Let’s tackle anti-semitism where it exists – not where it doesn’t

A friend asked me recently whether I’d considered writing a blog about the rising incidence of anti-Semitism within the Labour Pary and within Britain as a whole.

My response, quite honestly, was no.  It was, and still is, a topic about which I am extremely wary, and at the time I simply explained that I didn’t feel I, as a non-practising Catholic of British / South African heritage, was in any way qualified to comment on.  Particularly given there are a number of highly respected Jewish journalists who have already written, and continue to write, far more powerful pieces than I could ever hope to write on this topic.

But the other reason for my wariness, which I didn’t mention at the time, was because I have found myself on two separate occasions, on social media, accused of anti-semitism for failing to recognise particular “anti-Semitic tropes” of which I had previously been unaware.

The first involved a cartoon depicting George Soros as a puppeteer, pulling the strings of Tony Blair.  I don’t recall the particular context in which the cartoon was circulated – it was certainly something Brexit-related – but I was fascinated that many journalists that I follow and whose opinions I often respect, were immediately condemning it as anti-semitic.  In my usual bull-in-a-china-shop manner, I responded to one of the condemnatory tweets, expressing my bafflement at a criticism of George Soros being automatically labelled anti-semitic based purely, as far as I could see, on the fact that Soros is Jewish. Why, I asked, should Soros be immune from any criticism over undue influence he may wield over politicians? The answer, confusingly, was that the puppeteer is a familiar anti-semitic trope that not only was used extensively by the Nazis, but which even to this day is typically only ever used in relation to Jewish people.   Criticise Soros by all means, I was told, but don’t show him as a puppeteer.

Now, firstly, I will confess to my own ignorance – I was not previously aware, at all, of the puppeteer trope.  But a brief Google search did bring up plenty of Nazi and other more recent clearly anti-semitic propaganda material depicting Jewish puppeteers pulling the strings of society.  So I could, now, partially understand the reaction.

But I still took exception to my interlocutor’s insistence that it’s only ever Jews who are depicted as puppeteers.  Nonsense, I responded, attaching a few cartoon images and memes of Donald Trump portrayed as the puppet either of Vladimir Putin or Steve Bannon.   Why is it okay to depict Steve Bannon or Vladimir Putin as puppeteers, but not George Soros?  I received no answer – whether because I had raised a killer point, or whether my interlocutor had chosen to give up and dismiss me as a rampant anti-semite, I will never know.

 

The second incident involved a couple of EU-loving Remain activists photographed at a pro-EU rally, each wearing a single gold star labelled “French”. “Dreadful anti-semitism!” roared many of the Brexiteers that I follow on Twitter.  And once again I was utterly baffled as to how this display of love for the EU, and love for their country, from two French citizens, could possibly be perceived as anti-semitic.

Never one to blindly follow my own tribe, I waded in to the argument expressing my incredulity at what I saw as a blatant attempt to use the smear of anti-semitism to discredit a differing viewpoint.  It appeared clear to me that the stars these two were wearing – being 5-pointed stars of the same shape as those on the EU flag – were meant to symbolise exactly those stars.  They were not 6-pointed Stars of David, and in no way symbolic of the Jewish faith.

Nonsense, I was told.  Regardless of shape and number of points, a single yellow star attached to an item of clothing is an anti-semitic trope.  Particularly given the word “French” was written on the star – clearly meant to invoke memories of the holocaust, in which Jewish people were required to attach a yellow Star of David, labelled “Jew” to their clothing.

Now, once again, I have to confess my ignorance.  I remember learning about the holocaust and I remember learning about how Jews were forced to register as Jewish, and how the homes of Jewish people were painted with the word “Jew”, but I don’t recall the specificity of Jewish people being expected to wear a Star of David labelled “Jew” on their clothing.  But even having Googled it, and found many articles and images confirming what I was being told, I still couldn’t let go of the difference between the six-pointed Star of David and the five-pointed stars this couple were wearing.  To me they are as far apart in shape as a pentagon and a square – the geometric part of my mind saw them as simply not comparable.

But the more I insisted on this point, the more I alienated other participants in the conversation.  For refusing to accept the parallel between the stars this couple were wearing, and those worn by the Jewish victims of the holocaust, I was labelled a racist, an anti-semite, an appalling excuse for humanity.  I even found myself unceremoniously blocked by a couple of people who had been happily following me for months.

And here’s the thing.  With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that the couple were, indeed, trying to draw parallels with the holocaust.   Their message was that they, as French citizens, feel as unwelcome in Brexit Britain as the Jews felt in Nazi Germany.  Their message was crass, and to the survivors and descendants of survivors of the holocaust, probably deeply offensive in seeking to draw parallels between Brexit and the holocaust.

But that still doesn’t make it anti-semitic.  It was not aimed as a criticism of Jews, or Israel.  The message was aimed entirely at Brexiteers – those who had voted to take Britain out of the EU and by doing so, deprive French citizens of some of the rights they currently enjoy in the UK.   This couple were not criticising Jews -rather they were calling Brexiteers Nazis. Distasteful and juvenile – yes.  Anti-semitic – no.  But the Brexiteers, clearly offended at being once again compared to Nazis, were trying to spin it as anti-semitism in an effort to flip the balance of censure from themselves to the Remain activists.

Which brings me, finally, to the impetus for this blog.  I have found myself, today, fascinated and appalled by the accusations of anti-semitism against Paul Embery, a Fire Brigades Union official, for a tweet which had nothing to do with Jews, Jewishness, or even Israel.  The tweet was not directed at, nor about, a Jewish person.  Yet still it has been deemed anti-semitic for its use of two words that were apparently used by Stalin, about Jews, 70 years ago and which are therefore, apparently, an anti-semitic trope.

The two words?  “Rootless cosmopolitan”.  The full tweet (in response to a tweet stating that a nation is not a home):

“A nation is not a home”

I fear this encapsulates the divide in our society – between the rootless, cosmopolitan, bohemian middle class (in this case a bloke who used to sing folk songs on the BBC) and a rooted, communitarian, patriotic working class”

Screenshot 2019-04-08 at 22.11.15

Now, once again, I have to confess prior ignorance.  I had no idea that the phrase “rootless cosmopolitan” was a derogatory Stalinist term for Jews.  I will tuck this away in my knowledge bank for future reference.

