Definitions

Definitions are hard.

For example, this is a car.

ford focus

And this is not a car.

Panigale-V4

They have a lot of similarities; they’re both mechanical devices, they’re both intended to be used as personal transport, they’re both designed to be operated on public roads, by suitably licensed people, they both operate by means of an engine of some kind, etc.

So what makes one a car and one not?

The obvious place to start is with the number of wheels, but if we definitively say, “A car has 4 wheels,” then we hit problems.

This car only has 3-wheels.

Morgan_3-Wheeler

And this has only has 3 wheels and can be driven with a motorcycle licence, but is still a car.

reliant robin

While this also has 3 wheels, but is not a car.

trike

 

Ah, perhaps its something to do with bodywork, or a roof, then!

But this car has no roof, and very little bodywork.

atom-quarter

While this has a roof, but still isn’t a car.

BMW C1 125

And look at all the bodywork here. Not a car, though.

honda-goldwing-tour-2020-perfil

Something more technical, then? Something to do with the controls, perhaps?

That gets us into problems as well.

old car

And that’s before we consider that cars can be adapted, for drivers with disabilities for example, to use hand controls, but that doesn’t stop them being cars. If you start with a car then you can chop and change all the bits you like and you’ll end up with something that is still a car…or a wreck.

Nor do this and this…

Prove that there’s a spectrum from this…

Panigale-V4

…to this.

ford focus

How could there be? A spectrum is a continuum, not a shit-brown blur of different factors mulched together.

It can’t be a spectrum, because there’s no way of saying which of these is most like a car.

And where would this fit on your spectrum?

Panther-6-Car-Driving

Is that more car-y than a “normal” car?

As I said, definitions are hard, and if you try to isolate just one thing that distinguishes A from B then often you run into problems.

All you really need to remember is that this…

trike

…doesn’t mean that this…

Panigale-V4

…can ignore this.

no-solo-motorcycles-sign

And that, at least, is easy.

The ocean and the candle

The sad, mad Things in the Dungeon Dimensions have no understanding of the world but simply crave light and shape and try to warm themselves by the fires of reality, clustering around it with about the same effect—if they ever broke through—as an ocean trying to warm itself around a candle.

-Terry Pratchett, Eric

There’s a time and a place for the question, “What is a woman?”

For example, in my Star Trek fan-fic, where Kirk finds himself stranded on some idyllic alien planet and resigns himself being stuck there for the rest of his life, and then asks one of the natives, “Say, where are all the women?”. As a reply, “What is a woman?” is going to be pretty devastating.

kirk khan
“FUUUUUUUUUU…”

Or maybe at the WI, that time that Liz got her boiled sweets mixed up with her medicinal marijuana, and the whole group are into their third hour of eating jam straight from the jar, chatting shit, and making up dirty lyrics to Jerusalem.

On Twitter, though, where replies are limited to 280 characters and 4 pictures, it’s not such a great question, and perhaps that’s why the people so intent on redefining the term haven’t come up with a good answer yet.

If you’ve spent any time debating this, or watching others debate it, you’ll know the re-definers’ attack on the definition of womanhood is supported by a debating tripod – a compound of ‘trip’ and ‘OD’, two terms meaning to be out of your fucking skull.

twaw diagram

Obviously, not every definition fits neatly into just one of these categories, many of them also fit into the much larger, overarching, category of ‘Absolutely irrelevant’

irrelevant crap
Here shown to scale

 

Take, for example, the claim that trans women’s brain scans show them to be more similar to women than men. This claim would seem to lie mainly in the sphere of biology, but when you think about it it’s also circular reasoning.

Why? Well, if brain scans, and not any other factor, is what splits men and women, then how do you have a control group that contains people you know to be men or women? You can’t, without a brain scan. At best you end up with two groups, A and B, with each group being defined by some common similarity, and which you can arbitrarily label ‘Men’ and ‘Women’, but you wouldn’t know which was which.

You could resolve this by saying that the men are the ones with penises, except that’s exactly the kind of rational thinking that you’re trying to get away from, by paying all this money to rent a brain-scanner (Also, I don’t know if penises show up on brain scans. My guess is that if they do you’ve probably calibrated something incorrectly)

What then makes it irrelevant is that the anti-sex league don’t want to use brain scans to determine who’s a woman and who isn’t, any more than they care what chromosomes a person has, or whether gender dysphoria is a mental illness, or what sea-horses do in order to get little sea-horses (sea-foals?). If some genius announced tomorrow that they’d come up with a scientific, 100% accurate test to determine if someone was trans or not then, by the end of the day, their weighted-down body would be being slung into deep water somewhere remote by the nobble committee.

Their goal is that everyone who says they’re a woman is a woman, therefore any definition of women that doesn’t include everybody is (or will be) a TERF position.

Look at how many thousands of words have been written in the sphere of biology about intersex people. Textbooks worth of arguments about what disorders of sexual development are and aren’t, PhD mocking PhD across the swamp, high profile cases dismantled…and yet nobody’s saying that you have to have a DSD to be trans, or that everybody with a DSD is trans.

This is why the sphere of irrelevant crap is so huge, because every battle is being fought exclusively in the no-woman’s land, remote from the TRA’s position of “Women are whoever we say they are.”

The problem with that position is that it makes women everyone. Like making the VIP section in a posh club inclusive, by opening it to everyone, making everyone potentially a women destroys that which is coveted.

when everyones a woman
When everyone’s a woman, no one is!

There are men who genuinely want to be women. Who want to live as women. Who want to be seen as women by the world. The trans-rights movement is working counter to their interests, by pursuing a course that will render the term ‘woman’ meaningless. A term crouched in pseudo-biology, endless circular logic and unfalsifiable claims of gendered souls and such. All supported by people who desperately want to believe that the cause they’ve sided with is, somehow, grounded in rationality.

