Today’s news is of violence against women. Mind you, yesterday’s news was the same. In Britain, women are being murdered, raped and generally molested because they are women every day. And if it is mentioned by the media the woman is the focus as a victim. I do also recognise that men are being raped and murdered but not to the same extent but all of the abuse is wrong and being done by men.
When I was young I was advised by my mother and other women to be ‘careful’ as though if I were attacked/abused/wolf whistled it was my fault. Well, it is more than 5 decades since I first heard this ‘advice’ and it seems to be that little has changed. Admittedly I did become a feminist in 1979 and I have stayed one. What I remember about becoming a feminist was that I did after reading the book Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller. For the first time in my life, I was reading a rational account of men’s violence towards women. It seemed to me that not all men had to be rapists, but culturally it played a significant role in terrorising women and girls.
Since the news of Harvey Weinstein’s rapes and general abuse of women, the focus remains on the women -. why they have only now reported it, how they could let themselves into these dangerous situations etc, but the real issues are about power in almost every society in the World. The power men have over women and how in the UK it appears to be more widespread than it was when I was a girl. I believe that women’s’ demands for equal pay and jobs have a direct bearing on some men’s sense of being diminished. Losing their formal dominance over women and they use pornography and sex workers to reinforces their notion of masculinity.
Another change is the growth of trans women, these are people who had previously been designated male. This growth in Europe and the USA may have a significant part of the response to women’s notional equality, at least in some jobs and wages. What I mean by this is that the growth of this new gender politics seems to coincide with the growth of anti-feminism, of course, this may just be a coincidence but what I observe has been an increase in equality for women and some men’s undermining the critique we had of men’s power. As I say this could be a sheer coincidence with the growth of the ideas of gender rather and the biological sex of humans. The trans argument as I have observed it in recent months and reading back to Sheila Jefferey’s excellent early critique Unpacking Queer Politics published in 2003 shows a dangerous politics which if the current online debate is anything to go by is very hostile to those of us who have always been women and girls.
I have had a number of friends and colleagues who have reassigned their gender, perhaps it was patronising of me to think they were making a personal journey which had little political significance, I was wrong if the current dialogues are anything to go by. As a lesbian, I want to see laws of discrimination change especially those relating to lesbians and gay men. I remember back in the years before David Copelands’ bombing campaign that I was not a fan of transsexualism, but I agreed to the creation of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender organisation because Trans were being murdered because of who they are, and I and others could not do nothing. For the record, I was a member of the steering group that set up a representative community organisation to advise the Metropolitan Police in 1999 this was for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. I was elected a Co-chair for the Advisory Group for its first 3 years and I then stood down. In other words, I had some role to play in creating an inclusive group to work with the police in dealing with hate crimes.
I did not keep a watching brief on the development of any of the component parts of the LGBT community until recently after my partner's death. I have been very surprised by how much things have changed. The first and most obvious development is the reduction of organisations and facilities for lesbians; then I noticed how the gay men’s venues and groups seemed to have reduced, and I was not surprised how few bisexual groups were about, this may be due to many lesbians and gay men not being friendly or welcoming. But what was and is evident is how the focus in the LGBT ‘family’ seems to be taken with the trans discourse and that it is mainly trans women rather than trans men.
Getting re-engaged with politics I have found some significant changes the first of which was being dis-invited to speak with/to a group of students at Cambridge University in September 2017 for wanting to speak about the changes I have observed within the trans community and society as a whole. I continue to be invited to speak to groups of students on the topic of racism and ethnicity and you can draw your own conclusions from this contrast. But what has troubled me over these past weeks is how disturbing the politics of gender have become and how dominated they seem to be by people who had previously been identified and privileged as men.
The other troubling and related occurrence are that one of my granddaughters is unsure about gender as indeed other young people are. In speaking with her I discovered that she rightly questions the gendered World she is being offered one of constrained hyper-femininity and not feeling that this is how she would like to be. I exaggerate but she does not like the gendered childhood that TV and the media put on offer. In this context, of course, she questions her gender and wants more. But no, she does not have to change her gender to have a wider range of options available to her.
As a feminist I and other women decades ago demanded we not be limited by man-made notions of gender and what are we now seeing is a reinforcement of gender by trans women. In writing this I have searched my way to why I have a problem with the politics of trans. It represents everything that I as a conscious adult woman have fought for. Frankly, I am no more likely to give up my fight for the end of Women's oppression than I am to give up my fight against racism. But I am happy to be in dialogue on both these topics.