2012 Submission to the UN Commission on the Status of Women: The Legal Category of Sex and Understanding the Status of Women

August 28, 2012

Elizabeth Hungerford follows up last year’s widely debated 2011 Submission to the UN Commission on the Status of Women with this year’s version: brilliant and compelling.

“This communication represents a fundamental shift in the framing of feminist concerns about the legal codification of “gender identity.” It refocuses attention on the experiential realities of being born female by demanding that sex be prioritized as independently significant to both understanding and improving the status of women.”

An important announcement follows the text.


July 26, 2012

CSW Communications Procedure

Human Rights Section

UN Women

220 East 42nd Street, 17th floor

New York, NY 10017


To Whom It May Concern:

In response to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women’s call for communications dated June 26, 2012 [i] regarding allegations of human rights violations affecting the status of women, I am writing in follow-up to the collaborative communication I submitted last year in association with Cathy Brennan, Esq. (see attached). At that time, we brought to your attention our growing concerns about American “gender identity” legislation and the threat it presents to the preservation of female sex-segregated spaces as a consequence of deliberately vague and overbroad definitions that frame one’s internally felt “gender identity” as a substitute for legal “sex” without any duration, medical documentation, improper purpose prohibition, or other requirements.

I do not wish to dismiss the feelings or experiences of trans* individuals who may sincerely identify with the mythology of femininity (or masculinity). I sympathize with their human pain and firmly believe that everyone has a right to express their “gender” by any and all means possible without social punishment. I agree that being born into a male body does not naturally lead one to act or feel masculine; and that being born into a female body does not naturally lead one to act or feel feminine. In fact, if we were to accept such an antiquated theory of gender essentialism, it would logically require us to conclude that male violence [ii] has a biological component, implicitly justifying the behavior and rendering it inevitable. I do not believe this. Feminists do not believe this.

This year, my singular appeal to the Commission on the Status of Women is that all future policy directly or indirectly affecting sex does not, under any circumstances, confuse or replace physical sex with ambiguous notions of self-defined “gender” or “gender identity.” Particularly in the context of formal decrees, the words sex and gender must not be used interchangeably. This is because it is inaccurate, [iii] but more importantly, because it limits the ability of women to seek protection for the full range of human rights violations that we face as a result of our sex from birth. “Gender identity” laws, including the UK’s Gender Recognition Act of 2004,iv create a legal understanding of sex that reinforces normative and strictly oppositional stereotypes of sex-based appearance and behavior. This is regressive, not progressive. The analysis below will illuminate why maintaining a strong conceptual distinction between sex and gender is critical to understanding the status of women and, therefore, to the protection of all women’s human right to be free from stereotypical attitudes towards the role and responsibilities of women.

Women’s oppression can be understood as operating on at least two separate axes. The first is reproductive exploitation of female bodies. The systemic nature of this sex-based abuse is both achieved by and evidenced through widespread practices such as religiously mandated heterosexuality, arranged marital ownership of women by men and enforced by violence, and rape as a weapon of war (including ethnic cleansing). These represent the specific institutionalized mechanisms by which female bodies are sexually colonized and exploited by male bodies. The end result is that women, children, and human reproduction generally, have been traditionally controlled by adult men and adult male interests.

The basic physical nature of sexual dimorphism, characteristic of all mammalian reproduction, is inevitable. It is imminently reasonable to assume that sexed bodies will continue to exist as long as humans do. No amount of legislation is going to change that. Feminism’s central point is that the institutionalized exploitation of sexual dimorphism for the purpose of creating and maintaining patriarchy (i.e., male domination of females) is not inevitable. Addressing and eliminating human rights violations against women therefore requires us to acknowledge that the existential reality of sex-and-reproduction is fundamental to understanding the social status of women–past, present, and future.

My objection to “gender identity” is that where legal definitions of sex are reducible to the subjectively felt “gender identities” of trans* people, the connection between sexualized violence and reproductive exploitation of female bodies becomes invisible. The unintended consequence is that it also becomes impossible for women to specifically address this aspect of our oppression on an institutional level. [v] Women’s attempts to discuss state control of female reproductive issues are considered “cissexist” and “transphobic” by some members of the trans* community.[vi] Yet in order for the full scope of human rights violations against women to be rectified, we cannot ignore the ways in which reproductive exploitation of females has been leveraged to sustain patriarchy. The inevitability of physical sex and reproductive dimorphism must be understood as legally relevant in its own right and separate from any notion of a subjective “gender identity.”

The second axis on which women’s oppression operates is via stereotypical attitudes towards the role and responsibilities of women. Stereotyping is the act of making an assumption about an individual based on her membership in a specific group, which then serves as moral justification for the enforcement of sex-based social roles that limit women’s autonomy and right to self determination. These heteronormative social roles are inherently unequal because they prescribe male control of the public sphere–including governmental participation and ownership of all public spaces– while simultaneously relegating females to the unpaid private sphere where women are responsible for virtually everything, but are actually in control of almost nothing. Largely shocking to many modern Western minds, even human rights champion Gandhi was once convinced that he, as a man and as a husband, was morally entitled to beat his wife.[vii]

To quote feminist Gloria Steinem:

…Olof Palme, the great former prime minister of Sweden, [] said that gender roles are the deepest cause of violence on earth, and it’s up to governments to humanize them. Gender roles may give us our first idea that it’s okay for one group to eat and the other to cook, one to talk and the other to listen, one to order and the other to obey, one to be subject and one as object. The most shared characteristic of original societies in which violence was only for self-defense, not armies — and of the most egalitarian societies now — is that gender roles are fluid and not polarized.[viii]

In last year’s communication, Brennan and I explained how “gender identity” laws reify these gender roles by recasting them as freely chosen “identities” magically detached from all social and historical contexts, rather than recognizing that such gender roles are both arbitrary and harmful, especially to female-born humans:

