If this week has taught us anything it is that the confusion of gender and sex has had fundamental implications on the way we can address issues around women’s safety. Women are being murdered, raped and sexually harassed, and mainstream feminism uses the opportunity to grab more power for itself and its intersectional allies. Conservatives point this out, while attempting to defend the existence of decent men. In doing so they fall into the same trap, with the same arguments that make them look like they are defending their own power.
The suspicion toward feminism is not surprising, but I want to argue that the gender critical feminist approach is a much more thought out set of arguments to the one conservatives are running in the gender wars. This is more than just “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Conservative media in Australia is showing a fundamental lack of understanding of the definitions of sex and gender and the theoretical framework that underpins the debate around women. I will try here to make some explanations without too much theory and barely a mention of patriarchy and misogyny. Let me start with my definitions of sex and gender. “Gender” is the word we use for the social characteristics, meanings and stereotypes we attach to sex. “Sex” is the biological sex every human has of male and female.
Feminism generally gets pointed at by conservatives as starting this entire gender mess. And they are not completely wrong. Feminist studies deliberately conceptualised gender separately from sex, so that women could talk about their social oppression separately from biology. Feminists have challenged ideas that women were not capable of certain academic pursuits, that women were relegated to the domestic sphere and that women were depicted as sex objects in popular culture. Aside from gender issues, women have also fought for legislation that protect sex based vulnerabilities to rape, unplanned pregnancy, domestic violence and financial abandonment. It’s been quite a fight that all sides of feminism would like to claim credit for.
Once women were granted legal equality in the west, women’s studies has concentrated more on gender, and the way we can free women from cultural restraints through the abolition of gender stereotypes and remove gender norms around sex. And that’s where radical feminism and Gender Critical (GC) feminism now departs from American liberal feminism.
Liberal feminism (LibFem) is not actually liberal at all. It is called liberal because it is supposed to be based in the individual as the unit of society, but since its adoption of intersectional framework it has become, like most popular ideologies today, contradictory. This is because intersectionality, although originally a legal concept to apply to individuals, has become a concept of groups that are placed into a Marxist framework. LibFems have then become locked in a power structure with other arms of critical theory like critical race theory and gender ideology more broadly.
Intersectional frameworks interpret power via a lens of political and cultural meaning. The biology of race and sex are equally irrelevant in intersectionalism. When you listen to a LibFem politician or activist, they will always talk about “gender” based oppression. They only use the word “sex” where the language hasn’t been altered, or where they are referring to the act of sex, like in “sexual assault”. Even then, they will argue that rape is not a crime of sex, but of violence based in cultural and political power. It’s all about power that stems from the group for all the arms of Marxist theory.
Radical feminism (RadFem) is a term that refers to a broad school that is more unashamedly Marxist influenced. They situate the struggle of women in a power matrix with the patriarchy. The solutions lie in the radical disruption of power through political organisation and direct action, ending in a re-ordering of power. I don’t have a great interest in feminist scholarship or in radical feminism. But in short RadFems are philosophical materialists, and they don’t deny the material realities of sex.
Gender Critical (GC) feminists is a more grass roots movement that seems to have risen in opposition to gender ideology. GC feminists emphasise that women’s material reality is tied to their sex. Rape, domestic violence, sex trafficking and female genital mutilation are all crimes based in sex. GC feminism maintains that if you deny sex you will fail to shield the vulnerabilities of the female sex, and the material condition of women’s lives will again worsen in the west, and we will disconnect ourselves from the international struggle of women. To this end GC feminists and RadFems have made an alliance against the LibFems in the “gender vs sex” battles.
The critical theory present in most arms of feminism is heavily influenced by French cultural theorists. These theorists borrowed from the realm of anthropology to investigate the operation of power in culture. This was a necessary part of feminist analysis because women have dwelt more in the domestic sphere. Radical and liberal feminists investigate cultural power in the public and private domain. The difference is that RadFems and GC feminists want to abolish gender as a category of control, while LibFems use gender as a form of cultural control to bring about their aims. There is a fundamentally different understanding of sex and gender underlying the popular presentation of these arguments.
I am trying to keep away from theorists but It is important to acknowledge arms of cultural theory that looked at “cultural capital” (a concept I believed was penned by Pierre Bourdieu). If gender is a cultural product that is oppressing women, then theoretically its production can be captured to free the oppressed. Gender for the intersectional LibFems, is not only a legitimate field of political intervention, but a necessary one, and a key to what they call “equity”.
My point can be made clearer with the popular children’s illustration the Genderbread person. The Genderbread person is a simplistic version of the “gender ideology” that is adopted by LibFems. The Genderbread Person starts with a non sexed person, a they/them if you will. But I am going to wilfully misgender him, because he is a sinister little prick.
