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At what point do we notice the misogyny of transactivism?
Writing biological womanhood out of the social script can only be done by systematically devaluing the inconvenient perspectives (and achievements) of women.
This is a guest post by Lorenzo Warby, who has worked in the Australian Public Service and the non-profit sector, including providing assistance for disabled students.
Since 1999, he has put on medieval and ancient days for schools in South-Eastern Australia in a business he now part-owns, and which was founded by a fellow medieval re-enactor.
He continues regularly to wear medieval armour and allow students of both sexes to use wooden weapons to try and beat him up.
Lorenzo is on Twitter @LorenzoFrom
The New York Times has recently started marketing itself with a campaign that includes the caption “Imagining Harry Potter Without Its Creator”.
Harry Potter is a male fictional character. The Harry Potter fictional universe is an it. Both of them have a creator, and she is J. K. Rowling.
So, why would stripping a fictional universe of its creator be something to imagine? Even, it appears, to celebrate? Well, because J K Rowling takes the view — which was a pretty universal view until very, very recently — that women are adult human females and they can be, and sometimes need to be, distinguished from adult human males, also known as men.
If this were done in any other cause other than transactivism, would it be progressively acceptable to parse without comment stripping history’s most commercially successful author from her creation?
Writing such phenomenally successful books and creating a fictional world beloved by so many millions around the world is a striking achievement. A striking achievement by a woman (indeed, a single mother). But an achievement that is now apparently better, even laudable, to imagine away. For the author is no longer the right sort of woman.
Meanwhile, someone born with, even continuing to possess, a penis who declares themselves to be trans is absolutely the right sort of woman.
Past or present possessors of penises now get to define themselves into being women, and into places where females congregate, either voluntarily or compulsorily: venues, events, clubs, refuges, prisons. They get to trump women who never had penises in moral standing. They even get to define women who don’t go along with this defining of status by past or present penis-possessors out of the universe of positive moral regard. To the extent of imaginatively stripping women of their achievements.
This looks a bit, how might we say this, patriarchal. What it absolutely is, is wildly misogynistic.
When we look at the hatred and contempt loaded on those who resist this veto power over defining womanhood, we see both more misogyny and some very odd politics.
Women who dissent from transactivist bromides are targeted much more viciously than men who dissent. There is also a clear pattern of women on the “progressive” side of politics (or what passes for it nowadays) being targeted much more viciously than those on the conservative side of politics.
Sadly, progressive women are more vulnerable: they are easier to pick on. They share more of the buttons that can be pushed and they are more embedded in institutional and social milieux where ganging up on them works.
Conservative women, by contrast, often do not accept left arguments about oppression and disadvantage, and are unmoved by sad tales of “lived experience” outside fiction. Even Tory Cabinet minister Liz Truss — who has actively impeded transactivism’s legislative onward march — has not been monstered in the same way as Kathleen Stock or Julie Bindel.
So, the greater the vulnerability, the more vicious the targeting.
Is there not something of a pattern emerging?
Why this dramatic, persistent and vicious misogyny? For the obvious reason: jealousy. If you really, really want to be a woman, but were born male, then there are all sorts of aspects of being a woman you simply cannot replicate. Whatever hormones you take, whatever surgeries you undertake, you will remain shut out of elemental experiences of being a woman. You cannot have what natal women have naturally.
You are quite likely to have problems passing as a woman and even more problems being sexually desirable as a woman.
All this must be, at some level, infuriating. Even more infuriating if those born women publicly fail to go along with the fiction that you are as much of a woman as they are. This refusal stings not because it is false, but because it is true.
There is, however, one area where defining yourself into being a woman provides a real, even knock-out, advantage: defining yourself so you can compete in female sports. For, if you, being born male, can define yourself into women’s sport then you can define yourself into being a winning officially-accepted-as-woman against those who were born female.
Let us be quite clear: there is no reason — except protection of participants, like weight divisions in boxing — to limit who can compete in men’s sports. It is women’s sport that has to have barriers around it to be viable.
The reason is quite simple. Homo sapien males have, on average, twice the lean body mass in their upper body than Homo sapien females. Which is why Homo sapien females have, on average, only 52 per cent of the upper body strength of Homo sapien males.
This enormous difference in strength is why Homo sapien females have a rational fear of Homo sapien males. It is why there is a need for female sport.
The issue is not that Homo sapien males have penises, or higher testosterone, although those things have separate implications of their own. It is that men are simply systematically (much) stronger than women.
Part of the problem is that a lot of people who opine on this issue simply aren’t sporty and do not have much (or perhaps any) experience of manual labour. They don’t really “get” sport, have often never played it, and have not systematically experienced the dramatic differences in strength by sex.
The other problem is that our entertainment industries regularly lie to us. In physical combat at full effort, a trained man of equal size to any woman is greatly advantaged. If the man is bigger (as men usually are) the advantage is even greater. This applies even when the woman is highly trained.
Films where (smaller) women routinely beat bigger trained men, or go toe-to-toe with them, are lying to your face. And not in a “just telling a story” way. At least the female knight in Game of Thrones is really big, not a wee slip of a thing. When effective female knights, shieldmaidens, or warriors existed historically, they usually looked like Brienne of Tarth. And they were rare - simply because there are not many big strong women of that type.
Past societies did not invest much in female warriors because it was, all other things being equal, a poor investment of limited resources.
However, if men were going to be away fairly regularly—and especially in societies where women could use missile weapons on horseback—then it was worth investing in training and equipping women. To this day, equestrian is one sport where men and women can compete equally: the real skill and strength involved is animal husbandry, which is independent of biological sex.
Also, the threshold of “worth the effort” would be more likely to be reached the more resources that were available. But, generally, it was not worth the investment and so was not done.
But that does not stop our entertainment industries lying to us. Lies that were once feminist lies. Feminism disarmed its ability to resist the invasion of present or past possessors of penises into women’s spaces and activities by its “gender-neutral” language-policing and maintaining the pretence that women can do anything men can do. The problem is that, in the physical realm, men and women are not equal. Men are systematically much stronger.
So, it does not matter what operations someone born in a male body has had, or how much oestrogen they have taken. If they have gone through puberty, they will be systematically stronger than those with female bodies. This is how Lia Thomas can go from 426th in men’s swimming to number 1 in women’s swimming.
Now, given endless seeking of new barriers to ostentatiously reject, the feminist lies of our entertainment industries have become trans lies. And a lot of men who resented the feminist push for women to enter male venues, clubs, and events are happy to accept — or even help — the trans push to abolish female spaces.
Biology wins in the end. If you do not understand the extent of sexual dimorphism among Homo sapiens, you are going to end up taking positions which are stupid due to ignorance, or because you are engaging in active ignoring.
Letting folk with male bodies who went through puberty compete in women’s sport will regularly consign an entire sex to also-ran status. The trashing of women’s sport is a generalised misogyny. It means writing inconvenient female concerns, from inconveniently female people, out of the realm of the acceptable.
It also means women can be publicly humiliated. I have lost count of the number of people who have expressed shock at the performance gulf between Lia Thomas and the women, at what a reminder of physical inferiority it is.
At what point do we notice the misogyny?