The Hypocrisy of “Gender Critical” Feminists in the SNP

[Image Description: trans flag bearing words “trans rights are human rights”]

On the front page of today’s edition of The National there is a banner proclaiming the return to politics of former First Minister Alex Salmond, who was more recently in the news for being on trial accused of a number of sexual offences. While the court found Mr Salmond not guilty on most counts, and not proven on one, throughout the course of the investigation, he admitted to behaviour directed towards women which, while not criminal, is decidedly creepy.

The article itself describes a post-pandemic recovery plan which seems fairly generic and inoffensive, though I only skimmed the article. The headline is of far more interest than the content. That a newspaper saw fit to celebrate the supposed return to politics of a man who engaged in creepy behaviour towards women (again, you can be creepy without being criminal) is troubling. His ideas for a post-pandemic recovery are far from unique; so logically one can assume that the National chose to feature his name so prominently as they knew it would sell papers.

Salmond is a bully, who spent his political career intimidating those around him, particularly young women. He should not be welcome in Scottish politics, or in the SNP, especially among those who claim to stand up for women’s rights. Yet, funnily enough, those in the ‘gender critical’ wing of the party seem to be lauding his return to politics. Articles celebrating the election of candidates from the transphobic so-called “SNP Good Guys” slate also praise Salmond.

Men who think they can behave in a creepy manner towards women, and a society which decides this is acceptable so long as a court finds them not guilty, are symptomatic of a society where women are unsafe. And yet, the ‘gender critical’ feminists would have you believe that the greatest threat to women is trans people. It is almost as though these people do not actually care about women’s rights, but rather are choosing to demonise trans people out of hatred or for political reasons.

Let me be very clear. Trans rights are human rights, trans women are women, trans men are men, nonbinary people are nonbinary. None of these statements should be up for debate. Denying trans people the right to exist as their gender and to use the spaces they feel most comfortable in is discrimination, plain and simple. Throwing trans people under the bus in the name of “women’s rights” is horrible and disingenuous: giving trans people rights does not take rights away from women.

Their rhetoric in its own right is disgusting and transphobic. But it is also hugely hypocritical, particularly for those in the SNP. If the alleged defenders of women’s rights are willing to ally themselves to men like Salmond, then can they really call themselves defenders of women’s rights? No, they can’t. The Women’s Pledge wing of the SNP does not protect women, or the working class. It provides a platform for transphobes and fundamentalists who care about nothing beyond independence as an end in itself.

I support independence as a means to creating a fairer, more equal society. It is not an end in itself – in fact, I’m a proponent of open borders long-term – but rather a way to create a society in which things like the Tory war on disabled people can’t happen. A society where things are better for everyone regardless of their gender, gender identity, disability, race, religion or any other protected characteristic. And if our goal is not to create a better society, then what are we doing?

Gendered Marketing is Damaging Children

Gendered marketing is restrictive and damaging to both children and adults. For children, those who do not conform to the likes and dislikes assigned to their gender are often bullied and ostracised by their peers. The stereotypes marketing assigns to genders linger throughout and affect the lives of people from birth to death. Gendered marketing limits both men and women, and excludes non-binary people entirely.

Limiting what toys children can play with because of their gender is harmful. Play is an important part of learning for young children, it teaches them how to interact with others, share and learn about the world. Some toys such as construction toys help children develop spatial skills, and role-playing toys help develop social skills. Since the former is mainly marketed to boys and the latter to girls, it is unsurprising that girls tend to have better social skills while boys have improved spatial awareness.

The marketing of toys in this manner also reinforces negative gender stereotypes. Action toys such as cars and toy guns are marketed at “boisterous boys” and dolls and fashion toys at “girly girls”. These stereotypes can be seen most plainly in dress-up costumes. Boys are encouraged to dress as doctors, scientists, firemen, etc. Girls, on the other hand are given the choice of fairy, princess, supermodel and similar. Children can often pick up ideas about what future career they can do on the basis of this.

Appearance centred toys are marketed towards very young girls, putting far too large an emphasis on their outward appearance, while boys are taught that caring toys are not for them and they shouldn’t feel emotion. These stereotypes can lead to mental health problems later in life, such as eating disorders in women who are unhappy with their appearance, and built up negative emotions in men who feel they cannot show them.