…definitions of “gender identity” that suggest or codify into law that there are ways of expressing one’s self (or behaviors or appearances) “consistent or congruent with biological sex” present a risk to females, as such definitions codify the notion of stereotypes based on sex into law. Traits stereotypically assigned to females – such as care-taking, emotionalism, and weakness – have served as sufficient legal justification for women’s exclusion from employment, participation in government, and many other critical social functions. Archaic stereotypes are directly responsible for the denial of female credibility and intellectual authority, in addition to causing the historical marginalization of females, lower social status vis-à-vis males, and lack of power to engage equally with males. Even where law has evolved to formally prohibit sex-stereotyping; women continue to suffer from the lingering effects of sexist ideologies about female inferiority. So although we support every individual’s right to freely express their gender identity, it is absolutely critical that law not confuse “feminine expression” with [sex].

The moment a female human is born, the hegemony of sex-based stereotypes are attached to her and coercively direct the social trajectory of her life. Her possibilities are severely restricted; there is no conscious beginning and no voluntary end to this sex-based social tracking for most women in the world. Being female, and therefore being subject to a lifetime’s worth of female-based sexual exploitation and stereotyping, is an immutable condition for all but a few self-appointed trans* men who are able to successfully pass as the opposite sex. For the vast majority of the world’s women, however, the demands of the female gender role are not cause for celebration. We did not consent to these stereotypes. We did not ask to be treated as second class citizens; we have no choice. It is not our “gender identity” to embrace stereotypes about the role and responsibilities of women. This is a second significant way in which framing “gender identity” as a substitute for legal sex, by failing to capture the mechanics of female oppression, invisibilizes the experiential reality of being born into a female body and makes it more difficult for women to address the complexity of human rights violations against us as a class.

People who bravely defy sex-based stereotypes remind us that being born into a male body does not naturally lead one to act or feel masculine and that being born into a female body does not naturally lead one to act or feel feminine. These people, whether they apply the trans* label to themselves or not, deserve specialized legal protection from harassment and discrimination. But this protection should be effectuated as a legal prohibition against the enforcement of gender roles and related stereotyping. Redefining “sex” as an amalgamation of pre-existing stereotypical characteristics that we currently associate with females or “women ”– ostensibly as a means of protecting trans* people– is harmful to the rest of the world’s women. Compliance with feminine stereotypes and gender roles is not what constitutes being a woman. “Gender identity” laws that “…codify the notion that there are traits, manners of expression, or modes of appearance that are inconsistent or consistent with one’s biological sex“[ix] is a violation of the human rights of women.

The Commission on the Status of Women should not reinforce stereotypical attitudes towards the role and responsibilities of women by confusing sex with “gender” or “gender identity” in any future policies or formal communications. “Gender identity” misrepresents the status of women as being solely about internal identification with sex-based stereotypes and gender roles, thereby making it more difficult for females to address the full range of human rights violations that we face as a result of our sex—from cradle to grave.

Thank you for your time. Please contact me with any questions.[x]


Elizabeth R. Hungerford


[i] http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/communications_procedure.html

[ii] See Lauren Wolfe and Gloria Steinem’s article published February 24, 2012 in the Guardian: Sexual violence against women is the result of the cult of masculinity. Accessed July 23, 2012.


[iii] See Journal of Applied Physiology September 1, 2005 vol. 99 no. 3 785-787. Accessed July 25, 2012:

http://jap.physiology.org/content/99/3/785. See also International Journal for Equity in Health 2009, 8:14;

describing sex differences in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. Accessed July 25, 2012: http://www.equityhealthj.com/content/8/1/14.

[iv] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/7/contents

[v] See: http://feministing.com/2012/04/10/trans-rights-are-reproductive-rights/

[vi] Incredibly, see: http://feministing.com/2012/03/19/the-ways-of-talking-about-the-war-on-women-that-leave-people-out/.

And http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2012/05/12/the-femisphere-reproductive-rights-bloggers/

[vii] See Gandhi the Man, a biography of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi written by Eknath Easwaran. The book was originally published in the US in 1973.

[viii] Read more: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-02-09/news/31040430_1_domestic-violence-womenprisoners-war#ixzz21TdgpL16. See also: http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2012/steinem-awakens-young-and-oldencouraging-%E2%80%98outrageous-acts%E2%80%99

[ix] See previous communication to the UN signed by myself and Cathy Brennan, Esq., attached below.

[x] elizabeth.hungerford@gmail.com




ANNOUNCEMENTSex Not Gender Workgroup forming

GenderTrender is pleased to announce that Elizabeth Hungerford–attorney, lesbian feminist, and author of the Sex Not Gender letters to the UN Commission on Women–is forming a Sex Not Gender Workgroup for women (and men) who support the importance of biological sex and the removal of gender and related stereotyping language from the social, political, and legal spheres.

The group will highlight current events that impact the legal and social realities of sex; provide commentary and analysis regarding how and why sex matters; and identify institutional targets for potential reform actions. 



49 Responses to “2012 Submission to the UN Commission on the Status of Women: The Legal Category of Sex and Understanding the Status of Women”

  1. MarySunshine Says:

    Reblogged this on Female Biology Matters and commented:
    If you are a Facebook user, you can join the Sex, NOT Gender Workgroup. What an excellent project! Thank you for this opportunity to join in to this work to protect the female sex.

  2. doublevez Says:

    Congratulations and many thanks to Bess Hungerford and others who worked on this. What a proud moment in our story. xxxooo

  3. hearthrising Says:

    This is a very well written letter, clearly articulating feminist concerns.