It is not. Intentionally or otherwise their cause is to destroy womanhood. Because the ocean can’t warm itself around the candle.

 

 

Pole opinion

Dashing this off quickly because I was interested in the thread below, but didn’t fancy stringing together my answer over 30 tweets.

Because it’s a quick one, please excuse me if my proofreading is even more slapdash than usual.

Two things about me first; I have been a senior manager within the data function of polling & market research companies for over a decade now, and have personally worked on polling in public opinion into trans rights. Secondly, I am on the gender-critical side of this argument, although I have tried to be unbiased here.

If you can’t be bothered to read the thread linked above then it’s between Helen Staniland (@helenstaniland) and an anonymous tweeter, who I’m assuming is called Sharon, based on her Twitter handle (@24shaz). My apologies if that assumption is incorrect. Basically, the sub-thread is about the validity of the results of polling when the party paying for the poll has an interest in getting a particular result.

Obligatory link to Yes, Prime Minister has to be included here.

First off, let me say that Sharon is absolutely right – the way in which questions are asked can have a huge effect on the outcome. The polling company they’re discussing, Populus (who I have never worked for, btw) is a member of the British Polling Council (BPC), which attempts to address this issue by insisting that questions are asking a neutral manner and are free of bias.

This can be very difficult to achieve. I once worked on two polls, running their fieldwork at the same time, both matching the UK general population, in terms of percentages, by sex, age, social class and region. One asked “Should 16 year-olds be given the right to vote in general elections?”, while the other asked, “Should the voting age be lowered to 16?” The former saw 60% approval for 16-year-olds voting, the latter 60% opposed. Neither of those questions seems ridiculously biased or unfair, yet the difference between them is sufficient to make 1 person in 5 change their minds about the answer.

The BPC solution to this is to make all members publish, in full, the questions asked and data tables for all results that are made public by the commissioner of the poll, plus the same for any other questions which are deemed to have a material effect on the result.

This is precisely to get around the issue that Sir Humphrey highlights in the video clip, and means that a poll can’t get away with:

Q1. Which of the following scandals, involving the sleazy and dishonest government, have you heard about (please tick all that apply)

Q2. If a general election was held tomorrow, how would you vote?

…and then only publishing the 2nd question.

If, however, the poll swapped them round then the person who commissioned it would be perfectly within their rights not to publish the scandals question, because the voting question wouldn’t have had an effect on it, and until they make a question’s results public they own the data, not the polling company (this protects the vast amount of money that political parties spend on their own private polling in the run-up to elections).

So far, so good. The way the BPC works is specifically designed to prevent those who commission polls from begging the questions, so you don’t end up with this sort of mess (from a poll by the Trump campaign in 2016)

q8

Where this gets complex is with relation to trans-rights. Polls asking whether trans women should be allowed access to women’s spaces get an overall ‘Yes’, but the poll that’s been questioned in this thread gets a strong ‘No’. What’s the difference?

The most glaring difference is that the No result comes from a question that explicitly states that trans women may be people who were born male, still look male and have had no surgery or drug treatments to alter their male physique, whereas the more positive results come from surveys that simply ask about “trans women” and leaves interpretation of that term to the respondent.

In my professional opinion, both surveys have problems.

If you leave the interpretation of “trans woman” to the respondent then you have no idea if they:

  1. Know what is meant by that term in the current context, or
  2. Do know roughly what it means, but assume that it involves some level of trying to “pass”, or
  3. Are confusing it with older, more established terms, such as transsexual or transvestite, or
  4. Think that trans women are women who are transitioning to men, which would reverse the question, or
  5. Have no idea at all what is being asked, and have picked an option at random.

If you think any of these options are a stretch, then you might want to have a look at how confused people got around the common terms heterosexual and homosexual in a survey that Edward Lord was using data from…

Meanwhile, the other survey, in presenting only the most extreme definition of trans women is, undoubtedly, biasing the question. There’s an argument to be made that it’s reasonable, because it does factually describe a situation that could occur but for my money it’s a bit, “Given that a baby born in the UK today could grow up to be the next Hitler, would you support making abortion easier?”

The truth is that both surveys suffer from the same problem. To get a genuine answer you need to define terms and provide information to the extent that you can no longer be said to be surveying the general population.

At the moment comparing data from the two polls makes it appear that if the general public fully understood the term trans woman then they would be less supportive of granting them additional rights to access women’s bathrooms and sports, but that brings us up against the iron rule of polling; You only get answers to the questions you’ve asked.

Truly understanding what the general public think would require a much better designed (and probably significantly more expensive) survey. Until we have that, neither side can claim to be correct.

Perhaps the TRAs and the GCs could pool their resources to make it happen.

duck for cover

 

Georgina Orwell writes…

georgina orwell

THE PRINCIPLES OF NEWSPEAK

Newspeak was the official language of the United Kingdom and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Malcent, or Male Centring. In the year 2024 there was not yet anyone who used Newspeak as his sole means of communication without the risk of denunciation. The articles in Pink News were written in it, but this was a tour de force which could only be carried out by a shameless man. It was expected Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or standard English, as we should call it) by about the year 2030. Meanwhile it gained ground rapidly, all public and private institutions tending to use Newspeak words and grammatical constructions more and more in their everyday speech. The version in use in 2024 was a provisional one, and contained many superfluous words and archaic formations which were due to be suppressed.

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Malcent, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought – that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Malcent – should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. It’s vocabulary was so constructed as to give inexact and imprecise definitions to all words, so that they could mean whatever the Malcent speaker intended. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by extending the meaning of existing undesirable words. To give a single example, the word woman still existed in Newspeak, but only insofar as it could be applied to anyone, irrespective of physical traits, mannerisms, mode of dress or any secondary characteristics which would otherwise have prevented one from being described as a woman. It could not be used in its old sense of female since that term no longer existed, even as a concept.

