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Sex-based vs Gender-based Oppression: A Fisk of Dembroff

A couple of weekends ago I got into it on Twitter with the Feminist Next Door, over a bunch of things, including her claim that women are subject to ‘gender-based’ rather than ‘sex-based’ oppression. As I said at the time, this makes no earthly sense to me, and I responded with a thread about how patriarchy functions by treating women as a resource, which also – plug – happens to the theme of the forthcoming issue of The Radical Notion. Handily, at the end of last week, this video appeared in my mentions… a presentation by the AFAB non-binary Yale philosopher Robin Dembroff, purporting to explain why patriarchy has nothing to do with male dominance and female subordination and why we should all understand it as a system of ‘gender-based oppression’ (which if Dembroff’s illustrations are anything to go by, is really the mostest oppressive to gender non-conforming men). You will no doubt be surprised when I say this still makes no earthly sense to me, but Dembroff’s presentation serves as a useful example of what people are thinking when they assert that patriarchy is a ‘gender-based’ rather that a ‘sex-based’ system, and it’s therefore worth unpicking.

So Dembroff presentation is called ‘Putting Real Men on Top,’ and is an outline sketch of their book, Real Men on Top: The Relation of Patriarchy, forthcoming from OUP. It concerns, as Dembroff says, “the metaphysics of patriarchy,’ and specifically the effort to demonstrate that patriarchy is not a sex-based system, and that, as Dembroff asserts at the start, “No one is oppressed because they are a woman.” (Dembroff admits this is a surprising claim for the beginning of a feminist philosophy talk (well Robin, in-fucking-deed)). The second ‘surprising’ claim Dembroff kicks off with is ‘No one is oppressed because they are a man, but many people we take to be men experience gender oppression.’ It is exemplary of this entire talk that right from the off, the ‘gender oppression’ experienced by males (sorry ‘people we take to be men’) is foregrounded, and the effects of patriarchy on female people completely fucking ignored. (Heaven forfend feminists concern themselves with the oppression of female people!)

According to Dembroff, people have a “knee-jerk reaction” (1.23 min) to these claims because they have “implicitly absorbed” what Dembroff calls ‘the binary model of patriarchy.’ Note, we must have ‘implicitly absorbed it,’ it is an unreflective, probably primitive, reflex, because it couldn’t possibly be that we have thought long and hard about it and come to the conclusion that no, we’re pretty sure patriarchy is sex-based. (This is basically just an academic iteration of ‘educate yourself’).

Dembroff defines the binary model of patriarchy as “a system of gender oppression, in which men are privileged because they are men, and women are oppressed because they are women.” Problems arise immediately here because even while trying to critique the radical feminist model, Dembroff can only represent it in their own wokeist terms, that is, that patriarchy is a model of ‘gender oppression’ rather than ‘sex-based oppression,’ and is best understood in terms of ‘privilege’ – a word which individualises structural class-based phenomenon, and then allows you to say things like ‘look this man isn’t ‘privileged’ because he’s gender non-conforming, therefore patriarchy isn’t about male dominance.’ (Handy that). No radical feminist would define patriarchy in these terms, rather, our definition would go something like, ‘a system of male dominance and female subordination which functions through structural sex class relations and is inculcated, enforced and maintained by gender socialisation, policing and hierarchy.’ As we keep saying, ad nauseum, gender is the mechanism of enforcement of sex-class relations, and if you don’t relate gender to its role in maintaining sex-class relations, it’s just some random free-floating discursive widget that exists for no apparent reason, as Robin is about to helpfully demonstrate.

So, Robin wants to keep the idea of patriarchy as ‘gender oppression,’ (THAT WASN’T THE ORIGINAL IDEA WAS IT ROBIN???) but get rid of the thought that it ‘privileges’ men and oppresses women. In so doing they will provide an excellent illustration of how changing the definition of patriarchy from ‘sex-based’ to ‘gender-based’ is really useful for outright denying the structural subordination of female people as a class.

The overall aim of the talk is to explain how patriarchy works if it is not explicable in terms of “facts about who are men and women.” As if anyone who’s spent more than five minutes considering women’s oppression thinks ‘facts about who are men and women’ are sufficient to explain the existence of patriarchy anyway. Dembroff stunningly illuminating answer is that patriarchy, that is, ‘a system of gender oppression, is explained by facts about how we stand in relation to ideals of manhood and womanhood.’ Ideals of manhood and womanhood are artefacts of gender, so Dembroff’s argument here is basically that ‘gender oppression is explained by gender.’ Which is tautological and hence, not an explanation of anything. That someone with a job in the philosophy department at Yale can present this screaming ‘tautology-identifying-as-an-explanation’ to a bunch of professional philosophers in a professional philosophy webinar and not be laughed out of town is, in and of itself, a pretty compelling example of how far academic philosophy has departed from its disciplinary norms on the trans issue. Anyway, given no one stood up and pressed the big red tautology button, I guess we’d better carry on.

Notably, at this point, Dembroff’s trans ideological commitment to conflating sex and gender, and presenting both as cultural artefacts, comes clearly into focus. ‘Ideals of manhood and womanhood’ includes, not only norms about masculinity and femininity, but also, norms about what makes a male body male or a female body female. There will be further more florid recitation of the sex denialist theses later, of course. Inevitably, at no point will Dembroff admit that they’re conflating sex and gender, and that the whole effort to subsume sex-class analysis by gender depends on it.

According to Dembroff then, patriarchy is a system of gender oppression that enforces ideals of manhood and womanhood. By radical feminist lights, this is half right, in that of course we agree that patriarchy functions by enforcing gender norms (as opposed to thinking patriarchy simply is this system of norms). Note, however, that as we saw above, Dembroff has smuggled ‘thinking humans are sexed’ into the definition of ‘gender ideals’ here, and ta-dah, women who think oppression is sex-based can therefore be dismissed as evil right wing patriarchal bigots. Cool. By this reasoning, the people who benefit from patriarchy are not all men, but only men who conform to patriarchal ideals of manhood, what we’d call, ‘patriarchal men.’ And this is true, if you think that the only benefits and harms of the system relate to the policing of gender. That we’re actually dealing with a structural system of material resource extraction has already been completely elided. As then has the fact that gender non-conforming males, who may well be discriminated against, largely by other males, still benefit from the reproductive, domestic and emotional labour of females. (The issue of gay men’s exploitation of female surrogates would be axiomatic here for example).

So, that’s the introduction, already a conceptual car crash. If the tautology, conflation and general sniffiness about giving a shit about women wasn’t enough to put you off already, strap in, there’s plenty more where that came from.

The rest is divided into three, slowly unfolding and more detailed car crashes, as follows:

1. Against the Binary Model

So, this is what Dembroff claims is the traditional ‘binary’ definition of patriarchy as a system of ‘male supremacy’ used by feminists, which doesn’t actually represent anything like the feminist account of why male dominance exists, and reduces it all to the flat-headed also-tautological thought that male dominance just is a system of male dominance.

There are two problems for the binary model according to Dembroff.

As suggested above, the second feature here is just wrong. Facts about the existence of men and women don’t explain patriarchy. That would be biological determinism. Which is what Dembroff thinks we believe, because Dembroff is either a) dumb or b) strategically disingenuous. The first feature, that we think gendered power relations act on already existing sexed humans is true. Dembroff, as we also saw above, will dismiss that, because ‘sex-is-a-spectrum-Judith-Butler-is-the-oracle’ etc.

The first problem with this model for Dembroff is it “reduces gender oppression to women’s oppression.” (OH NO! CAN’T HAVE THAT!) Sarcasm aside, this is not an accurate representation of our understanding of how patriarchy works, but it’s a distortion again created by Dembroff conflation of sex-based oppression with gender-oppression. Dembroff seems intent on wilfully ignoring that the analysis of how gender functions was in fact developed by radical feminists, and we have long been cognisant of the fact that patriarchal masculinity is harmful to men as individuals, and that heteronormativity – which is a gendered bolt-on to the system of sex-based oppression – is harmful to gay men and lesbians (Adrienne Rich came up with the concept of ‘compulsory heterosexuality‘ LONG before Butler showed up.) However, the sex-based oppression of women is not reducible to gender oppression. The easiest way to conceptualise this is in relation to the double bind. The concept of the double-bind was notably outlined by Marilyn Frye in her essay ‘Oppression,’ which Dembroff references a couple of times in this talk. Frye focuses there mostly on classic double binds, such as those around the madonna/whore dichotomy, which present women with to two choices, neither of which are good.

