Thursday, 29 July 2021

The Political Twisties

The term wokeism has been weaponised by the right and to understand why that is, we have to engage with the philosophical, social, psychological, and political reasons why the gender identity movement has taken off with such speed and power – largely in the anglophone world. 

Firstly, for those who would argue it is not a movement and nor does it have an ideology – it is, and it does. I am happy to explain why if anyone is interested but in the meantime I am indulging myself in a bit of social speculation.

This extraordinary social movement questions arguably the most deep rooted, ancient and universal of human understandings – not the multitude of kinship arrangements and gender-roles we wrap around sex, but the understanding of what it takes to perpetuate the species which, at its core, is biological and binary.

Given the universality and the complexities of what it challenges, and the implausibility and sheer nonsensicality of much of the evidence it uses to construct its theories and support its claims, the GI movement could easily become the focus of the sort of moral panic and witch hunt it seems intent upon creating in relation to so-called TERFs and “white feminists”.

There can be no doubt that gender identity theory and resulting praxis are being propelled by powerful social, political, commercial interests which undoubtedly see the phenomenon as far more of an opportunity than a threat. At present.

However, those drivers only have so much power because they tap into something very deep in the human psyche – I think at the species level, which is one that is as often obscured and denied as it is examined and embraced.

Post-modernism, which gave birth to gender identity theory and praxis, is arguably one of the most ideological of epistemologies – the more so because it claims not to be. The denial of "grand narratives" and the claim that there is no universal hierarchy of values etc, constitutes a system of ideas and beliefs (an ideology) which was aimed at, and has had the effect of undermining class-based theories and the great social and political movements associated with them.

In a deeply stratified world, post-modernism serves entrenched power. By undermining materialism, Marxism, and class-based, collectivist politics - it laid the foundation for the emergence of the hyper-individualism and extreme commodification of the neo-liberal era / digital age.

The thing with the destruction of collectives and of community, the undermining of widely accepted ethics and norms, and the rise of hyper-individualism, is that many people, young people especially, have ended up stranded on the island of the 'self'. 

This can lead to a profound sense of alienation – in the psychiatric sense of a loss of identity– because we can only make sense of our ‘self’ and the world, within physical collectives - or more properly, in a series of interconnected collectives.

We are profoundly social creatures – we instinctively clump and coalesce – and in the context of the loneliness and disconnectedness of extreme individualism and individualisation, the unceasing demands of aspirational culture, and the unrelenting, judgemental ‘gaze’ of (anti)social media – the need to be a part of something bigger than the hermitic, be-spoke, ‘self’, results in an almost hysterical release when a sense of wider community is established. 

'I am not alone. There are others on my island. I am more than just me, and I must signal my belongingness and protect my community from those who would destroy it or make me question it.'

Cue religiosity, dogmatism, the creation of absolutes, the drive to hunt and to punish heretics in what at times, approaches a fundamentalist frenzy. 

That of course, cuts both ways, and it is a mischief-maker’s paradise.

If you will forgive a segue into al flight of fancy, it often seems to me that the groups which now comprise the two polar extremes of the gender identity debate are – to borrow a quote from Dostoyevsky – like two enemies who are in love with each other. 

They hate each other with a passion but cannot envisage a world in which the other does not exist, for what validates them as a group is the existence of the enemy. But when a common hatred of an enemy is the only thing binding a group together, if you take away the object of hatred, the group has no basis for internal or external validation. 

Having no other shared purpose or belief, there is nothing to stop them flying apart and floating off into cyber space.... lost souls in search of another enemy to love to hate.

Who benefits from this polarisation? What other progressive movement has been embraced and elevated in this way, and with such speed?

For all the over-blown rhetoric about the far right and religious fundamentalists in alliance with the evil bitch-witch TERFs, what other movement representing the interests of a tiny minority, and which challenges such deeply entrenched beliefs, has gained so much governmental, corporate, institutional heft so quickly and with so little effort?

Can we explain that extraordinary progress and its astonishing degree of institutional and policy capture simply by reference to a critical mass of social progressivism?

And if there is such a critical mass, how then to explain what has been left behind in our aspirational, me-first world?

I've said it before and I'll keep saying it -– this issue is divisive. And who is being divided, distracted and diverted? Who are turning in on themselves, having declared largely socialist and radical feminists to be the greatest enemy of social progress ever?