  4. Barbara Di Bari Visconti Says:

    Excellent letter, very well written and clear articulation of our concerns, as hearthrising says above. I have joined the facebook group. Thanks for this. Together we will work for the rights of the female sex!

  5. Adrian Says:

    Very well written letter. It’s a nice summary of issues I can refer to.

  6. Ridiculous.

    Women face horrific issues because of physical sex, and no one claims differently. That we recognise gender as the primary determinant of who we are as people is not at all compromising to a goal of ending violence and oppression against women.

    I’m a transwoman, feminist, and a Planned Parenthood volunteer, with occasional assists to NARAL. Ask my friends in the community of women whether I fall into your stereotypical assumptions, and I’ve a strong hunch on what the answer would be.

    Stop trying to divide communities. For us to overcome, we all need to stand together, not conspire and collaborate with forces that work against us because we happen not to like those of a particular ilk.

    • GallusMag Says:

      Sex –role stereotypes are NOT the primary determinant of who females are as people.

      Advocating for women’s liberation is not “divisive”, nor is it a result of “disliking” men. Your comment is both ridiculous and offensive to females.

      • nelle Says:

        Interesting. Who said anything about disliking men? Now I’ve been accused of disliking men in the past, but there is no basis for the claim. I’m long established in the lesbian community, and by and large, we are quite a welcoming and friendly one.

        The fact is a distinct minority of women hold views as espoused in the post above. Others choose to stand with those who would squelch reproductive rights. Some even side with patriarchy and espouse 1950s style roles.

        The rest of us try to move forward, to unite, and overcome the war waged against us.

        Why you persist in your claims is beyond me. Human sexuality is complex. It comprises three distinct elements, one of which is biology. You try to make biology the sole determinant and the sole measure of who is what, and that just doesn’t fly, in view of the complexities you choose to ignore.

        While I go about working to advance the rights for all women, you spend your time sniping at women who do the positive work, together.


      • GallusMag Says:

        “Why you persist in your claims is beyond me. Human sexuality is complex. It comprises three distinct elements, one of which is biology. You try to make biology the sole determinant and the sole measure of who is what, and that just doesn’t fly, in view of the complexities you choose to ignore.”

        What do you propose are the two non-biological elements of human reproduction?

    • lololol of course there is a dude who cries “WAH WAH YOU DISLIKE THE MENZ!!” Cry me a fucking river.

    • Alicia Says:

      Well said.

    • Ashland Avenue Says:

      Oh, look. A convicted criminal, who stole from innocent people to pay for his “transition”, is lecturing us. Take a look:

      Shut the fuck up, Raymond. No, I DON’T want to “stand together” with someone who stole from innocent people and caused them great harm – you knowingly left companies uninsured. Then your boss, who came to your defense, was also charged with fraud! Nice, Ray. And I think it’s despicable that you and your attorney tried to use your “gender identity disorder” to try and get you out of serving time. How’d that work out?

      Guys like you volunteer at Planned Parenthood and NARAL simply to get some female and feminist cred. Not because you actually care. We see right through you. You’re another man who “transitions” to a lesbian, then whines when no lesbian wants to sleep with you. So you do your volunteer work to get “into” the female world and get some cred – you’re so easy to figure out it’s pathetic.

      • nelle Says:

        First, you will note I put my real name on my words, Ashland Avenue. I have the courage to stand and be counted publicly.

        I plead guilty. I was responsible. I discuss my conviction openly, through speaking with students, through my writing. It happened, and I move forward towards positives. I try to encourage others to do the same.

        I don’t care? Ask those I dealt with at NHES. Even in the stories in the Monitor, comments mentioned this. Ask the staff of PP. Ask those who know me. If there is one thing I do, it’s care.

        The lesbian community welcomed me with open arms a long time ago now, and they stood with me through a very very difficult time.

        Anyway, you had your say, I had mine. Wallow in hate if you wish.

    • ehungerford Says:

      Nelle! Rude. But more importantly: failure to engage with the issues.

      Women face horrific issues because of physical sex, and no one claims differently.

      Stop right there. If “gender” should be the primary determinant of what constitutes a woman, you reduce the experience of being a “woman” to a voluntary, subjectively felt identity that exists only in the present. As explained above, females are not oppressed *because* we identify with femininity. This is easily verified by reference to women who REJECT femininity, yet remain oppressed on the basis of their *sex.* You obviously do not understand the mechanics of sex-based oppression. Please stop commenting on the matter until you are able to accept that female oppression is not and CANNOT be fully addressed by a consciously chosen, internally felt, subjectively defined, and potentially temporary condition called “gender.”

      • Ashland Avenue Says:

        First, Ray (I call you Ray and not Nelle because you obviously have no respect for me, so the feeling’s mutual), regarding the use of one’s real name online: your decades of male privilege are blinding you. Your lack of insight or empathy is staggering. Have you any idea how women-born-women are stalked and harmed by males in this country? Any idea whatsoever? Particularly when we are expressing feminist beliefs, or anything that goes against the patriarchal status quo in even the slightest way? You may think you do, but based on this clueless criticism of yours, no. No, you don’t.

        Ask GallusMag about all the vile comments she blocks from appearing on this site, and the threats contained therein. (Thanks again for that, Gallus.) Very specific, violent, sick threats. You’re damned fucking right I use a screen name, and I’m not ashamed of that in the least, despite your attempt to shame me for protecting myself. See, I know you’re new to the game, but this is all part of the sunshine n’ lollipops of being female in this world! Your obliviousness in this matter is pure male – in fact, there are only two kinds of people I’ve ever had this real-name “argument” with: transwomen and men. Women-born-women have never questioned the use of screen names with me. They know why it’s necessary.