But given my love of words, and grammar, I am forced to point out that “rootless cosmopolitan” is an adjective (rootless) describing a noun (cosmopolitan).  Embery, on the other hand, referred to the “rootless, cosmopolitan, bohemian middle class”.  Three adjectives describing a completely different noun (middle class). Embery’s tweet is so clearly aimed at highlighting the differences in viewpoint between the middle class and the working class, that it takes a quite extraordinary stretch of will to equate it with the Stalinist “rootless cosmopolitan” trope.

But this is the problem.  Where Brexit and Labour / Tory politics are concerned, no stretch of will is too great in the efforts to smear one’s opponents.  Embery, as a prominent Labour Brexiteer, will be finding himself in the cross-hairs not just of those who wish to remain in the EU, but also many Tories and Blairite Labour members who see an attack on him as an attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

In the meantime, genuine, blatant anti-semitism continues to manifest itself, not just within the Labour party but within the UK and the wider western world. The Conservative party has recently suspended a councillor for comments on social media agreeing with the notion that anti-semitism is a “false flag, probably masterminded by Mossad”.    The Jewish Labour Movement has passed a motion of no-confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership for failure to tackle anti-Semitism allegations.   These allegations include failure to expel members for Facebook posts stating “Heil Hitler” and “Jews are the problem”, and failure to expel members for supporting conspiracy theories blaming Israel for 9/11. And social media abounds with tweets blaming “the Jews” for any and all of the failings of modern society.

I still feel completely unqualified to comment in any meaningful capacity on what has led to such an alarming rise in anti-semitism and what needs to be done to tackle it.  As my examples above demonstrate, I’m clearly fairly ignorant and still have a great deal to learn about the preponderance of anti-semitic tropes.  But I will take my guidance on what is anti-semitic, not from journalists, activists and random angries on Twitter, but from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), whose working definition of anti-Semitism was adopted in a plenary meeting by the 31 countries in the IHRA and which has since been formally adopted by the British government.

The IHRA makes clear that anti-semitism is “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as a hatred towards Jews.”  It provides numerous contemporary examples of anti-semitism, which I have listed in full below:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
     
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
     
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
     
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
     
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
     
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
     
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
     
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
     
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
     
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
     
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

It is clear to me from the above that criticism of the power, influence or behaviour of an individual Jewish person (George Soros) does not constitute anti-semitism.  Nor does comparing Brexiteers to Nazis constitute anti-semitism.  And nor, by any stretch of the imagination, does the use of the words “rootless cosmopolitan” constitute anti-semitism, nor does it automatically evoke comparisons with Stalinist hatred of Jews.

There are more than enough genuine cases of anti-semitism in the UK which clearly do fit the IHRA definition, and clearly do need to be taken extremely seriously. But those who would use false accusations of anti-semitism to smear a political opponent, are no better than those who shout “racist” to shut down conversations they simply don’t want to have, and to drown out arguments to which they simply don’t wish to listen.  If it’s crass and disrespectful for pro-EU activists to evoke the holocaust in order to brand Brexiteers as Nazis, surely it’s equally crass and disrespectful for journalists to evoke Stalinist persecution of Jews, in order to discredit a Labour Brexiteer who is attempting to discuss issues of class and community.  Surely we can all do better than this?

 

 

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My Plan for Brexit? Walk Away

Screenshot 2019-03-26 at 13.35.04

“None of the Brexiteers had a plan.  Do you?”

If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked this question on social media, I’d be a rich woman.  In a very recent experience, a Facebook friend demanded I present him with my plan for Brexit, after I commented on a post he’d shared about Jacob Rees-Mogg’s company not paying any corporation tax.  That’s right, the post wasn’t even about Brexit but for those suffering from Brexit Derangement Syndome, I guess everything is about Brexit.

Now, I’ve fallen too many times into the trap of trying to argue the benefits of Brexit with ardent Remainers, and I’ve learned that it’s a bad idea.  When they ask what my plan is, or why I believe so strongly in leaving, they are not asking out of any genuine curiosity.  The question is always posed in a tone of anger and frustration, and whatever answer one gives is instantly derided as fantasy.  The question is a clear opener for a protracted argument, and the longer one tries to defend one’s position, the more acrimonious the conversation becomes, and the more pointless.

So this time, I made it clear that I wasn’t going to waste my time presenting my ‘plan’ for Brexit as my interlocutor clearly wasn’t interested in reading it. Only it turned out this was also not the right response – I was then derided by him and a select few of his ‘friends’ as yet another dishonest Brexiteer who runs away when the situation becomes difficult.  Insults were exchanged and the conversation went from bad to so much worse.

At the time, in the heat of the argument, I couldn’t think clearly enough to see how ridiculous this whole situation was.  But think about it for a minute.  When did we start holding individual voters accountable for the failure of politicians?  At what point did we decide that once you vote for someone or something, you are personally responsible for everything that follows, whether or not it was what you expected?  When last did you hear somebody angrily demand, for example, that any individual Labour voter should justify the Blair government’s decision to lead us into the Iraq war?  When last did we ask Labour voters to tell us what their plan was, for fixing the mess that ensued?

If Remainers are angry about the mess that the British government is making of Brexit, it is nothing to what many Leavers feel.  Those of us who voted for Leave, did so in the honest belief that the government would fulfill its promise to implement the decision of the referendum. We didn’t each have our own individual plans as to how the process would work – we trusted the government to do their jobs and get on with it.  What we certainly didn’t plan on was Gina Miller suing the government to allow Parliament to have the final say over Brexit.  Nor did we plan on ministers going behind the government’s back to hold talks with the EU on how to stop Brexit.  We didn’t plan on two and a half years of ministers, ex-ministers and Lords claiming to accept the result of the referendum while using every trick in the book to try to overturn it.  And we didn’t plan on the government’s absolute refusal to prepare for a no-deal scenario, effectively crippling our negotiating position with the EU.

If anything, it should be Leavers angrily demanding of Remainers, what their plan is. What do they honestly think is going to happen if they manage to secure their second referendum and, despite all the evidence that shows almost nobody has changed their minds, the result miraculously swings to Remain?  Do they honestly believe that we will simply continue as members of the EU and that that will be the end of it?  Personally, I think it’s far more likely that come the next general election, we will see a huge swing to UKIP and the Brexit party as voters, fed-up of being ignored by the current crop of MPs, seek to install a new Parliament that is more willing to do what the electorate asks of them.  And if that happens, then we will simply end up starting the whole process all over again once the new Parliament is installed.

