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Time for socialists to take action against gender stereotyping

KAY GREEN introduces new campaign group for women’s rights, Rise Above Gender

THERE’S a popular social media meme going around that says “your rights are not like pie” — that giving rights to someone else does not take rights away from you. It’s a perfect illustration of how badly the trans rights issue is being misunderstood.

There is an exemption for “sex” in the 2010 Equality Act, which we can use to increase the participation of women in professional and political life. 

There is also an exemption for “gender reassignment.” So, if you’re using the sex exemption to help women and you have, say, 50 funded training places for women, and hundreds of women apply for it, but you accept anyone who says they’re a women — ie males — under the sex exemption, instead of in a scheme based on the gender-reassignment exemption, you reduce the number of women you train. That is a whole lot like pie.

The sex exemption applied by the Labour Party to help women achieve 50 per cent of political representation has 10 years to run but, if it decides to include anyone Stonewall has under its “trans umbrella,” it isn’t going to make it. 

Remember, the “trans umbrella” isn’t about those male to female transsexuals who have a legal right to be treated as women in most circumstances, it’s about people like, for example, the “non-binary” male, a freemason, who decided women at Hampstead ponds had no right to female-only swimming. 

Women’s pie just got a whole lot smaller. Why not keep women’s places ring-fenced, and bake a new pie, with extra places under the gender reassignment exemption? 

Or have schemes especially for LGBT people? Oh, you already do. You just decided “trans rights” means a new category of people can use women’s places. Why not increase the number of places for women, to make up for it, then? 

Silence.

Of course trans people should be protected from discrimination, and welcomed into day-to-day female society — they have those rights already — but is someone who grew up, was educated and lived for, say, 40 years or more as a man, going to understand the needs and issues of women clearly enough to be a political women’s officer in the Labour Party? Here’s an example of why I doubt that.

Pushed out of politics

I applied to be a borough council candidate recently, and got turned down because views I expressed “could cause offence to trans people” and there is a complaint about my views outstanding. 

While I was waiting in the hallway for council interview results to be announced, a male candidate who has a penchant for posting “men’s rights” and “trans rights” stuff on social media, stood there telling me all about how he disapproves of all-women shortlists because they stop men standing. He was deemed acceptable as a council candidate, I was not. 

I’d like to say that’s obvious sexism, but clearly it isn’t obvious. If most people could see it, I wouldn’t need to explain it. 

It’s OK for council candidates to have views that offend women. As a councillor, this man will definitely aim to shrink the women’s pie further, but that, it seems, is OK. 

That is why we need the “sex” exemption, and it’s why I don’t trust someone who had a male upbringing to understand the problem.

People agree with us

It’s noticeable that women like me still get voted into certain political and trade union positions — branch and women’s officers, women’s conference delegates, things everyone gets to vote for — but we are rejected for the things that are decided by committees — by a few people sitting behind desks, people deeper in party politics than they are in real life, perhaps.

I don’t intend to have a battle with my own party, the Labour Party. This issue is bigger than that. Most political parties — in fact most organisations, worldwide — have accepted the “transwomen are women” line without question. 

It was built into many rulebooks before most people even noticed, and when they did find out, it sounded like something abstract and complex that only lawyers would worry about, because by then trendy queer theory academics had messed up the language of sex and gender so much that conversations just weren’t making sense.  

It’s a tactic called “policy capture” — blind people with jargon, change the rules then call them outlaws.

That is not democracy. I’m in the business of rescuing the organisations I support from this mistake, preferably before they discover how unpopular it’s going to make them. 

Most people by now have heard about Karen White, Jessica Yaniv and Dana Rivers (if you haven’t, do a web search). 

Many have listened to sports stars Martina Navratilova and Sharron Davies and developmental biologist Emma Hilton, and are now wondering just what the 2020 Olympics are going to look like. Most people do not support sex self-ID. 

That’s why the trans rights movement has turned to persuading organisations to build “gender identity” into their rules instead. It sounds more innocuous but actually, it’s worse. 

It pins everyone to the idea of innate gender characteristics, so if it gets into legislation, we get courts enforcing a sexist ideology. That is the end of freedom of speech and belief. 

It makes any women who argues for sex-based rights “a bigot.” The fact that I’m not considered acceptable as a borough council candidate because I do so is an indicator that that situation is well on the way.

Because I am known as an observer and writer on this issue, many women, and a few men, come to me with their concerns, and I try to express their feelings and thoughts — especially those of people who have good reasons to fear speaking up for themselves. 

Women who have had direct experience of violent, manipulative men are the most heart-rending ones. They know they need female-only spaces, and they know exactly what they mean by that. I am not going to censor their impressions for the sake of those who make unreasonable demands of them.

A friend illustrated this problem with the analogy of “rules of war.” When the Corbyn leadership campaign brought socialists flooding back to reclaim the party of the workers, they were called “Trots,” “entryists” and “thugs.” 

Most people saw through that. When international socialists stand up for Palestinians who defend their invaded territory, the occupiers call them anti-semitic. Most people see through that.

When organisations like Stonewall, Pride and LGBT Labour march into the heart of women’s territory, and declare it the property of others, often nominating people who are vociferously sexist into women’s places, one would expect a certain amount of fightback to be seen as legitimate — but most women so far, are merely quietly uncomfortable, while those who do object — or even those who don’t object, but wish to negotiate the terms of the takeover — are called “anti-trans.” 

Truly socialist women are not anti-anyone. They simply don’t see why they should be overly polite about sex-based spaces being invaded without consent, vote or discussion. You’d think socialists would understand that.

Rise above gender

What we need is a facility to bring those women and men who do see the problem together, to organise them into groups who can make the case to their own organisations and unions without being bullied and isolated. 

Many gender-critical women have rallied under the Woman’s Place UK banner. Now, let us also have an organisation specific to socialism, that any socialists can join — women and men — when they want to organise and take action.

Take action

Gender is not sex. Gender is a set of socially constructed rules of behaviour and a dress code, varying from culture to culture, which is imposed on women and men and serves to keep traditional hierarchies in place. 

If you don’t want to see “gender identity” built into our law and enforced, if you don’t want schools teaching children gender stereotypes as though they were something biological and inescapable, if you’d like to help put this damaging misconception right in your party, union or workplace, please email RAG.gendercriticalSAG@gmail.com or visit our Facebook page to sign up to our mailing list. 

Rise Above Gender — Socialist Action Against Gender Stereotyping is a project devised by Kay Green and Diane Jones, both committed socialists and trade unionists, and also the title of the Facebook sign-up group.

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