On the one hand, cast as a tiny, insignificant bunch of lunatics who can be ignored because they are at odds with a broad consensus, and on the other, the most terrible enemy the progressive world has ever faced. Well, having already declared TERFs to be a tiny insignificant minority, to justify the hyperbolic reaction they have to be made the vanguard of the looming horror of a far-right backlash. 

I think too many of the neo-liberal left have the political version of the twisties. They’ve spun the narrative so much they’ve lost all sense of where they are in political space.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Latter Day Mccarthyism?

Created a powerful social contagion through the creation of the spectre of a highly stereotyped "enemy" said to exist both within and without.

Demonised and witch-hunted both political opponents and ordinary citizens.

Created a powerful culture of guilt by association. 

Demanded conformism via public loyalty statements and gestures from employees, especially in government.

Created a lexicon of slurs to further stereotype & demonise the "enemy".

Banned books, films, the content/authorship of which was deemed ideologically suspect.

Called for people to be arrested, sacked or not employed on the basis of their expressed or presumed political beliefs.

Told outright lies often and boldly enough, they came to be believed.

Friday, 2 July 2021

In Want Of Correction

 “It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a woman in possession of an opinion, must be in want of correction.”

-       Lynn Myers (with due acknowledgements to Miss Austen)

How should women respond to active and passive aggression from men who get over-excited at the prospect of being able to publicly insult women with impunity, by pretending to be trans allies? (1) 

Whatever a woman does, she must not use a threat of violence, for that is the province of men, and it is a fact that a threat or act of violence from a woman is often viewed as more pathological than worse threats and acts of violence, from men. 

Furthermore, one threat, even if it is meant as a joke, may be presented as being so SERIOUS, it shades out the great mass of threats which women are in receipt of daily – none more than so-called, TERFs.

I don't agree with Rachel Stewart on this, and I wish she'd stopped and thought about how it would play out before indulging herself in the creation of a tweet which pushed the boundaries on several different levels.  (2)

There’s the possibly criminal threat of a group of armed women in a ute, lamping a naked man.

There's the use of red-neck allusions – "gun-toting, whooping, hollering and drinking" –  no doubt intended to annoy the hell out of the urbanites. 

And then there's the table turning – in the form of a public humiliation of a man by a woman, and what’s more, a gender non-conforming lesbian.

The average chap can take a threat of violence from another chap, it might even make him feel manly, but let a woman draw a word picture in which, in his mind (and what he imagines will be in the mind of others), he is cast as a hapless, hunted victim, stripped naked of all his social armour – that woman becomes a threat. And not just to him, but to all men with fragile egos – especially those men who cynically or reflexively use being a 'trans ally' as a maimai in which to hide while taking pot-shots at gender heretics.

Stewart’s imagery cut deep, not because of a fear rooted in a long history of oppression – as it would be for women and people of colour - but because it mocked and humiliated. It symbolically emasculated. 

The resulting avalanche of “white left” (3) pietism buried the myriad tweets which exhort women to choke on cock, or which declare indescribably abhorrent desires such  as shitting in the urn containing the ashes of a woman’s stillborn baby. Threats of rape, beatings, kerb-stomping, torture, murder – are commonplace, and are forgiven by the “white left” because the authors are deemed to have been provoked, and/or because the women at whom this lahar of foulness is directed have been labelled as non-persons – fair game. 

Have all these members of the Anglophone “white left” seriously never stopped to think - even for a moment - what an absurd spectacle this level of hatred of “TERFs” actually is? That in the face of all that is threatening humanity, or even in the context of what faces us here in NZ, how ludicrous and infantile all that vitriol makes the Left look?

Let’s stack it up, shall we? On the one hand we have a group of women arguing that the privileging of a subjective notion of an individual gender identity over the biological reality of sex, will have implications for women’s sex-based rights. Mostly they just want a discussion, or at least they started out wanting that. (4) 

On the other hand, we have a raft of social problems, such as:

  • A per capita prison population among the highest in the OECD, and where the overwhelming majority of prisoners are poor.
  • 1 in every 2 men and almost 7 in every 10 women in prison are Māori; we imprison, per capita, more indigenous women than any other country.
  • We have thousands of homeless, and tens of thousands who live in substandard housing. 
  • There is a huge and growing wealth divide, and ethnic and class disparities in health and longevity.
  • We have an appalling rate of domestic violence.
  • There is a potential for the vicious bigotry which lurks just beneath the surface in some people, to gain confidence and focus on any one or on multiple targets - anti-Māori, anti-Chinese, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish, anti-left, anti-woman, anti-LGBT....

