Emily Brothers, former Labour parliamentary candidate for Sutton and Cheam, writes that Labour needs ‘trans respect not transphobia’. It is a shame that she makes this call using language that is, at best, dismissive of the feminist movement and at worst taps into profound misogyny. The move towards greater public acceptance and institutional recognition for trans people has been one of the fastest-moving developments in equalities, but it is not a development without conflicts.
One of those things that supposedly never happens, happened. Luke Mallaband was convicted of six voyeurism offences after a female student at the University of East Anglia found his phone hidden in the university library’s gender-neutral toilets. The probation report described him as “high risk of posing serious harm to females”.
That creepy men would abuse mixed-sex intimate spaces in order to breach women’s privacy seems, perhaps, a predictable outcome; but it’s not something that the UEA students’ union took into account when it recommended installing more gender-neutral toilets.
“It’s about extending safe spaces to everyone regardless of gender. Once you’re in a cubicle, what does it matter who’s in the cubicle next door?” said LGBT+ officer Richard Laverick at the time. “All issues surrounding toilets and safety would occur regardless of the existence of gender neutral toilets,” said a blithe 2015 report into facilities on the UEA campus. But who you share a space with makes a considerable difference to how safe it is – especially for groups of people liable to become victims of male violence, which means women and transwomen in particular.
In the dismal sleep-deprived afternoon of yesterday’s mourning, I appeared on Shelagh Fogarty’s LBC show, talking about why I’d chosen to address Trump’s victory in an open letter to my daughter, and what other parents should tell their children about his presidency. I didn’t mention the one piece of solid practical advice I’d urge, which is to move above sea level as quickly as you can, but I did say the election had been a “referendum on women’s role in public life”, which is quite a good line. (We lost.)
Sometimes, when there’s a big event due on a specified date, journalists will write pieces as though the thing has happened before it actually has. Hillary Clinton looked, up till election day, in a strong position to win the presidency; and if I’m honest, the thought of the alternative was more awful than many writers and commissioning editors were perhaps willing to countenance. Why live in a bad potential future when you could pretend the better one is guaranteed instead? So Stylist gave me a commission: write an open letter to Hillary Clinton as the first female US president, and if the worst happens, we’ll commission you to do an alternative column on the day.
The alternative was this, which was one of the three pieces I turned out between 5am and 9am on Wednesday. But this is the one I wrote first. This is the one I wanted to be true. Funnily enough, on Tuesday evening I watched an episode of the sitcom Community called Remedial Chaos, in which a character rolls a dice to make a decision, thereby splitting off the universe into six timelines. On Wednesday, I woke up in the darkest timeline. But when I was writing this, and the other Hillary-victory pre-commission I did, I got to hurl myself forward to the good place, briefly. There’s an entire literature of this, by the way: celebratory pieces by feminist journalists never published because the cause for celebration died in the bitter grip of the polls. One day, someone should compile them into a book. It will be the saddest book.
Dear Madam President,
I could just sit here and type that beautiful phrase all day: “Dear Madam President”.
Even as someone in a country with its second female head of government (only another 72 consecutive female prime ministers to go before the UK hits equality!), the first woman in the White House feels like a big deal. Because this is America, and America is the biggest deal of all.
The only superpower standing. A country that promises ‘liberty and justice for all’, but that for more than three centuries only put white men in the top job. When that country appoints its first woman president, and when she succeeds its first black president, you know that history has happened.
It’s taken decades, but the struggles for civil rights and women’s liberation that kicked off in the 20th century have finally taken the big prize.
I’m going to enjoy every moment of this victory.
A while ago, a friend set me a problem. “Why,” he asked, “is feminism structurally weak?” Feminism should, after all, be a dazzling powerful political movement. Women marginally outnumber men. The evidence that we are the subjugated class is everywhere, from the wage gap to sex ratio in senior jobs to our woeful absence from political positions to the grim inequality of the housework split to the daily drip-drip-drip of advertising telling us exactly how wrong our bodies are.
Those things should fit together into a simple plan: get the biggest gang together and force the other side to turn over what’s ours by right. But this has never happened, and today it has failed to happen on a tragic, global scale. Donald Trump has beaten Hillary Clinton because he was a man running against a woman. There are many ways to dress up his victory, but only one that explains it. This was a referendum on sex roles, and America voted racist penis.
America has chosen, and it chose the pussy-grabber. The guy who said his daughter was a “piece of ass”. The guy who has been accused – in multiple, mutually corroborating accounts – of sexual assault. The guy whose ex-wife accused him of rape in a divorce deposition. So tell me again how a rape accusation ruins a man’s life. Please, I am all ears for your sympathetic descriptions of the terrible injustice done to men when they’re named as the suspected perpetrator of a violent crime in exactly the same way that suspected perpetrators of violent crimes are always named.
You are ten. When Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination and said “one of you is next”, she was speaking to you.
Not, of course, that you were literally on your way to becoming President of the USA – but her victory spoke of possibility for girls and women everywhere. When the ruling party of the biggest democracy in the world selects a female candidate as its presidential candidate, it matters. When that candidate is the woman who said “women’s rights are human rights”, it really matters.
Between late July and last night, we lived in a swallow-flight moment of hope. It was beautiful as it darted through the sky, and it is gone. Back in the summer, you teased me about this election: “Mummy, Hillary Clinton’s not going to win, is she? Because no one you like ever wins, do they?” And you made me laugh, which felt like a rare thing in that grim summer after Jo Cox was murdered and the UK voted to leave the EU.
But you were right, too. I felt it then, and I know it now: the things that I think make sense about the world, the faith in a bedrock of fairness and generosity that I have built into my calculations so far, do not seem to be there.