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  • Kelly Green

Of Terfs, Truth and Propaganda

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

by Kelly Green

I visited the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton a couple of days ago, where they happened to be having their annual Holocaust Memorial exhibit. Much of this year’s focus was on the uses and effectiveness of propaganda in persuading a population to believe and do things that ordinary humans, in ordinary circumstances, would find unthinkable.

A poster caught my eye. It showed a small man with a large hooked nose, wearing a top hat, an enormous finger pointed at him, with the words Der ist schuld am Kriege (The war is his fault) printed in large letters above his head.

The man is, of course, a Jew, and this poster was one of thousands of propaganda vehicles designed to persuade ordinary Germans that Jewish people were foreign, shifty, and responsible for all of Germany’s troubles, both domestically and abroad.

This propaganda was remarkably effective, even though it was based on horrific lies and prejudices. And we all know what happened. Eventually, truth and a commitment to human dignity and equality defeated this particular prejudice, but only after millions were murdered. Millions of families and their descendants experienced and continue to experience trauma as a result of this propaganda and the crimes it encouraged to this day.

But the reason this particular poster struck me was because I had seen a similar graphic in just the last few weeks. The New Zealand Herald had run a cartoon by Rod Emmerson of an enormous male hand, index finger bedecked with a long, painted fingernail and pointing at a tiny, fat blonde woman holding a megaphone.

The woman, of course, is meant to be women’s rights campaigner Kellie-Jay Keen, who was mobbed, assaulted, and feared for her life during a “Let Women Speak” event she attempted to hold in New Zealand.

When I first saw the cartoon, I couldn’t quite figure out what the point was. At first glance, it seemed an obvious statement about the enormity of patriarchy, and the power of large males over smaller females. But then, when I looked again, and took in the fingernail, I thought, wait, no, I think the cartoonist is saying something else. I think he is trying to say that this tiny, obnoxious (in his mind) female, will ultimately be crushed by the enormous righteous fist of “trans” whatever. Then I finally got around to reading the text bubble: Your TERF propaganda is not welcome here.

As Keen herself said, this turned out to be a ridiculous own goal. Because what immediately strikes the viewer of the cartoon is exactly the point that Keen makes, repeatedly, at her “Let Women Speak” events. Women have no voice. We are not allowed to speak. We are not allowed to express our concerns about how allowing men to “identify” as women and to create fictitious legal documents that deny biological reality, has an effect on vulnerable women and children. When women like Keen attempt to give women a platform, men like the creator of this cartoon accuse them of spreading propaganda.

And so we have been driven out of doors, into the streets, into the parks, to gather as we are able, to speak to each other. And even then, if the angry young men find out about our attempts to speak to each other in public, they come and bang drums and scream and, in some cases, assault the often smaller and older women who are trying to share their thoughts and experiences with each other.

Kellie has to use her megaphone, because women have no other means of communication. Media won’t listen to us. The elite male groups that own these organs stand to profit from this horrific ideology that erases women, our language and our sex-based rights and protections. Women have begged journalists to turn their attention to the fact that children, often children who don’t conform to sex-role stereotypes, and who might grow up to be gay or lesbian, are being treated as experimental guinea pigs, their families forced to administer powerful drugs that may stunt their brain development, weaken their bones and hearts, shorten their lives, and render them infertile.

Propaganda. Another irony I considered during this exhibition was that women who protest this denial of reality are often likened to actual Nazis. Media organizations often encourage this by asserting that such women are “right wing” or “alt right.” When some individuals dressed in black shorts appeared near one of Keen’s “Let Women Speak” events in Australia and proceeded to give a Nazi salute, the Australian media immediately conflated Keen’s event with the presence of these representatives of the National Socialist Movement.

Keen denies having any right-wing associations, and there is no evidence that she has any. But many women who have attempted to stand up for women’s rights and protections, and who have protested the mutilation and sterilization of children via “gender affirming” medical practice, have been tarred with the same brush.

So back to those real Nazis, and the question of propaganda, and whether we can see any parallels to our situation today.

We all know the old saying, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes.” Marginalized groups who are persecuted, who are they today? One narrative says that “trans people” have always been with us and are just now being allowed to appear as their authentic selves, and live their lives as they choose, with the assistance of modern medical practice. Anyone who doesn’t agree that “trans women are women” is a bigot and a transphobe. “Trans children” must be given “lifesaving” treatment or they will commit suicide.

The problem is that the evidence doesn’t support the narrative. Because there are no credible studies to support such treatment for vulnerable children who may not conform to sex stereotypes, or who may be swept up in a social contagion, or who may have co-morbidities, many countries (Sweden, France, Finland and the UK) have backed off on the “gender affirming” medical model, and are returning to sensible treatments like talk therapy. Others, however, (such as Canada) keep steaming ahead, and administering puberty blockers to very young children, despite the risks of these powerful drugs. To hell with evidence. We don’t need any stinking evidence.

The other narrative is that there is no such thing as “gender identity.” You cannot change reality, and human beings, who are sexed beings in every cell of our bodies, cannot change sex. Women are smaller and more vulnerable than men, on average, and must have protections from male violence. Hence the need for single sex spaces. Children deserve to arrive at adulthood with intact bodies and should not be the subjects of medical experimentation. The push for acceptance of the “transgender” fiction does not come from a marginalized group, but rather from well-funded organizations, created by billionaires, some of whom themselves appear to have particular sexual fetishes, and would benefit from societal acceptance of the fiction. Not to mention the profits to be made by corporations that they are part of!

Which narrative holds more truth? Which one is supported by propaganda rather than facts and evidence? Which groups are actually the marginalized? The ones who own the mainstream media outlets and the social media platforms? The ones who have managed to stop women speaking in virtually every possible way, who have forced us to resort to meetings in public parks, and secret online groups?

I observed that Rod Emmerson’s cartoon had a heading: Standing with the Spirit of Georgina Beyer. I didn’t know what that meant, so I looked up Georgina Beyer. It turns out that Beyer, who died in March of this year and was born George Bertrand in 1957, was the first New Zealand MP and Mayor to claim a transgender identity. While he was an outspoken proponent for “trans rights,” he also stated, in a 2018 interview, that trans activists could be less adversarial. If that was indeed his spirit, it did not communicate itself to the men who assaulted Keen and other women who attended her event in Auckland.

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