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Implicit Attitudes, Science, and Philosophy (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 12:03am in

“Philosophers, including myself, have for decades been too credulous about science, being misled by scientists’ marketing and ignoring the unavoidable uncertainties that affect the scientific process…”

The following is a guest post* by Edouard Machery, Distinguished Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the university’s Center for Philosophy of Science. It is the first in a series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.

[Anni Albers, “Intersection” (detail)]

Implicit Attitudes, Science, and Philosophy
by Edouard Machery

How can we be responsible and savvy consumers of science, particularly when it gives us morally and politically pleasing narratives? Philosophers’ fascination with the psychology of attitudes is an object lesson.

Some of the most exciting philosophy in the 21st century has been done with an eye towards philosophically significant developments in science. Social psychology has been a reliable source of insights: consider only how much ink has been spilled on situationism and virtue ethics or on Greene’s dual-process model of moral judgment and deontology.

That people can have, at the same time, perhaps without being aware of it, two distinct and possibly conflicting attitudes toward the same object (a brand like Apple, an abstract idea like capitalism, an individual like Obama, or a group such as the elderly or women philosophers) is one of the most remarkable ideas to come from social psychology: in addition to the attitude we can report (usually called “explicit”), people can harbor an unconscious attitude that influences behavior automatically (their “implicit” attitude)—or so we were told. We have all grown familiar with (and perhaps now we have all grown tired of) the well-meaning liberal who unbeknownst to them harbors negative attitudes toward some minority or other: women or African Americans, for instance.

While it was first discussed in the late 2000s—Tamar Gendler discussed the Implicit Association Test in her papers on aliefs and Dan Kelly, Luc Faucher, and I discussed how implicit attitudes bear on issues in the philosophy of race—this idea crystallized as an important philosophical topic through the series of conferences Implicit Bias & Philosophy, organized by Jennifer Saul in the early 2010s at Sheffield. This conference series led to two groundbreaking volumes edited by Michael Brownstein and Jennifer Saul (Implicit Bias and Philosophy, Volumes 1 and 2, Oxford University Press). By then, philosophers’ fascination with implicit attitudes was in sync with the obsession with the topic in the society at large: implicit attitudes were discussed in dozens of articles and open-eds in the New York Times, by then President Obama, and by Hilary Clinton during her presidential campaign. We were lectured to be on the lookout for our unconscious prejudices by deans and provosts, well-paid consultants on “debiasing,” and journalists.

Most remarkable is the range of areas of philosophy that engaged with implicit attitudes. Here is a small sample:

  • Moral philosophy: Can people be held responsible for their implicit attitudes?
  • Social and political philosophy: Should social inequalities be explained by means of structural/social or psychological factors?
  • Metaphysics of mind: What kind of things are attitudes? How to think of beliefs in light of implicit attitudes?
  • Philosophy of cognitive science: Are implicit attitudes propositional or associations?
  • Epistemology: How should implicit bias impact our trust in our own faculties?

The social psychology of implicit attitudes in philosophy had also another kind of impact: it provided a ready explanation of women’s embarrassing underrepresentation and of the perduring inequalities between men and women philosophers. Jennifer Saul published a series of important articles on this theme, including “Ranking Exercises in Philosophy and Implicit Bias” in 2012 and “Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat, and Women in Philosophy” in 2013. In the first article, after summarizing “what we know about implicit bias” (my emphasis), Saul concluded her discussion of the Philosophical Gourmet Report as follows:

There is plenty of room for implicit bias to detrimentally affect rankings of both areas and whole departments. However, it seems to me that this worry is much more acute in the case of whole department rankings. With that in mind, I offer what is sure to be a controversial suggestion: abandon the portion of the Gourmet Report that asks rankers to evaluate whole departments.

The British Philosophical Association was receptive to explaining gender inequalities in philosophy by means of implicit biases and to this day implicit attitudes are mentioned on its website. Of course, by doing so, philosophers were just following broader social trends in English-speaking countries.

Looking back, it is hard not to find this enthusiasm puzzling since the shortcomings of the scientific research on implicit attitudes have become glaring. In “Anomalies in Implicit Attitudes Research,” recently published in WIREs Cognitive Science, I have identified four fundamental shortcomings, which are still not addressed after nearly 25 years of research:

  • It isn’t yet clear whether the indirect measurement of attitudes (via, e.g., the IAT) and their direct measurement measure different things; in fact, it seems increasingly dubious that we need to postulate implicit attitudes in addition to explicit attitudes.
  • The indirect measurement of attitudes predicts individuals’ behavior very poorly, and it isn’t clear under what conditions their predictive power can be improved.
  • Indirect measures of attitudes are temporally unstable.
  • There is no evidence that whatever it is that indirect measures of attitudes happen to measure causally impact behavior.

These four shortcomings should lead us to question whether the concept of indirect attitudes refers to anything at all (or as psychologists or philosophers of science put it, to question its construct validity). To my surprise, leading researchers in this area such as psychologist Bertram Gawronski and philosophers Michael Brownstein and Alex Madva agree with the main thrust of my discussion (see “Anomalies in Implicit Attitudes Research: Not so Easily Dismissed”): indirect measures of attitudes do not measure stable traits that predict individuals’ behavior.

It thus appears that many of the beliefs that motivated philosophical discussion of implicit attitudes are either erroneous or scientifically uncertain—why worry about how to limit the influence of implicit attitudes in philosophy when they might not have any influence on anything at all?—and that philosophers have been way too quick to reify measures (the indirect measures of attitudes) into psychological entities (implicit attitudes).

Hindsight is of course 20/20, and it would be ill-advised to blame philosophers (including my former self) for taking seriously science in the making. On the other hand, philosophers failed to even listen and a fortiori to give a fair hearing to the dissenting voices challenging the relentless hype by implicit-attitudes cheerleaders. The lesson is not limited to implicit attitudes: the neuroscience of meditation, the neuroscience of oxytocin, the so-called love molecule, the experimental research on epigenetics in humans, and the research on gene x environment interaction in human genetics also come to mind.

Philosophers, including myself, have for decades been too credulous about science, being misled by scientists’ marketing and ignoring the unavoidable uncertainties that affect the scientific process: the frontier of science is replete with unreplicable results, it is affected by hype and exaggeration (COVID researchers, I am looking at you!), and its course is shaped by deeply rooted cognitive and motivational biases. In fact, we should be particularly mindful of the uncertainty of science when it appears to provide a simple explanation for, and promises a simple solution to, the moral, social, and political ills that we find repugnant such as the underrepresentation of women in philosophy and elsewhere and enduring racial inequalities in the broader society.


25 Afghan Men Claiming Asylum in UK on Sexuality Grounds Refused Since 2017

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

An investigation by Sian Norris with the Byline Intelligence Team explores the vulnerability of LGBTIQ people looking for a safe home in Britain


A total of 25 men seeking asylum in the UK from Afghanistan on the grounds of sexuality had their claims refused after the Home Office updated its guidance in 2017 to say it was safe for LGBTIQ people to live in the country if they did not “seek to cause public outrage”.