I think it is important however to extend the notion of the double bind to make it clear that all patriarchal norms create double-binds for women, and indeed, for all people who are oppressed by hierarchical mechanisms. The structure of patriarchal gender as experienced by women is such that women are disadvantaged whether or not they conform to, or rebel against, gendered norms. This is because the function of patriarchal gender is to socialise women into performing the role of a reproductive resource, and service class, for males. If women correctly perform patriarchal femininity, therefore, they are undermining their humanity, and placing themselves in a position of exploitation. And this is true, even while they are not subject to any kind of social sanction for their gender. That is, sex-based oppression is distinct from gender-based discrimination, if gender-based is understood to be ‘disadvantage accrued because of how you do gender.’ Males can be subject to gender-based discrimination, but not to sex-based oppression. And males who perform patriarchal masculinity correctly benefit from it, whereas females who perform patriarchal femininity correctly get screwed by it (that’s the point), and also get screwed if they rebel against it (which would be gender-based discrimination). What is therefore completely occluded by subsuming ‘sex-based oppression’ under ‘gender oppression’ is the fundamental structure by which gender functions to extract resources from female people as a class. Well done Robin, have a book deal.

Dembroff will allegedly demonstrate that patriarchy can’t be a system which privileges men as a class by using examples of places where individual men from racialised or sexual minorities are disadvantaged. They then assert that we can’t account for this, and further, that we would deny that is has anything to do with the gender (SEX!) of the individuals, because apparently if you believe in sex-class analysis you have to believe all individual men are privileged and have to be a reductive idiot who can’t understand the nuances of how gender works (which Dembroff genuinely seems to think they are the first person to grasp.) Of course, males who do not perfectly perform white patriarchal masculinity will be penalised by gender-policing, that’s the foundational mechanism through which male dominance is inculcated and enforced. However, this only undermines sex-class analysis if you individualise it, obdurately refuse to grasp how gender functions to structure sex-class relations, and pretend you can’t understand how gender-based hierarchies are intertwined with both racialised and socio-economic hierarchies.

Indeed, Dembroff will use ‘the problem of intersectionality’ in order to somehow prove patriarchy can’t be a system of sex-based oppression, focusing on three legal cases where claims were made under Title VII protections against ‘gender discrimination.’ What the examples prove, I would suggest, is not that sex-based oppression doesn’t exist, but that a) it needs to account for how that is modulated by race and b) that discrimination on the basis of gender non-conformity should be a separate class of legal phenomena which shouldn’t be crowbarred into ‘sex-based’ discrimination. Dembroff however, having reduced ‘the binary model’ to a straw-woman account which apparently can’t explain discrimination against GNC people as an auxiliary effect of sex-based oppression, will claim that these examples show us why sex-based oppression isn’t a thing, and, moreover, thinking about sex-based oppression is bad and wrong because it “reduces gender oppression to a homogenous notion of women’s oppression.” No Robin, no. The oppression of women as a class is not identical to ‘gender policing.’ It cannot be, because women are still exploited and subjugated as members of a sex-class even when they are subject to no gender based discrimination at all, even while they are fulsomely praised for being an ideal home-maker, a good little girl, or for styling themselves for the male gaze. It is you, by collapsing the notion of sex-based oppression into gender-based discrimination, who have produced this reduction, and doggedly attributed it to us, in wilful denial of the fact that it was us who produced this analysis already.

Dembroff maintains that the ‘usefulness’ of the ‘binary model’ is very limited (all that unuseful focusing on women when you should have been paying attention to the damage done to people who really matter eh Robin?). It’s not useful, they claim, because it doesn’t provide a “unified understanding of gender oppression,” which apparently, was what the concept of patriarchy was supposed to provide. Again Robin, no. The concept of patriarchy was developed, by women, to explain the social subordination of women. It was not supposed to provide a ‘unified theory of how patriarchy really hurts men the most,’ although the concept of gender as the mechanism of sex-based oppression, does, in fact, explain why males who do not successfully perform patriarchal dominance are disadvantaged by that, relative to other males. So what is your point, exactly, other than, ‘we need to stop paying any attention whatsoever to the sex-based exploitation of women’??? [Enter Sally Haslanger stage right, still furiously falling over herself to make up for that time she once ‘problematically’ claimed that people who are perceived as female were subject to oppression on that basis. Don’t worry Sally, just a few more years rowing back on any commitment to the exploitation of your sex-class and you’ll be forgiven!!]

2. What Explains Gender Oppression?

The binary model apparently tries to explain gender oppression by ‘facts about women and men,’ which Dembroff thinks they’ve just dealt with. So, now we’re now going to try plugging a bunch of other things into the tautology ‘gender oppression is caused by gender’ and see what happens. Fun!

The first of these, roughly, gender identity, can’t explain gendered oppression because it is itself produced in relation to that oppression. True. That’s why you shouldn’t try to define people by it in law right? The second thing, social roles of subordination and dominance, also doesn’t explain it for the same reason. Quite. (Hmmm, maybe gender doesn’t explain gendered oppression after all). Dembroff will then change tack and interpret gender to mean sex, and explain that that doesn’t work, because if you take sex to be the sole cause of patriarchy, you are committing biological determinism. This is true, if you think that the body being central to the explanation of patriarchy commits you to thinking biology must therefore be the sole determinant of the existence of patriarchy. As Dembroff says, if you “think there is nothing social that bridges the gap between the body and social hierarchy” (24.08), then you’re Stephen Pinker or something. The fact that feminists who believe in sex-based oppression have been arguing with Stephen Pinker since long before I was a baby radfem seems not to concern Dembroff.

It is completely stupid to insist that anyone who thinks the body is central to the oppression of women must think the body is the only variable in the story and is therefore a biological determinist. But this kind of move, as I discuss in more detail in the intro to the Spring issue of The Radical Notion, has long been used by those who want to erase the analysis of patriarchy as a system of sex-based resource extraction, and replace it with free-floating gender wibble-wobble. A system of resource extraction depends on both the properties of the ‘raw material’ which mean that it fulfils a certain set of human needs, and a historical and social system which developed in order to facilitate the appropriation of that material. Dembroff may as well argue here that because the international oil trade does not arise by mechanical necessity from the existence of oil that the material properties of oil have nothing to do with the oil trade. Like I said, completely fucking stupid. Still, this kind of argument is apparently allowed to fly. And I’m sure that has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that erasing the recognition of sex-based resource extraction serves the interests of males very nicely thank you very much.

The fourth plug-in will be ‘sex based features plus their social meanings.’ This won’t work, Dembroff thinks, because apparently, the features which make a body male or female are just totally random ever morphing cultural phenomenon that have absolutely nothing to do with human’s reproductive potential… *lapses into rote sex denial*…”something something many (um 99.8% in fact) bodies have clusters of features which mean they can be classified as male or female, something something, ‘exhaustive binary’ (no, edge cases are normal in all classification) something something ‘relation of body to cultural ideas’ (yes, human concepts involve the relation between things in the world and our classification systems, that doesn’t mean classification is just some piece of arbitrary cultural wibble) something something normative, (OMGHARD NOT NORMATIVE, THAT IS THE WORST AND MOST EVIL OF ALL THE SINS, I mean, seriously, who gives a fuck if female people’s bodies are exploited and abused day in and day out as long as we DON’T SAY ANYTHING NORMATIVE.)” Robin is then going to list all the people harmed by these pernicious normative ideals, which will of course conflate normative ideals of sex with normative ideals of gender, starting with intersex people, running through trans, gay and indigenous people, and ending with ‘”even hilariously, Suffragettes.” (28.30) I’m not quite sure what’s hilarious about force-feeding women for the gender non-complying temerity of demanding the vote. Maybe it’s funny because us evil green-purple-and-white types allegedly don’t believe in gender oppression but “Ha! Look! You experience it too” (*slow blink*). Or maybe it’s just hilarious because Robin hates women. Really, who can say.

