‘Transwomen are women’ has become the virtue signal of the last few years. On the surface, it sounds exactly as a lot of the people who utter it intend it to sound – progressive and inclusive. Who could argue with such a statement and be considered kind? Left leaning? Tolerant? It is anathema to many people to even think of refuting those words, tantamount to the worst kind of bigotry.
Beneath the surface, however, this phrase has come to mean something entirely different. Any woman who values her rights, who has any pride in her womanhood, should be concerned by this semantic shift. There was a time, not so long ago, when I was on the opposite side of the gender debate to where I find myself sitting now. It was only once I delved deeper into the rhetoric on either side of the fence that I realized how insidiously I had been manipulated into advocating against my own rights.
Allow me to be clear here: I do not like the word ‘TERF’. Gender critical is the more appropriate terminology; I am critical of this vogue of gender ideology that has gripped the West. Aside from the fact that ‘TERF’ is most often used by trans rights activists as a slur, spat at women who disagree with them in much the same tone as one would use ‘bitch’, it is an inaccurate characterization. I am not exclusionary of transsexual people – that is, the adults who struggle with dysphoria and seek sex reassignment procedures and hormone treatment. These transwomen (I will only refer to them as such throughout this piece; when I mean biological women, I will say ‘women’) have, in my opinion, every right to use women’s spaces and to be treated as women with the utmost respect and dignity.
However, that does not mean that I am okay with opening up women’s spaces to anyone who calls themselves ‘trans’. This loose definition has opened the door to horrific abuses of the sentiment for which it was intended, and make no mistake, it is hurting women. Particularly the most vulnerable in our society. Transsexual women (as they had been known until very recently) got on harmoniously and indeed were largely embraced by the feminists who are loudly objecting now. The key difference between these transwomen and a growing number of the people who call themselves ‘trans’ is that these transsexual, sex-reassigned women are not, and never were, threatening women’s rights. They are not insisting we deny ourselves the hard-earned moniker of ‘mother’. They are not screaming ‘transphobe’ at lesbians who are same-sex attracted. They are not trying to deny these women the right to refuse sex to whoever the hell they want for whatever reason they want. They are not gaslighting people for talking about scientific fact. These transwomen of old want to be embraced by womanhood; advocate for it, not redefine it.
There’s a huge difference between inclusion and encroachment.
What is happening in the political landscape right now is especially concerning in my home country. I have always been proud to be Scottish – proud of the small, underpopulated corner of the British Isles that has produced such intellectual heavyweights as David Hume, Adam Smith, John Logie Baird and Alexander Fleming. I am especially proud of the intelligent, brave and inspiring women we have produced – the Edinburgh Seven, Victoria Drummond, Agnes Sampson, Effie Gray and Dr Elsie Inglis to name just a few. As a nation, we’ve had more than our fair share of the history books. Yet now, we appear to be making history for all the wrong reasons.
We’ve become the first corner of Britain to go right back to silencing women for having the temerity to voice an opinion.
Marion Millar, Scottish women’s rights activist and single mother, is being taken to court on 20th July 2021 for malicious communication with a hate crime aggravator. I should point out here that I don’t agree with hate crime legislation on principle – I think that the reason for a crime should be noted for the public record, but it should have no place in sentencing; like Leo McGarry of The West Wing, I’m not wild about the idea of people going to jail for something they thought – but even if I was all for it, the circumstances surrounding this particular case are baffling.
Marion is well-known in feminist circles, and she is a champion of women’s rights. She has been arrested and charged, as you’re probably aware, for a handful of tweets (and I’d like to reiterate here that the tweets themselves were deemed permissible by Twitter standards; make of that what you will). The tweet that has been publicised at the forefront of this issue is one in which Marion showed a picture of a ribbon of suffragette colours tied outside River City Studios in Dumbarton. This innocuous ribbon was allegedly perceived by the actor mentioned in her tweet to resemble a noose. A NOOSE. And from the sublime to the ridiculous we go.
Never mind the fact that this haberdashery ‘noose’ is, for starters, the wrong way up. Never mind that it is a delicate tricolour of silk strings tied in what one can only assume is a fairly flimsy knot. Never mind the improbability of a man of this actor’s size and build being intimidated by a few scraps of material – maybe he is intimidated, but that is likely less about the physical ribbon and more about what the ribbon represents. It represents women standing up for their rights. It represents rebellion against an ideology that is trying to infringe on those rights. It represents, crucially, the idea that women will not be cowed or bullied.
In short, a suffragette ribbon represents female empowerment. The good kind. It’s not hateful, it’s not vicious. It is an act of sisterhood. The debate raging on the Twittersphere and in universities and schools across the world right now is not as reductive as it is being made out to be by certain vocal groups. These women are not anti-trans, they are pro-women. In a world in which new age misogyny seems to be on the rise once more, this is seen as a dangerous message for us ladies to be spouting, and it must therefore be stamped out.