A Freedom of Information request by the Byline Intelligence Team found that, while 25 people were refused asylum, none had been subsequently deported. 

The data provided covered refusals between 1 February 2017 and 31 December 2020, and returns between 1 February 2017 and 30 June 2021. 

The revelation comes as LGBTIQ and migrant rights activists have expressed concerns about the Government’s plan to send people seeking asylum in the UK who travel via 'irregular' routes to Rwanda, where they will be able to claim asylum.

Rwanda’s record on LGBTIQ rights has been criticised. The Government’s own record on LGBTIQ rights has also been under fire in recent months, with it having to cancel the first ever global Safe To Be Me conference after 100 rights organisations announced that they would boycott the event. 

In 2017, then Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that gay Afghans could be returned to their home country, despite the LGBTIQ community facing legal and social discrimination. 

Even after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, Home Office guidance from October 2021 said that deporting LGBTIQ Afghans presents “no real risk of harm”, although the Government stopped enforcing returns to the country following the UK’s withdrawal. 

Previous Home Office guidance recognised that while LGBTIQ Afghan people were at risk from their families, the country’s laws and insurgent Taliban forces, “a practising gay man who, on return to Kabul, would not attract or seek to cause public outrage, would not face a real risk of persecution”.

This suggested an expectation that gay people should hide their sexuality in order to survive in Afghanistan – and appeared to contradict a 2010 Supreme Court ruling which stated that "to compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is”.

Sarah Cope, who runs a support group for LGBTIQ women seeking asylum called Rainbow Sisters, told Byline Times that refusals for people claiming asylum on the basis of sexuality are often linked to a lack of understanding of LGBTIQ people’s experiences.  

“Many of the women we work with are from countries where being gay or transgender is criminalised, and so they have not had a chance to live openly, to have a relationship and so on,” Cope said. “They might not even have told anyone about their sexuality. But the Home Office expects everyone to be out and proud and going to gay bars and on dating apps, and that people will come to court to testify they have been in a relationship with the claimant.”

Cope also said that sexuality is not dependent on being in a relationship, and yet LGBTIQ people seeking asylum are often disbelieved because they are single or have had a partner.

“It seems like if you’re not in a relationship with a person of the same sex, then your identity isn’t really valid, you’re not really gay,” she told Byline Times. “If someone was straight, you wouldn’t say they don’t have a sexuality because they aren’t in a relationship.”

Last October, 29 LGBTIQ Afghans arrived in the UK. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office stated: “The UK is playing a world-leading role in supporting the departure of persecuted Afghans from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”



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The Global Picture

Between 2015 and 2020, a total of 10,230 people claimed asylum in the UK on the basis of sexuality. Of these, more than half (6,078) were refused. 

Appeals were lodged in 5,379 of the decisions, and 3,045 appeals were dismissed. 

“People are told they can relocate, go and live in a different part of the country from where they came from to avoid discrimination,” said Sarah Cope, explaining what happens when a claim is refused. “But first of all, if there are no safe places in your home country, the same issues are going to rise up again and again.”

LGBTIQ women experience specific barriers, Cope added.

“They may be from countries where women don’t have a lot of power," she said. "A female stranger who arrives in a new part of a country may face questions about why she is there and where she came from before. She may be questioned about being single. There’s a real cultural blindness about the issues LGBTIQ women may experience when forcibly returned.”

She also warned how a lack of understanding of trauma from the Home Office can lead to people having their claim refused. 

“If a claimant’s story has any inconsistencies then that becomes a reason to reject them,” she told this newspaper. “If you’re recovering from trauma, which many of these women are, then you might struggle to recall or express certain things that have happened.

"A lot of people claiming asylum on the basis of their sexuality may also have had bad experiences with state forces and the police in the home country, meaning they find the Home Office interviews very difficult.”

The majority of people claiming asylum on the basis of sexuality were from Pakistan (2,450) and Nigeria (898). A total of 624 people claimed asylum on the basis of sexuality from Uganda, along with 1,084 people from Bangladesh, and 511 from Iran. 

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.





Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.




OUP Responds to Letter Regarding Gender-Critical Feminism Book

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/04/2022 - 3:59am in

Oxford University Press (OUP) has responded to an open letter circulated earlier this month (the first letter covered in this post) that voiced concerns about its decision to publish next month a book about gender-critical feminism by philosophy professor Holly Lawford-Smith (Melbourne).

The letter, signed by David Clark, Managing Director of Academic Publications for OUP, replied to questions raised in the letter about the review process Lawford-Smith’s book underwent:

Every academic title published by OUP is assessed by the Delegates of the Press, and undergoes a rigorous review process to ensure the quality of the scholarship we publish. This book is no exception. It was thoroughly reviewed, including a round of supplementary reviews with experts in particular areas. Due to the confidential nature of the process, we cannot share details of who those reviewers were, but we trust them to have reached balanced judgements based on their expertise.

Clark notes the contentiousness of the topic, and frames OUP’s role as one of facilitating academic discussion of it:

We recognize that there is considerable and passionate debate about some of the positions held by gender critical feminists and their perspectives on a variety of issues. We are confident that Gender Critical Feminism offers a serious and rigorous academic representation of this school of feminist thought. As you rightly state, we have also published other titles on topics such as transgender rights and tackling prejudice, to further contribute to academic debate. We will continue to represent a wide range of feminist philosophy in our publishing and a wide range of books on philosophy and gender, featuring authors who are trans and gender non-conforming.

He adds that OUP’s decision to publish any particular work is not thereby an endorsement of the views defended therein:

I would also like to clarify that the Press does not advocate through its publications for any particular views, political positions, or ideologies. Equally, what we publish is not reflective of—nor influenced by—the personal views of our employees.

I appreciate that what I have said may not address all of your concerns, but I hope you can see that our mission—and our commitment to publishing a breadth of views and perspectives to inspire academic debate—continue to guide our work, as they have since we were first founded.

The whole letter is below:

UPDATE – My two cents: This letter seems mostly like the right kind of response. Not all publishers aim for a kind of neutral facilitation of quality-controlled inquiry but OUP and most other academic presses do, and I think that’s a valuable role that Clark is right to call attention to and rely on in his explanation of the decision. I imagine that Clark’s assurances about the review process the manuscript underwent will be doubted by OUP’s critics. Such doubt will be encouraged, I suspect, by Clark’s use of “balanced” to describe the desired judgments of the reviewers. Why not “sound” judgments or “informed” judgments or “reasonable” judgments? “Balanced” evokes worries that bothsidesism or other political considerations played too prominent a role in the decision. Or perhaps this was just an infelicitous word choice by Clark. One might have a better sense of what to think about that, and about the critics’ doubts, once the book is published.

Tolerating Intolerance: UK Military Failing its LGBTQ Personnel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 6:00pm in

Murray Jones reports on the Government’s failure to offer information on its acquiescence to the repressive rules of foreign militaries


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) allows gay and unmarried personnel to be barred from serving in foreign militaries, but refuses to reveal which ones, an investigation by the charity Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) for the Byline Intelligence Team can reveal.