Even if, as many Remainers probably secretly hope, article 50 is revoked and Brexiteers find themselves so disillusioned that they simply give up on voting, do Remainers really believe that Britain’s membership of the EU will continue as it has in the past?  Are they honestly so blind and deaf to the repeated messages from Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and Guy Verhofstadt, making it clear that the EU is intent on further federalism and that the only options available will be full membership (including membership of the Euro) and associate membership with no voting rights (something which sounds very similar to Mrs May’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement)?  If Remainers really still wish to block our exit from the EU, surely it should be time we start asking them which of the two available EU membership options they wish us to pursue in future, along with a full economic analysis of what they believe the benefits of their chosen option to be.

It is naïve in the extreme to think that we can go back to where we were before the referendum.   And the height of arrogance to still cling to the notion that we ever had the power to influence EU decisions unless those decisions had the express approval of France and Germany.  We may like to believe we have always been a rule-maker within the EU but the reality is we have always been largely a rule-taker, our opinions amplified when they accord with the general direction the EU wishes to take, and ignored when they don’t.

And where are we now?  It is hard to comprehend the unholy mess that the British government has made of negotiations with the EU – it may be true that Brexiters never had a plan but neither, clearly, did the government.  Even after the vote went to Leave, the government still failed to do the one thing that it should have been doing right from the start, and plan for a no-deal scenario.   While most of us are familiar with the refrain “hope for the best but plan for the worst”, Mrs May and her advisors have chosen instead to beg for scraps.

So there’s no point, now, asking me what my plan is.  Any hopes I may have had as to how Brexit could be handled, have been thoroughly dashed by a combination of treachery and incompetence that have made a complete mockery of what I actually voted for.  I voted to leave based on promises (and threats) that to do so would mean leaving the single market and leaving the customs union.  I voted with a wish that, free from the constraints of EU membership, we would be able to set our own immigration policy that would judge applicants not based on where they come from but on what they can offer our country, and that we would be able to focus on trade not just with the declining markets of the EU but with the rapidly-growing markets in the rest of the world.  And I voted in the full knowledge that leaving would be a major disruption to the UK economy, which would cause uncertainty and potential short-term economic harm – something I felt was worth enduring for the long-term benefits I still believe leaving would allow.

I don’t know what is going to happen next.  At the moment, it’s looking like MPs are steeling themselves to cave in and accept Mrs May’s deal, telling themselves that it’s either this deal or no Brexit. And I am hoping and praying that they hold firm and refuse to accept the deal.  Despite my initial efforts to convince myself that this deal was the best compromise available given almost half the country don’t wish to leave, I can’t now see this deal as anything other than a permanent surrender to associate EU membership, with no option to leave in future.  And while that may yet prove to be the best option available to us in the long term, I really would prefer to see us either leave on 12 April without a deal and continue to try to negotiate a free trade deal, or ask for a long extension to article 50 to enable a new government to be installed – one that would prepare, right from the start, for a no-deal exit and that would be willing to negotiate on that basis.

But to those who ask me on social media what my plan is, I have a very simple answer. Walk away.  I see your attempt to start an argument and I’m tired of it. You may think “what’s your plan” is a great way to get a debate going but I now recognise it as a clear indication that you are simply spoiling for a fight.   Not to mention a little bit soft in the head in thinking any plan I may have would make the slightest difference to our government.  When you find that your opponent is no longer interested in discussion, and instead just wants to punish you, the only option is to walk away. Something Mrs May sadly doesn’t appear to have learned yet.

 

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Dear Jessica – a social media etiquette dilemma

I have a friend who has an annoying habit of removing my comments from her posts on Facebook, when they don’t conform to the response she was hoping for or expecting.

The first time she did it, I genuinely didn’t know what was going on.  She had posted a link to a news article about a coup in Turkey, with a simple comment indicating her sadness at the news. For some reason, the coup had already gripped my attention and I had been avidly reading news and analysis of it for the last couple of days, so responded with links to three different articles which I had found to be interesting reading, and which I thought she may like to read.  I then carried on scrolling through my news feed and looking at posts from other friends.

A few hours later another friend commented on the Turkey post and I noticed, with great surprise, that the three links I had posted had vanished.  After a few minutes of scratching my head about what could have happened to them, I came to the only possible conclusion – she must have removed them.  But it just seemed such an odd thing to do, and so out of character, that I found myself compelled to message her to ask if she had removed them and if so, why.

She confirmed she had indeed removed the comments and that she’d done it because, there being three of them, she felt that I had “hijacked” her post with my own opinions, rather than understanding the fact that she simply wanted to express her sadness at reading about such turmoil taking place in a country she had recently visited, and to whose people she had particularly warmed.  It seemed the only comments she really had wanted to see in response, were those of a sympathetic nature – or, in my more uncharitable reading of the situation (I was annoyed at her behaviour and so was not feeling particularly charitable) it seemed what she was really looking for was a validation of her own feelings, rather than any actual empathy with the people of Turkey.  She certainly didn’t seem interested in actually trying to understand or discuss the situation.

I did accept, though, that three comments probably had been a bit overenthusiastic – I am not completely blind to my own faults and I can see how my occasional tendency to react too quickly and volubly to friends’ posts can prove annoying in the extreme.  So I agreed to be a bit more circumspect in future and nothing more was said about it.

But now she’s gone and done it again.  She posted a link to a “Brexit yoga” video which, while very cleverly scripted and therefore faintly amusing, has an underlying theme which I found particularly insulting, peddling the same old tired lines about Brexit being an expression of rising nationalism and an unwillingness to pay for Greek debt.  But rather than responding, as I was tempted to do, with a breakdown of every way in which the video was insulting, offensive and just plain ignorant, I chose to respond with humour.  So I posted a link to Dominic Frisby’s excellent “17 million fuck offs” song about Brexit.  If she wants to post Brexit-related stuff that she finds funny, I figured, I’ll do the same in response.

And quick as a flash, she deleted it.  No response, no message to tell me she was going to remove it – she simply removed it.