Yet – in the light of ALL that and way, way more – the “white left”, chooses the softest of targets –  women, who include:

  • Lesbians who will not compromise their lesbianism.
  • Wāhine who believe that the extreme individualism of gender identity politics is not what Māori should be fighting to retrieve from economic and cultural imperialism.
  • Old women who know way better than men (and sadly some younger women), what it means to be female.
  • Young women and left wing women who feel abandoned by the political class which should be at the forefront of protecting sex-based rights.

Some people whose prior attachment to left politics is tenuous – have used trans issues as a trampoline to propel themselves onto what they deem to be the peak of the moral high ground, from where they hurl the most absurd opprobrium at anyone they can label as TERFS.

They hyperbolically declare TERFs to be fascists, Nazi-adjacent, literal murderers of trans peopleevil bitches who provoke men to acts of violence against the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, (oh yes, the thirst to blame the Mother for the world’s ills has never been slaked) – and having driven some of those they’ve castigated into the opportunistic arms of the Right (or an uneasy alliance with it) the “white left” then piously declares its thesis proven. 

In the stupidest, most infantile expression of left sectarianism EVER – it has catapulted TERFs to the forefront of the ranks of the political ENEMY. This is lily-livered, bubble-headed, pretend-left politics, and it’s embarrassingly awful.


  1. An offender’s Opportunism Quotient can be determined by establishing when they: a) first realised transgenderism existed; and b) how much they have engaged with second wave feminism, politically or critically. In most cases, the answers are: a) no more than a couple of years ago, and b), zilch.
  2. In response to a tweet in which a man called GC women “grubs”, Stewart’s tweet resulted in her gun license being suspended, and having her guns & ammunition confiscated.
  3. I have borrowed the term "white left'" from the Chinese. Look it up.
  4. Attitudes have hardened and anyone who has been involved in the debate longer than a year will know who started flinging the hyperbolic rhetoric first. Hint, it wasn’t the adult human females.




Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Guilt By Association

I'm aware of a few people who used to follow me on Twitter – who I still follow –who’ve unfollowed me because they’ve been pressured into doing so by one or more of a gaggle of busy-bodies seemingly with nothing better to do in their lives but bustle around policing other people's social media accounts.

I was witness to one of these bizzies pressuring someone I’ve followed and who has followed me for several years, to unfollow/block me because I was said to be “a bit TERFy”. To her credit, she refused to do so but she did ask me if I was a TERF to which I replied honestly that I do not see myself as either trans exclusionary or a radical feminist, so if TERF is indeed just a neutral descriptor (NB. it's not) I am not one – but I do have issues with the current transgender orthodoxy – explicated at length in this blog. (1)

I could also have pointed out that my interest in the CTO is in relation to my wider interest in the role that identity politics, post-modern academic theory, hyper-individualism, the cult of celebrity, anti-communism, and transhumanism etc etc played/are playing in the genesis and perpetuation of wider neo-liberal ideology. 

If, in the arse-uppards’ politics and logic of some people, that makes me a TERF, I suspect it says way more about them than it does about me.


This sort of busy-bodying reached the heights (or is it depths) of absurdity in a scenario in which someone (A) was upset by seeing tweets written by a person who had caused them harm (B) appearing in their Twitter feed because a mutual follower (C) had liked a tweet B wrote. 


I find that algorithm irritating and tweets by people who have unfollowed me, and even the very few I have unfollowed, show up in my time line because a mutual liked, or retweeted them – but this aspect of the algorithm upset A so much she expressed her concerns, and some people who follow her leapt into action to unfollow C. One (D) took it upon herself to act as head girl, privately sending C’s user name to people, so they could unfollow / block him/her.


I know there are people with vulnerabilities on social media, and bullying, harassing behaviour affects them far worse than it does thick-skinned, old political campaigners like me – but surely the best thing A’s caring followers could have done would have been to help A find ways to take charge of the situation – not elbow in to increase their own kindness quotient.The worst thing, it seemed to me, was  what D did – try to organise a mass unfollow of C – behind his/her back. In other words, the only way D could envisage assisting or supporting A was to share C’s name privately so mutuals could unfollow / block him/her.