Newspeak was founded on the English language, though many Newspeak sentences, even when not containing newly-created words, would be barely intelligible to an English-speaker from as recently as 1984. Newspeak words were divided into three distinct categories, known as the A vocabulary, the B vocabulary (also known as compound words), and the C vocabulary. It will be simpler to discuss each class separately.

The A vocabulary. The A vocabulary consisted of the words needed for the business of everyday life — for such things as eating, drinking, working, putting on one’s lingerie, going up and down stairs, riding in vehicles, gardening, cooking, and the like. It was composed almost entirely of words that already exist, words like hit, run, dog, tree, sugar, house, field — but in comparison with the standard English vocabulary their meanings were greatly expanded. For example, the verb to bully meant not only to maliciously harm someone, but also to disagree with them. Other words, such as threaten, had also been expanded, to extend to disagreement, as had murder, harm, hate, and so forth.

All of these words could be strengthened with the prefix literal, or, for still great emphasis, actual literal. While this may seem verbose to those accustomed to Oldspeak, it allowed for simultaneously excusing the actions of an advocate of Malcent, while increasing the enormity of the actions of those opposed. A Malcent hitting someone could be cast  as just a slap or only one punch, while any denunciation of them that resulted would be actual literal violence.

In addition, any word could be negatived by adding the affix anti- and, along with the expanded definitions of words, allowed for negative traits to be couched in positive-sounding euphemisms. A Malcent, for example, who opposed all disagreement with their position – which was, itself, a defining feature of Malcentism – could legitimately describe themselves as anti-violence.

The expanded definition of woman made it impossible to describe someone as being anti-women, as the class women included – theoretically, at least – everyone. To accuse someone of being anti-women was no less than to accuse them of sociopathy, and would always be viewed as actual literal violence, and attract retribution in line with such.

The B vocabulary. The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them. Without a full understanding of the principles of Malcent it was difficult to use these words correctly. In some cases they could be translated into Oldspeak, or even into words taken from the A vocabulary, but this usually demanded a long paraphrase and always involved the loss of certain overtones. The B words were a sort of verbal shorthand, often packing whole ranges of ideas into a few syllables, and at the same time more accurate and forcible than ordinary language.

In most cases, words in the B vocabulary were made by affixing trans- or cis- or girl- to existing words, although by 2024 there was already an ideological push to carefully and precisely define when the affixes should be written separately, as their own words, and when they should and should not be hyphenated. Thus, in the time period we are concerned with, it was already common to write trans woman as two words, with the prefix now functioning as an adjective, and ciswoman, as a single word, was becoming more frequent. One could, therefore, have women – a group without boundaries – trans women, who were a special subclass of women, and ciswomen, who were external to the class women. Although these distinctions can seem arbitrary, each was carefully designed to match the principles of Malcent, so it was natural that transwomen should evolve to trans-women, then trans women and, by the time of the final edition of Newspeak, simply women, while females should be relegated to being ciswomen or transmen.

harrop ciswomen

Some of the B words had highly subtilized meanings, barely intelligible to anyone who had not mastered the language as a whole. Consider, for example, such a typical sentence from a Pink News leading article as Transphobes, we won’t debate our existence. The shortest rendering that one could make of this in Oldspeak would be: “We will not allow those who hatefully pretend to believe that there are material differences between men and women, and that men’s access to women’s spaces should not be automatic and backed by the full force of the law, to force us to live in a state where our ideological beliefs are not automatically accepted, without deviation.” But this is not an adequate translation. To begin with, in order to grasp the full meaning of the Newspeak sentence quoted above, one would have to have a clear idea of the principles of Malcent. As only a person thoroughly grounded in Malcent could appreciate the full force of the word transphobe, which implied not only an irrational fear, but was inextricably mixed up with the concepts of wilful hatred, racism, lack of education and an antediluvian world-view. Or of the word debate, which indicated not a rational discussion of ideas, but a violent desire to impose your will on others. But the special function of certain Newspeak words, of which transphobe was one, was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them. These words, necessarily few in number, had had their meanings extended until they contained within themselves whole batteries of words which, as they were sufficiently covered by a single comprehensive term, could now be scrapped and forgotten.

The C vocabulary. The C vocabulary was supplementary to the others and consisted entirely of scientific and technical terms. These were medical terms in use today, but very few had currency either in everyday speech or in political speech. While they were useful in a clinical setting, the words in the C vocabulary – vagina, cervix, menstruation – carried with them an air of excluding men, directly counter to the principles of Malcent, and if required in everyday use were replaced by euphemisms drawn from the A vocabulary, such as front-hole.

From the foregoing account it will be seen that in Newspeak the expression of unorthodox opinions, above a very low level, was well-nigh impossible. It was of course possible to utter heresies of a very crude kind, a species of blasphemy. It would have been possible, for example, to say Trans women are men. But this statement, which to an orthodox ear merely conveyed a self-evident absurdity, could not have been sustained by a reasoned argument, because the speaker would already have been banned from any platform and dismissed from their job.

When Oldspeak had been once and for all superseded, the last link with the past would have been severed. History had already been rewritten, but fragments of the literature of the past survived here and there, imperfectly cancelled, and so long as one retained one’s knowledge of Oldspeak it was possible to read them. In the future such fragments, even if they chanced to survive, would be unintelligible and untranslatable. It was impossible to translate any passage of Oldspeak into Newspeak unless it either referred to some technical process or some very simple everyday action, or was already orthodox in tendency. Take for example a well-known passage from  The Book of Genesis:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

It would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up into the single word transphobia. A full translation could only be an ideological one, whereby Genesis 1:27 would become a treatise on gendered souls.

