The heated debate on the Gender Recognition Act has highlighted the oft-stark division between generations of feminists. Many of the younger women, especially those in universities, appear to have adopted the line that second wave feminists such as myself, who focus on violence against women and an end to sexist stereotyping, are old-hat. It seems a particular group of very young, privileged, ‘intersectional’ women are prepared to throw away the gains us older feminists achieved.
A Twitter spat last week between myself and Ash Sarkar – a 26-year-old ‘super-woke’ commentator – put this gulf in sharp relief. Sarkar, who had five minutes of fame when she shouted at Piers Morgan on live TV, “I am literally a communist, you idiot”, had tweeted about the proposed changes to the GRA, claiming that the introduction of “self-identification” would not have any effect whatsoever on the rights of others.
I replied: “Unless you are a female in prison of course, one of the most disenfranchised groups on the planet”. It was a reference to the hideous case of Karen White, the transgender sex offender who was placed in a female prison and went on to sexually assault two female inmates.
Sarkar’s response, befitting of the new wave feminists who have learned their politics via social media, was to tweet an image of a Twitter search that had yielded no results. “What a surprise”, she tweeted, “These anti-trans bigots don’t actually care about women in prison, unless it serves their agenda to exclude trans people from public life.”
What a surprise.
These anti-trans bigots don’t actually care about women in prison, unless it serves their agenda to exclude trans people from public life. pic.twitter.com/LkCDPEXD5Y
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) October 19, 2018
Sarkar, a senior editor at media platform Novaramedia, did not even attempt a Google search, or a quick glance at my Wikipedia page to double check whether or not I actually might indeed ‘care’ about incarcerated women. If she had, she would have learned that I am the founder of Justice for Women – a campaign I began in 1990, two years before Sarkar was born – and have helped countless abused women get out of prison. These young keyboard warriors who do their so-called ‘activism’ online might want to recognise the material change, and numerous benefits, that us older feminists fought for and won.
The ageism of some of these new feminists is outrageous. Take Paris Lees, who has taken aim at feminists over the age of 30. Lees, who is transgender, has written that feminists who dare to criticise extreme transgender ideology are: “A bunch of boring, middle-class, middle-aged people arguing about who is ‘right’”. In an interview for i-D magazine, Lees describes us feminists who do not believe men can become women as “miserable has-beens or never-weres.”
I have lost count of the number of times I have been referred to as a ‘dinosaur’ for arguing that men can’t become women or that the sex trade is not empowering. I have seen countless examples of similar ageist and misogynistic abuse of older women such as feminist icon, Germain Greer. As one privileged Cambridge student wrote, Greer is “just an old, white woman”.
When a group of lesbian campaigners protested the transgender takeover at London Pride this year, the gay press and the organisers went into overdrive, accusing the women of bigotry and hate speech. Weeks later, at Manchester Pride, there were loud cheers when the gay male MC announced that the protesters should have been dragged off by their “saggy tits”.
It is unbelievably offensive and hypocritical of women who call themselves ‘feminist’ to accuse older women of being ‘past it’ – from witch-burning to Hollywood casting, isn’t this slur something that feminists have long been united in fighting against? How do they do not see that this is blatant misogyny? Perhaps because it is extreme identity politics, not the liberation of all women, that these super-woke digital agitators are fighting for.