Will the brighter morning come?: On Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech

writing by renee

Any time you beg another man to set you free, you will never be free. Freedom is something that you have to do for yourself.

– Malcolm X

Her childhood memory of Sidney Poitier at the Academy Awards, her sisterly tribute to Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks; her announcement that the TIME’S UP! for sexual predators and the men who are happy to ride along on their coat-tails – and her pronouncement of a new day on the horizon: Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes was stunning.

Winfrey’s speech achieved what attempts to speak universally by those in positions of power often fail to. It did not make women’s demand for freedom look like a demand of the consumer variety, which is what often happens when those who occupy positions of privilege try to appeal to the desire for freedom among the bigger number of us. It looks…

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Stop asking me ‘what about men?’ 


Everyone who follows my blog knows that my best work is written in rage, or port. But Christmas has gone now so no more port.
Well, at least I still have rage. So back to that.

Recently I have been getting increasingly frustrated with ‘whataboutery’ every single time I write or speak about women or girls.
For those of you who don’t know what that word means, ‘whataboutery’ is when someone responds to a difficult issue or question with a counter issue or question that completely derails the conversation.

Mai: My research focussed on the murder of women in Yemen
Randomer: uh, this is a bit sexist. What about the murder of men in Yemen? Don’t you care about men?

Example 2:
Pam: I’m really upset with you for stealing from my purse
Mel: What about that time you stole from the local shop? You’re not innocent…

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An open letter to the medical profession

A thoughtful piece by a medical student. In the absence of evidence we need to be cautious in the treatment of dysphoric children.

More Rote Than Meaning

In recent years, the presence of transgender issues in the public consciousness has seen a seemingly exponential rise. There has been a concurrent rise in referrals to the Tavistock and Portman paediatric gender clinic, with almost two thirds of those referrals being for natal females (1). Though there is currently no NICE guidance governing the treatment of trans-identified children, said children are routinely treated with GnRH analogues (aka puberty blockers) from as young as the age of 12 and cross-sex hormones from the age of 16 (2, 3). This policy is next up for review in 2019, and a number of transgender charities are calling for the age limit for cross-sex hormones to be lowered, with some demanding hormones be freely available over the counter (4). A private GP, based in Wales, recently took matters into her own hands, prescribing cross-sex hormones to children as young as 12, despite an…

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Dispatches from the Margins: On Feminist Movement Building

There can be no sisterhood without interracial solidarity. An excellent piece on why we need to centre the voices of women of colour in the feminist movement.

Sister Outrider

A brief foreword: this post is, as ever, written in the hope that it will enable women to come to a greater place of understanding. After a period of contemplation, I have decided to address the issue of racism at FiLiA 2017 because if it requires women of colour to keep quiet about racism, it’s not sisterhood and never can be. There is potential for better. It is the first in a series of personal reflective essays about feminist movement building.

I am tired. So very tired. There are days when I want to withdraw from the feminist movement. There are days when I want to withdraw from life. So far, I have done neither because I’m conscious that it’s a sickness that plants the seeds of suicidality in my mind. And if I have to live in this world, you can be damned certain that I’m going to try…

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#MeToo, sexual harassment and prostitution: joining the dots and demanding change

Nordic Model Now!

The viral spread of the #MeToo hashtag over the last few weeks and the accompanying avalanche of women’s testimony of sexual harassment and assault feels like a cultural milestone. Most of those who have spoken out have done so in the hope that it leads to a real shift in the entrenched imbalance of power between the sexes and the way male violence in all its forms is used to uphold that imbalance. Let’s not let this moment slip through our grasp. We must use it to demand lasting change.

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Henrietta Lacks- The true shero behind modern medicine

Henrietta’s tumour cells, most commonly known as HeLa cells in science are responsible for some of the most significant medical discoveries of all time. From chemotherapy and the polio vaccine to cloning and IVF, her immortal cells have changed and saved countless lives. But it is truly unfortunate such profound scientific breakthroughs came at the cost of an inspirational women, mother and a loving wife.

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Where are the women fighting for reproductive rights?


If you haven’t listened to the Feminist Current podcast interviewing Civia Tamarkin about her documentary “Birthright: A War Story,” you should – especially if you live in the United States. The damage to reproductive rights that the Trump administration and their state government minions are inflicting on US women – and global women through international policy – is a continually developing tragedy. Here in Missouri the governor is in the midst of passing a law in which landlords can decline/ evict unmarried women who use birth control and get abortions. No word yet as to how this would be even be enforced.

So, during this interview, Tamarkin asks something that my mother asked about a month ago: where are all the women protesting these attacks on women’s reproductive freedom?

Tamarkin brought up an especially good point about college campuses. Generally a hub for social change, college campuses presently seem particularly…

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The problem with Owen Jones

I have a bone to pick with Owen Jones. In a recent article on online abuse, he wrote:

When I experienced this abuse in the past, I felt aggrieved, in the middle of a twitter storm, under attack, you name it. But here’s an important perspective and context to consider. The majority of trans people have contemplated suicide. A large majority suffer mental distress in a society absolutely riddled with transphobia. When prominent media commentators who describe themselves as progressive refuse to accept their right to exist, who intentionally and gratuitously misgender them, who joke about them looking like Pete Burns (as one of my trans women friends has been mocked by some of the detractors I’m referring to in this piece) — well, is anger understandable, even if the abuse is unsavoury? I put the abuse I’ve received in that context. They can’t do that, because they fundamentally oppose trans rights and portray supporters of trans rights as misogynists.