A good deal of the literature of the past was, indeed, already being declared problematic by 2024 and work was underway to ban most of it. It was only the volume of this endeavour that led to the date for the final adoption of Newspeak being placed as late as 2030.

With apologies to George Orwell, who was too dead to ask if this was OK

Belief

I’ve been involved in the trans rights debate for a little over 4 years now. I often write about it here, normally in quite a light-hearted way (I hope). There is, however, a serious point, so I thought it best just to get it out of my system.

If you’ve been following the debate, such as it is, you’ll know the pattern. Somebody makes a statement, which supports one side or the other. The other side pile on. There are insults (some of them high-brow and flowery, some more base). Blogs are exchanged, the heavy artillery of entrenched warfare. Thousands of words are written; making arguments, refuting arguments, debunking the rebuttals. TERFs say this…trans rights activists believe this…the evidence says X…the evidence says Y.

Both sides draw new followers into the argument, but converts are rare, because this isn’t a battle over who has the best information or presentation, it’s a battle of belief.

gender belief

Like all such battles the terms of reference constantly shift. In the same way that an argument about whether there is a god can become about dinosaur bones, the big bang, or the exact translation of ancient Hebrew texts, so the trans-rights debate can take in degree-level biology, comparisons with other civil rights movements and the nature of feminism.

Sometimes it helps to cut aside all of the extraneous arguments, and get to the core of the belief. Take a moment, settle yourself down, and read the next paragraph.

I believe that any man can, at any time, say they are a woman. At that point they will become a woman (or will always have been a woman) and, irrespective of any other factors, will shed any privilege they have enjoyed by having the world see them as, and treat them as, male up until that point in their life, and will, by becoming a trans woman, become a member of an oppressed group. Their past or current behaviour will not be a factor.

Do you believe that? You don’t have to write your answer, or even say it aloud. You just have to give yourself a moment to be honest. Read it again. Does everything in there sound right to you, and aligned with equality and feminism?

That paragraph is the whole ball game. Everything else is a side-show.

If you don’t absolutely believe that paragraph, in its entirety, then you will always be living with the fear of being named a transphobe.

We saw that this week, when a trans-supporting natal woman called out a trans woman for sending her unsolicited dick-pics and was immediately accused of (and ended up apologising for) “transmisogyny”. We see it when an author is pilloried for saying that sex exists. We see it when another institution caves in to volume rather than reason, and denounces a woman.

There are only two choices, you either absolutely stand for that statement of belief or you don’t, and if you don’t then only one side of this argument will welcome you.

Your choice isn’t my business, only yours.

Think carefully.

How to chase those sweet TRA clicks

Trans rights are big business at the moment…and by ‘business’ I mean likely to drive up the hit counter on your blog, which would be meaningless if you weren’t trying to style yourself as some sort of social influencer, in the hope that you might get some free stuff out of it.

For example, a recent blog of mine got 17k hits and already I’ve had an offer (from my wife, as she was leaving for work) to scrub the landing carpet with soapy water, because she thinks the dog has been sick on it. I can’t promise you the same celebrity life-style, but I’ll try to help.

The hot thing right now is, of course, to work in J K Rowling, because people know who she is and, as of a couple of weeks ago, probably have strong opinions about her. Because of this you’ll want to get her name right there in the title. Be careful, though, you don’t want anything that will reflect badly on you. During a libel case, for example. You want her up there in the title, but not associated it with it. J K Rowling, trans-rights and a load of spiteful old bitches, for example, is just fine.

jkr
No, your honour, I wasn’t calling her that, I was just…

It’s also fine to call her comments transphobic. You can defend that no problem, on the grounds that everything is transphobic. You could live your life alone in a remote mountaintop hermitage in Nepal, spending every waking moment in meditation and you’d still be transphobic, probably for not being inclusive enough.

Don’t forget to put the spiteful old bitches in the title as well because, funnily enough, they’re just as important as getting in Rowling. The Potteress is the hook to get people reading your blog, but you also want it shared widely, to up your influencer status and bring those offers flooding in.

Oh, excuse me while I crack open a refreshing can of Own Brand™ lager. Ahhh, delicious…and now on special offer at [insert$:local_store].

As I was saying, if you’re putting the boot into a few women then you can be fairly sure that a lot of a certain kind of people will want to share your piece. Doubly so if you happen to be a woman yourself, because it can’t be misogyny if a woman said it first. Men’s rights activists used to hide behind Spider-man masks and fake profile pics but have discovered that hiding behind a woman is far more effective.

Once you’ve got your Rowling mention in and thrown a few women under the bus you’re pretty much guaranteed your shares, and you can just coast the rest, by covering off the basic topics:

  • Explain what a TERF is
  • Point out trans folk just want their rights
  • Pick a couple of the key arguments from the big chart of trans-rights activists arguments

the complete TRA arguments

The key thing here is avoid detail, while padding up your word count, so that you needed a whole blog and not just 3 tweets, and the longer it is the less chance there is that somebody will go through and dismiss it point-by-point. Every 500 words you add halves the chance that anybody will make it to the end. It will still get shared, so long as the bits people bother to read are saying the right things, but you’re making yourself rebuttal-proof.

For example, you’ll want to define what TERF means but you don’t want to go into what they’re excluding trans people from, because when you start mentioning women’s sports and such it all starts sounding pretty reasonable. Nor will you want to say that ‘radical’ in this context means that they don’t believe that people can be women just by saying that they are and claiming that their penis is now a girl-dick. Many of your less educated readers won’t know enough to believe that’s radical.

Instead why not rattle on about the origins of the TERF movement. Link it to the scepticism movement, link it to racial subjugation, link it to the Great Western Schism if you want, the important thing is only to sound like you know what you’re talking about and not to be talking about what the TERFs actually say, think or want.

