AN IDEOLOGICAL DRAG RACE: Part Two
22 March 2023
This is Part Two of a three part post which expresses the writer’s personal opinion. It may not be that of all members of WLA.
Part Two: Sex versus Gender
Gender identity as an issue and a movement was created and marketed in the first world. In that context, a leader of women opposed to gender identity, who “channels her inner Monroe” while surfing a wave of anger on social media, is unsurprising.
I don’t know if Kelly-Jae Keen believes in her brand, but I do know that many of the women who support her are well-intentioned and genuine in their beliefs and concerns.
I’ve heard a lot of gender critical women talk about the extremes of the dangers posed to women and children by gender identity ideology and its resulting praxis, (1) and of the “brutality” of the McCarthyite witch hunt being waged against so-called “TERFs” by gender identity acolytes.
That witch hunt and the dangers of gender self-ID to women and children are now often cast in such hyperbolic terms, some women seek support from political and religious forces that would roll back women’s formal rights (i.e., rights in law), and which want to rewrite the social contract. Those right-wing wielders of virtual quill and ink literally want to send women back to the realm of child bearing, kitchen, and church.
From the example of the McCarthyite witch-hunt that has been waged against them, gender critical feminists should be able to figure out how moral panics can result in witch hunts. However, it’s apparent that some are unaware of the scale of witch hunts that will be unleashed if an alliance of the far right and religious ultra-conservatives gains more political ground.
Any feminists, single issue or otherwise, who think they can control the manic energy of a right-wing witch hunt in full throat had best think again. The middle class, heterosexual, white women who numerically dominate the so-called “femalist” movement would do well to look around at their comrades and consider who among them would become the early victims of a patriarchal family values auto-da-fé.
On the slippery slope to determinism
In this highly charged ideological stoush, beliefs around sex are sliding towards a sort of rigid determinism, while beliefs about gender have already morphed into a bewildering multiplicity of self-declared, bespoke identities. (2)
Facile phrases like “hacking the binary” sit alongside claims that there are six or more sexes, and that modern genetics has proven many of us to be genetic chimeras, ergo the female and male at the core of dimorphic reproductive sex is rendered meaningless. (3)
These beliefs and political priorities are the current political and cultural accoutrements of an educated and affluent, largely white, middle class, and they serve to obscure the core issues. Those people with actual gender dysphoria or body dysmorphia are increasingly being side-lined as what Dave Chappell calls the Alphabet People elbow their self-absorbed ways onto the gender identity stage.
Also demoted and side-lined are the material realities facing those who were born with one of the range of variations of sex development, aka disorders of sex differentiation, which have been roped in to add medical weight and numbers to the trans rights side, in the form of “proof” that sex, like gender, is not a binary, but on a spectrum. (4)
Bye-bye binary, binary bye-bye
For those not au fait with the gender self-identification phenomenon, it grew robustly in the shade provided by policy changes made at the level of regulation. Some of these were very significant but until fairly recently, who noticed or cared that courtesy of regulatory shifts, people were permitted to change their name and the sex marker on their driving licence, for example?
Anyone who has written about this from a gender critical perspective will be declared to be a “TERF” by some of the more zealous of the gender identity acolytes, i.e., those for whom defence of the essentially metaphysical propositions which underpin the theory, is all important.
So central is the Gender Identity Question to these people, they could broadly agree with a woman on 99% of all other social and political issues, but if she as much as mildly questions GI ideology and any of its praxis, she will be declared to be a literal Nazi – thus putting a new coat of gloss paint on the misogynistic descriptor of “feminazi.”
Importantly, if you are a lesbian or a gay man, in the current potpourri of ideological genderisms, your sexual orientation is reduced to whether you “like” people who present as men or as women. (5)
How on earth did we get here?
Apart from reading Janice Raymond’s book way back in the early 1990s, and having worked with two men who described themselves as transvestite, the gender identity movement did not loom large on my political or personal radar until around 2012 when Germaine Greer spoke out about the forms of more militant trans activism such as Tampongate which were powerfully amplified by social media.