Every year some 200 British troops serve abroad as ‘loan service personnel’ (LSP), often under the command of a foreign military. Around a-third of these are stationed in Oman, even wearing the Gulf nation’s uniform.

The Government claims that they are used for training other nations’ forces, but very little is known about their role. Host nations for British military personnel in the past 10 years include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Brunei, Nigeria and Kenya. 

However, a recent series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests has found that British military personnel who are considering to apply for Loan Service are told: 

“Applicants are to note that due to cultural and religious differences, a number of host nations will not accept single personnel, married unaccompanied personnel, personnel with same-sex partners or personnel with children from previous marriages with surnames that are different to that of the head of the family.”

A further FOI request asking for the names of these host nations was refused, as were other requests regarding the role, conduct, disciplinary action and uniform protocol of Loan Service personnel. They were rejected on the grounds that it would “adversely affect relations with our allies”.

An MoD spokesperson said: “The MoD is committed to being an inclusive employer and is proud to encourage diversity in the Armed Forces. However, where MoD personnel are deployed on Loan Service to support the UK’s operational objectives, they must adhere to the entry requirements and laws of the host nation. 

“Personnel who volunteer for a Loan Service tour may be subject to the laws of the host nation when not on duty and are required to consider the implications on them and their families.”

A Shortlist of Repression

Despite the MoD’s refusal to declare the names of host nations that restrict the backgrounds of foreign military personnel, likely candidates emerge when the strict anti-LGBT laws in a number of the applicable countries are considered.

In Oman – the largest destination for Loan Service personnel, with 65 personnel stationed there in July 2021 – consensual sex between two men is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment, although it is thought that prosecutions will only come from incidents that create a ‘public scandal’. 

In 2018, four men were arrested for posting a video of two of them cross-dressing. The two men in the video were sentenced to four years in prison, while the pair that had filmed and posted it online received a three-year sentence. 

Some consider Oman to be one of the more LGBT-friendly Gulf states, but when an Omani newspaper made this suggestion it was censored, forced to apologise and the editor was barred from leaving the country.

The UK has close ties to Oman. There is a permanent British naval base in Duqm, which is currently being tripled in size, as well as nearly 100 British military personnel typically loaned to the small Gulf state. 


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Oman’s police are trained and armed by the UK; exports of £17.9 million worth of tear and pyrotechnic ammunition were received by the autocratic state in the past five years. In May last year, Omani police used British-made tear gas to repress peaceful protests. 

The UK’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia also has long been questioned due to the Kingdom’s appalling human rights record, particularly its bombing of Yemen. When it comes to LGBT rights, this is no different. Same-sex sexual activity, as with all sex outside marriage, is outlawed with a maximum sentence of death. Last year, 35 British loan service personnel were based in Saudi Arabia. 

Kenya similarly has very close ties with the UK military.

The British Army Training Unit Kenya hosts thousands of UK troops every year for large exercises in extreme weather conditions. Last year, it received a £70 million refurbishment. 

According to the Human Dignity Trust, same-sex sexual activity in Kenya is prohibited under the Penal Code 1930, which criminalises acts of ‘gross indecency’ and ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’. These provisions carry a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. Only men are criminalised under this law.

The small Gulf state of Kuwait also hosts a deployment of 35 Loan Service personnel.

Homosexual activity is punishable in the state by up to seven years in prison. A court ruling in February overturned a law against ‘imitation of the opposite sex’ that was being used to prosecute transgender people. The appeal was sparked after Maha al-Mutairi, a transgender woman, was arrested after she posted videos online accusing police officers of raping and beating her during a seven-month period of detention in a men’s prison in 2019, after she was convicted under the discriminatory law. 

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people can seek asylum in the UK if they face persecution in their home country due to their sexual orientation. Between 2015 and 2020, there were more than 10,000 such applications. 2,956 were initially granted, with a further 1,875 allowed after appeal. In other words, there was a 47% success rate for these applications. 

After Pakistan and Bangladesh, Nigeria was the most common nationality of lesbian, gay and bisexual people seeking asylum during this period, with 898 applicants from the west African nation. Some 189 lesbian, gay and bisexual people also sought asylum from Kenya. 

In Nigeria, the maximum penalty for same sex sexual activity is 14 years’ imprisonment. The country’s laws criminalising ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’ and ‘gross indecency’ were inherited from the British during the colonial period, in which the English criminal law was imposed upon Nigeria.

Nigeria retained these provisions after independence, and further criminalised LGBT people through additional legislation.

British loan service personnel have maintained a consistent presence in Nigeria for more than a decade. 

The UK has been criticised for its stance towards repressive regimes – with Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently travelling to Saudi Arabia in an attempt to boost energy exports amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Responding to a question about the execution of three people by the Saudi state as he arrived in the Kingdom, Johnson said: “In spite of that news you’ve referred to today, things are changing in Saudi Arabia. We want to see them continue to change and that’s why we see value in engaging with Saudi Arabia and why we see value in the partnership.”

Despite the Prime Minister's rhetoric, circumstances do not seem to be changing quickly in the Kingdom, with its rulers continuing the brutality that led to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Iain Overton, executive director of AOAV, also leads the Byline Intelligence Team

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.





Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.





OUP’s Decision to Publish “Gender-Critical” Book Raises Concerns of Scholars and OUP Employees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/04/2022 - 4:45pm in

Two open letters are circulating regarding the decision of Oxford University Press to publish Gender-Critical Feminism, a forthcoming book by Holly Lawford-Smith, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Melbourne.One letter, posted by Eugenia Zuroski of McMaster University (who notes that it was “very much a collaborative effort”), is from “members of the international scholarly community with a relationship of some kind, or several kinds, to Oxford University Press,” including authors, reviewers, series and journal editors, translators, instructors who teach OUP’s books, and readers. In the letter they express their “profound disappointment” with OUP’s decision to publish the book. They note that they are not aiming to “censor ideas” and do not call for the decision to publish the book to be reversed.

Rather, they raise questions about the processes involved in the publication of the book, and call for OUP to answer those questions and take other measures (more on that below).

The authors are troubled by the book because, they write, “‘gender critical’ discourse attempts to deny transgender rights under the guise of scholarly inquiry,” and that it is

not a scholarly field, but a coordinated polemical intervention, unsubstantiated by peer-reviewed research in the fields of gender, sexuality, queer, and trans studies, that promotes itself by the deliberate sowing of public “controversy” without being held accountable for very real and dangerous consequences of these discourses for entire demographics of human beings.

They also note some of the things Lawford-Smith has said that make her, in their eyes, an “anti-trans-rights activist” involved in the “public mobilization of transphobic rhetoric and bigotry”:

In her public interviews and on her website, Lawford-Smith repeatedly describes trangender women as “men,” states that only transgender people have “gender identities” and that gender identities are not real, dismisses the transgender population as “fashionable,” and expresses support for conversion therapy, as well as other scientifically and ethically unconscionable views. Meanwhile, Lawford-Smith, through her YouTube channel and other outlets, has publicly dismissed gender-inclusive rhetoric as “propaganda” and maintained that the defense of biological sex is, in fact, a key rallying point of “gender-critical feminism.” Just last week, her home institution announced that it had to “counsel” her in response to a transphobic post on her social media account that ran “counter to the views and values of the University of Melbourne.”

