Feminism 2020 was held in Wellington and Auckland last month. The headline speaker was Canadian journalist and activist Meghan Murphy. This is the text of her Wellington speech. She argues that much of the left has abandoned a class-based politics for 'virtue signalling and a call-out culture'. She says it ignores working class issues and 'addressing corporate power and the vast and inhumane gap between rich and poor.'
FOR A LONG TIME, I insisted ‘feminism’ meant something. That one could not go around calling themselves ‘feminist’ while advocating decidedly ‘unfeminist’ ideas and practices: prostitution as empowering for women; violent sex as liberatory, also potentially empowering for women who ‘choose’ to be choked in bed or perform other pornographic fantasies for their partners, reinforcing and normalizing the notion that women enjoy and are turned on by abuse; self-objectification as a harmless thing, not at all tied to the fact women learn their sexual desirability and fuckability is their primary value in society, and what makes them relevant and worthy of attention; and, of course, the concept of ‘gender identity’ — that is, the idea that what makes a woman is her (or, apparently, ‘his’) identification with the stereotypes attached to ‘femininity’. Modern ‘feminism’ seems to be the very opposite of what women fought for all these decades… A complete reversal. We no longer need rights — those are for bourgeois ‘white feminists’ — we must embrace sexist gender stereotypes as innate and an expression of our ‘true selves’; and commodifying and objectifying our bodies is the way for women to gain status and respect in society. And because, according to modern identity politics, anything anyone experiences, feels, or claims must be accepted and taken at face value, none of this can be challenged, as critical thought now equates to ‘shaming’, ‘phobia’, or ‘literal violence’.
And it’s not just feminism that’s been affected. The left itself has lost sight of its goals and foundations as well, and instead of being focused on uplifting and empowering the working class and addressing corporate power and the vast and inhumane gap between rich and poor, it has, in the West, at least, turned it’s focus to virtue signalling and callout culture —to ensuring that one’s Twitter followers and Facebook friends are convinced of one’s virtue and political purity, and that we purge those who fail to toe the modern party line from our midst. These self identified leftists frame themselves as courageous and radical for defending their cult from independent thinkers, but they are anything but. Rather than stand up for truth; free speech; respectful, civil debate; and against violence, threats, abuse, and harassment; they aim only to protect their social circles, political positions, or jobs in various unions, political parties, institutions or NGOs above all else. They fear others just like them, perpetuating a cycle that ensures no one can escape — that no one can tell the truth or ask questions that might challenge accepted mantras.
And, indeed, the left and much of feminism has replaced critical thought and a quest for the truth with mantras.
One of the signs of a cult is that there is a process of indoctrination or education that manifests itself as coercive persuasion or thought reform — also known as "brainwashing".
The culmination of this process is that group members no longer act in their own best interest, but in the best interest of the group or its leader. And while of course I do believe that, as members of a society, we should be acting in the interests of the whole, not only of ourselves, it seems clear that in particular contexts, this is harmful. Especially as women have begun to advocate against themselves, and against their own interests, as the result of this ‘brainwashing process’, wherein a few men’s feelings and desires are prioritized over all women’s safety and rights.
I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but the whole thing really does creep me out, and I see the comparison to cultishness as apt, and also as disturbing. And I think we need to make sure that, while we criticize trans activism for this behaviour, we also be careful not to replicate it ourselves, in feminism, and in other political movements, as well as in our lives, generally. It’s easy to point the finger elsewhere, rather than to look critically at ourselves.
What seems clear to me is that we, as a society, hate those who tell the truth.
Unfortunately, I’m a fan of telling the truth, which is, apparently, why I am protested and smeared and threatened so much by supposed progressives and supposed feminists.
No matter how clear I am, the smears are endless: A couple of weeks ago, The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s most prominent mainstream papers, printed that I “target sex workers,” that I am known for 'diatribes against trans people,' and that I have 'referred to trans women’s genitalia with rude slang'. None of this is true. Not in the slightest, not by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, when I contacted them to pitch an op-ed, speaking for myself, explaining my own perspective, noting I should, at very least, be allowed the right to reply when a publication prints overt libel about me, the opinion editor suggested I try to publish in the ‘letters’ section, as though it is reasonable to relegate me to 200 words or less to defend myself and women’s rights, in response to thousands of words insulting and lying about me.