Anyway, so, to recap, gender oppression can’t be ‘explained’ by gender identity, by people filling certain social roles, by sex, or by sex plus its social meanings. So what, tell us, Robin, explains gender oppression.

The explanation is that gender oppression is explained by a ‘two place relation’ between individuals and gender ideals. Note again the collapsing of male/masculinity and female/femininity into ‘ideals of manhood an womanhood.’ This two place relation ‘binds and polices’ individuals according to gender ideals – it’s normative gender policing basically. So, the stunning new model of patriarchy for which we should happily abandon our account of sex-based resource appropriation is…. ‘gender oppression (which is being devalued or treated badly because you don’t conform to normative gender ideals) is caused by gender policing (which is being subjected to normative gender ideals.’ Great, glad we got that all sorted.

This apparently ‘helps’ because gender ideals are inflected by ‘racism, nationalism, homophobia and abelism’ (not sexism, naturally), and it therefore allows us to understand how different intersectional groups are differently impacted by gender policing. U-huh. You don’t need to abolish sex-based class analysis to do that Robin. You just have to understand how gender works differentially at the intersection of different hierarchies.

Anyway, Robin is now going to talk a lot about how individuals stand in relation to gender ideals, without actually dealing with the fact that gender ideals are applied to people on the basis of their sex, and it’s not possible to make sense of how gay men, or Black men, are judged in relation to ideals of gender without it being the case that people can recognise them as males to begin with. But hey, mere details. Robin is also not going to even remotely attempt to explain where these ideals come from, what their functions is, how they arose, or how they serve any system of material interests. They’re just there. Gender oppression exists because there are gender ideals, and those are historical and shit, and they change, and they don’t serve any particular ends (other than hurting some men probably), and they are applied to people, on some basis, which has definitely not got anything to do with their sex. Right-o. Really clarifying, thanks for all those diagrams and arrows Robin. Made a massive theoretical contribution there.

3. Patriarchy is a Dynamic System of Real Men’s Dominance

“With that in our back pocket” Robin says at this point. With what in your back-pocket Robin??? The claim that gender oppression is caused by gendered ideals? BRILLIANT. Now we get a load of true but not remotely groundbreaking stuff about how patriarchy benefits men who perform patriarchal masculinity. (Sorry, silly me, not men, there is no such thing as men, only “people who are bound and policed by ideals of manhood” for evidently completely arbitrary reasons.) What this benefit actually consists of Robin never says. Given the manifest circularity we’ve been subject to so far, they probably think that ‘the benefit of performing patriarchal dominance is that you are dominant’ is a novel or explanatory insight. Indeed, Dembroff notes, people who do not perform patriarchal masculinity correctly are disadvantaged, and that disadvantage seems to inhere in the ‘way they are valued.’ (At this point Robin is even forced to note that women who perform patriarchal femininity correctly are ‘valued less’ than men… yes Robin, why might that be??? What does that tell you about how well the idea of gender oppression captures the experience of female people who are still treated like shit even when they play right by all the gender norms????)

As you might be able to tell, I’m pretty much losing the will to live now. There’s some stuff that involves Robin bending themselves into a pretzel to avoid dealing with the fact the existence of male animals is not actually something created by patriarchal ideals of gender, followed by something about Aristotelian teleology and how masculinity is the ‘end’ of maleness that makes virtually no sense and gives the concept no substance whatsoever. Then there is more discussion about the negative effects accrued by males (sorry, ‘people who are bound and policed by ideals of manhood’) who don’t do patriarchal masculinity correctly. Okay we get it Robin, men being hurt by gender is really really important and women’s material exploitation and subordination regardless of how they do gender is just totally fucking irrelevant to anything. Which brings us to the final slide I want to look at, the one where, on the basis of a whole load of tautological reasoning, sex/gender conflation, and sex-denialist bullshit, Robin finally delivers the real goods, the assertion that ‘patriarchy is not a system of male dominance and female subordination.’ There is no way to describe this other than as an act of manifest class betrayal. And I have to say Robin, on the evidence presented here, that fancy-ass job and fancy-ass book-deal weren’t bestowed in recognition of your stellar philosophical chops, soooo…..

Sex and the Census: Audiobook Special

So, I decided to make some recordings of the ‘Sex and the Census’ report as it is pretty dense, and I thought it might help some people to listen rather than read.

I’ve just finished the first section, and will be uploading the following sections over the next few days.

Some people on Twits suggested they would be happy to pay for copies. I want to make it freely available, but if you feel so inclined, please bung a few quid in the PayPal.

LISTEN HERE:

  1. Introductions

The Political Erasure of Sex: Sex and the Census

Last night, along with Alice Sullivan, Lisa Mackenzie, and Selina Todd, I was delighted to participate in the latest WPUK webinar on the jiggery pokery that is going on with the upcoming census.

The whole webinar is now available. I appear to have lost the top of my head, but you can’t have everything…

My presentation is based on a report we’ve just released which I’ve been working on for the last many months with Lisa Mackenzie, of MurrayBlackburnMackenzie. The report is part of a larger project called ‘The Political Erasure of Sex,’ which aims to document the process of policy capture in our public institutions, and the impact it’s having on the recognition of sex in law, language, public policy, and data capture. This first report, Sex and the Census, documents how our census authorities have corrupted the collection of sex-data, due to the influence of trans stakeholders who are invested in gender identity overwriting sex. It provides a very detailed analysis of the question development process of the Office for National Statistics, and the National Records of Scotland, over recent years, and the way it has been impacted by trans ideology and the interests of trans stakeholders and respondents. It pays particular attention to the massive amount of conceptual confusion evidenced in the recent work of the census authorities, the way this leads to them corrupting the sex variable, and their apparent complete lack of awareness that women, and data users more widely, are stakeholders in the sex question on the census.

The recent work on the census, I argue, is a staggering manifestation of the impact of trans ideological framing on our public institutions, and is exemplary of how policy capture by trans rights stakeholders is undermining the political recognition of sex.

The report can be downloaded here:

For those of you interested in the presentation I gave last night, the slides are available here:

Lastly, if you prefer to read the presentation you can here.

Safeguarding and Mr. Blunt

This is a guest post by @hatpinwoman

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Yesterday gave us the revelation that the English MP for Reigate has been attempting, behind the scenes, to weaken and remove women’s rights and safeguards in law, through the gender recognition reform that would have seen us getting self ID. Last night, in his capacity as the Chair of APPG, he also called for Liz Truss to be removed as Minister for Women and Equalities due to her decision on GRA reform.

Given all this, we thought that a little investigation into this MP was warranted. What kind of man would think that such an undemocratic way of proceeding was acceptable?

There is a lot of information to be found about Crispin Blunt. He is an ex-army man, who resigned his commission as a Captain in 1990, having been awarded the Queen’s Medal. In the early nineties he was a representative of the Forum of Private Business.

In 1997 he became MP for Reigate, a relatively small, busy and picturesque town, about an hour from London, which used to be a bustling staging post in the days when horses were the surest means of travel. Aptly, it is also the town where anti-suffragette Etta Lemon, the founder of the Royal Society for The Protection of Birds, is buried.

According to Crispin’s voting record as analysed by the “they work for you” website, he mainly votes with the party on key issues, though he deviated from that in order to consistently vote for bills around assisted dying, that would mean a “terminally ill person could lawfully be given assistance to end their life if the consent of the High Court is obtained.”

I won’t get off topic by talking too much about that, but I will say that issues of safeguarding around things like euthanasia are very thorny and in disabled communities we are extremely divided about how a society that still tends to treat sick people as a burden would go about ending the lives of those people in an ethical way. And it makes sense to me that a man who does not understand safeguarding would be especially likely to vote for such bills, without truly reckoning with the more complicated questions that surround the issue.

