The lot of women has changed dramatically in my generation.
When I married my wife, she was employed by the Queensland Public Service. But once we were married she was forced to resign. It was the State Government’s policy in those days not to employ married women. The old fashioned logic was that men were the principal breadwinners in a family and so a married woman who could be provided for by her husband should not hold a man out of employment.
One of the manifestations of the paternalistic government was that the liquor laws forbade women drinking in the public bars of hotels. Presaging some of the feminist struggles that were to follow, it was as if the public bars in hotels were exclusive men’s drinking clubs. Women were allowed however into the saloon bars and beer gardens that most hotels provided.
In my youth very few women were licenced to drive – this despite the fact that during the Second World War women had been co-opted to drive in the services freeing more men for active duty.
And certainly in my early career as an executive it was rare to see women in senior management positions. But that is no longer the case. In most professions women are now as well-represented as men.
But we should be careful here. Dr Jordan Peterson warns us that if we want to maximise human potential, we need to provide equal opportunities to men and women. However, once we give people equal opportunities we mustn’t expect equal outcomes between men and women because. due to their biological differences; men and women will make different choices. As he explains there is a body of literature based on significant research, which shows, on average, women and men have different preferences when it comes to vocational choices.
In simple terms, he explains that, again on average, women are more interested in people and men are more interested in things. Consequently it is no surprise that more men than women tend to be engineers and more women than men tend to be nurses. Moreover, if we attempt to overcome these preferences to force more men to become nurses and more women to become engineers our society becomes poorer, not only economically, but in terms of job satisfaction. Hence the obvious conclusion is to ensure equal opportunity so that men and women can make their preferred vocational choices but not to attempt gender targets that will diminish the choices of men and women to pursue their preferences.
(I should temper the above discussion by declaring that those women who really want to be engineers can be excellent engineers. I have employed quite a few. Similarly those men who really want to be nurses will often be good at that role as well. But our society benefits when we offer choices and don’t seek to compel people to make decisions based on gender quotas or whatever.)
But generally, except if you are a feminist determined to wallow in victimhood, you would have to concede that most of the barriers that acted to the detriment of women in the past have been removed.
(In fact in some areas, education, for example, females now appear to be advantaged over males. And there is an argument that the most disadvantaged cohort in today’s society is low income earning, unqualified males. But I’ll leave that for another day.)
However, overall we should be pleased how far our society has moved in favour of ensuring equality between the sexes.
The Albanese Government has just appointed an Ambassador for Gender Equity. In a recent interview she (and it was inevitable the Ambassador would be female} explained how she would be standing up for the rights of women and girls and those of the LGBTQI+ communities. I would have preferred if she had said something about males as well, boys in particular. But unsurprisingly her notion of equality is seen through the lens of political correctness. No doubt she will spend more time on ensuring we use politically correct pronouns for transgender people than protesting against the real and abhorrent examples of discrimination against women in places like Iran!
We should sound a note of warning here. In the war for gender equality the latest front has become a fight for the rights of so-called transgender people. More than the influence of misogynist males, women’s rights are being infringed by the efforts to appease that miniscule proportion of the population that want to identify as transgender.
I would concede this identifier has many nuances that are beyond the mental capacity of an old troglodyte like me to understand. All I know is that it has created another coterie of victimhood and in our rush to appease this group the rights of women and girls are being trammelled. It has created another “woke” tyranny that many are unfortunately falling over backwards to try to accommodate.
It is worth remembering the words of the early American philosopher, Thomas Paine, “The greatest tyrannies are always perpetuated in the name of the noblest causes.”
Biological men, who for whatever reason want to identify as women, are demanding the right of access to such traditional “women only” spaces as toilets and changerooms. They are demanding the right to compete against biological women and girls in the sporting arena despite the fact that they have an innate biological advantage. Some male transgender criminal offenders in the most “woke” communities have even managed to convince authorities that they should be incarcerated in women’s prisons. Now this tyranny of women is perpetuated in the name of tolerance and inclusion. In our democratic society it is right that minorities should have rights, but they shouldn’t come at the expense of the rights of approximately 50% of our citizens!
Now another gender bomb has been ignited among our young people, seemingly affecting girls more so than boys. It is the notion of gender dysphoria.
