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What does it actually mean to be gender critical??

60 replies

LajesticVantrashell · 13/08/2020 15:35

(Reposting with an amended thread !!)


I’ll admit, I’m still hanging around in the margins regards feminism and everything that entails. I consider myself a feminist, and have been trying to educate myself on key areas more recently.

I took an interest in the Maya case last year, and have often ducked into the FWR threads when they appeared on the active list. Lockdown and JKR, and now the slow emergence of others who are questioning the slavish adherence to TWAW have led me to this place. I’ve signed up. You can’t identify out of your biology.

But what I can’t get my head around is what it actually means to be gender critical. Because to me, it’s simple, but any kind of Googling takes me down a rabbit hole that leaves me scratching my head. So am I right in thinking…

1.       Gender critical means we are literally critical of gender, because for women, the social construct of gender is what oppresses us, keeps us a secondary sex, ensures we’re not as well paid and that we don’t have the same level of opportunities as men (amongst many other things, obviously)

2.       Trans/Non-binary don’t agree with this because they rely on gender as a means of an identity if they choose not to align themselves with their biological sex. So while we’d rather see the world as the ‘binary’ of male and female sex (but with no assertion of how you should act if you’re either of those sexes) they see their themselves on a spectrum of gender identities which are fluid and interchangeable. They see ‘sex’ as a rigid box of oppression that dictates they must act a certain way, whereas we’re saying it’s actually gender that creates this oppression by asserting (through societal norms) that if you’re a woman you must wear heels and make-up and if you’re a man you must drink beer and not cry.
 
Now I know they are the extreme examples, but I just don’t understand why trans/non binary people are critical of the gender critical movement? Because if gender didn’t exist, there would be no societal construct to rail against, therefore negating the need for all 51 of the current list of gender identities to exist? Meaning men could wear dresses if they chose and women could shave their heads if they chose without needing to label it as something ‘different’?

Am I missing something?

(like I said, I’m still on a journey of discovery here so go easy on me!)

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ANewNameIsWhat · 13/08/2020 15:40

Gender critical = critical of gender,
Boys and men can wear dresses and have plaits. Girls and Women can wear baggy clothing and like trucks.
I am in agreement gender is a social construct, but where I differ from TRA Is I it’s meaningless. It’s just a bunch of sexist stereotypes we should be fighting against.

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ANewNameIsWhat · 13/08/2020 15:41

Gender critical is just critical of gender, but many think it’s critical of trans people.
If they were after 3rd spaces, I know I’d be behind them.

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LajesticVantrashell · 13/08/2020 15:46

So when you strip it back to its fundamental meaning, what we're saying is let's do away with stereotyping and labels.

Why does it then become so conflated? And why is it always used in parallel with feminism? Is it just because we're the ones with the most skin in the game?

I'm also but not really surprised that any article you read on the Internet is so highly critical of being GC. Assume this is because these sites hitting the top spots are controlled by the woke Sillicon Valley??

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TyroSaysMeow · 13/08/2020 16:11

Why does it then become so conflated?

Because if you keep gender and sex separate, it's tremendously invalidating for people who believe that to be a woman is to perform femininity.

let's do away with stereotyping and labels

Got it in a nutshell. But not the labels "man" and "woman", because they refer to material physiological realities, are the basis of laws which protect us, etc etc - we need words to differentiate between the sexes because sex is an axis of oppression. Without them we can't describe our experiences as members of an oppressed class.

What they fail to grasp is that our position is the same position feminists have taken since time immemorial: woman is not a gender. Not a collection of stereotypes, not the performance of femininity, not a submissive and nurturing essence.

An awful lot of the batshit crazy we see these days comes from the conflation of female and feminine.

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Stripesgalore · 13/08/2020 16:12

There probably aren’t many sites where people explain why they are gender critical because feminism means being opposed to the imposition of gender roles.

It would be like vegetarians setting up a load of sites saying they are non-meat eating vegetarians.

