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The BBC Breaks With Stonewall, New Gender Row Erupts.

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BBC QUITS Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme | Daily Mail Online

New Row Breaking Out.

Image

BBC quits Stonewall diversity scheme over impartiality concerns. Guardian.

The BBC has quit a diversity programme run by the LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, saying it believes coverage of transgender issues should be considered an impartiality topic that requires the inclusion of critical voices.

The national broadcaster said it would no longer be a member of the Diversity Champions programme, under which the corporation paid Stonewall for ongoing advice and assessments on creating inclusive workplaces.

The BBC director general, Tim Davie, told staff it was “unquestionable” that its ongoing participation in the scheme “has led some organisations and individuals to consider that the BBC cannot be impartial when reporting on public policy debates where Stonewall is taking an active, campaigning, role”.

Jim Waterson Media editor

The BBC is fully committed to being an industry-leading employer on LGBTQ+ inclusion. We are proud of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans colleagues and we support them to have fulfilling careers at the BBC.

“Along with many other UK employers, the BBC has participated in Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme to support our objective to create a fully inclusive workplace. However, over time our participation in the Programme has led some to question whether the BBC can be impartial when reporting on public policy debates where Stonewall is taking an active role.

“After careful consideration, we believe it is time to step back from the Diversity Champions Programme and will also no longer participate in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.

“Being a part of the Diversity Champions Programme has never required the BBC to support the campaigns of Stonewall, nor its policy positions. As a broadcaster, we have our own values and editorial standards – these are clearly set out and published in our Editorial Guidelines. We are also governed by the Royal Charter and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. Our journalists continue, as ever, to report a full range of perspectives on stories.

“Although the BBC will not be renewing its participation in the Diversity Champions Programme, in the future we will continue to work with a range of external organisations, including Stonewall, on relevant projects to support our LGBTQ+ staff.”

In other words, the issue is that the close work with Stonewall has led “some to question” the BBC’s neutrality on the issues which Stonewall champions (read: its positions on gender on transsexuals, self-identification, gender fluidity). The BBC has by contrast, it says, never been anything other than guided by its own “values”.

Reactions from Gender Critical Feminists, Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, and Stonewall.

This report in Variety is useful, above all because it puts the Nolan Podcast centre-stage. Having listened to the (long) series of broadcasts it is not hard to imagine the effect it would have.

The BBC has quit two controversial schemes run by Stonewall, an LGBTQ+ lobby group and charity, following an investigation by one of the corporation’s own journalists.

The public service broadcaster has now followed media regulator Ofcom and fellow broadcaster Channel 4 by withdrawing from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme and Workplace Equality Index.

The news comes after BBC 5 Live journalist Stephen Nolan released a 10-part investigative podcast examining whether the schemes had influenced the BBC’s editorial output. Journalist David Thompson also contributed to the investigation.

In the podcast, Nolan and Thompson questioned whether the BBC was too close to Stonewall, providing numerous instances of BBC internal policy and editorial output that appeared to breach the corporation’s own impartiality guidelines, as well as the Equality Act 2010, following communication with Stonewall in connection with these schemes.

The podcast, which was the culmination of an eighteen month investigation, quickly rose to the top of the charts on both Apple and Spotify after its release last month and garnered numerous headlines as well as comments from members of parliament.

Variety also notes this,

In June, Channel 4 also announced it was pulling out of Stonewall’s diversity scheme while Ofcom quit the scheme in August.

Numerous public bodies, including the Department of Health and the U.K.’s Equality and Human Rights Commission also announced they were withdrawing from the schemes this year.

Don’t let other people think for you on the podcasts.

Pass over the highly coloured description below and look at the material itself.

Nolan Investigates: Stonewall – All ten podcasts transcribed

In October 2021 a team of BBC journalists blew the lid off the controversial lobby group Stonewall and its influence on public institutions across the UK. Eighteen months of investigative work has now been broadcast in a series of 10 podcasts.

The new evidence and personal testimony contained within this series needs to be widely shared and easily accessible to as many people as possible. So a team of volunteer supporters at Fair Play For Women have transcribed the key contents of each episode for people to read and quote from.

You can listen to the full podcast on BBC Sounds here.