Transgender people are also hugely and adversely impacted by this, being forced into playing with something associated with the assigned-at-birth gender they do not identify with and often feel very dysphoric about. This is especially true of non-binary people who are never mentioned on any of the toy labels.

Often people will ask why it matters if something is labelled as ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ – can’t people just buy it anyway? This attitude ignores the huge societal pressure on children to conform and like toys made for their gender – as soon as a child can read, they will think certain things are not for them. Many parents will also not buy an item for their child labelled as being for a different gender.

Other parents simply don’t notice that science kits are all in the boys’ section, and don’t see the problem. The marketing at one gender also clearly suggests that boys and girls are “supposed” to like certain things, and if they like the other, they are somehow abnormal. The marketing of these toys creates social rules that are very hard to break and can often lead to bullying if someone does.

Clothing is another area which is very divided, for both children and adults. Young girls are given tight-fitting flowery, sparkly and always pink outfits, which are often difficult to play in. Boys, on the other hand, are given loose fitting clothes in red or blue. Slogans on girls’ clothing are often along the lines of “little princess”, “pretty in pink” or “future supermodel” while boys’ slogans are “troublemaker” or “future scientist”.

For adults, women’s clothing is often thin and poor quality, needing replaced very quickly. There is also a distinct lack of pockets – often shops will put on fake pockets to give the illusion of a pocket but lacking the usefulness of a real one because it will disrupt the figure. Men’s clothes are designed far more practically. This all feeds in to the attitude that men work and women look pretty. Non-binary people again have no section in the clothes shops and are again excluded.

There are no benefits to gendered marketing – as well as hurting individuals, it also disadvantages businesses by restricting their market. The argument against gendered marketing should not be reserved for the left, both capitalists and socialists should be condemning the practice.

Much of the gender inequality found among adults has its roots in childhood and what is marketed at children. By forcing children into boxes against their will, society is setting the stage for inequality to continue into adulthood and their entire lives. If we truly want a more equal society, tackling gender stereotypes and gendered marketing is a good place to start.

This article was originally published on the Young Scots for Independence blog, at Stephanie Melnick: Gendered Marketing is Damaging Children — Young Scots for Independence

What Asexuality Means For Me

CW: mentions of (theoretical) sex

As with all identities, every asexual person is different. Some are also aromantic, some are alloromantic and some are in the grey area. Some aces are sex-repulsed, some sex-favourable. I’d like to talk about what asexuality means for me – to be clear, this is my personal experience and other asexuals may be very different.

I do not experience sexual attraction, ever. When I see someone, I may think they are attractive in an aesthetic manner, but I do not want to have sex with them, I only like the way they look in the manner one may like a painting. If I get to know someone I may want to be in a romantic relationship with them, but the physical terms of that relationship would need to be restricted – hugging yes, anything involving genitals no.

I am homoromantic; I am romantically attracted to women. I have never been in a relationship, but I want to be, or I think I do. It is not a priority. I don’t find any of this to be a contradiction; when I’m in an exam I might want cake but I’m hardly going to run out the exam to eat cake – it is not a priority, even though I want it.

I do not want to have sex with anybody ever, but I wouldn’t call myself sex-repulsed. This is because I am totally fine with discussing sex and seeing sex scenes on TV (not full porn, but the stuff in normal 18 movies). I also make a ton of sex jokes, which are often more funny to me simply because I have no interest in actually doing it myself. I would call myself sex-averse instead, with my aversion only to having sex myself.

I can’t guarantee, of course, that at some point in the future I won’t want to have sex. Ten years ago, the idea that I would be politically active and voluntarily make speeches in public would have sounded absurd to me. The future is equally unclear to the present. But I cannot at this point in time imagine myself feeling that way.

As things stand, I feel really uncomfortable in nightclub style environments, and not just because of my oversensitivity to noise. I dislike being in such sexually charged environments where many people there are aiming to find sexual partners. People will hit on me in ways I find really uncomfortable and make inappropriate comments.

