Tag Archives: Colette Colfer

From top: Trans Pride parade in Dublin in 2019; Colette Colfer

I’ve been lecturing on world religions for sixteen years. Prior to this, I worked as a journalist and often wrote articles and made radio programmes about Ireland’s changing religious landscape.

As someone who is hugely interested in religion, I have noticed that as the Catholic Church is declining in importance in Ireland, new belief systems are emerging to take up some of the spaces vacated. One of these in particular – gender identity theory – is rising to prominence and quickly becoming dominant.

Gender identity theory involves the belief that gender is an identity or an internal sense of self that is independent of the physical body. Some suggest that gender identity rather than biological sex should take precedence in matters of law, society, and culture. This theory is used, for example, to justify the argument that biological males who identify as women should compete in the women’s category in sports.

I study religion from what is called a phenomenological perspective. This involves bracketing off my own personal beliefs in order to try to understand religion from the believer’s perspective without judging their claims to truth. The approach can be summed up by the words of Ninian Smart who wrote ‘god is real for Christians, whether he exists or not’.

Over the past twenty years, the phenomenological approach has worked well for me. I have travelled to Pakistan where I visited Islamic madrassas. I’ve stuck pieces of paper into cracks of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, visited the West Bank and Bethlehem, gone on two Holocaust study trips to Auschwitz. I’ve participated in Zen Buddhist retreats and in Hindu festivals. I’ve attended African Pentecostal services in industrial estate warehouses, fasted for Ramadan and broke the fast with Muslims in mosques.

I’ve been to Sabbath services in Dublin synagogues and have meditated at ‘Dzogchen Beara’, the Buddhist retreat centre in west Cork. I’ve stayed with the nuns at Glencairn monastery in County Waterford and participated in a pagan Mayday celebration on the Hill of Tara which involved scattering white rose petals on a pentagram with its lines chalked out on grass. I’ve danced with witches in Clonegal Castle in County Wexford and peered into the holy well in the castle dungeon which, at the time, was a ‘Temple of Isis’. I’ve interviewed members of Atheist Ireland and the Church of Scientology.

People from all these religions and belief systems permitted me to enter their worlds with no compulsion on me to participate or to believe. Yet today, in Ireland, when it comes to gender identity theory, it is becoming difficult to adopt the phenomenological perspective as there is increasing pressure to accept this theory uncritically.

Although there is no concept of the divine in gender identity theory, there are elements that could be considered religious. There are symbols, chants, flags, parades, and ‘holy’ days. There is a belief in what could be termed transubstantiation where the substance of the body is believed to change from one sex to another. A belief in gender identity involves a level of faith as there is nothing tangible to prove its existence which, as something divorced from the physical body, is similar to the idea of a soul.

The idea of a heretic or infidel is also relevant. People and organisations who don’t subscribe to gender identity theory, or who publicly criticise or even question it, have been denounced or ostracised, and products and publications boycotted. Detransitioners, who no longer subscribe to the theory, are akin to apostates.

The theory also involves a moral code and a creed that centers around concepts of equality, diversity, and inclusion. There is a clergy in the form of people from organisations who promote the theory and who give ‘sermons’ in training and workshops. Some people signal their adherence to the theory by using certain words or phrases or by including pronouns (such as ‘he/him’) in email signatures or on online public profiles.

Gender identity theory is increasingly evident in Irish government policies and publications. One questionnaire recently published by the Higher Education Authority of Ireland asked ‘What gender (if any) do you most identify with?’ but had no question about biological sex.

The Central Statistics Office of Ireland advised people filling in the 2022 Census form that they could tick both male and female if they were uncomfortable choosing one.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service has asked blood donors to tick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question ‘Your: current gender different from that assigned to you at birth?’ Training and workshops on gender identity have been rolled out through all levels of the education system.

To suggest that gender identity theory is a new religion is not to denigrate the theory. My aim, as a phenomenologist, is to understand the belief and its associated practices without making value statements about its truth.I understand that gender identity is real for people who believe in it.

However, I am concerned by how quickly and deeply this theory is becoming embedded at the government level and what appears to me to be an increasing compulsion to believe.

Colette Colfer is a lecturer in world religions at Waterford Institute of Technology (soon to be the South East Technological University, or SETU). Colette can be followed on twitter @colettecolfer.

RollingNews

Minister for Further Education Simon Harris has called the Athena Swan Charter “one of the most important initiatives that we have in the higher education sector in Ireland.” 

