Your biological sex is a fact not just a feeling

Janice Turner

Published in the Times 19/8/17

Efforts to stamp out artificial gender distinctions shouldn’t get confused with real differences between men and women

Girls are good at “being pretty and wearing dresses”. Boys grow up to be presidents, “because they’re better at being in charge”. There’s nothing politically correct about seven-year-olds. The kids of Lanesend primary school in a BBC documentary just repeated, unfiltered, what they saw and heard from parents, books, teachers, adverts and TV.

The idea of creating a “gender-neutral” classroom in No More Boys and Girls sounds like some sinister feminist experiment. When in fact it was incredibly simple: challenge a few silly, life-limiting stereotypes and, as one excited boy put it, “everyone can choose to be anything they want”.

After six happy weeks in which they met male dancers and female mechanics, there was only one thing boys and girls loathed with equal passion: sharing a block of unisex toilets. Both felt invaded, vulnerable, embarrassed. “I try not to go at school,” says one girl (in next week’s episode). “I hold it in all day.”

It struck me that here was the heart of our current travails of confused teenagers, hormones and clinics: we have forgotten, or conflated, the difference between gender and biological sex. That the former is nonsense, the latter is real.

Gender is the story a society tells itself about the roles and status of men and women. Gender says boys don’t cry and assertive girls are “bossy”. Gender once declared women couldn’t vote, have a mortgage, fly a plane; that men couldn’t care for their own children, show tenderness or fear.

Gender has lately become an engine of enterprise: companies have learnt they can flog (particularly to women) products we never knew we needed. Like pink power-tools, razors or Bic lady pens. Lego is now seen as a boys’ toy, except sets which come in pink. The Lanesend girls, given a build-a-robot kit, were initially sceptical: this wasn’t for them, it was blue. The pink and blue theme park is so vivid teenagers think it’s real

Gender now starts in the womb: at “gender reveal” parties, prenatal scan results are celebrated in a glitter cannon of pink or blue. Muslim feminists are rightly appalled at hijabs imposed on little girls, but what about the stupid bows stuck on bald baby heads because God forbid anyone mistakes your daughter for a boy. Girls of eight have pampering parties and wear impractical Clarks shoes called Dolly Babe, while their brothers tear around in durable Leaders.

The ways in which young men and women present themselves has never been more crudely gendered. YouTube videos and Love Island parade the largely unattainable ideals of stubbly, muscled he-man and long-haired big-boobed Barbie. Gender has decreed human beings, in all their glorious variants, must resemble cartoons, avatars, porn stars.

Gender’s greatest trick is passing itself off as Nature. New Scientist this week reports a study of the cognitive abilities of men and women in 26 countries: it finds their variations were linked to each society’s attitude to gender roles. So if a society says spacial puzzles are for boys, girls will grow up with inferior spacial reasoning skills. But neuroscientists believe the brain is plastic: give both sexes equal practice and results will be similar. Tell that to Google’s James Damore.

And this pink and blue gender theme park is so vivid, its expectations so rigid, that no wonder teenagers think it is real. A friend’s daughter declared she was really a boy: after a long talk it transpired she loathed the dresses and flouncy hair she thought a prerequisite of girlhood. She cut her hair, wears jeans and is happy. Contrast with a mother featured in Radio 4’s iPM who believes her ten-year-old is “non-binary” because she chose a pirate not a princess-themed birthday party.

When I interviewed Maria Miller, who chairs the Commons women and equalities committee, she said “we’re not doing enough for people who have no gender at all”. She made it sound as if they were born without an organ or a chromosome. When in fact those declaring themselves “gender-fluid” or “gender non-binary” and demanding to be called the pronoun “they” don’t sit easily at the blue or pink gender poles but somewhere in between. But then don’t we all . . .

Rather than approving the right to put an X on your passport instead of F or M, we should aim to make the biological categories of men and women as big, generous and inclusive as possible. So men are still men if they wear dresses and “butch” girls don’t now feel they must take testosterone.

But biological sex itself is now controversial. The World Health Organisation has recently removed a page from its website explaining the difference between gender and sex, which said that women menstruate and men have testicles. These simple scientific facts are now unsayable.

The new orthodoxy is that whether you are a man or a woman is merely a feeling, an inner essence, which transcends biology. If Justine Greening’s proposals on the Gender Recognition Act are passed this will be enshrined in law.

While we should make better provision for the small number of people with gender dysphoria who wish to transition, biological sex cannot be erased. For women in particular, biology — contraception, childbirth, abortion, rape, menopause — shapes much of our destiny.