The genderbread person is a “blank slate” on which forms of gender are imagined. Children are encouraged to use the Genderbread person to critically engage with the concepts of gender they have been given by their family, religion, and society. By deconstructing these gender “myths”, they attempt to liberate the child from restrictive gender stereotypes and outdated ideas of sex. This is state, and capital sponsored cultural engineering, and it is not just nefarious, but deeply illiberal. The Genderbread person says:
“Gender is a tough subject to tackle. There are many facets to consider and many pressures at play, and we have all been conditioned in such a way that our first instinct is almost unanimously wrong. But we’re going to tackle it. No. We’re going to tackle the snot out of it. Coming to our aid, I would like to present to you: The Genderbread Person!”
The Genderbred Person comes from the blank slate school of social theory. Humans are born without identity, like a blank page on which society writes meaning. The gender meanings that are placed in these little innocent humans by society, are deconstructed by gender studies, with postmodern theory and a neo-Marxist hierarchy, resting, as always, on an oppressive group. Marxism comes in just as a framework in gender ideology, this is not actually material-based Marxism, as advocates of gender ideology actively silence voices of material-based (class & sex) resistance. Instead of economic and sex classes, they utilise theoretical identity groups. The oppressed group is almost always based in the genuine historical discrimination. In gender (queer) theory this has mainly been gays and lesbians.
Marxist frameworks frequently face the problem that their oppressed groups become empowered, the western working class being its greatest disappointment. Now a raft of healthy successful gays are abandoning the LGBTIQ ideology. Therefore, the oppression basis of gender theory rests firmly on the ever-expanding “group” of transgender. The importance to this ideology, of the vulnerability of transgender persons, can’t be over-estimated. Given the importance of gender ideology to the entire structure of intersectional cultural power, a lot rests on the shoulders of very vulnerable children being irretrievably broken, and in need of cultural and medical intervention.
Every lie contains a kernel of truth, and the truth in gender theory is that every generation produces humans of diverse sexual orientation, that human sexuality is not just reproductive and that gender expressions in humans is diverse. Our observed reality is that we all know gay people who we love and who have been subject to discrimination. We all know feminine males and masculine females and accept them in our community. So, the popular appeal of gender theory rests on rendering respect to these individuals through the instilling of tolerance in the child.
The Genderbread Person’s sexless, smiling body, represents the child before sexual development. This is the place that “identity” characteristics that have been manufactured in gender studies departments will be written. Here the state deems the field of human sexuality a sphere where it can intervene to produce “equity”. In enshrining these gender characteristics in social justice legislation, the legal fiction of “identities” can be used to manage the bodies attached to the human.
Every child undergoing gender education is encouraged to find one of these state mandated gender identities within themselves. They are all legitimate, all except those that are based in a sexed human body. The child is taught to distrust feelings that are innate, even while those feelings are not yet even fully developed. They must learn that the instincts from their sexed body and the teachings of their parents are all “almost unanimously wrong”.
Like almost all modern critical theory, there are key theoretical contradictions. Claims that society has imposed on us “wrong gender”, are said to be cured by the discovery of real organic, gender identities that the child will find within themselves (these ideas seem to be a cross between Christianity and German romanticism). Only state sanctioned gender identities are legitimate. These gender identities, that free the child from the family, the church and “white” patriarchal structures of power, and from the sex of their own body, are increasingly metaphysical. The metaphysical nature of gender identity theory is contrary to Marxist materialism, blank slate theory and the post structuralist theory that underpins critical theory. The fact that critical theory framework is based, almost exclusively, on the theories of dead white guys, adds hypocrisy to contradiction.
More effective than volumes of reasoned arguments against liberal gender theory, has been the recent trolling on twitter with the #superstraight #supergay #superlesbian #superbi hashtaging. Gender theory deniers followed the lead of a sixteen year old boy to come out as “super” sexual. People who are super sexual are only attracted to sex and not gender. “Super” is not an approved sexuality because it is based in sex and denies gender. Therefore David Paisley, the famous gender warrior, and roundly accused misogynist, very quickly claimed that SuperStraight was based in Hitlers SS, and white supremacy.
The elite gender ideologies, with their manufactured oppression hierarchies, are used to selectively control speech around sexed bodies (birthing bodies, menstruators etc), the realm of cultural production (books, comedy, movies), social norms in pronouns, names and even sexual practices. The production of the genderbread sexuality makes innate sexuality, those wrong instincts that are to be unlearned, the realm of social justice intervention. Hence refusing a sexual partner on the basis of their sex is an act of bigotry (transphobia). This is state sanctioned sexual coercion, disproportionately affecting lesbians.
Nobody actually believes in these made-up identities in their bedrooms. The allegiance to them is a social test to see if you are willing to lie to be included in the intersectional power structure. The way we use state mandated words around gender determines who can participate in public conversations about gender and sex. Gender ideology has become a major justification for banning gender critical women from the public square of discussion. This cultural control operates under all political arms of government, because the means of cultural production has been secured by this ideology. But it is in left wing popularist governments where we are seeing the terrifying consequences, mostly for children. A raft of anti conversion therapy legislation is putting into question the rights of professionals to help a child come to terms with their birth sex.