In the year he became MP for Reigate there was a series of events that, later, would lead him to seek a change in the law. A local boy of 9 was repeatedly sexually molested between July and October of 1997 at a private school in the area. The games teacher, Nick Drewett, was accused and suspended from the school pending an investigation which led to a court date being set. However in 1998, before he could stand trial for six counts of indecent assault, he hung himself.

You might imagine that as a people’s representative in a friendly little town any efforts Crispin Blunt made as a result of this case might be on behalf of the child and his family. The concern might be in helping them to cope with what would have been an overwhelmingly traumatic experience. Instead his public efforts have been to use this case to try to help gain anonymity for those accused of rape and sexual offences and to cast aspersions on the accusations in question. And he has gone so far as implying, on record, that the allegations against Nick Drewett were false.

During the debate around the anonymity for arrested persons bill he spoke at some length and said:

It was also in 1999 that I introduced the Sexual Offences (Anonymity of Defendants) Bill. As I reminded the House last summer, I have some form in this area. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe referred to it, but in the context of the debate about rape anonymity, and as I will come to reflect on, we have proposals that achieve the objective that I set out in the Education Bill that is before the House. The purpose of my Bill was to protect teachers from the consequences of accusations by children who have anonymity, and from the subsequent reporting of such allegations. As some hon. Members may recall, my Bill was prompted by the suicide of a constituent, Nick Drewett, a teacher who took his own life after being accused of behaving improperly with pupils in his care. This was a tragic example of the cost of unfounded allegations. The headmaster who was accused alongside him was subsequently acquitted. My experience here is one reason why I am delighted that the coalition is bringing forward legislation to deal with the problem of false allegations against teachers.

Let’s be clear that here we have an MP arguing for the anonymity of those accused of sex offences against children because he believes, and is willing to insinuate on record, that a nine year old falsely accused a teacher. His motivation is to protect other adult men from the consequences of the accusations of children. Rather than, as many might consider to be an imperative, to protect children from certain adult men.

In another debate in Parliament about the anonymity of rape defendants he mentions the case again. This case incidentally has not been highlighted by any official body as being poorly handled by the police, nor has there ever been any suggestion that the evidence was unsound. Yet Mr.Blunt felt able to assert, again on record, that “the combination of the way in which the accusations were investigated by the police and their reporting led to his [Nick Drewett’s] death”.

He later asserts this again while talking of the “tragic case of Nick Drewett”. He baldly states that “It was the reputational damage that caused him to take his own life”.

This kind of speculation rather goes against Samaritans advice to not assume motives for suicide, ignores the possibility that being caught may have been some kind of factor in the decision to end his life, and instead paints the assumed villain of the piece as a tragic victim of circumstance.

He does assure us though, lest we worry that injustice is being done, right in front of us during this debate, that the accusations against Nick Drewett fell “very short of rape”. I’m sure to the child’s parents reading their MPs statements about this, it is of great comfort to them that he takes time to try to quantify their child’s suffering in a way he can dismiss.

In the debate for this bill he uses the popularity of Nick Drewett (700 people attended his funeral!) as some kind of argument. Only unpopular people molest children in Blunt’s worldview, I guess.

He also argues that Drewett’s case is not unusual, noting that Nick is “not alone.” He continues:

The National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers has had recent experience of three members who have taken their own lives in similar circumstances. Since 1991, there have been 974 police investigations into abuse allegations made against NAS/UWT members. In 792 of them, no grounds were discovered for prosecution. Publicity in 80 per cent of those cases did serious injustice to innocent teachers.

We should say here that sexual offences tend to be hard to prosecute, and we shouldn’t leap to assuming that failure to proceed is the same as innocence, as Blunt does. We could also note that using suicide as a means manipulating political discourse is not an unfamiliar or democratically legitimate tactic.

Blunt goes on:

The Bill attempts to protect teachers from injustice that can do them permanent professional and personal damage. There is a popular view that an allegation of child abuse, unsubstantiated by investigation, is in itself sufficient cause for concern to disqualify permanently a teacher from being in charge of children. There is little awareness that teachers are liable to be the victims of false or malicious allegations. It is therefore just to take measures to ensure that teachers as well as complainants undergo investigation with their identities protected. That is what the Bill aims to achieve.

While it is of course important to investigate allegations of abuse thoroughly, what Blunt shows us here is a recognisable prioritisation of the needs of those accused of abuse over those abused. Moreover he doesn’t even stop at suggesting teachers *can* be victims of false accusations or that there have been occasions when they have been. No, he states they are liable to be victims of false or malicious accusations, which is an extraordinary claim. What epidemic of spiteful, untruthful school children claiming to have been molested does he know about that we don’t?[1]

If the suspicion is that Crispin Blunt only fails to understand the concerns of children, never fear, his support for a bill that would see the sentence of rapists cut in half if they plead guilty will disabuse you of that notion. In a country with a low conviction rate perhaps one could consider it admirable to encourage rapists to admit their crimes. Except that of course when there is such a shockingly low conviction rape, the only rapists motivated to actually take a guilty plea are going to be the ones who have no hope of being proven innocent already.

Halving their sentences, then, is just a further level of injustice.

How does Crispin Blunt relate to the gender recognition act reform discussion though? What are his connections to these ideas? What made him, fresh from trying to protect alleged rapists and child molesters everywhere, divert his attention onto this issue?

Well, as a result of leaving his wife, coming out as gay, and publicly admitting to taking poppers (…?!) he was in the papers, and pink news for a while. In one article they talk about him attending a Stonewall diversity dinner, so I would suggest a close affinity with stonewall might be his mistake here. But a man does have to eat so we won’t make too many assumptions just yet…..

…..oh no

If you go and review the Parliamentary written questions Crispin has submitted you quickly find him asking if the ministry of defence can take time during its busy schedule of, you know, fighting wars and protecting the land and stuff to “make funds available to enable cadet adult instructors to attend Stonewall train-the-trainers courses”. So clearly he is one of The Stonewall Possé. The least intrepid, but still sufficiently aggressive, gaggle this land has lately seen.

He’s also to be found asking several questions about “sex work”. He was, inevitably, against both the idea of criminalising men who buy sex and the McTaggart Nordic Model amendment.

This all brings us, of course, to self ID which in light of the last few days and his own admissions we know he is very pro. I did manage to talk to some of his constituents who made him aware, as early as 2018, of the potential conflict between Self ID and women’s rights. A possibility he outright rejected.

While we know he apparently likes to conduct most of his complete dismissal of women’s rights in private on this issue (while stroking a white cat and looking suitably sinister one hopes), he is on record a couple of times about this before this week.

In July this year, for example, he co-wrote an article with Sue Pascoe that you can read here. Apparently the reform to the GRA would be a “minor change”. (If it’s that minor Crisp, then why is it so important?).

Through this article we also find out about the new science that Blunt knows about and the rest of us don’t. Such as how there is “a durable biological element underlying gender identity”. As with seemingly all links offered on this subject by proponents of gender ideology, the truth of the matter when you click on them is much more woolly. In a situation that reminds me earwormingly of the song about the court of King Caractucus, It links to a piece about a statement about the durable biological element of underlying gender identity by the endocrine society.

I read their position statement and then got covered in cobwebs digging through their sources online. Their primary source for the claim is one entitled “Evidence Supporting the Biologic Nature of Gender Identity.”. This is a literature review of evidence that there is a biologic basis for gender identity. Before this gets too meta for words, this apparently mainly involves (1) data on gender identity in patients with disorders of sex development (DSDs, also known as differences of sex development) along with (2) neuroanatomical differences associated with gender identity.

So we already got to the part where intersex people are used in the service of this then.

The conclusions of this review are “Although the mechanisms remain to be determined, there is strong support in the literature for a biologic basis of gender identity.”

The paper that isn’t about trans people that didn’t identify the mechanisms of gender identity has definitely got to be perfect for MPs to use to justify sweeping statements in online articles. Glad that was all cleared up, then.

