Why Bill C-16 Destroys Women’s Rights, Identity, and Freedoms

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Here at WOMAN Means Something we believe that Bill C-16 destroys women’s rights, protections, and very identity under law. This is something that many feminists have warned about, but it seems that their voices have been overwhelmed by a popular wave of the well-intentioned who have not thought through the issue. Sadly, the victims of this uncritical and politically motivated ideology will not largely be men- it will be women and children. This article demonstrates why this is certain to be the case. The focus here is on female women, the 50% of Canadian society who are biologically female and “women” according to gender. As will become clear, I don’t personally accept this distinction, but I am happy to use this terminology for the sake of explanation and argument. Throughout the rest of this article, I will use female as shorthand for “biologic female”.

The Relationship of the New and the Old

The Human Rights Act isn’t the only mechanism for human rights in Canada, but it is important. Significant societal changes in Canada have stemmed from Federal Human Rights Complaints. Our current Human Rights Act has until now protected the rights of women under the term “sex”. The assumption is, or perhaps was, that a woman is nothing more or less than an adult female, and she ought to have protections and rights that pertain to her specifically. Under the prior binary category of “sex”, women/females were identified as a distinct group. Bill C-16 adds to the protected classes “gender identity or expression”. But what is left unsaid is how this new class(es) relate to the old class of “sex”.

Under Bill C-16 there are two classes that pertain to what would have traditionally be called women’s rights. On one side we have sex, and on the other, gender. The question that ought to be asked is, what sorts of rights, protections, and freedoms belong to each category? Categories have no meaning if they cannot be defined. “Sex”, under Bill C-16, is defined, presumably, by biology; DNA, a female’s reproductive system, and other particularities of the female body. She cannot be discriminated against because she has this biology. And she ought to be protected on account of this biology. Men ought not abuse, cat-call, touch or harass females. It should be abundantly clear that biologic males do not exhibit the same kind of potential threat to other biologic males as they do to biologic females. If you disagree, simply ask a dozen females about their experiences of unwanted attention, advances, or abuse at the hands of biologic males.

Gender identity is defined, says the Justice Department, as “each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum.” On the face of it, you might assume that this means that anything else that previously pertained to “women’s rights” before Bill C-16 under “sex”, but which will no longer be covered under the now more restrictive “sex” class, will be covered by this “gender” class. Hence some might argue that the class “woman” is still protected; there are now “woman’s rights and freedoms” in addition to “female’s rights and freedoms”.

The Crux of the Issue

This might possibly be true if there was some definition of what constituted “woman” under the category of gender. But not only is there no criteria for “woman” under the class of gender, Bill C-16 specifically legislates that woman can mean anything. But what almost all our officials and leaders are somehow missing is that if you say a particular thing means anything, you are thereby saying it means nothing. The importance of this cannot be exaggerated. This isn’t psychology or sociology, it is math and logic. Referents need to have something they refer to. Language must point to some reality.

If I say to you, “I bought an armchair yesterday”, you have some idea in your mind of what I have purchased. The picture in your mind may be different than the reality, it may even be significantly different, but it will adhere to the general constraints of the category. You will not imagine a sofa or a bed, a jeep or a parrot. But if you and I have previously decided in our relationship and conversation that “armchair” can mean anything, the word will quickly fall out of use, because in agreeing that it can mean anything it loses all viability and usefulness as a category.

This is precisely what has happened in social discourse. Ask someone, “can you define “woman” as a gender, not as a sex?” Most progressives and liberals will be completely tongue-tied. I will show later that the very idea of “woman” is disappearing in many “progressive” circles. I hope you are beginning to see the problem.

Allow me to summarize before moving on. What used to be a single unity of sex/gender under law for female women, is going to now become two classes. But while “sex” is clearly defined biologically, “gender” is completely and obligatorily undefined.

The Gender Problem for Female Women

This creates two problems concerning the identities, protections, and freedoms of female women, some half our population. The first is that it will undermine the value and worth of girls and women everywhere. Whether it is right or not, we do not speak in public of “females”, or “biological females”, we speak of “girls” or “women”. The irony of why we speak this way is because we intrinsically know that women are not just breasts, hips and a vagina. They have value, worth, and attributes beyond their bodies and biology. But if we enshrine in law that “woman” has no distinct value or definition, we cut off discussion and celebration of these supra-biological attributes.

Here’s the question that I would love to ask Prime Minister Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau: do you teach your girls that it is great to be a girl? What do you tell them is great about being a girl? I sincerely believe that neither would answer that question publicly, and that doing so would be a death knell to their political careers, or at least to Bill C-16. Because to answer that question would be, for them, furthering a stereotype of women that goes against the subjectivity of their world view and of Bill C-16. Indeed, it is conceivable that to answer that question at all could be construed as hate speech. A similarly problem-inducing question would be to ask Mr.Trudeau, “as a self-proclaimed feminist, describe the group for whom you are advocating.” It can’t be done! Not under Bill C-16. Mr.Trudeau can have his feminism or he can have Bill C-16. He can’t have both.

Here’s the sober reality. If we can’t answer these kinds of questions is it any wonder that female girls are struggling with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem? We are telling them, daily, “there is nothing particularly praiseworthy, celebratory, or valuable about you as a girl.” These female girls are looking up to us as a society, asking “what is valuable about me as a girl”, and not only do we have no answer, we are going to legislate that there is no answer! With, I am assuming, the best intentions, we will arrive at an outcome that is indiscernible from institutionalized misogyny.