People have called the way I dress prudish, especially on the few occasions I have attended such gatherings, which actually has nothing to do with my asexuality – I wear many layers because the more skin showing, the more skin that can be covered in germs. I do not like germs as I have no pain tolerance so I become nonfunctional when I am ill and I don’t have time for that.

While I like hugging and some kinds of massage, I generally avoid most forms of physical contact. I’ve done kissing with tongues three times and I didn’t like it on any of those occasions. Generally, things involving the mouth or genitals are off the table for me. I find it curious and a bit gross when people who have colds kiss – surely you are just getting germs off your partner? Why would you want that? If I was ever in a relationship and my partner became ill I wouldn’t touch them until they got better nor would I sleep in the same room.

With regards to platonic and romantic attraction, I often find it difficult to tell what I feel for some individuals. I sometimes think this is alterous attraction. I believe I can form a very strong purely platonic bond with some people – I have had friendships end before that have devastated me more than the end of some others’ relationships have them.

I do not believe that romantic relationships are inherently stronger than platonic relationships. I do believe that some relationships are stronger than others – but I do not believe that this scale is strictly platonic to romantic. I would suggest that there is a stronger link to both time and number of common interests than there is to how platonic or romantic the relationship is. I’d study this hypothesis further but it’s not my area of expertise nor one of great interest.

For me, asexuality is just one little part of my identity. It’s a part of me, that I give that label because it is the most accurate, but everyone who claims that label will have different experiences and different views, because we are all different people, and however similar some of our parts may be, the whole will always be different.

It takes an essay to describe my romantic orientation

This post is going to use many terms for different sexualities commonly used by the asexual and aromantic communities. I will link to a definition on the first use of every term but if you’re unfamiliar with common ace/aro terms I recommend you consult this list of ace terms first.

As detailed elsewhere, it took me a lot longer than many other people to work out what my sexuality and romantic orientation are. After much soul searching I finally realised I was asexual. I also came to the conclusion I was homoromantic. I had only ever experienced crushes on women, so this was a natural conclusion to make. I could develop them quite easily so I definitely wasn’t on the aromantic spectrum.

However, following a recent mess where I lost one of my friends I experienced the most terrible heartbreak over it. For months I couldn’t do anything without something reminding me of him, and I would break down in tears at the thought that we would never again be friends. This feeling was so intense it seemed much worse than when I’d broken friends with others in the past. It followed the pattern of a television breakup more than a platonic disagreement.

I know we were not in any relationship more than friends. But I can’t help but wonder if my feelings had become something different for him. If not romantic, then alterous or just something different to the platonic bond I had with the rest of our group. I’m more upset over losing him as a friend than I would be losing any of the others, of that I am certain. Which begs the question: what did I feel for him? Was it romantic attraction, alterous or something there is no word for?

If it was romantic attraction, then that would mean I am not solely attracted to women. But I still know that I am not attracted to men in general, and I only felt anything other than platonic attraction for him after we had been close friends for over a year, in a kind of demiromantic fashion. Is that a thing? Being fully alloromantic for one or more genders and then being demiromantic for others?

It was difficult for me to tell whether or not I felt romantic attraction over the still raw (despite the thing happening 3 and a half months ago) heartbreak the situation evokes in me. So I have tried imagining myself in romantic situations with him compared with women I know I have crushes on. Two days ago I was sure it was romantic, but now? I have very good visualisation skills and I can play a silent film in my head of me in a restaurant with a woman I’d like to be in a relationship with and I feel all happy and tingly. When I play the same scene with him & try to pretend the fall-out didn’t happen and it just feels awkward.

So I’m not so convinced any more that I felt romantic attraction towards him. Rather I believe it was alterous attraction, which I’ve struggled to understand the meaning of given that I’ve only seen it defined as something between platonic and romantic attraction. I am pretty confident in saying that what I desired with him was a relationship closer and stronger than the one we had within our group of friends, but not a romantic relationship.

The point is rather moot now anyway since it’s certain that we will never make up from the argument we had, given we both reject the other person’s viewpoint entirely, and whatever I feel for him is evenly matched by anger and disgust at what he said to cause the argument & what he said to finish it. The only reason I pursued my attempt at understanding it was to fully understand my own romantic orientation.

