Gender Dissent: An experiment in Activist Journalism
This is the text of a talk given by felicia rembrandt on IWD International’s Feminist Question Time on January 15, 2022.
I would like to start by saying a few things about myself, because I believe I am representative of the kinds of women who are fighting against gender ideology in Canada.
Unlike many of the women I see on Feminist Question Time, I have not been a life-long feminist activist and I find myself doing things now – political actions – that I have never done before in my life, and that I never really imagined myself doing.
I have always been aware of feminism; I knew all my adult life that I was riding a wave created just before me by second wave feminists. I expected to be able to attend any university, to get any kind of job, to enter any profession. And because I was a woman at that very specific time, I was able to do those things – all kinds of companies were on the lookout for women to hire.
Over the years I have kept an eye out on the feminist movement, and on issues related to women, but I got on with my life. I was teaching young adults for many years in the 90’s, and because of that I did see that feminism was out of fashion. My young female students were often opposed to it, or just indifferent. They were, even more than I, living a kind of life that had been won for them by second wave feminists. They didn’t see any external limitations placed on them.
So, as I said I think my situation is representative. We have two broad cohorts, younger women under, say, forty, and older women such as myself, who are often grandmothers. And we have all lived for 30 or 40 years without visible external limitations.
When I quit working about six years ago I started a blog. I was travelling in Europe at the time and all the little hotels I stayed in had a small shelf of books. Being on my own, in winter, I had long evenings to fill. So I started writing feminist analyses of the books I was reading.
I kept it up after I got back home, and wrote a fair number of analyses of magazine articles in addition to books. It’s easy to write feminist criticism of magazine articles because they are still almost all written by men from a “masculine” point of view which pretends that that pov is universally human. I would recommend that anyone who wants to develop their feminist chops do that sort of thing themselves. Look at how men present their point of view as universal. I also think the conversation is by men to men. Women are allowed to overhear the conversation, but men are talking to themselves.
While contributing to my blog, I was also looking hard for other feminist blogs to subscribe to. Eventually I found Feminist Current, Meghan Murphy’s site, and started reading madly from there. Shortly after, she announced that she had been examining the issue of “trans ideology” and had decided it was a bad idea and she was coming out as opposed to it.
I didn’t have much to say about it, since I knew nothing about it, didn’t even know it was a thing, and didn’t know any trans people either. But Feminist Current began running more articles by or about trans ”women”. So I was getting an education, and I saw pretty early on that it was crazy.
I then joined a local feminist group, Women’s Space Vancouver, which had just started up in response to a kerfuffle about Meghan Murphy speaking at a library here. As a consequence of joining that group, I heard about SOGI 123 in BC schools, and decided to write something about it. SOGI means sexual orientation and gender ideology as most of you probably know. They mesh them together and pretend they’re all one thing. It was pervasive in BC schools.
By that time I had joined twitter and frequently saw posts by Jennifer Bilek. So I did this terribly bold thing, and direct messaged Jennifer to ask if she knew about any links between Arcus, the “philanthropic” foundation in the US, and the ARC Foundation which had created and was disseminating SOGI 123.
She replied with lots of links for me to look at, and said she was trying to start an international “follow the money” website and would I like to join?
AND THAT’S WHAT STARTED IT ALL – my new life as a political activist, and what would become the feminist news website GENDER DISSENT.
Jennifer suggested that if I could find a few other people to join me -- she was having zoom meetings with some British women -- we could join. So I sent out, in whatever way I could, a request for anybody who might be interested in joining me. A member of the Canadian Women’s Sex Based Rights group (caWsbar) answered me, and she found a number of other caWsbar members who expressed an interest. So we ended up with about half a dozen women, scattered across the country, and started having weekly zoom meetings. And we joined Jennifer’s international zoom meetings with British and Irish women.
This all started for me in 2015. And in 2015 we had a federal election and after about 8 years of conservative government, the liberals won – headed by a young photogenic son of a previous liberal Prime Minister. He had almost no political experience, but the liberals were pretty desperate to find someone who would appeal to voters.
Very shortly after taking office, he brought in Bill C-16, adding gender identity and gender expression to the Human Rights Code, and making some provisions for them to be included in the category of hate crimes in criminal legislation.
No one had voted for this. It was not visibly on their platform. Our farther left party, the New Democrats, had been trying to get such a bill passed for years, but were unsuccessful while we had a conservative party in power. Justin Trudeau allowed the NDP to put this forward as a private members bill. Usually private members bill from opposition parties go nowhere. Under Trudeau’s leadership this one passed. It remains a question – if he was so proud of this Bill, why did he allow a member of the opposition to put it forward?
So in 2017, Jody Wilson-Raybould, the then Minister of Justice -- who is a member of two marginalized groups, women and indigenous people -- was chosen to be the “puppet front” for Bill C16.