Write, “The tradition of terfism dates back to…” and then paste in a GCSE history essay, if you want. As long as you put a few hyperlinks in people will assume it’s factual and well-researched.

And just keep going. The longer your article is the less chance anyone will take the time to debunk it (and if they do their reply will be too long for anyone to bother reading). However, you’ll want to skate over the topics like you’re John Torvill and Christine Dean. Say ‘trans-women are women’, but don’t explain what that means. Say ‘Trans rights are human rights’, but don’t touch on what rights they don’t have (and don’t go near what rights they want!). Throw in cool terms, like ‘lived experience’, which means that if we found another one of those Japanese soldiers still fighting World War II we’d all have to get back to air-raids, so as not to invalidate them.

Ultimately, as long as you’ve got the right title, the right stance and are hurling insults at the right people your piece is going to be shared and praised, even if paras 5-71 are ipsum lorem.

word cloud
Your next blog, pictured tomorrow

That’s it, really. Given the quality of the stuff that’s lauded by the TRA side of this debate it’s hard to imagine you need to do any more, so go write your piece, and I look forward to reading it.

Which reminds me, I really must clean up that dog vomit.

 

Tales for an accelerated culture war

Let’s imagine you get pulled over, on a motorway somewhere, doing 80mph. As the officer is writing out your Notice of Intended Prosecution, and you’re wondering if maybe your ‘joke’ pronunciation of “constable” was a mistake, you may feel a bit hard done by.

pulled over

Traffic is light, you’re not half-asleep, or drunk, stoned, or steering with your knees while trying to make a sandwich. Your car is in good condition and capable of well over 80-poxy-mph, visibility is perfect, you don’t have an armful of unrestrained toddlers on the back seat, you’ve been driving for 30 years and never had an accident.

You may ask yourself, “Is this fair?”

You may decide it’s not.

That’s your personal interaction with the law around speeding, but the law operates at a societal level. It’s really not possible to write a speed limit law that says the limit doesn’t apply to anybody who’s taking a bit of care and is a pretty good driver (self-identified) and hasn’t had a few and isn’t taking the piss.

Easier, if you really object to our chimera from the opening paragraphs getting a ticket, then you could take the absolutist view that speed limit should be abolished.

But that’s nonsense, surely? We need speed limits, don’t we?

Well, this may shock you, but speed limits are simply a social construct. Many societies had no concept of a speed limit until white British imperialists forced them on them. Now we’ve just been conditioned to accept the status quo.

When you think about it properly, speed limits are really racist.

Nor would removing speed limits infringe on anybody else’s rights. If you think 70mph is sufficient speed for motorways (borrrrrrrring!) then you are free to drive at 70mph. Sure, there’ll be Audis coming past you at speeds that would make Lewis Hamilton shit his pants, but your personal safety won’t be affected, because you’ll still be able to do 70 just fine.

Before you clutch your pearls, and yell, “Think of the children!”, obviously nobody is going to go speeding past schools, but even if they do then it’s a simple scientific fact that cars going faster make more noise, so the children will hear them coming and can make their own informed decisions on whether or not to get off the road.

school speed sign
A cisnormative school sign, pictured yesterday

Plus, of course, people have been exceeding the speed limit for decades and it hasn’t caused any major problems, just a few isolated and unrepresentative incidents. Even now, when you’re doing 68mph down the M45 (Yawn! Tell us again how great the 80s were, boomer) and somebody overtakes doing a respectable 120mph you don’t immediately scramble for your mobile, to get the po-po on the case, do you?

No, of course not. You’re a reasonable person, who recognises the other driver just wants to go fast, and you respect that they know their own schedule and driving abilities better than you, and let them get on with it. That little act of tolerance is all that’s being asked.

It’s not like this is opening a free-for-all. Nobody’s asking for the laws against dangerous and careless driving to be repealed. In fact it might even help the police out. They can ignore the people who are carefully driving at 140mph, and spend their time focusing on the ones who are driving badly at 140mph.

It’s to be hoped that those opposed to abolishing speed limits, let’s call them something neutral, like Time Eroding Road Fascists, will be very careful in how they frame their arguments, because “High speeds are dangerous” can sound a lot like “You’re dangerous”. This would, of course, be an outrageous slur, which would justify similar abuse in reply.

The clinching argument is that speed is a lot more complex that people think. If you have only the basic education imparted by a driving theory test then you probably, laughably, just think your speed is the number the dial is pointing to on the the speedo.

Bless you, and your simple understanding.

The reality is much more nuanced. That dial is being driven by a cable from your gearbox and is measuring rotations (although scientists have now worked out how to do it with digitals, which is even more complex). And don’t even get me started on GPS speed measuring, which is so complicated that if I started to explain it (I still remember the explanation from Tomorrow’s World pretty well) then your brain would melt and you’d hopefully completely lose sight of it just being distance divided by time.

Or is it? Sir Isaac Newton said that you couldn’t tell if an object was moving without an external frame of reference, and Albert Einstein also said something about space and time that you probably don’t understand.

Are you really going to pit your “Speed is just where the needle points” ignorance against Newton and Einstein? Really? No, I didn’t think so.

In conclusion, then, I have shown that abolishing speed limits is the just thing to do, does not infringe upon the rights of anybody else, doesn’t impact the safety of careful drivers, is not a risk to children, is already the established standard, and that speed limits can’t even be defined, let alone enforced.

Hopefully that is sufficient to make my case and now, before anybody works out what I’m talking about, I need to get out of here…fast.

upside down car
Twitter, pictured etc.

Northerner Illuminates

The author Philip Pullman doesn’t understand the argument currently centred around author J K Rowling. We know this, because he tells us, using words (considered, since ancient times, to be the mark of an author)

pullman tweet
Words, pictured yesterday

From the 538 replies (at time of writing) we can assume that any expectations he had that people wouldn’t shout at him again have now been so dashed that they could form 50% of Morse-code War and Peace.

