Thanks to trans activism, 2017 saw a return to old-school, sexist dismissals of women and women’s rights

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There is much we could say, looking back on the past year. Horrible men have simultaneously been rewarded (with the mere presidency, no biggie) and held to account en masse (largely through the #MeToo campaign). Feminism has apparently seen a surge in popularity, as it was named word of the year by Merriam-Webster, the Women’s March which took place last January was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, and “The Silence Breakers” were named Time magazine’s Person of the YearAmid all that, there has naturally been backlash. Women’s rights remain under threat and those who claim to be allies — queer activists, the left, and liberals — have attempted to reframe feminist analysis as hate speech.

Despite all this, Meg-John Barker, an academic who teaches Psychology at the Open University, claims, in an article for The Conversation, that 2017 represents “a year of transgender moral panic.” While Barker notes that just three years ago, 2014 was hailed the “transgender tipping point,” thanks to the sudden emergence and celebration of trans-identified celebrities like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock in the media, 2017, she complains, saw an “anti-trans” backlash of sorts.

Barker is not the first to try to paint the public (and, in particular, feminist) response to the transgender trend as little more than irrational hysteria. Dear Owen Jones, who has been reduced to spluttering, hyperbolic tirades over the fact women have been permitted to publicly ask questions about the impact of gender identity ideology and legislation on their sex-based rights and protections, has also labelled this response a “moral panic.”

Jones is right when he says it seems as though history is repeating itself, but not in the way he means.

Feminists and women’s rights campaigners have been painted as hysterical and had their concerns dismissed as some kind of “moral panic” since the first wave. Feminist advocacy against sexual harassment, domestic abuse, rape, pornography, and prostitution have been labelled as “moral panics” in order to write women’s concerns about their own lives and oppression off as emotion-based and irrational, rather than genuine, rational, and worthy of consideration.

It is ever-interesting to me that, somehow, women’s interest in being treated as human beings and in avoiding male violence is consistently reduced to paranoia and prudishness. Instead of responding to our political analysis and arguments, women are painted, time and time again, as irrationally fearful. (As though we should not fear male violence?)

When we question men’s right to buy access to the bodies of women and girls we are called “whorephobic,” for example. When we challenge the efforts of trans activists to destroy women’s spaces and to infringe on women’s sex-based rights, we are labelled “transphobic.” Women who say pornography dehumanizes and degrades women are written off as “prudes,” as though the only possible reason we could have for disliking incest and gang bangs is that we aren’t sexually liberated.

Interestingly, anti-capitalists are never accused of being afraid of money and environmentalists are not called “pollutionphobic.” No progressive person would accuse a Black Lives Matters activist of creating a “moral panic” around white supremacy and racist police violence. It is absolutely no coincidence that those who consider themselves to be leftists and in solidarity with social justice movements have no qualms dismissing women’s political activism in this way, and resorting to old-school, sexist stereotypes when it comes to feminism.

That transgenderism has become such a central debate in the public sphere and among feminists should come as no shock, considering how quickly this ideology and individuals who identify as trans have shot to prominence in every arena from academia, sports, media, and politics. Nonsensical terms like “cis” and “cisgender privilege” have been adopted almost universally by liberal feminist writers and progressive media, despite a large quotient of women repeatedly stating the term is insulting and misunderstands how gender works under patriarchy. Within only a few years, policies and legislation supporting the notion of “gender identity” have been proposed and adopted throughout Western nations, with little debate or attention to impacts on women. Simultaneously, those who question, challenge, or simply attempt to discuss the idea of transgenderism, the transing of children, the righteousness of trans activism, and gender identity legislation are bullied, no-platformed, smeared, and subjected to threats.

It is no wonder the debate has become heated. Indeed, it is what you can expect when people are forced to adopt dogma and silenced or accused of “violence” when they try to ask questions.

The notion that “gender identity” exists at all flies in the face of feminist analysis, which says being born female is what forces women into an oppressed class of people, regardless of whether or not they identify with that position. But this point, as well as the concerns women have expressed around the impact of writing something as vague and as regressive as “gender identity” into legislation, including questions around whether males should be permitted in female prisons, change rooms, and transition houses, go unacknowledged and unaddressed by trans activists and queer theorists like Barker. Instead, she paints challenges to this ideology as nothing more than a hateful, unfounded, irrational attack on trans-identified individuals, writing:

“A moral panic is the process of arousing social concern over an issue. Moral panics often involve scapegoating a particular group as the ‘evil’ responsible for a range of societal ills.”

Indeed, Barker sounds no different than the anti-feminists over at Spiked, who claim the #MeToo campaign is a “harassment panic” that demonizes men unfairly. She claims trans-identified people are vilified by challenges to and questions about transgenderism, trans activism, and policies that allow men to enter into women-only spaces, simply based on self-identification, intentionally declining to acknowledge that what women fear is not an abstract trans-identified person, but men, specifically. No one has argued, as Barker claims, that trans-identified people are specifically dangerous or violent. What has been argued is that males are a threat to females, regardless of how they identify. If this fact is indeed considered a “moral panic” in the eyes of people like Jones and Barker, then they are better suited for the alt-right crowd than they are among progressives.

Barker says that this kind of “moral panic” (commonly known as “feminism”) exists to “enable us to attack a specific group for problems we’re all implicated in”… As though we have no idea who is doing all the raping and beating in this world and as though women are equally as culpable…

This kind of victim-blaming, sexist nonsense has no place in the 21st century. The cult of transgenderism will be short lived. Too many have seen this trend for what it is and have been put off by the violent, misogynistic, dishonest tactics of trans activists. If our future is indeed one wherein women succeed in overcoming patriarchal oppression, academics like Barker who use their platform to manipulate and lie in order to push forward a foundationless ideology will be judged savagely by history, mocked as flat-earthers and condemned as witch hunters.

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.