Episode 1: The brief

This first episode set’s out why these podcasts are important “It’s not about the rights and wrongs of what Stonewall are doing. They’re entitled to lobby.  It’s about the process.  And is it right that in a democracy, a lobby group can have so much influence within government on government policy. And if Stonewall can have it, who else can have it?”

Episode 2: Stonewall’s Schemes and the BBC

The team introduces the Work Place Equality Index and Champion schemes. Stonewall have created a league table, and organisations around the UK are trying to climb up this league table in order to say to the public they are LGBTQ friendly. Not only are the public bodies paying a lobby group to be marked by a lobby group, but then this lobby group is also saying, well, you’re not doing well enough. Pay us some money and we’ll tell you how to get up higher next year.

Episode 3: Self-ID and Gender Identity

Stonewall is campaigning to make it a societal norm, that rather than just male and female, human beings can have lots more genders, including genderqueer, queer, non-binary, two-spirit, many others. That is controversial territory. In this episode we hear what this means from different perspectives. We hear from Ben Cohen of Pink News and Rosie Duffield MP.

Episode 4: Being non-binary in the UK

In this episode the team speaks to a non-binary person, Owen Hurcum, about gender identity and why it matters. “Some women have penises. Some men have vaginas, some non-binary people have penises, some non-binary people have vaginas, and people can change that if they feel they need to.”

Episode 5 – A gender clinic insider speaks out

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. An in-depth interview with consultant Psychiatrist Dr David Bell about the treatment of children with gender dysphoria. “We’re at risk of taking the things at the manifest or surface level and acting too quickly on what is being said. And therefore in danger of doing irreversible damage to a child who might have desisted, and that’s very, very important”.

Episode 6 – Is Government Too Close to Stonewall?

In this episode the team sets out the evidence showing how governments and civil servants across the UK have been influenced by Stonewall.

Episode 7 – Lobbying and the Law

Stonewall’s advice to employers is to go above and beyond the law. The team presents the evidence that Stonewall are giving advice based how they want the law to be, and not as the law stands.

Episode 8 – The Debate

Not all trans people think the same! In this episode we hear a discussion between two trans people with very different views on sex and gender identity; non-binary Owen Hurcum and transsexual Debbie Hayton. “I’m still as male as I was when I was born. It’s simply the surgery has helped me become more comfortable with my own body. That’s the only thing that changed”. 

Episode 9 – How close was Ofcom to Stonewall?

The team cast serious doubts over the impartiality of OfCom. In this episode we hear the evidence that shows how OfCom has cited its own judgements on BBC broadcasts to impress Stonewall in an attempt to climb its equality league table.

Episode 10 – Is the BBC too close to Stonewall?

And finally we discover the extent of policy capture within the BBC. We hear what its been like from an ex-BBC employee and how Stonewall has influenced editorial content through the BBC style guide. “when I queried this stuff, I was told that the BBC kind of checked this with Stonewall and Stonewall were fine. They were fine with it, and therefore the BBC was fine with it.”

Update Julie Bindel:

When the BBC announced today that, “After careful consideration, we believe it is time to step back from the Diversity Champions Programme and will also no longer participate in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index,” sighs of relief could be heard around the corporation. Many lesbians, feminists and gay men had become sick and tired of the dominance of transgender ideology, and increased pressure to use pronouns on email sign offs and capitulate to various demands of the handful of transgender staff whilst being expected to side-line their own needs had become intolerable.

When Ruth Hunt was applying for the role of CEO of Stonewall in 2014, she requested a meeting with me. I was a little surprised and perplexed: I have never been a fan of Stonewall, and had written a book, published that same year in which I criticised the organisation for focusing on wealthy, white gay men bleating about ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’. I considered Stonewall to be a gay men’s rights movement, in which lesbians barely featured. I could never have imagined at that time how much worse it was to become.

During our meeting, which was perfectly pleasant, Hunt explained to me that she had “no intention” of Stonewall becoming a LGBT organisation, and was planning to, if she got the job, help support transgender organisations to autonomously fight for their rights by accessing funding and giving advice and mentoring.

Fast forward a few weeks, and, as soon as she was in post, Hunt held a meeting with several trans activists during which she apologised about my nomination for Journalist of the Year in 2008, at which there was a huge protest by trans activists on the grounds that I am seen as a transphobic bigot.