They also refer to this episode.

They then turn to the editorial and publishing processes:

We are deeply concerned, based on our familiarity with the widely debunked tropes of “gender critical” discourse, that Lawford-Smith’s book promotes such distorted and unsubstantiated claims. Our previous experience with Oxford University Press leads us to wonder by what possible processes of in-house review, peer review, Editorial Board review, and even copyediting an entire book under the title “Gender-Critical Feminism” could have made its way to print. As it is being marketed under both Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities on the OUP website, in the fields of Philosophy, Politics, and Sociology and specifically in the interdisciplinary fields of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, we would expect a press of OUP’s reputation to incorporate the expertise of a wide range of specialists in feminist theory and gender and sexuality studies. Is this book positioned in productive conversation with, for example, OUP’s own recent Gender: What Everyone Needs to Know, and were its authors Laura Erickson-Schroth and Benjamin Davis, invited to participate as peer reviewers? Erickson-Schroth is also the editor of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource by and for Transgender Communities, a second edition of which is scheduled for publication in April. OUP has published the work of transgender authors in the past, and has connections to academic experts in this community should they choose to reach out. Especially given the direct invocation of trans studies in the title of Chapter 5, “Trans/Gender,” we would expect the due diligence of consultation with experts in that field, as well as rigorous copyediting by someone familiar with the editorial style guides developed by trans communities to ensure that published language does not reproduce forms of rhetorical violence directly connected to forms of systemic and material harm. Barring that, we might even simply ask, how is this text in alignment with OUP’s style guidelines for acceptable language, which asks authors to ensure that: “No form of language or expression has been used that could be interpreted by a reader as racist, sexist, derogatory of a particular religion or creed, or otherwise offensive?”

At the end of the letter, they turn to what they hope OUP will do:

We therefore request, as people whose names and intellectual labours are associated with Oxford University Press and its reputation, a clear and detailed account of what measures have been taken to ensure the scholarly quality of this forthcoming publication (while being mindful of the need to maintain reviewers’ anonymity), and what further steps the Press is taking to make itself accountable for the consequences of its publication should the book go forward to print. Measures the press could undertake to offset the harm done by the publication of this work might include soliciting and publishing trans-affirming scholarship by transgender authors, updating the house style guidelines to include specific guidance on language around transgender rights, donating a portion of the book’s profits to supporting transgender rights organizations, and/or developing editorial guidelines for the submission of works that challenge the human rights of any marginalized group. We recommend that these steps for accountability be undertaken in consultation with transgender rights activists and transgender scholars. We hope that this process can help guide OUP in editorial directions that affirm trangender peoples’ humanity and rights.

You can read the whole letter here.

The other letter is from people who are “Oxford University Press employees and authors.” In it, the letter writers say they are “asking management to reconsider their decision to publish this title.”

They write that

at a time when transgender rights are under attack, we believe that the publication of this book will embolden and legitimize the views of transphobes and contribute to the harm that is perpetrated against the trans community globally… We are asking OUP to prioritize the wellbeing of its trans employees, trans authors, and the trans community as a whole over the potential profit that this book may generate.

That letter is here.

(Comments are closed, at least for now, as much of today is full of teaching and meetings, and I have no time to moderate.)

UPDATE (4/12/22): Some have asked why this post does not include my opinion about these letters, and the boring answer is that I didn’t have time to write that part yet. Perhaps I will over the next few days. But briefly, regarding the first letter: it’s good that they’re not calling for the book not to be published, but still, it strikes me as the wrong kind of response to what we should acknowledge are real problems with current discourse surrounding the rights and treatment of trans persons (some of which are touched on in the letter). An important reason it’s the wrong kind of response is that the letter writers have not read the book they’re objecting to (even if they think they know what will be in the book, and even if they believe they have good evidence for that based on what I am sure is excruciating familiarity with a lot of public discourse on this topic and specific things Lawford-Smith has said). “But would people have to wait to read a book defending race-based slavery by someone who seems to be a racist before objecting to plans to publish it?” Good question. “But doesn’t that analogy ignore relevant differences between ‘defending race-based slavery’ and ‘defending ‘gender-critical’ views’?” Another good question. “Aren’t the letter writers just making sure proper procedures and review have been followed, which is something everyone wants?” Fair question. “But would such requests be prompted by plans to publish a book critical of ‘gender-critical’ views?” Not wholly unreasonable to ask… And so you can see why I haven’t had time to write the opinion part yet.

Boris Johnson is Fighting a ‘Culture War’ to Cling On to Power

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/04/2022 - 5:00pm in

The Prime Minister's divisive comments about trans people are part of a broader attempt to survive rising public anger with his Government, reports Adam Bienkov


Boris Johnson is in trouble. Anger over 'Partygate' is combining with frustration over soaring living costs to put the future survival of his Government at risk.

After 12 years in office, the Conservative Party is starting to fear that it could be entering the twilight years of its long dominance over UK politics.

Yet, like all great survivors, Johnson has a plan which he believes could turn things around. And that plan is to replace his losing political war with a winning 'culture war'.

The Prime Minister’s comments about trans sportspeople last week were the latest in a growing series of attempts to drive a wedge between his party and Labour on cultural issues in order to cling onto power.

Whether it’s university free speech, LGBT rights, statues, Black Lives Matter or lockdown laws, Johnson is increasingly attempting to make the big divide at the next election between a socially Conservative Government and a ‘woke’ opposition.

So far it has had limited success. A study by Kings College London and Ipsos Mori last year found that, while there had been an explosion of interest in these subjects in the British media, the general public hadn't taken the bait. The study found that British people were just as likely to see ‘woke’ as being a compliment as an insult, with a plurality of people unaware of what the term meant at all.

The Labour Party too has so far failed to take the bait, with Keir Starmer and his Shadow Cabinet concentrating instead on cost of living and other issues, which polls suggest the public are most concerned about.

Unlike in the US, where such cultural battles now form integral parts of the political identities of the two major parties, UK voters don't appear to yet be willing to head to the culture war frontline.

“Most of the discussions [of culture war issues] that are played out on social media, and the media more generally, are just from the very extreme wings [of public opinion] and most people are just much more nuanced or conditional, or not that bothered,” Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at Kings College London, told Byline Times.

As a result, some of the recent endeavours to ignite culture wars in the UK have gone nowhere.

Attempts to form new political parties and movements based on resistance to Coronavirus lockdowns fell flat, with most voters remaining supportive of public interventions to prevent transmission of the pandemic. Similar attempts by Johnson’s Government to ignite a divide over the Black Lives Matter movement failed to take off, with most voters saying that they were supportive of England footballers who took the knee.

Is Johnson's Culture War Starting to Take Off?

But, while the public may so far have failed to bite, that could be changing. 