So while we need to challenge the phantasms of gender, we must respect biological sex. There are occasions when it matters for men and women to be separate so they feel dignified, private, safe. As shown by the furore this week that the government has not abolished the hated mixed-sex hospital wards. Or the horror shown by the seven-year-olds of Lanesend primary. Boys and girls can be equal without being forced to share loos.

Violent leftwingers are the alt-right’s useful idiots

Melanie Phillips

Published in the Times 15/8/17

It is a caricature of what happened in Charlottesville to call Trump and his supporters racists

President Trump has been on the defensive over his remarks about the disturbances in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the weekend. Clashes between fascist types and their opponents over the city’s removal of confederate monuments turned deadly when a presumed white supremacist drove a car into the counter-demonstrators, killing one person and injuring many others.

In response, Trump condemned the “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides”. His failure until yesterday to single out the white supremacists for censure has provoked a storm of criticism, not least from Republicans.

Trump’s response was indeed inadequate. Much more worrying, though, was what actually happened. For this was not, as widely portrayed, a clash between fascists and anti-fascists. It was between two groups each of which perpetrate hatred and intolerance, stand against freedom and seek to impose their views of society and human nature by force.

The “unite the right” demonstration brought on to the streets neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other racist extremists. The sight of them marching with swastika flags and flaming torches was stomach-turning. But ranged against them were the “Antifa”, self-designated anti-fascists who are anything but. They have a record of unprovoked violence, rioting and thuggery. Their Black Lives Matter offshoot includes racists who incite violence against white people.

Since Trump’s ascendancy, there have been repeated outbreaks of violence, mostly perpetrated by Antifa against ordinary Republicans and other conservatives, either at pro-Trump rallies or on other public platforms. These people have been either stopped from speaking or physically attacked by Antifa and other left-wing demonstrators.

In June the House Republican whip, Steve Scalise, was shot and almost killed by a Bernie Sanders-supporting Democrat who opened fire on a group of Republicans at a baseball practice. A New Jersey Democratic party activist, James Devine, posted on his Facebook page that he had “little sympathy” for Scalise because he opposed gun restriction policies. Another Democratic party official in Nebraska was fired after saying he was “glad” that Scalise had been shot.

The real target is mainstream American values and culture

The Democratic establishment dismisses such people as mavericks with no significance for the left-wing causes they support. Yet a double standard operates against President Trump, who is held to be personally defined by the unacceptable nature of a tiny minority of his supporters.

The fact that the former Ku Klux Klan “grand wizard” David Duke, who was at Charlottesville, claims to support Trump’s agenda (that is, when he’s not in the next breath condemning him) is being used to smear Trump himself as a white supremacist.

It is grotesque to equate Trump’s pledge to “make America great again”, which was endorsed by the 63 million Americans who voted for him, with the bigotry of white supremacism. The former is driven by people wanting to uphold core American values they deeply cherish and share with each other. The latter is driven by loathing of racial and ethnic groups deemed to be inferior.

In last year’s presidential campaign Hillary Clinton was endorsed by Will Quigg, “grand dragon” of the Ku Klux Klan’s California chapter. He claimed she had a “hidden agenda” and that if elected she would come out for gun ownership and sealing America’s borders. Quigg’s support of Clinton was rightly dismissed as either mischief-making or barking mad. Yet when such people support Trump, this is held to define him.

There are various possible reasons why initially Trump didn’t specifically condemn the far right in Charlottesville. He may resent being bullied into stating what he considers should be obvious: that he thinks such people are vicious extremists. He may believe that both warring sides had unconscionable agendas.

Whatever his reason, his generalised remarks were ill-judged. As US president, he inescapably delineates the contours of what is socially acceptable and what is beyond the pale. He should therefore have specifically denounced white supremacism as having no place in American society. At the same time, he should have specifically condemned the hatemongering ideology of left-wing identity politics.

Such a response was not just morally but politically necessary. For the left’s real target is not the far right but mainstream conservatives who want to uphold American values and culture: the people who brought Trump to power. Defending national identity, however, is denounced by western progressives as white racism.

The result is an unholy alliance between the left and the far right. A white supremacist called Richard Spencer invented the blanket term “alt-right” to associate his ilk with conservatives seeking merely to defend American identity and core values. Through this tactic, Spencer intended to boost the far right and simultaneously smear and thus destroy regular conservatives.

The left has seized upon this smear with unbridled joy, routinely using the “alt-right” term to try to destroy the national identity agenda by bracketing it with white supremacism. The result is a powerful boost for the far right. From deserved obscurity, they suddenly find the left are transmitting their every utterance to the world. The phrase “useful idiots” comes inescapably to mind.

Charlottesville was but the latest front in what has become America’s cultural civil war. It won’t, alas, be the last.