Flat White

Stop saying, ‘Where are the feminists?’

24 March 2022

9:00 AM

24 March 2022

9:00 AM

While Lia Thomas was showing us how gender identity ideology destroys women’s sport at the NCAA swimming championships, a group of dissident women were busy in the stands.

During the meet, Beth Stelzer from Save Women’s Sports can be seen hanging a banner over the NCAA sign. The banner reads, ‘Save Women’s Sport’s, Woman = Adult Human Female.’

Kellie-Jay Keen from Standing for Women, is in the stands calling out, ‘He’s a man!’ In a video that went viral. Keen is challenged by a man insisting that she can’t say that Thomas is a man because she is not a biologist, she reverts, ‘I am not a vet, but I know what a dog is.’

The committed group of women, who have long been engaged in a determined fight against the erasure of women with gender identity ideology, are putting their own money into activism and court cases against massive government and capital-backed organisations. Not just in activism and legal challenges, but in the perfection of arguments of persuasion, of constant online debates, and in writing and talking to largely clueless politicians of all persuasions.

This week feminists in my ‘camp’ have been watching the tribunal hearing of Maya Forstater against her former employer. Forstater has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to defend herself after being ‘cancelled’ for her gender-critical beliefs. She has been responsible, with the support of feminists including JK Rowling and gender-critical men, for establishing in British law the belief that ‘biological sex is real, important, immutable and not to be conflated with gender identity’ is a legitimate one.

Those of us who have been watching the tribunal online or via live tweets do so because we are interested in the way the expensive barrister is presenting logical and well-toned arguments to the managers of the company and particularly the head of the company’s HR department. People facing this gender nonsense are not just athletes in the pool, but ordinary women and men who are being coerced into burying their instinct in the workplace, sharing their bathrooms with the opposite sex, and awkwardly declaring obvious pronouns.

Feminists in the growing grassroots ‘reactionary’ movement are being cancelled, fired, arrested, and physically assaulted with little reporting from the mainstream media and unbearable condescension from conservatives.

Only just noticing that gender-critical feminists exist, Ami Horowitz has portrayed the hard work and resistance of these feminists as a type of cat-fight within feminism. In a typical type of infantilising of women’s political activism, Horowitz on Outsiders and Sky News Australia said that gender-critical, left-leaning feminists are welcome to come over to the conservative side, ‘The water is great!’ he claimed. 

Horowitz claims that left-leaning feminists, like me, are in conflict with our political heritage and are starting to ‘speaking in almost conservative ideals’. This is the exact opposite of what is happening. The conservatives are finally noticing the success of the gender-critical and radical feminists’ arguments and are starting to adopt the arguments themselves.

A few months ago, videos were circulating of conservative Daily Wire commentator Matt Walsh on the Dr Phil show talking about the definition of ‘woman’. His performance was very good, but what struck me was that Matt Walsh, the famous anti-feminist and Christian conservative, was no longer using ‘gender conservative’ arguments, but ‘gender-critical’ and radical feminist arguments.

The Daily Wire posted the video with the title Matt Walsh DISMANTLES Leftist Gender Theory On Dr. Phil. The arguments he used were a less sophisticated version of those outlined by Helen Joyce in her best-selling book Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality. The book and the broader gender-critical feminist argument demonstrates that without the stereotypes that both conservatives and leftists are fond of, the gender identity argument folds like a cheap suit.

Matt Walsh accused the trans activists of turning ‘womanhood into a costume that can be worn’. This is a standard radical feminist critique of the Judith Butler influenced third-wave feminist position. The activists on the Dr Phil show, kept trying to drag Walsh into a gender conservative argument, but he sticks to his guns and keeps going back to the definition of a woman as an ‘adult human female’ and the standard gender-critical question of ‘what is a woman?’

I had hoped the Dr Phil show was a turning point, and a move away from the right infantilising women who engage in political activism primarily for the sex-based rights of women, or what we used to call feminism.

But Horowitz’s comments led me to search Walsh stance on feminism in the tweets. I found that just this week, Alissa Walsh, Matt’s wife, tweeted in regard to the most recent Lia Thomas win, the classic conservative cry, ‘Where are the feminists?’ Alissa Walsh’s tweet is a perfect example of why the right have been on a never-ending losing streak in the gender wars. Mrs Walsh asks why the feminists aren’t ‘having vagina protests and parades?’ and claims that ‘transgenderism is a mockery of the beauty and truth of a woman’.

The gender-critical argument doesn’t engage in gender stereotypes of ‘beauty and truth’ nor does it engage directly with ‘trangenderism’ as an enemy. We emphasise the importance of sex over gender, that the truth of woman is in her sex, chromosomes and reproductive role. We attack gender identity ideology as a religious or ideological belief that should stay separate from the secular state.

The practiced gender-critical arguments are a combination of radical feminist’s class-based analysis, establishing female as both a biological and a political sex class, and traditional left-wing critique of the bourgeois cultural hegemony. Tucker Carlson himself regularly points out that identity politics is an elite, not a working-class pursuit. The use of classed based analysis by the king of conservatism, doesn’t make the arguments conservative, it just means we seem to be finding a central meeting space between left and right that is a renewed attempt at the free marketplace of ideas. Across debates we are seeing a shift in the field of political discourse from left-right camps to those of liberty versus authoritarianism.

Gender-critical feminist argue for a secular state free of ideology and the sex-based oppression of the gender stereotypes embedded in both conservatism and gender identity ideology.

What has attracted me and many other middle-aged women to the new wave of grassroots feminism, is that it is closer to the second wave of feminism. Second wave feminism, like conservatism is critical of prostitution, pornography, and surrogacy. Second wave feminists also calls out the exploitation of women across race and religious boundaries, something intersectional feminists are loathe to do.

Gender-critical feminists believe that the ‘third wave’ of feminism has seen a hijacking, or more accurately, a purchasing, of the women’s revolution through financial investment in gender studies and the funding of gender-based, rather than sex-based government policy. Third wave academic based feminism has been remarkably successful only in removing the focus of the bodily needs of women as a population. Women are expensive to maintain, in terms of childcare and workplace participation, so the erasure of women as a sex has been the most effective pushback by government against the demands of women since the women’s revolution began.

To join with us, conservatives are going have to accept that feminism is here to stay, but there are some great things about the new wave of grassroots feminism that you may like. For a start, we don’t accept men as feminists, so that’s a relief if you’ve ever met a male feminist. To clear up confusion, all lesbians are female, all gay men are men, men can perform whatever gender they like, but not in women’s bathrooms. Trans-identified men and women have every right to the sporting category of their sex and sex-based infrastructure that assigns with their sex. We are prepared to talk about solutions for those who struggle with sex-based facilities because of identity issues, but one of those solutions is not to hand over women’s privacy, dignity, safety, and sport.

My main warning for conservatives coming over to the gender-critical feminist perspective is that you have to say ‘sex’ an awful lot more. We have to fight this gender authoritarianism in the field of sex, in law, in the secular state, and in what used to be classic liberal principles. I hope it is not too much to ask when the elite feminists are such unbearable hypocrites, but for the love of God, if you are a conservative reading this, please stop asking where the feminists are, it’s just cruel at this point, particularly when we put everything on the line to speak out.

Edie Wyatt has a BA Hons from the Institute of Cultural Policy Studies and writes on culture, politics and feminism. She tweets at @MsEdieWyatt and blogs at ediewyatt.com

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