They’ve noticed

The Observer points out that free speech is a fundamental human right and basic to democracy.

So it should concern anyone who claims to be a democrat that there is growing evidence that women who have expressed a set of feminist beliefs that have come to be known as “gender-critical” have, in some cases, faced significant professional penalties as a result.

Growing evidence, yes, as in there’s always more of it, but it’s been quite hefty for several years now.

The belief that the patriarchal oppression of women is grounded partly in their biological sex, not just the social expression of gender, and that women therefore have the right to certain single-sex spaces and to organise on the basis of biological sex if they so wish, represents a long-standing strand of feminist thinking. Other feminists disagree, believing that gender identity supersedes biological sex altogether.

That’s not right. It wasn’t a “strand” of feminist thinking, it was all of it. This idea that gender identity supersedes biological sex is comparatively new.

And that’s for obvious reasons. What kind of labor movement can you have if you think that being working class is a matter of identity rather than the brute facts of the matter? What kind of anti-racism is it that thinks it’s all a matter of choice?

As a society, we need to resolve the question of how to protect the privacy, dignity and rights of trans women while also respecting the privacy, dignity and rights of those born female.

But trans women are men, so their need for privacy isn’t quite as urgent as women’s need is.

Yet there have been clear and significant attempts to interfere with women’s freedom to express gender-critical beliefs.

The Observer then lists the recent examples we’re familiar with – Maya Forstater; Rosa Freedman and Jo Phoenix; Jess De Wahls. (They skipped Marion Millar though.)

These are just a few examples but there have been many more of women being harassed, punished, censured – and even physically assaulted – for their gender-critical views. Meanwhile, the chief executive of Stonewall has likened gender-critical beliefs to antisemitism. The chilling result is the frightening of women into silence because they fear the consequences of expressing their feminist beliefs.

Yes, and that’s been going on for several years, intensifying all the time.

For centuries, patriarchal societies have tried to limit the free expression of women. For centuries, women have fought back against attempts to curb their fundamental human rights. It should not need stating that gender-critical feminists have the same free-speech rights as all other citizens. In a democracy, there is no debate to be had about women’s freedom of speech.

Better late than never.

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