That I wouldn’t be allowed the space to articulate what so many women are desperately trying to get across, with regard to gender identity legislation and its impact on women and girls, in a paper I have written for in the past, is insulting and unacceptable. It’s not as though I’m some unknown writer to them. (This has been the standard in Canadian media and it is shameful — they are more than willing to smear and vilify me, but won’t let me speak for myself.)
So, seeing as Canadian media continues to refuses to do their jobs, and cover this debate fairly, or represent me accurately, I will do it here.
Some things I like to make clear, when talking about the issue of gender identity:
When I say “sex,” I’m referring to biology — whether an individual is male or female. I define a “man” as an adult male human, and a “woman” as an adult female human.
When I say “gender,” what I mean is the stereotypes and social roles imposed on males and females, based on their sex. This is what I mean when I talk about ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ —the ideas we hold in our society about what women and men should be — what social norms we are expected to adhere to, how we should dress, how we should act, what we should like, what kinds of jobs we should have, what our personality traits should consist of, etc
When I say ‘trans activist’ I’m not specifically or necessarily talking about trans identified people, I’m talking about any person who promotes and supports gender identity ideology and legislation.
When I say ‘gender identity ideology’ (or ‘transgender ideology), I’m referring to the idea that it’s possible for a person to be ‘born in the wrong body’ or that it’s possible for a person to change sex.
When I talk about ‘gender identity legislation’ I’m referring to legislation and policies that allow people to self identify as any sex they like, and to access facilities, spaces, political positions, shelters, jobs, grants, universities, sports competitions, etc on that basis.
I am not ‘anti-trans people’— I am pro-reality. I am pro women’s safety. I am anti- an ideology that insists women don’t exist and don’t matter.
I am also not a biological essentialist. Biological essentialism is the idea that an individual’s personality is an innate or natural ‘essence’ – and that this is attached to their sex. I believe that females and males can have all kinds of personalities. I believe boys and girls should be allowed to play with whichever toys they like and wear whatever clothes they like, regardless of whether or not those clothes and toys are designated for ‘girls’ or for ‘boys’. I do not believe all females are inherently passive, irrational, emotional, and drawn to makeup and stilettos. I do not believe that all males are inherently unemotional, unempathetic, and aggressive, and drawn to sports and trucks. I want people to be themselves and be free to live their lives in ways that feel fulfilling and authentic to them. I don’t believe any person should be discriminated against or harassed because they step outside the gender stereotypes laid out for us and enforced on us in so many ways. As a feminist, I think we should encourage people to step out of those stereotypes.
I have not, as the media has reported, said trans people should not have rights or that they are dangerous. I have not suggested “trans people” be excluded from spaces. I am actually really not very interested in whether or not people identify as trans, it has no bearing on my arguments. Transgenderism means nothing to me — it’s too vague a concept to base policy or rights on. As per gender identity ideology itself, trans only exists through self declaration and cannot be measured or determined by any outside party. I have no idea how we can even have a conversation about something that is undefinable, never mind create legislation surrounding that idea, but here we are.
I am not interested in ‘trans identity’, I am only interested in who is male and who is female. And I don’t believe males should have access spaces wherein women and girls are vulnerable, regardless of whether or not those males identify as trans. I’m also not interested in keeping females who identify as trans out of any spaces. That is to say, the ‘transphobia’ accusation is a complete and intentional misnomer. It is a way to pretend we’re not talking about what we are talking about.
I also have not, as so many have claimed, wished violence on anyone. I have never encouraged violence. I oppose all violence. I have never engaged in hate speech. I do hate, though, that I have to say this. That I continue to have to defend myself against completely insane lies.
