What is gender, anyway?

Originally published by Sarah Ditum at the New Statesman

This can be perplexing terrain, in which it’s not at all clear that everyone is speaking the same language, although they might be using the same words. In popular usage, “gender” is often simply a synonym for “sex”, and it’s unquestioned that “woman” and “female”, and “man” and “male” are naturally and irrevocably paired. (This could be called the essentialist account, or “gender is in one’s pants”.) Essentialism comes in slightly more sophisticated variants too, and one current proponent is Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, who has written extensively on what he calls “the essential difference”, claiming that the male brain is inherently systematising and the female brain inherently empathising, leading to a natural division of roles on the basis of a physical difference. (Baron-Cohen does allow that “not all men have the male brain, and not all women have the female brain”, but the fact that “systematising” roles occupied by men tend to be well-paid and prestigious, while “empathising” ones performed by women are less valuable or even entirely unpaid, is regarded as an unfortunate coincidence.)

Feminist analysis has vigorously challenged that view.

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Birth wars: the politics of childbirth

Originally published by Glosswitch at the New Statesman

To be of woman born is a universal experience, yet women themselves remain a diffuse, fractured group. “What is a woman, anyway?” is still considered a deep, meaningful question to ask. The polite answer is, of course, “whatever anyone wants it to be”. More than that would close off the vessel, seal the hole, glue back together the broken shell. There’s a sense in which women are simply not meant to be whole. We need to be in pieces so that men can survive intact.

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Why I Won’t Accept The Politics Of Gender Identity

Originally published by The Morning Star

THE concept of gender identity is being enshrined into law in several countries now, giving new legal protections to transgender people on the basis of their identities.

In the United States, the Obama administration recently signed a declaration that all public schools in the country must recognise the gender identity of their students.

Canada has recently announced new legal protections for transgender people. In Britain, there is interest growing in allowing people to legally define their own gender.

As a person on the political left and as a member of the LGBT community, I am expected to applaud these changes to legislation, but instead I am critical.

This is because the concept of gender identity is poorly defined, and the politics of transgenderism is harmful to women and girls and rooted in individualism rather than collective action.

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The pronominal is political

Originally posted at language: a feminist guide

Feminists objected to the use of ‘he’ to refer to people in general, which made women as a class invisible. The new politics of gender identity, by contrast, is concerned with the way pronouns are used in reference to specific individuals. As the writer I quoted earlier explains, pronouns are ‘a big deal’ because

They’re the definitive way we acknowledge and respect a person’s gender in everyday conversation.

The principle that underlies this assertion is that individuals have a right to be referred to with the pronouns which, in their own view, most appropriately reflect their gender identity. It should not be assumed that everyone is either ‘he’ or ‘she’: individuals who identify as trans, non-binary, agender or genderqueer may prefer an alternative, epicene form. ‘They’ is one of the available options, but sources which aim to document non-traditional pronoun use exhaustively, like this tumblr, list scores of other possibilities.

The acceptance of this principle has produced a new form of linguistic etiquette: announcing one’s ‘preferred pronouns’ and taking steps to ascertain the preferred pronouns of others. Some universities now invite students to register their pronouns: at Harvard around half the student body so far have availed themselves of this option (though only about 50 students out of 10,000 have specified a pronoun other than ‘he’ or ‘she’). And the New York City Human Rights Commission recently issued legal guidance which made clear that an employer or landlord who failed to use an employee or tenant’s preferred name, title and pronouns would be guilty of unlawful discrimination.

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Gender MadLibs: Decoding Transspeak

Originally posted at

When words mean two or more things, or when they mean something other than what they seem, this means trouble. This kind of double-speak is indispensible to any totalitarian movement. The transgender movement is no exception.

The word “woman” itself is Orwellian in a patriarchy. It can refer to someone who is biologically female, or someone who has a “feminine” persona (as defined by their society), or both at once. It can mean different things on different days, depending on the whims of the speaker.

This is why children have a hard time understanding what it means to be a boy or girl, and think that biological femalehood is equated with social femalehood. It’s why they have this idea of a girl with a penis or a boy with a vagina. “Boy” and “girl” can mean anything people want them to mean, and, in the case of transactivists and conservatives, both at once.

