Blog: When feminism isn’t feminism
This blog is a response to Amelia Abraham’s Tedx talk entitled ‘Why feminists should support transgender rights’, which I watched on youtube, after seeing Stonewall on Twitter call it an “important and empathetic talk”.
It is indeed empathetic to transgender people, while wholly lacking in empathy for women concerned about the impact transgender ideology has on our lives. I also agree that it is important – though its importance lies in how it showcases many of the silly, fallacious arguments produced by the trans lobby.
I apologise to regular readers for repeating what I have already said countless times but I will continue repeating it until I am persuaded by reasoned arguments and evidence – sorely lacking in Amelia Abraham’s talk – to change my mind.
First, I would advise anyone hoping to change the mind of someone who sticks to biological reality when defining men and women, not to start with a sob story about a male transgender friend wanting access to women’s toilets. That may sound harsh when you love and care about your friend, whom you know to be a thoroughly decent person, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, etc, etc. But that is not the way to win over those of us who’ve suffered abuse and violence from men, including from men who claim to be women. As I know from both personal experience and extensive reading, not all those who present as women are decent human beings. Not by any stretch.
These are my responses to specific points Amelia Abraham mentions in her description of what “people who describe themselves as feminists” are saying and, further down, I respond to her supposed defence of what she keeps calling “trans rights” (though the only specific “right” she focuses on is the right of adult human males who “identify” as women to use the Ladies.)
“Arguing over whether trans women are real women or else just labeling them as dangerous”
Well, obviously they are not “real women” because they are male. It is because so many are now claiming to be real women that so many more of us are pushing back even against the term “trans woman”. This is an argument that TRAs cannot win because their definition of ‘woman’ (and ‘man’) aren’t fit for purpose. They basically reduce manhood and womanhood to feelings that accord with regressive stereotypes.
Some trans people are indeed dangerous. Some are sexual predators. Nobody is saying they all are. The point is that those men who pose a danger to women don’t stop being dangerous to women just because they’ve started thinking they are women themselves and we can’t possibly know who is or isn’t a threat to our safety. I am frankly fed up with the denial of horrible, misogynistic crimes by men who say they are women in the face of so much evidence.
“Well-known writers were claiming that trans people are indoctrinating kids to change their gender”
Nobody can seriously deny that there are those who encourage children to question their “gender identity”, who persuade them to demand puberty blockers – the safety of which is highly questionable and which put children on a trajectory for “gender reassignment”. The current vogue in many places is for an “affirmative approach” to gender dysphoria, even though this could mean a lifetime on cross-sex hormones, surgical mutilation of perfectly healthy bodies and, ultimately, agonising regret.
Rushing to affirm the “gender identity” of children too young to choose their A-level subjects is part of an egregious ideology that is promoted by some transgender people and their allies. There is plenty about this on some of the websites listed on the Children page of this site. Do some research, using this marvellous resource I have helpfully created.
“In other extreme cases they were comparing being trans to having a mental illness”
I’m not sure why this would be called “extreme”. A great many of us suffer from mental health problems at one time or another and, though a proportion of that number self-harm, few are likely to request that double mastectomies and other major surgeries be performed on our healthy bodies.
Like most people, I am not qualified to say whether something is a mental illness or not but I’d suggest the assumption by the unqualified masses that transgenderism is at least a symptom of a mental health condition is driven by the thought that someone could be so unhappy with their biological sex that they are willing to risk their physical health by having such drastic changes made to their bodies as well as being prepared to face discrimination and risk possible violence.
It may also be driven by reading about some of the horrific crimes and other behaviours of some trans people. It may very well be driven by seeing their fragility over language and their need for “validation” by policing the speech of others. That the World Health Organisation justifies its recent reclassification of ‘gender incongruence’ from mental health condition to ‘condition relating to sexual health’ as being to “reduce stigma“, isn’t likely to persuade anyone away from that position.
That many people suffer from mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder prior to transgendering and that these are often not cured by it, is beyond doubt. I recommend Walt Heyer‘s book, ‘Trans Life Survivors‘ for many harrowing personal accounts.
