This is a response to this piece, by Luke Roelofs, which turned up in my TL this morning, hailed as “One of the best things I’ve read […] on why GCF arguments are both bogus and conservative”.
It’s certainly a lengthy work, running to more than 10,000 words. I’m not a professional philosopher, so I’m going to try to keep my reply under 1,000 words – in the hope that people will actually read it.
Roelofs’ novella has three threads of investigation:
- Do trans-people reinforce gender stereotypes?
- Are people being pressured to transition?
- Does admitting trans women make women’s spaces less safe?
Roelofs helpfully tells us in the title of each of these sections that the answer is “No”.
I’m going to tackle the sections out of order, to suit my own, warped, gender-critical agenda.
Actually, I’m going to dismiss section 2 entirely, because it’s an area I freely admit to not knowing much about. As Roelofs spends most of this section talking about diagnosis of gender dysphoria and having to live for a period as your assumed gender, both barriers that GRA reformers seek to remove, then presumably he does know much about it either. Indeed, given his verbosity, spending a mere 1,500 words on the topic is presumably his version of “No comment”
Section 3 barely takes more dealing with, as he doesn’t even attempt to answer the question that he himself raises. Instead of proving his own assertion that, no, admitting trans-women to women-only spaces does not make them less safe, he instead argues that the topic is not worth debating because enforcement is impractical.
If there is no enforcement of sex segregated spaces then predatory men can freely enter them, and if there is any sort of official or unofficial enforcement then we enter some Orwellian nightmare, where people always have to carry their papers when they want to pee. Anyway, he argues, if there’s enforcement then women will feel that they have to present as feminine in order to use those spaces, and other women will force them to do so, by reporting anybody who isn’t girly enough and making them suffer the indignity of having their papers or pants checked (yes, he really does argue this).
I don’t know much about professional philosophy, but I’d always kind of assumed that the line between it and hand-waving lunacy was wider than appears to be the case.
Anyway, we end section 3 not with the conclusion that no women were harmed in the making of this self-identifying bathroom, but rather that there’s no solution, so we gain nothing from discussing it.
And so we reach section 1, and the argument that I enjoyed the most.
In summary, he battles against the idea that gender-identity is based on the boys-like-blue/girls-like-pink stereotypes. The bad feminists get the blame for this idea existing at all. They complain about trans-women radiating “male energy” (by which I assume he means observations that some men who claim trans-womanhood don’t even bother to shave their beards off), and they joke about the appearance of non-passing trans-women.
These hurtful comments drive trans-women to feminise their appearance, which then opens them to accusations that they see feminism only in terms of stereotypes.
The core of his argument is that if gender-critical feminists argue that women shouldn’t have to behave or appear in a manner which conforms to their gender then why should trans-women have to?
The only philosophy I know anything about is the kind that turns up towards the end of your sixth pint of Foster’s, but here Roelofs seems to have overlooked a huge philosophical point – if womanhood isn’t defined by biology, and isn’t defined by behaviour and dress, then what is womanhood?
The gender-critical view, that women are born into second-class citizenry, because of their biology makes logical sense, but I can also understand the logic (albeit regressive) in saying that if you look like a woman then you should be treated like a woman. What I can’t see is what womanhood means if it’s neither of these things.
The non-biological, non-gender stereotype kind of woman that Roelofs is arguing is the ‘natural’ state of trans-women does nothing other than render the term ‘woman’ meaningless.
In fact, all a man seems to gain by declaring themselves a woman is that access to women’s spaces…and apparently we couldn’t stop them doing that anyway.
OK, enough philosophy.
The title of the blog is, Dear Philosophers, You Can Trust the Feminist Consensus: Gender-Critical Radical Feminism is Bogus, and there are two final comments to make on this.
In the title, and in the body of the piece, Roelofs states that the majority of feminists are accepting of trans-women, but makes no effort to support this assertion. Given that he counts himself as a feminist perhaps he just has a particularly wide definition of the term.
Speaking of terms, ‘bogus’ is also worth a look. As he himself says:
I decided to believe what seemed like the consensus among feminists, that GCRF is bogus, even though I had trouble articulating why clearly to myself. I trusted the judgement that seemed to be held by the great majority of people I knew and respected for their views on this sort of topic.
And he even helpfully defines exactly what ‘bogus’ means:
‘Bogus’: both intellectually valueless and hateful. They’re saying that rather than gaining something from engaging with it critically, we’ll actually lose something: debates about gender are made worse by having this perspective represented.
In other words, underneath all of the philosophical highfalutin and engorged word-counts there’s just another woke man, pulling ideas out of his arse to justify his desire to tell women to shut up.
Great work, Luke Roelofs, take a seat with all the others.
981 words (including these ones)