The same study by Kings College found that there had been an exponential growth in discussion of these topics in the press over recent years. Byline Times' analysis of press and broadcast coverage over recent months suggests that this trend has massively increased in the year since the study. 

So could the relentless push for a UK culture war ultimately work and could Boris Johnson succeed in igniting the sorts of divisions already seen in US politics?

Bobby Duffy suggests that, while individual attempts to stoke culture wars will have varying levels of success, the strategy could still succeed in forging what he calls new “mega-identities” among voters, which political parties will ultimately be able to exploit.

“The really important feature of a true culture war... is that it’s not really about disagreement over specific cultural issues or even fractious disagreement," he said. "It's about two fundamentally different views of the world where compromise is not possible.

"And the thing that comes through in the US experience with this is the idea of conflict extension – where you start with one issue, or small collection of issues, and then it slowly builds other issues into that in order to form these kind of mega-identities."

To Duffy, these mega-identities "get more and more caught up in your own political identity [which] reinforces that sense of division".

Looked at this way, it becomes clear that Johnson’s push for culture wars over issues such as taking the knee or trans rights, is less about the issues themselves and more about creating a 'wedge' between one bloc of younger, socially-liberal, Labour-leaning voters; and another bloc of older, socially and politically Conservative voters.

Once that wedge has been driven, it then requires very little effort to raise other issues which then help to deepen that political divide.

“The point is that once you activate one of those identities, and you've got these really big identities that cover all sorts of social and cultural issues, then they strengthen each time you activate them," Duffy told Byline Times.

The Casualties of Johnson's Culture Wars Conservative MP for Bridgend Jamie Wallis. Photo: PA Images

The problem with this strategy is that culture wars, like all wars, normally have real-world casualties.

At the end of last month, Boris Johnson used a dinner with Conservative MPs to make a joke about trans people and the Labour Party.

Yet, within hours one of his own MPs, Jamie Wallis, came out as a trans woman. Wallis’ dignified statement forced Johnson into a brief U-turn, as he praised his colleague’s “courage” on the issue.

But far from discourage Johnson from pursuing this particular incursion of the culture wars, he was back on the nation’s screens within days calling for a blanket ban on trans women taking part in women’s sports events. 

A leak to ITV News also revealed that he had removed trans people from his planned ban on conversion therapy. As a result of Johnson’s decision, which was reportedly made in order to 'trap' the Labour Party on the issue, dozens of LGBT groups withdrew from the Government’s planned international LGBT conference.

Broadcasters too have played their part in this new culture war.

News channels, including the BBC, interviewers have regularly asked senior politicians, particularly in the Labour Party, about changing rooms and whether women have penises.

The net effect of all this has been to massively raise the issue of trans rights up the political agenda. And where previous polling has suggested that the public is broadly liberal and tolerant on the issue, Johnson’s comments and the constant coverage of the issue over recent months could change that.

“I think that if you if you went down any street in the UK and spoke to people and said 'do you think that trans people should have access to quick healthcare, do you think that trans people shouldn't be disproportionately made homeless, disproportionately discriminated against at work and targeted with street harassment? I'm pretty sure everyone would say yes,” Labour MP Nadia Whittome told Byline Times.

“But what the Government is trying to do is stoke a cultural war for for two reasons. Firstly I think, it’s to distract from their own failures with the cost of living crisis, but also because this will be a useful divide and rule tactic in the same way as migrants and refugees and people of colour have been in the past, and still are.”

Just as Boris Johnson's past comments about Muslim women were followed by a reported spike in hate crimes against them, Whittome fears that Johnson’s comments about trans people could also risk placing them in harm's way too.

“I think it's extremely dangerous… given that there's already a hostile environment for trans people facing hate crimes, then stoking this actively puts people in even more danger," she added.

It is too early to know whether Johnson’s attempts to create a new cultural divide in the UK to replace the waning Brexit divide, will work. MPs Byline Times has spoken to in recent weeks say that such cultural issues are still not major concerns being raised on the doorstep during campaigning for the upcoming local elections.

However, similar attempts to stoke such cultural divisions have had some success in the US and, like many other cultural imports, this may be one that Britain eventually takes wholesale too.

But even if Johnson is successful in stoking a culture war, it may be a war his party ultimately loses. Increased levels of university education and decreased home ownership among younger generations could ultimately deprive the Prime Minister of the numbers of troops he needs to win any future cultural battle.

Yet whatever the outcome, this new culture war will have real-life consequences. For trans people, it already means the removal of planned protections from the barbaric practice of conversion therapy.

In the future, Boris Johnson and his successors could be tempted to see the rights and safety of other minority groups as necessary collateral damage for their culture wars too.




Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.





Fresh audio product: Yemen and gendering

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/04/2022 - 4:38am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

March 31, 2022 Annelle Sheline of the Quincy Institute, author of this policy brief on the Yemen war, on the reasons behind Saudi Arabia’s brutal war on that country •  Natalia Petrzela, author of this column, on how we went from Muscle Beach to gender neutral cosmetics products

Do Men and Women Philosophers Argue Differently?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/03/2022 - 12:01am in

There is no statistically significant gender difference in the argument types used by frequently cited contemporary men and women philosophers in their articles, according to a new study that uses corpus linguistic analysis to search their works for “indicator pairs” of words that are likely to differentiate between deductive, inductive, and abductive arguments.

In “Philosophy’s Gender Gap and Argumentative Arena: An Empirical Study,” forthcoming in Synthese, Moti Mizrahi (Florida Institute of Technology) and Mike Dickinson (University of Illinois) look at the works of the 32 most-cited contemporary men and 32 most-cited contemporary women in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and conclude:

Our results suggest that both men and women philosophers make arguments in their published works. More specifically, our data reveal no statistically significant differences between the types of arguments advanced in published works written by male philosophers and the types of arguments advanced in published works written by women philosophers. In fact, both men and women philosophers make the three types of arguments we have searched for systematically, namely, deductive arguments, inductive arguments, and abductive arguments, with no statistically significant differences in the proportions of those arguments relative to each philosopher’s body of work.

Are the findings useful, as Mizrahi and Dickson think they are, for assessing a hypothesis about academic philosophy’s gender gap (floated by Marilyn Friedman, among others), that the mode of argumentation prevalent in philosophy, long dominated by men, deters or alienates women? Mizrahi and Dickinson explicitly acknowledge an objection that supports a negative answer to this question: that their sample of women is unrepresentative, owing to “survivor bias”:

we have selected women philosophers who have managed to be successful in academic philosophy in spite of the ‘logic-chopping’ and ‘paradox-mongering’ nature of argumentation in academic philosophy… There are plenty of other women who have fought in the ‘argumentative arena’ (Alcoff 2013) of academic philosophy as well but did not survive.

Still, they think their study can speak to the credibility of the hypothesis. Here’s the relevant (given their findings) part of their response:

If we were to find no significant differences in patterns of argumentation between the most cited male philosophers and the most cited women philosophers, then such findings could suggest that women philosophers can be just as concerned with arguments, and just as philosophically argumentative, as male philosophers supposedly are. 

