As a steadfast advocate for women’s rights and gender equality for decades, my journey has taken me through tides of societal change. I’ve witnessed the evolution of the feminist narrative, growing from a call for equality to a more nuanced discourse encompassing myriad intersecting issues.
However, three issues of the moment strike a dissonant chord: the assertion by some men that they can be women let alone even ‘better’ women, the fairness of men pretending to be women participating in women’s sports, and the sinister, confusing and distressing impacts of contemporary gender education on children.
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Misogyny, the ingrained prejudice against women, has a pervasive influence on society. It’s an unsettling irony that some men now believe they can be women or even ‘better’ women, essentially claiming a superior interpretation of the gender they traditionally sought to suppress.
The assertion stems from archaic societal norms, defining womanhood based on stereotypes and expectations that the feminist movement has battled to dismantle. This approach echoes an era when women’s roles were rigorously defined and their behaviours tightly controlled.
However, the essence of being a woman isn’t a performance, an act that can be evaluated and ranked.
Every woman’s life is an intricate tapestry of experiences, coloured by triumphs, heartbreaks, love, loss, and everything in between. Womanhood is influenced by various cultural, racial, socioeconomic, and personal factors, which resist distillation into a single universal definition.
Thus, insinuating that man can be a woman or even a ‘better’ woman not only oversimplifies this complex reality but also reduces womanhood to a competitive role-play.
The issue of transgender women (“men” pretending to be women) participating in women’s sports has stirred passionate debates globally.
The crux of this contentious issue lies in the inherent biological differences between men and women. Men, by virtue of their physiology, usually have denser bones, more muscle mass, and higher quantities of testosterone, which contribute significantly to athletic performance.
Such differences are not eliminated even with hormone therapy, which is a requirement in many sporting institutions for transgender women (“men” pretending to be women) to compete in women’s categories.
Consider the case of Rachel McKinnon (now known as Veronica Ivy), a transgender woman athlete, who, in 2018, won the UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championship in the women’s 35-39 age category.
Ivy’s victory ignited controversy and reignited discussions about the fairness of her participation. Critics correctly argued that despite hormone therapy, Ivy still retained some of the physiological benefits from male puberty, giving “her” an unfair advantage.
Similarly, in 2017, Laurel Hubbard, a New Zealand weightlifter and a transgender woman (man), won the women’s over 90kg division at the Australian International, outperforming her nearest competitor by a significant margin.
Hubbard’s participation and victory raised concerns about the potential advantages “she” might have had over her competitors who happened to be real women.
The participation of transgender women athletes in women’s sports isn’t a question of denying their rights or questioning their identities.
Instead, it’s a matter of ensuring a level playing field for all female athletes.
As someone who has been advocating for women’s rights for decades, I believe it’s critical to continue working towards ensuring sports remain fair, competitive, and inclusive.
Yet, this inclusivity must not compromise the essence of fair competition, especially when natural biological differences could affect the outcome.
What is a woman?
One question that seems to be often sidestepped in many discussions with transgender women (men) is: “What is a woman?”
It appears that many choose not to or cannot answer this question, possibly because it prompts deep reflection on the reality of biological sex, an inconvenient truth for men claiming to be something they simply are not.
These individuals often choose to redefine womanhood based on subjective feelings, social constructs, and personal experiences rather than the scientific reality of biology.
This shift away from the objective, biological definition is problematic as it creates a chasm between what is perceived and what is a biological reality.
Biologically speaking, the definition of a woman is relatively straightforward.
A woman is typically characterized as an adult human female with two X chromosomes. They possess the biological framework for menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation — capabilities embedded within their biological makeup from birth. Women also typically exhibit secondary sexual characteristics such as the development of natural breasts and a clitoris.
This biological definition does not discount the lived experiences of those women who, for various medical reasons, may not be able to conceive or have other medical conditions that impact typical female biology. It is not the ability to conceive or menstruate that defines a woman, but the fundamental biological structure that would naturally allow for these functions.
While gender identity is allegedly a personal inner sense of one’s gender, biological sex is a physical reality determined by our DNA. The societal roles and behaviours associated with gender are mutable and have indeed changed over time. However, biological sex is an unchangeable aspect of our human nature.
