The Perception of Power

In the recent HBO mini-series Chernobyl, there is a line uttered by Mikhail Gorbachev that, in the series, is used in a very throwaway manner, but is actually one of the most powerful statements in the whole historical context. In recent times, I find that the Gender Critical movement is subject to the same statement:

“Our power comes from the perception of our power”

Mikhail Gorbachev as played in the HBO/Sky Series Chernobyl, with the powerful line.

The historical context here is that by 1986, the Soviet Union was already in a state of collapse. Gorbachev himself even later stated that Chernobyl was probably the straw that broke the Soviet Union’s back, and led to it’s ultimate demise.

The USSR kept up the pretence of being a world power, and by doing so, actually was a world power. Behind the scenes Soviet Socialism was failing drastically and quality of life was dropping like a stone, but the USSR kept up the pretence so as to appear to be the powerful state they needed to appear.

The Gender Critical Superpower

It turns out, that the Gender Critical mass isn’t actually as powerful as they pretend to be. They are more like a small group with very powerful megaphones, with the UK media not noticing it’s the megaphones that make their voices loud, not their numbers.

To give them credit, the Gender Critical mass is more organised that they might seem at first glance. Their activities are co-ordinated around being in the right place at the right time.

For example, if a government is considering trans rights legislation, then Gender Critical transphobes will turn up to protest, generally in numbers of around 30–40 people. Hardly a massive movement.

However, the quantity is not the intention here, but rather the timing — such a debate is bound to gather media attention, and so Gender Critical gets its moment in the spotlight.

In reality, Gender Critical is an incredibly minority. Recently, the user @galactic_potato on twitter found that for all of the Trending activity around Gender Critical topics, there was actually few accounts involved.

Twitter user @galactic_potato highlights how Gender Critical twitter users manipulate the platform to get topics of a transphobic nature Trending.

The thread is well worth a read, but essentially it comes down to manipulating how twitter works to make a topic seem more active than it actually is. It has been estimated that Gender Critical twitter accounts number somewhere in the low thousands, with estimates between 2,000 and 4,000 users.

Now obviously, twitter statistics are an unreliable measure of the popularity of a topic, the but point here is that even 4,000 odd accounts all tweeting at once should struggle to get a single topic trending. The point is the perception of power, rather than actual power.

The Echo Chamber

The problem with bigots is that they are blind to the realities of exactly how popularity of topics exist. A bigoted person does not want to believe they could be wrong; this is a human trait that has existed in multiple forms for millennia. In fact, most bigotries are rooted in religious fundamentalism that adherents are simply unwilling to acknowledge might not actually be completely true.

Bigots then surround themselves with bigots, and reject any information or evidence that suggests they’re in the wrong, giving them the perfect insular bubble in which to claim that “everybody agrees with them”. Certainly, when your definition of “everybody” only includes those that agree with you, it is most definitely correct to state that everybody agrees with you.

However, actual polling of an objectively neutral manner shows that the views of the echo chamber do not reflective the views of the populace.

Twitter user @joss_prior has posted the following graphs from YouGov poll data:

YouGov poll data showing that most people in the UK support self-id for access to gendered spaces.
YouGov poll data showing that most people in the UK agree that self-id is a good thing for trans people.

So it would seem that the Gender Critical movement is outnumbered and outvoted. Why then do they hold sway?

The Media Collaborators

The UK media is well known for its transphobic leanings. They can be easily qualified as Gender Critical in its purest definitions: the means of being transphobic without seeming to be transphobic.

Gender Critical owes a lot to the #MeToo movement. Following the allegations against Hollywood personality Harvey Weinstein, millions of women across the world shared their stories of harassment, often of a sexual nature, at the hands of powerful men — particularly those who would use that sexual harassment to withhold advancement from their victims.

#MeToo continues to be a massive movement to empower women to fight the injustices of this nature, and it absolutely to be supported and commended. But what the Gender Criticals have done is make use of the anger that #MeToo has generated to garner sympathy for their false cause.

Consider this particular snippet of Gender Critical activity:

A Gender Critical user on twitter posts a video from STV (an ITV region) showing supporters of Marion Millar protesting against trans rights. Used under Fair Use laws for the purpose of commentary.

If you think the costumes on the Gender Criticals are bizarre, then you’re not alone. They are supposedly dressed as handmaids, a reference to Margaret Atwood’s book A Handmaid’s Tale. Indeed, “Handmaiden [sic]” is often used by Gender Criticals to malign any cisgender women who support trans rights.

What is happening in the video is that supporters of Marion Millar, are gathering outside the Scottish Parliament to protest trans rights. The video presents this as a feminist issue: the language is that of women’s rights, and follows the emotive language of the #MeToo movement: that women should not be subservient to men.

And this is true; nobody should be subservient to anybody in general society, but trans rights doesn’t call for that. Once again, it’s forcing the narrative that trans women are just men, and then attacking anybody who accepts otherwise. But the message itself is the issue here: the language that seeks to extend the anger against men from the #MeToo movement to be against trans women for daring to assert themselves as women, is very clear.

STV does not critique this for a moment, nor do they do any research into the claims specified. As far as they present it, this is a women’s issue. Women are once again being silenced. The march for women’s rights must continue, etc. And not a moment is spent asking “hang on, are you actually being honest here?”

I can’t actually comment on the nature of Marion Millar’s behaviour itself, as it’s still an ongoing criminal case and she is set to stand trial. Suffice to say, she is most definitely not an innocent party here, even going by the charge sheet.

Conclusion

This is the Gender Critical movement’s “Perception of Power” moment. Not actual popularity, or actions that have effect. Ann Sinnott’s attempt to have trans rights overturned was chucked out of court like the garbage it is. The world saw Laurel Hubbard (disappointingly) prove that trans women do not dominate women’s sports. The population of the UK supports self-id and accepts trans women in women’s spaces*.

The perception of power is keeping up the social media manipulation and UK media manipulation so as to appear relevant. However, as we approach the end of 2021, and as I write this, the Bell v Tavistock cruel ruling has been overturned, returning healthcare to thousands of trans kids, I find that Gender Critical has run out of steam.

All the arguments are now spent. They been disproven, chucked out of court and laughed at. It’s time to file Gender Critical where it belongs: the same place we filed QAnon, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, chemtrail obsessives, 5G protestors, and all the other cranks that make the UK a cesspit of discussion.

* INB4: Gender Criticals are quick to say “Yes, but but but but when you tell them that trans women still have their [eggplant]s, they change their mind!” — well, actually they don’t. A lot of this is based on the false declaration that almost every trans woman has a penis which is simply not true:

“80–95% of trans women keep their genitals” — by Gemma Stone

Also, the poll was commissioned by a transphobic group, where the question was specifically framed to incite the idea of sexual assault.

Those who have read my articles from the start, will know this is the Staniland Tactic.

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A nerd, software engineer and trans woman, fed up with the lies pushed by the so-called Gender Critical movement. Also on Mastodon: @GellmanRebecca@home.social

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Rebecca Gellman

A nerd, software engineer and trans woman, fed up with the lies pushed by the so-called Gender Critical movement. Also on Mastodon: @GellmanRebecca@home.social