Why do female MPs complain about sexism then indulge in it?

In recent years, Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips have been some of the most passionate and prominent feminist campaigners. Creasy has famously promoted abortion rights in Northern Ireland and cautioned Toby Young several years ago on his misogyny. “I really hoped that you would get with the 21st century and stop tweeting about women’s tits in Parliament”, she told Young on Newsnight, receiving much praise. Phillips has her own book – Everywoman – to remind the sisterhood they can “kick-ass”. In a blog for The Huffington Post she once wrote that “gender equality is the key to solving so many of our current national challenges”.

Fair enough, but with all this in mind, it did seem odd to me yesterday that these two MPs accepted an invitation, along with Lucy Powell, to speak on This Morning. It was not for any intellectual discussion, instead to muse over the proceedings of ITV’s Love Island. “Oh yeah, I’ve watched it with Harriet Harman in the Lady Members’ Room”, boasted Jess Phillips. I’m sure Harman has never been so grateful for the mention… Afterwards Creasy, Phillips and Powell pouted for a photograph.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with MPs relaxing over Love Island. The question is: why do women get asked to talk about it on television? Would Margaret Thatcher, for instance, have pondered Dani and Jack, or Megan’s buoyant boobs? One imagines Dennis Skinner being asked to comment on The Hideaway, and the mind boggles. A male MP wouldn’t have been asked to chat about such matters in the first place.

As a society, we are often reminded that sexism has many discrete and subtle forms. The depressing reality is that not even those who are most informed and educated on it can see it staring them in the face. In journalism I see similar instances of sexism in the tasks women are asked to carry out. Why is there no demand for men to discuss their sex lives, dating disasters or mental health in the same way women are encouraged to? Female suffering has become a type of currency – all the while men are expected to do Brexit and economics. This double standard will not stop until women learn to say no to an opportunity or two.

Creasy, especially, ought to know better. As one of the most talented, articulate parliamentarians, her energies are wasted commenting on a series that barely passes as low-brow entertainment. The pity is when women take up these opportunities, they reinforce limitations on what all of us are allowed to comment on. Next time ITV rings, the sisterhood would be thankful if the Labour ladies hang up the phone.

 

 

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Progressives’ obsession with socialisation could harm the LGBT+ community

Last week, an NHS doctor was fired from a governmental position for suggesting gender is determined at birth. He was deemed “unfit to work” after refusing to identify patients by their selected gender. Some time earlier there was similar furore when a professor from the University of Washington School of Computer Science said that women are less likely to pursue computer science because of sexual variation in the brain. In an article for Quillette, he wrote “If men and women are different, then we should expect them to make different choices”.

Clearly, arguing that aspects of identity are biologically determined is extremely controversial in 2018. Progressives, especially, take umbrage with this idea namely because it undermines the socialist perspective that, with the right conditions, anyone can be anything. There is another understandable reason that the general population questions biological theories: wariness over the eugenics movement, which hypothesised that people are the product of genes alone. It has now become mainstream to believe the likes of gender are socially constructed.

But this way of thinking has its limits and contradictions. It can be dangerous to claim that we are simply the result of socialisation, and LGBT+ groups could be impacted the most. Take sexuality, for instance. Most would agree that being gay, straight or in between is not a choice, but something one is born with; there are even studies that demonstrate the existence of genes for sexual orientation. If someone insists that we are all the product of conditioning, this would give ammunition to homophobes, and those who push gay conversion therapies, as they could argue sexuality can be learnt and therefore unlearnt.

The transgender community, too, can be helped by biological arguments – contrary to what some might expect. Researchers have found evidence that genes play a large role in shaping sex identity and gender identity. A study led by Belgian University found that the brain activity of transgender boys and girls corresponded to the gender they most identify with. Findings like these can help to counter arguments that trans-identity is a choice, but they are then undermined by the progressive argument that gender has no neurological basis.

Most psychologists would argue that nature and nurture are actually equally important in human development, and interact with one another. The danger is when we start to push one over the other, which can inspire bigotry in different ways. If we promote socialisation, we suggest that facets of ourselves can be removed through conditioning. If we rely on nature, we become too rigid about humanity. Something in the middle can help us all, but progressives must not demonise biology. It has helped win some hugely important battles.