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FT article - The tangled politics of transgenderism

(16 Posts)
Rumandraisin1 Sun 08-Oct-17 22:56:45

www.ft.com/content/009eeafc-a9f5-11e7-ab66-21cc87a2edde

badbadhusky Sun 08-Oct-17 22:58:25

It's paywalled. Can you give us a precis?

badbadhusky Sun 08-Oct-17 22:58:48

Or better still C&P.

Rumandraisin1 Sun 08-Oct-17 23:07:27

The tangled politics of transgenderism

Biological women still have experiences that define them as a group

Kate Maltby

The Greeks and Romans knew all about the mystique of transgenderism. Readers of Ovid will remember Tiresias, the prophet who spent seven years of his life transformed into a woman. After his restoration, the god Jupiter asked Tiresias to settle a quarrel with his wife Juno: who had it better in the bedroom, men or women? Women, replied Tiresias. Juno, it is said, was furious — blinding the prophet who had just lost her the argument.

One has to feel for Juno. After enduring several millennia of marital infidelity, sexual discrimination in the Mount Olympus workplace and the ever-present threat of a thunderbolt from an abusive husband, here are a man and trans woman daring to tell her that women have it good.

Juno’s complaint isn’t far removed from present debates over sexuality. If there’s an Ovidian trope that continues in today’s battles over the status of transgender people, it is the competition for victimhood.

That struggle defines the aggressive debates continuing between some trans activists and some traditional feminists. (Female-to-male “trans men”, or trans people who embrace a “third sex” identity, are often marginalised: this is a fight about people born as men entering into women’s spaces.) Feminists point out that women’s subjugation is rooted in biological reality and that women must be allowed to talk freely about female bodies. (Consider the production of The Vagina Monologues cancelled by a US women’s college on the grounds it is transphobic to root women’s experiences in stories of vaginas and menstruation.) Trans people point out that they also experience regular discrimination — who would choose to transition, had they other options? Feminists teach that no one “cries rape” for fun; some should also acknowledge that no one transitions for fun.

This week, into this already toxic debate waded Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, with an announcement that the college, founded as New Hall, and a women’s only institution, will now consider all students who publicly identify as women. Many alumna are furious. And Germaine Greer — who opposed the admission of a trans scholar as a fellow of women-only Newnham College in 1997 — has predictably condemned the move.

Is this progress? Historically female colleges have always billed themselves as the most inclusive of Oxbridge institutions. Somerville College, Oxford, is as proud never to have imposed a religious entry test as it is of its feminist pioneers. Trans people are disproportionately targets for assault. So why shouldn’t Murray Edwards transform itself into a college that offers a particular welcome to transwomen?

Yet a statement given this week by Murray Edwards’ president, Dame Barbara Stocking, constitutes one of the most lightweight understandings of gender theory you’re likely to find outside the UK Independence party conference. Admitting women who don’t share a biologically female experience of childhood, she tells us, will in no way change the experience of Murray Hall as “a single-sex college”. Of course it will. One can make a case that it’s a good change — but a change it is.

Biological women still have experiences that define us as a group. We tend to show less confidence putting ourselves forward than people raised as boys. (There was outrage when St Hugh’s, Oxford, now co-ed, fielded an all-male men’s team on University Challenge this week.) We can get pregnant, we bear the brunt of contraception, most of us menstruate. Yet trans activists have recently targeted the provision of tampons in all-female spaces as transphobic. If Murray Edwards is to make a success of this change, it will need to foster much more empathy in junior common room discussions than has defined gender debate elsewhere.

It will also have to accept that some women will lose out. St Hilda’s, Oxford became co-ed in 2008. Until then it was popular with women from conservative Muslim households and other orthodox religious groups — single-sex accommodation can be vital in persuading ambivalent parents to allow their daughters to attend distant universities. Should Murray Edwards hold back on “progress” to appease religious parents? Perhaps not. But it is bad faith to pretend that there is no clash of rights here.

The truth is that in both Oxford and Cambridge, women’s colleges are out of fashion. Murray Edwards probably needs a selling point. It attracts fewer applicants per place than any undergraduate institution in Cambridge. By all means, Murray Edwards, reinvent yourself as an all-inclusive, sexually progressive college. But just don’t call yourself a women’s college while you do it.

