‘Speak Up For Women’ provide balance to Stuff’s one sided article

A proposed law change, currently before Parliament, would introduce the option of an “X” gender marker as well as “M” and “F” on New Zealand birth certificates. It would also add the option of “parent” as well as “mother” and “father”. (File photo)

A New Zealand feminist group Speak Up For Women have published their response to a Stuff article on their website as they were unable to meet the deadline imposed on them by Stuff for them to provide comment. I do not know what the deadline was, but, for example, Whaleoil’s experience with A Newspaper is that Cam has often been asked for his comment on a hit piece about him just 5 minutes before the article was published.

Currently, the media do not seem to be open to exploring the viewpoints of feminists who hold the ‘wrong opinions’. This is not a new phenomenon for conservatives but it is one that is now affecting those who hold Left-wing or Classical liberal viewpoints.

Whaleoil aims to provide balance to the New Zealand media world by telling the other side of the story and by defending of freedom of speech. We are happy to publish alternative viewpoints and opinions and guest posts from writers on the Left and those who consider themselves to be Classic liberals will always be welcome on our blog. 

So without further ado, we now present you with the other side of the New Zealand Birth Certificate debate. quote.


“We support respectful, evidence-based dialogue and freedom of speech. We support the rights of transgender people to live their lives free from violence and discrimination. Rights do not exist in isolation and a fair society balances the rights of all.”

-speakupforwomen


We were recently contacted to provide comment to Stuff as input to this article. Unfortunately, we were unable to meet their deadline, and so again, New Zealand mainstream media has not delivered balanced reporting on the BDMRR bill. This is deeply disappointing; below is the response we gave to their questions (with minor amendments) and we request that Stuff update the online version their story.

1. How many people are actively involved in your organisation and who are they?
Like all grassroots campaigning organisations there is a core team of organisers responsible for and contributing to various things and they dip in and dip out depending on their own capacity. It is not possible to provide an accurate headcount, as Speak Up For Women is flat in its structure and we welcome anyone, at any time, to contribute as much or as little as they want.

Our organisation is made up almost entirely of left-leaning women and some men from all walks of life. They vary in race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, ability and religious belief.

It is telling that without any media coverage, our recent open letter to MPs has to date gathered over 250 signatures from New Zealanders (we removed all signatures from people outside of NZ)

2. Who founded your organisation and when? What did that involve?
Due to the personal attacks and threats many members of our organisation have already received, we do not give out names unless they are happy to be publicly known. At this stage we only have one Spokesperson, Georgina Blackmore.

Setting up the organisation was relatively simple. Some people got together one weekend to choose our name, message, website and campaign goals. Speak Up For Women are currently focusing on a single-issue; the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill and how the proposed introduction of sex self-identification for birth certificates will impact on the sex-based protections of women and girls.

3. Where are you based?
We do not have an office. The people involved with Speak Up for Women live all over New Zealand.

4. Where does your funding come from? i.e. website set up, Facebook ads.
We are entirely funded out of our own pockets. We have not solicited any donations from our supporters, thus far.

5. Why are you opposed to the changes to the processes of changing gender on birth certificates?
We do not oppose the option of changing the sex on one’s birth certificate, as is currently the law. We oppose the government’s proposal to allow for someone’s legal sex to be a matter of self-identification only through the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. We believe that adopting a policy of self-ID will have significant unintended consequences on the sex-based protections for women and girls and there must be a respectful, evidence-based dialogue on what these impacts are before this legislation is enshrined in New Zealand law.

Women and girls still operate at a disadvantage in society and we have laws that protect us on the basis of our sex, such as the Human Rights Act. Put simply, when sex becomes a matter of self-identification, the rights of women and girls become meaningless, they cannot be enforced, they cannot be cited for our protection and they cannot be depended upon when working towards equality between the sexes.

