WPUK Mythbusters – A response to the IRR and others

There have been several articles and comments published recently, including one by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), which attempt to discredit ‘gender critical’ (GC) feminism.

These include claims that a belief in the material reality of sex is akin to antisemitism and scientific racism; that it promotes biological essentialism; and plays into the hands of the far-right.

Here is our response to those accusations.

You’re not fighting for women’s rights you are just attacking trans rights/ There is a backlash against trans rights led by GC feminists

Our campaign was established only when hard-won, long-held legal rights of women were under threat through reform of the Gender recognition Act (GRA).

We fully accept that people have the right to lobby for a change in the law but we believe that should be done through democratic means and with the widest possible consultation. This allows everyone to give proper consideration to the proposals and ensures that good laws are made.

That’s why we organised to ensure that women took part in the GRA consultation. It’s what a democracy does.

We are campaigning for the rights in the Equality Act to be upheld which rightfully includes the provision of single-sex exemptions where these are a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim.  We are not campaigning against the rights trans people already hold in law.

GC feminists don’t believe that trans women are women

WPUK recognises the biological differences between the two sexes. Sex is a material reality, with social significance in part due to sexism. We do not believe anyone is served by ignoring these facts.

Sex and gender reassignment are both protected characteristics in the Equality Act. The Act also recognises there will be occasions when it is legitimate and lawful to discriminate on the basis of sex, for example in providing single-sex spaces and services.

GC feminists represent trans people as sexual offenders and threats to the safety of women

This is a misrepresentation of our position.

It is a fact that women are far more likely to be assaulted by men than by women. For this reason, steps have been taken to create spaces and services which allow women to be only with other women. This is not to say that all men are sexual predators but since it is often impossible to tell which are and which aren’t, there are times when all men will be excluded for the protection of women and girls. Most people understand and accept the logic of this position.

The evidence, to date, shows that at population level the pattern of offending by transwomen has more in common with those of the male population, in general, than the female. That is not to say all transwomen are likely to pose a physical or sexual risk,  but since it is impossible to know which will and which won’t, the same rules of exclusion apply.

Their arguments amount to a fundamentalist approach to biology, that labels anyone who doesn’t conform to a normative view of ‘womanhood’ or ‘manhood’ as abnormal

This bears no relationship to our arguments.  We believe women and men should be free to live their lives and express their identities in any ways they wish. We believe that gender stereotypes and expectations imprison everyone and we campaign to challenge sexist notions of what a man or woman is.

We have never labelled anyone ‘abnormal’.

A belief in biological sex is the same as a belief in scientific racism

Scientific racism, the view that there are physically discrete human races, some of which might be asserted to be superior or inferior to others, has been disproved and discredited.

The existence of discrete, dimorphic sexes is a material fact which impacts on our lives in important and significant ways. Acknowledging that and addressing the implications is a mark of a society committed to meeting the needs of everyone. Acknowledging the existence of biological sex need not imply holding a view of one sex as inferior to the other.

To misrepresent the position of WPUK as aligned or sharing an analysis with scientific racism erases the contribution of Black feminist and anti-racist campaigners to our movement. It also erases and fails to address specific and compounded harm caused to Black women and girls when their legal right to the protection of single-sex exemptions is rolled back.

Nobody from a minority group, should be campaigning for the erosion of other people’s rights in an attempt to border ‘the other’

Quite. It is the organised attempt to remove women’s right to single-sex exemptions that has created the problem. To do so would be an infringement on rights women have won to address the persistent structural and cultural discrimination and oppression we face.

Women are an oppressed majority group.

Gender Critical beliefs are like antisemitism

Antisemitism is hostility or prejudice towards Jewish people. Claiming GC beliefs are similar is both insulting to anyone who believes sex matters and offensive in the extreme to members of the Jewish community.

GC feminism is ceding territory to far-right ideas on innate biological difference

Knowing that biological sex is a material reality is not a far-right idea. It is a fact acknowledged by billions of people whose beliefs will range across many different political perspectives.

GC feminists play into the hands of far-right street forces and extreme-right electoral parties which would like to abolish anti-discrimination protections altogether

The failure of much of the Left to engage with women’s concerns means that some women are choosing to make coalitions with conservative and far-right groups on single issue campaigns.

This is not something that we support or endorse.

We continue to oppose any alliances with the far or religious right and seek instead to forge ahead with an anti-racist, socialist campaign which has in its sights genuinely progressive demands and solutions.

Arguments that demarcate who is a ‘woman’ and who is deemed ‘other’ play directly into the far-right agenda, contributing to a right-wing moral panic and drawing lines around who is entitled to rights and who is not

What plays into the far-right agenda is a complete failure by left and progressive movements to facilitate discussion on issues of concern to women. This has been exacerbated by many in those movements resorting to misrepresentation, abuse and slurs in an attempt to stifle debate.

Using far-right or Nazi imagery to slur women for fighting for our rights is about as objectionable as it comes. There is no excuse or explanation that can justify such a tactic.

Telling women there is no debate is what plays into an authoritarian far-right agenda. Silencing women through fear or accusation has created a culture where it is hard to shed light or engage in reasoned debate.

That is what we are campaigning for.


14th June 2021

Correcting the record

Read our previous Myth busters:

WPUK Myth busters

Read our original 5 campaign demands:

Our 5 Demands

Read about our 5 campaign resolutions:

New Year Resolutions 2019

We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.