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Why is the question “What is a woman?” contentious?

In brief
  • The question “What is a woman?” suggests you think a trans woman is different from a biological woman. 
  • Asking the question does not mean you are anti-trans. 
  • But it suggests you believe biological women have some of their own rights, like to private spaces.
  • The press refuses to run Family First NZ  “What is a woman?” ads.

The right to self identify

The question “What is a woman?”, which would have been straightforward until quite recently, is becoming contentious as biological definitions like “adult female human being” are erased from the public and private sphere in New Zealand.

Family First NZ launches” What is a woman?” campaign

Family First NZ have launched a nation-wide campaign, in the lead up to the general election – asking the question: What is a woman?

The aim is to establish “the  formerly non-controversial definition of ‘woman’ (an adult human female) into the laws, public policies, and regulations,” in New Zealand.

So far the accompanying petition has garnered over 9,000 signatures.

“The petition is important because we need to go back to… protecting girls in schools and changing rooms, protecting women in sports, and also for example just telling the truth on birth certifications,” says CEO Bob McCoskrie.

Family First ordered full-page advertisements for this campaign with media publications including The Otago Daily Times, Stuff and the New Zealand Herald.

Leaked emails suggest the publications colluded to pull the ad. “Apparently that’s what government funding does,” says McCoskrie,speaking with The Platform Host Sean Plunkett.

Why is the question “What is a woman?” contentious? - Centrist
Bob McCoskrie of Family First NZ wants the definition of a ‘woman’ as ‘adult human female’ enshrined in law.

Is it even legal for publications to collude, if that is what they did? Regardless of the legality, or your thoughts on whether the ads are even worthwhile, the cancellations show the media are influencing the narrative in favour of one side of the argument. Frankly, it is surprising McCoskrie ever thought they would run it given the way they have reported on things like the mob attacking the Posie Parker “Let Women Speak” event in Auckland on March 25th of this year.

For more see: whatisawoman.nz

The definition of a woman  has been under fire for a few years in NZ

In July, 2021, a Speak Up For Women billboard, in Wellington, that defined a woman as “an adult human female” was accused of being “anti-trans” and taken down.

It wasn’t anti-trans, says Speak Up For Women spokesperson Beth Johnson. 

“The billboard was to raise public awareness of the proposed changes to the self-identification laws,” (the ability to change your gender on your birth certificate).

This law was “unanimously passed at the end of 2021” and came into effect in June, 2023. Therefore Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ answer (“I think people define their gender identity for themselves”) to the question is not surprising.

Some would argue this law, and the resistance to using the historical definition for a woman, is superficial pandering to activists. These activists argue their group’s feelings, regardless of how untethered the other group may think the feelings are to objective reality, should both prevail and quash any contrary opinion.

Many are quite happy for everyone to live their life on their own terms, but a line is drawn when what another group considers their space is invaded.

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