What big teeth you have, Brenda!

Wolf in sheep’s clothing

What are we supposed to do when “Brenda the sheep” gets hungry?

Artillery Row

Twitter is a bleak hellscape but it does throw up some fascinating snippets. A few weeks ago I was introduced to Brenda the Sheep. Brenda is the star of a new illustrated children’s book. Although she was born a wolf she desperately wants to be a ewe, so all the sheep are kind to her and welcome her to the flock, where we are told that Brenda was actually a sheep all along. The last picture shows a smiling Brenda, surrounded by and towering over her new happy sheep friends. What big teeth you have, Grandma.

At the risk of earning another police report for my translupine hatred, it is immediately obvious that Brenda is not a sheep. She is a wolf with big teeth and an alimentary system that requires meat. I am entirely unclear what message this book is to have for children, unless there is a sequel written after Brenda gets hungry and the children learn very graphically about the circle of life and the abrupt ending of a number of new animal friendships.

This sudden and apparently widespread collective delusion that ‘sex’ must be replaced by a self-proclaimed ‘gender identity’ as a necessary step on the road to inclusivity and diversity often causes annoyance and amusement. But while I think it is essential to mock concepts worthy of mockery, we must also be careful that while sniggering, we do not minimise the actual harms this ideology so often inflicts.

One thing does seem to be clear, across all ages and cultures: men are significantly more dangerous to women and children than women

Open the door to ‘self identification’ and many other things will come in that inspire much deeper emotions than simple irritation. The denial of sex, or the insistence that it should be replaced by some subjective and poorly defined concept of ‘gender’, has very serious consequences in a number of important fields.

The one I want to particularly focus on is safeguarding.

This word does what it says on the tin. ‘Safeguarding’ describes the necessary measures individuals and organisations must take to protect vulnerable individuals that they encounter, such as children, from abuse, harm and neglect. Identification of these necessary measures requires effective risk assessments.

Individual risk assessments can take up a great deal of time and energy, so in many situations it is sensible and proportionate to rely on a statistically-sanctioned shortcut. We have a simple heuristic:  men pose a greater risk than women. There are spaces where they should not go unchallenged or without prior investigation because this increases the risk of harm to the women or children they will meet.

This does not mean of course that all men or only men are dangerous predators. I cannot deny that both men and women are capable of doing horrible things to each other and to children. Neither sex has the monopoly on cruel or harmful behaviour. But one thing does seem to be clear, across all ages and cultures: men are significantly more dangerous to women and children than women are. Whether this is due more to their larger and more powerful bodies or that they are, as men, socialised more into violence, is open to debate but not relevant to this discussion.

Finding clear statistics about particular types of abuse, such as sexual abuse, are often difficult as it is clear there is underreporting from both men and women. Meanwhile, ‘abuse’ is used to cover a very wide range of behaviour, from rape with violence to being persuaded to kiss someone when you didn’t really feel like it. But there are statistics with a clear and objective foundation; the representation of men and women in the criminal justice system.

A female prisoner has applied for judicial review to challenge the policy of housing trans women in the female prison estate

A report from the Ministry of Justice in November 2018 found that males accounted for the majority (85%) of arrests in 2017/18; 74% of defendants prosecuted were male, and 26% were female. The average custodial sentence length for male offenders in 2017 was 17.6 months, and 10 months for females. The most recent Ministry of Justice stats show that 95% of all prisoners were male and 5% were female. TV licence evasion was the most common offence for which females were prosecuted, accounting for 30% of all female prosecutions.

The vast majority of transwomen make no modifications either surgically or medically to their bodies. They were born male, and many will have grown into adulthood and been socialised as men. However, on the simple fact of their declaration that they are now a woman, we are not just being asked to abandon our heuristic about the greater risk posed by men. It is demanded that we do so, and told we are ‘hateful’ if we don’t.

There have been some very obvious examples of the harm this does in places where ‘self ID’ is enshrined in law. In Ireland, for example, we have ‘Barbie Kardashian’, a seriously troubled young person ‘assigned male at birth’. This individual has attacked women and stated an explicit desire to harm and kill more – alongside a request to be housed in a female prison.

England and Wales have – so far – resisted efforts to give ‘self ID’ a legal standing but there are worrying signs that Scotland is keen to follow Ireland’s example. However, the situation we are in is arguably even worse; a concept unknown to law is nevertheless creeping into the policies and practice of many major institutions.  Ann Sinnott has raised nearly £65,000 so far to challenge unlawful guidance about the Equality Act 2010 produced by the very body that is supposed to promote its proper understanding – the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

We are expected to elevate the rights and dignity of one particular group over all others and call it ‘inclusion’

Others are beginning to fight back – a female prisoner has applied for judicial review to challenge the policy of housing trans women in the female prison estate, after she was sexually assaulted. Fair Cop have written about the impact on female police officers who are expected to carry out intimate body searches on any man who claims to be a woman.

But the troubling examples just keep coming. For example, the Lanarkshire ‘trans inclusive’ policy for those working in hospitals. As the campaign group Women for Scotland revealed in August 2020:

“It also claims that NHS Lanarkshire’s equality impact assessment of the new policy was flawed and “allows males to live out their erotic fantasies in the workplace, in female-only spaces… conduct that could constitute harassment by violating the dignity of female staff, and/or by creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.”

And don’t forget the distraught mother who posted on Twitter in November an extract from a memo sent by her son’s school.

“I feel totally sick. Just received this memo from my son’s special school. Parents will no longer have the right to request same sex staff to provide intimate care to their children. Because diversity. Is this legal?”

The memo read:

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And no, I don’t think this is lawful. It’s not just about safety – it’s about dignity as well. Many children and adults simply do not want to make intimate bodily contact with someone from the opposite sex who is unfamiliar to them.  Many religions place serious restrictions on such encounters. At some point there will have to be some adult discussion about how we balance the wants and needs of various competing groups.

But for now, we seem to be horribly lost. We are expected to elevate the rights and dignity of one particular group over all others and call it ‘inclusion’. But this is putting other vulnerable groups at risk of harm.

This is about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ in the same way that Brenda the Wolf is a sheep. And I think the consequences for our society are every bit as serious as what awaits Brenda’s new friends, when she wakes up the next morning and is hungry for breakfast.

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