It is a little frightening how quickly what was once taken as uncontroversial, such as the importance of sex, can be declared out of date, passé, an archaic idea which we can comfortably forget about now that we know better. No scientific evidence for such a change in our thinking can be offered for such notions that ‘sex is on a spectrum’ or that ‘sex is assigned at birth’. Yet the policies of institutions have been changed to align with these new beliefs, so that for example, the police and the media report crimes on the basis of gender identity. ‘She’ raped x, ‘she’ beat the hell out of y. The ‘she’ though is a He. But the doublethink is already in place. That is misgendering. Don’t do it.
Not only policies but law too has been changed, internationally and in the UK, with Scotland blazing a trail and the Labour Party set to make changes to the Gender Recognition Act should they form the next government. These beliefs and these changes in policy and law are not inconsequential. Indeed, some brave women have been pointing out for quite some time now that such beliefs and such changes will have, are having, negative consequences for women. They result in men entering women’s sports, women’s refuge centres, women’s prisons. Meanwhile, we are encouraged to add our pronouns to our email signatures. A harmless gesture of inclusiveness we are told. Or perhaps instead a very subtle way of normalising something that needs further scrutiny.
That scrutiny has been deliberately snuffed out. Women have been shouted down and abused on social media in the vilest of ways and social media platforms have removed the accounts of ‘gender critical’ women while the men who scream the abuse are left to carry on issuing rape and death threats. The concerns of women have been dismissed by politicians of all parties except the Conservatives. Their meetings are shut down. Their jobs and their livelihoods have been threatened. All the while this harassment takes place the liberal and so-called alternative media, look the other way and declare there is no such thing as cancel culture. Women defending their rights have been slandered as bigots and dinosaurs at best and as extreme right wingers at worst. They have been treated as fascists, not feminists.
The slogan of their opponents, the trans rights activists and their allies is: There Is No Debate. Think about that for a moment as a starting position. But quick as a flash before your doubts can germinate they say: We Exist! It’s a cunning and careful conflation between their right to exist and enjoy the full rights of any human being, and their right to claim rights that materially damage the interests of women. No group can or should be able to claim that what it claims are its rights, must be unconditionally accepted. That is the language of fundamentalism. The authoritarian mindset though is built in from the starting assumption: that sex is irrelevant. That biology has had its day. We can forget about the differences in sexed bodies: Identity and belief is all that matters. Covid 19 obviously didn’t get the memo, since it killed more men than women.
This film like all the films we have made aligns itself on the side of people fighting power, really fighting power as opposed to those who claim to be in a long line of progressive civil rights movements but who act suspiciously like a men’s rights movement. The misogyny is never far from the surface. And not only misogyny. What happens to our thinking about sexuality, about sexual preferences based on sexed bodies, when sex is declared redundant? Sexual preferences become discriminatory. Young lesbians are forced to apologise for wanting to date natal women and not consider men who identify as women. Is that progressive? We don’t think so.
This film comes out of a women’s movement defending women’s rights and in a country where a shocking 2-3 women a week are killed by partners or ex partners those rights are in desperate need of defending. The film is underpinned by the experiences and struggles of the women we interviewed. Our hope is that anyone watching this film is going to come away realising how incredibly reasoned the concerns they articulate are and how reasonable their voices are. The film is a 92-minute explainer about the issues, how far things have already changed for the worse for women and how difficult it has been to be heard, to be listened to. We hope it makes an intervention into the struggle and contributes to understanding, provokes discussion and eventually transforms the situation we find ourselves in.
Women are on the frontline of this struggle, but it is a fight that concerns everyone, not just out of solidarity but because really everyone has an interest in how this battle pans out. Safeguarding for young people, the ability to base policy on science and evidence, the ability to have a reasoned debate based on democratic principles, all are at risk because of this ideology. The times are scary but, as the suffragette Millicent Garrett Fawcett said, ‘Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere’. We hope this film spreads that call.