Enter Police Scotland, frog-marched down the road by the SNP. The (largely reluctant) foot soldiers in a culture war, the Scottish police force are cracking down on perceived hate crime with an iron fist… if you’re a prominent feminist. How dare a woman take to the internet to make a well-reasoned and scientifically backed case about the dangers of puberty blockers, or the rise in violent ‘female’ crime directly attributable to an increase in male-bodied ‘trans’ women! (I do not believe these predators have any business being associated with the genuine transwomen I mentioned before.) How dare this woman take to the internet to affirm reality and hurt the feelings of deluded narcissists who would deny their own biology! (Side note: the science denial happening within this movement is woke Trumpism by any other name.)
Meanwhile, in England, Brunel University tweeted their unthinking support to the TRA who repeatedly threatened the lives of gender critical women with pictures of guns and calls to violence. This matter is now being investigated by the police, so says the university. We shall have to see what comes of it. I believe that whoever ran the social media account made a genuine mistake and didn’t need to go to such extreme measures as resignation of their post, however the inescapable fact remains that blind support was the knee-jerk reaction to a death threat. Jesus H Christ on a penny farthing, what kind of world do we live in where a picture of a ribbon gets you a court date and a picture of a gun gets you a like?
The disparity here is mind-boggling. I, personally, am a proponent of free speech. Voltaire said that he would defend to the death someone’s right to say something that he found abhorrent, and I’m with him on that. Unless, of course, what is being said is an incitement to violence. A suffragette ribbon on a fence could only be construed as such in Bizarro-world. A gun and a call to go on a ‘TERF hunt’? There’s your incitement. Another picture floating around the internet – the image of a radical feminist with an actual noose around her neck at a Trans Pride event – could also be easily construed as an incitement to a lynching. Ask yourself this one question – is a group that takes up the modus operandi of the Ku Klux Klan for their optics a group that you want to be a part of?
Similarly, anyone who has read Fahrenheit 451, or the Book Thief, or hell, watched a documentary on Nazi Germany will know that book-burning is generally an act committed by the people who will find themselves on the wrong side of history. Aside from the breath-taking level of disrespect being shown to Joanne Rowling in those viral videos of people torching her life’s work for a cheap like or retweet, you have to examine why these people are doing this. This is a novel series for children which strikes allegorical parallels with the Allies’ struggle against the Nazis. It is a series that is a bastion for inclusion, for heroism and bravery and friendship above all else. It is a series that teaches us that even the most seemingly inconsequential among us (I’m looking at you, Neville Longbottom) can take a stand and be a hero. It is, in short, everything you want a book for children to be about. And people are burning it because they didn’t like the fact that the author values free speech and wants her fellow domestic abuse survivors to have a safe space to turn to when they’re fleeing for their lives.
JK Rowling has never said that she is anti-trans. In fact, she’s said the opposite. She was cancelled anyway. What she does stand for is this: she is anti-bullying, anti-censorship and (I don’t know her personally so I’m only assuming here) she likely is as concerned as a lot of us by the autogynephilic fetishism that has begun to pervade a movement previously championed by feminists everywhere. But the “transphobe” horn was sounded, and the cry was picked up by the masses. I doubt that everyone who took a match to Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix read her open letter on her website. I doubt even the majority did. They weren’t interested in anything she had to say after they saw the word ‘TERF’ flung at her in a fury. Maybe I’m doing them a disservice. Or maybe they just really like fire. Who can be sure?
The cancellation of people who don’t subscribe to the current de rigeur of the woke agenda flies in the face of what democratic societies should be. Reasoned debate is the lifeblood of intellectual and social growth. If people disagree with a point put across, engage with it. Bring facts, bring statistics, bring testimonials, bring emotions and anecdotes as well. Change minds through reasoned and logical arguments. Death threats, rape threats, dick pics, tasteless doodles of women hanging on the end of ropes, doctored images of feminists performing Nazi salutes or blatant comparisons to antisemitism by showing Hitler in lipstick with the hashtag #feminazi (the last was retweeted by a mouthpiece for Mermaids, shockingly) serve no purpose but to show up those circulating them as the bullies and misogynistic denigrators that they are. It is the crass, trolling equivalent of the six-year-old who sticks their fingers in their ears and chants “la-la-la” when they can’t think of a response in an argument.
An ideology that seeks to intimidate its opponents into silence is only going to entrench and amplify the resistance to it. In this case, I think this is already happening. A government that sanctions threatening a single mother with social workers and holding cells for advocating for women’s rights is not one to be supported. The feminists of a century ago fought for our equality. The feminists of today will not allow their legacy to creep back into subjugation.
I stand with Marion Millar. This woman, and many others like me, won’t fucking wheesht.