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Winesalot · 13/08/2020 16:14

I'd say that you are not missing much actually. I find the term gender abolitionist to have merit too.

I too am on a learning expedition and as such I am always interested in discovering where people have gained the knowledge they based their strong opinion on when they post here on MN. On both sides. Usually, regular posters will be very upfront in their discussion points and often will reference their information.

If I ask someone who comes and posts with a strong 'you are phobic' view, I ask for what they have read etc. Usually, they will link up to something that I have already read and seen debunked and disproven (usually by experts in the fields that are being discussed).

Sadly, almost always there will be either a plea for 'being kind', mentioning stats that don't stand up to scrutiny, a discussion on sex as a spectrum (politicising people with DSDs who have asked the community to stop), or bringing racist or homophobic tropes into the discussion.

Last night I followed a twitter thread where a transwoman used all of these including using clownfish as an example. Eventually, they could only argue that they did not feel like they thought a man should, therefore they felt they had to be a woman.

Of course, this nicely makes the point and many have said it before.

No.... just because you do not feel like you fit in as a male does not mean that what you feel is what a female 'feels'.

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merrymouse · 13/08/2020 16:29

Lajestic I'm as baffled as you are.

I think perhaps one complication is that some people seem to think that sex/gender confer value, hence offence taken when Jeni Murray talked about 'real' women.

We have value because we are human, not because of our sex. However, that does not lessen the impact of sex.

It's clear that for various reasons some people don't fit easily into one sex category or the other, however that doesn't lessen the need for sex specific protections and services in specific situations.

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Goyle · 13/08/2020 16:42

I do fall down often but I try and say, we should not be saying men do manly things and women do womanly things. Carrying on from that, I don't believe a child is trans just because they prefer certain activities or like dressing a certain way. Some people say they "feel" like a man or woman, which in my view is BS because I don't "feel" female, I just am. And the notion that I cannot be in a certain profession or have a certain hobby because of my "gender" is so flipping sexist. The idea of gender is BS, in my view. Just be you, wgaf what you prefer?

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Siameasy · 13/08/2020 17:10

I think about this too. GC people think gender is destructive - let’s abolish it - but trans ideology relies upon gender existing doesn’t it?
No gender, no transgender

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twoHopes · 13/08/2020 17:26

My view is that these issues have stemmed from phrases such as "born in the wrong body" and "transwomen are women" being taken literally. These phrases were originally used to ensure that trans people felt included and recognised but are now being used as statements of fact.

To believe that trans people are literally born in the wrong body you must posit a "gender identity" that is innate and exists only in the mind. This concept has been reinforced so many times now that it's being accepted as scientific truth by the general public (despite any evidence). When GC feminists attack the notion of "gender identity" they attack the foundation stone of the whole concept of trans as it's now understood.

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twoHopes · 13/08/2020 17:42

In terms of why attacking "gender identity" provokes such vitriol:
Most people haven't spent much time thinking about this topic and so think the only reason anyone would attack the concept of "gender identity" is to be nasty to trans people. If they haven't thought much about gender or feminism then it won't be clear to them that the concept of "gender identity" actually flies in the face of most feminist thought. So instead of seeing a bunch of feminists trying to stand up for a progressive analysis of gender, they see mean-spirited women trying to undermine an already oppressed group.

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TyroSaysMeow · 13/08/2020 17:43

To believe that trans people are literally born in the wrong body you must posit a "gender identity" that is innate and exists only in the mind.

It's worse than that - to be literally born in the wrong body would require a mind/gender essence/soul that exists independently of the body.

If other people want to believe they have a feminine soul, that's their lookout. Expecting the rest of us to believe in souls isn't on. Nor is getting us cancelled, doxxed, and fired, or threatening us with rape and death, simply because we don't believe in gendered souls.

The old-skool transsexuals used to say "I feel like I was born in the wrong body." It was never meant to be taken literally.