LaContessaDiPlump Sun 08-Oct-17 23:19:13

Yet trans activists have recently targeted the provision of tampons in all-female spaces as transphobic.

I have no issue with transwomen making their bodies look and feel more biologically female. I have a major issue with their seeming need to lash out at those of us who were born that way. Policies like the one highlighed above scream pettiness and sour grapes to me.

Thanks for the c&p btw.

badbadhusky Mon 09-Oct-17 07:00:32

Same. And I was going to pick up on exactly the same point, which hammers home the relevance of biology in women's lived experience and transwomen's very partial grasp of that in one short sentence.

Datun Mon 09-Oct-17 07:17:36

Yet trans activists have recently targeted the provision of tampons in all-female spaces as transphobic.

I can't find this bit of ridiculousness online. I don't know where she's getting it from, but it's completely unsurprising.

And surely must be impossible to justify. Even for the most rabid activist.

And I suspect it's far less about the grasp of female biology and much more about the determination to erase it in any meaningful way.

People generally are waking up to the implications. But without an instant feminist framework, it's taking a while to get there.

But it feels, to me, like there is a deep resistance, not just coming from transactivists.

I'm putting it down to a desire to be inclusive and the mistaken belief that this ideology is progressive.

Although claiming that Tampax are transphobic, surely to God, must give people an idea of how extreme it is?

badbadhusky Mon 09-Oct-17 08:12:44

It's like arguing toilet paper is not essential and transphobic (because those with "lady sticks" don't need it when they pee). Flipping an oft stated claim on its head, we just want to change our tampons in peace!

BigDeskBob Mon 09-Oct-17 08:22:14

Yet trans activists have recently targeted the provision of tampons in all-female spaces as transphobic.

I've not heard of this either, its more removing the word 'feminine' from advertising. Its supposedly to avoid distress to ftt, but I think its to remove or distance biology from the meaning of female and woman. Otherwise a more pressing campaign would be to have tampon machine in male toilets, but that's not really talked about.

badbadhusky Mon 09-Oct-17 08:27:51

They should start installing them now. If the self-ID legislation goes through, there'll be so many sex offenders and perverts in the women's loos (standard blokes, not MTT, exploiting the latitude of self-ID), the men's loos will be safer.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 09-Oct-17 08:40:22

Tampons available in womens loos? How awful, not all women need tampons .....its so horribly ageist....and might be 'triggering' for the many women with amenorrhea...

Nah. Every woman knows tampons are just a thing lots of women need while in a loo, whether she herself needs it or not.

a more pressing campaign would be to have tampon machine in male toilets, but that's not really talked about.

Well, indeed. Weird you never hear about an idea that might take a tiny bit of space from men for the benefit of transmen, isn't it?

BigDeskBob Mon 09-Oct-17 08:41:06

Trans people point out that they also experience regular discrimination — who would choose to transition, had they other options? Feminists teach that no one “cries rape” for fun; some should also acknowledge that no one transitions for fun.

And how many women who are raped are believed? We are expected to believe that every single man who states he is trans and welcome him into female facilities and fight for his rights. Without exception. Being believed is not a luxury rape victims have.

SomeDyke Mon 09-Oct-17 10:05:55

Just to add, here are some transphobic cup-cakes:

But then i'm just an ole vagina fetishist who remembers when seeing The Dinner Party was a significant and moving event........

YetAnotherSpartacus Mon 09-Oct-17 11:56:00

I loved the Dinner Party!

Those cakes do rather gross me out.

tiktok Mon 09-Oct-17 12:04:04

I think - from googling - the tampon thing is because they are also needed in men's public toilets, for transmen who still menstruate. I don't think the objection is to the provision of them in women's loos....just that they should be in both. I can't argue with that.

I can't help thinking there are bigger fish to fry in the whole debate, however.

tiktok Mon 09-Oct-17 12:05:41

I don't suppose anyone transitions for fun.

But the reasons and motivations behind the decision to transition must be varied and individual.

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