        Another thing that struck me as distinctly male in your posts is that you have the hubris to lecture us on anything, given your criminal past. Born women, raised female, would think twice about having the pomposity to tell people how to be a better person (which is essentially what you’re doing), after having recently defrauded people, leaving them vulnerable to huge lawsuits and more:

        Your actions could have not only cost people their jobs, but then consequently, their homes. You certainly cost them a lot of money, which you say you’ll repay. HA. You’ve been working your nice state job with a $41K/year salary, but it wasn’t until you were “outed” as having this job that the folks you ripped off were made aware of it. According to the article linked above, you certainly weren’t sending them any restitution money. But does this stop you from chastising others’ character? Aw hell no! You have that inherent white male sense of supremacy, which you obviously have done precious little to rid yourself of. It’s just too much fun to give up, isn’t it, Ray?

        “I plead (sic) guilty.” Raymond, you sure as hell didn’t come forward before being caught, did you? In your reply post, you portray yourself as a guy who made a mistake and has since come clean. Hardly. You, like so many other cons, were dragged toward honesty. At least admit that. You knew there was no way out, so you pleaded guilty. How’s your repayment to your victims going?

        One interesting angle in all of this: a sex change operation from male to female costs about $20-30K in the U.S. So why did you steal 165 thousand dollars from your victims, Ray? Just felt the need to go for the gusto? Or did, you know, pure unadulterated greed come into play as well? Just curious.

        You wrote about how much you caaaaaare, and to look at the comments section on that first linked article to see that others said so as well. So you went online and stood up for yourself. What, didn’t think we’d figure that one out? I’m rolling my eyes so hard here I can see the back of my head.

        The last thing in your reply post that gave me that dreaded “Ooooh, I’m dealing with yet another antagonizer here” feeling: your total dismissal of our points of view as
        simple hatred. How easy for you! How fast! And how…shallow. This website brings up some very salient
        aspects of the relationship between women-born-women (straight, lesbian, and everything else) and transsexuals. Often this is a difficult relationship, whether you choose to acknowledge that or not. But instead of listening to our anger, you simply dismiss it as hate speak. You sneer at it. Yeah….it’s not like I haven’t seen men do that ever.
        (Hey! I’m rolling my eyes again! Whaddya know!!)

    • Ave Says:

      “It comprises three distinct elements, one of which is biology. You try to make biology the sole determinant and the sole measure of who is what”
      It’s the whole transwomen group that keeps trying to do that actually

  7. anon Says:

    “That we recognise gender as the primary determinant of who we are as people”

    There are two types of people… [and that sentence always ends well!]

    Essentialist much?

    In my experience, no one uses the word “community” unless something heinous is going down. It’s not a word that connotes happy fun times. The community mourns the passing of… The vaunted community organizer got elected by throwing his former pastor under the bus… The community NEVER becomes more prosperous and free and independent.

    The community basically exists as an expression of how it’s viewed by outsiders who report on it from without; no community is so strong as the one imagined by paranoid elites for those they rule over.

    People forced inside a community often wonder if any community exists at all. So it’s no small wonder that white males are obsessed with what might go on in a community since no one forces them into one; must be all pillow fights and cuddles, green grass and blue skies.

  8. karmarad Says:

    It is indeed high time to reposition the sex-gender issue with regard to female-born women’s issues, and the case for that is carefully and factually made in this letter, which I support and am grateful for. I think we must go all the way with this logic and reality, though, and acknowledge that we are discussing a New Essentialism that will affect both sexes.

    I am responding to this statement in the letter:

    “I agree that being born into a male body does not naturally lead one to act or feel masculine; and that being born into a female body does not naturally lead one to act or feel feminine. In fact, if we were to accept such an antiquated theory of gender essentialism, it would logically require us to conclude that male violence [ii] has a biological component, implicitly justifying the behavior and rendering it inevitable. I do not believe this. Feminists do not believe this.”

    The fact is, just as some of the most important issues of women under patriarchy reflect their biology, not just their gender roles, the same appears to be true for men. They have a biology too, a “sex” as well as a set of gender roles, and what little research we have on the subject of violent criminality and social dominance theory does indicate that male biology influences behavior. We can’t ignore this growing understanding just because we are concerned that male violence might turn out to have a primarily biological basis (which, as the letter, I think wrongly, implies, might mean nothing could be done about it).

    Stephen Pinker, author of a very well-researched book on violence, was quoted on the HUB last week or so, saying flatly that male violence is at its base biological. It’s disappointing that he can acknowledge this increasingly well-supported scientific theory, but feminists feel unable to. There has been increasing discussion over the past year on the HUB and elsewhere regarding this logical problem of acknowledging women as biological beings, but not men.

    Feminist groups, especially in academia, have jumped on the “social construction” bandwagon, the notion that biological sex is irrelevant and that our societal roles are what make us women and men, and gotten feminism into a lot of theoretical trouble by running away from biology so they won’t have to face the male violence question, and look what it’s got us – a weakened conceptual framework for dealing with extreme transactivism and reproductive rights issues. We have caused women’s rights a lot of harm by repudiating “essentialism” for several decades.

    Stopping male violence is an issue of as great importance as women’s control over our bodies and reproductive capacities. Biology does not any longer reflect an inevitable or unchangeable situation. Endocrinology and other biological sciences have developed to the point that, not only can possible biological predispositions be studied, but the question of what can be done about them, if they are destructive, can in fact be considered. A biological predisposition is no longer an unchangeable thing. It can be changed temporarily and even permanently, though a lot of research would need to be done and a lot of social change would be required to make it safe and acceptable.

    The point right now is for feminists to look again at essentialism, as this letter begins to, and to develop a logically coherent position on it so that we may move forward fully with the clear understanding that female-born women are distinct from other groups based on important biological facts. Everybody’s thoroughly confused, the U.N., the well-intentioned legislators, NOW — everybody, by the old anti-essentialist position.