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Winesalot · 13/08/2020 17:46

being accepted as scientific truth by the general public

My concern is that it is not just by the general public. It is being perpetuated by scientists and experts in medical fields as well. And that studies are being twisted to fit that narrative. Such as the study that was supposedly peer reviewed and published by the American Psych journal and has now been retracted. Or marine biologists who apply the biological processes of clownfish to humans and are lauded for their brilliance. There are many, many examples just in the past month or two.

The problem lies in that dissenting voices find their jobs threatened (and maybe even their own safety on campus). Anyone who speaks up is fair game for abuse and cancellation. I keep coming back to Jack Appleby's tweet (9/7/19).

'I don't get how so many people have obviously not asked themselves this question....

What's more likely: That a load of life-long left- leaning LGBT-supporting women have inexplicably and uncharacteristically all suddenly become bigots or that one might be missing something here?'

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Doyoumind · 13/08/2020 17:51

What also adds to the issue are the feminists who claim TWAW which then gives credence to the argument that GC women aren't feminists and are just transphobes.

I always think of Jack's pinned tweet too (if it is still his pinned tweet) Wines.

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Therewillbetroubleahead · 13/08/2020 17:54

they see their themselves on a spectrum of gender identities which are fluid and interchangeable.

But they cannot do this in isolation: they NEED others to comply with sex stereotypes/genders in order to place themselves on this special spectrum. They need external validation of their choices.

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NotTerfNorCis · 13/08/2020 18:00

I'm repeating what other people have said, but this is my understanding of what gender critical means:

  1. The idea of 'gender' was invented to distinguish the social role associated with women (and men) from their biological sex. Feminists want to change the way women are treated in society and what is expected of women. In that sense, all feminists are gender critical.

  2. 'Gender' has more recently been redefined as a personal identity. So someone might have a gender identity as male, female, both (genderfluid) or neither (non-binary). It's not clear whether this refers to the body or the social role, but one thing that gender critical feminists have in common is that we reject this concept of gender. We don't believe for instance that a man who believes he should be a woman is actually a woman, or that a woman who says she is 'non-binary' stops being a woman and becomes some kind of neutral person.
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twoHopes · 13/08/2020 18:01

'I don't get how so many people have obviously not asked themselves this question....

What's more likely: That a load of life-long left- leaning LGBT-supporting women have inexplicably and uncharacteristically all suddenly become bigots or that one might be missing something here?


I think a lot of people just desperately don't want to accept that they are wrong about this issue. I had this conversation with a friend last week about JKR. I was essentially saying "surely you can't really believe that this brilliant author and philanthropist is actually a hateful bigot and for some reason has decided to splurge it all over the internet just to be spiteful to trans people? Really?".

And he eventually had to concede that - no this does not seem plausible. It was hard work though as he'd obviously read a million and one stupid articles about what an awful human being JKR is and was quite enjoying tearing her down.

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Winesalot · 13/08/2020 18:04

They need external validation of their choices.

As I pointed out to my teenager today, for non-binary to be 'valid', the people who are 'non-binary' need everyone else to be 'binary'. When I asked her if she was happy that she was put into the 'binary' box and how many people did she really know that fitted neatly into stereotypes. I think she had Hmm moment.

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InvisibleDragon · 13/08/2020 20:09

I think OP's understanding of GC feminism sounds pretty good.

One reason why I think GC theory attracts so much criticism is that a lot of liberal feminism up until about 2010 was about how women are not limited by our sex - a woman can be whatever she wants to be. That involved challenging a lot of gender stereotypes and biological determinism: for example the idea that it is 'natural' for a woman to stay home to take care of kids and give up her career; or that women are better suited to (low paid) caring roles, because we are 'naturally' more sensitive and nurturing; whilst men are 'naturally' competitive and good at maths.