Colette Colfer writes:

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) of Ireland has adopted a charter drawn up by a UK-based charity as one of the key pillars of Ireland’s national strategy for gender equality in higher education.

Engagement with this charter is required of all higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country and the HEA has stated that research funding could be lost by institutions if they do not achieve accreditation under this charter within a set timeframe. Participation in this charter poses a threat to individual and institutional academic freedom across the entire higher education sector.

The Universities Act 1997 Section 12 states that one of the objects of a university is ‘to foster a capacity for critical thinking amongst its students’. The Institutes of Technology Act 2006 Section 7 upholds the right of colleges ‘to preserve and promote the traditional principles of academic freedom in the conduct of its internal and external affairs’. The Athena Swan Ireland Charter, which adopts an uncritical approach to a number of issues, including gender, is potentially in conflict with these Acts as enshrined in Irish legislation

The Athena Swan Ireland Charter is run by a UK based charity named Advance HE. Since the charter was launched in Ireland in 2015 its remit has stretched from an initial focus of advancing women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, maths, and medicine to now cover all disciplines as well as staff in roles across the sector including those in maintenance.

It also involves consideration of the experiences of trans staff and students and the under-representation of men in certain disciplines. Involvement with the charter has financial implications as well as implications for academic freedom.

The Athena Swan award system is divided into Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. In order to attain an award, participants must submit an application and draw up an action plan in line with Athena Swan Ireland Charter Principles. Completed applications can be up to eighty pages in length. Applications for awards can be made by institutions and by departments within those institutions.

As part of the application, it is required to show how students are included in the objectives and the Athena Swan information pack states that this may include curricula, pedagogy and assessment. The charter therefore potentially impacts not only what is taught in our HEIs but also how it is taught. It also has implications for campus culture more broadly and for campus facilities too.

All of Ireland’s universities and institutes of technologies as well as several colleges participate in the Athena Swan Ireland Charter. The HEA has stated that ‘HEIs stand to lose access to research funding if they do not achieve Athena Swan awards within a set timeframe’. Institutes of Technology which have been granted Technological University Status ‘are required to attain a TU bronze award within three years’.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires HEIs to have either applied for, or attained, Athena Swan accreditation in order to be considered for research funding. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Irish Research Council (IRC), and the Health Research Board (HRB) require accreditation as a condition of funding. To give some indication of the amount of money allocated in research funding by these bodies, the EPA Capacities Development Projects can be worth over one million euro. Other funding strands and schemes involve much smaller amounts.

There are currently 87 Athena Swan award holders in Ireland and the November 2021 round of applications is open for submissions between November 2021 and January 2022. Minister for Further and Higher Education in Ireland, Simon Harris, has said:

‘Athena Swan is one of the most important initiatives that we have in the higher education sector in Ireland’.

There are large sums of money involved in Athena Swan. Although the charter does operate in other countries including the UK, Australia, Canada, the US and India, Ireland could be unique in that the charter is funded here at national level. Advance HE declared income of £14,417,000 for the financial year ending 31 July 2020. Although Advance HE state in one of their information packs that they have offices in Ireland, no Irish address can be found online and their website contact information lists just three offices – one in London, one in York, and one in Edinburgh.

The Athena Swan Ireland Charter adopts uncritical stances on certain issues as evidenced by the glossary provided in order to assist applicants fill out submissions. The definition for the term gender, for example, states that it is ‘a spectrum of masculine and feminine characteristics that are socially constructed’. There is no mention of biology and no acknowledgement that the term gender is one which has been contested for decades and means different things to different people.

Other entries and aspects of the glossary are questionable including the example of a microaggression given: ‘where are you from?’ In Ireland, this question is, arguably, one of the mainstays of conversations in the country. Some terms in the glossary have been provided by lobby groups rather than by impartial objective contributors.

Possibly some of the hottest topics in academia today are that of gender identity and the associated controversial classification of ideas as transphobic. Advance HE’s Trans Equality Policy Statement states that transphobic material will not be tolerated but it fails to outline the criteria for the identification of this material.

The definition of transphobia provided by the Transgender Equality Network of Ireland (TENI) in the Athena Swan Ireland Charter glossary is ‘fear, dislike or hatred of people who are trans or are perceived to challenge conventional gender categories or norms’. However, this definition is open to interpretation.