Blunt and Pascoe take time to “really wonder if the good people of our great nation realise they are being manipulated through fear and false information to roll-back the basic dignity, privacy and safety of trans people who are just trying to live ordinary lives.”

Us women and our hysterical concerns about male violence. Golly. What are we like!

One wonders who exactly would be making trans people unsafe, if the concerns women have about the existence of Male violence can be so easily handwaved away.

Regardless, when it comes to Crispin Blunt, I’m not sure we can really expect any better from a man who consistently manages to be on the side of a given issue that fails to protect the most vulnerable.

One only worries about what discussion our hero may turn his attention to next.


[1] In the 1990s the rate of false accusations of child abuse was considered to be around 10 percent. In line with false accusations of other crimes. Many of these false accusations however occurred during child custody battles, and most of the false accusations were made by adults. I.e we can conclude based on factual information as well as the instinctive sense of most people that when a child comes forward to say they are being hurt by an adult, in the vast majority of cases, they are telling the truth.

Nick Drewett, it should be noted, was accused by a boy and not by adults. Given what we know about false accusations then, this is not a case one would logically choose when highlighting the burning issue Blunt seems to think exists here.It should also be noted that nowhere in Crispin Blunt’s consistent speeches on this subject does he mention any awareness of crucial information like this:

Female Class Politics

Speech at Women’s Equality Party Assembly, 23 September 2020

To lay out my thoughts about women’s political representation, I want to first outline my socialist and radical feminist analysis of women’s politics. What I most want to underline is that from my perspective, feminism is a form of materialist class politics, not a form of identity politics. That is, my analysis of the position of women is rooted in understanding that female people have a particular type of body and reproductive capacity and are subject to a system of power on the basis of being female. This power structure exists because of the historical development of a hierarchical system of extraction of the reproductive and socially reproductive labour of female people, otherwise known as patriarchy. Consequently, women have a range of shared material political interests. Most obviously these pertain to issues around reproductive and sexual autonomy, and the violences women are subjected to by male power’s effort to control their bodies as a sexual and reproductive resource. This then extends to how women’s labour is devalued, invisibilised, and appropriated by the intertwined structures of patriarchy and capitalism. This includes women’s disproportionate poverty, the wage gap, maternity cover and child-care, the undervaluing and feminisation of all forms of care labour, the concentration of women in low-paid and low status occupations, and the ways all these issues disproportionately impact working class and racialised women. Lastly, this leads to the demand for a fundamental structural transformation in order to challenge extractive relations, undertake a just accounting of women’s labour, and do away with the symbolic representations and psychological conditioning that undermines women’s humanity by positioning them as a sexual, reproductive, domestic and emotional resource for males. The fundamental structure of patriarchal gender is then a matter of socialising women into the role of a service-class orientated to male needs, and socialising males into a mode of dominance and entitlement. Feminist politics which reinforces female socialisation and de-centers the needs and interests of female people is thus antithetical to challenging gender in its deepest sense.  

On the question of why women’s political representation matters, let’s focus on two key areas. The first involves the symbolic importance of women’s representation, the way it serves as a role model and opens possibilities for other women, and the fact that ‘representational justice or equality’ is an important value in and of itself. With respect to the inclusion of trans women in women’s representation, this immediately forces a confrontation with the bitterly contested ontological question of ‘what is a woman.’ As should be apparent from what I’ve just said, my answer to this question is informed by materialist class analysis. That is, women are a sex-class. This matters not only because it frames women’s class interests, but because the alternative interpretation, from our perspective, relies on essentialising gender, which we consider to be the mechanism of the oppression of women as a sex-class. At the heart of this conflict is the fundamental question of the definition of women being changed from a sex class to a gender class. Given that we think that gender is how women are oppressed on the basis of sex, we consider it regressive for women to be recognised in public life as instantiations of gender, and to be redefined on the basis of an identification with gender that not only bears little relation to our experience as female human beings, but diminishes the way patriarchal gender profoundly harms our humanity.

I think it’s worth briefly thinking this under the rubric of ‘Diversity and Inclusion.’ The aim of inclusion is actually structurally contradictory to the aim of diversity. If everyone is included inside one category, then many salient differences between groups get lost, and we undermine diversity. Much present identity politics is focused on a possibly over-stated emphasis on difference, while conversely, the relation of women and trans women is being thought under the sole political directive of inclusion, which is undermining the recognition of important political and social differences. What we should be aiming towards is a model that honours both similarity and difference. We need to recognise that female people and people who identify as women are not identical, and stop trying to erase this difference in a way which many women feel is overwriting their political existence and interests,. This will allow us stand in solidarity with each other, in areas where our political interests are aligned.

This leads to the second area where representation matters, the expression of women’s political interests. This is not simple, because under patriarchy women have the most fractured class consciousness of any oppressed group, and it is far from evident that women in positions of political authority are in the business of representing women’s interests. I would hope, however, that this is less true of the political consciousness of women inside a party set up by and for women. The question then is to what extent women and trans women share political interests. My claim here would be that trans women who respect the difference between trans women and women, and understand why women resist being redefined on the basis of gender, can stand in real and meaningful solidarity with women, although our interests still do not completely coincide. However, at present, given the effort to erase differences, redefine women by gender, and demand access to all sex-based spaces with no gatekeeping, the interests of women and those aligned with the present trans rights project, are, in fact, diametrically opposed. This was evident in Munroe Bergdoff’s much criticised injunction that women shouldn’t centre reproductive issues at the Woman’s March because it was ‘exclusionary’. It is also starkly illustrated by how often advocates of present trans rights discourse diminish the impact of male violence on women’s lives – as indeed Judith Butler did yesterday –  and the extent to which being raised in a society that sexualises women from their early teens, demands that female people have sex-based spaces to preserve their dignity and humanity, as well as their safety. This is source of great regret, as opposition to male violence is one of the places where women and trans women’s interests should most closely align. On the basis of all these factors I would argue that – especially under current circumstances – it is not appropriate for trans women to represent women politically, and I hope in time we can move towards a place where we can stand in close solidarity with each other.

TRAs, Rape-Logic, and the Economy of Entitlement

TW: Violent imagery

The last few weeks have been incredibly distressing.

When Joanne[1] Rowling released her essay there was a moment of collective, tearful hope. A woman with enough power had spoken our truth, with all the precise eloquence at her disposal, and, for one suspended second, I think we thought that they would have to hear.

It now seems evident, watching the boot come down, the steady stream of disavowal and dismissal and outright demonising denigration, that a woman’s words about her truth, no matter how eloquent or precise, cannot, still, be given any credit. Our pain, etched into our bodies, mimed over centuries, and finally wrested into speech, will never be taken as intended. As evidence of our humanity, and an explanation of how that humanity is harmed by what is done to us. We are still, only ever, an object and repository, a resource for the needs and wants of others whose humanity matters more. Our pain, like our speech, like our politics, could never be for or about ourselves, because it has never registered – and this moment is nothing but the concatenation of this denial – that we actually, in our own right, exist.

This argument is not, therefore, an appeal for empathy with the damage done to us by male power and projection, by the immemorial and immovable demand that we efface ourselves before the needs of more important others. We know our pain doesn’t count in your economy, that it only registers on your balance books as a sly deceptive weapon or a vicious wilful harm to the interests of the only kind of people given credit. That you’re so certain of the justness of your accounting, you never seem to notice, that this one obvious fact, gives the lie to the ‘validity’ of your catechism. If you really thought that they were women, their pain would be a nought to you as well.

The purpose of this exercise is for myself, and us all, I hope. The last few weeks have been more painful than I remember. After the torrent of cocks, and the exhortations to choke, and the parade of denunciations, and the trolling kids with porn, and the media spin complicity, and the ‘you’re weaponizing your trauma,’ all polished off with tech-bro corporate might coming down on us like a ten-ton digital brick, it was the implacable, imperious requisition of Allison Bailey’s words that finally broke me. Or rather, it was the attempt to justify that requisition by claiming that speaking the violent, often sexual, threats against us, was, in and of itself, an act of ‘severe’ discrimination against the people threatening us. On a quiet Wednesday afternoon, at my desk, something happened I haven’t felt for years. The back of my brain went metallic. I managed a few, incandescent tweets and then fell, quickly, into inarticulate rage. By Friday, on the phone, my ‘discourse’ consisted mostly of a series of guttural, groaning sounds. I stuck needles* in my body, and the vice receded long enough to write and speak a poem, before tightening again. Rage passed into anger passed into despair passed into heavy, body-crushing sadness. Eventually the tears pooled in the centre of my heart and the bottom of my back so strongly I could cry them out. And then I started to see, and needed to try and speak, what was happening.

