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What does gender have to do with genitals?

Credit: Amanda Edwards / Getty

December 21, 2018   3 mins

When I came across the tweet “Very much looking forward to a lovely lazy Xmas break and then to cracking on with my article about why ‘sex’ (as in ‘biological’ not desire) is no longer applicable to contemporary feminist theory and activism”, I assumed it was from a Tumblr kid with a blue fringe and an attitude problem who had yet to learn about the birds and the bees.

How wrong I was. The person making the extraordinary claim that biological sex has nothing whatsoever to do with feminism was Sally Hines, Professor of Sociology and Gender Identities at the University of Leeds. In other words, someone responsible for the education of our impressionable youth.

In recent years, the trans debate has produced some crazy views: that men can get pregnant, for example, and that boys can get periods. We women are told to use certain terms to describe our bodies, such as chest feeding, and ‘front hole’ so as not to exclude or offend transgender people.

But this tweet was the clearest example I have seen of the Orwellian double-think employed by a growing number of academic trans-allies: conflating the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. It’s a plank of extreme transgender ideology to deny that there are real and tangible differences between male and female biology, in order, I assume, to make the mantra, ‘trans women are women’ sound less extreme.

Fact and logic – the very bedrock of academic study – are increasingly disappearing when the issue of transgender ideology is on the table. As Kathleen Stock, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sussex explains, it is currently quite fashionable among certain academics to promote the view that biological sex is a social construct.

“Biological sex has a social meaning (gender), but that doesn’t remove the underlying material facts – the social meaning wouldn’t last for long if the biology wasn’t there to underpin it,” says Stock. “To deny this is insulting to those millions of females all over the world who are exploited for their reproductive capacities, or punished for the lack of them.”

We women are oppressed on the basis of our biological sex, which is why feminists refer to our status as a ‘sex class’ (like the Marxist analysis of ‘working’ and ‘ruling’ class). Biological sex is the bedrock of women’s oppression. Females in every country in the world are abused and treated as second class citizens because of our biology. Unintentional pregnancy, criminalised abortion, death during childbirth, being left with the burden of caring duties… all this happens to us because we are female, not because of how we identify. Female genital mutilation, bride burning, sex selective abortion, rape, sexual harassment, anorexia, these are all part of the human female condition.

And that is why we would argue so strongly against those who would prefer to have it believed that biological sex does not exist. Look, for example, at this recent article in the New York Times. The writer correctly states: “Defining gender as a condition determined strictly by a person’s genitals is based on a notion that doctors and scientists abandoned long ago as oversimplified and often medically meaningless.” What on earth does gender have to do with genitals? Genitals determine our physical, biological sex, and indicates whether we are male or female, not whether we are destined to like pink or blue.

No one, medic or otherwise, can ‘determine’ gender because it has no basis in material reality. It is comprised of sexist stereotypes. It is a tool of the patriarchy, made up to keep girls and women in place, and to privilege men. Girls are railroaded into playing with tea-sets and wearing pink dresses, and boys and encouraged into rough-and-tumble games and told they can grow up to be soldiers. These are rather crude examples of how boys and girls are socialised into behaviours that are seen by almost everyone – except feminists – to be appropriate to their sex (male or female).

Gender is a social construct to keep girls and women subservient to men and boys. But sex is biology. And yet here we have an academic writing about how it is no longer applicable to feminist theory. How can female biology be irrelevant to feminism? When a pregnant woman is not hired, or sacked, this is down to sexism based on our biological functions. If a woman is infertile, or chooses not to have babies, she is often seen as worthless and a failure. Surely it is the job of an academic to explore and interrogate material reality? How is it that a professor of sociology can make such an Orwellian statement? Every female on the planet suffers as a result of the way her body and reproductive functions, in other words her biology, is treated by men under patriarchy.

The oppression and subordination of women, also part of our condition, is prevalent in every society, every nation, and across class, ethnic and cultural groupings.

Claiming that biological sex has nothing to do with the status of females is akin to claiming that the earth is flat. The difference is though, no-one appears to be afraid of laughing at flat-earth fantasists, but most people are still, despite a raging, public debate, are scared to challenge the transactivist extremists.

Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.


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1 year ago

This is why I refuse to associate myself with the trans community even though I am a trans woman. The ideology that the community push is out of touch with reality because sex and gender and genitals are related. Being trans should be about taking every step modern technology allows us to, not to make things confusing and harder for the progress of the feminist movement! “Chest feeding” “Girl p***s” “Men with periods”