It really took off in the anglophone world in 2015 when the Tory Party in the UK announced its intention to review the Gender Recognition Act (2004).
Prior to this I can’t remember anyone using the wonderfully vague and all-purpose self-adhesive label of non-binary, let alone the extraordinary proliferation of other gender identities that have sprung up recently, and which might well prove to be the catalyst for the destruction of the entire trans rights movement.
The threat to actual trans people, as opposed to the multitude of transgender coat-trailers, is such that if I was of a conspiracy mindset (perish the thought), I’d be wondering who added all those blue and pink heads to form a trans rights Hydra.
Women’s Liberation – from and to what?
Like many women’s liberationists of my generation, I see biological sex as the means by which women came to be oppressed by men. The forms and degrees of male oppression of women came into being as a result of material changes leading to social stratification – i.e., class based societies.
Physical coercion of women is not efficient or economic, and forms of ideological coercion proved to be far more effective. Persuade a woman of her place as a divinely ordained inferior being whose submission to god must be demonstrated by chastity, and submission to her husband or father, and that coercive control is likely to be internalised.
Within capitalism, the economic exploitation of all workers took on a special quality among women whose unpaid reproductive and domestic labour supported the economic system, and whose paid labour was valued less. Thus, women workers, as a class of persons defined by biological sex were (and still are) economically hyper-exploited.
The only way we can make sense of how patriarchal family arrangements have spread and became almost universally dominant, is to look to the material changes that allowed some men to dominate all others. We need to understand how subordinate men were, and still are persuaded to accept their own exploitation and oppression, and to fight other exploited and oppressed men in order to cement the power of their masters; how it is that such men are still satisfied with the stinky old ideological bone of familial authority over women and children.
That many men still tug their forelocks in gratitude to their overfed masters while beating the living daylights out of women and kids, is testimony to the power of patriarchal, ruling class ideology and the economic structures it supports.
The UK Labour Party member who called a gender critical female comrade “a deplorable cunt” because she said sex was real and could not be changed, and the man on a left wing website in NZ who called a woman who holds a gender critical view, “an ugly old cunt”, are just doing a different sort of beating, one that arguably is even more supportive of the economic status quo.
- In a gender critical article about a facet of the gender self-identification issue, I noted that the phrase sexual deviant appeared twenty-one times; sexual predator, seven times; groom, three times; sex offender and sexual psychopaths twice each, and sexual perversion,
- Alongside the label of cisgender for the overwhelming majority of people, under the ever widening umbrella of transgender, we have such self-adhesive labels as: agender, androgyne, aromantic, asexual, bi, or trigender, blaqueer, butch, cross-dresser, demisexual, gender expansive, genderfluid, gender outlaw, genderqueer, gender variant, masculine of centre, multi-sexual, neutral-gender, null-gender, non-binary, omnigender, pangender, polygender, polysexual, queer, two-spirit, Ursula ….
- Those who reach for genetics to support their views on gender should realise that it is a recent science and like all science in the corporate dominated world, it is not free of political and economic influence in terms of what is studied and for what purpose. Nor are the ways in which the results are interpreted, or how they are communicated to the public via the various PR companies which also have an ideological agenda.
- Fertility rates are dropping globally, once rare conditions like central precocious puberty are increasing. The range and incidence of DSDs may also be increasing. The world is saturated in endocrine disrupting and DNA damaging chemicals. It’s not too much to ask whether – just as fat-activism tries to normalise the epidemic of obesity, a major cause of which is the food we eat, gender-identity activism is encouraged to divert attention away from the effects of other toxic corporate outflows.
- The gender identity SPECTRUM (as per The Trevor Project) can be summed up thusly: Biological sex is what the doctor assigned us at birth. It is on a continuum between male and female with intersex (the political lobbying term for disorders or differences of sexual differentiation) in the middle. Gender expression is how we present ourselves to others. The two poles are masculine and feminine with androgynous and non-binary in the middle. Gender presentation is how the world sees us; the two poles are man and woman with transgender, genderqueer and non-binary in the middle. Sexual orientation or “who we like” has the poles of being attracted to men or to women with bisexual, pansexual and asexual in the middle.
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!