Humans are hierarchical by nature. We like to have leaders (alphas) and we like to ‘know our place’. There is an innate need to ‘belong’ and be accepted. This hierarchical nature means there are those with privileged positions, who use this privilege to oppress others. The ‘others’ are considered sub groups, and the unique needs of these groups are usually disregarded.
In recent history we have seen the ‘othered’ populations rise, demanding to be seen, heard and considered. Their fights continue. Progress has been made, but the hierarchy remains.
It is complex, even though it feels like it should be simple.
There is one recent political challenge, however, that has me perplexed.
We have a subgroup from the top of the hierarchy removing themselves and claiming to be at the bottom, and hence most deserving of consideration. At first it seemed this subgroup was progressive, trying to breakdown this hierarchy from which they could benefit but didn’t because they weren’t following the established rules. These particular rules are based on gender stereotypes. ..and this subgroup are challenging those stereotypes. They call themselves trans women.
I say ‘at first’, because as the discourse has unfolded it has become apparent that their time at the top of the hierarchy seems to have limited their ability to see beyond themselves. The demands they are making are in direct opposition to those of another subgroup. The radical feminists.
The rad fems would like to see the heirarchy collapse, with all subgroups gaining favour and representstion in so far as their different needs are recognised and supported within a flexible society. This includes autonomous health care needs, educational equality and employment opportunities. Not based on privilege or wealth, but available to all. They recognise that women have biologically different needs that the current state of play does not support. They see gender as a social construct, which holds up the sex heirarchy and is encouraged by capitalism. Abolish gender, the heirarchy collapses. We all become equal, and free to celebrate our differences, free to express ourselves without gender stereotypes.
It is on the grounds of biology that the clash between trans women and radical feminism takes place. Already we are seeing trans women being awarded prizes, scholarships and positions set aside to progress women. Women who, as biological females, have not enjoyed the privileged position that comes with being biologically male. This self-identification trumps biological reality and the trans movement declares those reducing women to biology as antifeminist and transphobic. Women are expected to accept this, and move aside.
Why is ‘reducing women to biology’ a bad thing? Trans women seem to argue that gender is the core of the issue and that the biology is irrelevant. And whilst this is true that gender is core, we need to address the biology differences that lead to very real socioeconomic disadvantages because our society is patriarchal. To ignore the biology is to erase women. Who’s antifeminist now?
It has taken me sometime to put my thoughts into this blog, as I have tried to avoid being offensive, insensitive or inaccurate. On reflection, this is probably because as a female I have lived the experience of always accommodating others. This social conditioning is based on the social construct of gender. Hence gender being at the core of the issue.
But gender is a social construct, it can be changed, abolished even. Biology is a reality, unchangeable. It is superficial to think surgery and artificial hormones will fix the problem of gender stereotypes. Whilst trans women and rad fems seem to want the same thing, they are coming at it differently. The trans women movement seems determined to conserve the hierarchy, at least as far as they have experienced it, and remain at the top, with the eraser of women a possibility. The rad fems would see this heirarchy collapse, with the eraser of gender and recognition for all a possibility.
I am perplexed. Call me simple, call me naive, indeed I expect to be called ‘Terf”…but…Why must women give hard won ground to trans women? Why can’t trans needs be considered along side?
As I tried to construct my thoughts, this article was sent to me. I found it validating, and the comments actually constructive. I reflected on why this matters..why am I feeling so drawn into this issue…
As a mother, I feel a need to better understand ‘gender’. We are bombarded with overly sexualised gender stereotypes, which shape our children even as we try to be gender neutral.
As a woman I am offended by gender stereotypes. I do not remove body hair, wear make up or heels…I am practical and like pockets…but I am no less a woman.
As a (current) asexual I find the overly sexual nature of society confusing and dangerous. This recent article discusses the sex heirarchy and social conditioning that maintains it.
It seems to me that the collapse of the heirarchy that places entitled white men as the ultimate deciders of who we are and who we can be, and the economic interests of a few above the basic needs of the many, is in the best interest of all of us.