I don’t know or follow any of these people nor do I have a clue who they are, and ironically, the thread showed up on my timeline because of the offending algorithm. I am sure A is genuinely in need of support, but this was the worst kind of support - instead of presenting the range of ways A could control her own feed, the bizzies took charge and organised a ganging-up on a third party whose crime was to follow someone, and like some of their tweets. 

The implicit patronisation aside, it's also classic guilt by association. Not only is following a banned person deemed to be a crime, liking a tweet of a banned person is assumed to indicate support for every facet of that banned person’s being. 

I'm surely not alone in resenting being told by a bunch of bizzies, who to follow on social media. I follow people whose views I'm interested in. Most of those I follow, I respect – some I don't but I still want to have the right to see what they have to say. 


I continue to follow people who I know have unfollowed or muted me because of pressure from the bizzies. I understand there are some who are genuinely between a rock and a hard place and I give them a pass but others – especially those whose rocks and hard places are pretty much of their own manufacture or choosing, and/or who are well cushioned by class &/or skin privilege –  they get my disrespect. 

But all this is leading up to exposing another more recent and exceptionally nasty example of a Twitter bizzy at work.

A few weeks ago, a pseudonymous bizzy (X) slid into a thread to warn someone, (Y), that one of the people he was engaging with in a conversation was (gasp) a known TERF. 

Y thanked X for the info, claiming to have not known this woman – who was tagged into the conversation – was a TERF. He sought to wriggle off the guilt-by-association hook by claiming he does not engage much with trans issues because as a cisgender man, he does not feel he has the right, and that not many TERFs  follow him because the mere fact of being in his cyber-presence confronts them with being fascist-adjacent –  or weasel words to that effect.

X thanked Y for the clarification and said :

 "I assumed she was a known quantity – as 'allies' have been debating her for years for ...kicks(?) – she's avoided cancellation because her methodology is very much of the "I have reasonable concerns" strain but a search of her history speaks for itself." (My emphasis) 

X went on to say – and bear in mind, the woman was still tagged into the thread – that:

"she occupies a unique space in that she's defo a leftist, writes for XX, seemed fine, (we were mutuals) until that R Stewart column which spurred a fixation with the trans debate, encouraged by leftist 'ally' supporters also hellbent on debating trans rights."  (My redaction)

X then proceeded to list the names of lots of other people who

"have a history of putting their transphobic views online or consorting with/promoting those who do."

Now call me an old leftwing cynic but to me X would scream either, vexatious, passive-aggressive busy-body, or rightwing agent provocateur (the two are not mutually exclusive) –  but not Y who dumped on a left-wing woman without as much as missing a beat, without batting a misogynistic eyelid because - why? 

Is he just a coward? Or is he demonstrating that deep-rooted resentment of women which crosses boundaries of class, political affiliation, age, ethnicity etc and which the CTO gives license to let off the leash?

The two of them demonstrated a stunning arrogance and callousness not just by smearing a good woman's reputation, but by talking about her as if she was not there, as if, by having been declared to be a TERF by someone hiding behind a pseudonym – she became a non-person.

It seems to be par for X's course but what's Ys excuse?  

What is going on here, with all you self-proclaimed lefties most of whom never gave a damn or said a word about trans people up to a couple of years ago? How is it that suddenly, the transphobe test, largely devised and administered by anonymous social media trolls has become the litmus test of leftwing ideological purity?

Seems to me you are being played, sirs and mesdames. Royally.

1. Update: To her discredit, I have just realised she has blocked me. 


Sunday, 28 March 2021

I know a woman ....

I know this woman who's a long-standing trade union member and activist, and in every respect - bar one – is an embodiment of the zeitgeist of the progressive era - an out and proud, left-wing lesbian. 


But, she believes lesbians are same-sex attracted which, for some sufferers of over-active amygdala syndrome, makes her a transphobe. She is not - as anyone who actually engaged their higher brain functions - could work out.


She’s not a proponent of corporate / choice feminism, so some would call her a radical feminist. She expresses her genuinely held beliefs trenchantly but articulately and under her own name - unlike many of those who attack her - and the way some people respond to her and others like her, exemplifies the ludicrously divisive nature of the debates that swirl around aspects of gender identity theory and praxis. 