I am not suggesting that Hunt misled me during our meeting when she said Stonewall would remain focussed on sexual orientation and identity as opposed to gender, but I wonder if she allowed herself to be ‘persuaded’ by the individuals in that meeting that to exclude the T would bring trouble to her door.  This was in the context of brewing animosity about the unreasonable demands being put forward by some trans activists, and the trans rights movement was well on the march.

Whatever happened in that meeting that led to Stonewall changing direction. It soon adopted intransigent, strong-arm tactics. Its “No Debate!” catchphrase and the uncompromising, dictatorial mantra, “Trans women are women” alienated lesbians and gay men. They felt pushed aside by trans activists who argued that same-sex attraction was transphobic bigotry, and that lesbians can have penises. Gay men and lesbians began to turn against the organisation, feeling betrayed.

At the same time, as well as having no advocacy from an organisation that had supposed to be about protecting the rights of same-sex attracted people, Stonewall captured massive institutions that played a huge part in our lives, including the BBC, the NHS, the Office for National Statistics, the Crown Prosecution Service, much of the Police Service, and a number of workplaces including local authorities.

In extricating itself from Stonewall today, has the BBC, a treasured institution, lead the way for other public bodies to follow suit? No other lobbying organisation, particularly ones that refuses to even discuss differences of opinion on matters of public importance, should ever get that close again.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 11, 2021 at 9:57 am

Attack on Women’s Place and ‘Blairite’ Transphobia: US Jacobin Gets Stuck into the UK Culture Wars.

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WPUK Archives - Woman's Place UK

The US left populist magazine Jacobin is the latest soldier in the culture wars around Transphobia. It recently published an extraordinary article (that is, beyond the already extreme norms in these battles for the claims it made) on the issue. The piece begins with this claim, “as last week’s Labour Party conference showed, pushback against trans rights has also become a key weapon in the Blairite war against the Left.” “trans-exclusionary radical-feminist (TERF) talking points have become central to the war on the “communist” “loony left” waged by blue-checkmark liberals and Blairite hacks.” (Transphobia Is the Latest Front in the Blairites’ War Against the Left )

It is sad to note that the author, Mark Montegriffo, is not the first person you’d have thought would had signed up to this. He has been active in Another Europe is Possible (whose politics the pro-Bosses’ Brexit Jacobin has never publicised). He is, by all accounts, is a decent type who, as part of his London activism, has backed groups like the IWGB, ‘the UK’s leading union for precarious workers.’ The Transphobia polemic includes attacks on the identarian Family, Faith and Flag Blue Labour. They are ones many will agree with. But that current’s days of glory and (limited) influence during the Labour leadership of Ed Miliband are long past (see: Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics. 2015). Yet…..Who knows, a few of their ideas might make come-back, but they are likely to do with working class and Red Wall identity, not hostility to gender politics.

But most is completely awry. The Jacobin article outlined the views of “Labour Campaign for Trans Rights”. Apparently, “They told me that, over a year ago, “a motion was submitted in various CLPs denouncing transphobia and denouncing Women’s Place.” Who are the latter? “Woman’s Place UK, a “feminist” organization created in September 2017 in order to oppose the trans rights embodied in the Gender Recognition Act.” Montegriffo paints a portrait of the Labour Party, from the Parliamentary group to CLPs, riven by debates on trans issues – a claim many would dismiss. He talks of Socialist Campaign Group members concerned with “the departures of trans members and (who)  condemned their targeting by transphobic MPs and their supporters.”

As we sail past the paragraphs a new reef surges. “We’re seeing a convergence,” Gleeson (an author of Transgender Marxism (1)), said, “where anti-welfarism (?), pro-imperialism, and transphobia are fundamental to the right wing of the liberal media establishment, from the Guardian to the Times.” Some might describe this as gibberish. Perhaps one should ignore the rest of the piece.

Fat chance.

Most people who have read the polemic (you wonder how many from the UK?) will be most struck by the ad feminam attack on Rosie Duffield MP, “Duffield soon went from being a beneficiary of the surge in socialist electoral activism to occupying the unofficial role of TERF-in-chief in the Parliamentary Labour Party.” But the text continues, “Despite the alleged security threats, Rosie Duffield did come to Brighton to speak at a Labour Women’s Declaration event aligned with Woman’s Place UK…”

Women’s Place have responded on FB.

