Listening Up For Women
21 July 2021
On reflection, I’m happy that I drove the 120 kilometre round trip in last Thursday’s filthy weather, to hear Speak Up For Women present their arguments against controversial proposals for sex self-identification (Sex Self ID) in the Births, Deaths, Marriages & Relationships Registration (BDMRR) Bill at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre.
A large crowd of mostly young protesters were tightly corralled by security officers outside, far from the entrance to the event. They were having a ball, shrieking two-word slogans in perfect unison at their fellow citizens attending an event of interest in a public venue. I love a good protest, and it cheered me to see them. A bit of fresh air in mid-July is preferable, surely, to sitting on the couch thumbing through Instagram or the GMA website.
The SUFW speakers weren’t there to fuck around. They read out security rules for the meeting and asked everyone to raise their hand in agreement, inviting anyone who didn’t agree to leave. No one left.
Both speakers set out their group’s concerns in plain language, showing a great 10-minute video about the sex self-ID clauses’ dodgy origins on the basis of a petition to Parliament that garnered only 53 signatures (thanks largely to the machinations of Green MP Jan Logie). Speak Up will no doubt publish footage from the meeting on their website, so I recommend checking back there for that.
Half an hour was given to a Q+A after the talk. People made variously coherent comments, often taking the opportunity to make their own case rather than to ask questions. A young trans woman invited everyone to a meeting later in the month at Thistle Hall. A person with bright pink hair told of our land’s “rich trans history”, alleging the commemoration of trans men in the place name Whakatāne. Two wāhine Māori walked out in protest at this; another woman accused Pink Hair of appropriation. I spied renowned feminist Jordan Williams skulking in an ill-fitting jacket. Sean Plunket was on hand to give his kiss-of-death plaudits as usual. A lone TV reporter stared fixedly at me.
The meeting itself was peaceful and well managed. The political circumstances that meant it could easily not have taken place were anything but. Were SUFW not fortunate to have Nicolette Levy QC and other brilliant legal minds at their disposal, were they not happy to take favours from astroturfing faux-libertarians, the whole speaking tour could have ended in disaster, as council after council caved in to the thug’s veto and cancelled their public venue bookings.
Instead, thanks to a last-minute High Court ruling, the machinations of councillors and their staff up and down the country (including a notable cameo by Lower Hutt’s Labour Mayor) seeking to deny the group access to public venues for their meetings, failed. It was the forces of “cancel culture” that fell flat instead.
Democracy prevailed, at a cost.
The BDMRR proposals still need fixing.
These meetings do work for this Labour government that it should be doing itself. People don’t understand what is intended. These proposals aren’t just “making it simpler for trans people to change their birth certificates”. They represent a major change to a key basis of human rights and other law and regulations – the sex of an individual. The cries of “be kind”, “most vulnerable and marginalised” need to cease. We can see who is being marginalised in this cock-up of a legislative programme, and it certainly isn’t trans people.
I feel sorry for the Minister in charge of the Bill, Jan Tinetti. This is a hospital pass if ever there was one, and Jan Logie is now nowhere to be seen. Tinetti is surely in parliament to continue her brilliant advocacy for public education, begun as a primary teacher, principal and union leader at NZEI Te Riu Roa. She surely never imagined she would be forced to mouth the increasingly incoherent new-speak that the zealots of Labour’s Youth and Rainbow wings are forcing compliance with at every level of the party..
A post – miraculously! – open only to women on The Standard blog at the weekend made clear the need for discussion. Given space and the respect to air their views on sex self-ID and related matters, left wing women, voiced their reasonable concerns – they’re not being heard anywhere else on the Parliamentary left.
Grassroots Labour women have had no opportunity to hear about the proposals, much less discuss and debate them. Internal party structures are dominated by advocates of sex self ID and childhood gender transition. No one dares to ask questions, and the party machinery works to shut down any attempts to raise the issue. It’s too toxic even for seasoned feminists, who fill the Party to its gunwales. Everyone nods along, observing sagely that “it’s generational change”. After all, who wants to be labelled a dreaded TERF?
Speak Up For Women, for all that they’re doing a sterling job of sticking to the facts and pointing out problems in the legislation, in the face of the most comprehensive, global hate campaign against women that I can remember seeing, have no detectable strategy for getting the Minister to listen, beyond relentless policy documents alternating with outraged tweets at her for failing to respond.
And of course, rather than taking note of who actually has power in Government at present, and campaigning accordingly, the leadership cabal has aligned itself so publicly with the National Party, ACT, and a ragtag bunch of other right wing misfits, that the chances of any senior Labour MP breaking ranks and give them a proper hearing, even if they want to, must be virtually nil. Surely at least some would, if Speak Up hadn’t made it so damned difficult politically. Or is the vice-grip of the zealots too strong?
It was a week where we saw leftist urbanites pouring scorn from every corner of social media on farmers protesting against measures intended to deal with human-induced climate change. It’s another year of our species being ravaged by a virus, that we hope to control with a vaccine. It’s so odd that the same crew are so willing to plug their ears when women want to talk – just talk – about how our biology matters to us.
Perhaps it’s time for the Prime Minister herself to listen to all Labour’s women members, to seek their views deliberately in every Branch, not just the Young and Rainbow Labour branches. Give them a proper chance to hear what is proposed and to debate it in a respectful atmosphere, free of acrimony and tiresome accusations. This would align better with Labour’s democratic values than controlling women with repression and shame as Labour representatives have sought to do so recently.
If Jacinda Ardern believes there is a pressing need to make it the right of every man in this land to change his birth certificate so it records that he was born as a member of the female sex, and that this change will have no effect on any women or group of women, or any of our rights and freedoms, she should front this law change herself, and tell us why.
Last Thursday was a shitty night to be out and about in Wellington, but hearing this controversial law change openly discussed by those for and those against, in our nation’s Capital warmed my heart. Speak Up for Women must be congratulated for their relentless defence of everyone’s rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and information, and the rights of women and girls in particular, in the face of such unprecedented zealotry and misinformation. I wish them all success for the remainder of their campaign.
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The mindless “Terf”, ‘Transphobe’ , and ‘Bigot’ mantras betray a paucity of evidence and critical thinking.
It requires a belief that women (in particular) who have fought most of their adult lives for the rights of others, not just women, have suddenly, incomprehensibly, become bigots.
Having marched for Abortion Rights, an end to rape in marriage (yes it was a thing- men could rape their wives with the sanction of the law), Homosexual law reform, Equal pay, end to sexual violence, demanded an end to discrimination against Gay, Lesbian and Trans kiwis, made submissions, started petitions, sat behind small desks on main streets in the rain and cold and windy asking strangers for signatures, while many of those strangers abuse and threaten, or, assault them- suddenly, inexplicably have become phobes and bigots. Only to an uncritical mind and a very organised/powerful movement with momentum if not evidence and credibility is this possible.
Kudos to ALL those who are making this site possible- so we may continue the fight for the rights of women and girls that some thought/think was won long ago.
[Edited by Karolyn, with Tracey’s approval]
Bills should never be passed in the New Zealand govt without proper consultation with the public. Thank you for the article it was informative and witty all at the same time.
Speak Up For Women did indeed try talking to the women and men of the Green and Labour parties, but were resolutely, and often hostilely, shut down and told to eff off (in a manner of speaking). As is the same around the Western world, it’s only those on the right who gave them an ear and time, so that’s who SUFW ended up speaking to. They’re not aligned with the right, because they’re not a partisan group, they’re just talking to the only ones who will listen. It’s shameful the way those in government and on the left have swallowed the trans ideology so completely that they’ve turned their ears off to women who have a different perspective on it.