As I’m getting older I seem to be reaching that point where I genuinely don’t understand some of the things that the younger generation (blimey I can’t believe I used that phrase!) get worked up about. Maybe it’s because we mellow as we get older or maybe we just realise that life is too short to get bent out of shape over other people’s opinions of us. For instance, I like to think of myself as being pretty open minded but I’m finding that I’m increasingly baffled by the Twitter war that seems to be going on between trans women and TERFs. For those of you who don’t know: a trans woman is a biological man who identifies as a woman and a TERF is Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Trans women feel that, because they identify as women, they should have the same ‘rights’ as women and TERFs believe that trans women are, in fact, men and their quest for acceptance as women has a negative impact on biological women. This is my understanding based on what I’ve read but this whole debate really is an absolute minefield so I’ll apologise in advance if I inadvertently offend someone.
The whole thing has recently blown up after JK Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, ‘liked’ a Tweet by someone. The Tweet was basically a complaint from a female Labour party member who said that ‘men in dresses’ got more support than she did. She didn’t write the Tweet, just liked it but this one small action prompted a barrage of abuse online:
These days however, it seems as though people feel that acceptance has to be forced; they challenge others and demand that they accept their beliefs and are outraged when that doesn’t automatically happen. This tends to breed resentment from people who need time to understand the problems faced by those they consider ‘different’ from themselves; many people fear what they don’t understand and fear often leads to defensiveness and then anger. Box anyone into a corner with words and they’re likely to come out fighting!
Then you have Lily Madigan who is a trans woman and gay (so a biological man who identifies as a woman but is sexually attracted to women; I really hope I’ve got that right). She is a women’s officer for the Labour Party at just 19 years old and is very active on the rights of trans women. She says on Twitter:
“You want to exclude trans women from women’s spaces and roles. You are a trans exclusionary radical feminist”
Enter the TERFs.
They feel that women have fought hard to get equality with men and that trans women taking on women’s roles and using women’s spaces (such as toilets) is somehow belittling or even mocking their achievements. My feeling on the subject of ‘roles’ is that the person who is best qualified to do the job should get it, regardless of their gender, colour, race, religion etc etc. Selecting someone to be politically correct or to fill a quota is just insulting for all concerned.
On the subject of toilets I’m slightly more ambiguous. I live in France and it’s quite common for women to use the men’s loo if the queue for their own is too long; if the area is made up of cubicles and not urinals there shouldn’t really be a problem. Therefore, it also shouldn’t be a problem if a man, self identifying as a woman or not, wants to use the ladies loo. However, I do feel very slightly uncomfortable with the idea, not because of any radical feminist notions but just because, when women pee, they are vulnerable; it’s pretty difficult to make a run for it with your pants round your ankles! Saying that, why on earth would I ever have to make a run for it from a public toilet? Is this just an irrational fear based on pre-conceived ideas about the potential threat that men present to women? They are, typically, bigger and stronger and statistics tell us that violent crimes by men against women are far more likely than the opposite. However, when a man identifies as a woman does that mean that she will naturally have the gentler traits that are more common in women than men?
The fact is I have absolutely no idea because none of us knows what’s going on inside another person’s mind. The one thing I do know though is that separating ourselves into different little groups and demanding that we be accepted is not going to do much for equality which is a shame as that’s usually what people who separate themselves into little groups are after. My thinking, rightly or wrongly is that we are all just people: all different, all flawed and all wonderful.