Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 1 October 2021


 Incredibly, women have to fight for our right to exist

Unlike men, women have had to fight long and hard to claim control over their biology when political wars have been waged over their bodies. It happened again this week, ironically snaring a fine woman who fought for a woman’s right over her biology.

The American Civil Liberties Union marked the one-year anniversary of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death by posting on social media a series of comments she made during her confirmation hearings before joining the US Supreme Court in 1980.

RBG spoke about the rights of a woman to an abortion. But the ACLU decided to remove “woman” from her words, and inserted “person” instead.

Here’s how America’s foremost civil rights organisation mauled RBG’s words: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a (person’s) life, to (their) wellbeing and dignity,” the altered quote read, hiding Ginsburg’s original use of “woman” and “her”. And this: “When the government controls that decision for (people), (they are) being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for (their) own choices,” the ACLU posted, again hiding “her” and “she”.

It is one thing to assume that RBG would condemn the Supreme Court waving through new strict abortion laws in Texas last month that bar the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy. It is entirely demented to try to alter her activism, her thoughts, and her words to cede to trans demands that “woman” be erased from references to biology by treating “women” as a dirty word.

Imposing a filter of trans activism on RBG’s words is an abomination of her legacy. The diminutive Ginsburg was a giant in the women’s movement long before she joined the Supreme Court. She fought for a woman’s right to control her body, to safe accessible abortions. RBG was not a warrior for the trans movement; that didn’t yet exist.

The backlash against the ACLU was swift, and effective. On social media, and in the mainstream media, a rare consensus firmed that the ACLU had no business changing RBG’s words. If RBG is not safe from having her words censored to conform with modern pieties of a tiny trans movement, who the heck is?

By Wednesday, there was a grovelling apology from ACLU head Anthony Romero who said he regretted the tweets and would not drastically alter quotes in the future. That remains to be seen. In any case, would the ACLU have apologised so quickly if it they had erased women from someone else’s words, someone not revered as much as RBG?

Then Romero tried to second guess the judge, saying she would have supported more inclusive language. How can he know that a feminist would erase women?

Vocal trans activists, and their unthinking toadies in bureaucracies and other groups like the ACLU, fail to address their lack of logic. Aiming for “inclusion” by excluding women when speaking about basic female biology makes no sense. And that is why the trans movement and their supporters are so disconnected from ordinary folk who freely talk about a woman’s right to abortion.

In Britain this week, The Lancet tweeted its latest cover: “Our new issue is here! On the cover – ‘Periods on display … Historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been ­neglected.”

The Lancet's controversial cover.

The Lancet's controversial cover.

“Bodies with vaginas” was surely meant as click bait. So, let’s bite back. Women are entitled to take this personally because trans activists and their supporters don’t show the same level of zeal about insisting on “people with a penis” as they do when insisting that we refer to “people with a ­vagina”. Instead of treating “women” as offensive, why can’t trans activists and their backers at The Lancet – and the ACLU – agree that women have a vagina, and that some women who identify as men do too. This is basic human physiology. When the UK’s premier medical journal pretends otherwise, it patently rejects science for social engineering.

I’m a live-and-let-live kind of person. If someone wants to use “people” instead of “woman” and “they” instead of “she”, that’s their business. But please don’t impose it on others in the faux cause of ­inclusion when it clearly means erasing women when we talk about biology. And don’t dare ­institutionalise it. That demeans women and the women’s movement permanently.

We need to push back, just as critics of the ACLU did to save RBG’s words from censorship. For example, when trans “rights” mean that men who identify as women can access female-only change rooms, we are entitled to defend women’s rights.

When trans “rights” means men who identify as women can compete against women in sports where strength is key, we need to push back, in the name of common sense. Checking testosterone levels of a woman who was born a male doesn’t account for the accumulated strength gained by boys in puberty.

When trans activism makes it unsafe for a woman to attend a political conference because she believes that “only women have a cervix” then it’s time to stand up and say this woman deserves to feel safe.

At the UK Labour Party conference this week in Brighton, Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP who won the conservative seat from the Tories in 2017, did not ­attend because of threats to her safety after saying that only women have a cervix. Duffield says she supports trans people to “live freely as they choose” and she is a proud feminist. She has ­refused to back down from her ­beliefs about women.

Labour leader Keir Starmer did not defend Duffield, or women. When asked to comment on Duffield’s statement, Starmer said that is “something that shouldn’t be said”. After the vile anti-Semitism of Jeremy Corbyn, and a punishing electoral backlash, you’d think a new Labour leader might move towards the centre of the country rather than hang back with a different, but equally divisive, section of the Left.

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer gives his keynote speech on the final day of the annual Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture: AFP

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer gives his keynote speech on the final day of the annual Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture: AFP

The trans movement, and their lackeys in political parties, are forcing women to choose sides by demanding “rights” that treat the “woman” as a dirty word and, inevitably, demean women.

As Suzanne Moore wrote in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper this week, “How did the Tories become the only party to protect women?” Moore helped to set up the Women’s Equality Party in 2015 because she despaired about the two-party system and “it is much easier to knock something than actually try to work towards change”.

When WEP leaders ignored the values of most women who joined the party, and went as woke as Labour, Moore left, joining many women on the Left who are politically homeless.

Labour, under Starmer, has sided with the trans movement over women. As Moore wrote, the Lib Dems in the UK don’t regard a woman as a feminist if she prefers women-only spaces that exclude men who identify as women. And Scottish National Party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, described feminists’ concerns about the new Gender Recognition Act as “not valid”. The Act allows anyone to alter their legal sex after three months of identifying as the ­opposite sex.

There is lesson here for Australia, especially for the major parties. When the unreasonable demands of the trans movement are embraced by people in positions of power who impose their agendas on health policy, in schools, on our language and in sports, women’s rights need defending even more.

Inquirer asked the minister for women, Marise Payne, the shadow minister for women, Tanya Plibersek, and Greens spokeswoman Larissa Waters to explain their party’s values about the right of women to their biology. Payne’s spokesman said that she “expects commentary about women and biology to be handled in a sensible, respectful and civilised manner … Efforts to erase language that refers to women’s biology are not helpful to that approach”.

Plibersek told Inquirer: “Honestly, common sense and common decency should prevail. Everybody deserves to be treated with respect. It just shouldn’t be controversial to say that a cervix is a female body part.”

Waters did not respond.

Actions speak louder than words, of course. Under Greg Hunt, the federal Department of Health’s guide for Covid-19 vaccinations during pregnancy was ­revised in August, replacing references to “women who are pregnant” to “people who are pregnant”. In other words, the erasure of women is happening right here under a Liberal government. Will Hunt reinstate women as central to pregnancy?

Given Duffield’s experience, it is no surprise there is a reticence to enter this minefield of hypersensitive outrage laid by the trans movement. But women who may not speak out publicly can have their say at the ballot box. If a major party cannot defend a woman’s biology, many women may look elsewhere for representation of their basic existence.

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