On 6 September, I held a public meeting in Wellington, as spokesperson for the organisation Speak Up For Women (SUFW). “Let’s talk about proposed legislation that would allow legal sex to be changed based solely on self-declaration,” prompted the publicity.
“What could this mean for the rights of women and girls?”
This is a fair question. Still, in today’s climate, it is one that cannot be asked by anyone who is not prepared to take risks.
Our original venue cancelled on us a few hours before the meeting was due to start, which trans-activists have since taken credit for. At the eleventh hour, we found a new space and did our best to let the attendees know of the new venue. I was soon approached by a member of staff concerned by the phone calls and attempts that had been made to confront the reception staff, demanding they cancel our booking. I honestly didn’t know what to do.
The meeting went ahead and during the Q&A one woman said she has never been so afraid to attend a meeting in her life, but she came along anyway – because she doesn’t believe self-declaration of sex is a good idea. This is why the SUFW members are largely anonymous.
Just the other day someone told me, that I had no right to have a job because of my political beliefs, in a Facebook exchange.
I was defending a musician and environmentalist friend who has been the subject of a very successful five-year campaign to prevent her from earning money and performing her music. Any time she books a show, they hound the venue with their friends, intimidating hosts into dropping her from their line-up. I asked the ring-leader of this campaign to please leave her alone and was told that “unless she renounces her stance and does restorative work to all the lives her rhetoric has caused [harm to], I will not lay off.”
I helped form SUFW because I don’t think that women’s concerns around sex self-declaration are being taken seriously.
Holding similar beliefs to my friend, I couldn’t help but ask her detractor if he thought I was allowed to have a job, even if I never intended to raise my beliefs in the workplace?
The answer was ‘no’ – followed by, “Be gone terf”.
My beliefs – that the rights of women and girls need to be discussed in relation to new sex self-declaration laws – are apparently so outrageous that I should be prevented from feeding myself, paying my bills and taking care of my family.
So, what is so wrong with what my friend and I believe?
We believe that women and girls are oppressed due to our sex and not our gender identity. That’s it.
The problem we face nowadays is that our belief puts us into direct conflict with people who believe that women are oppressed on the basis of their ‘gender identity’. This is the central belief of trans-activists and the topline statement is that “a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman”. Just as everything I aim for in my political activism stems from my primary understanding of the nature of women’s oppression, so too does theirs.
In a civil democracy, I think we would all agree that as long as no one is hurting other people with their actions, none of us should face discrimination, violence or intimidation for our beliefs. So, here’s the kicker: trans-activists think gender critical women are hurting them, so they retaliate by promoting economic sanctions on us. If only it stopped at that, though. Gender critical women are abused, intimidated and threatened – it happens often, but is rarely, if ever, considered newsworthy.
The climate surrounding the debate in New Zealand over who is and who isn’t a woman is hostile enough for most women to keep their tongues behind their teeth. It only takes one woman to be publicly punished to silence the rest of us. So, I have to wonder when I hear Carol Beaumont from New Zealand Council for Women (NCW) saying that all their members are supportive of gender identity – because I know a lot of women, some of whom are members of NCW, who aren’t okay with it – but they’d never tell you, Carol. They are afraid of being publicly punished.
If this is the new frontier of feminism – then, that’s it for us.
Feminism is becoming indistinguishable from the anti-feminist rhetoric we have come to expect as a backlash to fighting for our rights. Men have long told us that short skirts cause rape; that feminism has left them so disoriented about their “role” that they lash out at home — now we are being dished the narrative that women cause male violence by self-described “feminists”, too. Now – all that hate, derision and alienation of women will come from within the movement, instead of coming at us from outside.
Despite this climate there are women (and men) willing to step up to challenge the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill, which if passed in its current form, would allow for any person to change the legal sex on their birth certificate based on the principle of self-identification. The only requirement to change one’s legal sex would be to fill out a statutory declaration form.
People are objecting to this political move because this legislation could have conflicts with the Human Rights Act, which forms the basis of the sex-based protections especially important to women and girls in New Zealand society. These protections make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex – for instance, by precluding someone from a chance of promotion because they are a woman. The Human Rights Act also provides for ‘exemptions’ which allow for discrimination based on categories such as sex in some instances: such as single-sex schools and sports teams.
No honest person would question why these exemptions feature in one of the most important pieces of human rights legislation we have. They feature because female people experience risks and disadvantages in life compared to their male counterparts, disadvantages imposed on the basis of our sex.
So, when our government proposes laws which would redefine the word ‘sex’ to mean ‘gender identity’ in foundational human rights legislation, women have questions and concerns. Basically, when we change the definition of a word (like ‘woman’), we change the application of laws that contain that word. All we want to do is talk about what that may mean.
That is what we are hated for. That is why people want to find out where I work and run me out of my job. That is why I’ve received desperate messages from women afraid to leave their homes because trans-activists were lurking on the street outside their homes. That is why I’ve seen women take life-changing decisions to avoid intimidation and violence; moving houses and even cities. That is why my friend is not allowed to work or perform.
Gender critical feminists want to ensure women’s freedom from male violence and discrimination. We are not the monsters we are being portrayed to be.
We are gender critical feminists and that’s it.
– Georgina Blackmore