I have never said that ‘transwomen are not real women’. I don’t use the term ‘real women’. There is no such thing as a ‘real woman’ and a ‘not real woman’. You either are a woman or you are not. It’s not complicated. What I have said is that males who identify as trans are male. This is not a judgement or an insult, it is simply a material reality — a biological reality. If you are born male, you remain male for life. Everyone knows this. This is not a belief or an opinion, it is a fact. Also, to be clear: This does not — or should not — preclude males from wearing clothing designated for women, wearing makeup, growing their hair long, or even getting cosmetic surgery though(I personally believe cosmetic surgeries are serious and should be considered very carefully and analyzed within the context of a culture that demands women be sexually desirable and pleasing to the male gaze above all else, but nonetheless, I’m not in the business of trying to ban people from spending tens of thousands of dollars going under the knife in a fruitless pursuit of the ‘perfect body’, if that’s what they desire).
Being male should also not preclude you from pushing back against the sexist stereotypes attached to masculinity — as a feminist, I fully support people pushing back against such stereotypes.
I have not said that “that trans women shouldn’t be allowed to compete in sporting events against non-trans women.”
What I have said is that female athletes should not be made to compete with or against male athletes. This is because female bodies are different than male bodies.
Males are generally bigger than females. They have more muscle mass, longer limbs, bigger bones, bigger organs, and are, on average, taller. Their pelvises, spines, and feet are different. They move their bodies differently. . This all has a notable impact on athletic ability, among many other things. This is why men and women compete separately in sport. Even if a male athlete reduces his testosterone, it doesn’t undo puberty, nor does it alter their body in significant enough a way to rid them of the advantage they have over women, physically.
THE MERE FACT that mainstream Canadian media is now referring to women as “non-trans” should reveal exactly how regressive this ideology is. Historically, women have been positioned as lesser versions of men, and as existing in comparison to men — men being the norm. Even today, the world continues to be built to male standards, as they remain the assumed ‘norm’, and women the ‘other.’ This means that office temperatures are set for male bodies, which explains why you’ll see women wearing sweaters in the office in the middle of July. Women are more likely to be injured or to die in car crashes, because cars are built for male bodies. Women die from heart attacks more often than men, because heart attack symptoms show up in different ways for women, and we assume the universal symptoms of heart attacks are those experienced by males. This list goes on and on.
Yet today, in 2019, the trans movement has determined there are not women and men, but males and ‘non-males’, essentially defining women right out of the picture. I guess the future isn’t so feminist after all…
In fact, the entire language of the oh so progressive trans activist movement has taken up the erasure of women in order to accommodate a tiny minority of people who would like us all to pretend that material reality doesn’t exist. We are no longer women, but ‘cis women’, which means, supposedly, we are women who ‘identify with the gender assigned to us at birth’.
This is insulting. I am not a woman because I identify with femininity. I do not identify with the stereotypes imposed on me in a patriarchal society. I am not passive, irrational, or over emotional. I am not a woman because I wear makeup or high heels. My long hair doesn’t make me a woman. If I were dressed in a suit, with a shaved my head and makeupless, I’d STILL be a woman.
I did not emerge from the womb in a skirt. at no point in my life have I identified with every single stereotype associated with ‘my gender.’ I did not, as a child, prefer dresses to pants or dolls to trucks. In fact, I very much wanted to be ‘like the boys’ when I was little, refusing all things pink and choosing the boys black ballet uniform over the girls’, for the brief period I suffered through ballet. While surely there are plenty of ‘feminine’ stereotypes that do apply to me, I am not at all ‘binary’, when it comes to gender. I’m far more complex than that, as we all are. And YET, despite my multitude of personality traits and likes and dislikes that do and not fit within the ‘gender binary,’ I am still female. And there is absolutely nothing I can do about that.
Labelling women ‘cis’ defines us based on only gender stereotypes — something feminists have been fighting since the getgo.
What is incredibly ironic about this debate — and the way feminists who challenge transgender ideology are positioned — is that feminists are the ones who have always argued against the ‘gender binary.’ We want people to be free to be themselves and not to feel pressured to adopt masculine or feminine stereotypes. Yet we are the ones, in this debate, accused of being ‘conservative’ or ‘regressive’ or not allowing people to be who they ‘really are’. This, coming from people who say that any boy who loves frilly pink dresses cannot possibly just be a boy who loves frilly pink dresses, but must really be a girl; and that a girl who does not want to wear dresses or be sexualized must actually be a boy.
