Two days ago, on February 6th Jo Phoenix posted a Twitter thread in response to our discussion on #AntiSocial Radio 4 (Friday, February 3rd). This blog is in reply to Jo’s thread which is shown in italics below and indented. My reply is in standard format.
You asked about points of agreement. Here is our point of disagreement. Women’s oppression, male privilege is structural. Women’s inequalities are not cultural. One can no more opt in or out of privilege where that privilege is conferred by social structure.
This is the difference between you and me. I and others have been trained and/or have a theoretical position. Not being insulting. My training (BSc, MSc, PhD) is about how to produce knowledge (not opinion) and to understand underlying structures that produce n shape the world.
Whilst you may feel that as an individual you can turn your back on male privilege, you will not have had the lifetime socialisation and social shaping of being female in a society structured by sex based inequalities. Privilege and social structure inequalities are fundamentally different. One can no more opt out of racism than one can opt out of one’s class – and vice versa. These are group based concepts. Not states of mind.
Which is not to say that one cannot be an ally. But, respectfully and kindly, I would suggest that telling feminists and professionals, such as myself, that our fear of male violence and of male abuse of self id is “rubbish” as you did here on Twitter when I criticised Angela Raynor’s tosh statement on LBC radio, is not good allyship.
I fully understand your point, and I agree that we live in a patriarchal world where women are badly and very wrongly oppressed. I agree that in general you are correct. However, to apply that scenario to every male-born person is not necessarily fair.
I was born into an impoverished family, with no bathroom, no inside toilet, no heating. As a child, I missed over a year of schooling because of illness, so no chance of grammar school – I was sentenced by society to a secondary school which in the seventies was structured to lead to an apprenticeship. Because of my feminity, this led to a career in hairdressing, always working with women (and the odd gay guy). Looking at the first thirty years of my life, I was not privileged at all; indeed, I am sure some (but not all) born females were far more privileged than myself. In my early thirties, I re-trained and again worked with women, this time in pregnancy and childcare. So I deny, and I quote “you will not have had the lifetime socialisation and social shaping of being female in a society structured by sex based inequalities” because in reality, I was in the female mix from an early age.
Turning to your point, and I quote: “our fear of male violence” I regret to inform you I wear the T-shirt. As a young child, I was severely sexually assaulted by a man while on holiday with my grandmother. Location? By the rocks close to the lighthouse in Douglas Isle of Man. It took FIFTY YEARS before I could even talk about this event, feeling guilty, ashamed and frankly dirty. Further, I will hate that bastard (who ever he was) for the rest of my life. Oh, and let’s also mention the day I was walking down a street, and this guy headbutted me (while wearing a crash helmet). Trans women, like natal females, are hunted by males either because we pass as women or because we are trans, so in reality, we feel the fear too, actually worse!
You go on to mention “Self-ID”. My campaign for GRA reformGRA Reform Gender Recognition Reform Bill - Scotland https://www.gov.scot/news/gender-recognition-reform-bill/ Published 03 March 2022 09:34 Part of Equality and rights Simplifying how trans people apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. See Also https://mermaidsuk.org.uk/mermaids-manifesto-for-gra-reform/ https://www.stonewall.org.uk/what-does-uk-government-announcement-gender-recognition-act-mean is well documented, I reject any law which fails 98% of a marginalised community. For me, it’s a matter of natural justice. I do not accept the validity of the gender-critical campaign, which deliberately conflates the Equality Act with the GRA.
Nor was the fiasco that was the protest outside Portsmouth FiLia. (You know to what I am referring). It is not hard to empathise for women in prison. The stats n evidence base is overwhelming. What is harder is knowing how to square the circles.
I attended the FiLia event because they objected to GRA reform. I talked to attendees and handed out leaflets about why the GRA should be reformed. I am not responsible for other people’s actions which I condemn. When I learnt what happened, I texted Lisa-Marie (yes, we have each other’s phone numbers) and told her exactly that.
In regards to women in prison, frankly, I am uncertain why you feel “What is harder is knowing how to square the circles”. Perhaps one day you will explain that to me further, but maybe we could all start by joining together in the campaign not to put pregnant women in prison. As the Women’s Officer at Portsmouth Labour, I am very proud that I got a motion passed (unanimously, I would add) to this effect last year.
It is now clear that the age of self-id in prisons is coming to an end. Prisons are not like anywhere else and we do not have any risk assessments that are robust because we do not have any evidence from which to make those assessments.
We have no reason to assume that gender identity overrides male sex based patterns where violent offending is concerned – the evidence, such as it is, indicates otherwise and so, attention needs to shift away from ‘real’ and ‘fake’ trans to what we do to secure safety for trans women in the male estate.
You will not be surprised to learn we disagree on this issue. I believe the policies of both the Scottish and E & W Prison Services are broadly correct. However, because of gender-critical campaigns and governmental interference, I fear E & W has now gone too far. In my opinion, this will lead to numerous sexual assaults of trans women in the male estate and (as in 2015 – 2017) suicides. Don’t be surprised when I turn around in the months and/or years ahead and say, “I told you so”.
And what we can do to radically reduce imprisonment *esp* for women. We need serious discussion of penal reform and we need to stop avoiding the realities of male violence including that subcategory of it that includes males who identify as women – authentic or not. Sloganeering makes for terrible law and dangerous prison policy.
You started your thread saying, “You asked about points of agreement. Here is our point of disagreement. So why would I not agree to this? I agree with this statement 100%. It’s common sense. Finally, can I say this to Jo, whom I have the greatest admiration for in regards to her calm manner and decorum.
Jo: several tra’s (the nicer ones) were impressed with what you said and how you said it, in particular when you directly asked my opinion. That small (perhaps unknowing) gesture was very well received, thank you for that, it means a lot.
So, I don’t mean to be mean but can I also mention that you have 16,000 followers and (at the time of writing) your tweet had been re-tweeted 34 times, but you only have 107 likes. I am not sure how you (who are far more intelligent than I) would read that, but my interpretation is many people respected what we said in good faith and can understand the problems on both sides of the discussion.