Recent events in the UK as well as in Ireland suggest that the word transphobia can be used to refer to people who believe in the importance of the category of biological sex or who question the wisdom of a conversion therapies bill when the bill applies to the concept of gender identity. Notably, the University of Sussex, where Professor Kathleen Stock worked and recently resigned from after accusations of transphobia, has an Athena Swan Bronze award. Kathleen Stocks’s main argument is that it is important to consider the ramifications of erasing the category of biological sex.

Meanwhile Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is also an Athena Swan Bronze award holder and the TCD Students’ Union is holding a referendum later this month to boycott The Irish Times after the Students’ Union Council accused the newspaper of transphobia following publication of an article which critically examined the Conversion Therapies Bill.

Dublin City University and NUI Galway, whose Students’ Unions have followed plans to boycott the Irish Times, are also Athena Swan Bronze award holders whilst the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology, whose Students’ Union is also supporting the boycott call, is planning to apply for a Bronze Award in 2022.

Higher education institutions should be places of open inquiry where contested terms, definitions and ideals are opened-up to scrutiny rather than presented as givens. One of the most important texts ever written about education, The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman, was based on a series of lectures delivered by Newman in 1852 in Dublin. Newman believed that the purpose of a university should be intellectual rather than moral or religious and that students should engage with competing ideas in a culture of dialogue and debate.

The aims of gender equality, and of diversity and inclusion, are moral rather than intellectual aims and, as such, they too should be open to critique rather than accepted unquestioningly. These ideals are not uncontested. Although they are classified as anti-discriminatory approaches, there are many different ideas about what an approach to these ideals should entail, and there can be ethical risks in pursuing them.

[1] Some actions in the past which have aimed at achieving equality, diversity and inclusion have been criticised for exacerbating rather than alleviating tensions, for excluding individuals or groups, for neglecting to focus on what is called deep-level diversity which covers differences in attitudes and beliefs. [2] It is not enough for the entire third level educational system of Ireland to pursue moral ideals without open debate on these issues and without consideration of the potential ethical impacts of pursuing them.

The ideas and terms outlined by Athena Swan are being adopted right across the third level sector and evidence of this can be seen in the institutions’ action plans (available online) drawn up by HEIs as part of their application for awards. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, for example, has developed a Gender Identity and Expression Policy as part of their Athena Swan application and this policy states that everyone has a gender identity and that everyone has a sex assigned at birth. Yet these are contested ideas. Many, or perhaps most, people understand sex as a characteristic that is identified on the basis of external genitalia rather than as something ‘assigned’ at birth.

Submissions from HEIs to Athena Swan Ireland often contain plans to provide gender identity and expression training and workshops run by lobby groups. This too has enormous implications for academic freedom in Ireland. The charter principles also require that participants commit to holding others accountable. But what does this mean? It suggests a policing of thought and conversation. Protests at the University of Sussex and the proposed Irish Times boycott could be argued to be in line with this Athena Swan Charter principle.

In summary, the Irish third level education sector has lost its way and its independence. All of our HEIs participate in a charter run by a charity group based in the UK which promulgates ideals of gender equality and of equality, diversity and inclusion with little apparent consideration of the complexity of these ideas or ideals or of the importance of intellectual, or deep-level, diversity, or of debate.

Signing up to this charter is a requirement of all HEIs in the country. Even research funding in Ireland is now directly linked to accreditation with Athena Swan. It’s time to revisit the idea of the university and the still important ideas of John Henry Newman and to reposition Ireland on a path which prioritises cultivation of the intellect above an award system that stifles intellectual and institutional freedom and stultifies open inquiry and debate.

Colette Colfer is a lecturer at Waterford Institute of Technology where she lectures mainly in world religions, social ethics, and critical thinking. She has a background in journalism and has won a number of national radio awards. She is co-producer of Spokes podcast (which on a hiatus at the moment). Colette can be followed on twitter @colettecolfer

[1] Frémeaux, S. (2020) ‘A Common Good Perspective on Diversity’, Business Ethics Quarterly, 30(2), pp.200-228. doi: 10.1017/beq.2019.37.

The Spokes podcast

A new Irish podcast series produced by Colette Colfer and Terry Hackett, and presented by Colette Colfer.

John Gallen writes:

‘One of the leading female critics of feminism in the world today, Janice Fiamengo (top), has said she has received a number of letters from men in Ireland expressing concern about new rules on women-only teaching posts in Irish universities [under the Government’s Senior Academic Leadership Initiative 45 senior women-only academic leadership roles will be awarded to Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) over three years].