And I found myself wondering what happened to the Daily Mash’s wonderful six-year-old agony aunt, Holly, who I felt certain would be able to provide the perfect advice as to how to respond to such a situation.  Sadly Holly doesn’t appear to be working for the Daily Mash any longer as I can’t find any recent advice columns from her, but I decided instead to write to my own six-year-old correspondent, Jessica.

Dear Jessica

My friend keeps posting political stuff on Facebook and then removing any comments that threaten the sanctity of her echo chamber.  Should I continue to call her out on it, or just pretend I haven’t noticed and let it go?

Yours, Politics-addict

Dear Politics-addict

It sounds like your friend needs to learn to share.  Johnny Simkins recently brought in a bag of sweets that his mummy had given him to share with the class but then he decided to keep most of them for himself and only gave out one each to Lucy and Jamie, and that was only after they sucked up to him by telling him how much they liked his new Blaster Gun.  I think it’s naff and I told him so.  And then I went and used my lunch money to buy my own sweets.

Hope that helps

Jessica

Posted in Brexit, friendship, personal, politics | Leave a comment

Why won’t Giles Fraser ask where the men are?

Screenshot 2019-02-23 at 11.13.17

I’ve spent the past four years on the defensive against accusations that as a Brexiter, I am aligning myself with some of the worst people and opinions in society.  And mostly I’ve just batted the accusations away as complete nonsense, pointing out that Brexiters, like Remainers, are not a homogenous group with a single mind-set, that we all have our own reasons for voting the way we did.  And I have rarely felt the need to specifically denounce anything said or written by other Brexiters – I’ve always found it easier to simply comment on, or write about, the issues that are important to me and to ignore those that are not.

But Giles Fraser’s recent article, “Why won’t Remainers talk about family?”,struck me as so mean-spirited, so backward, and has caused such a storm on social media, that I find myself, as a Brexiter, appalled at the notion that anyone would think I share his views.

Fraser begins his article with an anecdote about a woman in her fifties, who called up her local GP surgery to say that her father had soiled himself and to ask if they could send someone round to clean him up.  The doctor asked if the woman had had children. “Yes”, she replied.  “When they were babies, did you ever contact the state to ask if it would come round to change their nappies?” the doctor responded. “Ouch.  What a question”, Fraser remarks, struggling to hide his glee at this presumptious woman being so firmly put in her place.

He then goes on to launch an attack on George Osborne and the Evening Standard, for their “Remain-inspired end-of-the-world fear-mongering” headline which asked ““Who’ll look after our elderly post Brexit?”

And then he announces that he’s longing for “a full-on Brexit – No Deal, please – to come along and smash the living daylights out of the assumptions behind that question.”

The remainder of the article can be summarised thus:  It is the duty of children – not the state – to look after their parents.  In order to be able to carry out that duty, children should live close to home.  Free movement and social mobility both take children away from the family home, away from the communities in which they grew up, and destroy not just family life but entire community spirit.  And we should all seek to emulate the way of life of our Muslim communities, whose conservative, traditional, family-centric way of life provide “the most effective  form of social security the world has even known: family and community life.”

The thing is, much of Fraser’s argument is perfectly legitimate, and there are many who will agree with him.  It is true that freedom of movement and social mobility are a mixed blessing – no previous generation has found it quite so easy to work, travel and set up homes all over the world, yet the downside is that in too many cases, elderly people are finding themselves cut off from their adult children, living in communities which are slowly turning to ghost towns.  So yes, there is certainly a debate to be had about how to redress the balance – but that requires a far wider debate, about the reasons so many young people find themselves forced to move away from home in order to find decent work.  Let’s talk about how we can develop local communities to try to increase opportunities for the young, so that fewer of them feel the need to move away from home. Yes, of course there will still be many who wish to fly the nest, to seek out opportunities far and wide – but rather than Fraser’s seeming desire to forcibly clip their wings, why not look at opportunities to attract them back home once they have satisfied their need for exploration?

But let’s return to the woman who called up the GP surgery.  The reality of the situation is that she has probably been caring for her elderly father for a number of years already, probably struggling to meet his needs – but this is the first time that he has soiled himself.   And yes, while it’s ridiculous to expect – or even ask – a GP surgery to send someone round to clean him up, I can’t help interpreting that phone call as a desperate cry for help, an instinctive response to finding oneself in a situation one simply cannot handle.

The fact that the GP suggested changing an adult man is in any way comparable to changing a baby, is quite frankly staggering.  Try flipping an adult man onto his back, holding both his ankles together with one hand while wiping his bottom with the other, as you would with a baby.  For that matter, try even getting him out of the chair he’s probably sitting in, and out of the clothes he’s wearing.  I recall visiting my uncle in a nursing home a few months after he’d had a stroke.  He was sitting in a chair, which he had been put in by the nursing staff.  After a few minutes he announced that he needed to go to the toilet and so we pressed the buzzer for the staff to come and assist him.  But after a few minutes nobody had yet arrived and my uncle was getting quite agitated, so I suggested maybe I could help him to the toilet, if he didn’t mind.  He agreed, and I put my arms under his shoulders to try to lift him out of the chair. He had lost a great deal of weight in the months since his stroke, and I foolishly expected he would be easy to lift.

Well, he wasn’t.  Much though his brain was telling him he was lifting his bum off the chair, his body was not co-operating at all.  He was a dead weight and I simply couldn’t lift him.  I went out into the hallway, hunted for one of the care workers, and she wheeled in the mechanical hoist and asked us to leave the room while she hoisted him to the toilet and back.

Now, I don’t know what kind of condition the woman’s father was in – he may have been more physically capable than my uncle was – but if he was soiling himself then the chances are he was not capable of getting to and from the toilet unassisted.  Rather than asking if the woman had had children, the GP might have asked if the woman had a brother or a husband – and if so, where was he and could he be called on to assist?  But Fraser, of course, doesn’t ask this question – he simply announces, “it is the daughter who should be wiping her father’s bottom”.  And he wonders why his article has attracted such outrage from almost every woman who’s read it.   It is the complete and utter failure to even ask where the men are in this scenario, with the attendant assumption that looking after the elderly, like changing nappies, is women’s work, that has attracted such ire.  And the failure to acknowledge that in Muslim communities, it is generally the women, not the men, who are left to care for the elderly – that Muslim women, in many cases, are strongly discouraged from going out to work, or in some cases even from getting an education, as their role as child-rearer and caregiver is seen as more important than any other ambitions they may have.