I empathise with him completely. Up until about 4 years ago my knowledge of this culture war was:

  1. US Republicans kept trying to pass laws saying you couldn’t use bathrooms intended for the opposite sex. This was bad, because Republicans.
  2. The shop that used to exist in Newcastle, Transformations, used to have a sign in its window saying that it was Newcastle’s No. 1 TV specialist, but never had any televisions on display in the window. Just heavy velvet curtains, that were always tightly drawn.

Then I stumbled upon a word I didn’t know. Looking up what it meant took me down a rabbit-hole of other words I didn’t know, all the while assuming I was following some elaborate joke. The word was “cissexism” and it turns out to be so not a joke that people are prepared to fling about death-threats over it, which really isn’t funny.

Not wanting Mr Pullman to have to find out things the hard way (i.e. by clicking on links in Google) I hereby offer a brief primer. A sort of, “Previously, on Gender Wars”, if you will.

Let’s start at the beginning. Humans have two sexes, male and female. Obviously there is a huge amount of biological complexity here, which makes it easy to obfuscate the issue, but fundamentally, if you want a baby you need one person from each sex. You can talk about gametes, chromosomes and DNA until the cows come home, but if you start with two people from the same sex you will still never get a baby (although you may get insightful analysis of a recent football match).

You don’t, however, need to add a hypothetical third sex. Male + female is all that’s required, unless you count wine and smooth talking as sexes.

In 99%+ of cases the differences between the male and female sex can be elucidated by anybody over the age of about 6, with relatively little training [Observations of primary sexual characteristics in a sample of games of Doctors & Nurses, My mate Billy et al, The Journal of Playground Activity Vol. LXIX]. However, a very small number of people are born with disorders of sexual development, which makes unambiguous assignment to one sex or the other more difficult. People born with these disorders are still, however, members of one of the two sexes. They do not belong to both sexes, they do not form a new sex, they are not “intersex”, which is a derogatory term now reserved almost entirely for people who care so much about intersex people’s right to be heard that they won’t listen to their request to stop calling them “intersex”.

That’s the end of the easy bit, and if you think that everything we’ve covered so far is straightforward and uncontroversial then several thousand Twitter users, with pre-pubescent Anime girls as profile pictures and bios full of hashtags have a lovely surprise for you.

Now we get to gender. Gender was invented as a term to stop idiots answering “Yes please” to the sex question on forms. Since then it has evolved into a term to describe the differing roles society imposes on the sexes; boys play with toy cars, girls with dolls, men wrestle bears, women do the ironing, etc.

Gender is a social construct, a term which is often used as a synonym for “bad”, but pretty much everything beyond eating, shitting and breathing is a social construct. Not eating babies is a social construct, not shitting your pants is a social construct, pants themselves are a social construct, etc. It’s just a term for something that we could change, either through a specific effort or through the shifting tides of what’s fashionable.

Gender roles have changed hugely in the last century, from trivial things, like women being allowed to vote, right through to that time I ironed my own shirt. We’ve slowly moved away from there being men-things (power, education, etc.) and women-things (needle-work, childcare, etc) while retaining the social construct that men=male and women=female.

The people who would once have been the never-seen customers of Tranformations have come out from behind the velvet curtain and said that they not only want to dress as women, but been seen and treated by society as such. There has been a great deal of insistence that this social treatment extends to changing rooms, bathrooms, women-only short-lists, being lesbian, etc. Women who opposed this, on the grounds of men’s treatment of women having been pretty fucking shabby for the previous 10,000 years, have found themselves vilified for not being inclusive and caring.

This is a like a great white shark swimming up and asking for a bite of your ice-cream, and your concerns that you might lose a chunk of your arm in the process being reframed as you being too selfish to share your ’99.

Roughly, though, we end up with five genders; boring, old-fashioned men and women, transwomen, transmen and non-binary (who see themselves as neither men or women). There are many possible variations on those basic 5, and people will variously tell you there are 27 genders, or 100 genders, or an infinite number of genders, but at a certain point the genders start encroaching on the territory of sexuality or what we used to call personality, in the days when we thought that was what made a person interesting and not that it takes them 3 hours to explain their gender.

Now we’re at the stage where we’re encountering three major, intertwined, problems.

The first is that, having expanded the number of genders to 5+, those who strongly support gender ideology are trying to collapse it back down to three; men, women and non-binary. Their slogan, “Trans women are women”, couldn’t be more explicit in this.

twaw tweet
And it was in use before 2016, whatever Christine Burns MBE says

This has led to the situation where if you refer to “men” everyone knows you mean men, if you refer to “transwomen” then every knows you mean transwomen and if you refer to “women” then thousands of people decide you’re an exclusionary bigot and try to get you sacked. Doubly so if you try to use terms like “biological woman” or “natal woman”. The approved term is “cis woman”, which suffers only slightly from no-one liking it, hardly anybody understanding what it means, and some transwomen adopting it for themselves anyway.

Secondly, the gender ideology is, fittingly, rather fluid. It’s new and quite a lot of it is being made up as people go along. It’s not an exaggeration to say that half the movement don’t agree with the other half.

What they all agree on, though, is that they will unite against anybody deemed to be a ‘TERF’ (a ‘Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist’, normally pronounced to rhyme with ‘ditch’). This makes any sort of compromise very difficult, because as soon as there’s any sign of agreement between the less angry elements it’s likely to be derided by one of the many ideological extremists, who will rephrase the discussion through the prism of their own imagination and denounce one or both parties. It’s like a Catholic and a Protestant trying to organise their wedding, but they have to agree every detail with Ian Paisley.