Dr. Janice Fiamengo, now retired, taught at the University of Ottawa as a Professor of English for 16 years. She is the creator of the Fiamengo File, a series of videos about academic feminism, freedom of speech, and men’s issues. In 2018, she published Sons of Feminism: Men Have Their Say‘, a collection of personal essays by men about being male in a feminist culture.

Below is an excerpt from her conversation with Colette. In this section Janice describes her journey through university from student to Prof and her falling in and out of love with a seductive ideology. As well as a short mention of the recent move to create a number of women-only positions at third level institutions in Ireland.’

Janice Fiamengo – “It’s hard to actually explain the power of that indoctrination, but when everyone around you accepts it. Some people, maybe, are quietly sceptical, you don’t hear voices robustly denouncing the hideous injustice and hatred of these ideologies. So you think, these people [Profs/Lecturers] are smart, they seem like good people, and there is something extremely attractive about those ideologies”

Colette Colfer “Did you have favourite thinkers at the time?”

Dr Janice Fiamengo: “I loved them all, and the more radical the better. There is something so exhilarating about that conviction, that you are advocating, that you are part of a movement that is going to overthrow injustice. And you are going to create a whole new world where nobody is ever improperly treated. Of course, the fact that white men in particular is going to have to pay for that alleged sins of their fathers that doesn’t strike you as wrong. I like all the feminists, Andrea Dworkin who was the radical feminist from the late 1970s, 1980s; Catherine McKinnon, a very radical legal theorist; Robyn Morgan.

I found them all, I loved their anger, I loved their conviction of righteousness, and of course it is very empowering for those who can see themselves as righteous victims in the schema that is being advocated, and yeah, the literal empowerment in the sense that you can speak out at rallies, in the classroom, in the public square, you can stand up and tell your story of victimisation, you can make your demands, you can shame other people merely for the colour of their skin or for their sex and most people, the vast majority will listen. And will not speak back to you. The power of that is incredible.

All you need are a few slogans and your personal story of how you were oppressed and you can go really far with that. And in fact you can now get a degree on the basis of that. So yes, it’s very seductive ideologies. I went all in, I have to admit, I was an adult, I went all in, I wrote my feminist PhD thesis and it was really only afterwards when I started teaching.

I mean, I’d already to a certain extent started to question but once I got first full time job at the University of Saskatchewan in 1999, by that point I was in my early 30s and that was when the whole thing started to look like a house of cards quite quickly because I could see that the young men in my classes were not privileged, they did not have an entitlement mentality. They, they were just, if anything, they were puzzled, they were hurt by this ideology. It had nothing to do with the way they had been brought up to be, behave, the way they lived their lives, and I just started thinking ‘wow! what a trip’, to use that language, to put on these kids.

These are 18, 19 year olds, clean-cut guys, never done anything bad in their lives, they’ve never wanted to hurt a woman, they’ve never wanted to force themselves sexually on a woman, and they’re being told that because they are male, especially of they are white, they are responsible for all the evil in the world and the only thing they can do a-la that Professor Susanna Walters who wrote the ‘Why Can’t We Hate Men’, is step back, shut up, listen, echo feminist talking points, and allow their sisters, their moral superiors to take over the world. And be thankful, that such superior moral beings exist to tell them about the errors of their ways.

That was basically it, and I thought this was just crazy and as soon as I started kind of investigating the, the lies of the whole movement became apparent to me.”

Colfer:  “OK, so the first step in you seeing was in teaching and relating to the students that were in front of you and then that lead you to explore a bit. It wasn’t that you came across a thinker that challenged you, or in a discussion.”

Fiamengo: “No. Not really.”

Colfer: “So you started to search out then?”

Fiamengo: “You know, it took a long time. I mean, it was also just becoming aware of the obvious exaggerations, and misrepresentations, of feminist scholarship ’cause I was absolutely immersed in that world. And you read all of these papers. And as you’ve, yourself have already said. In making this awful, extreme, hateful claims, the extremity of it, the hyperbole, and also the lockstep thinking, nobody ever dissenting, the vision of the world so uniformly, over and over again. The vision of the past. You know when seeing things like, talking about the suffrage struggle and associated issues, seeing claims made about how women being excluded from war was an example of patriarchal oppression of women.

