During the second leaders debate on Sunday night, 2GB presenter Deborah Knight, asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese to define a ‘woman’.
Albanese said “an adult female” and Morrison responded “a member of the female sex”.
Without context, the fact that grown men responsible for leading our two major parties – and in Morrison’s case, our country – are being asked such a basic question, seems inane. So too does the fact that people are patting them on the back for answering it correctly. However, in a culture where gender ideology has sought to blur the reality of biological sex (with adverse repercussions for those who try to affirm it), public officials worldwide have been struggling to answer this most basic of questions.
Recently, US Supreme Court Nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s inability to give a definition coupled with her absurd remark “I’m not a biologist” went viral, and British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak’s every effort to avoid answering the question during a radio interview was comical.
Senior Australian bureaucrats also struggled to answer it, after South Australian Senator Alex Antic posed the elusive question during Senate Estimates last month.
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency Director danced around the question repeatedly stating “we don’t define it ourselves", Health Secretary Dr Brendan Murphy said he would have to “take [the question] on notice” and the Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary replied that she was “not sure, I haven’t heard that question before”.
The inability of public officials to answer this very simple question is not just an abstract, theoretical dilemma, but a very grave, tangible problem with serious, real world consequences for women and girls. It is symptomatic of an ideology that has permeated our institutions and has led to women and girls being increasingly disenfranchised and erased from society whenever their rights and protections clash with those of trans or non-binary individuals. Sports, awards, language, single-sex services and spaces are a few examples.
In this lead up to the federal election and beyond, women are in desperate need of leaders who are willing to speak the truth and defend our sex-based rights. This involves more than simply being able to correctly define a ‘woman’. It requires acting consistently with what this means when it comes to supporting laws and policies that uphold the rights and safety of women and girls.
For example, just this week, Australia’s first women-only trauma hospital was announced, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in women recovering from domestic and family violence. But will this dedicated mental-health facility also be open to transwomen? Will women who have been traumatised by male violence be forced to share this service with biological males who identify as women?
It’s a pity Knight didn’t follow up with a question about how the leaders’ definition of ‘woman’ informed their parties’ policies or how it would be translated into Australia’s laws going forward. Though perhaps this is something we can gauge ourselves.
While Albanese himself has said “men can’t have babies” and that “girls should be able to play girls” in sport, Labor’s latest policy platform has removed references to ‘mothers’, ‘breastfeeding’ and ‘pregnant mothers’, replacing these instead with terms like ‘people’ and ‘individuals’ who are pregnant. Women’s rights advocates have pointed out that this is part of the wider agenda to erase women.
“If Labor can’t acknowledge that women exist and that women get pregnant and give birth, how can they possibly represent women’s interests? … In their attempts to appease transgender activists who wish to desex the whole of society, Labor has completely betrayed women,” Coalition for Biological Sex founder Stassja Frei said.
“Left wing feminists are finding themselves politically homeless on account of this issue. Albanese needs to speak up soon and stop the erasure of mothers or Labor is going to haemorrhage votes from those who care about women’s sex-based rights,” said Feminist legal clinic principal lawyer Anna Kerr.
“Do Albanese and his party acknowledge and respect the existence of women, their unique experience of pregnancy and motherhood, and the fact of biological sex? Or are they set on wiping women and their lived experience from reality?” asked Women’s Forum Australia CEO Rachael Wong.
It was also under Julia Gillard’s Labor government that the biological definitions of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ were removed from the Sex Discrimination Act in 2013. As a result, the Act no longer adequately protects women’s sex-based rights, because it no longer recognises women as a sex-based category. It was this reform that has ultimately meant that women have no recourse when it comes to challenging biological males in their single-sex sports, spaces and services, as it is now unlawful to differentiate between women and males who identify as women (transwomen).
While the Liberal Party may not have sold women out to trans activists with the same vigour, and the Prime Minister has been supportive of Senator Claire Chandler’s Save Women’s Sport Bill as well as Warringah candidate Katherine Deves, the affront to women’s sex-based rights has been allowed to continue under their watch. Aside from a few strong advocates like Senator Chandler, Senator Alex Antic, Senator Matthew Canavan, Senator Amanda Stoker and now of course Deves, there does not seem to be a general consensus within the Liberal Party regarding the definition of ‘woman’ or the protection of women’s sex-based rights.
Meanwhile, the Greens are unashamedly pro-gender ideology at the expense of women’s rights and safety, making it clear that they will oppose Senator Chandler’s Save Women’s Sport Bill, will push for tax-payer funded gender transition treatments and continue to encourage the roll out of self-identification laws, enabling males to more easily identify into women’s spaces, services and sports.
By contrast, One Nation’s Pauline Hanson has been vocal about her support for Senator Chandler’s Save Women’s Sport Bill, saying that allowing biological males to compete in women’s sport is unfair. She has also called for a ban on gender transition treatments for Australians under 18 years old and has pushed back against distorted and dehumanising ‘gender-neutral language’. One Nation MP Mark Latham has also championed a parental rights bill which would protect children from gender ideology in schools. To this end, Liberal Democrats candidate Damian Coory has also said he’ll push for a federal review of sex education in schools.
While some parties are certainly worse than others when it comes to recognising women and their sex-based rights, and some parties have a disproportionate number of MPs who are genuinely advocating to defend women, when it comes to deciding who to give your vote to, it is vital that you ask your local candidates where they stand on this critical issue. This page indicating where MPs have voted on transgender issues may also be useful when making your decision (those dubbed as ‘voting against transgender rights’, are the ones who have been more favourable to biological reality and women’s sex-based rights).
**Just today, the Prime Minister has also said he stands by Katherine Deves who has doubled down on her comments about trans children being “surgically mutilated and sterilised”, saying that gender affirmation surgery is a “troubling issue”.**
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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