Academics and researchers

Women can never fully escape the consequences of their reproductive role

This matters to me because after embracing feminist beliefs for my entire adult life I have now accepted that women can never fully escape the consequences of their reproductive role. This does not make women inherently weak or vulnerable (far from it), but in patriarchal societies it does create periods of economic dependency (on individual men or women or on the state, in which patriarchal concepts of citizenship are deeply embedded) and has longer-term consequences for how women are positioned in the labour market and treated in society.

It is not possible to fully escape biological reality. However, what feminism can do-and has done-is to ameliorate as far as possible the social, economic, political and legal consequences of this through legislation (women’s rights/women’s human rights) and by working to change socially and culturally embedded ideas about gender and gender roles. 

Transgender ideology, and self-ID specifically, puts all these gain in jeopardy. On an intellectual level, I understand Butler’s (et al) purpose -and intent-in arguing that sex is a social construct.

However, a wishful idealism that denies material reality is doomed to fail. The political project is thus naive, yet jeopardises all the concrete gains made by feminists over decades of struggle.

In so far as it challenges all boundaries, it can also enable bad actors that pose a risk to vulnerable groups.

I work in a university, most closely with feminist colleagues sympathetic to Queer Theory. I am generally supportive of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion agenda. However, I have spoken out publicly (email, meetings) about the dangers of this agenda being  hijacked and I have publicly spoken out against no platforming.

Interestingly, some Queer Theory/feminist colleagues have told me privately that they agree with me, so too a Non Binary colleague who now believes that no platforming is not the way to resolve this conflict. That’s good enough for me.

If we can have public debate, free from intimidation, I believe gender critical feminists will prevail and we can then move on to a constructive discussion on how to tackle the discrimination faced by trans people, without sacrificing women’s sex-based rights.

I have outed myself twice on Twitter (were I am not anonymous), with no serious consequences for me,  but I generally do not engage on Twitter on this or any other matter. Anonymity removes accountability for comments posted and the growing factionalism and polarisation squeezes out moderate voices.

I accept that engagement on social media was necessary when MSM (Mainstream Media) and politicians wouldn’t touch the issue and I admire the courage of those who have spoken out at great cost to themselves during this time. However, I fear the debate on Twitter is now so toxic that it is better to utilize other spaces and possibilities for discussion, more of which are opening up as the tide turns in the favour of gender criticals (in the UK at least).

I resigned from the Labour Party over the Woman’s Place debacle. I have written to the Labour Party about the issue. I have supported numerous crowd funders.

Any backlash was likely to come from trans and non binary colleagues and students, but it hasn’t happened (yet) and, as above, some colleagues have told me privately they agree with me. One non binary student approached me after a lecture and complained about my “cis language.” I invited them to talk to me later when we had more time to discuss their concerns. I feared an official complaint was in the offing, but I never heard from them again.

That said, I do not feel that I can be completely honest about my views. To the extent that I actively self-police, I acknowledge that there is still a problem and we have some way to go. We all need to engage with our colleagues respectfully and with civility, but it is necessary to air important matters in ways that do not obfuscate the issues. This is not happening in my institution or indeed across my wider feminist network. Instead, both sides are dealing with the conflict by not confronting it.

I am also experiencing this on a personal level. I know my daughter agrees with me on certain issues-e.g. that trans participation with decimate women’s sport and that bad actors will exploit self-ID in ways that put women at risk. However, she lives in one of the Wokiest cities in the UK where most of her friends and much of her social support comes from her LGBT network. We have discussed in the past, but recently she has asked me not to talk to her about this (a way of not confronting her own feelings, I think) and so we don’t, even as we are very close and can talk openly about just about any other subject.

Annys, Academic