This won’t do. “That women philosophers can be just as concerned with arguments and just as philosophically argumentative” does not tell us whether the dominant modes of doing philosophy alienate or deter or make things more difficult for women in general. If we are looking for clues about what might be problematic with the status quo it is unclear why we’d focus exclusively on those for whom the status quo appears to be unproblematic.

That said, I don’t think this “concerned with arguments” hypothesis for the gender gap—understood as something that could be tested by counting the number of arguments people make and whether they are deductive, inductive, or abductive—is remotely plausible.

Further, it seems to be a misrepresentation of the complaints about philosophy it is supposed to capture. The complaints about philosophy that Mizrahi and Dickinson quote to motivate the hypothesis characterize philosophers not simply as people who argue, or argue a lot, or who use one type of argument more than others, but rather as people who are “just logic-choppers and paradox-mongers” and who are “concerned only with arguments.”

The complaint isn’t about the presence or degree of argumentation, but rather, it seems, about argumentation mainly detached from life as we know it, or detached from the contexts in which its problems arise. That said, I have no idea whether the “degree of detachment” of philosophical work varies by gender at all, or whether a hypothesis for philosophy’s gender gap that more faithfully represents this complaint of detachment has any evidence supporting it. Perhaps someone could figure out how to empirically test for these things.

And perhaps there is also interest in this: whether there are differences in how men and women argue about whether there are differences in how men and women argue.


The tangled web of sex and gender

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/12/2021 - 8:00am in

As many of you probably know, I have had to take a break from writing recently because of a broken wrist. But I did manage to write responses to this Twitter thread from Shaun Lawson. 
I was uncomfortable about responding on Twitter to Shaun's questions, so decided to write them in a Word document and send them to him privately. But on reflection, I believe my views are every bit as worthy of a hearing as those of the trans activists and gender critical people who express themselves loudly all over social media. Twitter is a bear pit, so I'm publishing them here. 
As the trans rights debate is extremely toxic, comments are moderated. I will delete comments that are personal attacks on me or anyone else or that are grandstanding a personal agenda.  
  I dislike the widespread, and often deliberate, conflating of sex-defined terms (“males”, "females") with socially-defined terms ("men", “woman”, “women’s”). So, throughout this piece, I shall use sex-defined and socially-defined terms appropriately as follows:

  • “Male” means a biological male (but not necessarily an anatomical one)
  • “Female” means a biological female (but not necessarily an anatomical one)
  • “Man” means anyone who identifies as male, whether or not they are biologically or anatomically male
  • “Woman” means anyone who identifies as female, whether or not they are biologically or anatomically female.

For the purposes of this discussion I include trans women within the general category “women” and trans men within the general category “men”.

1. Do you think anatomical males should be allowed in protected women's spaces such as prisons, rape refuges, hospital wards or lavatories if they say they’re a woman? If so, why? 

In principle, I think anatomical males should generally be allowed in protected women’s spaces if they identify as women. I see no reason to exclude trans women who have not undergone surgical reassignment, purely on the grounds of their anatomy.  No-one should be forced to undergo invasive and dangerous surgery purely to enable them to live as the social gender they perceive themselves to be.

Generally speaking, if anyone is excluded from protected women’s spaces it should be because they as an individual (not as a group) present a known threat to women, i.e. they have a history of sexual assault or physical violence against other women (including trans women). Such exclusion should be sex-independent, so that biological females with a history of sexual assault or physical violence against women (including trans women) are also excluded. I would similarly exclude biological males with a history of sexual assault or physical violence against men (including trans men) from certain male spaces.

However, the spaces listed in this question present different problems. I shall discuss public lavatories under question 2, since the issues are really the same as for changing rooms.


Firstly, let’s consider who is most at risk here. Trans women are seriously at risk of violence and sexual assault in men’s prisons. They may also be at risk of assault in women’s prisons, but these are safer places for them than men’s prisons. The prison system has a duty of care to inmates. Those calling for trans women to be sent to men’s prisons regardless of the offences they have committed or, for that matter, their protected rights, forget this.

Secondly, if someone has a history of sexual assault and/or violence against women, they should not be in a women’s prison, even if they are biologically female. Similarly, if someone has a history of sexual assault and/or violence against men, they should not be in a men’s prison, even if they are biologically male. It’s worth remembering that Reynhard Sinaga, the UK’s most prolific rapist, preyed on men, not women. Yet he is in a men’s prison. I find this utterly bizarre.

Putting the above points together, a trans woman with no history of sexual assault or violence against women should be in a women’s prison. Forcing her into a men’s prison, or into solitary confinement, purely on the grounds of her anatomy would be violation of her protected rights. But a trans woman with a history of sexual assault and/or violence against women should not be in a women’s prison. However, she shouldn’t be in a men’s prison either, because of the risk to her life and health. Perhaps the prospect of spending their entire sentences either in solitary or in each other’s company might make biological males convicted of sexual assault or violence against women think again about self-declaring as women in order to gain access to women’s prisons?

Rape refuges

Those who wish to deny trans women access to rape refuges seem to ignore the fact that biological males can be victims of rape and domestic abuse. I see no reason to exclude male rape victims from rape refuges, and on that basis, I see no reason to exclude trans women from rape refuges. Furthermore, I regard failure to provide refuges for males (including trans women) escaping from domestic abuse as sex discrimination.

Hospital wards

It is hard to see any justification for excluding trans women from women’s wards, and the potential for harm to the mental health of trans women is considerable.

This is one of many questions that ignored trans men. Excluding trans men from men’s wards would potentially be as harmful to their mental health as excluding trans women from women's wards.

There is also a wider problem regarding access to medical treatment related to biological sex. Some trans men need access to certain services that are currently exclusively available to women, and some trans women similarly need access to certain services currently only availalbe to men. In my view, medical needs should determine the medical treatment to which an individual has access, not gender identity. 

2. Do you think anatomical males should be allowed to get changed in women and girls’ changing rooms if they say they’re a woman? If so, why?

I’ve added lavatories to this section as the issues are similar.

In my view anatomical males should be allowed to use women’s public lavatories and changing rooms. Indeed I don’t see how they can realistically be prevented from doing so. Security guards cannot be expected to make decisions about someone’s sex purely on the basis of how they look. There are already reports  of biological females being harassed and intimidated when using women's toilets, or even removed by security, because someone thought they looked like men. This is wholly unacceptable.

There is also an obvious, and potentially serious, discrimination problem if a woman can demand that another woman is excluded from womens’ public lavatories or changing rooms purely because she “makes her feel uncomfortable”. By the same token, black women, or Muslim women, could similarly be excluded because a white British woman “felt uncomfortable”. Where does this end?

Since womens’ public lavatories have lockable cubicles, and unlike men’s lavatories have no communal urinary facilities, in my view it is wholly unnecessary to exclude anatomical males who identify as women from public lavatories. I don’t think women’s public toilets should have urinals. That’s going too far. Trans women who see themselves as female surely won’t want to use urinals.

Issues of privacy and security go far beyond worries about trans women. Some women (including trans women) feel uncomfortable changing in front of other women. And some biological females are predatory on other biological females. Providing more individual cubicles in changing rooms, and ensuring changing rooms are properly staffed, would provide women (including trans women) with better privacy and security.