It’s essential to respect every individual. Yet, this respect should work both ways, and it should not eclipse the scientific realities that underpin our existence.
The boundaries of womanhood should not be expanded to the extent that the term “woman” loses its biological and scientific significance.
It’s more critical than ever that we safeguard the objective definition of womanhood. Because “men” are trying to hijack it and take control once again.
Transitioning to the realm of modern education, an area that has seen a significant change in recent years, we encounter an alarming trend: the notion of gender fluidity and the idea that children can self-select from a seemingly endless spectrum of genders.
This idea is creating, perhaps intentionally, confusion and anxiety among children.
This is largely due to their cognitive development stage. At a young age, children are still grappling with the fundamental aspects of their identities. Asking them to define themselves within a complex matrix of what are essentially make-believe gender identities, burdens them with a choice they are ill-equipped to make and is tantamount to indoctrination.
In some extreme instances, this trend has resulted in situations where “men” dressed in clothing typically associated with women are invited into schools to read stories to children.
In many cases, these outfits may be deemed inappropriate or overtly sexualized, creating a disconcerting environment for young minds.
When these events occur without explicit parental consent, they raise legitimate concerns about the infringement of parental rights and the potential for inappropriate exposure.
Some might argue that characterizing this as ‘bordering on child abuse’ is excessive.
However, it is crucial to acknowledge that prematurely exposing children to complex concepts they may not fully comprehend could lead to psychological distress. This is not a dismissal of the validity of men who want to pretend to be women. It is instead an emphasis on the need for age-appropriate education.
Instead of pushing children to self-identify along a vast gender spectrum, our educational systems should pivot towards fostering values of respect, acceptance, and empathy.
It is paramount to instil in children the principle that everyone, irrespective of their identities or viewpoints, deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. By promoting this, we create a strong base for understanding and compassion, minimizing the likelihood of confusion and distress.
However, it’s essential to note that respect and kindness should not be unilateral. Transgender women (“men” who identify as women) should also extend these same virtues to those who might hold differing opinions on issues surrounding gender fluidity and identification. The dialogue around these complex issues should be marked by mutual respect and understanding, rather than a toxic, one-sided imposition of beliefs.
We must also not forget the primary duty of our educational institutions: to provide a safe, supportive, and understandable learning environment for all children.
In conclusion, the ongoing debates around equality, transgender issues, and gender education invite us to confront a complex, yet fundamental question: “What is a woman?” This question, though simple on the surface, engages the deepest layers of biological, sociological, and personal understanding.
Scientifically, a woman can be defined as an adult human female, typically characterized by two X chromosomes, the capability for menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and the presence of sexual characteristics like breasts and a clitoris.
But to focus solely on the physical and biological aspects is to miss the tapestry of experiences, emotions, struggles, and triumphs that truly define womanhood.
In contrast, the claim by some “men” who identify as women that they can be ‘better’ women than those born female is an act of overtaking and controlling women’s spaces, rooted in a long history of misogyny.
It seeks to redefine womanhood in terms that adhere to their perspective, without acknowledging or experiencing the lived realities and challenges that come with being born and growing up as a woman in our society.
Every human being who shows respect to others also deserves to be respected. However, it is crucial to distinguish between a respectful dialogue about gender identities and the harmful erasure or dismissal of the unique experiences that real naturally-born women face. This includes the right to fairness in women’s sports, where biological differences should not be overlooked in the name of inclusivity.
Because the powers that be are ensuring the conversation on gender does not go away, we must ensure that it doesn’t come at the cost of silencing real women’s voices or trivializing their experiences.
We must strive to build a society that genuinely respects and recognizes the diversity and complexity of human identities. This involves rejecting both the old misogyny that constrained women to rigid roles and the new forms that aim to redefine them without their consent.
Therefore, as we are forced to continue to explore the broad and confusing spectrum of gender identities and expressions, we should always remember to respect and honour the lived realities of real, biological women.
Let us persist in our effort to dismantle all vestiges of misogyny and work tirelessly towards fostering understanding and acceptance that genuinely elevates everyone. Instead of succumbing to the divisive divide-and-conquer strategies promoted by the establishment.
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