What about autogynephilia, which many male-born trans people openly admit to having? In spite of the stigma, paraphilias are still classified as mental health disorders by the WHO but autogynephilia is not spefically mentioned. I don’t think it matters either way. It is simply important to recognise that it exists and motivates certain behaviours that may be distressing and threatening to women. Twitter is full of pornographic selfies from autogynephiles. Women who refuse to acknowledge the “womanhood” of men who post pictures of their erections on social media are ‘transphobic bigots’ according to transcult thinking.
“When a young trans girl was elected as a “Women’s Officer for the Labour Party she was vilified”
That’s hardly surprising. Lily Madigan is a misogynist and a bully who targets feminists and tries to get them expelled from the Labour Party. It beggars belief that any feminist could support Madigan holding any political office, particularly that of Women’s Officer.
“When a young non-binary person used the girls’ changing room in Topshop they were held up as a threat to kids across Britain but they just wanted to try on some clothes not sexually assault anyone”
The term ‘non-binary’ is an unhelpful ideological term adopted by those who don’t feel special enough just being gender non-conforming men and women. It reinforces the idea that there is a binary in gender expression when there really isn’t. But however he defines himself, Travis Alabanza seems to have a thing about teenage girls. Some men go to extraordinary lengths to get access to women’s spaces for sexual kicks – not necessarily to sexually assault anyone. Sometimes just peeking, listening and photographing is enough. You can’t possibly know what the true intention of any male wanting such access is. Can you?
“Show me two women who look the same, have the same experiences or the same biological makeup”
Most women are easily discernible as women and generally do have the same basic “biological make up”. How bizarre to claim that we don’t! And, of course, we have experiences that are unique to women because of our physiology. There are also externally imposed experiences that are unique to women and girls that happen only because we are female. Amelia Abraham claims to “get the concern about women’s safety over who can use gendered spaces and facilities” but she obviously doesn’t. For example, she apparently doesn’t know what is happening at this very moment in prisons, where women who are already vulnerable are being traumatised at being forcibly housed with male rapists and paedophiles who “identify” as women.
“How do we practically check who is or isn’t trans on entry to a space?”
This is offered as a “basic reason why it doesn’t make sense” to blame trans people for concerns about safety in women’s spaces. As such it is a non sequitur. It merely suggests an impracticality, not a reason for not fearing the presence of males in women’s spaces.
Obviously, the question isn’t about prisons and hospital wards. It’s primarily about toilets in locations open to the members of the public and it is correct insofar as those who are not easily perceived as trans – and I contend that these are relatively few – are unlikely to be challenged on entering a women’s public toilet. Quite a few who are obviously trans won’t be challenged either because women either don’t care or aren’t brave enough. In all public sex-segregated spaces, it is up to the discretion of the management of those spaces whether to admit someone of the other sex, which they can only discern from an individual’s appearance, including their voice.
I’ve seen this question offered in all seriousness several times now as a counter-argument to why women need sex-segregated spaces. Why it is raised as if it’s some kind of slam dunk argument is a mystery to me but it is helpful to see it flagged up so often and I will add it to my Bad Arguments page shortly.
“30 years ago there was a similar panic happening about gay people as there is about trans people”
This one’s already on my Bad Arguments page so I’ll just repeat what I say there:
Being gender critical is nothing like being homophobic. Homophobia is an irrational prejudice, while challenging trans ideology is an entirely rational thing to do.
Gay men and lesbians were not trying to do anything that could potentially affect the psychological and emotional well-being of anyone else by demanding access to spaces reserved for people of the other biological sex. Nor were they trying to force people to pretend they were what they were not and use their preferred words and pronouns.
They weren’t trying to stop people talking about everyday things pertaining to biological sex like menstruation, pregnancy and breast-feeding. They weren’t accusing people who didn’t want to sleep with them of being exclusionary or homophobic and they weren’t promoting violence and sexual assault against women for simply acknowledging material reality.
They weren’t undermining feminist campaigns against rigid, backwards gender stereotypes. They weren’t campaigning to get feminists challenging men’s right to simply self-declare as women thrown out of the Labour Party or anywhere else. They weren’t asking for or promoting puberty blockers or other medical interventions and they weren’t trying to get teachers who expressed concerns about the use of such interventions on teenagers sacked from their teaching jobs.
