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Artillery Row

The cowards, the pretenders and the woman-haters

Awkwardness is no excuse for not supporting the gender-critical cause

The time to claim ignorance of the issue of gender identity in the UK has passed. Two or three years ago, if I spoke of this issue to someone, and they had that predictable look of shock on their face — perhaps claiming it was the first time they had heard of this — I had the patience to explain and wait for their reaction to formulate. More recently, I simply don’t believe them. Some people might not know a lot, they might have been influenced one way or the other into the view they adopt, but I think there are precious few people, of even minimal awareness, who know absolutely nothing. 

There are a great number who know more than they let on, and those pretenders are the most treacherous to women and our rights. They claim a lack of expert knowledge or “not wanting to get it wrong”, but there is no expertise needed and you can’t get what you legitimately hold as a belief “wrong”. If you are a human being, you know that you are male or female, and you know that you can’t change your sex and that no one else can. The only time you’d lack sufficient knowledge about the topic is if you tried to argue against two sexes, because it’s impossible to do so.

A sensible adult person looks deliberately, decidedly unwell if they answer a question like “does a person have a sex?” with “I’m not qualified to answer.” This happened in the cross examination of Mairi Rosko by Naomi Cunningham in the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre employment tribunal brought to court by Roz Adams last week. Rosko was exposed as foolish and cowardly all at the same time, and this time to a national audience rather than behind closed doors. Toddlers don’t need advice when asked if they are male or female and neither do grown women. 

You can talk about this simple issue in the pub with virtually anyone you encounter and they’ve heard about it, whether they hold an opinion or not. Kids at school are well aware of what is happening and a significant number of them don’t believe any of what is being pushed onto them by confused and fearful teachers. Anyone who has sat through EDI training in their workplace — quietly side-eyeing their colleagues to see how each is taking in the news that there are a bazillion genders — is aware that what they are being told is wrong. Everyone is waiting for everyone else to say “it’s nonsense though isn’t it?”.

If the kids in schools know then the teachers certainly do. If the working-class blokes in the pub know, then the lawyers, bankers and doctors certainly do. There really is little excuse for complete ignorance. 

There have been meetings held in the street, feminist conferences, public meetings, endless appearances on radio and television of women with gender critical views and news articles in both mainstream and non-mainstream publications. Politicians have been filmed tripping over penises and cervixes left right and centre and the media have lapped it up. The Tories — ever the political opportunists — have picked up the baton and run with it. Everyone from right to left, north to south knows what is happening. We need to be raising courage not awareness, because these cowards are very well aware of what is happening to women and they are currently happy to hide behind a wall of feigned ignorance.

Standing apart from the quiet cowards and wilful pretenders there are men who endlessly indulge in performative moralising about what women should and shouldn’t be doing and saying. If such men — and sadly the political Left is stuffed full of them — choose to side against women who wish to undress away from men, be housed separately from men when incarcerated or be counselled only by women when raped by men, then they hate women. I have no other conclusion to draw.

Male rapists, like Isla Bryson, being placed in the female prison estate hit the headlines hard. If you say you have heard nothing and I assume you have a reasonable interest in current affairs, then I simply don’t believe you. Most intelligent people faced with being told humans can change sex know this is a lie so why aren’t you saying so?

Last week Professor Jo Phoenix won her case for discrimination and harassment by her employer, the Open University, for holding gender critical views.  I have spoken to a few women this week working in academia and what they feel the judgement means for them. One feminist woman lecturing in sociology for the OU, who has long been vocal on the issues of women’s rights, told me:

There has been a noticeable spike in staff members being encouraged to add pronouns to emails. No one has been compelled to do so, but there has been a distinct push towards compliance. There has been little mention of the judgement on tutor forums and I suspect that most staff don’t want to discuss it because of possible repercussions. Given the importance of this judgement it is surprising that the chatter is so quiet.

She continued:

But the judgement definitely feels like a change. Within 24 hours I was contacted by another colleague to discuss how we can move forward in terms of addressing the balance. More confident definitely.

There is still a great deal of fear amongst women and rightly so, as Susannah Rustin wrote recently. Nothing is won. However, those who think staying quiet is an option — that they will go unnoticed in their cowardice — are wrong. We notice. Those of us who have already lost out in a myriad of ways, both notice and judge those who hide in the shadows.

