Tag Archives: Germaine Greer

I Self-Identify as a TERF

We hear a lot these days about ‘self-identification’ – the right to define yourself as whatever you feel you are and not be defined by society.  Now, in theory I am all for this; but in practice none of us exists in isolation.  We all have relationships, we all have contexts in which we exist.  There are tensions between the individual and the family; between the individual and group; between the individual and the wider society in which we all exist.

The individual ought not to be completely defined by society.  The society in which I grew up tried to define me in certain ways: that I should look a certain way (wear skirts and make-up), behave in a ‘ladylike’ manner (no swearing, no drinking pints) and aspire to a certain level (marriage and work as a teacher or nurse).  The career options for most girls were office work, factory work or the two professions I have already mentioned.  You were expected to work until marriage and if you worked after marriage, to do so part-time.  You were not expected to aspire to anything higher.

But nor do I believe that the individual has an unfettered right to self-identification; to demand that society (which is after all, other people) accept whatever they say they are and adapt itself to their needs.  And my fear is that the gender debate is heading in this direction; of saying that there are many genders and that a person should be accepted as whatever gender they say they are and called by whatever name and pronoun they wish.

Now, leaving aside the wider issues, which I’ll come to in a minute, this presupposes certain difficulties right away.  It’s hard enough to remember names at the best of times: we live in a mobile society where most of us meet new people all the time; so that to remember a variety of names and pronouns which do not correspond to our previous experience of gender, can be confusing and difficult.  To be berated if we fail adds insult to that injury: I once went to a ‘conference’ on gender where there were seven or eight of us, and to remember who wanted to be called ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘they’ or – god help us – ‘ze’ was beyond me.  I suspect the average person in the street wouldn’t even try.

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/may-you-have-an-interesting-day/

To sum up so far: society has certain expectations, that a person will present as either male or female, and be addressed accordingly.  Some people don’t fit into those categories – or don’t look the way you’d expect their gender to look.  Some people demand the right to be treated as whatever gender (or non-gender) they say they are.

So much for the social difficulties.  Now for the relational ones: as I’ve said before, if you are in a relationship and one partner decides to self-identify as a different gender, that has implications beyond their individual rights.  It has profound implications for a marriage or long-term relationship because that relationship is effectively being expected to switch from straight to gay – or the other way round.  It may be that some people’s sexuality is fluid, and that they can make those adjustments without too much hassle.  Equally it may not.

As far as parents are concerned (I don’t speak from experience here, so feel free to argue the point) I suspect it’s less of an issue.  The parent/child relationship doesn’t depend on gender the way that a sexual relationship often does, and although there may be profound adjustments to be made it doesn’t threaten the basic relationship.

So much for relational problems.  Now to speak of wider society, and a number of issues which are emerging.  Should transgender people be able to use the public loos of their choice?  I guess where there are cubicles it might not be so important; but I can’t say I’m totally comfortable with someone who may still be physically male using a public toilet at the same time as I do.

But this is the tip of the iceberg.  Should trans women be able to join women’s groups?  Should they be able to sit in on sessions where women are discussing intimate issues such as abortion and abuse?  Would you feel comfortable with that?  I’m not sure I would.

Then there’s the thorny question of what you might call privileges gained as one gender being carried over into another (I realise I’m concentrating on M to F trans people here, but that’s where most of the problems are).  Should athletes who still have a lot of masculine musculature be allowed to compete as women?  Should men who gained certain positions at work be allowed to retain them as women?

And why is all this happening now?  Is there an element of men wanting what women have, now that women have (supposedly) equal status?  Is it womb envy?  Or can you be born in the ‘wrong body’ and if so, how?  We must be free to ask these questions, but there is a great deal of resistance to debate, particularly in what I’m going to call the trans lobby.  There’s an orthodoxy emerging, that we must accept the new status quo without question.  Well, sorry – but I never accept anything without question.  Ever.

Which leads me to my tongue-in-cheek title.  Because of course I don’t self-identify as a TERF: nobody self-identifies as a TERF because it’s like one of those irregular verbs:

‘I have doubts about the trans debate; you are prejudiced: she is Germaine Greer.’

TERF is a label used for others; hence no-one is likely to self-identify as one.  But we need to debate these issues, and we need to do it respectfully.

And we need to do it now.