Canada also has the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (created in the 1980’s by Trudeau’s father, former PM Pierre Eliott Trudeau, where sex remains a protected characteristic, and “gender identity” has not been added to that.) Despite the Charter, within four years, the government has redefined “woman”. It now defines woman as “anyone who claims to be one”. Statistics Canada lists crimes by males who call themselves women as women’s crimes. Newspapers follow suit. We now have men in women’s prisons, DV shelters, and sports. Children are being indoctrinated in schools. And the government is spending millions to deepen that indoctrination.
We believe the Charter is being violated. Bill C16 has been used as a platform for “self-id”, even though or maybe because it doesn’t define its terms. But just today I read a post from @justDad7 detailing his research into how self-id came to be the way things are. It happened in the provinces, through Human Rights Tribunals, one man (who called himself a woman) at a time making a complaint of discrimination. It only takes one man.
From “How Canadian Parliamentarians used gender identity to destroy women’s rights” (Blue Jay):
“Once the CHRA and Criminal Code were changed, policies across the federal government started changing. Notably, the federal agency formerly called Status of Women was renamed to Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) in 2018.“
Here is what they say on the website: “Women and Gender Equality Canada works to advance equality with respect to sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression through the inclusion of people of all genders, including women, in Canada’s economic, social, and political life”.
So, women have been removed as a sex class, and are now one among any number of genders.
So that was the context that was unfolding as half a dozen of us were meeting weekly to talk about starting up an international news website. Some of us started writing articles in anticipation. But by August, Jennifer had decided that the international website wasn’t feasible. For the moment she didn’t have an alternative plan.
But we had articles ready to be published, and a new election on the horizon. So we decided to start our own website, and thanks to one of our members, Blue Jay, we had that site up and running in 3 weeks flat. (Blue Jay had no prior web building experience). Another of our members with design experience, Tania, created our logo and we were up with 10 days to spare before the election.
Now I would like to show you our website. We have articles on government power and influence and articles on financial power and influence.
We immediately published a two-part series on the history of Bill C16 and its predecessors (this was written by Blue Jay). We wanted Canadians to have access to that information before they voted. I would like to draw your attention to that photo. That is Justin Trudeau “holding” Jody Wilson-Raybould. Have you ever seen such an image in the world of politics? This is not a picture of the leader of a country and one of his most important ministers. This is some really weird shit.
Tania also created a twitter account for us. And we now have a Facebook Page.
We try to post two new articles every two weeks – divided into investigative journalism, and resistance column. There is much to investigate, since all this has been accomplished in stealth. But the news is so bad that I believe we also need to give Canadians hope, and help them see that we don’t have to simply lie down and take it. We can resist. We are resisting. So we find and publish examples of that. And maybe they will inspire other women and their male allies to engage in their own acts of resistance.
And we are soliciting more people to write for us.
Women’s voices are being ignored and silenced in Canada. We have a national public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) which only runs stories favorable to men who claim to be women -- sob stories that paint them as harmless victims of … I don’t know what … gender? Online they give their platform to men who have proclaimed that they were actually women, somehow, a mere year ago. And they block women’s replies. The rest of the media is almost as bad.
I would like to conclude by saying that since 2016 there has been a resurgence of feminism as a movement in Canada. Numerous women’s groups have sprung up – caWsbar, Women Matter Canada, We the Females, Alberta Rad Fems, Women’s Space Vancouver, to mention a few. Plus young women are starting journalism careers to advocate for women’s rights. I’m thinking of April Halley and Anna Slatz, and our own Eva Kurilova. I’m not sure that this could have happened without the development of a platform like Zoom. We are such a big country, and we are spread out all over the place. We have only a few large cities. To really launch a war against gender ideology, we need to connect with women from all provinces and territories.
Most of these groups are filled with women without long histories of feminist activism. Some would not even define themselves as feminist, but just as gender critical. We are mostly newbies and we are having to find our way pretty much from scratch. I think the feminist movement will be different from those that have come before. Women are united by a new appreciation of how important it is that we are recognized as a sex class, which includes a recognition of the importance of biology. We are stressing the importance of women’s role as givers of life in contrast to the second wave, which was stressing the other roles that women could aspire to.
And our opponents are a different kind of man, not the old fashioned patronizing misogynists, coddled by wives and daughters, but disaffected men, often bitter men who have been abandoned by women, incels, porn-soaked men. Men whose lives have been – they believe – diminished by women refusing to live their lives for them. Men who believe that if a man denies his manhood, he deserves what they think of as the “perks” of womanhood, primarily the right to be objectified. This class of men is a harsher opponent.
And what we’re all discovering is that despite our entries into the public realm, the status of women has not changed nearly as much as we thought. Some of us are having to overcome our shock to find the contempt we are held in, and our inability to be heard.
Gender Dissent is a place for our voices to be exercised. Loudly.
You can listen to the talk here.