And finally, Fraser makes no attempt to address the elephant in the room – the fact that advances in medical technology have meant that while increasing numbers of people are living longer than ever before, there has also been a large increase in the number of people living for years in a state of serious disability.   My aunt, who has advanced Parkinsons and dementia, has spent the past three years in nursing homes as her physical capabilities have continued to diminish and her needs for round-the-clock care have increased.  For the past year, she has been unable to speak, struggles to swallow, is wasting away to nothing and yet somehow, continues to exist.  I use the word ‘exist’ deliberately – she has no quality of life and the only emotion she ever shows is distress.

If Fraser wishes to turn back the clock to a time when families looked after their elderly, he needs to acknowledge that that time ended when people stopped dropping dead suddenly in their sixties and seventies, and instead started living long enough to waste away slowly from degenerative age-related illnesses.  When he writes that care homes are “warehouses for those who cannot be persuaded to make the trips to Dignitas” I cannot help but assume he has never watched a loved one waste away slowly, painfully and with an increasing loss of dignity.  I, for one, will need no persuading – having seen what has happened to my aunt, if I am ever diagnosed with Parkinsons or any other degenerative disease I will be voluntarily making the trip to Dignitas long before I reach the stage of not being able to do so.  Questions about who is responsible for caring for the elderly, simply cannot be separated from questions about dignity in dying.

The one good thing Fraser’s article has done, though, is to ignite the debate.  So yes, let’s talk about family.  And about care for the elderly.  And about how to increase social mobility without decimating local communities. And dignity in dying.  We need to talk about all of these things, and we need to do it as a nation – not as Brexiters and Remainers, but as sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, men and women.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Brexit, family, lifestyle, politics, social care | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

40 Hail Marys won’t wipe away this confession

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I’m not sure what’s more shocking – the fact that Liam Neeson has admitted he spent a week, 40 years ago, looking to murder a black man – any black man – in revenge for the rape of a friend of his – or the fact that so many people are jumping to his defence and praising him for his honesty!

Excuse me?  This is a joke, right?

Firstly, what on earth possessed Neeson to open up about the fact that he even had such thoughts?  Is he so monumentally self-obsessed that he doesn’t realise just how vile his confession is?  Has his Roman Catholic upbringing somehow lulled him into some false sense that the whole world is a confessional and that as long as he says 30 Hail Marys and 10 Our Fathers and truly repents, an all-loving God and the general public will surely forgive him?

Incredibly, it seems there are some who will.  Some, it seems, are so impressed by his honesty that they are willing to overlook the vile, casual racism to which he has just confessed (while, crucially, denying he is a racist).   And they’re all singing Hallelujahs at the repentance of this former sinner – yes, 40 years ago he had evil racist thoughts but he has seen the error of his ways and dedicated his life to good acting and has he mentioned he’s not a racist? After all, if the man who’d raped his friend had been “Irish or Scot or a Brit or Lithuanian” he insists he would have reacted the same way.  Except, of course, he didn’t ask his friend about the nationality or accent of her rapist. No, he asked her what colour skin the man had.  And while we’re on the nationality of the rapist – who’s to say he wasn’t British? Does Liam believe black people can’t be British?  Racist much, Liam?

I wrote a few months ago about the awful case of Kriss Donald, a young Scottish teenager who was abducted, tortured and murdered for the simple fact that he was white. His attackers, a group of Asian gang members, were looking for a white lad – any white lad – to kill in revenge for a perceived slight by another white lad.

That case rightly shocked and appalled everybody who heard about it.  His attackers, rightly, were caught and jailed for life.  But apart from the fact that Neeson didn’t actually act on the urges he felt – for which we all, at least, can be grateful – his instincts were no different from those of Kriss Donald’s murderers.

Racism is racism, whichever race it’s directed at.  And it’s hard to find a more textbook example of racism, than somebody seeking to target an innocent member of the public, purely based on their skin colour, as a proxy for the actual target of one’s rage.

Given the supposed depth of his anger at the time, Neeson can perhaps be congratulated for his self-control in not giving it free reign, and resisting the urge to actually kill an innocent black man.  But to applaud him for his honesty, to shrug off his confession as “just the way things were 40 years ago” is a step too far.

The things we are truly ashamed of, and appalled by, we keep to ourselves.  Or if we’re religious, we keep them between ourselves and our God.  In the same way that truth games teach us relatively early on in life, not to reveal our deepest, darkest secrets but instead to reveal the secrets which are just embarrassing enough to satisfy our audience, so I can’t help feeling that Neeson revealed this tidbit in the expectation that while it may shock a few people, ultimately it wasn’t that big a deal.  And crucially, it would give some valued extra publicity to his latest movie (which is, after all, about revenge).

So what, then, is truly the most shocking thing about this story?  The fact that Liam Neeson has admitted to wanting to kill a black man?  The fact that by admitting it so publicly, he’s letting us know he really doesn’t think it’s that big a deal?  Or the fact that so many people agree with him?  Heaven help us.

 

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Passion Devoid of Reason

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Astonishing scenes in this week’s edition of “Liddle’s Got Issues” as Rod Liddle turns up outside Parliament and attempts to engage some of the anti-Brexit protesters in conversation.

Some of these people, such as Steve Bray, nicknamed “Stop Brexit Man” are so committed to the cause of stopping Brexit that they have been turning up outside Parliament with their placards, draped in EU flags, almost every day for the past year, or even longer.

So you’d think that given the opportunity to speak to the Sunday Times about their concerns, they would leap at the opportunity.

But no. When approached by Liddle, they turn their backs, hide behind their placards and flat-out refuse to engage.

Now, it is fair to assume they know that Mr Liddle himself voted for Brexit.  So of course they can be expected to be a bit wary as to how any conversation about Brexit will go.  But he is there in his capacity as a reporter for the Sunday Times, accompanied by a cameraman and politely asking questions any decent journalist would ask of any protester.  Surely, if they are sufficiently committed to their cause to turn up outside Parliament and protest every day, they should be eager to articulate their reasons and engage in debate about that cause?

Sadly not. And in the interests of fairness, Liddle points out that were he to approach any of the pro-Brexit protesters who usually can also be found outside Parliament on a daily basis, he would likely find a similar unwillingness to engage.