The blindness to it, the men are the ones being maimed and killed in order to protect the women and you’re [feminist theory] saying that, that is an example of patriarchal oppression of women, and that, those kinds of claims, in every situation imagineable even when the mangled bloodied bodies of the men are right there for all to see, those claims are just made over and over again. Yeah, it just struck me as obscene after a while. So, you know, so for years then I dissented, I began to, when I would review books of feminist criticism, for example, I would voice my dissent. Although at that point I still kinda considered myself within the feminist camp.”

Later

 

Colfer: “You did mention Ireland …are you aware of much of what is going on in Ireland yourself, have you heard of anything, been in contact with people?

Fiamengo: “I do get letters from Irish men and certainly the one issue I’m very aware of is that there is a very strong move going on in a number of Irish universities to have women-only positions. Because certainly there has been this notion that women have been held back,  for centuries, and now at last it is women’s time and so we’re going to create all these professorships that are only available to women. We could spend an hour just talking about that.

This notion that we’re gonna make a generation, or more… certainly that kind of hiring has been going on, maybe not that quite officially, it’s been going on in Canada and the United States for decades. It creates all sorts of problems, and of course it creates, inevitably, resentment on the part of the men who were excluded from those positions, understandably so. But also creates a lot of problems for the women hired into them as well.”

Full podcast here

Spokes.

A podcast of thought-provoking conversations with interesting people from diverse backgrounds.

Presented by Colette Colfer, a lecturer at the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and produced by Colette with her husband Terry Hackett.

Latest episode: Jonathan Haidt (above). A supporter of  greater diversity of viewpoints on college campuses and one of the signatories of ‘A Letter on Justice and Open Debate‘ which was published online by Harper’s Magazine this week.

Colette writes:

Haidt is an American social psychologist and the author of over 90 academic articles and three books. In this episode of Spokes Jonathan talks about the American based international organisation The Heterodox Academy (HxA) which he co-founded in 2015 and which promotes open inquiry and viewpoint diversity in academia, he also touches on topics such as group think, orthodoxy, religion and politics….

Spokes

Previously: Hello, Yes, I’d Like To Cancel My Subscription To Harper’s

Poet Colette Colfer

Ode To The Y Chromosome

(After David C. Page)

Picture a sun the size of a crumb
Bright yellow, translucent, the sphere of the ovum
In its nucleus heart are strings strung with beads
Making 23 chromosomes carrying coding for genes

A wriggly sperm reaches the egg, breaches its skin
It’s also carrying 23 strings
Their contents combine, a cocktail shake, a cellular fusion
A throw of the dice landing code for a human

The chromosomes are paired up as life-long lovers
One from the father and one from the mother
Each pair matches in pattern and size
Unless the X chromosome is paired with you – Y

You are only present in roughly half the population
And exist as the result of an ancient mutation
The 23rd pair is where you reside
Y do I love you, Y oh Y

You’re the only one who goes it alone
Out of all of the 46 chromosomes
The others all match in homologous pairs
So their genes in meiosis can cross over to be shared

Instead you’re mismatched with the magnificent X
And in germ cells you’re in sperm cells, never in eggs
If you were paired with just a Y the cell couldn’t survive
But your pairing with the X means you can’t recombine

So you alone out of all chromosomes
In cell division to haploid result in a clone
So the Y of the father is the Y of the son
And the father’s own father also had the same one

That Y can be traced to Africa, to scientific Adam
And every generation since Adam has had ’em
But your roots go back further to our reptilian phase
When you split from the X and went separate ways

Back when we were reptiles our offspring were eggs
It was incubation temperature that determined our sex
But you underwent a mutation with the SRY gene accretion
And took control of sex control for no apparent evolutionary reason.

You’ve been around and evolving for 300,000,000 years
And now some are saying you’re about to disappear
I’m here with this ode, I’m defending your honour
Against those who’re predicting that you are a gonner.