    Therefore I am very pleased to see that this statement to the U.N. opens up a New Essentialist theory – it is time to acknowledge simple reality, and it resolves part of the issue – but to sweep away completely the confused conceptual universe feminist anti-essentialist theory has built, I hope we can embark on a discussion that does allow for the concept of a male biology partially influencing behavior, as well.

    • ehungerford Says:

      There is no New Essentialist theory in this letter. Please do not twist my words to suit a position that conflicts with my clearly stated argument. Reproductive organs are not actions, nor do they dictate actions. There should be nothing confusing or intellectually difficult about isolating involuntary physical processes (e.g., female reproductive functions and unwanted pregnancy) from controllable behaviors, social roles, and/or “gender.” I reject any suggestion that “biology” is responsible for sex-specific behaviors, up to and including male violence.

      It’s my understanding that Pinker defended Larry Summers back in 2005 and has been criticized for failing to account for environmental influences in his “nature” theories.

      • karmarad Says:

        Thanks for the clarification, Ms. Hungerford. I have no desire to twist your words. It is your letter and your intent is therefore what is important on these threads. I agree with your letter in general and am glad to see the distinction between sex and gender roles is strongly drawn. My disagreement with a few statements is not meant to take away from that, and can be gone into elsewhere.

      • Do you think men are as capable of taking care of babies as women?

        Paedophiles are overwhelmingly men, so when you take into account how little time they spend with children compared to women, it’s impossible to rule out a biological element to their predatory behavior. Or to ignore the fact that most women bond to their babies through the oxytocin released during childbirth (which is released again each time they breastfeed).

        Basically, we do not know how much of our behavior has a biological basis.

        But thank you for writing this document to the U.N. It states very clearly the difference between gender and sex, and it shows how disingenuous it is to try to conflate the two, the way the trans lobby does.

  9. Bev Jo Says:

    Mr. Douville reveals typical male arrogance and entitlement by saying “The lesbian community welcomed me with open arms a long time ago…” What Lesbian community? I’m in a local Lesbian community and an international Lesbian community and I never heard of Mr. Douville before. Certainly no Lesbian I know ever heard of him or welcomed him in any way. Most Lesbians I know don’t like men pretending they are Lesbians. That’s because men can never be Lesbians, no matter what they name themselves.

  10. Interrobang Says:

    This letter is spot-on. While there are definitely issues around gender, there *must* be room in the discourse and the public sphere to deal with issues of biological sex.

    Do you remember back in the day, feminists used to talk about gender enforcement as “sex-role stereotyping”? I do, and I think maybe the term needs to make a comeback, because that might get some of these mushy woo-woo types to realise there’s more to it than what happens between our collective ears (and that the proverbial IT is not about feeeeeeelings).

    (I’m so tired of people pandering to feelings all the time. To quote a favourite author of mine, “They put Sherlock Holmes in the toilet and made a god of Prince Myshkin.”)

  11. I am simultaneously bemused that yet another twisted (criminal) pretendbian is drawn like a moth to Gallus Mag’s flame (sigh) and impressed by the scholarship and intelligence of the posts on this blog.

    After thousands of years of patriarchal socialization of both males and females, I can’t imagine how we can sort out what is nature and what is nurture with anything resembling the precision that can be brought to bear on studying other biological processes (e.g. the regulation of blood pressure or the mechanisms of wound healing, for example.) Nevertheless, our lives depend on trying.

    I begin from the assumption that anything supposedly “natural” that needs to be enforced via social controls is automatically suspect. For example, no one has to beat children into breathing enough oxygen. No one has to threaten them into drinking clean water when they’re thirsty or into eating palatable food when they’re hungry. No one has to humiliate them into learning to vocalize and eventually, to speak. Only the rare impairment keeps children from automatically doing the things that come naturally.

    When we have to socially police a large percentage of boys into being masculine (not “sissies” or “wimps” or “faggots”) and girls into being feminine (not “tomboys” or “dykes” or girls who refuse to “act like a lady”) then that should raise a red flag as to the naturalness of the patriarchy’s sharply defined gender roles.

    Hence, the very idea of a natural gender identity — separate from the simple few behaviors rooted in biological sex (e.g. the urge to nurse our own young from our breasts) — is highly suspect. In fact, I reject it completely as a socially constructed idea that is very dangerous to women. I operate from the assumption that a group of boy children and girl children raised from infancy entirely by benevolent non-human aliens with zero concept of “gender identity” would be completely free of any “masculine” or “feminine” partitioning of behaviors or traits. If someone wants to try and prove otherwise, I would carefully audit their assumptions, methods, data and conclusions with a skeptical zealousness familiar to IRS auditors and Boeing engineers.

    Women’s lives have been stunted and destroyed for centuries by the intellectually lazy practice of assuming that masculine and feminine are natural. I say to all comers, “Prove it or shut the fuck up.”

    • karmarad Says:

      Ms. Lesage, my assumptions are different from yours, and the only point I would like to make as a follow-up is that I do not think either of us can draw conclusions based on assumptions or political exigencies. We need science, and we need facts.

      I would speculate that there is a “masculinity” related to biological maleness, and that it bears some relation to current “masculine” gender roles, since men have set these roles up for their own comfort. I would speculate that there is some “feminine” expression of women’s biology, but since whatever it might consist of is thoroughly buried under patriarchal deformations, we can have no idea what a femininity naturally arising in part from women’s biology would be like.

      So it’s just speculation and assumptions at the moment. I can only say that I don’t see how we can close the door on studying and learning from studies of biologically-mediated behavior entirely any longer, considering the direction of current neuroscience and endocrinology, because we are afraid that it is politically “suspect” or “dangerous”.

