Expelled from the Tory Party conference
Thanks to transgender activism in politics, it is now forbidden to acknowledge that women face sexism because of sex
I am grateful to the left, and not just for the historic social boons such as the NHS and Equal Pay Act, but also for keeping me entertained with desperate attempts to balance credibility with the lunatic demands of the woke. Cruel, perhaps, but watching Labour Party politicians jig to the tune of the perpetually offended has made even the memory of dancing queen Theresa May’s efforts seem positively graceful. As such it made a pleasant change to see those on the right making fools of themselves by indulging in identity politics top trumps.
Earlier this week, Conservative Party member Karen Varley was expelled from the Equal Power conference fringe event which had been set-up to encourage women into politics. Her crime? She asked Fleur Butler, speaker and National Chairman of the Conservative Women’s Organisation: “How are you defining woman?” Instead of an answer and along with at least one other woman attendee who had asked a similar question, Karen was booted from the online session.
Until relatively recently the question of how to define woman would have been uncontentious. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (and anyone with sense) a woman is “an adult female human being” and the understanding that women have faced millennia of exclusion from the public sphere was broadly recognised as sex discrimination. It remains the case that across the globe the lives of women and girls are still shaped by the violence of men, be that in warfare or the home.
It is now forbidden to publicly acknowledge that women face sexism because of sex
Each of the main parties acknowledges the shadow still cast by these historic and ongoing injustices. To boost female political participation the Conservative Party established the Conservative Women’s Organisation (CWO), the Labour Party famously introduced All Women Shortlists and the Liberal Democrats’ rolled-out of schemes such as the “Future Women MPs”. But thanks to the mind-bending logic of transgender activists who have influenced policy within the main political parties, it is now forbidden to publicly acknowledge that women face sexism because of sex. Instead we are now compelled to believe in a circular definition of womanhood, whereby anyone who claims to “identify as a woman” is a woman. This has come as a shock to feminists who are somewhat insulted by the notion that the barriers which still prevent too many women from reaching their potential are merely abstract phenomena into which women identify.
Karen Varley was surprised to be expelled from the Equal Power conference event for asking for clarity, though she was well aware of the acrimonious debate surrounding “the woman question”. Last year she set-up the Conservative Women’s Pledge to fight the creep of transgender ideology from within the Conservative Party, she told me:
I was inspired by my sisters in other parties who were really up against very well-organised lobby groups within their parties, and I remember thinking that the Tories were better on protecting our rights than the others. Now I think the trans lobby groups have got to them too, it’s just not as obvious at first glance.
When she joined the Conservative Party, Karen was delighted to discover that a women’s organisation already existed, she explained: “My first thought was ‘brilliant!’ there’s already an organisation set up for women. Sadly, all my attempts to engage them in this debate have failed.”
Interestingly, the colonisation of womanhood by men inspires little outrage
It seems in the near ninety years since the passing of the Equal Franchise Act by a Conservative government, the party have forgotten which group of people were disenfranchised. Today, those who have been brought up as men, and sometimes even fathered children, are welcomed into the spaces and programmes designed to increase women’s political representation. Part of the problem is that for men who identify as women there is nothing more validating of their “womanly identity” than taking positions and using the schemes designed to help women get into politics for themselves.
This is not confined to the Conservative Party, and nor is the feminist opposition. Grassroots women’s rights organisations have been established across the political spectrum, with the Labour Women’s Declaration attracting the support of thousands, a “We Used to be Lib Dem Women” community of disenfranchised former Liberal Democrat voters and a growing group of “Gender Critical Greens“. It seems even the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) needs reminding who is a woman, and as such has a snappily named “WEP Women’s Sex-Based Rights Caucus” operating within it.
When “race fakers” have been unmasked there has been understandable outrage. Indeed, in a searing piece for the Independent journalist Paula Akpan complained that white theatre director, Anthony ‘Ekundayo’ Lennon, who allowed himself to be perceived as black, had “chosen to wear black identity like a costume” and “actively chosen to take up space and pilfer resources.” Interestingly, the colonisation of womanhood by men inspires less outrage. Part of this is because of the social expectation that women “be kind”, and the unbridled hostility when we refuse to share the gains we have collectively fought for.
The pressure to “be kind” is one stereotype that hinders the full participation of many women from political life
When last month, Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss refused to accede to the demands of the transgender lobby, she was pilloried. In her response to the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, Truss was clear that those who identify as transgender must be “free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution” though she tempered this with the commitment to protect single sex spaces. This was in acknowledgement of the thousands of British women who have campaigned over recent years to ensure that access to hospital wards, prisons and refuges be decided upon the reality of one’s sex, not an internal sense of gender identity. The reaction of Crispin Blunt MP was a perfect illustration of the judgement women are subjected to when we fail to adhere to the “nurturing” stereotype, when we dare to fairly prioritise our own interests. Not only did Blunt appear to call for her resignation, but tellingly he described Truss as “lacking empathy”. The wave of relief and thanks from women, a considerable number of whom will be victims of male sexual violence, who were terrified about having to share space with men who identify as women, was apparently not enough to demonstrate that Truss had in fact acted with empathy.
On the other side of the house there have been calls for the resignation of both Rosie Duffield MP, who following a gushing statement in support of trans rights was found to have “liked” tweets deemed to be transphobic, and shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Marsha de Cordova, who has been harassed online for sharing an article arguing for the retention of women’s sex-based rights. The campaign group Labour Against Transphobia described the behaviour of de Cordova as “hurtful,” a word chosen to tighten the straps on the social straight jacket into which women are forced. Indeed, the pressure to “be kind” and self-sacrificing is one of the very stereotypes that hinders the full participation of too many women from political life.
It is an unavoidable fact that the sex one is born into dictates life chances and experiences
A lazy view, that feminists are complicit in the cancel culture has taken root in the fashionable discourse of libertarians who like to poke fun at the woke. But whilst it is easy to ridicule seemingly trivial complaints about “mansplaining” and “he-peating”, it is an unavoidable fact that the sex one is born into dictates life chances and experiences. That twenty percent of British women suffer sexual violence at the hands of men, that it is only women who need abortions and that two women are killed each week by the men in their lives is evidence that womanhood is a reality, not an identity, and that our political demands remain unmet. These are the experiences that women have fought to put on the political agenda.
Since the first push for the enfranchisement of women it has been widely understood that political representation is crucial if any semblance of sexual equality is to be achieved. Over a century ago Millicent Fawcett reminded her audience, “However benevolent men may be in their intentions; they cannot know what women want and what suits the necessities of women’s lives as well as women know these things themselves.” Today’s political class would do well to remember this.
Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print
Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10Subscribe