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Thoughts of a person, with breasts

Originally posted at Glosswatch

Jaqueline Rose recently wrote 15,000 breathless, muddled words on transness for the LRB. “Transsexual people are brilliant at telling their stories,” she declared. They are interesting, you see, unlike cis women, those dullards, unquestioning conscripts to the gender regime who see themselves as “normal” because they lack the trans person’s unique ability to inhabit a liminal space:

The ‘cis’ – i.e. non-trans – woman or man is a decoy, the outcome of multiple repressions whose unlived stories surface nightly in our dreams. From the Latin root meaning ‘on this side of’ as opposed to ‘across from’, ‘cis’ is generally conflated with normativity, implying ‘comfortable in your skin’, as if that were the beginning and end of the matter.

Who, exactly, we may therefore ask – trans or non-trans – is fooling whom? Who do you think you are? – the question anyone hostile to transsexual people should surely be asking themselves. So-called normality can be the cover for a multitude of ‘sins’.

Cis woman, as far as Rose is concerned, restricts herself to a surface-only existence. She is Woolf’s looking glass, now providing an outline to be filled with someone else’s deep, meaningful knowledge of what it is to truly live as neither one thing nor another. The patriarchal insistence that women do not have souls gets an update; cis woman does not know her own soul, but that is her fault. She condemns herself to inauthenticity through her own lack of curiosity, content to remain tits and ass, “the cover for a multitude of ‘sins’.”

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I’m a leftist and I support NC’s bathroom stipulations

Originally posted at The Fifth Column

If you had told my younger self that I would be writing an article in support of Republican legislation I might have laughed at you. But as a leftist who prioritizes women’s rights I find myself in support of Republican Gov. McRory and the new bathroom laws in my state of North Carolina.

All mainstream discussions of North Carolina’s new bathroom laws are using memes to criticize it. Which is useful if you’re not a fan of critical thinking, but it seems memes and messages like them are adequate legal arguments in the court of public opinion. So what’s the deal?

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Woman Isn’t

Originally posted at The Perfect Birth

If you think the fact that some women will never have children, have never menstruated, no longer menstruate, have had their uterus or breasts removed, etc., proves that males can also be women, you’re a sexist.

Please examine that misogyny as you don’t think much of women. Women are more than their biology, but not less.

Being a woman is not being a not-man. Womanhood is not defined as the absence of total masculinity. Woman is not something you can define only in relation to seemingly not amounting to man. Womanhood would never be revoked by an absence of those individual biological things, and absence of those things in others is not confirmation of who can or can not claim womanhood. “Woman” is not some dumping ground category to include men who don’t conform to rigid gender standards. If this were true, 90% of the world would be “woman”. Woman is not an afterthought. Woman is not second place.

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Did my views on trans women change?

Originally posted at The Idge of Reason

Appropriating the language of feminism for misogyny is a problem. That is not about denying trans women anything. Trans women need the discussion of structural inequality that they face part of. Feminism is not about controlling the worlds women so they have to concentrate on managing your identity instead of the lives they face because of structural inequality imposed on them for being women. Women did not choose the things attributed to our gender, even if you value them. They are not an innate part of womanhood. If your identity is so fragile you need women to manage it for you, that is about you, not them. There is no female brain that meant women wanted to be subservient for years. There is the responsibilities that still fall disproportionately to women, there is economic inequality rooted in this, there is the reason feminism existed in the first place. Which has not gone away.

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Being a Minority of One.

Originally posted on Gender Critical Dad

My daughter has decided to become a man, wants a mastectomy and testosterone, the group that she’d been going to, turns out to be a cult, teachers I trusted had been enabling her delusion to boost the self righteous liberalism and pompous patronising tolerance . I’m supposed to come to terms with this and support her on this brave journey, but just I could not buy it.

It left me reeling, questioning my beliefs, my sanity, my decency and my motives. Why did I disagree with the consensus? I’ve always been a big headed git, but also capable of reflection and I think, reconsideration, but this stuff just left me in a spin

Its so gob smacking, that I didn’t want to talk about it in depth with my partner, If she agreed with me, it could just be to keep the peace, or because I’d worn her down.

I hit the internet, searched, somehow found https://www.reddit.com/r/GenderCritical/ and from the sidebar in that loads of links, full of sane women, frequently repeating the objections I had to trans, filling in details, providing a calm, reasoned argument, why the transgender system off belief is fundamentally flawed.

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