It’s true you’re short and stubby, a third the size of the X
Under a microscope you’re bushy while the X is like a hedge
You’ve been shrinking as a result of hundreds of gene deletions
But your acquisition of the DAZ gene was relatively recent

It’s unfair the way you’re depicted as a joke in cartoons
You’re the only chromosome who is ever lampooned
No, you don’t have genes for TV channel flipping
for reading on the loo, loud farting or spitting

There isn’t a gene for air guitar
For identifying aircraft or an obsession with cars
You go deep – to the molecular level
And when you’re present you’re ubiquitous in the body that’s assembled

You do carry the coding for the scrotum and the testes
And also for the penis which is surely the best bit
It can switch in just an instant from being flaccid to an erection
A daily living metaphor for death and resurrection

Some think your function is limited to the reproductive tract
But this idea is a fiction, it isn’t a fact
You’re in charge of spermatogenensis and you’ve cell-housekeeping genes
You play a role in the body’s health and susceptibility to disease

For example you’ve no hereditary protection against haemophilia or colour blindness
and your presence means a lesser chance of rheumatoid arthritis
The fertilized egg, the founding cell, is the printer for 10 trillion cells
With instructions for organ construction and for how they function as well

It’s not true that all humans share 99.9% of their genomes
That’s only true for those with the same 23rd pair of chromosomes
Bill Clinton’s code is 98.5% the same as a XY chimpanzee
That’s the same similarity he has to his XX wife Hillary

In the East you are worshipped in giant sculptures of the erect phallus
In the West we have the limp appendages of David and Adonis
I think we should celebrate you with an ithyphallic God called Y
Y I do love you Y oh Y

Colette Colfer

Meanwhile…

Free tonight?

Colette will give the first live performance of Ode To The Y Chromosome at Spokes poetry and open mic at Phil Grimes, Waterford City, County Waterford at 8pm.

Previously: Colette Colfer: How Do I Know?

Thanks John Gallen

 

Woman

By Colette Colfer (above)

I am a woman, how do I know?
Because my body tells me so
I’ve a womb and ovaries, a breasty chest
I’ve carried a baby in my belly nest
I am milk, I am blood
My diploid cells are double X

But what is a woman?
Can we illuminate the detail?
Would you agree that it’s a noun
Meaning adult human female
Where female is a basic
Biological distinction
That’s used in both the plant
And the animal kingdoms.
The female produces
The larger gamete
But these need the male
To make reproduction complete

So female and male
Are a complementarity
A holy grail
Of unity, polarity
As day is to night
And yin is to yang
As black is to white
Woman is to man

Oestrogen testosterone
X and Y chromosomes
Each cell of our body
Is stamped with our genome

These cellular differences
Have a wider significance
Influencing personality traits
Life experiences, interests.
Less women than men
Are in engineering and mining,
Bin collection, construction,
Fishing, truck driving

It’s only women who’ve experienced
Down through the centuries
FGM, menstruation huts,
Magdalene laundries.
In countries where fornication
Is still considered a crime,
It’s the woman who’s punished
Far more of the time
You can never tell by looking
If a man has had sex

But you can with a woman
Because she carries the egg
And pregnancy is a visible sign
That can result in honour killings,
Imprisonment, honour crimes
Meanwhile the man has to deal with
Paternal uncertainty
So the pressure’s on the woman
To be a virgin, to live chastely

There have been changes
With industrialisation
Contraceptives, technology
Modernisation
We now have gender quotas,
Women’s toilets, changing rooms
Women’s sports and awards
And all-girl schools
At the same time we have feminism
And hashtag me too

Does it really matter
About the words that we use?
Some say woman
Is not about biology
That a woman can be a woman
Regardless of physiology
That it’s nothing to do
With the production of eggs
And it’s completely independent
Of what’s between a person’s legs

That ‘woman’ is identity
And how a person feels
It’s femininity, hair styles
Mascara, high heels
Manicures, blusher
Lipstick and dress.
Can you still be a woman
If you don’t shave your legs?

What’s the point anymore
In sex-segregated spaces
When males can now access
Women-only places?
This year a male won a women’s
World championship cycling race
A female boxer fought a male woman
And ended up with 7 staples in her face

Males can use women’s shelters
A male has won ‘Woman of the Year’
But women are being told
There’s nothing to fear.

Languages evolve
And meanings can change
But biological differences
Can’t be erased

People will just come up with
Different words and labels
To distinguish the differences
Between males and females
Some say we should say ‘womex’
To get rid of the men
Some say ‘people with a cervix’
Or there’s ‘pregnant people’ as well

There’s also ‘uterus havers’
‘Birthers’, ‘gestators’
‘Ovulators’, ‘bleeders’
Or my favorite – ‘menstruators’.

I am a woman, how do I know?
I am
Because my body
Makes it so

Colette Colfer

Thanks John Gallen