What is happening is a violently enforced, three-tiered denial of our words, our right to name the reality of our experience, and the reality of the violence perpetrated against us, because of our sex. Two tiers of this denial have long been evident. Now, in this battle between our discourse and their silencing, because we have fought so fucking long and hard for our words, our speech is, finally, beginning to be heard by some, the third tier is becoming ever more obvious. It was this that tipped me off the edge and, for a couple of weeks, stole most my words. It looks, as my friend said last night when I explained it on the phone, like a near-perfect, circular, stitch up. It looks like this:

Tier One:

blackpool womanWe know this one well. This is the stealing of our language enacted by the core of trans ideology. The redefinition of the word ‘woman’ as an amorphous meaningless gender class against our consent. The removal of all words that link the word ‘woman’ to the concept of ‘female.’ The imperious imposition of the essentialist bullshit label ‘cis’ (‘IT’S LATIN!’). The dehumanising conversion of female people into fragmented body parts and functions. The command to call conspicuously male people ‘women’ even when engaged in conspicuously male behaviour, like, say, downloading child pornography or getting out their cocks at work. This all amounts, we’ve said repeatedly, to the political erasure of sex. We have said, perhaps too abstractly, we object to ‘the erasure of the axis of our oppression.’ What we mean is this: We object to male entitlement – to our bodies, to our time, to our attention, to our care, to our service, and now, above all, to our existence and the words that name it. We need to name the reality of sex, for yes, medical reasons, and sporting reasons, and because women are oppressed by conversion into sexual-reproductive resource and your idealist gender-bullshit can’t explain patriarchy in the slightest. But we need to name it most of all, because – as you never seem to grasp – gender is the system of entitlement that runs along the lines of sex. And the system that enforces that entitlement by means of threat or force. We need to name sex because we need to speak the violence males commit against us. Because our ability to speak at all depends on it. Which brings us to….

Tier Two:

In response to your demands, for our existence and its words, all we’ve said is ‘no.’ We haven’t threatened, or intimidated, or besieged, or tried to cancel. We’ve explained, millions of times, why we’re saying no, why we won’t let you take our words, because we need them. But the economy of entitlement that belies all your claims to gender non-conformity, will not respect our boundary. The boundaries here are literal, around our spaces, around the de-lineation of our words, but they are, above all, figurative. They arise from the expression of our own subjectivity. The naming of our needs and interests. They arise when we say ‘no,’ and ‘I don’t want,’ and ‘you can’t have.’ In an ethical economy it should be understood that the demand ‘I want to take’ never, between adults, has right of force over ‘I don’t want to give.’ You do not take from others what is not given freely, you don’t coerce them into giving things they do not want to give. Doing so is an act of narcissistic domination. It subordinates an-other’s needs and interests entirely to your own, and in so doing, annihilates their subjectivity. In its core, this is the logic, and the deep traumatic injury, of rape.

The narcissistic rage trans activists have unleashed on women, to try and force us to be silent and comply, is an exact exhibition of this logic. That so much of this coercive rage is sexualised, from the phallic pink and blue bats to the desire to choke us on their cocks, is far from accidental. That people have been so easily convinced that gender lives inside a tube of eyeliner, while the sexual economy of entitlement is enacted in plain sight, apparently invisible to many, is evidence of how far feminism has left to go. The women using argument and evidence to defend their ‘no’ are clearly monsters. A ‘swarm’ of uptight, cruel, castrating cunts who heartlessly refuse to meet a need so small it costs them nothing but their own existence. And everyone agrees. The litany of slurs and threats are warranted by the provocation of a ‘no.’ Just stop being such bitches. Just shut your fucking mouths and give us what we want you witches. Our desire or your existence. No contest cunts. ‘Be Kind.’

be kind

Image by Tatsuya Ishida @TatsuyaIshida9

Tier Three:

It is only inside this economy of entitlement that the indictment of ‘weaponising trauma’ makes sense. Trauma is our explanation of why we need our words and the boundaries that they draw. (Although, let’s be clear, people shouldn’t have to give reasons to justify their boundaries, and the fact we feel the need to reveal our trauma to do just that shows how fucked this situation is already.) The claim that our trauma is a weapon, is then, at base, a claim that our boundary is an act of aggression. And this claim, relies, in turn, on the belief that the needs of, and harm done to, those who seek to transgress that boundary far outweighs the needs of, and the harm done to, those who will be violated. (This is precisely how the acronym that became the slur exerts its vilifying power – what distinguishes, we might ask, ‘inclusion’ from ‘violation’ other than consent?) The people pressing, and supporting, this claim, will ground it by appeal to the specific, and extreme, vulnerability of trans people. And while that appeal is not without foundation, the willingness to uncritically accept, and endlessly disseminate, empirically sketchy and appropriative statistics – to accept then, in its fundament, the claim that the oppression of trans people neatly and completely overrides the oppression of women – is, in itself, a product of the economy of entitlement. The readiness of people, both male and female, to identify with and elevate the pain of males not being given what they say they need or want, over against the females who tell them ‘no,’ is the psychic substance that greases the wheels and gears of the whole patriarchal shitshow. And it is the psychic substance that serves to justify, exculpate, and explain away, any violence used to press male claims.

There is no logic, no quantity of need or pain, that justifies male people violating women’s boundaries, that isn’t rapey. What got to me about the response to Joanne Rowling’s words – and by extension, the words of all of us who would defend our boundary – is how audaciously and easily left-wing journalists and politicians lined up to collude with rape-logic, so immersed inside an economy of male entitlement and its narcissistic rage they likely have no fucking clue that that is what they’re doing. Women’s boundaries are not an act of aggression. Painting them as such is part of the economy of entitlement used to justify taking what has not been given freely, and to justify both the violence that is that taking, and the violence often used to enforce that taking. (This is the difference between rape and aggravated rape. Rape is violence, rape is sometimes violence enforced by violence. One of the key feminist fights was the effort to make clear that it was not the enforcing violence alone that constituted the violation). The indictment that we are ‘weaponising trauma’ is hence, both, a contestation and delegitimization of the boundary that we have re-drawn in response to the primary, trans activist requisition of our words and the spaces they inscribe (Tier 1), but is also then, a justification of any force or threat of force brought to bear to press the claim against that boundary (Tier 2). Here, the ‘weaponising trauma’ claim reveals itself as just another, subtler variation of the endless exculpations and woman-blaming bullshit used to justify the violences against us. ‘She had it coming.’ ‘She made me do it.’ ‘She was asking for it.’

cursed 1

It is here too that the contours of Tier 3 emerge. It consists of the effort to justify and/or dismiss both the violence that is the violation of our boundaries (Tier 1), and, in particular, the violence used to press the claim against, or enforce the violation of, our boundaries (Tier 2). This thought has always, in fact, been around. It often inheres in the classic patriarchal reversal underpinned by the economy of entitlement. That is, because female people having boundaries is an act of intolerable exclusion (and by extension then ‘oppression,’ or, in its current usage, ‘anything that stops me getting what I want’), then any violence used to press the claim against the boundary is, actually, just self-defence. It also turned up in another form just last night on Twitter, the wilfully circular ‘the boundaries of bigots do not need to be respected,’ which fails, of course, to recognise that ‘bigot’ in trans activist discourse means nothing but ‘a woman whose boundaries stop me getting what I want,’ viz, in fact, ‘women’s boundaries are bigotry.’ Such is the power of the economy of entitlement that someone can seriously type ‘I do not need to respect the boundaries of someone whose boundaries stop me getting what I want’ and think that it will fly.

