Happy International Women’s Day: raise a glass, hug your kids and celebrate woman-kind. Now put that Prosecco down because we need to talk about transactivism and women’s rights.
While women across the world remembered today those who went before them, who inspired, led, governed and taught us, we also found ourselves caught in the crossfire of a toxic debate likely to affect our daughters and sons for generations.
Earlier this week in the UK a radio stalwart weighed in with her views on transgendered people, specifically male to female. She argued that, while people have the legal right to call themselves whatever they feel suits them best, having surgery and taking hormones does not give them the right to call themselves a woman. Following the article
Twitter almost broke the internet as transactivists, feminists and your under-the-bridge-dwelling trolls dived in flinging opinions around like wet towels to, let’s face it, anyone who’d listen.
It wasn’t pretty, one trans journalist offered Ms Murray a makeover, managing to add sexism AND misogyny into what was already a highly toxic firefight. Not helpful India Willoughby but also, according to many, neatly illustrating some of Ms Murray’s points.
So how does this affect us so called CIS women? Why on earth should it matter if someone not born genetically female joins the sisterhood? Well, it kind of does because the ripples of this debate and debates before it are already being felt. By, for example, women in sport who find themselves competing at the highest levels with trans athletes, who by dint of their biology may have an advantage. To be fair the verdict on this is still out as female hormones taken by men may reduce bone density and muscle mass on a par with most CIS women athletes. See? It’s a minefield but apart from sport, concerns have also been raised about traditional ‘safe spaces’ for women: shelters from domestic violence, public and school restrooms and so on. And let’s not even get into re-naming breastfeeding as chestfeeding ()
How about the flip side? Crime stats show that transphobic hate crime in the UK has risen dramatically. Bullying is bullying after all, whether administered through the courts, churches or a pub toilet. Trans people are vulnerable and lack protection. Their status in society remains precarious.
What is clear is that our current, unique situation throws up more questions than answers, with the most pressing one being: can anyone call themselves a woman simply because they feel like one? We women, whoever we are, have some real challenges ahead on this but, hey, we won the vote, we’ve won Nobel Prizes, we’ve stood up to the Taliban and oppression; we’ve even disarmed a toddler tantrum one handed – we’ve got this, right?