Public Sector

When I can’t use the words women or woman, how can I work in a feminist way?

As a woman and long-time feminist I need the language to be able to describe the sex class I belong to and the issues we all face as females. To have this language taken from us, to be silenced in this way, is profoundly disturbing and authoritarian.

Knowing the harsh and unfair consequences that some women face for speaking out has had a chilling effect on me. I am otherwise an outspoken woman but working in local government, I know I cannot question the gender ideology that is prevalent these days.

I risk being labelled a bigot at best and facing official censure at worst. This means I cannot work as I would like to further the cause of women’s liberation. When I can’t use the words women or woman, how can I work in a feminist way?

I have done all my activism in a very different way to usual. It’s been filing in consultations and getting informed. I’ve only spoken about the issue to my male partner and had one or two tentative conversations with friends.

At work, where our ‘diversity and inclusion’ officers have removed women from campaigns against violence against women and have widened International Women’s Day awards to men (not just those who think they’re women), I have had to be very careful.

I edit with caution, use words that can’t be argued with (for example, quoting external official bodies that haven’t totally erased women). But mainly I stay away from work fighting for women’s rights that in previous years I was driving within our communications team in local government. I am so disappointed in myself for this but I also don’t want to take on the bullies in my organisation who I know will attack me if I stand up for women’s rights and against gender ideology.

I haven’t really spoken up yet. I am slowly building my confidence and being inspired by vocal women who have. Like you Maya.

Sarah, local government worker, Australia