It also emerged this week that a boy of 7 has been attending a primary school as a girl for three years, with the sanction of his parents, teachers and governors. The cowards and pretenders know this is wrong. However quiet they might try to stay, they are well aware that a child is not fit to decide to change sex. 

The girls in the school felt they had been lied to by adults and said they felt traumatised. We are all being lied to when we are told “transwomen are women” and if it is traumatising as a child it is equally traumatising to — often already traumatised — women. 

It is no longer okay to leave it up to other women to risk their livelihoods, friends and even safety

It is infuriating to be told by other women, “It’s different for you though. You’re so brave, but I can’t risk saying anything out loud.” It is no longer okay to leave it up to other women to risk their livelihoods, friends and even safety. You have information, you have legal precedent, you have examples and evidence to back up everything you really believe but don’t have the courage to say. Academics, lawyers, journalists, doctors, teachers, artists, writers, dancers, nurses, girl guide leaders and women from many walks of life, have all paved the way for you to acceptably (if slightly uncomfortably) say what you have always known is the truth. So, when you say it’s different for us, why is it? Why do you get to hide while another woman takes lashes from the ideological whip? Why is it painful for you but not for her? 

And there are degrees of resistance. You might only take small steps, like refusing to put the pronouns in your email at work. Or tackling the family member over the wedding buffet shouting “trans women are women and you’re a bigot”. This still matters. This is a brave step too. 

You have resources with which to confront your accusers in your workplace, for example. You can point to Rachel Meade if you’re a social worker. You can point to Jo Phoenix if you’re a university lecturer. You can point to Maya Forstater in just about any workplace you choose. The discrimination cases these women successfully brought protect you — and at great personal cost to those women. So, if you’re still there hiding and mumbling “it’s too complicated for me”, well — it isn’t complicated. You’re not special. We all have families and friends, and yes colleagues and employers, who judge us and ostracise us — and yes, it’s uncomfortable for us too. All you now need is courage and courage calls. 

Imagine if you did something? Imagine if you stopped pretending. The noise would be deafening if we collectively rose up to speak truth to power about women’s rights and our need to defend them — to protect the word “woman”, and protect our children from irreversible medical harm, and protect the vulnerable women forced to share space with men in prison, rape crisis centres etc, and ensure fair competition in sport for women and girls, and ensure we have clear knowledge around medical issues affecting only female people, and secure accurate statistical reporting of crimes of men’s violence against women and girls. Because you know all these things are happening. I know you do and you know you do. It must make you squirm to read this piece where I call you a coward.  

To be clear I do not call traumatised women cowards. I do not expect women at risk from male violence to place themselves at risk of harm. Those women, however, are relying on those of you living your lives in relative comfort and safety to stand up for them. 

The arts, for example, are different in many ways as there is so little formal employment for many creatives. But some women are still brave enough to take on discrimination cases so that other, less protected women, who follow them can begin to be honest about their views. It comes at great cost nevertheless. Claudia Clare is a successful ceramicist. Her career was affected by the gender issue even though she already had a rebellious feminist reputation for her work. She says:

The art world started policing female artists, especially feminists, about our views on gender, mostly via social media. I had exhibitions, displays and lectures cancelled from 2019 and got listed as “forbidden” after I’d given a lecture on freedom of expression at Oxford Brookes University in 2018. So, with this history it would have been pointless keeping quiet. Maya Forstater changed everything.

I deliberately sought press coverage because above all other things we need to TALK in the artworld. The persistent silence is doing enormous harm, not least because it exacerbates the fear. The trans issue is hitting young and new artists very hard indeed. They are in no position to take reputational risks before they’ve even got started.

Which is why successful and established, and therefore somewhat protected, writers, artists, singers must not stay quiet. Those celebrities, bolstered by reputation and wealth, know exactly what is happening and need to stop pretending they don’t.

Let’s not forget JK Rowling who told FiLiA

I’ve looked around and realised that it has to be someone who can take the hit. And it has to be me. I can afford it. 

Well, now it has to be you too. Your days of pretending are over. 

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