What Jacobin gets wrong about WPUK”On 9th October, Jacobin published an article by Mark Montegriffo which misrepresented our campaign. On 12th October, we wrote to request a right of reply.

We have had no response so we are publishing the rebuttal here:Mark Montegriffo’s article sticks the boot into WPUK without any demonstrable knowledge of what we say or do. There was certainly no attempt made to ask us to respond to anything he writes in the piece. Mark doesn’t even seem to have looked at the Myth busters page.”https://womansplaceuk.org/2020/11/28/wpuk-mythbusters/

Every single one of the core activists in WPUK has a demonstrable record of long-term feminist activism. This includes working with women and girls affected by men’s violence, including domestic and sexual abuse, organising demonstrations demanding that the streets be made safe for women, workplace and trade union activism for women’s rights, research into women in the workforce and activism on reproductive rights.

We are confident our credentials as feminist activists are at least as robust as Mark’s.” For the rest of the rebuttal see the link. https://womansplaceuk.org/…/what-jacobin-gets-wrong…/If you want to find out more about our campaign, don’t be like Mark.Check out our website where everything we have published is availabe to view. https://womansplaceuk.org/about/Thank you.

What, some might say, do you expect from Jacobin? They have axes-to-grind. They will publish attacks on a variety of Labour Party targets, Keir Starmer and ‘Blairism’ are old favourites. It is their role to produce them, and whether you like it or not they can sometimes hit hard.

But this is more delicate. There is the blatant hackle-raising of headline, “Transphobia Is the Latest Front in the Blairites’ War Against the Left”.

It looks as if the US journal did not warn Mark Montegriffo about rushing into areas where the Archangel Michael would hesitate to put his foot in.

Perhaps the magazine is just out of touch. Jacobin’s European Editor is best known in the UK for his learned studies of Amadeo Bordiga in the pages of the Weekly Worker (organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Provisional Central Committee, CPGB-PCC) – Famous as a polemical target of ‘Leftwing’ communism, ironically Amadeo Bordiga claimed to agree with Lenin’s strategy for world revolution. David Broder investigates (21.10.21).

Here is the response:

On the 9th October, Jacobin published an article by Mark Montegriffo which misrepresented our campaign.

On 12th October, we wrote to Jacobin to request a right of reply. We have had no response so we are publishing the rebuttal here.

 

What Jacobin gets wrong about WPUK

Extracts,

Mark Montegriffo’s article Transphobia Is the Latest Front in the Blairites’ War Against the Left sticks the boot into Woman’s Place UK without any demonstrable knowledge of what we say or do. There was certainly no attempt made to ask us to respond to anything he writes in the piece.

Anyone who wants to find out what we really say and do can look at our website. Mark doesn’t even seem to have looked at the Myth busters page.

Let’s start with his use of scare quotes to describe us as “feminist”. Every single one of the core activists in WPUK has a demonstrable record of long-term feminist activism. This includes working with women and girls affected by men’s violence, including domestic and sexual abuse, organising demonstrations demanding that the streets be made safe for women, workplace and trade union activism for women’s rights, research into women in the workforce and activism on reproductive rights.

…..

As the article points out, WPUK was on the receiving end of a campaign to brand us as a hate group inside the Labour Party. That’s the least of what we have had to put up with. We have had aggressively threatening demonstrations outside our events. Venues are routinely contacted and pressured not to host our meetings. Never once have we done anything of that nature. We are committed to respectful debate.

Contrast that to the treatment of Kathleen Stock at Sussex University. She has had groups of masked people protesting at her presence on the campus and arrived at work to find posters demanding she be sacked. And the reason for this campaign of intimidation and harassment is that she thinks humans are mammals and mammals don’t change sex by the power of thought.

The row continues.

*****************************

(1) Introducing Transgender Marxism

Jules Joanne GleesonElle O’Rourke / October 16, 2021

Transgender Marxism focuses wilfully on that which others might dismiss as vulgar, inappropriate, besides-the-political. It aims to provide a materialist account of the distinctive conditions of lack in which we find ourselves, and to help us wriggle free through unlikely means.

