This isn’t just about toilets and uniforms

This isn’t just about toilets and uniforms

A recent article in the Herald Sun (“Schools opt for gender neutral toilets, language”) has praised the renewed efforts of the Victorian government to erase male/female difference in schools.

Many of the specific changes touted are not, in themselves, problematic. Uni-sex toilets are common-place in public settings and – provided they are single cubicles – do not pose the same risks to girls’ safety as arrangements that require them to share stalls, changerooms and sleeping accommodation with biological males. Changes to the uniform, so that girls are permitted to wear shorts or pants, are just sensible and probably much warmer in the winter months.

No one objects to the idea that schools should make reasonable adjustments to procedures where these are necessary to cater to the needs of individual students. But is that really what these changes are about? For the academics, activists and public servants advocating these changes, it would appear that toilets and uniforms are only the first steps in a much broader program of social engineering.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Marxist belief systems animating radical sexual rights activism, it may come as a shock to discover that gender congruence and heterosexual monogamy are understood to be the product of ideological oppression that prevents everyone – not just an LGBTIQ+ minority – from being truly free.

As Safe Schools author, Roz Ward, explained to the Marxism 2015 conference:

“The ruling class has benefitted and continues to benefit from repressing our bodies, relationships, sexuality and gender identities. Alongside sexism, homophobia and transphobia, both serve to break the spirits of ordinary people to consume our thoughts to make us accept the status quo and for us to keep living or aspiring to live, or feel like we should live, in small social units and families where we must reproduce and take responsibility for those people in those units.”

If you feel like a girl or woman because you have a female body, if you hope to grow up, get married, have children and care for those children, “the revolution” is here to liberate you from the oppression of “heteronormativity”.

Changing long-standing social norms is a fundamentally different proposition to the idea that we should include vulnerable individuals within the existing social order.

What indications are there that what is going on in Victoria isn’t really just about changing the toilets and uniforms?

Well, the plan to impose "genderless language" is one big clue. The Herald Sun quotes Peter Harte, the Assistant Principal of Springvale’s Killester College – a Catholic secondary girls’ school – who says:

“We are having a really big think about the language we use about gender identity. Our teachers will address students with ‘good afternoon everyone, or good afternoon students’.”

Why do you need to use genderless language in a girls’ school? Surely “trans girls” would feel perfectly comfortable being called “girls”?

To understand the importance activists place on genderless language, we need to consider the niche activist belief systems inspired by Judith Butler’s 1990 book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. A sexual radical, Butler contends that we can never eradicate the gender hierarchy and “compulsory heterosexuality” without “troubling” the “fictive” categories of sexual identity. For Butler and the generation of activists she has inspired, words like “man” and “woman”, “father” and “mother”, “boys” and “girls” do not refer to an important objective truth about humanity (i.e. that we are sexually dimorphic, either male or female). According to Butler, biological sex is an oppressive fiction.

Freedom can only be achieved if we stop believing that male/female difference is real and/or important. One way to advance that cause is to erase male/female distinctions in our language.  After all, we only have words for things that are culturally important; if we don’t have words to communicate an idea, that’s because it’s not an important idea – it has no social significance. Activists understand, as most of us do not, the power of language to shape our thoughts and our social relationships. Genderless language is an important element of the agenda to erase male/female difference.

The objection to “cis-hetero-normativity” in schools is another big clue that this is not just about compassion for the vulnerable.

The Herald Sun refers to a previous article in which it reported that “researchers had slammed Victorian schools for being ‘homo-cis-normative institutions’”. The “researchers” referred to include Tania Ferfolja and Jacqueline Ullman who work with the Sexualities and Gender Research (SaGR) project within the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Sydney. In April 2021, Ferfolja and Ullman appeared together before a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Mark Latham’s “Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill” and Ullman was asked to explain her views.

Latham: “Professor Ullman, in various forums you have promoted a text entitled ‘Schools as Queer Transformative Spaces’. Why should schools be queer transformative spaces?”

Ullman: “The idea of queer transformativity is the sense that we move away from limiting, normative ideas … When we are talking about "queer", when we are talking about non-normative sexualities and we are talking about gender-expansive identities, I would absolutely argue that it is important for young people to be exposed to diversity as part of their education—moving Australia closer to social cohesion.”

If you want to re-engineer society, schools are the golden opportunity to form the minds of tomorrow’s citizens.

At the moment, these same researchers are claiming that 4 out of 5 parents support teaching gender and sexuality diversity in Australian schools from kindergarten. Can we clarify whether these parents are in favour of a) including kids who identify with an atypical sexuality or gender identity in the existing social order or b) rebuilding society from the ground up, starting with our understanding of the human person as an embodied (male or female) individual? These are quite separate questions and can be expected to return quite different answers from Australian parents.

Would people (and in particular, parents) still be so cooperative if they understood the full agenda that lies behind these initiatives? It does not serve the interests of robust debate to simply shout ‘transphobe’ at anyone who questions the deeper ideological motivations of those pursuing change. 

This is not about toilets and uniforms. This is about the eradication of male/female difference. That being so, we need to be able to have an honest discussion about it and see what Australian parents think.

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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