Henceforth to be known as The Whited Sepulchres  - a curiously disparate bunch, united more in their hatred of TERFs, than their demonstrated support of trans people – recently set about a group of older lesbians who had been banned from a Pride event in Wellington because of being labelled as TERFs.


For the Whited Sepulchres, trans is a state of being that is self-declared and sacrosanct, while TERFness is a state of being that is ascribed to anyone who deviates to any degree from the current trans orthodoxy. 


Whited Sepulchres act like people in the grip of a moral panic that has left them in a state of cognitive disequilibrium - inhabiting a sort of political and intellectual camera obscura, in which the image of the world is upside down and reversed.


Some Whited Sepulchres form themselves into gangs - gender identify lore enforcement and disciplinary squads (GILEADs) - and patrol social media to dispense their trademark brand of vigilante justice to any and all who are deemed to be TERFs. 


It’s infantile. 

There are lots of entrants in the Twitter Infantilism stakes - jockeying for position on my list of Most Annoying.


Top of the list are those left-ish (way more 'ish' than 'left' IME) blokes who, having been dealt a ‘get out of misogyny gaol free’ card, think it grants them license to behave like utter jerks.


They often hide behind pseudonyms and by playing the TERF card, they not only get to uncap their little well of unresolved resentment of all things female and let it spurt all over social media - they get plaudits for doing so.


(For those who are wondering, the allusion is entirely intended because for the most part, these blokes, especially the pseudonymous ones, come across as wankers.)


They seem to get a thrill out of calling women "cunts", or posting memes depicting acts of violence, or calling for acts of violence against TERFs - actions that are deemed acceptable, even by other women, because these hate-filled, highly masculinist, often sexualised threats and insults are aimed at TERFs – which in this context could well stand for The Eternally Reviled Female.


Then there are those who proudly and pseudonymously proclaim their progressive credentials in their bios, festooned with emojis and their preferred second person pronouns (PSPPs), who anxiously curate their followers for fear of being thought to be "TERF-adjacent" - and whose greatest crime in my book is their failure to call out the worst excesses of the Twankers -  clearly forgetting that collusion doth make cowards of us all.  (Sorry Will.)


And there are those who make wildly hyperbolic claims such as “trans rights are the preeminent human rights issue of the era in NZ, if not the entire world.”


I hope I wouldn't ever be so arrogant as to rank human rights in a shallow, opportunistic way, and if I were to place a rank on an extant human rights issue in NZ, I’d put the incarceration rates of Māori and of Māori women in particular, right at the top. 

Homelessness,  substandard housing, wage precarity, disparate health outcomes etc would also be right up there. 


And, if I wanted to write an article to celebrate the gestation of new human life - instead of shouting 'look how progressive I am with my reference to “pregnant people” and my picture of rainbow-coloured, hand-knitted booties', I'd be wanting to highlight the class and ethnicity based discrepancies in maternity outcomes for NZ women and their children.


Which is the sort of thing the person who prompted this post does, and has done for decades - no doubt like the lesbian elders in LAVA who have been branded and dismissed by the GILEADS as “UK inspired TERFs", with blokes even boasting of physically keeping them out of the Pride event in Wellington – in yet another display of the extreme self-indulgence and head-up-arseness of some adherents of GIP.


What a stunningly useful piece of gender identity agitprop “TERF” has proved to be - in this instance being used to diminish and dismiss lesbians who fought for women's rights when it required a lot more than a chain of emojis and statement of PSPPs on Twitter.


These are women who would also fight for trans rights, had the social contagion tsunami not swept through the ranks of the politically righteous - obliterating history, common cause, and common sense - and seen them placed in the ranks of the likes of white supremacists. 


Honestly, to  all those who are lining up to put the boot into these women and others like them - and especially those wankers who are also members of the well-padded coordinator class - I can say one thing with absolute certainty - come the day when we really have to fight to retain hard-won rights, I don’t want any of you to have my back because I strongly suspect you’d be fucking useless, or you’d suddenly find some compelling reason why you couldn’t be on the barricades -  a zoom meeting perhaps. 


Just GTFU. We’re at a tipping point globally - in Yemen, children are starving to death as a result of a vicious war waged by some of our country's allies, trading partners, Team NZ sponsors - regimes that are about as literally transphobic, misogynistic and homophobic as they come - not that you’d know it by the deafening silence from the GILEADS on that score. 