Kirk out

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Filed under friends and family, politics, The madness of Mark

UKIP and Greer – The Second Tragedy

As Oscar Wilde once observed, there are two tragedies in life: one is not getting what you want – the other is getting it.  As an astute profiler of human nature, Wilde saw clearly that human beings can go off the rails just as often by getting what we want as we can when we don’t get it.  Sometimes we’re like a cat that asks to be let out, only to sit and stare at the open door and wonder what to do.  We pine for liberation, but when we get it we don’t know what to do with it.

http://newsthump.com/2016/06/21/cats-would-vote-to-leave-eu-and-then-refuse-to-go-out/

Such is the case with UKIP.  Though they had other campaigns under their umbrella, they were basically a single-issue party set up to push for exiting the EU (as the process was then called.)  And they won – and now they don’t know what to do with themselves.  Instead of disbanding – or staying around just long enough to supervise the terms of Brexit – they have begun an internecine squabble which has resulted in them electing four leaders in the space of one year:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_UK_Independence_Party_leaders

Basically they don’t know what they’re for any more.  They got what they wanted and now they don’t know what to do.

A similar thing happened with Left Unity, a party set up as a response to Ken Loach’s film ‘Spirit of ’45’ in despair of the (then) Labour Party ever doing anything to defend public services:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_Unity_(UK)

But when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader most of us switched back to regular Labour (having found Labour Lite utterly unsatisfactory) and it was thought by many that Left Unity should disband and throw its weight behind a Corbyn-led Labour Party.  But once set up, things have their own momentum (pun not intended) and people are often reluctant to let them go.

It is in this light that I am struggling to understand the recent behaviour of Germaine Greer.  As one who was hugely influenced by ‘The Female Eunuch’ in the ’70’s, I cannot comprehend the person she seems to have become, making statements that seem to wholly contradict the stance she took back then.  OK so she wants women to be strong and to fight back, but to dismiss the #metoo movement as ‘whingeing’ is just plain wrong, as is her insistence that in the old days:

“there were movies – the Carry On comedies, for example – which always had a man leering after women. And the women always outwitted him – he was a fool.”

I have to say that’s not my recollection of the ‘Carry On’ genre at all.

There’s a lot to this debate and this article deconstructs it much better than I can right now:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/germaine-greer-metoo-harvey-weinstein-spread-legs-reject-feminism-a8174211.html

Kirk out

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Free Speech or Hate Speech? – TERF Wars

Women talking about other women seem to be in the news a lot recently: hard on the heels of Averil Macdonald saying women don’t understand the science behind fracking (see yesterday’s post) comes Germaine Greer saying that trans-gender women are not real women: or as she put it, ‘Just because you chop your d**k off doesn’t make you a ****** woman.’

To be fair, Greer has been saying this for a long time.  But now Cardiff University have decided that her views constitute ‘hate speech’ and have tried to ban her from speaking at the University.

Her remarks could best be described as forthright, downright, or, let’s face it, bloody rude.  But do they constitute hate speech, or is she just expressing a point of view?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/germaine-greer-defends-grossly-offensive-comments-about-transgender-women-just-because-you-lop-off-a6709061.html

On the one hand we are all – or nearly all – in favour of free speech.  On the other hand, I for one would not support what is generally called ‘giving a platform to’ racism, sexism or any other kind of prejudice.  So where does one end and the other begin?  Is Greer entitled to her view or should she just shut the *** up?

I’ll be honest: I can’t decide.  My instinct is to say that she should be allowed to put her point of view across.  But then again if she were putting across views that, say, gays and lesbians can’t really be married, how differently would I feel?  Should people with prejudices be banned because of the hurt and offence they cause?  Certainly if a speaker started to abuse women, I’d want them to stop.  But should I?

Just this week a guy known as the ‘Mad Monk of Clarendon Park’ was given a community service order for distributing homophobic leaflets.  Apparently he’d been all over the country doing this and the police forces of several counties were looking for him.  I was quite pleased to hear that he’d been caught and punished – but is that the best outcome?  In some ways I wish that instead of just delivering leaflets he’d knocked on doors, because at least then people would have had the chance to debate with him.  But nowadays it seems that when strong views come into play, respectful debate goes out of the window.

http://www.neighbourhoodwatchleicester.net/NHW/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35851%3Aman-who-distributed-offensive-leaflets-sentenced&catid=34%3Aleicester-city&Itemid=53

Germaine Greer has certainly not been respectful.  She has a certain view but she has endeared herself to nobody in the way she’s expressed it.  But I still think she should have been allowed to speak – and incidentally, so does MSO.

Kirk out

PS Forgot to say that TERF stands for ‘Trans-Excluding Radical Feminist’.  But you knew that…

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Filed under friends and family, God-bothering, The madness of Mark