The Biological Problem for Female Women

The second problem relates to the biological side, the class of “sex”. We do not have female (biology-based) washrooms. We have women’s washrooms (gender-based). We do not have female change rooms. We have women’s change rooms. Likewise, sports teams, camp cabins, homeless shelters, and transition houses are all based on gender and not biology. So then the question is; of the old rights, protection and freedoms of female women, which rights and protections are female, biology-based ones? I think you could possibly come up with a couple answers: the problem of employers hiring equally qualified men over women simply because a woman might get pregnant comes to mind. But isn’t it staggering the amount of the prior women’s rights which are placed in the “gender”, instead of “sex” category?

In an opinion piece in the National Observer, Meghan Murphy of Feminist Current, says “Preventing discrimination is something most of us want to support, but incorporating notions of ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ into Canadian legislation is not a progressive step. In our desire to be open-minded and inclusive, we have failed to consider how this move poses a risk to sex-based protections for women and girls.” So who gets to decide which rights and protections are sex based and which are gender based? It seems that the answer is not female women, but male women, and those who support them.

Consider the matter of women’s sports. Is it fair for a group of female women to compete against male “women” in high school or collegiate sports? We have already begun to see the challenges this presents under the far more difficult situation of genuinely intersexed individuals like Caster Semenya in women’s Olympic sports.  And how will the Human Rights Commission handle rights complaints based on sex discrimination against sports organizations and programs when a female woman finishes in 3rd place behind two male women taking 1st and 2nd? You can’t pretend that Bill C-16 doesn’t pit gender rights against female rights.

The above example pales in comparison to the seriousness of the matter of women’s change rooms or shelters. According to the Badgley Commission (1984), 1 in 2 women experience an unwanted sex act in their lives. The overwhelming majority of these will be by men, or to be more precise, males with penises, and who have done evil things with their genitalia. These females will be in various states of undress in a change room (a thing that can be unnerving even in front of your own sex), or fleeing violence by males in a shelter, and what is our message supposed to be to them when they see penises in their safe spaces? “Don’t worry, it’s not a “biology” thing!”

The idea is beyond incredulous. It is horrifyingly insensitive and an undermining of female women’s basic protections. Again, Meghan Murphy says, ” Women’s spaces — including homeless shelters, transition houses, washrooms, and change rooms — exist to offer women protection from men. It isn’t men who fear that women might enter their locker rooms and flash, harass, assault, abuse, photograph, or kill them.This reality is often left unaddressed in conversations around gender identity. This reality is sex-based, not identity-based.” Janine Simon, who was raped as a child, says of chosen-gender change room policies, “Over and over again, women are told your abuse is not important, it’s not important to fund, it’s not important to protect. This is just one more way for us to know that our abuse doesn’t matter, that we’re not protected.” What happens when the Human Rights Commission starts fielding a bunch of sex-based human rights complaints from women who don’t feel safe, have become victims of voyeurism, or far worse?

Just last year the University of Toronto had to backtrack on some of its gender-neutral policies after two instances of voyeurism were reported in bathrooms. Also last year a man dressed as a woman, Xingchen Liu, was charged with voyeurism in a change-room in Edmonton. In February 2014, Jessica/Christopher Hambook was jailed for preying on women at two shelters in Toronto. These are three of at least twenty substantiated accounts of males in women’s clothes taking advantage of women’s safe spaces to perpetrate criminal, violent, or sexual acts against women.

Examples could be multiplied. Here is the question for someone who says that this kind of discussion is “fear-mongering”; how many unwanted sex acts to female women must take place before it isn’t fear-mongering anymore? You can’t pretend that Bill C-16 doesn’t pit gender rights against female rights. Especially not when female women, and sexually-abused female women, are saying it does.

Erasing “WOMAN”

For me, the saddest part in all of this is to see how gender is crowding, creeping, and overpowering all the boundaries of female sex. Female sports should be a sex issue, but somehow it’s a gender one. Female bathrooms should be a sex issue, but somehow it’s a gender one. Female change rooms should certainly be a sex issue, but it too is a gender one. And it gets to the point where the most overtly biological things are subject to “gender” pressure and dissociated with sex.

At periodpositive.com, a resource and education website on menstruation, they have a chart that explains how to speak of menstruation in an inclusive way. Instead of “becoming a woman”, educators should speak of “starting puberty”. Instead of “feminine hygiene products”, educators should speak of “menstrual products”. “Women’s health” becomes “reproductive health”, “mother and daughters” ought to be “parents and children”, and “women” should be replaced with “people”. This is because “calling attention to the uniquely female experience of monthly bleeding excludes young girls, post menopausal women, [trans, non-binary and intersex people], and women who, for myriad other reasons, cannot or will not bleed.”

This is not parody, although a parody wouldn’t look any different. Neither is it funny. “Women” are being erased from even the most overtly biological aspects of their lives. “Women” just become “people”. Not only can we not tell a girl what is so great about being a girl, but we can’t even tell her that her biology makes her female! The end result of all of this is that the category that obligatorily means nothing (gender) is completely crowding out and extinguishing the category of female sex. And while I disagree with radical feminists about many things, I agree that this is nothing less than the erasure of women’s identity and idealogical rape.

In the bold new world 248 Members of Parliament want to usher in, there is no more “woman”. The only thing we can say definitively about female women is that they constitute hips, breasts and a vagina. Maybe not even that. But WOMAN means something. WOMAN may mean something slightly different to me than to you. But let’s not legislate that it means nothing. We are on the precipice of doing just that, and female women everywhere in Canada will suffer the consequences.

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