*Pic: Image from HERE
On the 20th October, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that student politician and Liberal MP staffer Alex Fitton had identified himself as a woman in order to win an executive position in a student election worth $12,000.
A similar situation occurred within the University of Tasmania’s own student union and Women’s Collective in early 2015, when the UTAS Women’s Collective rallied against the appointment of James Ritchie, a male, in the position of Women’s Officer of the Northern Student Representative Council. Thankfully Ritchie was successfully removed, though he has since been replaced by a number of biologically male individuals who currently inhabit leadership positions within the Women’s Collective. Their identification as [i]non-cis[/i] has ensured their acceptance by the vocal minority that currently run the the collective, despite commitment to living as women ranging from minor to non-existent. What is considered important is that they [i]feel like women[/i] or perhaps more accurately, don’t [i]feel like[/i] men.
The Facebook comment section under the Sydney Morning Herald article ran rife with the kind of highly ironic, contradictory statements that have become the bread and butter of post-modern queer identity politics favoured by university Women’s Collectives and Student Unions.
One commenter furiously stated, ‘if this guy was truly gender fluid he would have everyone’s support, but he is mocking those who are truly non-cis gender.’
The stunt was clearly tongue in cheek. And yet to remove any uncertainty about the fraudulent nature of his actions, The Sydney Morning Herald article pointed out that Fitton was in fact [i]blokey[/i] and played football. The Sydney Morning Herald was, like the above commenter, alluding to the fact that Fitton’s stereotypical gender conformity invalidated his claim.
This is not surprising. When biological sex is removed as the essential marker of womanhood and manhood, all that remains to classify are behaviours socially coded as masculine or feminine. Manhood is sport and emotional repression. Womanhood is lipstick and frivolity.
But what if Fitton had taken his claim to womanhood seriously and was prepared to sign a statutory declaration to that effect? What if he behaved in ways that are not stereotypically masculine, wore feminine clothing on occasion, enjoyed knitting instead of football?
Had he failed to conform to Australian standards of masculinity, would his claim to womanhood have held more weight, should it have been taken seriously? The answer of the above commenter would likely be ‘yes’.
The fact that the binary divide between those who do and do not conform to gender as suggested by the term ‘cis’ is both paper thin and regressive is not taken into consideration by the dogmatic proponents of ‘gender identity’.
Extraordinarily few in our society rigidly adhere to or identify with femininity and masculinity. The claim that some individuals are non-binary in itself gives credence to the idea that a natural, intrinsic gender binary exists in the first instance. As would be clear to anyone who took the time to browse comment sections on Fitton’s story, the social constructivist, structural analysis so central to leftist activism and theory in the past has well and truly left the building.
And it’s not hard to see why – such analysis poses a very real threat to the post-modernist identity vacuum. In a politic where ‘I am what I say I am’ reigns supreme, those who question the impact of what occurs outside of the individual are regarded with suspicion or outright contempt.
Many commenters sardonically highlighted the ridiculousness of the authority of self-declaration by pointing out that Fitton’s identity should be not questioned. ‘Never question anybody else’s identity’, is repeated like a mantra by proponents of queer identity politics. And yet as this case illustrates, this mandate ceases to apply in circumstances where self-proclaimed identity does not align with sex stereotyped gender norms.
[b]Neo liberal progressives vehemently deny believing in or legitimising sex stereotypes. But the only factors in Fitton’s claim that would need to change for him to be greeted with leftist acceptance would be stereotyped gendered behaviour and appearance, and intense self-belief that such gendered mores negate his socialisation and placement in the male sex class [/b].
If Fitton claimed gender fluidity instead of womanhood, would it be reasonable for him to claim female status for a length of time, hold affirmative action positions reserved for females, and then return to male identification when he no longer [i]felt’ like a woman[/i]?
The idea that it is possible to [i]feel[/i] like a woman is frequently repeated, though it is impossible to defend without reference to either gendered, feminine stereotypes, or the belief in a natural, internal gender identity that lingers in each of us, much like a soul.
The irony of the identifarian outrage at Fitton’s behaviour was no doubt lost on many, but the seriousness of this cognitive dissonance should not be overlooked. [b]The belief that the male socialisation and privileges enjoyed by men like Fitton in an intensely patriarchal society can be washed away by the magic words ‘I am a woman’ is not confined to student unions and dark and bizarre corners of the internet. It is the premise behind the recent push in Victoria and Tasmania for any individual to be able to change the sex listed on their birth certificate regardless of physical or social transition, up to once every 12 months if they so desire. [/b]
Allowing free reign to unscrupulous men like Fitton is what the left are currently asking for. If identity is internal and only able to be determined by each individual, there is no way to keep out those who’s intentions are sour and [i]gendered[/i] souls less pure.
While Fitton’s intention was likely to challenge the legitimacy and existence of affirmative action measures in a manner typical of sexist Young Liberal student politicians, his stunt was revealing. Identity politics is eating itself, and as one commenter noted, ‘this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read’. I have to agree. [b]Trans activists said these abuses of the concept of gender identity would never happen and yet as feminist’s predicted – it has.[/b]
*Paige Gleeson is a social worker and aspiring academic with strong radical feminist principles.
*Tessa Anne is a law student with a passion for social justice and ensuring the human rights of women and girls.
*WOLF stands for women’s liberation front, an international radical feminist organisation