So how do gender critical feminists see sex and gender? Well, there are different views in the gender critical movement in regard to gender. But if I had to make a simplistic chart, similar to the genderbread person (which I did), it would be more like paper dolls. Here we have two naked sexed bodies representing sex, and a pile of clothes, interests and meanings representing gender. You may remember this game as a child (if you are old like me), you cut the clothes out and fold them onto the woman or man. Sex is the type of body; gender is the word we use to describe the meanings we apply to the sex of the body.
GC people have different views on gender, but some of the things they usually agree on are;
- Humans are sexually dimorphic creatures, male and female.
- Sex will stay with a person from conception to death.
- Males and Females have different propensities to violent and sexual crime. There is no evidence that these propensities alter with a change in gender identity.
- Humans cannot change sex.
- Gender is a word we use to describe the meanings and stereotypes that cultures place on sex.
- Gender does not change sex.
- Gender is not a stable concept to encourage children to place identity in.
- Gender identity placed over sex in law will lead to an erosion of women’s rights and safety.
- Gender non-conformity should never be pathologized as a symptom for cultural and medical intervention.
- Gender Dysphoria (GD) is a well-documented serious mental health issue that should be dealt under the supervision of a medical professional.
- Children cannot be transgender. Non-gender conforming children are to be accepted as such.
- Masculine boys and feminine girls should be free to wear the clothes of their choosing.
- Rigid gender stereotypes encourage healthy GNC girls and boys into harmful paths of surgery, sterility, sexual disfunction, confusion and loneliness.
- Self ID is a dangerous legal concept that will allow women to become vulnerable to a range of trans identifying males.
- Sports have to remain sex segregated for fairness. GNC children should be free to play in the team of their sex to encourage gender expression diversity. There is nothing wrong with a footballer in a skirt.
- Gender issues are not “trans” issues, they are human issues.
- The elevation of “gender” as innate is harmful.
Some GC people are gender abolitionist, I am not. My view is that humans will always give meanings and roles to sex and should be free to do so. Having been a teenager in the 80’s I am more comfortable with a society that takes gender as a suggestion rather than a strict set of rules.
Problems like bathrooms and change facilities have been centred in the trans debate, but they are spheres of society that need to be negotiated between trans identifying men and women. Currently, women are being coerced and bullied to accept individuals into their sex and single sex spaces, simply on the basis of a confession of gender. This is a faith based gender religion. In Canada, where progressive intersectionalism is the state religion, victims of rape by trans identifying individuals are being forced to refer to their male rapist in court by their preferred pronoun.
LibFems seek to define the difference in bodies solely by the meanings we place on the different bodies. These meanings are becoming increasingly obscure and contradictory, as the reality of sex that gender has always been anchored to, is denied. Gender cannot exist without sex and conservatives let libfems get away with this kind of obscuring of language because of their wilful lack of understanding of feminism and the way it is tied to gender theory.
Gender as a means of control is not new, and the analysis of gender as a form of social control has been a mainstay of feminist studies for many years. It is just that one side of feminism aims to increase that control and the other wants to abolish it. LibFems haven’t abolished sexual oppression through gender, they have just taken a place in a power structure that uses gender to control the society more broadly. In an intersectional framework, they have had to submit to other interests, including those of Critical Race Theorists (CRT) and gender ideology that denies the reality of sexual oppression. Women who participate in intersectional feminism are exchanging their autonomy for their place in an oligarchy.
You will notice that when intersectional feminists talk about domestic violence they talk about toxic masculinity, it is very rarely about the way we can protect bodies from violence. Hence shelters, prisons and change facilities are becoming less safe for women with the removal of sex segregation, and intersectional feminists cheer it on. Once you are not permitted to recognise sex, only gender, the danger of the way that sexed bodies harm each other cannot even be discussed. Power begins to lie in the dissemination of knowledge and ideas about gender, and the reinterpretation of violence.
But there is an active resistance. Biologists like Colin Wright and Emma Hilton are leaving what they consider more interesting work to publishing papers on the basic science of sex. Many are having to abandon academic spheres to fight the errors in law, science and sociology, that underpin the growing cultural and political power of the left in the west. Dissenting lawyers are also becoming a critical part of the pushback.
Conservatives and classic liberals can’t just sit this out and pretend they are watching the feminists fight each other like blokes watching a cat fight. Decent principled men need to stand up as allies to feminists in this fight, not just for women but for men and children. For a world where our children can further medical, biological and social science free of the bullying. A world where teenagers can figure out their sexuality and beliefs without coercion. Where gender non-conforming children don’t get sent to a clinic. Conservatives and classic liberals need to lay down their distaste for feminism and take a side. I am sure some animosity is mutual, but there will be time to take up the bickering when we return to sanity.
 Intersectionality is a term originally penned by Kimberlé Crenshaw where individuals can be subject to multiple levels of disadvantage like race, gender, disability and sexuality. Used popularly it means that intersectional feminists interpret the issues of gender in relation to these other groups. These groups are usually placed in a Marxist framework of group oppression and power.