      The bottom line is that Ms. Hungerford’s letter points out that women’s position and opportunities in human society are severely constrained by their biological sex, and this requires a careful legislative distinction. I agree and I see you do too.

  12. Ave Says:

    Very well written!

  13. There should be nothing confusing or intellectually difficult about isolating involuntary physical processes (e.g., female reproductive functions and unwanted pregnancy) from controllable behaviors, social roles, and/or “gender.”

    Exactly, it’s not difficult at all. Which is why obfuscation is a favourite tactic of the genderists.

    When we have to socially police a large percentage of boys into being masculine (not “sissies” or “wimps” or “faggots”) and girls into being feminine (not “tomboys” or “dykes” or girls who refuse to “act like a lady”) then that should raise a red flag as to the naturalness of the patriarchy’s sharply defined gender roles.


  14. fmnst Says:

    Thank you very much for this article, Elizabeth, and for your activism to the U.N., given the serious issue of trans politics, manipulations, and misguided sympathies for trans undermining women’s rights around the world.

    I will be forwarding your excellent article.

    There are two points for which I would encourage reconsideration.

    First is the use of the words “feminine” and “masculine.” Technically, “feminine” means “of the female animal”: that which is biologically possible for females. Anything that is *innately* female or that females do, or can do, therefore, is “feminine.” The parallel applies to “masculine.”

    Of course, in patriarchal society, the words “feminine” and “masculine” have been distorted to refer to *patriarchal stereotypes* of the sexes, under the inaccurate patriarchal belief that these are rooted in biology. To accurately use language, I practice and encourage others to practice intentionally using the terms feminine and masculine to refer to our biological capacities (and explaining this to listeners, to clarify and educate).

    So, for example, women being loud, aggressive, self-sufficient, defending ourselves, etc., are all feminine characteristics, because these are among the biological capacities of females. Likewise, men being caring, vulnerable, weak, and reticent are all masculine characteristics: among the biological capacities of males.

    Second, I encourage all of us to question and avoid use of the trans language and concept of being “born into” a male or female body, and instead simply say either that someone is male, “born male” or “biologically male,” etc.. That “born into” phrase reflects and perpetuates the trans view that “we” can somehow be distinct from our bodies: that we are separate and born into a body that is some sort of vessel or vehicle separate and distinct from who “we” are, or from our essence. I believe Elizabeth’s fundamental feminist argument is that who we are biologically is not separate and distinct from any other aspect of ourselves.

    It is the trans belief (and common patriarchal male belief rooted in men’s sense of alienation from nature, rather than recognizing that they *are* nature) that we can somehow be separate and distinct from our biology that gives rise to the belief that a person can be trans, and somehow be “born into” the wrong body.

    However, your overall article, Elizabeth, is brilliant, and very helpful for feminist consciousness raising actions and advocacy regarding trans. I will be circulating it widely, and perhaps print it up as a brochure (with my own notes about the above two issues.) Perhaps someone here could put this on a web site in a printable brochure form that anyone can print off to be handed out at meetings, local Commission on the Status of Women meetings, to local electeds, etc. If so, I hope you will consider including a note about the two issues I wrote about, above.

    I find it very helpful to have brochures to plant seeds about concepts, locally, for political meetings, classes, etc., and this would be an excellent article to circulate that way, as a public hand-out. Thank you, Elizabeth!

    • “It is the trans belief (and common patriarchal male belief rooted in men’s sense of alienation from nature, rather than recognizing that they *are* nature) that we can somehow be separate and distinct from our biology that gives rise to the belief that a person can be trans, and somehow be “born into” the wrong body.”

      You have an excellent point. One of the most difficult concepts to discuss with “trans” aficionados is their irrational conclusion-jumping on the question of “essentialism”. Somehow, saying that only women (biological females) can menstruate, become pregnant, give birth or nurse our babies from our lactating breasts makes me a “gender essentialist”. When I try to point out that accepting the BIOLOGICAL REALITY of the female body (or the male body) has nothing to do with “gender” and everything to do with being a rational human being who understands the biological sciences? That’s when their heads start spinning.

      I greatly fear that this irrational, anti-nature, anti-biology, body-mind split — well, insanity, really — will infect the wider culture more than it already has. My body doesn’t DEFINE me; my body IS me. I am not DEFINED by my anatomy; my anatomy IS me. I can no more be separated from my body or my anatomy than I can flap my arms and fly to the moon. If they feel dissociated from their bodies to such an extent that they think accepting human anatomy is some kind of “gender essentialism” then I don’t want them making any serious decisions for me or for anyone else.

      That’s the kind of body-mind split, sci-fi/fantasy crazy-talk that leads cults to all take poison together so they can “wake up” on a passing space-ship!!!

      • Sabrina L. Says:

        “My body doesn’t DEFINE me; my body IS me. I am not DEFINED by my anatomy; my anatomy IS me. I can no more be separated from my body or my anatomy than I can flap my arms and fly to the moon.”

        YES. This is something I’ve been trying to articulate in different ways in contexts quite separate from trans* issues. Thank you.

  15. karmarad Says:

    With regard to your first point urging reconsideration, fmnst, I agree. It’s not easy to explain any of this. Ms. Hungerford has cut through the worst of the confusion, but we are pushed pretty fast as a result into serious follow-up issues.

    Let us say that “gender roles”, to the extent they promote a hierarchy in which women are disadvantaged, are legally and culturally abolished, somehow. This would necessarily require the modification or abolishment of the content of most gender roles, as another commenter above said.

    The result for feminists would be legal clarity. For transactivists, there would be a need to reconsider the direction of their current theories. Some accommodation could be reached, I have no doubt.

    Then what is left? I gather from the logic of Ms. Hungerford’s letter, androgeny. Men and women don’t even think about sex differences any more. Everybody is a subject and women are completely freed from dependence on and the control of men, except for their valuable function of childbirth and early care of babies.