“Doesn’t policing gender like this also go against what feminists have historically fought for to free women from the expectation of having to look feminine?”
This is a straw man. Nobody wants to “police gender”, we want to abolish it! We want people to be free to express themselves however they like without pretending to be what they are not. We want to put paid to the idea that there are specific ways that people must look, think and act according to their biological sex. That is an idea that Trans Rights Activists – in common with religious conservatives – seem reluctant to let go of. They tend to conflate sex and gender instead of recognising that one is a biological category and the other is a social construct. It’s time to stop humouring them and stop using the term ‘gender’ when what we both actually mean is sex, which is immutable.
“In a survey of rape and domestic violence shelters in the UK, it’s been found that most already welcome and accommodate trans people with no issue on top of that and there are already several countries where people can legally self determine their gender and use the bathroom that they want to…rates of sexual violence have not directly increased”
This is a very disturbing line of argument from someone who purports to be a feminist. I dealt with the point about shelters in an article I wrote elsewhere recently. As for the rest, the first problem with it – and goodness knows feminists have been raising awareness about this for decades so there is no excuse for disregarding it – is that most rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. Defending the rights of men to declare themselves women and to access women’s spaces on the grounds that there hasn’t been an increase in reported rates of actual assaults is inexcusably poor reasoning and, frankly, antithetical to feminism.
Most importantly, she is very disingenuously focusing on physical assault of women by men. But it’s not just about assault. It’s about privacy and dignity, about mental and emotional well-being, about feeling safe and free. I would expect anyone with basic human empathy to understand why some survivors of violent or sexual abuse will be distressed to find themselves in close quarters with male-bodied individuals.
But Amelia Abraham’s empathy seems to be reserved for males who transgender. Note how much she cares about the fear and distress of her friend at the prospect of being unwelcome in a women’s toilet. Compare and contrast with her complete disregard for how women might feel to find someone who is perceptibly male in a space they expect to see only women, not to mention her complete denial of the fact women may be justified in fearing males who present as women no less than we might fear any other man. Women have to be assaulted before we matter; men who “identify” as women just have to have hurt feelings.
“Trans people are dying and I don’t want to be part of a feminism that allows that to happen let alone encourages it”
This is the most outrageous, ludicrous and despicable comment she makes in her entire diatribe. I won’t waste much time on it except to state first the obvious, which is that no feminist or feminism encourages or is responsible for the deaths of trans people, nor is any feminist or feminism responsible for “allowing that to happen”. Second – perhaps less obvious – is that in the UK the “trans murder rate” is apparently lower than the UK average. An average of one transgender person a year has been murdered over the past decade – and not by or at the behest of any feminist, strangely enough – while 2-3 women a week have been murdered by men.
In the last few paragraphs of her talk, she tells women we should disregard our differences with trans people and focus on our “similarities”. So we must forget about all the convicted sex offenders and paedophiles in the female estate, forget about the strong, fit young male-bodied athletes displacing girls and women in sports, forget about all the attempts to redress the imbalance caused by sexism and discrimination in the past, forget about the mutilation of healthy bodies and sterilization of young people, forget about the erasure of lesbians who are called transphobic for not wanting relationships with ‘penis-havers’, forget about our own feelings and needs altogether when they conflict with the wishes of men who claim to be women.
It is a shame that Amelia Abraham framed her talk as a challenge to “those who describe themselves as feminists” rather than at those who actually threaten, assault and claim to want to kill trans people. Unsurprisingly, she fails to define what she understands feminism to be but she clearly doesn’t think it has anything to do with female liberation.
“Is feminism really feminism if it oppresses people?”
No, Amelia Abraham, it isn’t feminism if it oppresses people and what oppresses people is reducing womanhood to a subjective experience, prioritising the feelings of men over the feelings of women, allowing men to adjudicate what lesbians are, depriving us of the language to talk about being oppressed on the grounds our sex. These are all consequences of what you call “trans rights”. No feminist is against basic human rights for transgender people but real feminists don’t share your evident disregard for the rights that generations of women have fought for.
You can hand your feminist credentials in at the door on your way out.
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