Ofmargaret, Subjugation of Women by Women
by Collin Wynter
Pregnant bodies. If this sounds dehumanizing or misogynistic, you are not alone. The Toronto Star recently published an op-ed: Why can’t we say ‘woman’ anymore?, whichquestions the use of such terminology. The piece discusses the trend of replacing the word woman, when speaking about the female physiology. For instance, terms such as “bodies with vaginas” and “birthing people” have been used by the medical journal, The Lancet, and a British maternity ward respectively. Notably, this does not appear to occur with male anatomy or physiology.
It should come as no surprise then, when Margaret Atwood, author of the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, tweeted the Star article. In her novel, Atwood describes a world wherein extreme religious fervour has culminated in strict protocols around the female body and reproduction. The story is told from a first person perceptive, that of Offred, whose fertility places her in the position of being a handmaid. Essentially, the role of a surrogate and slave. One may also notice the amalgamation: Of-fred. A way to denote the subjugation of women by men.
The twitter mob attempted to lambast Atwood. One user claimed that: “[n]o one is banning the word “woman.” And that “[i]t’s not an attack on womanhood to NOT equate gender with specific biology.”
Coming to Atwood’s defence was self described trans woman Jessica Triff. In her op-ed for the CBC, Trans rights? Yes. Toxic, in-your-face activism? No, she decries the censorship and de-platforming women experience in the name of so called “trans rights activism”:
“What I don’t believe in is some of the new, more radical, and in my view more toxic forms of activism that have sprung up over the last decade.”
She considers the attacks upon Atwood, among others, to be appalling.
The Atwood Defence
Atwood tweeted Triff’s article, but this did not appease the social justice zealots. Subsequently, she posted a Scientific American article that provided a ‘new’ perspective on sex and gender, along with a video that was critical of JK Rowling’s response to the Maya Forstater affair.
The Scientific American piece, entitled The New Science of Sex and Gender, makes a false statement that sex and gender are on a spectrum rather than a binary. They misconstrue that females and males born with additional chromosomes are indicative of a blended physiology. At one point, they evoke Chinese metaphysics as proof:
“New evidence suggests that the brain consists of a “mosaic” of cell types, some more yin, others further along the yang scale.”
Colin Wright, an evolutionary biologist, has attempted to clear up the confusion surrounding this in Quillette. He lays out a pertinent demonstration that sex is a binary:
“Not only is biological sex a clinically significant factor in medicine, in many cases it is among the most important factors that a patient presents—even putting aside such obvious examples as prostate and uterine cancer, which afflict only males or females respectively.”
While Debra Soh, former academic sexologist and author of The End of Gender, provides reasonable facts surrounding the biological basis of gender and why it is acceptable to be a gender non-conforming person. Included in her writing is the danger of ideology driving the narrative:
“Activist organizations have managed to infect much of the information that is available relating to both gender and biological sex. Any research studies that are not in agreement with this agenda are ignored as though they never existed.”
The hour long video mentioned above was shared by Atwood in an apparent attempt to curry favour. In it, JK Rowling and Maya Forstater are maligned. (Fortstater is known for having faced and won a legal challenge over her gender critical beliefs. Rowling had come to her defence, and was condemned for it.) Commenting on this, Forstater pointed out that there were defamatory remarks included in the recording and expressed her “disappointment” that Atwood would post this.
Dripping With Irony…
This was not the first time Atwood posted the video. She has apparently done so at least two times prior. Nor was it the first time she positioned herself against Rowling. Atwood included her name in a letter is support of non-binary and trans persons. This came out immediately after Rowling’s gender critical views became known. Signed by 12,000 people, including Stephen King, it contained the monotone repetition:
“[N]on-binary people are non-binary, trans women are women, trans men are men, trans rights are human rights. Your pronouns matter. You matter. You are loved.” [emphasis added]
Ironically, Atwood previously signed the Harper’s Letter, which included Rowling as a signatory, against cancel culture and the threat to free speech. Focused on race and social justice the letter decries that:
“this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.”
Atwood appears to be another liberal minded person who has fallen for the trap set by the narrative of social justice scholarship. Believing in such ideals as diversity and inclusion are noble endeavours. However, when language is determined through the lens of activism, there is a requirement of “right” speak. Only through obeying the conventions of the woke can one hope to maintain a sense of recognition and acceptance. To go against the grain is unacceptable. Those with the gnostic understating of the ideology are the only ones who may steer the rudder. When one hands over their sense of identity, individualism is lost in favour of group think. This is the path of the handmaiden, Ofmargaret.