    This outcome has to be discussed. To many, it may seem to be an ideal outcome.

    But there are other, maybe more plausible outcomes. Based on the fact that men have about 14 times as much circulating testosterone as women, and early findings that androgens in general are causative of dominance, hierarchical, and aggressive behavior, I simply can’t assume that an androgenous society would result. It seems to me that men’s “biological capabilities” would be significantly different (and more destructive to life, a biophilic society) from those of women. The destruction inherent in a predisposition for violence could be legislated away to some extent, but I have to think would still end up reflected in a set of “gender roles” very much like today’s. I also feel that women as life-givers would have as a group a very different approach to societal issues.

    So I would expect a period of intense conflict in which non-hierarchical, but sex-specific, gender roles based on biology are developed. I would expect that we all would come to see the destructive nature of male aggression in a modern world. I would expect that we would find a solution, or lose the earth to nuclear war.

    I would expect that women would find real (non-patriarchal) gender roles (societal behaviors that reflect their biophilic nature). I agree that these would constitute true “femininity” as you, fmnst, put it. In other words, we would find out who we really are, outside male domination.

    So I would call the societal roles and behaviors that arise cleanly from sex differences, true “feminine” and “masculine” roles, fmnst, as I think you are saying. I would assume that the problem of male violence would be kept from re-occurring and not become the non-patriarchal “masculinism”.

    The patriarchal gender roles we all act out today, controlling and denigrating women as a class, are fraudulent, destructive and oppressive, and I agree they don’t deserve the names “feminine” and “masculine”. At the least we should refer to “patriarchal femininity” and “patriarchal masculinity”.

    Please forgive me if I’m not fully understanding your comment, just trying to do so. My own thoughts aren’t fully developed, just trying to get them in order.

  16. The idea that men and women, males and females, are essentially the same and that without patriarchy we would see an androgynous society is causing all sorts of problems for women in the here and now.

    If they’re not using evo psych crap to justify their latest abuses men LOVE the idea that men can be “just as nurturing as women” or men are fundamentally the same as women.

    This concept royally fucks women over in the divorce courts. Men, backed up by the powers that be, use the language of liberal feminism when they contest custody of children. Women cannot even defend themselves psychologically against predatory and abusive men, or even garden-variety men who just want to deprive them of their children, because they’ve been brow-beaten into accepting the idea that “we’re all equal now”.

    Deep down they know that having birthed and breastfed their babies, and having nurtured them as only a mother can, it is wrong for a court to say that the father should have an equal stake in what happens to them. BUt they’re powerless against this idea that a father is just as good as a mother.

    Bear in mind, that patriarchy reverses this when it comes to punishing crimes. Men get a light tap on the wrist for heinous crimes, and no punishment at all for neglecting their children. But if a MOTHER neglects her children she’s a criminal… so as you can see when it suits them they enjoy the idea that men are like women, but when it serves them to say that behavior is biological you can be sure they use it. To help men, of course, never women
    “you can’T expect too much from him, he’s a man, after all”

    Failing that, mothers are often BLAMED if a man abuses her child when she wasn’t around. “What were you thinking leaving your child with a male babysitter???”
    Maybe she’d bought the libfem idea that men are not predatory by nature.

    Men will use anything and everything to their advantage even when they’re being completely inconsistent. So the bottom line is remember the golden rule:

    NEVER negotiate with men.

    • doublevez Says:

      Hear hear. The divorce court is the first place married men are willing to entertain the benefits of, and embrace, the idea of equality. “You wanted equal? Screw you, you got it.” They pick it up like another stick to bash the mother with, and this “equality” is why so many women stay. They face losing their kids.

  17. GallusMag Says:

    Getting back on topic:

    I agree that “The Commission on the Status of Women should not reinforce stereotypical attitudes towards the role and responsibilities of women by confusing sex with “gender” or “gender identity” in any future policies or formal communications”.

    NO official UN document should contain “gender” language which is by it’s nature sex-stereotyping and anti-woman. The hypocrisy!
    ALL “gender” related language should be removed not only from UN documents but from ALL legal, political, academic and public spheres.

    Go Bess!

    • Yes, even the very word “gender” should be removed from all official UN documents. I cannot thing of a single instance where they would need to use “gender” instead of “sex”.
      I’ve noticed that recently people have a tendency to say “gender discrimination”, which causes unecessary confusion. “Sex discrimination” will do fine.
      It needs to be understood by all that any document containing the word “gender” automatically discriminates against persons of the female sex i.e women.

      But I also think it’s important not to underestimate the reversals that can be caused by declaring that men and women are essentially the same. Even if we ignore the fact that there is evidence implying that the differences between the sexes are more likely to be the result of nature rather than nurture, we’ve already seen how much the concept itself is against women’s best interests.

      • Apart from this document, of course 🙂

      • GallusMag Says:

        It needs to be understood by all that any document containing the word “gender” automatically discriminates against persons of the female sex i.e women.”


        Good points CBL

      • As an older person, I do want to point out that for much of my life the words sex and gender were almost always used interchangeably, and they BOTH meant “biological sex of the human in question” pretty much anywhere outside of academia.

        That is, official forms might ask for my sex or they might ask for my gender, but this was decades before any kind of trend towards political correctness run amok on the subject of “gender identity”. The answer (F or M) was absolutely expected to jibe with whatever the doctor put on our birth certificate after examining us at birth.

        We all understood sex and gender to mean the same thing.

        When I was younger, I actually preferred when school forms and loan or job applications used “gender” instead of “sex” because I found use of the word “sex” to be somewhat risqué and inappropriate outside of a medical setting. Seeing the word “sex” on a form when I was applying for a job at an office made me feel squeamish.