Challenging these negative gender stereotypes meant challenging a lot of incorrect ideas about biology: no-one's womb falls out if they do sports; women are not biologically hardwired to enjoy housework or wearing high heels; if women are not equally represented in some careers, this is more likely to be caused by sexism than because we are biologically less capable.

Consequently, there's a lot of resistance within feminism and the left generally to re-centering sex-based, immutable biology: we've spent the last 60 years arguing that women are not defined by biology -- and that there's very little evidence to support biologically essentialist reasons for observed gender differences. We've used terminology that centres "gender" differences rather than "sex" differences, to highlight the importance of gendered socialisation, rather than biology, in explaining them. For example, yes, there are gender differences in (say) adult navigation ability, but most/all of that is accounted for by differences in socialisation. Yes, you can do fMRI brain scans and find sex differences (sometimes, maybe); but the brain changes with social experience. We usually call that 'learning'.

Therefore, when we hear "Yes, but men and women are biologically different", we are primed to hear a reductive argument about women's social roles: that the gender pay gap, lack of women in STEM subjects, or poor uptake of shared parental leave are caused by innate biological differences that cause women to be weaker and less able. And there are a depressingly large number of right-wing columnists and researchers who still make these arguments.

(And, to be fair, there is a fuzzy gray area in the middle. Physically, women are on average smaller, weaker and slower than men. That's why we have sex categories for sport. That means we may never achieve 50% sex-parity in specific professions where speed or strength matter a lot. And teasing out the different strands of influence on gendered behaviour is hugely complex. When you get into the weeds of various scientific studies, everything gets messy and unclear and shaped by the biases of the researchers themselves. Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender is really comprehensive on all this).

That makes it harder to get the point across: Yes, gender roles are socially constructed; no, we don't have to conform to them; yes, we can attract social censure when we don't; yes the way we see ourselves (our gender identity?) is influenced by our socialisation and includes elements of gendered preferences.

But that doesn't mean that biological sex doesn't exist. Or that we can reason it away with deconstructionist obfuscation. Women get pregnant. We menstruate. That matters. Having a woman's body makes some men feel entitled to use us for sex; to abuse us and rape us. Because we are women, we are socialised to put others' needs before our own. That matters too.

We took for granted the assumption that people know that biological sex exists. It didn't need saying, because it was obvious. And most liberal feminists still assume that focusing on biology is repressive and sexist.

Gradually, the "no sex, only gender" arguments have become more prominent. They use lots of the same vocabulary as liberal feminism; so feel like a natural progression of the "not defined by biology" argument. But it's not. And it's quite scary how hard it is to get this across without being silenced by people you thought were your friends.

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OvaHere · 13/08/2020 20:19

Great post @InvisibleDragon

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merrymouse · 13/08/2020 20:37

Very much agree invisibledragon.

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SenselessUbiquity · 13/08/2020 20:41

@LajesticVantrashell

(Reposting with an amended thread !!)

I’ll admit, I’m still hanging around in the margins regards feminism and everything that entails. I consider myself a feminist, and have been trying to educate myself on key areas more recently.

I took an interest in the Maya case last year, and have often ducked into the FWR threads when they appeared on the active list. Lockdown and JKR, and now the slow emergence of others who are questioning the slavish adherence to TWAW have led me to this place. I’ve signed up. You can’t identify out of your biology.

But what I can’t get my head around is what it actually means to be gender critical. Because to me, it’s simple, but any kind of Googling takes me down a rabbit hole that leaves me scratching my head. So am I right in thinking…

1.       Gender critical means we are literally critical of gender, because for women, the social construct of gender is what oppresses us, keeps us a secondary sex, ensures we’re not as well paid and that we don’t have the same level of opportunities as men (amongst many other things, obviously)

2.       Trans/Non-binary don’t agree with this because they rely on gender as a means of an identity if they choose not to align themselves with their biological sex. So while we’d rather see the world as the ‘binary’ of male and female sex (but with no assertion of how you should act if you’re either of those sexes) they see their themselves on a spectrum of gender identities which are fluid and interchangeable. They see ‘sex’ as a rigid box of oppression that dictates they must act a certain way, whereas we’re saying it’s actually gender that creates this oppression by asserting (through societal norms) that if you’re a woman you must wear heels and make-up and if you’re a man you must drink beer and not cry.
 