So to conclude, I’m still homoromantic as far as I know. I define this for myself as attracted to like-genders, not necessarily solely people who identify as fully female. That could be women, demigirls, greygender women, genderflux people whose gender varies from woman to agender, and other non-binary identities where there is a femme aspect. If I ever do develop romantic attraction for a man or non-binary individual not specified above then I will revisit this at a later date.

I’m panalterous though most people are still unaware of alterous attraction so it’s not something that I would ever really tell anyone about unless they were to ask.

I believe being autistic is why I’ve struggled for so long to find labels that fit how I feel. I am not very skilled at putting words to feelings, and so it takes a lot of digging around to find accurate labels – I’m still not certain what my gender is; I am questioning but I’m not really ‘out’ as questioning at the moment among my offline friends & certainly not family.

Most of the time I find that no label truly fits how I feel so I use the closest one until I find something that fits better. I end up with long lists of matching genders to types of attraction, and finding my head spinning trying to work out who I really am. It’s never as simple as it seems to be for others. It takes me a whole essay to describe my labels. And now, all I need to do is to accept that this is okay.

Discovering my sexuality

For such a long time, I had no idea what my sexuality was. Before I started university, I believed everyone was either straight, gay, or bisexual. I had no idea there were any other sexualities (and I also had no idea non-binary genders existed, but I’m going to discuss gender in another post sometime). So considering how many words I need to use now to accurately describe my sexuality, it’s unsurprising I didn’t have a clue back then.

The assumption in our heteronormative society is that an individual is straight. So that is what was assumed by my classmates in school. They used to corner me (sometimes literally, other times metaphorically) and force me to answer the question “which boy do you fancy?”. The truth, of course, being none. But apparently that was ‘impossible’ and I was ‘obviously lying’. I eventually learned they would never believe the truth, and so would choose a random boy to fake a crush on.

At the time I believed I was choosing at random, in hindsight, I was choosing the most ‘feminine’ appearing boy I could at the time, in general. This was to become one of many signs I would see only years after the event.

I had no interest in sex at all at that point. In sex-ed classes I sat there thinking ‘eww I never want to do that ever’. Even nowadays, I have no interest in pursuing a sexual relationship. I’m not as completely repulsed as I used to be, and I would consider it in the future, but it’s not something I’m actively seeking. In those days, I thought I was missing something – why does everyone else seem to be interested in this activity that I find so repulsive?

When I discovered the term ‘asexual’, I felt elated and understood. It was so exciting to realise I wasn’t alone or defective, or that something had gone wrong during puberty (yeah, I thought that). But it still didn’t fully explain what I felt, because I still wanted a romantic relationship, despite not wanting sex.

Once I realised I was somewhere on the asexual spectrum, I still had to work out my romantic orientation. This I did mostly by recognising that my crushes on fictional characters were on women.  There were also many signs throughout my past that I was attracted to women, that I had been ignoring throughout my life. I don’t want to get into them all here, but suffice to say they helped lead me to the discovery that I am homoromantic.

I believed for a while that I was grey-asexual (experiences sexual attraction only rarely), but what I thought was sexual attraction was really aesthetic attraction (something I realised while watching this fantastic video by Ash Hardell). So now I just identify as asexual.

I would use any of the following to describe myself:
– Asexual homoromantic (most technically accurate)
– Asexual lesbian (one I use the most)
– Ace homoromantic/lesbian
– Gay/lesbian (not fully accurate, would only use in cases where I need to be brief, e.g. tweets, or as an introduction when coming out to people who wouldn’t know the more specific terms until I explain them).

Now I’ve worked out what I feel, or at least have a better idea than I used to – after all, who knows what new things I might feel in the future that I haven’t yet. Now I face the other battles: coming out to family & friends, general discrimination.

Discovering my identity took so long, I’m so relieved I now understand myself, and have found labels that allow me to find others who feel the same way I do. Moving on from here, I still have a lot of work to do in educating people who don’t understand asexuality, and in coming out to those friends & family who I have not yet spoken to.