This is what is so terribly wrong with our politics at the moment.  The reason, I suspect, why these protesters were so unwilling to engage, was that they actually can’t articulate their reasons for wanting to stop Brexit.  They feel, with every fibre of their being, that Brexit is wrong – but they can’t explain why.  And sadly, many of those who voted for Brexit and who still passionately defend it, would similarly be unable to articulate their reasoning.

How is it that one can feel so passionately about an issue without being able to explain why?  Surely that passion should translate into ensuring one fully understands, and can debate, at least some of the underlying issues?  Brexit is hellishly complicated – we all know that – so why is it so hard for people to admit to themselves that actually they don’t fully understand all the issues and that the passion they claim to feel, either for or against the EU, may in fact be a proxy for some other deep dissatisfaction in their lives?

I am probably one of the more staunch defenders of Brexit, yet even I would not claim to be sufficiently passionate about it, to actually turn up outside Parliament every day.  I am always more than willing to attempt to articulate my reasons for believing in Brexit – but I will also always admit that there are areas of our relationship with the EU about which I know next to nothing.  I will also always admit that there are risks, as well as benefits, to leaving.

But those who turn up outside Parliament each day, despite their supposed passion for and dedication to their cause, don’t actually seem to want to engage in debate about any of the issues, nor attempt to change others’ minds.  They just want to keep shouting, and waving their banners.  Is it narcissism?  A desire to see themselves on television and in newspaper reports, to be able to brag to friends and relatives that while others may have taken a back seat, they played a part in such a significant historical event?  Or is it a deep-seated loneliness and lack of purpose in their everyday lives, that finds relief in a shared cause and the camaraderie they encounter among their fellow protesters?

Whatever it is, it’s hard to believe that it actually has anything to do with the EU. It’s passion devoid of reason – and sadly it’s becoming all too common a feature of our current political debate.

 

 

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The wrongs of “trans” rights

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The Sunday Times today reports that Jeremy Corbyn has had a row with his domestic policy advisor, Lachlan Stuart, over the fact that Stuart has suggested that “trans women remain biologically male”.  The article goes on to quote a Labour spokesperson who said “A Labour government will reform the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act 2010 to ensure they protect trans people by changing the protected characteristic of ‘gender assignment’ to ‘gender identity’.”

Oh dear – where to start.  Let’s start with the word – or rather non-word – “trans”.  “Trans” on its own is meaningless – and I would argue the single greatest reason we have ended up in this gender-bending mess is the failure of media and commentators to distinguish between “transsexual” (which is a protected characteristic in law) and “transgender” (which is not).

The 2010 Equality Act could not be clearer.   “Gender assignment” (to which the Labour party spokesperson referred) is not a protected characteristic.  “Gender Reassignment” is.  The Act states the following:

Gender reassignment

(1)A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.

(2)A reference to a transsexual person is a reference to a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

(3)In relation to the protected characteristic of gender reassignment—

(a)a reference to a person who has a particular protected characteristic is a reference to a transsexual person;

(b)a reference to persons who share a protected characteristic is a reference to transsexual persons.

 That’s pretty clear.  Only someone who is in the process of changing, has changed, or plans to change their sex – in other words a transsexual person – is protected under the terms of Gender Reassignment.   Someone who is biologically male, has no intention of undergoing sexual reassignment surgery and simply wishes to be referred to, and treated, as a woman, is not transsexual but transgender – and as such, cannot claim protection under this, or any other section of the Act.

Yet much of the recent “trans rights” debate has focused on the very real difficulties faced by transsexuals, and argued that “transgender” people face exactly the same issues and deserve exactly the same protections.  Or even that “trans women” deserve all the same protections as biological women.  Well sorry, but no they don’t.

The legal protections defined in the Equality Act are all based on biological sex, and on the physiological attributes of sex.  They are not based on “gender identity” – and crucially, never can be, without removing the existing sex-based protections.

As long as we allow sex and gender to diverge – as long as we allow that somebody can be biologically male yet “identify” as a woman – we will always have to choose whether to protect sex or gender.  We cannot simultaneously protect both – to give just one example, in order to introduce a law that says anyone who “identifies” as female has to be considered female, we would have to override the right of those who have female anatomy to only be treated by doctors with female anatomy, and the rights of biological females not to have to share shelter or lodgings with biological males.  As laughable as this may sound, such cases have already started to appear in our news, such as the NHS being forced to issue an apology to a woman who asked for her smear test to be carried out by a female nurse and found herself being called in by a clearly male-bodied nurse, who insisted that he was not male but “transgender”.   Or the male-bodied “female” rapist incarcerated in a female prison, who went on to sexually assault other women in that prison.

So we need to start insisting that when journalists, broadcasters and activists talk about “trans rights”, they specify whether they are talking about transsexual people, or transgender.  And point out that the two are in conflict.  When the Labour party state that they intend to change the protected characteristic of ‘gender assignment’ [sic] to ‘gender identity’, they need to be forced to admit that this means removing the existing sex-based protections enjoyed by women and transsexual people under the Act.

Mr Corbyn’s policy advisor clearly knows, and understands, the differences between sex and gender.  Mr Corbyn himself – and many others in the Labour party – not so much, it seems.

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Isn’t it time we tried to understand the vote to Remain?

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Since the vote for Brexit, countless articles and opinion pieces have attempted to understand and deconstruct the reasons behind the vote to leave.  But surely what we really should have been doing over the past two and a half years, was trying to understand the reasons why 48% of the country voted to remain?

The decision, after all, was to leave.  A government truly committed to delivering on the result of the referendum, had no need to analyse the reasons behind the vote – it simply had to implement it. Understanding the reasons why 48% of the country did not back that decision, was far more important – for how else could the government expect to assuage the concerns of that 48%, and attempt to get them on side, if not by at least attempting to understand their position?

I’m sure many people reading this will be incredulous that I can even suggest that no attempt has been made to understand the Remain mindset.  With BBC, Sky, ITV and Channel 4 panel shows almost always dominated by Remainers, many would argue we’ve heard nothing but Remain opinions. And that is true – but there has been precious little interrogation of those opinions.  There is a vast difference between hearing an opinion expressed, and actually understanding the mindset that led to that opinion.

