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Have the gender wars been won?

Labour is only offering women breadcrumbs

Artillery Row

If a woman is in a relationship with a man who doesn’t really care about her, but doesn’t want to let her off the hook completely and allow her to walk away, he will “breadcrumb” her. This sort of self-interested, manipulative bloke will throw a woman the tiniest scraps of affection that are, in reality, too small and brief to truly meet her emotional needs. He is not to be trusted. It is my belief that the Labour Party is breadcrumbing women at present, after many years of neglecting their political and social needs. I do not trust it.

On 24 July, Anneliese Dodds, shadow women and equalities minister, announced “our” policy on behalf of UK Labour in the “Comment is Free” section of The Guardian. This is the section of the paper for opinion pieces. It is a strange place to locate a policy announcement of such potential magnitude. If it is not merely opinion, but is representative of the Party’s intentions, why wasn’t a standard interview given? Something felt very off about this.

Some women’s groups, who have long been actively campaigning for the Labour Party to shift its stance on trans rights, initially welcomed the statement. It seemed as though something had shifted at last in their favour. After all, it was followed by Keir Starmer clarifying that women are adult human females (something adult human females have told him many times over the past few years) and saying that he had always wanted to ensure “safe” spaces. He told Nicky Campbell:

A woman is an adult human female, so let’s clear that one up … We’ve always said, I’ve continued to say, and Sunday, when we completed our policy forum, allowed us to be clear that there should be safe places, safe spaces, for women, particularly in relation to violence against women and girls.

Gaslighting happens when an abusive partner asks you to believe that he or you said or did something which he in fact did not say or do. Women will narrow our eyes at Labour politicians who do not own their past mistakes and try to make amends, but instead ask us to believe that they were with women all along in our fight to retain rights according to the protected characteristic of “sex”.

As Shonagh Dillon wrote, “women keep receipts” and we do indeed remember Keir Starmer telling us some women have a penis and that it is “not right” to say that only women have a cervix. Don’t ask us to believe you never said something that the internet easily provides. Labour is asking women to forget, without asking them to forgive, because, as many women have pointed out, that would require a clear apology from a vast array of Labour politicians, who have deeply betrayed women over the years.

Labour Women’s Declaration has issued a reserved statement, welcoming Labour’s policy shift on self-identification and what it sees as a commitment to clarity over the meaning of “sex” in reference to the Equality Act. However, it expresses a long list of reservations in other areas such as the position of detransitioners, the spousal consent clause and Keir Starmer’s use of “safe spaces” showing a continued lack of understanding of what women have been demanding.

Labour has its eyes on the Tories, not on the needs of women

If we dissect Dodds’ article, it is revealing that the title does not mention women at all. It mentions “transgender rights” and “the Tories”. This is an article of oppositional political posturing, not one of a party having sudden belated regard for the rights of women. Labour needs to win an election, and it knows very well that the “Woman Question” needs nipping in the bud once and for all. To my mind, it reeks of “how little can we offer and get away with it?” and “how much will these pesky women and their silly penis questions swallow in order to leave us alone?”

Labour has its eyes on the Tories, not on the needs of women. If it had cared about what we have had to say, it would have acted before now. It is excruciating to watch contortions for the ballot box. Not one member has been brave enough to correct their previous assertion that “trans women are women”. Not one has mentioned language use around pregnancy, gynaecology and other medical issues affecting women. Not one has said anything about sport, toilets, changing rooms or schools. The controversial conversion therapy bill is not discussed. Where exactly are the firm details of this proposed policy? Will they be dripped out unilaterally by Annaliese Dodds over forthcoming opinion pieces and tidied up by Starmer in subsequent interviews?

Labour has only really stated that it is happy for women to use the law as it stands regarding single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act. Sadly, this does not mean it will be used. Many women’s organisations are still terrified of being accused of transphobia for applying critical single-sex exemptions to keep men out. Labour needed to go much further and guarantee that organisations operating for the safety of women would use the exemptions as they were intended, and that Labour would fully support them when they did. It should outline clearly the limitations to the uses of the more easily obtained gender recognition certificate and how it will operate in relation to the provisions according to “sex” in the Equality Act. It has done none of this. Little is explicit; much is unsaid.

Trans activists are furious, and we should not underestimate that

Labour is breadcrumbing. It has taught women to expect so little respect for their rights, that they must cling to the tiniest gesture. The party leaders know how little women have been listened to. They know how they have maintained a stony silence at best when we have pleaded with them. They have paraded their deaf ears proudly around our constituencies, pretending we were silent on the issue. They hurled us out of the party and allowed misogynists to shout us down. Now they are back with a metaphorical box of chocolates in their hands, acting like nothing happened. It’s duplicitous, and women shouldn’t accept it.

Meanwhile trans activists in the “Charity So Straight” group are gathering large organisations here, in a frighteningly influential list, to #StandWithTrans. Stonewall is still hugely influential in affecting public policy, and Labour is still strongly associated with Stonewall by continuing as a “diversity champion”. The Labour Party is not yet in control of Whitehall where trans activism still wields an iron grip over many government areas. Schools still have little clarity. Most of the public are still not aware of much of what has been happening. Trans activists are furious, and none of us should underestimate that fury. The determined effort to embed gender over sex in crucial policy areas was so sly and so pervasive over the years, that most of us were taken aback at the pernicious extent of the ideological reach.

When the enemy looks slightly weaker, you don’t just walk away and leave the battlefield. You stand shoulder to shoulder until it retreats. Women must not lay down their arms just yet. Trans activists have, over the past decade, proven themselves deeply manipulative. Their ability to apply intense pressure upon the Labour Party has not evaporated over the past week. They lay seething in local parties where they have successfully bullied dissenting women into silence. The MPs who have shared platforms with the violent misogynist Sarah Jane Baker, recently returned to jail, are still in their constituency offices firmly believing none of this policy shift, and I have no doubt they will actively work to reverse it. The ongoing threat to women’s rights has not dissipated — it may have strengthened.

I won’t be breadcrumbed. Labour would have to come at me with the full loaf. It is currently many slices short.

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