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October 2018

Battle Of Ideas

October 13, 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Barbican, London, Frosbisher Auditorium #1, Silk Street,
London, EC2Y 8DS United Kingdom
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What is a woman anyway? Saturday 13 October, 14:00—15:30, Frobisher Auditorium 1 Identity wars: Feminism post #MeToo The Conservative Party has promised to change the law to allow individuals to change gender officially, without medical checks. Under new proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, Theresa May has promised to make it simple for so-called self-ID individuals (transgender people who simply state they are either male or female) to be recognised in their new gender. This has caused a fair amount of controversy. The Labour Party was almost split in two this year by a debate about its all-women shortlists. Trans activists argued that trans women should be allowed to take part in such roles, while some feminists argued that this would render the idea of women-only shortlists meaningless. Critics of trans activists quickly were denounced as TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) and bigots. One Guardian commentator even warned that ‘history will judge’ any ‘anti-trans zealots’. In a challenge to this policy, one male member of Basingstoke Labour Party stood for election as women’s officer for his branch,  claiming that he qualified because he identified as a woman ‘on Wednesdays, between 6.50am when my alarm goes off and around midnight when I go to bed’. He was swiftly suspended by the party. The friction between those who believe in a more traditional understanding of gender and trans activists has thrown up some interesting questions about how either side of the debate views women. The former argue that women are defined by their negative experiences at the hands of men – women are victims of sexism, and so women-only spaces provide a safe haven away from danger. The latter argue that being a woman is simply a statement of intent – ‘trans women are women’ is a slogan often used by trans activists. Is being a woman about experience? Is it simply an identity which can be picked up by anyone? Or is the debate about womanhood misplaced in the first place? Is the often-vicious war between small groups of online activists representative of what most people think about gender? What is a woman, anyway, and do most women even want to be asking this question?    

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October 21, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Lighthouse Venue, 12 Centenary Park
Manchester, Salford M50 1RE United Kingdom
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HEATHER BRUNSKELL-EVANS NEOLIBERALISM AND PATRIARCHY THE FEMALE BODY: REFLECTIONS ON ‘GENDER IDENTITY’ AND SEX EQUALITY Neo-liberalism is a political philosophy which has several problems: It regards the individual as an autonomous agent; It tells us the unregulated free-market economy alleviates social inequalities; It describes freedom in terms of individual ‘choice’.   What is wrong with this economistic view of the human being? It takes no account of any other power relation. The case of the female body illustrates this problem perfectly: On the one hand women’s bodies are seen as material objects to be sold through pornography and prostitution. On the other hand, female bodies are seen as immaterial because any individual can allegedly ‘become’ a woman – not in Simone De Beauvoir’s sense (the struggle for female bodied people to become socially accepted as ‘feminine’) – but through simply identifying as ‘feminine’. This paper will explore the political consequences for girls and women when the term ‘gender identity’ replaces the term sex-inequality and demonstrates how this purportedly progressive term performs the reverse function – it actually re-invigorates reactionary, traditional ideas of girlhood and womanhood which it is important to resist. About Heather: Heather is an academic and political commentator. She makes appearances on Radio and TV and is a Spokeswoman for FiLiA. Heather writes on pornography, prostitution and transgenderism. Her latest books are: Brunskell-Evans, H. (ed.) (2018) The Sexualized Body and The Medical Authority of Pornography. Cambridge Scholars: Newcastle Brunskell-Evans, H. and Moore, M. (eds.) (2018) Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body. Cambridge Scholars: Newcastle Find out more: Twitter: @brunskellevans HEATHER BRUNSKELL-EVANS    

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