Women represent half the population but we are still waiting for fundamental change
Like a dystopian scene out of Margaret Atwood’s ‘Handmaid’s Tale’, hundreds of protesters gathered outside a Toronto library last week, chanting and screaming at women arriving to attend a talk by a prominent feminist.
Shouts of ‘Walk of Shame’, ‘F**k you bitch’ and ‘I know your mother’, greeted women who were there to hear from the journalist, Meghan Murphy, and her now controversial views on what she sees as a transgender ideology that is marginalizing women’s rights.
This is an old school feminism that would normally be celebrated by the enlightened left. But the baying mob, some masked and shouting death threats, wasn’t of right-wing misogynists abusing women, they were of the left. Liberals berating women. And something is not right.
Murphy’s view that trans women are not women has become a lightning rod for vitriol. When she spoke at the Scottish Parliament earlier this year, there were protests. She has been banned from Twitter, has had death threats and a barrage of online abuse.
And I have felt the fear. Ever since I started writing columns exploring why the arguments around changes to the Gender Recognition Act here and to the census had become so polarized, I have found myself insulted, harassed and had my character picked over. I have been called a transphobe for simply acknowledging that there are women who feel vulnerable about the risk of male-bodied people occupying their protected single-sex spaces. I have been abused for applauding a tribunal in Canada finding against a trans woman who had accused beauticians of being transphobic for refusing to wax her male genitals and I have been vilified for asking questions about why women are increasingly being erased from health campaigns like those for cervical screening, menopause or period poverty, that are so inherently bound up in their biology.
To me, it seems completely ironic that in the attempts to be all-inclusive, choices around diversity are being shrunk so that trans women are not to be celebrated for being trans women but are to be called women and conversely, biological women find themselves becoming a subset of the genre they were born into. And, to add insult to injury, are told to pipe down when they object - which seems a very patriarchal thing to do.
At the SNP conference last month, I attended an invite-only, password protected, fringe event organized by prominent SNP politicians to launch a women’s organization specifically to explore women’s rights in the context of proposed legislation on self-identification for transgender people. I heard nothing in that meeting that should upset any women, trans or otherwise. But for fear of reprisals we were told to switch of the location function on Twitter.
The debate around sex and gender is febrile but the fundamental fact that women are the focus of such hate when they remain one of the most discriminated against groups of people on this earth should be cause for concern.
And in the week that women MPs retire from politics because of abuse and journalist, Samira Ahmed, argued in an industrial tribunal that she should be paid the same as a man at the BBC for doing the same job, I attended a dinner of Scotland’s media editors. Of the 16 editors present, I was the only woman.
And why these shocking facts matters is because women represent half the population; we vote, we shape the news, we exist, and we are still waiting for fundamental change.
And while the Scottish Government wrestles with how issues of how equality can get messy and institutionalises a woke approach to even its email etiquette by sending out emails that are signed off with preferred pronouns, I reserve the right to ask why, when we are being told that trans rights are not up for debate, it seems women’s are.