Much work remains to be done expanding the earthy, intestinal visions of Marx and his successors outwards, moving from the bowels towards the glands and receptors that make up our endocrine system. Transition, too, must come to be understood by revolutionaries as a response to its own form of hunger. The longings that drive so many to reforge lives for ourselves that leave us thoroughly proletarianised, or cast out, rendered surplus. Those cravings and cavings-in that clinicians have long attempted to desiccate under the catch-all term ‘dysphoria’. In truth, our moments of euphoric coping are enmeshed with the moments in which we are struck dumb by gut-churning dread. These are the moments that define our everyday lives. The restless energies that produce for us new needs; needs that can be difficult even to describe. Transphobic strands of ‘revolutionary’ thought would rather these yearnings be set aside, left unspoken; to be repressed (at least in the political arena), or perhaps to be exterminated altogether.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 23, 2021 at 10:27 am

Class Politics, Identity Politics and Gender Politics.

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A group of masked demonstrators at the University of Sussex staged a protest on campus demanding lecturer Kathleen Stock lose her job

‘New Social Movement’?

In 1985, as Margaret Thatcher was consolidating her rule. Ralph Miliband wrote an influential article, the New Revisionism in Britain (New Left Review 1/150). “One of Miliband’s main aims was to refute the argument that conflicts over gender, ethnicity, the environment and so on were as fundamental as those concerned with class” wrote his biographer, Michael Newman (Ralph Miliband and the Politics of the New Left. 2002).

In the NLR piece the author of Parliamentary Socialism stated, “‘Class politics’ has become the shorthand for much which the new revisionism most strongly repudiates: above all, it has come to stand for the insistence on the ‘primacy’ of organized labour in the challenge to capitalist power and the task of creating a radically different social order.” He noted, “Opposition to new revisionist writings has since then come from journals of the Labour Left such as Labour Herald and London Labour Briefing, from Labour Left figures such as Tony Benn and Eric Heffer, and from Trotskyist journals such as Socialist Worker and Socialist Action. But the main resistance has come from within the Communist Party, notably from a very traditionalist Morning Star, and also from individual party members.” This call to defend class struggle and the unions was a major factor in the eventual break up of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

This approach was developed in his study of class struggle, Divided Societies, written a few years later in 1989, Miliband argued that “without labour movements organised as political forces no fundamental challenge to the existing political order can ever be mounted.” In the chapter on New Social Movements he asserted that class-based motor was central, “whatever feminists, or black people, or gay and lesbians, or environmentalists or peace activists, or any other group may choose to do, even though their actions may well produce advances and reforms.” He added that “a great deal of oppression, discrimination, agression and violence exercised by white men, whether workers or bourgeois against women black people, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, cannot be traced back in any plausible way to direct or indirect economic pressures.”

On liberal and other types of non-socialist feminism Miliband commented that “This is not deny that women do have certain common interests – for instance, the right to reproductive choice, or the struggle against male violence. But lass, in relation to women, is nevertheless major dividing factor…(and) as a class, wage-earners have the potential for a degree of unity, at least, which women, as such, cannot hope to achieve.” This thought is not developed far but a moment’s reflection indicates that Roman and religious ‘laws’ alone ,sanctioning male supremacy in property and the family, are hard to untangle from history, ideology and custom to reveal a common economic basis across thousands of years. They do not rest on anything as clear as the ruling class appropriation of the social surplus.

The themes of the New Revisionism inspired many articles and books on the ‘retreat from class’ and defences of what became Marxism Today’s New Times project. Divided Societies had a tepid reception from those who were enthusiastic about ‘new social movements’ and is probably unread today. How it could help make sense of ‘intersectionality’, “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalised individuals or groups”? The answer is that Miliband was not concerned with American political concepts/ strategies of legal and political voice but with the goals of socialist democracy based on a unifying social force, the labour movement. It could be argued that political disagreements within the left, which equally cannot be traced to “economic pressures”, from ideology to organisational differences, have played a bigger role in thwarting the forward march of labour than socially and culturally rooted divisons.

The present row over ‘critical feminism’, gender theory, and transgender rights could be seen in this light. Here is a summary of Kathleen Stock’s views that have, in effect, consolidated divides in the gay and feminist movements:

Kathleen Stock explained her views on trans issues in written evidence to Parliament in November 2020 here:

  • Womanhood and manhood reflect biological sex, not gender or gender identity;
  • The claim ‘transwomen are women’ is a fiction, not literally true
  • Sexual orientation (being gay, being lesbian) is determined by same-sex attraction, not attraction to gender identity
  • Spaces where women undress and sleep should remain genuinely single-sex, in order to protect them;
  • Children with gender identity disorders should not be given puberty blockers as minors.