Finally (and where I’ll end, I promise), outside of technical grammatical use and feminist discourse, gender and sex have been used interchangeably in language and in law. Ten years ago the concept of a male woman or a female man would have been nonsensical.

gender usage graph

Even the Gender Recognition Act is unclear on whether it’s talking about sex or gender.

gra language

Even the term ‘transwoman’ is unclear. Polls consistently show support for transwomen being allowed to use female facilities (because Republicans) but then stop doing so sharply when it’s explained that the transwoman umbrella extends over men who’ve had no surgery, taken no drugs, haven’t even (in some cases) shaved their beards off.

Meanwhile, the definition of woman is slowly being boiled down to “A woman is a woman who says they are a woman” and when J K Rowling tweets “Sex is real” thousands of people read “I want gender non-conforming children to suffer and die”, apparently not even thinking that’s maybe a bit out of character.

This is a confusing battle, fought with confusing and confused words, trying to achieve confused objectives, with confusion deliberately being used as a weapon.

I do hope that helps enlighten Mr Pullman, and I wish him the best next time he dips a toe into this fight.

Draft includer

On the 4th of June this year the Scottish government published its guidance on its own Gender Representation On Public Boards (Scotland) Act.

The aim of the act is laudable enough. It seeks to ensure that public bodies in Scotland have at least half of their non-executive director posts (rounded down) filled by women. One would hope that goal, at least, was not too controversial.

Instead the controversy has been around the paragraph at the end of the act’s key definitions, and the guidance to go along with it.

Firstly, what the act itself says:

gropb act

This is, as the paragraph says, a slight re-wording of section 7(1) of the Equality Act, which says:

eq act

It has, as you’d expect, been tailored to refer only to people who are having gender reassignment to become women. A key word here is “includes”. This indicates that the act doesn’t apply only to be people with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, but also to the larger group understood by the term “woman”.

We’ll come back to this, and the use of the Equality Act, shortly. Meanwhile, on to the guidance, specifically the section of it titled, “Definition of ‘woman’ for the purposes of the Act”

The section opens with para 2.12, which reiterates what the act itself says. The following paragraph, 2.13, then lays out three criteria that a transwoman without a gender recognition certificate must meet in order to qualify as a woman for the purpose of the act. A footnote tells us that, “A trans woman with a UK Gender Recognition Certificate or with gender recognition from another EU Member State is legally a woman.”

It’s worth flow-charting the process that’s being described here.

gra flowchart 1

The 3rd box down is something of a supposition, because neither the guidance nor the act itself say that a transman with a gender recognition certificate would not come under the wider, undefined, term “woman”. Instead we’d have to look at section 9(1) of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, not referenced in this act, which says that “Where a full gender recognition certificate is issued to a person, the person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender”, and presume that their assumed gender supersedes natal gender.

We’re also guessing, in the 4th box, as to what the wider term “woman” means, as it’s not defined here. All we’re told is that it includes transwomen. As we’ll see shortly, this act is tying itself in knots to avoid a much plainer, but more contestable definition.

We’re still on paragraph 2.13, which defines the 3 criteria a transwoman must meet in order to be a woman, for the purpose of this act. The wording of this para makes it absolutely clear that it applies only to transwomen without a GRC:

gropb act 2

The three criteria are then laid out:

  1. Have the characteristic of gender reassignment, as defined in the Equality Act
  2. Be proposing to undergo, is undergoing or undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning their sex to female
  3. Be living as a woman

Other problems aside, this is at least fairly easy to add to our flowchart:

gropb flowchart 2

The “living as a woman” criteria will be familiar to anybody who paid any attention to the Scottish government’s planned reforms of the Gender Recognition Act, which have now been sidelined, following considerable outcry about them.

Living as a woman specifically does not entail any changes to appearance, dress or behaviour, instead it requires:

  1. “Always using female pronouns” (which I assume means that they always ask for other people to use female pronouns in relation to them, rather than the literal reading, which is that they must never refer to anyone at all as “he” or “him”)
  2. Using a female name on official documents (there is, sadly, no official list of female names)
  3. Using female titles (presumably Miss and Mrs, no consideration seems to be given for those using ‘gender neutral’ variants)
  4. Using the gender marker for female on official documents, such as a driving licence
  5. Describing themselves, and being described by others, as a woman

Criteria 3 does rather make the other 2 criteria redundant, as they both relate to the equality act, which says only that the protected characteristic of gender reassignment covers those proposing to undergo, undergoing or having undergone “changing physiological or other attributes of sex”

The 5 requirements to be considered living as a woman constitute the “other” part of attributes of sex. It’s hard to see how you could be living as a woman in the manner described and not be considered to have the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

Also, the second criteria – in a paragraph which, as we saw, applies exclusively to transwomen without a GRC – explicitly excludes transmen.

gropb act 3

Putting this exclusion here makes our flowchart a bit more complex:

gra flowchart 2

However, if we look at it objectively, taking in the evident desire to include transwomen (not female) but exclude transmen (female), then we can see the actual decision making is much simpler, and doesn’t require any references to the Gender Recognition Act or the Equality Act, just a simple recourse to the only criteria in the guidance that carries any meaning:

gra flowchart 3

This is clearly the intent of the guidance. Everything else is just padding to disguise the starkness of the vision where pronouns, the sex indicator on your passport, the name the bank uses when they write to you, things which are supposed to reflect reality, have instead become the arbiters of it.

I’m not a women, but if I were I think I’d probably feel that the need to be represented on the boards of public bodies went a little deeper than whether Scottish Power added an ‘S’ to the end of ‘Mr’ on my account details.

