Is Feminism Shrinking?
Did we take our eyes off the prize?
Julia Gillard, former Labour Prime Minister of Australia, recently spent four minutes gibbering when asked the question, “What is a woman?” at an event on ‘Women’s Advancement’ in Adelaide. Australia’s first (and so-far only) female PM, still held in high esteem for a blistering speech about misogyny aimed at her Liberal Party opposite Tony Abbott, now identifies as someone who cannot commit to a simple definition. It is, she demurred, “A gotcha question.”
The ‘right’ answer, it seems these days, is that anyone who wants to call themselves a woman – even if they are male-bodied, even if they have not taken cross-sex hormones or had surgery – IS a woman. It’s just a matter of choice.
The ‘wrong’ answer is the simple truth: that a woman is an adult female.
Few politicians manage to quickstep this truth, so instead we get meandering non-answers. Gillard gibbered for four whole minutes before saying, “'Most people in their lives won’t end up playing elite sport, most people won’t end up in prison…”
Of course, both these statements are undoubtedly true.
Arguments around trans women in sports or the placing of men in women’s prisons have raged, and it is indeed the case that these things will not affect most of us. The great majority of interactions with trans folk will be benign. But these issues remain. Should we not care about the female prisoners, already so vulnerable, because most of us are unlikely to go to prison ourselves?
Gillard’s words really bugged me because they represent a kind of narrowing of vision, a contraction, a hollowing out of anything I would recognise as ‘feminism’.
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