Now I know they are the extreme examples, but I just don’t understand why trans/non binary people are critical of the gender critical movement? Because if gender didn’t exist, there would be no societal construct to rail against, therefore negating the need for all 51 of the current list of gender identities to exist? Meaning men could wear dresses if they chose and women could shave their heads if they chose without needing to label it as something ‘different’?

Am I missing something?

(like I said, I’m still on a journey of discovery here so go easy on me!)

I think this is a great summing up, but from the TRA perspective there is something missing. i am going to put it in for the sake of completeness.

The missing thing is "gender identity". Which is innate, and known to each individual. It is equivalent to sex, in that it is not simply driven by stereotypes, but exists prior to the stereotypes.

So - while I would say that a little girl who knows her sex is driven to want girl-coded things (which could be entirely different things in another society, but she wants to know in our society that she knows she fits in if she plays dress up with princess dresses, etc);

The TRA, or the believer in gender identity, would say that a child who has the gender identity of "girl", regardless of sex, will be driven to want girl-coded things (which could be entirely different things in another society, but she wants to know in our society that she knows she fits in if she plays dress up with princess dresses, etc).

So gender identity stands in directly for sex as an objective fact which relates to the individual. This is something else, something other than "society's gender norms" etc.

My personal position is:
  • I believe in sex as an objective reality, which is just the case, and value neutral
  • I believe in society's gender norms as objective reality (though changeable) and far from value neutral (very dangerous and oppressive)
  • I have no evidence for the existence of gender identity as I don't think I have one myself and I have never "seen" someone else's. BUT I really don't feel qualified to say there is no such thing. I honestly think that some people are so passionately convinced that they are a certain gender that it kind of is a reality, even though there are more of these people than ever before and there is no way that this can really truly be independent of society.


HOWEVER I will get very pissed off if someone insists that I must have a gender identity which is unproblematic to me, so I don't realise it. I just don't. Gender is a HUGE problem to me, in practical terms, and I have never felt "like a girl". I don't feel that I am the wrong sex, at all. But gender is alien to me. It is something external that has definitely been imposed on me.
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SenselessUbiquity · 13/08/2020 20:42

Sorry. Typo. the two middle paras should read

So - while I would say that a little girl who knows her sex is driven to want girl-coded things (which could be entirely different things in another society, but she wants to show in our society that she knows she fits in if she plays dress up with princess dresses, etc);

The TRA, or the believer in gender identity, would say that a child who has the gender identity of "girl", regardless of sex, will be driven to want girl-coded things (which could be entirely different things in another society, but she wants to show in our society that she knows she fits in if she plays dress up with princess dresses, etc).

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twoHopes · 13/08/2020 22:10

@InvisibleDragon yes that was a great post.

I was amazed last week that the friend mentioned upthread really didn't understand that saying "men tend to be stronger than women" isn't the same as saying "men like football, women like shopping". He saw them both as "gender stereotyping" and became very uncomfortable when I started talking about testosterone/muscle mass etc. Almost as if I was being horribly sexist by even mentioning it.

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ContentiousOne · 13/08/2020 22:40

To believe that women and girls should not have their lives unfairly restricted by the imposition of stereotypes linked to their sex.

And to see men and boys as also impacted, though in different ways, by stereotypes linked to their sex.

To view gender - the accepted term for these sex stereotypes - as largely imposed by culture, rather than innate.

(Where I personally differ from some others is that I think there are some sex-linked behaviours, often around mating and child-bearing, that are innate in that they serve evolutionary purposes. I see these as distinct from gender, or sex-stereotypes).

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