Will this result in the same kind of decade long debate, rows, and sometimes bitter splits as the New Revisionist decade?

Mary Davis, who has announced her colours, is a veteran of that epoch.

This can be seen in yesterday’s post and here where Mary Davis writes for the Red-Brown Full Brexit site which brought together supporters of the Brexit Party, Spiked, sovereigntists and nationalists with members of the Communist Party of Britain, Blue Labour, sovereigntists, and self-identifying left-wingers. The fact that she feels that this is a sympathetic audience indicates that at least some Gender Critical people feel happy with the Family Faith and Flag brigade and the Brexit Party, Spiked/RCP national populist identity politics. Some might argue that the kind of class politics that appeal to them are pictures of idealised traditional working class identity.

Class Politics vs Identity Politics: The Choice for Labour 2020.

Mary Davis

The epithet “woke” is often incorrectly used to describe this phenomenon. However, such a term fails to do justice to the gravity of the political and cultural shift now infecting society. Class politics is based on an understanding that there is a conflict between labour and capital in which those who sell their labour power for a wage are exploited by those who buy it. This is central to the capitalist mode of production. But this is not the concern of identity politics. The version of identity politics which is most damaging steps beyond the collective identity of historically-marginalised sections of the population and which has, in the twentieth century, given rise to important liberation movements, chiefly of women, black people, gays and lesbians. But identity politics turns its back on such collective movements for social change. It renounces class and collectivism in favour of individual self-identity. It has traversed the boundaries of wacky theories to become a mainstream narrative which has permeated all aspects of civil society including the labour movement and especially the Labour Party.

She continues,

Labour has accepted this mantra is evidenced by the recent leadership campaign in which the candidates were urged to accept the twelve pledges produced by the newly formed Labour campaign for trans rights. These pledges include committing the Labour Party to accepting “Trans people as their self-declared gender”, and that “trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary people are non-binary”. Supporters of these pledges argue that the Labour Party must “Organise and fight against transphobic organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and other trans-exclusionist hate groups… [and] Support the expulsion from the Labour Party of those who express bigoted, transphobic views”. Most of the leadership candidates accepted the pledges or a variant of them – hardly surprising given that most of them, reflecting mainstream ideology, are Labour policy anyway.[1] However, the demand to expel those who campaign for women’s rights through their support of such organisations as Women’s Place UK or the LGB Alliance, breaks new ground. By effectively turning its back on women, half of the population, the Labour Party will be propelled into an uncharted and potentially disastrous course.

This should be a cause for concern. The fact that it is not is alarming for two reasons. Firstly, identity politics is the antithesis of class politics and its theory and practice should induce great anxiety in the labour movement, whose very foundation was rooted in working-class struggle. Secondly, the gender identity issue is of particular concern for women because it conflates biological sex and gender, and wilfully and errantly fails to understand women’s oppression. Trans people (and many other groups) experience intolerance and discrimination but this is not same as oppression. Discrimination itself is not a function of class society even though it is an almost inevitable by-product of the inherent inequalities within it. Women, however, are oppressed, and the basis of such oppression is class exploitation. Oppression, although it may take the form of discriminating against the oppressed, occupies a unique relationship within class society. It is the most important means of maintaining the class relations which support class exploitation and, as such, oppression is a function of class society as well as being a product of it. This is because oppression, unlike discrimination, is linked materially to the process of class exploitation as well as operating at a “superstructural” level through oppressive ideologies which serve to maintain class rule by dividing the exploited. This is why it is impossible to understand women’s oppression without understanding varying forms of exploitation in class society – capitalism in particular. In this way, Labour’s betrayal of women is linked to the betrayal of the working class. This is what Labour needs to understand before it’s too late.

Book review – ‘Women and Class’ by Mary Davis

Lynette Cawthra

Mary Davis’s Women and Class was first published in 1990 by the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and has been republished in an updated and revised form in 2020 as part of the CPB’s centenary celebration. Its main aim is to argue for a Marxist feminist perspective of the way in which women are marginalised and exploited. What this perspective means in practice is that the major determinant of women’s marginalisation is the way in which capitalist economies are based on the exploitation of the working class by the ruling class. Women are doubly exploited both as workers and as those who create the conditions for the system to reproduce itself.