cursed 2

Of course, the defenders of the faith won’t accept a word of this. And to return to where we started, at Tier 1, they won’t accept it because its blasphemy against the catechistic sanctity of the Trinity (‘Trans women are women, Trans men are men, Non-binary is valid, Amen’), and its disavowal of the structuring of power along the lines of sex. (Remember, always, anyone who can actually defend their faith need not be so dogged with ex-communicating heretics). Indeed, everything I have said here, because it relies on the sexual economy of entitlement, would be deemed to be hateful – although, as I’ve underlined, the transparent operation of that economy in this whole affair belies the truth of its own dogma. It is here that the denigration and dismissal of Jo Rowling’s testimony, slips into the almost non sequitur of Owen Jones’ reply. Jones’ response here depends, entirely, on ostensibly reversing the balance of power between males and females, by denying that Jo Rowling speaks as a female, and as a member of a class oppressed as female (this is the work of so much Tumblrised intersectional discourse about ‘cis’ women, ‘rich’ women, ‘white’ women, ‘cishet’ women), and denying that the vulnerability of trans people as trans, does not magically negate the fact that the ones dictating that our boundaries are bigotry and can be rightfully overridden are still male. The epithets ‘abusive,’ ‘silencing,’ ‘aggressive’ and ‘violent,’ when applied by females, to the behaviour of males trying to coerce their boundaries, is not the sneaky gambit of a ‘powerful’ majority jealously hording their piles of privilege. It is how female people name, explain, and process the violence they experience because they’re female, in a society governed by a sexual economy of entitlement.

owen

Because OJ catechistically believes that trans-ness negates maleness, he can, effectively make a claim which, without such catechistic cover, is something no self-respecting progressive would ever say, because its incel-MRA-speak. That is, that women should not name male violence, and that in doing so, they are demonising and discriminating against males. This is, as Owen is fond of reminding us, a trope picked up from the gay rights movement, and leveraged in a way that was, in truth, wrong. It is true that the association of gay men with paedophilia as an excuse to refuse them rights was reprehensible (and just to underline, the general analogy with gay rights fails because gay rights did not involve violating the boundaries of another oppressed class). It is not true, however, that no gay men are paedophiles, and that suspecting a gay man of being a paedophile is a priori an act of bigotry, if you have reason for your suspicion beyond them being gay. (Just as it’s not de facto homophobia to think there might be a safeguarding issue if a gay man dresses in fetish gear and wanks in the toilet of the national children’s charity and then puts it on the internet). Jones’ claim in that case, effectively, was that gayness negates maleness (which it does not), and similarly here, that trans-ness should provide a negating shield of perfect immunity around males who identify as women, or non-binary, or maverique, or whatever, from any indictment of conspicuous male-pattern violence. (Cue Family Guy cartoon). A society that took the sexual abuse of women and children remotely seriously would understand, off the bat, that creating a sub-class of males who are a priori immune from being suspected or indicted of male-pattern violence is a safeguarding risk the size of a fucking planet.

It is this – the ‘you’re demonising us as predators’ stitch-up gambit – that leads directly to the moment where Allison’s Bailey’s description of the contents of terfisaslur is summarily requisitioned as an act of ‘severe’ discrimination against trans people as a whole. (This is MRA logic again, where ‘NotAllMen’ becomes ‘NotAllTransWomen’ and of course, yes, but a not negligible some). There is no way a decent person of progressive persuasion can look at the contents of terfisaslur, or the memes of gun-toting anime characters emblazoned with ‘Shut The Fuck Up TERF,’ or the gratuitous phallic threats aimed at Jo Rowling, and conclude that these are not ‘abusive,’ ‘silencing,’ ‘aggressive’ and ‘violent.’ It is an epic gaslighting piss-take to tell us to choke on cocks, threaten us with rape, make T-shirts soaked with our fake blood, emblazon signs with death threats, erect guillotines with our names on, draw sketches of our hanging bodies, and openly, gleefully, fantasise about the many other ways you want to kill us, and then turn around and say by describing this violence as what it is, we are invalidating and demonising you with prejudicial malice.

The fact that much of this violence is enacted by males who are trans, does not transubstantiate it into ‘not violence’ and it doesn’t mean that people coercing female people’s boundaries with the kind of baseball-bat wielding rapey bullshit always used to coerce female boundaries are somehow, alchemically, ‘not doing male-pattern violence.’ And your catechism-that-we-don’t-believe is no defence, not a get-out clause, not some kstfu terfind of whizz-bang-magic immunising shield that will stop us naming what we see right before of our eyes. We’ve often noted, sometimes caustically, sometimes ruefully, that if people wanted to convince us that they were women, and not a threat, telling us to choke on cocks and hammering down the door with bats was probably not the way to go. We will keep our words, the boundaries that they draw, and the naming of the violence they allow, because the survival of our subjectivities and the possibility of our healing depends on it. And though we may be silenced sometimes, by your animation of our trauma, and your refusal of our power to name, all you will achieve, with your catechistic dictates, in the end, is demonstrating why we wouldn’t let you take our words from the beginning.

We say again:

No means no.

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[1] I hope she’s okay with this, but I’d like to ditch the JK. The occlusion of her sex is a symptom of – not a remedy for – male power.

* It has been pointed out to me for people who don’t know me, the needles in question are acupuncture ones, not the ones attached to hypodermic syringes. This shit is hardwork, but I’m not doing heroin, well, yet. (We can thank Lorelei’s boyfriend for the need for this clarification 😂).

‘Gender Recognition and the Rights of Transgender People’: A Response to The Common’s Briefing Paper

This letter is a guest post by @hatpinwoman, written in response to the House of Common’s Briefing Paper ‘Gender Recognition and the Rights of Transgender People,’ published yesterday, July 16 2020.

 

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To whom it may concern at the House of Commons,

I am writing to you in response to the recently published commons briefing paper entitled “Gender Recognition And The Rights of Transgender People”. It contains both crucial factual errors and statements the veracity of which have not been ascertained.

In order of appearance in the document the points that are contentious are:

i) The documents states that the term transsexual is a “predominantly historical term”. A significant minority within the transgender community continue to call themselves and consider themselves to be transsexual as they have always done. The discarding of the term seems to be extremely premature.

As an especially vulnerable group of people who have a medical diagnosis and follow a path of full or near full transition, their needs and requirements may be considered to be potentially very different to a much larger group who do not have full (or even sometimes any) medical interventions.

ii) The idea that the term acquired gender should be replaced with the term affirmed gender is surely ideological rather than a matter of the law. It is in line with the language used in current models of care which suggest affirmation rather than the more traditional watchful waiting is the correct medical response to patients presenting with dysphoria and a desire for transition.

The replacing of the watchful waiting approach is contentious among some clinicians in the field, and potentially opens the medical profession up to a situation where many patients will be harmed because gender dysphoria is not synonymous with a need to transition. There are, in fact, many reasons why a person might experience dysphoria and many outcomes for such patients. Transition being of benefit to some of them but not all.

The language of “affirmed gender” is a less robust term for the law to use when “affirmed” is so much more wishy-washy than acquired, and it also seems to endorse one specific way of responding to patients with dysphoria. This is surely beyond the remit of Parliament.

iii) The statement from a quote by Transgender Equality that “each of us is assigned a sex at birth” is completely untrue. Our sex is observed and recorded. It is not a random designation, nor is it a rough guess. For the vast majority of people sex is entirely unambiguous. This holds true in Transgender people who are not substantially more likely to have DSDs than the rest of the population. (DSDs are differences, or disorders, of sexual development. Colloquially people may use the term intersex).

We know this because the medical profession has done some research that involves karyotyping patients. Some have found a higher incidence of conditions like Klinefelters syndrome (in which sex would not be ambiguous), others have found no statistically significant difference between incidence of DSDs in trans and non trans people. The consensus thus far is that because the results were consistent enough with the rest of the population it is of limited or even no use in evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.