By contrast, we have had endless analysis and interpretation of Brexiter opinions. We have been told that when Brexiters say they voted for greater sovereignty, they really were voting to control immigration, that Brexiters’ objections to the EU’s plans for federalism and Ever Closer Union, are actually founded in a deep-seated nostalgia tinged with racism, a longing to turn back the clock and stop the march of economic progress.  We have been told that the vote for Brexit wasn’t about Brussels or the EU at all, but was a protest vote against the Westminster Establishment.  And we have been told over and over again that nobody voted to become poorer as a result of Brexit.

But what about those who voted for Remain?  What would prompt otherwise intelligent people, to look at the failures caused by economic and political union and think “yes, let’s have more of that”? We often hear about how nobody voted to become poorer – but surely, looking at what has happened and is continuing to happen to the economies of southern Europe, and the impact it is having on the wider Eurozone, that is exactly what Remainers voted for?

When voters in Scotland and Corbynistas say that they would rather be ruled by Brussels than by Westminster, what is that if not a protest vote against the Westminster elite?

Could it be that Remainers, while outwardly basing all their arguments on economics and the need to maintain a close trading relationship with the EU, actually care far more about identity than about economics?  Because surely if they actually looked closely at the long term economic prospects within the EU, they would see that leaving is the best option?

To truly understand Remainer sentimentality, we have only to look at their reaction to the recent letter, written by German politicians, celebrities and business leaders, and published in the Times, imploring Britain to stay in the EU.  If Britain were to leave the EU, the letter’s signatories claimed, they would miss “going to the pub after work to drink an ale”, “driving on the left-hand side of the road”, “tea with milk”, “seeing the panto at Christmas” and most of all “the British people – our friends across the Channel”.

I was flabbergasted on reading this letter.  Britain is not leaving Europe – we are not picking up our small island and moving it to Outer Mongolia, and we are certainly not cutting off ties to our European neighbours.  The Germans – and the members of all 26 other EU member states – will still be more than welcome to visit, drink our ale, put milk in their tea, drive on the left hand side of the road and watch panto.  And we will still consider them our friends.

But to so many Remainers, Europe and the EU are indivisible.  They genuinely do see the vote to leave the EU, as a vote to leave Europe – as nonsensical as that idea is.  And we Brexiters have clearly not done enough to unpick their reasoning, and to challenge that highly damaging view.  Whenever Remainers have wailed about how xenophobic the vote for Brexit was, how we are turning our backs on our European neighbours, we have of course responded that we are leaving the EU, not Europe, but we haven’t gone to the trouble of actually asking them to explain why it is that they see Europe as so inextricably tied up in the EU.

What do they think would happen, we should ask, if the EU were to collapse entirely? Do they honestly believe that the French would not still be French, that the Germans would not still be German? Do they genuinely believe that the French, the Germans, the Italians and every other EU member state would immediately take up arms against each other and that World War III would be unleashed?

Sadly, I suspect many of them do.  These are people who, for whatever reason, see their identity as European rather than British, and who furthermore see that European identity as wholly tied to the institutions and structures of the EU.  Without the EU, these people believe, all that is decent about human society will collapse.

This may sound laughable to those of us who voted for Brexit – and even to some of those who voted for Remain – but it is the only explanation I can see for the frankly unhinged behaviour of some of the more ardent Remainers who still believe they must do everything in their power to stop Brexit at any cost.   It is not Brexiters who need to be shown the errors in their thinking, and whose motivations need to be questioned and challenged – it is Remainers.  And the sooner we all start doing exactly that, the better.

 

 

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On WTO Brexit and Zero Tariffs

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James Delingpole recently came unstuck on the Daily Politics, under an intense grilling from Andrew Neil on the question of how Britain, trading under WTO terms, could expect to offer zero tariffs on imports while still having any leverage with which to negotiate favourable trade deals with countries such as the United States.

As Neil explained to Delingpole, WTO terms specify that we can’t set different tariffs for different countries – if we lower tariffs for one country’s imports, we have to lower them for all, so why would the US have any motivation to offer us a free trade deal if we are already taking their imports tariff-free?

It was a very good question, and one to which Delingpole, sadly, had to admit he couldn’t give an answer.  The article he wrote in response to the incident, is a masterclass in holding one’s hand up to one’s own mistakes, and could serve as a lesson to many others who in the same circumstances would have cried foul and tried to accuse Neil and the BBC of unfair bias. And while I applaud him for his honesty in simply saying “I don’t know the answer to that” rather than trying to bluster and avoid the question, as so many others would have done in the same circumstances, it is a great shame that he wasn’t able to take the question and run with it.

Now, I make no claim whatsoever to be a trade expert.  But here is what I would have said, had I been asked the same question. And yes, I am putting my tin hat on as I type this, in anticipation of all the responses I will undoubtedly receive, telling me how stupid I am to believe such nonsense.

“Well Andrew, obviously we wouldn’t lower tariffs on ALL imports to zero.  The whole point of international trade, which sadly many people seem to forget, is to exchange goods and services for mutual advantage.  So the UK wishes to import those goods which it doesn’t produce itself, while exporting those goods which it does produce, to countries that don’t.  The starting point for all deals of such nature, would be zero tariffs – the only reason to apply tariffs to imports would be to protect internal markets in goods that we already produce ourselves.

“So we would unilaterally lower tariffs on those goods which we don’t produce ourselves. And yes, that would then apply to all countries willing to export those goods to us.  But if the United States wish to sell us their beef and chicken (which we know they do) then they will have to negotiate a free trade deal with us – because we are quite capable of rearing our own beef and chicken, and have no need to buy it from the United States.  The same would apply to cars (which the Germans wish to sell us) and cheese (ditto the French) – if EU member states wish to sell us goods that we produce ourselves, it is in their interests to negotiate a free trade deal with us.  So we would keep the WTO tariffs on products such as beef, chicken, cheese and cars, while attempting to negotiate free trade deals with the EU, the US, Australia, Canada and any other country that wishes to trade with us”.

I realise, of course, that the above is a very simplistic explanation, and that the practicalities of deciding which products should be tariff-free and which should retain WTO tariffs, would be less than straightforward.  But we do have entire departments of government devoted to international trade, whom I’m pretty confident would be more than capable of working out and negotiating those details.  While the realities of globalization may make the intricacies of international trade fine and complicated to administer, I fear too often we lose sight of the fact that the overall principle is still as simple as it has ever been.  Buy what you don’t have enough of, sell what you have too much of.   Maybe if we went back to those principles, only buying what we actually need and producing for export only those goods which other countries actually wish to buy, we could even go some way to tackling the great waste debate.  Now that really would be an unexpected Brexit dividend.

