Wednesday, October 28, 2015


By Carol Downer

          I applaud Germaine Greer speaking the truth. She says it’s fine if men choose to use drugs and surgery to alter their bodies to feel more comfortable by having a female appearance, and she accords them the courtesy of using female speechforms, but it doesn’t mean that they now belong to the class of women.  So, trans women, and their supporters, go ahead and call me scurrilous names and mount your campaigns to deny me any means to publicly express my opinion.   This is the time for all women that want to preserve the gains of our women’s liberation movement to follow Greer’s example and speak out.  As ACT UP! said, “Silence is Death”.

 You ask, why can’t everyone accept them as being women, if they so identify?  Trans women have not had the experience of being a girl or woman their whole life, so they do not have that deep bond that women have which is based on our capacity to reproduce the species; they have not been, are not presently and never will be, targets of those ruling class males who either favor or oppose population growth.   Therefore, the male-dominated society will not accept them as women; in fact, many trans women are being beaten up and killed by sexist males for making their outer appearance congruent with their self-definition.   Their assailants are saying, in essence, “we men have the power to decide who is or is not a woman”.  And, though some liberal left men are probably getting a kick out seeing feminists being de-platformed and taking their turn at being called bigots, ruling class men knows that the chief definition of women in patriarchal society is that they are inferior, and they will use their power to keep treating us that way.  Since the patriarchy’s main goal is to control women’s power to reproduce, the activities of gender non-conforming people do not bother them since only a minority of them sire, gestate and rear children.

The debate about how to define “woman” is a sideshow, because it is based on the assumption that we ordinary people define “woman” through our daily actions.   Paradoxically, the trans gender community preach that gender is a social construct, but they do not analyze who is responsible for this social construct and how it is enforced, and by whom.  Instead, they attack a woman who criticizes the male power structure responsible for the gender stereotypes that oppress women and trans women.

In today’s world, the media, the internet and the public pronouncements of the major political parties reflect back to us a picture of a society in which we collectively create the social construct of gender, therefore, since we collectively create it, it is presumed that we can change it by changing public opinion.  Actually, this social construct is a result of what’s taught in our educational institutions, what’s preached from religious pulpits, what’s enforced by laws and regulations in every phase of our lives.  Our country is ruled by the 1% who own the corporations using control of the media, philanthropy, lobbying, and institutions.  They can’t change the underlying physiological difference between males and females.   The population is dimorphic; everyone fits, more or less, into either male or female plus an increasing population of people that are intersex.  However, they can decide whether our society is binary, meaning everyone if forced to be either a man or a woman. If we want to challenge the tyranny of these rigid binary gender roles, and feminists do, we women have to unite as a class, to collectively rebel.  Trans gendered people and men can be allies and support our struggle.

So, I will never deny Caitlyn Jenner the right to identify as a trans woman (although she is not my favorite trans woman, because she is anti-abortion and anti-poor people), but I will disagree with her defining herself as a woman, thus pulling the rug out of the definition that a woman is an adult female human, and thus destroying my ability to establish common ground with other adult female humans.

Of course, trans women and we women have some common male enemies, violent men who enforce the patriarchal definition of women by assaulting or killing any man who dares to undermine male superiority by behaving like a woman and the members of the White, Male Supremacist ruling class.  Instead of fighting feminists, trans women would be wise to become allies of politically active adult female humans who are working for social justice for all.
          I say thank you, Germaine Greer, for these candid, articulate statements.   Her courageous decision to speak out on this “third-rail” issue may prove to bring more inspiration to the ranks of feminist women like me, than what she would have said in her address. 

Carol Downer introduced the concept of vaginal self-examination in 1971 and co-founded the Feminist Women’s Health Center in 1972.  She is the editor and/or co-author of several books, including a “New View of a Woman’s Body.”

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