6. Some people have called your groups ideas transphobic or against transgender human rights – what is your response to this?
We support the rights of transgender people to live their lives free from violence and discrimination. No one should be denied education, employment, healthcare or civil entitlements simply for being who they are. Rights do not exist in isolation and a fair society balances the rights of all. We absolutely reject any accusation of transphobia. We are not anti-trans; we are pro-women.

7. The term TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist/m) has also been applied to your group and its members. What is your response to that?
We believe that the word TERF is a slur. Although the term may have originated as a relatively neutral descriptor, it is clear that it is no longer being used that way. It is now used to degrade, humiliate, insult and threaten women, especially online, but in some instances has been linked to real-life intimidation and violence enacted against women.

A lot of our supporters have been called TERF when they didn’t even know what Radical Feminism was; simply for asking questions or voicing their concerns. The term is often accompanied by death, rape and other types of violent threat as well be being coupled with dehumanising language such as “trash” or “scum”.

We ask that others don’t call us TERFs, but they persist in doing so. If the term was, as we are so often told, simply a neutral descriptor, then our repeated pleas to cease its use would be listened to. It is illustrative of how abusive that term is, that people continue to use it, even after being told how harmful it is

Whaleoil contributor Rachel recently put together this helpful video about the TERF wars. Like the Speak Up For Women group, I agree that TERF is a slur and one that I feel has been invented to attempt to delegitimise their viewpoint and to avoid having to debate the issues.

8. Are you affiliated with these individuals, groups and organisations: Renee Gerlich, Charlie Montague, Georgina Blackmore, Lesbian Rights Alliance Aotearoa, the people who run the ‘Broadsheet: New Zealand Feminists Magazine’ page on Facebook?
Georgina Blackmore is our Spokesperson. Broadsheet, Renee Gerlich, and the Lesbian Rights Alliance Aotearoa have at times shown public support for our work but are not affiliated with our organisation. Charlie Montague of the Lesbian Rights Alliance Aotearoa was a guest speaker at our first public meeting, alongside our Spokesperson, Georgina Blackmore.

9. Do you receive funding and other forms of support from feminist groups in the UK? If so which group/s?
No.

10. What is your response to some scientists’ position that biology is socially constructed and not ‘material reality’ as you say on your website – particularly when you consider intersex people?
We are materialists and therefore believe that biology exists no matter whether we believe in it or not. We believe that women and girls are oppressed due to our sex and not our gender identity. The problem we face nowadays is that our belief puts us into direct conflict with people who believe that women are oppressed on the basis of their ‘gender identity’. This is the central belief of trans-activists, whose topline statement is that “a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman”. Just as everything we aim for in our political activism stems from our primary understanding of the nature of women’s oppression, so too does theirs.

Indeed, the very term Intersex admits the existence of the binary of two sexes. It is not possible to be between or across two things, if those two things don’t exist in the first place. We follow the work of many politically active people with intersex conditions and a common objection they have is that their lived realities are often exploited in order to win an argument that actually obscures their own political goals. Intersex people are not a “gotcha” question to be exploited by people who themselves don’t know what it means to have an intersex condition.

Protecting an argument by reference to “some scientists think” completely ignores the fact that the scientific community doesn’t always agree. All things being equal, the idea that biological sex is mutable but that gender roles are immutable is politically unhelpful, at best; and you could go as far as to say that it is harmful to the work that feminists do. Without sex, there is no sexism.

11. Do you believe what you are doing is harmful?
No one in our group wants to harm anyone. We simply want to uphold, and where possible, strengthen, the rights of women and girls. If that is considered harmful, then that demonstrates an alarming and dismissive attitude towards the rights of women and girls in our society and we need to urgently examine that. End quote.

Please consider reading and signing the letter to all NZ MPS asking them to consider the unintended consequences of the birth certificate amendments and to protect the rights of women and girls.

Please consider reading and signing the petition of Charlie Montague asking parliament to consult with women before allowing sex changes based solely on self-declaration.

The petition is asking that the House of Representatives urge the government to consult women on how sex changes based solely on self-identification would impact women-only services, spaces, data-gathering, and monitoring of sex-based discrimination.


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