 

 

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TERF wars

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Are you a TERF?

Well, if you believe that possession of a penis should preclude a person from entering female-only areas such as changing rooms, or being incarcerated in female prisons, or performing intimate personal examinations such as smear tests, on biological women, then you just find yourself being called one.

It’s been remarked, by a few of my friends, that I enjoy being contentious in my blog posts.  Of course I disagree.  I never set out to be contentious – I, like most people, believe my own views to be perfectly reasonable and am often mystified when friends tell me they disagree, and put forward counter-arguments which I would myself consider “contentious”.  But I will admit that fears that a topic may be contentious do not usually prevent me from tackling it in my blogs.

Except this one.  This is a topic that has fascinated me for some time, but which I have, until now, been too frightened and mystified to go near.  And for a long time I managed to convince myself that the rows between trans activists and so-called TERFS (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, i.e. anyone who believes that access to female-only spaces should be based on biological sex, rather than declared gender) were only really taking place online, that this whole crazy row was just a confection of social media and that this wasn’t having any impact on the real world.

But then the government opened up a consultation on proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, which would, if approved, allow a biological man to simply declare that he is a woman and have his birth certificate changed to reflect his sex as female, with no need for any kind of medical intervention or consultation whatsoever.  Likewise, a biological woman would be able to declare she is a man and have her birth certificate altered accordingly.    The consultation specifically dealt with questions relating to how these changes would impact areas such as access to women’s changing rooms, the rights of a woman to request a female doctor, women’s rights to be housed in female-only prisons and shelters, and the impact this could have on female sports.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  It sounds like something the Daily Mailwould make up – or more likely the Daily Mash, because surely this must be satire.

But of course it’s not satire.  It’s the logical conclusion of a gradual process by which the term “gender” was introduced as a way of differentiating between men and women not just on the basis of their biological sex, but on the basis of how masculine or feminine – or non-binary – they perceive themselves to be.  So somebody who is born male, with male chromosomes and male genitalia, may still feel more like a woman than a man and so may “identify” as a woman and wish to be treated as a woman.  Likewise someone who is born with female chromosomes and female genitalia may still identify as a male and wish to dress and be treated as a man.

So far so good – and I think up to this point nobody had too much of an issue with any of it, and nobody had yet been called a TERF.

But the issues started, as far as I can see, when the arguments progressed to suggestions that gender identity, because it is more all-encompassing than biological sex alone, should be the overriding means by which we should differentiate between men and women.

Some activists went further, essentially replacing gender with sex in their arguments, so that suddenly we were being told that biological sex is not binary but is on a spectrum.  Despite the fact that there are still only two possible chromosomal combinations that make up biological sex – either XX or XY – and that apart from a small number of intersex people, we are born with either male or female genitalia, some activists would still insist that “the science is settled” and that biological sex cannot simply be reduced to chromosomes and genitalia.

The arguments went further still.  Next we were told that because a person’s gender – rather than their biological sex – was the best determinant of their innate maleness or femaleness, it would be “transphobic” for a gay woman to refuse to have sex with a man who identified as a woman.  That’s right – gay women being told that if they don’t wish to have sex with someone who has a penis, they are transphobic.  It was round about this time that the term “TERF” originated.

And in the real world, what have we seen?  Well, in the UK we’ve seen a male-bodied rapist successfully argue to be moved to a female prison because he identifies as a female – only to go on and sexually assault other women in that prison.   And in Canada, a man named only as JY in official documents has lodged complaints against 16 separate beauticians for refusing to perform a Brazilian wax on him due to the fact that he has a penis and testicles.  This despite the fact that there is a separate, recognised procedure for waxing male genitalia (called a “Manzilian”, of course) which each of the beauticians explained he could get elsewhere but which they were not trained to perform.  JY argues that because he identifies as female their refusal to perform the Brazilian on him is discriminatory.

Whether JY’s motivation is money (he has offered to drop the lawsuits in exchange for $2500 from each of the women, most of whom can’t afford to hire lawyers to oppose him) or a more deep-seated hatred of women and desire to make a point, is unclear.  But the fact that Canadian human rights legislation appears to favour JY’s cause, above that of the women he is attempting to extort, is worrying in the extreme.

But back to the GRA consultation.  The reason the consultation was opened was because trans activists argued that the current process by which a transgender person can apply for a Gender Recognition certificate, to officially be recognised as the gender with which they identify, is too prolonged and is discriminatory.  It was argued that forcing transgender people to go through humiliating physical and psychological examinations in order to obtain an official diagnosis of gender dysphoria, has the result of treating them as if they are abnormal, or worse, diseased.

Personally, I have a great deal of sympathy with these arguments.   I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for somebody who feels sufficiently at odds with their biological sex to wish to live the rest of their lives as the opposite sex.  But it is the opposite SEX that they are asking to be recognised as – not simply a different gender.  And despite the arguments of certain trans activists, biological sex is still, for the most part, binary – and sex-based protections for women are in place specifically because of the biological differences between men and women, not because of how masculine or feminine (or non-binary) they may feel.

So while I can understand the government wanting to reduce discrimination against trans people, and will support any calls for trans women and men to be treated with the same respect and dignity that any other woman or man would expect, I cannot reconcile myself to those who argue that “trans women are women”, that the dictionary definition of woman as “adult human female” is discriminatory and transphobic, or that women who are concerned about losing their existing sex-based protections are simply transphobic TERFs.   I find those arguments not just contentious, but outright dangerous – not just to women, but to the cause of the majority of trans men and women who are not predatory or deviant, but who end up being demonised as such due to the actions of a small number of extraordinarily aggressive activists.

By all means, let’s talk about how we can make life easier for transgender people. But let’s not do it at the expense of women’s rights  – hard-won and constantly under attack by a small number of aggressive men who now, through the trans movement, have found a new loophole to exploit.   I don’t like the term TERF and I certainly don’t consider myself one – but I’m not going to let fear of being called one, prevent me from speaking out about the utter farce that certain elements of the trans rights movement have landed us in.

 

 

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