This question again ignores trans men. Yet trans men have been excluded from men-only facilities because they don’t “look male”. They can use women-only facilities, of course, but they shouldn’t have to. It’s odd how using women-only facilities is being promoted as some kind of privilege, when for some biological females it is anything but.

3. Do you think someone born male should be allowed to compete in women’s sports? If so, why?

I’d rather avoid the whole problem, frankly. Rather than segregating sports by sex, we should segregate by ability. It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of sports promoters to develop a system similar to that used in paralympic sports.

4. Do you think schools should have only unisex lavatories? If so, why?

Let’s separate out primary and secondary schools.

There is no reason whatsoever for primary schools to have segregated lavatories. Segregated lavatories in primary schools are a relic from the days when boys and girls had separate entrances, separate corridors and separate playgrounds. Get rid of them.

I also believe that secondary schools should have unisex lavatories. This creates an opportunity for the school to enforce good behaviour and respect for the opposite sex. However, introducing unisex lavatories shouldn’t be done suddenly and must go hand-in-hand with good PHSE education, and schools must commit to policing unisex lavatories and operating a zero-tolerance policy for bad behaviour. It’s worth remembering that Ofsted’s recent report found sexual harassment among schoolchildren was most prevalent in public unsupervised spaces such as parks and parties, in school corridors, and of course online. The problem is lack of supervision and discipline, not unisex facilities per se.

5. Do you think anyone should be able to self-declare as the opposite gender without having transitioned first, and immediately be able to access protected women’s spaces? If so, why?

In principle, I think people who believe themselves to be women and are willing to make a legal declaration to that effect should be able to access protected women’s spaces, subject to the caveats I discussed in previous questions.

The law currently says that someone only has to be “in a process of transition”, not that they must have completed their transition, and that transition is a personal process which may or may not include medication or surgery. I see no reason to tighten the current law to force people to complete their transition and/or undergo invasive medical or surgical treatment.  

I profoundly disagree with people who argue that women’s protected spaces are the “right” of biological females as a sex class. I do not believe that sex has rights. Only gender does, because rights are socially determined and gender, unlike sex, is a social construct.

6. If legislation allows for anyone being able to self-declare as the opposite gender without transitioning first, how do you propose to stop male sexual predators and/or violent criminals claiming to be female and taking advantage of said legislation?

I believe my proposal to prohibit people (regardless of sex or gender) with a history of sexual assault and/or violence against women from being admitted to women’s prisons and other protected spaces would solve this problem.

7. If a child of any age in any circumstances decides one day they’re of the opposite gender, do you think they should be automatically supported in that by their parents, guardians, schools and/or teachers, with no questioning in any way by any of the latter? If so, why?

Research purporting to show children deciding “out of the blue” that they are trans as a result of social media contagion is disputed by clinical professionals working in the field of paediatrics. Other research suggests that trans identity develops early in life and is often ignored or resisted by parents, schools and other significant adults. Much misery would be avoided if children were believed. There is also a safeguarding issue here: refusing to allow a child to identify as the opposite sex, and persistently attempting to “talk them out of it”, is emotional abuse.

It’s not so long since adults refused to believe that children could decide they were gay, insisting they were “influenced” by being taught about homosexuality in schools. I remember Section 28 all too well. It didn’t stop children being gay, but it made coming out a whole lot more difficult. Do we really want the same culture of disbelief, discrimination and abuse for trans children?

8. If you answered ‘yes’ to all or most of the above, how do you propose to deal with any issues around safeguarding?

The scope of the term “safeguarding” here needs clarifying. Questions concerning adult females don’t have a safeguarding dimension. Only questions concerning children and vulnerable adults do.

Firstly,  I must dismiss the poisonous claim by some “gender critical” people” that excluding trans women from women-only spaces would protect children or vulnerable adults. This is not only a gross calumny against trans women, it is nonsense from a safeguarding point of view. 

Adult females can and do abuse young children: in addition to recent high-profile cases of severe physical abuse, child sexual abuse by adult females is widespread. And older boys and male vulnerable adults are of course excluded from women’s spaces. I personally know two convicted male paedophiles, neither of whom is trans and both of whom preyed on boys aged 11-14. Excluding trans women from women-only spaces would not have protected those boys.

I remember when many people thought gay men were dangerous to children and wanted them banned from jobs involving contact with children, such as teaching. Thankfully most people don’t think that way now, and equality legislation prevents such blatant discrimination against gay men. But the “paedophile fear” seems to have migrated to trans women, again with little or no justification, and again resulting in calls for direct discrimination and violation of their rights.

The reality is that paedophiles can be straight, gay, lesbian or trans. They should really be regarded as a separate group. People are just as wrong now to assume that all trans women are actual or potential paedophiles as they were to assume that all gay men are. Excluding trans women from women-only spaces would not address safeguarding concerns for children and vulnerable adults.

This question also failed to address the safeguarding needs of trans children. Trans children can be viciously bullied by their peers, by older children, and even by adults. Parents, schools and organisers of activities for children and young people need to be vigilant about this and operate a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and harassment.

9. Do you refer to ‘pregnant women’ or ‘pregnant people’? If the latter, why?

I use the term “pregnant people”. Women are people. And trans men can and do become pregnant. There is no reason whatsoever to discriminate against trans men by forcing them to identify as “women” when they are pregnant. Those objecting to the term “pregnant people” are trying to pretend that trans men don’t exist. I don’t think that denying the existence of a group of people is acceptable in a civilised society.

As I said earlier, access medical treatment should be determined by medical need, not by gender identity.

10. Do you refer to ‘women’ or ‘cervix havers’ / ‘menstruators’ / ‘bodies with vaginas’? If any of the latter three terms, why?

These three terms do not equate to “women”. ;Someone who is biologically female and identifies as a woman, but has had a hysterectomy, doesnt't have a cervix and doesn't menstruate. A woman past the menopause doesn't menstruate either. Some biological females are born without vaginas or wombs, but nevertheless see themselves as women. Trans men might have cervixes, wombs and vaginas, and might menstruate, but nevertheless see themselves as men. 

These terms do need to be used by medical professionals and teachers when giving information about the female reproductive system to biological females who don’t identify as women. And similarly, medical professionals and teachers should use terms such as "people with testicles" and "bodies with prostates" when discussing the male reproductive system. But otherwise, I would prefer these terms not to be used. I don’t think people are defined by their reproductive systems.

11. Do you think rape survivors should be required in court or elsewhere to refer to anatomically male rapists by their preferred pronouns? If so why?

I totally understand why a rape victim might want to use the terms “he/her” about her (or his) rapist. But I’m not sure what purpose it would serve except to vent anger. The court knows that the accused is a biological male. The point doesn’t need reinforcing.

I’d point out too that pronouns are social constructs and therefore reflect gender, not sex. Some languages (French, German, Italian) use gendered pronouns about inanimate objects. We are surely not going to argue that a table is biologically female just because the French noun “table” takes “la” instead of “le”, are we?