There are two principal factors behind this societal dysfunction.
The first is the myth that gender is not biologically determined but can be manufactured at the whim of the individual. I have written extensively on this issue in the past and won’t bore you by regurgitating that material again. Suffice is to say we, each and every one of us, have a huge genetic endowment (including gender proclivities) that we ignore at our peril.
The second is a gross misunderstanding of the messy process of establishing human identity. The struggle to develop a sense of identity culminates in our adolescence and causes discomfort to almost all of us until it is resolved. It is a struggle to lay down the foundations of who we think we are.
Body image is a worrying part of identity formation, particularly for girls. Social media seems to have particularly exacerbated this problem. In recent decades we have seen girls fall victim to eating disorders at much higher rates than has historically been the case and at much higher rates than boys of the same age.
(We need to be careful here. Undoubtedly body image underpins some of this behaviour. But once young people embark on this strategy they will often derive a sense of power from it and it can become a powerful technique in manipulating the behaviour of others to get their own way.)
The transgender movement has promoted the unproven notion that this identity dissatisfaction is often due to gender dysphoria. In the words of these activists it is as though the person feels “trapped” in the physical body of the wrong gender. Consequently, the solution to the problem is to change your gender. To meet this unproven need, gender reassignment clinics have been set up around the world to essentially attempt to modify the gender of the young person. The most famous of these clinics has been based at the Tavistock Centre in London which is titled the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS). Unfortunately in the more “woke” jurisdictions young people have been granted access to these drastic treatments without parental approval. These young people probably have little understanding of the long term effects of such treatment. And remember, as I have pointed out in other essays, the cognitive development of our young people is not complete until their early twenties. There is also some considerable evidence that young girls are prone to make such decisions strongly influenced by peer group pressure. Consequently there are often “clusters” of young women who tend to be exhibit eating disorders and gender issues who are socially close to each other.
The principle treatments of those unfortunate enough to become patients at these experimental clinics have been the administration of so-called puberty blockers or surgical interventions to remove breasts and/or modify genitalia.
Puberty blockers are reputedly used to hold back the process of puberty in order to allow those afflicted an opportunity to change their gender before the full maturation process with its attendant physical changes has occurred. They are, in fact, enablers for gender transformation.
Now there seems little evidence to attest to the effectiveness of this appalling practice. Moreover there are growing numbers of patients who now regret undertaking such procedures much of which is irreversible. It is indeed a drastic intervention when perfectly healthy young female bodies are subject to the removal their breasts or rendered infertile as a result. Other, more adult women will tell you of the psychological impact of breast removal. It is a major blow to their self-concept. It can be justified when such radical surgery is necessary due to breast cancer and can be life-saving. But it seems ridiculous to perform such invasive surgery on an otherwise physically healthy young woman. It is very likely such a young woman will come to regret this decision.
The passage through adolescence is problematic for many young people. Rather than rush to provide untested solutions to a problem that is ubiquitous and seemingly age-old we should be providing emotional and psychological support to our youth to enable them to negotiate this troublesome time of life without doing permanent damage. We need to urge patience. But such circumspection is rare in a society where we seem to deride prudence in favour of seeking immediate gratification.
In the past there were many young women who were slow to embrace their feminity. We used to call them “tomboys”. They preferred to fraternise with their male counterparts and participate in their activities. Likewise there were males that were sensitive and “unmanly” in their demeanour who preferred the company of girls. They were not unduly pressured to question their sexuality. Rather than abandoning their gender many of these young people came to grips with their different orientations over time. Some assumed conventional gender roles. Others came to the realisation they were same-sex attracted and flourished in homosexual relationships. But they didn’t, at the drop of a hat, resort to invasive gender modification strategies.
But in summary we have to conclude that the hard won freedoms that women have fought for over many generations are now being eroded by the transgender movement. When biological men who want to present themselves as women are able to modify our laws to their advantage but to the detriment of women we should be concerned. Similarly when vulnerable young women are being allowed and sometimes encouraged to resort to gender transformation interventions during the period of their maximum vulnerability with irreversible consequences before they have the cognitive capacity to make such decisions, we should be truly alarmed.