There are a few issues with this passage, not least the victim blaming. If women who reject and criticise trans ideology get “unsavoury” abuse, surely they deserve it? Play nice and you will be fine, right? What’s more, he relies on misrepresentations to support his claims. Women don’t refuse to accept the right of trans people to exist. We know they exist. What we refuse to accept is a narrative that insists that men can become women and vice versa, especially in the absence of coherent and objective definitions. Neither do we oppose trans rights. What we oppose is trans rights that come at the expense of women’s rights. This is something men on the left cannot accept: women should just put up and shut up. Which is why such men are rightly called misogynists. Owen is displaying either ignorance or disingenuity in his arguments, and it is tiresome to have to repeatedly defend ourselves against red herrings. But here goes anyway.

It is not transphobic, hateful or violent to state that humans can’t change sex. It is biologically impossible for someone born male to become female. I would argue that it is our duty to make this very clear so that people who are considering having surgery or taking hormones do so with full awareness. Some of these changes will be irreversible and all carry risks, as well as requiring a lifetime of follow ups. We need to listen to those who regret having surgery as well as those who benefited from it.

It is not transphobic, hateful or violent for women to defend our rights and point out that we are oppressed on the basis of our female biology. We view gender as a hierarchy that naturalises our subordination and men’s dominance, often through violent means. This is borne out by statistics: male violence against women is described as a pandemic by the UN. In this context, we have a right to male-free safe spaces and to demand that laws and policies not be based on self-declaration, since this would be wide open to abuse and put women at risk. As has happened in Target stores on several occasions (the last case involving voyeurism by a “transgender woman”), at the University of Toronto, and at shelters for women, for example. We argue that there is no such thing as female essence or female brain not because we want to deny others rights, but because such claims have been used throughout history to deny us rights. For women to fully participate in public life, it is necessary to acknowledge the nature of our oppression and the barriers that block our path to liberation. The “we just want to pee” argument masks what is at stake for women. The case of India, where communal bathrooms are common, shows the risks when women don’t have access to safe toilets: kidnapping and assaults occur regularly.

It is not transphobic, hateful or violent for lesbians to have boundaries that exclude MTTs (male-to-trans or “transwomen”). In fact, MTTs have no right to call themselves lesbians: lesbians are female homosexuals and MTTs are male. It is lesbophobic for male individuals to appropriate our orientation and to deny us our spaces and marches. Attempts to shame and coerce lesbians into having relationships with males is typical of rape culture and is conceptually indistinguishable from corrective rape. “I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body” used to be a “joke” but is now wholly supported by an ideology that dismisses same-sex attraction as bigoted.

It is not transphobic, hateful or violent to argue for caution in the case of dysphoric children. Gender dysphoria has many causes and transitioning is not the right treatment in many cases. The high level of desistance attests to this. Detransitioners have important stories to tell and deserve to be heard, too. Trauma, abuse and homophobia all play a part in dysphoria, and less radical procedures can greatly help in these cases. We also need to ask questions about social contagion, porn culture and misogyny when large numbers of girls suddenly claim to be trans. For their part, autistic children are overrepresented, which raises questions about the nature of their vulnerability and the need to protect them against harm. Overall, as things stand, guidelines for treatment are based on the experience of men who transitioned late in life. We need to hear from those who manage(d) their dysphoria without transitioning so that children get the best possible treatment and support.

It is not transphobic, hateful or violent to refuse to adopt a language, including pronouns, that validates a misogynistic and homophobic ideology. Women are referred to as non-men or more recently as non-prostate owners. Lesbians are cisbians and are getting banned from Facebook for using the word dyke. A vagina is a front hole, while a neo-vagina becomes a true vagina. The language deliberately erases women, lesbians and female biology, and allows further oppression to take place. On the other hand, the terminology referring to men and male biology is never questioned or redefined.

There is no doubt that trans people face discrimination and violence, and deserve legal protections. (As do women incidentally.) But this doesn’t give trans activists carte blanche to deny others their rights and to abuse, threaten and smear those who disagree with their ideology. In any case, Owen can’t have it both ways. If anger and “unsavoury” abuse are understandable, then women who receive death and rape threats as well as all other forms of misogynistic abuse would be well within their rights to retaliate in kind. This doesn’t happen however because such abuse is never acceptable.  For Owen to state otherwise, supporting his position with misrepresentations, only puts the spotlight back on the left’s acceptance of misogyny and its inability/unwillingness to tackle it.

Honor Frost

We have all heard stories of the lost city of Atlantis, or have marvelled at the possibility of exploring the sunken Titanic, but not many of us have heard of the name ‘Honor Frost’. Frost is responsible for helping the possibility of such adventures being realised (well, perhaps not the exploration of Atlantis) as a pioneer of deep-sea archaeology.

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