        I understand that times change, but I think a LOT of English-speaking people still think that sex and gender mean the same thing, essentially: “what’s this person got between the legs and in the chromosomes” NOT “does this person FEEL like a girl/boy” or “does this person have a girl brain/boy brain” or “does this person IDENTIFY as a girl/boy” regardless of sex organs/chromosomes.

        Which makes it all the more bizarre to me that the trans cult has been so successful at changing our laws to suit themselves at women’s expense. So much for their claim to be the most oppressed folk in the galaxy.

      • Oh yes absolutely. Everybody except radfems think that sex and gender are the same.
        Until radical feminists outlined the difference between the two in the seventies, everybody thought femininity (which we can call “gender” for simplicity’s sake) grew organically from women’s XX chromosomes. Kate Millett, among others, pointed out that it was a political system of oppression that kept women down, and artificially created a set of behaviors, which were completely separated to the person’s sex.
        It does not surprise me that today people are still confused, because radical feminists’ work has been completely ignored. Meanwhile, trans “academics” have looked at the work women have done on gender, and then distorted it completely. I even saw one pompous git (can’t remember his name) declaring that radfems had got it wrong. Transwomen have never had a single original thought about gender, and yet they’ve been happy to use the work to serve their own ends, and in the meantime confuse the general populace. Anyway, their arguments are not sound and have got more holes in them than a sieve, which is why they hate it when radfems ask them to argue their point.

        Using the two interchangeably is incorrect usage of language.

      • And it’s easy to understand how they’ve managed the takeover so smoothly:
        Transwomen are men, ergo they are privileged beyond above and beyond all women. They receive bursaries for their “research”, they steal tenureship reserved for women, and they have their fingers in all the media pies.
        Whereas women have none of that, radfems even less. So that is how radfem work gets rewritten out of history, while everyone falls for the notion that trans academics discovered gender.
        And their disingenuity (i.e their LIES) makes me so angry.

      • I’d just like to point out as well that the trappings of femininity have got nothing at all to do with femaleness, because femininity was invented by men to segragate women. A type of “yellow star” similar to the one the Jews and homosexuals were forced to wear under the Nazi regime.
        Long hair, make up, high heels, deferential mannerisms, submissiveness can all be attributed to culture and the general stockholm syndrome that women experience under patriarchy.
        However, because we are different to men, by virtue of our chromosomes, there are some (I believe) inherent differences to the sexes. We do not yet know how different we are because the behavior of the sexes has been distorted beyond all recognition. But female bonding to babies is hormonal, men’s high testosterone will always be there even outside of a patriarchy.
        So that is why I always advocate forgetting about trying to change men or caring about what men are going to look like in a non-patriarchal society, and get women to focus on thinking about how we would organize society differently if we were free from the current propaganda which encourages male-female pair-bonding.

  18. I for one am not ready to cede our boy-children to the patriarchy.

    Nor do I believe that testosterone at normal male levels must needs result in brutes who rape, dominate and enslave women and children — no more than I believe that hormones at normal female levels results in women as a class being “naturally” passive, submissive little crumpets of femininity who like to be hemmed in, controlled and dictated to from cradle to grave by their fathers, husbands and adult sons.

    I can’t emphasize enough how critical the brainwashing we receive as small children is in forming our ideas about what is “normal” in human behavior.

    If we acknowledge what amazing deformations Stockholm Syndrome can do to ADULT minds, how much more pernicious is the relentless patriarchal socialization of infants, toddlers and small children — creatures who are programmed by nature to want to emulate the behaviors, attitudes, language and preferences of their elders?

    The fact that I have seen with my own eyes how much the “normal” and “acceptable” behaviors of men and women in Western cultures have changed over the past 50 years — extreme changes that would be impossible to biologically evolve in such a short period of time — not to mention the breadth of “acceptable” behaviors of men and women world-wide — makes it clear to me that “gendered” behavior is 99% socialization.

  19. 박병훈 Says:

    In fact, if we were to accept such an antiquated theory of gender essentialism, it would logically require us to conclude that male violence [ii] has a biological component, implicitly justifying the behavior and rendering it inevitable. I do not believe this. Feminists do not believe this.

    Male violence does indeed have a biological component, which is higher testosterone levels in males, among other things. This neither justifies male violence nor makes it inevitable. Individuals with violent tendencies are capable of and have an obligation to others to suppress such impulses, regardless of their origin in biology or elsewhere. Socialization might determine how or whether this biological component is expressed, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

  20. karmarad Says:

    Yes, I agree with the commenter above. To say precisely this confirms the logicality and truth of our position that biological sex is a basic reality. There is a split in humankind (though it is not absolute, there are exceptions of course; there are intersex people and their situation must also be considered and acknowledged). That permits a logical conceptualization of the gender issue. One cannot generally subjectively become a member of another sex, though some accommodation for people desiring to do so may be worked out some day. It can’t be done by simply announcing that one has adopted the opposite deformed gender role; that only makes the situation worse.

    In addition, to confirm that sex presents us with predispositions, not inevitabilities, allows us to consider how to deal with predispositions that are positive, as some related to the female, life-giving sex must be (even if their precise outlines are unknown right now), as well as those that are negative, as the male sex’s apparent predisposition to aggression and domination is. At least that’s how I see it right now.

  21. […] is a very basic use of the false equivalence…interestingly, it is again rendered unobvious.  here is a perfect expression of this, seriously, i couldnt have come up with a better example if i […]

  22. […] logic-fail of calling out palin but not fluke (or any number of left-wing dickpleasers like oh say gloria steinem) is a bit obvious.  that is […]

  23. […] of the earth, what does one (relatively) well-known reformist-oriented radical feminist do, in a public letter to the UN (subject: trannie politicking) but throw “essentialists” like mary daly and all […]

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