As a gender critical feminist, I have seen my views misrepresented on social media and elsewhere. So here, I explain my views. By ‘gender critical’, I mean that I believe that men and women are defined by their sex, not by culturally constructed gender norms. You can’t change sex – biologically, that is impossible.
I believe that UK law should remain as it is, with sex a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act, against the claim of some trans activists that people should be able to define themselves as men or as women simply by describing themselves as such. I have reached this view for three evidence-based reasons:
- We need women-only spaces. History shows that women are more likely to experience violence at the hands of natal born males.
- We need to be able to collect robust data on sex-based participation in education and employment (for example). Historically and today, women have experienced, and continue to experience, lower rates of pay and poorer job opportunities than men. In many parts of the world they have lower levels of education. We need to be able to measure this, identify the reasons for it, and hopefully remedy the sex discrimination it testifies to.
- The notion that people can ‘feel’ like a woman or like a man is highly socially conservative, implying as it does that being a woman rests on dressing or behaving in a ‘feminine’ way. Being a woman rests both on certain biological facts and on the experience of living in the world as a woman, from birth, an experience that is shaped by particular kinds of oppressions. A movement that claims to be advocating a liberating kind of ‘fluidity’ is in fact reinforcing and promoting highly conservative gendered stereotypes. The claim that some people ‘naturally’ feel feminine is ahistorical, since it overlooks that what is understood as ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ has changed over time.
I call on other feminist academics to speak out on women’s rights, and on all academics, regardless of their views, to stand up for evidence-based debate.
I am a strong supporter of Woman’s Place UK