Katrina Biggs, July 28 2022
It seems that the Mayor of Dunedin, Aaron Hawkins, believes advocating for women’s safe spaces is “repugnant”.
Earlier this week, Jennifer Scott of Dunedin made a presentation to the Council where she advocated in no uncertain terms for safe female-only spaces, and the mayor’s first reaction after hearing it was to say that it was distasteful and even repugnant. That’s right, the male mayor, from the safety of his maleness, tells a woman that wanting safe female-only spaces is repugnant. Glad you educated us about that, Aaron, otherwise we might still be under the illusion that women need to be wary around men. All men, no matter how they self-identify. Make no mistake, that’s a burden which sucks big time, but Aaron nonchalantly seems to think a bit more of it won’t matter. Magnanimously, under the cloak of stating that Jennifer’s no-frills truths about the clash of transwomen’s and women’s rights and safeties “can cause harm to people in our community”, he endorses free and unfettered access to all women’s spaces to any man who self-identifies as a woman. Champion.
Jennifer rightly pointed out that the vast majority of men who self-identify as women retain their penis and testicles - and they don’t park them at the door before entering women’s spaces. Penises and testicles, either seen or unseen, are not something that most women and girls are comfortable with in communal toilet areas and changing rooms. It’s of no consequence how the owners of male bodies identify, even if they’re the most benign of males, their bodies are still male. It shouldn’t even be up for debate whether women have to take their chances with them in female spaces. However, the mayor of Dunedin, from his throne of ‘I’m-all-right-Jack’, gave Jennifer a right ol’ telling-off for being so bold as to – gasp – debate the matter of women’s safety from men. I mean, how simply awful was she to do that. Repugnant, even.
In her presentation, Jennifer made it abundantly clear that her main concern was for the safety of females. It’s as plain as day to anyone who thinks about it that there’s no way only ‘nice’ transwomen will use female spaces if the doors are open to all men who say they’re women. When in the entire course of our human history have opportunistic, predatory, and unstable men ever not taken advantage of a loophole to get to women and girls? So, how do we judge which men are fit for entry into women’s spaces and who’s not? We can’t. And that’s why we need to keep all men out irrespective of whether they’re decent men, self-identify as women, or come from outer space. Sure, it's not a perfect system, but it’s the best we have to ensure women and girls have safe public spaces. And once upon a time, men knew they had to respect that whether they wanted to or not. Most still do, although some seem to think that it’s no longer ‘progressive’ for women to have safe female-only spaces. Not looking at anyone in particular, Aaron.
If there are men in this world who want a safe toilet or changing area to use away from other men, then accommodations should be made for them. But it is either egregiously arrogant or incredibly short-sighted to fling open the doors to women’s spaces as the means of making those accommodations.
There was talk of ‘inclusivity’, of course, by some councillors, but as Jennifer pointed out how do we include women in society if we don’t feel that there are safe public spaces for us? It’s understandable that women don’t want to feel they have to be afraid, and to want to break down social boundaries which stymie our equal standing with men in life, and to be able to feel fearless. Who doesn’t want that? But do you know what one of the things is which has most helped women’s progress towards all that in the world? It is safe female-only public toilets. Without those, women were on a ‘urinary leash', but once those public toilets were installed women could travel and meet and advocate for our rights and safeties and have public lives. We give that away at our peril. And opening up our spaces to males is the same as giving them away.
Yes, Jennifer’s presentation to the Dunedin City Council was hard-hitting, but there was nothing untruthful about it. Two of the nine male councillors argued with the mayor and his appalling comments, the four women councillors notably said nothing (although one was cut off at the end before she could speak).
There is nothing “repugnant” about advocating for the rights and safeties of women and girls. It’s entirely legitimate to point out where the rights and safeties of transpeople clash with women’s - and to talk about it.