that sex based rights matter cannot attend a feminist march dedicated to ending male violence without encountering death threats. Here is a place where men can look the erasure of female people from sporting life in the face and openly shrug. Here is a place where women are assaulted in prison by a male rapist and activists believing themselves righteous protest attempts to prevent it from happening again.
Here is a place we can no longer afford to ignore.