Our Green Party expended precious time, money, and political capital on a petition calling for the government to speed up action to ban gay conversion therapy when we have a massive, and accelerating crisis in our water ways and drinking water supply, looming species extinctions, a reliance on an unsustainable and cruel form of industrialised, chemical-dependent farming, and globally, the ecological issues confronting us are gargantuan and growing exponentially. 


It’s like focussing on a flea bite when the body has sepsis and gas gangrene.


Okay, rant over. I’m tired of the ping pong - tired of the extremists inflating this issue so much that it serves to obscure other far more genuinely life-threatening ones, and ratcheting up the emotion so all that is heard is the shouting of mantras and counter-mantras.


I am deeply sceptical about the direction of aspects of identity politics in general, and the ideology and praxis of the current trans orthodoxy in particular. If that makes me a TERF – or the cringingly infantile “TERF-adjacent” –  so be it. 


I disagree with some on the GC side - some deeply so - but among the Whited Sepulchres I see no comradeship, just a lot of hot air and political opportunism.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

What a Tangled Web

There's a lot of talk about the destruction of women's sports by the entry into it of male to female (MtoF) transgender athletes, and one of the highest profile of these is Cece Telfer, a Jamaican-born US runner.

The top US college athletes – those judged likely to become elite – compete in the NCAA Division 1 (the Ivy League elite). Telfer was low ranked in male track and field in Division 2, and the women's 400m hurdles event that Telfer won, was in Division 2.


The fastest woman in the world at the moment in the 400m hurdles is Dalilah Muhammad - also a black American - who has run it in 52.16, a full 5 seconds faster than Telfer. Dozens of other elite female athletes have bettered Telfer’s time.


At current speeds, Telfer would not make the Olympic final - in fact, would probably not make the US Olympic team BUT if that did happen, chances are it would be a black female athlete who would be knocked out. When Muhammad broke the women's world record at the world championships in Doha in 2019 - the entire field was black. 


Telfer ran the 400m hurdles in men’s competition in 57.34 seconds, and in 57.53 over the lower hurdles in the women's event - so fractionally slower but –  as the young woman in second place was 2 seconds slower – it's fair to say that Telfer was not being pushed to run the fastest possible time.


Telfer’s 60-metre dash personal best (PB) in men’s competition was 7.67 seconds;  in women’s - it’s 7.63.  The women’s world record is 6.92.


In the flat 400m, Telfer's PB was 55.77 seconds against men; against women, it’s 54.41. The women’s world record is 47.60 seconds; the all-time top ranked 25 athletes in the women’s competition have run the event 5 or more seconds faster than Telfer.


The coach puts that better performance in women’s competition down to an “improved work ethic”, with the claim that Telfer’s improvement is due to being more comfortable competing in women's events. 


It's just as likely to be due to the power of increased self-confidence arising from having gone from not having a hope of even a place in the top 200 men in NCAA competition, to winning and being placed against women, with the attendant possibility of the financial rewards of going professional, and of fame as the first black transgender track and field athlete in the Olympics. 


Self-confidence and status and financial incentives are huge motivators, and anyone who is in any doubt about the importance of that needs to talk to a sports psychologist. 


Much is made of the slight disadvantage in the greater wind resistance, of being much taller than your competitors (Telfer is 6’ 2”), and in the different spacing of the hurdles in the women’s event, which is calculated on the considerably lower averaged female height/ stride length. However, that is more than offset by the lower height of the hurdles in women’s competition (30” compared to 36”), and the average performance advantages (APA) gained by having gone through a full male puberty.


In relation to the latter, the current rules of NCAA competition require testosterone suppression for one year prior to competition, but no amounts are specified and testing regimes are vague. The rule seems to be a token gesture towards the current IAAF/IOC regulations of a twelve month reduction of testosterone levels to no more than 10 nmols/L, which is the bottom of the male standard reference range (SRR), and over 4x the top of the female SRR.


The fact is, although the likes of Laurel Hubbard will not beat the best of the 105+ kg women weightlifters, MtoF transgender athletes who have gained the APA associated with going through male puberty, will push mid-ranking women out of the picture, which will have a ripple effect down through female sports. 