Politeness is important in courts of law, particularly in difficult court cases. So it would be better to use the preferred pronouns if possible. However, I would hope a court would be understanding if a rape victim found this too painful.

12. Do you think statistics on violence against women and girls should treat anatomically male perpetrators as ‘women’ if they self-identify as a woman or girls?

I think violence both by trans women and on trans women should be separately reported.

The question does not ask about trans men - even though they are at risk of violence and sexual abuse from other men - but in my view violence both by trans men and on trans men should similarly be separately reported.

13. Do you think surveys such as but not limited to the census should ask for someone’s sex, or their gender?

They should ask for both, with “prefer not to say” as an option for both questions. And gender needs to include a wider range than just “man” and “woman”.

14. Is it 'transphobic' or in any way bigoted not to be sexually attracted to someone who does not have the same anatomical parts as you, but who considers themselves to be a woman? If so, why?

Shaun originally addressed this question to lesbians. For completeness, I have included it here. However, I would not presume to tell lesbians how they should feel.

I do however feel deeply saddened by the way in which sexual relationships are being reduced to simply a matter of "what does that body look like". Whatever happened to the things that go beyond sex, that make enduring relationships possible through thick and thin - such as love, companionship, faithfulness?

15. Do you think it’s possible for someone to change sex? If so, how?

At present, is not possible for a human being to change their biological sex. We are not clown fish.

However, biological sex and legal sex are not necessarily the same thing. And some people do genuinely believe they are the “wrong” sex. In a civilised, compassionate society, a person should be able to become the legal sex they perceive themselves to be, and live as that sex without opprobrium, discrimination or persecution.

The state of medical technology at the present time is such that someone who chooses to become a different legal sex can undergo treatment that will give them the physical characteristics of that biological sex, but the reproductive characteristics of that sex, such as the ability to bear and suckle children, or the ability to ejaculate sperm, are still denied to them. But these capabilities are also denied to some people who are not trans. Why should we not, as a society, help all of these people to live the fullest lives they can? And if, at some time in the future, medical advances made it possible for biological males and other people without female reproductive apparatus to bear and suckle children, I for one would rejoice - not just for trans women, but for all women, since it would end the "motherhood penalty" that impoverishes far too many biological females.

16. How do you define “woman”?

No-one should define “woman” without also defining “man”. It is sex discrimination to take the definition of "man" for granted while fighting to the death over the definition of "woman". And assuming that "man" means a biological male excludes some groups, notably trans men who are biologically female. The invisibility of trans men was painfully evident in these questions. We must do better. 

On that basis, therefore, I defined both "woman" and "man" at the head of this essay.

Image of tangled web from Wikimedia Commons. Attribution: fir0002  flagstaffotos [at] Canon 20D + Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, GFDL 1.2 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Related reading:

Maya Forstater's human rights problem

HOC Women and Equalities Committee came out strongly for self-declaration of gender, Robin White

Reform of the Gender Recognition Act, Women and Equalities Committee, House of Commons

Institutional Inequality: The Gender Pay Gap in the Highest Ranks of the Civil Service

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/12/2021 - 11:47pm in

Institutional InequalityThe Gender Pay Gap in the Highest Ranks of the Civil Service

Sascha Lavin exposes the vast differences in income among the highest-earning public servants


Three-quarters of the highest-earning UK civil servants are men, the Byline Intelligence Team can reveal, exposing a pronounced gender pay gap at the highest level of the UK Government. 

Analysis of Cabinet Office data shows that 382 male civil servants earned more than £150,000-a-year in 2020, compared with only 126 female civil servants.

A report released this month by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed that the gender pay gap across the economy has barely closed, despite 25 years of government policy promoting equal pay. According to the IFS, the highest female earners pocket just 67p for every £1 earned by their male counterparts. 

Our analysis also showed that the top 10 highest-paid male civil servants earned, on average, £150,000 more than the top 10 highest-paid female civil servants – a full-time pay gap of 36%. This includes salaries from quasi-commercial roles that are still part of the government, which make up 34% of top-earning positions in the data. 

The highest-earning male civil servant was Mark Thurston, the Chief Executive of HS2. Exact salaries are not revealed by the Cabinet Office. However, the data includes salary bands with the highest and lowest amount that the civil servant could receive. 

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By taking the mid-points of these salary bands, the Byline Intelligence Team found that Thurston took home about £622,500 last year. In contrast, the highest-earning female civil servant, Susan Cooklin, was paid £387,500 for her role as a Managing Director of Network Rail’s Route Services. 

The top five highest-earning male civil servants in Britain were paid more than Cooklin. Alongside Thurston at HS2, two of the men worked for Network Rail. Another was employed by Highways England and one by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. All were employed by commercial enterprises in the public sector. 

The pay disparity between men and women becomes even more prominent as their salary increases: more than 85% of top UK civil servants earning £300,000 a year or higher were men. 

The wide gender gap in the higher tax brackets is also a feature nationally. The median pay gap increases by 123% between median earners and the top tenth of earners, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

The COVID Factor

This is not the first time the political gender pay gap has been exposed. Last month, Byline Intelligence Team revealed that there was a 63% gender pay gap on second jobs and secondary income for male and female MPs, excluding serving or previous prime ministers. The Byline Intelligence Team also found earlier this year that the top 10 highest-paid male Government special advisers (SPADs) were paid 22% more than their female counterparts. 

Although the overall gender pay gap has been declining over time, data from 2021 shows the gap between full-time workers increased by 0.9% (from 7% in 2020 to 7.9%). However, the full time wage gap remains lower than pre-pandemic levels, when it was 9%. The gender pay gap across all workers also increased, from 14.9% in 2020 to 15.4% in 2021. 

Since 2017, the Government has required businesses with more than 250 staff members to declare their gender pay gap data. This includes the leading political parties. During the pandemic, however, gender pay gap reporting was suspended, leading to some concern that progress on women’s workplace equality would stall. 


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Earlier this year, the Fawcett Society, a charity working on gender equality, demanded Government action as it became clear that women workers were disproportionately impacted by the Coronavirus and related restrictions. 

Analysis by the Women’s Budget Group found that the industries with some of the highest COVID-related job losses heavily employ women – such as retail, accommodation and food services. There are twice as many women as men in the bottom 10% of earners, meaning they were hit hard during the first lockdown, with those in low-paid work more likely than higher-earners to be placed on furlough or have their hours reduced. More women than men were furloughed in 2021.

A Government spokesperson said: “Across Government, the gender pay gap has continued to narrow over the past few years, and is still significantly lower than the private sector. While we accept there is still more work to do, since 2017 we have implemented a range of measures to improve in this area, such as introducing blind recruitment and piloting a senior sponsorship scheme for under-represented groups including women.”

The data analysed by the Byline Intelligence Team did not specify whether the civil servant was male or female. Their gender was assumed by the civil servant’s name, if the name was unisex it was excluded from the analysis or ascertained by a digital search of the individual’s profile. Part-time work was also excluded because the salary pro-rata was not provided. 

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.





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