I was protested by about 500 people last month when speaking about all this at the Toronto Public Library. I had to be escorted to the venue by bodyguards and there was a massive police presence to protect myself and attendees. Those protesters hurled insults at the attendees — who were primarily women — as they left the event: fuck you terf bitch, being a popular one. They chanted ‘shame’ at these people, who simply wanted to have a conversation about policies and legislation that have a massive impact on half of the population.
|Meghan speaking at Feminism 2020 in Wellington|
At our recent event in Vancouver looking at the issue of media bias in the gender identity debate, protesters showed up with a cardboard guillotine with the words ‘terfs, swerfs, step right up’ written on it. I and other women like me are being threatened with violence and death simply for speaking about entirely reasonable concerns like, for example, men being transferred to female prisons, and assaulting and harassing female inmates in those prisons. And leftists are not just doing nothing, but they are encouraging it. They are encouraging it by pretending we are the dangerous, violent, bigoted, fascist ones. When the reality is that the opposite is true.
Bigotry means “Intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.”
Bigotry is ‘an obstinate or intolerant devotion to one's own opinions and prejudices.’ It is someone who ‘ regards or treats members of a group with hatred and intolerance.’
Facism is characterized, generally, by dictatorial power and forcible suppression of opposition.
Hitler proliferated lies about and dehumanized Jewish people in order to justify abuse and genocide. The Nazis used propaganda to spread antisemitism, quell dissent, and turn people against one another. German newspapers printed cartoons and ads depicting antisemitic images and messages, similar to those you might see online about so called ‘terfs’.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” was Hilter’s guiding mantra. He trusted that people wouldn’t think for themselves and would simply act out of fear or intellectual laziness, jumping on bandwagons without questioning their purpose and foundation. The Holocaust was successful because the public went along with it — because individuals believed the myths and lies proliferated by the Nazis — because they didn’t stand up, think critically, or push back.
I think it’s good to remember what facism actually is and who the bigots really are in this debate, as our detractors are engaged in a massive smear campaign, that endangers and dehumanizes women, and too many people are going along with it, without investigating for themselves. And that scares me.
Journalist and author Chris Hedges said, “I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.” And I implore you to take that same message to the fight against gender identity legislation and towards women’s rights. I, in fact, do think we can win. Easily.
If everyone who believed that what’s happening right now is wrong — that men should not be allowed access to women’s shelters, transition houses, and change rooms — that it is not possible to change sex EVER, never mind through announcement, that it is a lie to say that men can become pregnant and that a penis can be female — if all of those people spoke up, this fight would be over. Because the majority of us know and understand these basic facts, but are too afraid to say so.
I fight this fight because it is the right thing to do. Not because it is lucrative or personally beneficial to me. My life would be much easier if I said nothing. But I refuse to lie and I could not live with myself if I sat back and watched all that my foremothers fought for be destroyed within only a matter of years, because it was inconvenient for me to speak up.
I have lost friends. I do feel afraid. I feel stressed and hurt and angry at the way I have been treated by the media and by those I know around me, in my city, in my friend group. I worry about my ability to continue to make a living. I worry about violence. But I will not lie. And I will not remain silent in the face something I view as a threat to women and girls, but also in the face of nonsense. I will not say that 2 + 2 is five or that a man is a woman. This is a dangerous path to go down — the one where we do as we are told and repeat mantras dictated to us despite the fact they make no sense. We desperately need to think for ourselves and cling to our right to speak our minds and speak the truth. It matters in this fight, but it also matters outside this fight.
A society characterized by authoritarianism, the forcible suppression of opposition, propaganda, the demonization of dissidents, the practice of framing one's group as a victim in order to justify any behavior at all against the group's enemies, the idea that anything that impedes the project must be gotten rid of, often violently… These are all characteristics of a fascist society. And this is what I’m seeing being promoted by the trans activist movement (and by leftists, more broadly). It is wrong.
I want to conclude by quoting the great Magdalen Berns, who said, ‘you might be worried about your job or your friends, but your rights are more important than anything else.’ She was right. And the time to fight is now, before it’s too late.