In outlier cases where it might be of value the largest study I can find on this, to date, states that “patients with DSDs will typically have other clinical or hormonal signs that would point to a DSD diagnosis” (Inoubli et al)

“Assigned sex at birth” is language specifically taken from a small number within the minority of those who have DSDs and it is used in the rare cases where sex does have to be assigned. It seems wrong to take useful language away from a small group of people and generalise it, in a way that makes no sense, to the rest of the population.

iv) The statement , also from transgender equality, that “Trans identity can be “non-binary” in character, located at a (fixed or variable) point along a continuum between male and female; or “non-gendered”, i.e. involving identification as neither” also raises questions about where these fixed or variable points are, how they are measured and what it means to identity as less or more male or female given that the body is clearly one or the other. It seems that Sex and Gender are conflated here which is wrong.

v) the statement “gender dysphoria is not related to sexual orientation” is a highly disputable assertion given that the vast majority of children and young people who develop dysphoria in childhood will not grow up to be trans, but to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Additionally current concerns raised by some clinicians at the children’s gender service, GIDS, that gay and lesbian adolescents are being inadvertently transitioned suggest that sexuality is a fundamental consideration when dealing with dysphoria.

Further, clinicians such as Kenneth Zucker, a world renowned expert, notes that “sexual orientation is associated with meaningful differences among GD adolescents and adults”

vi) The statement was made in the report that “Gender Dysphoria is not in itself a mental health condition”. This is concerning.

Gender Dysphoria still appears in DSM-5 which is the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The American Psychiatric Association, who are responsible for publishing the DSM, also state that:

“It is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.”

The assertion that gender dysphoria is not a mental health condition stands to undermine mental health resources for patients, push them towards the singular treatment of transition which is not always appropriate and even potentially fail to offer them treatment at all.

vii) The assertion that puberty blockers are a “physically reversible intervention” is still in contention given that we do not know the long term effects. How can one assert something is reversible if we do not know the full consequences of a treatment yet? All we can state is that puberty resumes in patients. This does not make it fully reversible unless we can ascertain that their bones, brains, pituitary gland functioning and cognitive abilities are unaffected.

viii) The section about the safeguarding of children (and young people) undergoing treatment for gender dysphoria fails to mention ongoing concerns raised by the staff of GIDS about the standard of care these children are receiving. These concerns have been detailed, for example, in The Times and by the BBC. It is not helpful for MPs to be unaware of this issue.

ix) Where it talks of conversion therapies the report says

“The NHS does “not deliver, promote or refer individuals to any form of conversion therapy.” Conversion therapy is an umbrella term used in relation to:

 …a therapeutic approach, or any model or individual viewpoint that demonstrates an assumption that any gender identity is inherently preferable to any other, and which attempts to bring about a change of gender identity, or seeks to suppress an individual’s expression of gender identity on that basis.”

 This is misleading in its glossing over of things. Conversion therapy is indeed a harmful and heinous practice. Traditionally used to attempt to convert homosexual people to being heterosexual, it was, and is, barbarous.

How this relates to gender identity is unclear. A watchful waiting approach that addresses other issues the patient is experiencing and attempts to ameloriate those is not conversion therapy. It is simply treatment.

Affirmation in a sense is the absence of treatment because it presupposes an outcome: that a patient is trans. The idea that an innate gender identity is responsible for the symptoms in all cases, rather than the symptoms being potentially a product of a variety of things is objectively incorrect.

Any patient who is not trans and is only given affirmation is at risk of medical mistreatment. A growing number of detransitioners are now coming forward to tell their stories which suggests this is precisely what is already happening.

x) When discussing the protected characteristic of Gender Reassignment in the Equality Act, the report states the following about how gender reassignment is defined.

“A notable feature of this definition is that, unlike previous equality legislation, there is no need to be undergoing a medical process of transition. That is because the phrase “proposing to undergo” has a broad meaning.

 The point at which a person is deemed to be “proposing to undergo” was explained by the Solicitor General in 2009 during the Equality Bill’s consideration in committee:

 “proposing” suggests a more definite decision point, at which the person’s protected characteristic would immediately come into being. There are a lot of ways in which that can be manifested— for instance, by making their intention known. Even if they do not take a single further step, they will be protected straight away.

 Alternatively, a person might start to dress, or behave, like someone who is changing their gender or is living in an identity of the opposite sex. That, too, would mean that they were protected.”

I cannot speak to the accuracy of this interpretation but I do wonder at it. We have already seen cases, such as Karen White and Katie Dolatowski, where individuals have been predatory and look to be using transitioning as a cover for this.

We also know, for example, from prior research that there is a “small but concerning minority” of people who will try to transition to gain access to children because they are paedophiles. (Gender Reassignment: 5 years of referrals in Oxfordshire).

The interpretation of gender reassignment as a protected characteristic as explained by the solicitor general does not incidentally or accidentally give these people the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. It seems explicitly to allow them such. A person who dresses or behaves “like someone who is changing their gender” is not someone who, in fact, is necessarily changing their gender.

xi) When discussing single sex exemptions that allow for provision of single sex services and spaces for women the report asserts

“Under the genuine occupational requirement provisions, an employer may impose a “requirement not to be a transsexual person”. The Act’s Explanatory Notes provide the following example:

 A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a Gender Recognition Certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.

 As with the Explanatory Notes’ description of the services exception (see above), legal commentators argue this example inadequately describes the duties on employers:

 There are very real concerns that such guidance is too categorical and fails to emphasize the lengths an employer …would need to go to in order to demonstrate proportionality as an adequate defence to discrimination.”

This seems to set the bar one is required to meet to offer women single sex services impossibly high. It is not enough, apparently, for common sense and humanity to women to prevail and to consequently allow them to have single sex provisions.

Instead it must be such a hoop for an employer to jump through that one wonders if they would risk doing so.

Yet, many women very much require sex based rights both because being a member of the female sex remains a distinct physical and social experience, and because the group of people most likely to be violent towards them are male.

The fact that it is even in dispute that women might automatically expect their rape service providers will be female (or as per the previous example cited that their female counselling groups will be female only) is astonishing.

No one, except the most churlish among us, would begrudge trans people specific and exclusive resources and particularly when they are at their most vulnerable. One has to wonder why it is the case that women must be expected to forego a similar level of compassion and accommodation. It is unlikely when the bar for justification of these needs is set so high that service providers will feel comfortable insisting on providing female only provisions.

Given that this is already notably the case, the interpretation of the single sex exemptions must be more concrete, more intuitive and more decent towards the female sex.

xii) With regards to the spousal veto, the women and equalities committee has, to its credit, apparently spoken to the trans community about their thoughts on this. What it doesn’t appear to have done is also spoken to the (mainly) women who will be affected by the removal of the spousal veto. This is an oversight when the veto is something that both parties have a vested interest in.

xiii) The statement made that “Some argue that biological sex differences are immutable” is somewhat confounding. This seems to imply that there is some kind of reasonable argument that they are mutable, but biological sex cannot be changed and this is surely the foundational point of understanding for this whole debate. Trans people really cannot exist within the law, or transition in any meaningful way, if biological sex is not a concrete thing. Nor can women expect single sex exemptions to have any meaning at all.

xiv) The section entitled “the self identification debate” has a good attempt at covering the issue of the ongoing disagreements between groups, but really wouldn’t inform someone outside of the debate of the tenor of behaviour women have been on the receiving end of.

I personally speak anonymously on this issue because I was threatened with violence, told I would be executed with a guillotine, socially ostracised, and my friends were told they must disown me, for raising issues on this subject. In a manner no more offensive than the one I am writing with here. I have been relatively lucky in terms of the kind of campaign of terror I have received.

The level of rape threats, death threats, letters to employers, attempts at public denigration and shaming, and the misogynistic hostility women have faced while trying to talk about changes in law that concern them, too, has been unacceptable in a democracy. It is not only trolls and internet ruffians who have engaged in this behaviour, either.

Calling women “terfs” and intimidating, maligning and dismissing them on that basis has been horrifyingly widespread. So has the constant impugning of their character to assume that their motivations must necessarily be hateful.

Thank you for your time in reading my response,

Yours sincerely,

Lorelei