I have no doubt that if they had the ability, most MtoF transgender athletes would remain in male competition because the status and financial rewards are so much greater. The athletes who are most likely to migrate into women’s events are also-rans like Telfer, or over-the-hills like Hubbard. 


The situation for FtoM athletes like Chris Moser is different as the unlimited use of a potent performance enhancer (exogenous testosterone) when competing in male competition alters the parameters of the argument.


But, however concerned I am about aspects of the current transgender ideology, I am deeply distrustful of right-wing organisations in the US which have chosen to showcase black transgender athletes like Telfer. The racism dimension in the US cannot be extracted from the gender identity and sex-based rights issues – and it's no accident that it is the black transgender athletes who are being showcased.  The appeal is as much to racism as it is to concerns about women’s sex-based rights.


It must be said that the other side of this most polarised and polarising of issues, there are many people here in NZ who'd profess the deepest attachment to anti-racism who have blithely ignored the race and the class dimensions of the born-male, white offspring of a multi-millionaire taking podium places away from young Pasifika women. 


An interesting case of a glaring double standard – or a politico-ethical blindspot.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

On Slogans, Synonyms and Euphemisms

We should all know the dangers of obscuring essentials and by so doing, allowing the powerful to carry on their business unchallenged. 

We all ought to know the dangers of division amongst social forces which, in combination, could feasibly challenge entrenched power; and of diversion away from the essentials into a focus on appearance, but way too many people, many of whom ought to know better, glue their noses to the ground and follow the scent-trail of their particular doctrinal line, or turn on each other, argue and obsess about ephemera, side-line much more pressing issues, and in lieu of sensible debate,  develop and deploy slogans, synonyms and euphemisms. 

Slogans often serve to ensure a doctrinal line is followed and they can also relieve the parroters of slogans of the burden of needing to think for themselves. 

Euphemisms are not harmless evasions where they serve to obscure things people need to know in order to be able to safely navigate increasingly dangerous waters - especially those waters which may look very calm and inviting on the surface, but which have deep and dangerous undercurrents.

Here's one to ponder. Breath play is a euphemism for partial asphyxiation, which induces hypoxia, ie starving the brain of oxygen, a practice that carries a very real risk of death or brain damage. 

Such a euphemism acts as an obfuscation of the dynamics and physical realities of the use of choking in sexual relationships in which there is a power imbalance and /or an imbalance in physical strength. It also masks the added dangers of the effects on such relationships of a resurgent misogyny fuelled by the global market in easily accessible porn involving violent, debasing, dehumanising sex enacted, for the most part, on vulnerable female bodies. 


Practices like choking, along with some others marketed in brightly hued “sex positivity” packaging - carry a very real risk of immediate harm - even death - and there is a wider and longer term harm that may be done to the glue that holds our increasingly fragmented social world together. 

Synonyms usually have subtle differences in meaning, which may alter according to context and which can greatly increase clarity and nuance in the written and spoken word. They can also serve a powerful ideological function such as can be seen in the current proliferation of essential-denying, appearance-elevating synonyms for woman.

Menstruators. Menopausal people. Individuals with a cervix. Pregnant people. Birthing bodies. Chest feeders. Uterus holders. People with vaginas. Vagina owners. Vulva owners. Surrogate hosts. Carriers. 

Every one of these has been used in a serious newspaper or journal and/or by governments and NGOs involved in such matters as reproductive health and wellbeing.


We do not see a similar proliferation of such terms for that which is male, eg. Ejaculators. Individuals with a prostate. Impregnators. Testicle havers. People with a penis. Scrotum owners. 


It is the very idea of woman that is being challenged by these linguistic developments. Women as a class. A sex class. A class whose historic and contemporary economic hyper-exploitation and oppression - especially when viewed from outside the blurring effects of middle class life inside the imperial bubble - was, and still is rooted in potential, presumed, current, or prior reproductive capacities. 

This is not reducing women to those capacities; it is acknowledging their historical and contemporary material reality and it challenges society to change its phallocratic ways in relation to them - to acknowledge, celebrate, and materially support that which is female - not blur, deny, or subvert it.

To those who think the protection and advancement of trans people's rights lies in a nose-down, arse-up pursuit of the current transgender doctrine - I'd say, who do you think has laid the ideological scent you are following, and where do you think it will lead? I'd say much the same thing to the die-hard scent-followers on the other side of this most vexed and vexing issue.