The pamphlet is especially critical of approaches to the marginalisation of women which regard class as just one of a number of subjective factors which make up individual identity. It argues that this denies the fact that the economic system creates objective class divisions and the marginalisation of women cannot be effectively opposed unless this is recognised. It regards as particularly dangerous the growth of a ‘self-identity politics’ which questions ‘the commonly understood categories of male and female…hence doubting the fact of biological sex itself.’ Mary Davis states that this has created a situation where ‘the ideological construct of gender has usurped the material reality of biological sex and has become a ruling ideology…[which] has stealthily penetrated all aspects of civil society, including the labour movement.’

Cawthra continues,

The pamphlet expresses concern about the proposal to amend the Gender Recognition Act to allow for gender self-declaration. The concern arises on the basis that it would lead to the possible removal of women-only spaces and effectively end the protected characteristic of being a biologically defined woman. Obviously, this proposal has now been dropped by the current Government in a statement issued in September 2020. The statement by the Minister for Women and Equalities can certainly be seen to implicitly vindicate the argument in Women and Class that identity politics conflates gender and biological sex: ‘Our philosophy is that a person’s character, your ideas, and your work ethic trumps the colour of your skin or your biological sex. We firmly believe that neither biology nor gender is destiny.’ Equally, the individualism within the statement can be seen as evidence for the argument that ‘identity politics is the antithesis of class politics’.

Note this clear alignment with recent critics of Stonewall:

The pamphlet also criticises the state-sanctioned encouragement of non-binary gender classification, e.g. official Government advice to avoid gendered pronouns like he or she. From a Marxist perspective, it regards state advocacy of this as an expression of the ruling ideology and is concerned that non-binary gender classification and the consequent downgrading of the categories of ‘male’ and ‘female’ has been accepted even within the labour movement.

Women and Class recognises that ‘there are vital areas of social reality which Marxists (including Marx) have simply not addressed.’ It may possible to examine the acceptance of a range of gender identities from a Marxist perspective while recognising the central oppression of biologically defined women. Current evidence seems to show a steady increase in the number of countries accepting as legitimate range of gender classifications including non-binary and transgender. That fact clearly doesn’t indicate that this is necessarily a progressive move from a Marxist perspective and the pamphlet regards it as ‘pseudo-egalitarianism’. From the point of view of the Marxist feminism set out in Women and Class, the question is whether it could be possible that this could contain transgressive challenges to the ruling ideology which sanctions the oppression and marginalisation of women.

She concludes,

As an alternative to the form of Marxist feminism advocated by Women and Class, I’ll end with a quote from Heidi Hartman: ‘Many Marxists typically argue that feminism is at best less important than class conflict and at worst divisive of the working class. This political stance produces an analysis that absorbs feminism into the class struggle. Moreover, the analytic power of Marxism with respect to capital has obscured its limitations with respect to sexism. We will argue here that while Marxist analysis provides essential insight into the laws of historical development, and those of capital in particular, the categories of Marxism are sex-blind. Only a specifically feminist analysis reveals the systemic character of relations between men and women. Yet feminist analysis by itself is inadequate because it has been blind to history and insufficiently materialist.’

Miliband, as can be seen, recognised these points, which puts his 1980s writing ahead of the Communist Party of Britain..

Update.

Kenan Malik writes in the Observer today (Whether freedom of speech or fairness to migrants, some principles are sacred) – a view this Blog endorses:

“It’s a complex debate, with important arguments on both sides. For many trans activists, however, it’s not a debate that should be taking place. Anyone who believes that sex is more important than gender in defining what it is to be a woman – or who would exclude trans women from women-only spaces – is, they argue, “transphobic” by definition and their arguments bigoted. Yet, condemning figures such as Selina Todd, one of Britain’s most distinguished historians of working-class and women’s lives, or the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as if they were feminist versions of Tommy Robinson, strains credulity. Trying to strangle a debate, or mislabelling one’s opponents, is no response to complexity. It also makes harassment and intimidation more acceptable. After all, many argue, if they are bigots, who want to “eliminate” trans people, why shouldn’t they be harassed? The result is to leave female academics such as Stock needing police protection from those who identify as women.”

Written by Andrew Coates

October 17, 2021 at 12:14 pm