Just to finish off, section 2.14 of the guidance makes it clear that this definition only applies to this act, and does not create a wider legal definition of the term. Three things to note about this:

  1. This only appears in guidance, which is…well, guidance. This guidance could be updated at any time.
  2. Once this definition is in law once it becomes easier to sneak in to other laws. Future laws just need a line in their definitions section saying “woman” is defined as per section 2 of the Gender Representation On Public Boards (Scotland) Act, and far fewer people are likely to appreciate the significance.
  3. Even if the definition does apply only to this act there is a big difference between it not creating a wider legal definition and it not being used in support of such a definition. It produces a basis to say, “Well, we did it in the Gender Representation Act, and that hasn’t caused any problems.”

Finally, section 2.15 absolves anyone of any responsibility for misuse of this new, woolly, definition. Boards aren’t required to ask anyone to prove they meet the definition, and for the individual in question, even the laughable constraints of the solemn declaration, and the penalty for making a false declaration, fail to appear.

Even after 3 days of reading the guidance I still don’t know if it was written by someone incompetent, and incapable of structuring guidance clearly, or if the intention was to deliberately obfuscate just how little the concept of womanhood means to them, but neither option is great and, it seems, either through incompetence or maliciousness, the Scottish government isn’t prepared to listen to any dissenting voices.

How not to make it obvious you hate women

witchfinder-general-1968-006-vincent-price

When you’re writing a blog post all about your own personal entitlement it’s all too easy to let subtle clues slip through that you really hate women. Today we’ll be looking at how you can avoid those traps and completely cover up your towering misogyny.

  1. Make it clear you don’t hate all women.

Let’s face it, women who are mostly silent and completely compliant are actually pretty much OK. What you need is a term that makes those whose own wishes are subservient to your desires sound like the majority and to other those uppity bitches who won’t do what you want.

Research suggests that ‘uppity bitches’ is quite a polarising term, and tests poorly with the non-male demographic, so you’ll want to avoid that. Fortunately, the rich brown tapestry of social media has thrown up many new synonyms that you can use.

There’s the – always hilarious – ‘Karen’, who’s drunk on Prosecco and wants to see the manager, because she’s too stupid to recognise how much more privilege than you she has.

Then there’s the fashionably gender-neutral ‘Boomer’, for those who hold the antiquated opinion that the universe doesn’t revolve around your ego.

At the moment the othering heights is ‘TERF’, very catty but slightly hindered by the fact that you have to explain it, and that explanation involves feminism, which is boring and nobody is interested in.

You can get around this by making up a better acronym, something that nobody wants to be part of…

TERFs – Terrapin Eating Revolting Females

2. Explain why it’s OK to hate some women

It your argument is predominately/entirely based at women, to the extent that you don’t even want to acknowledge that men could be opposed to you, then it can sound a little bit like you’re a men’s rights activist.

To avoid this you’ll want build the case against the TERFs rationally, providing evidence at every step, and supporting your argument with examples and citations. Like this, for example…

Genetically, TERFs are indistinguishable from Hitler

That should do it, there’s no way any rational person wouldn’t be convinced by that.

3. If the words are nice, the actions don’t have to be

Naturally you’re going to want to write about taking control of women-led organisations, forcing women out of public places and off public platforms, having them de-funded, having them sacked, making them live in fear, and maybe even getting a few punches dealt their way, because if they aren’t prepared to let you dictate reality to them then they’re simply asking for all of that. However, some of it can come across as a bit harsh (no, really, people will take offence at anything these days)

Take “inclusive”. Inclusivity sounds like a worthy goal, and is so much more pleasing to the ear than “let me be in charge of everything!”. Everyone carries a scar from fascists in their lives not being inclusive; that kid who didn’t invite you to his birthday party in primary school, that girl who refused to date nerds with spots, that lesbian couple you knew who massively over-reacted to your simple request to watch.

Yes, inclusivity is good for everyone, especially when it allows you to drive women out of organisations that support women.

Feminism is also a good angle. Yes, it’s boring, but like “culture” it’s dull but worthy. Nobody can really object to something if you’re doing it in the cause of feminism.

Men’s rights activists tried to dismantle feminism, because they hated the idea of women having the power to organise and achieve their own goals. You’re the complete opposite, because you aim to make feminism stronger, by putting the best person you know – you – in charge of it.

Plus, when you walk towards a woman, meaningfully tapping your baseball bat in your hand, it’s good to know that the angels are behind you when you say, “This is for your own good.”

Failing that, you can also appeal to decency. Everyone is in favour of decency, and rarely remembers that no two people have the same standard for it. Frame the choice between decency and fascism and people normally pick the card you want, and don’t see the sleight-of-hand of you defining both terms to suit your own needs.

4. Everything you do, you do it for you

Ultimately, trying to get your own way looks selfish and even mean-spirited. This is why you need to make your goals sound like common goals for everyone.

Don’t say you want to hound all “TERFs” out of public life, say that we can only have a tolerant society if we silence them. Don’t say you’d like to beat them up, or worse, instead say that your actions are just to make life safe for everyone.  Rather than openly stating your goal of pushing women out of women’s organisations, say you’re interested in making them truly democratic.

While many people will, quite unreasonably, oppose you achieving your personal goals, it’s a lot harder for people to object to tolerance, safety and democracy. There’s a reason why despotic countries always have ‘Democratic’ in their name, you know.

5. Sound the dog-whistle, act surprised when dogs turn up

If all of this sounds like you’re being too even-handed, and giving those uppity bitches too little abuse, then don’t worry. Plenty of women-haters out there know the code, and they’ll be sure to support you with much more direct insults and threats…and you totally disown them if they cause you any hassle.

“Me? No, I was calling for a fair society for everyone. I was the idiots replying, who I totally don’t absolutely agree with, who were handing out the threats of violence.”

Whatever happens to those uppity bitches, you can sleep soundly.

Or, maybe – and this is a bit “out there” – read back what you’ve written, while remembering that these are rational adults who legitimately disagree with you, and put your fucking dick back in your pants.