The Greengrocer's Choice, a la Maya Forstater


Maya Forstater is a name I hope you know. She was terminated from a consultancy because she sincerely believes in the biological reality of sex. She took her case of unfair/illegal dismissal to court, and here is where the plot thickens quite a bit. In the 2019 ruling against her, which she is appealing, the judge penned:

"I consider that the Claimant's view [that there are only two sexes and one cannot change sex], in its absolutist nature, is incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others. She goes so far as to deny the right of a person with a Gender Recognition Certificate to be the sex to which they have transitioned. I do not accept the Claimant's contention that the Gender Recognition Act produces a mere legal fiction. It provides a right, based on the assessment of the various interrelated convention rights, for a person to transition, in certain circumstances, and thereafter to be treated for all purposes as the being of the sex to which they have transitioned. . . The Claimant's position is that even if a trans woman has a Gender Recognition Certificate, she cannot honestly describe herself as a woman. That belief is not worthy of respect in a democratic society. It is incompatible with the human rights of others that have been identified and defined by the ECHR and put into effect through the Gender Recognition Act . . . However, [the right for her to hold her belief] does not mean that her absolutist view that sex is immutable is a protected belief for the purposes of the EqA . . . Even paying due regard to the qualified right to freedom of expression, people cannot expect to be protected if their core belief involves violating others dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them . . . I conclude from this, and the totality of the evidence, that the Claimant is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.

More: "I consider requiring the Claimant to refer to a trans woman as a woman is justified to avoid harassment of that person. Similarly, I do not accept that there is a failure to engage with the importance of the Claimant’s qualified right to freedom of expression, as it is legitimate to exclude a belief that necessarily harms the rights of others through refusal to accept the full effect of a Gender Recognition Certificate or causing harassment to trans women by insisting they are men and trans men by insisting they are women. The human rights balancing exercise goes against the Claimant because of the absolutist approach she adopts . . . [S]he does not have the protected characteristic of philosophical belief."

Now, ironically, after proclaiming that the belief a woman is an adult human female is somehow odious and not worthy of respect in a democratic society, it must be said that UK feminists are fighting back. The tide may be turning, especially with the new ruling against Tavistock, and Boris Johnson has stepped back from any legal self-identification policy. Forstater gives a terrific update on all that happened in 2020 on this issue in the UK on her CrodJustic page, and it's very hopeful.

So I was very pleased to see a new article by Maya Forstater, who speaks about "The Power of the Powerless," named after a story by Vaclav Havel. In that story, Havel talks about a greengrocer in his country (then Czechoslovakia) who puts a sign in his window, "Workers of the World, Unite!" He does not believe in the sign, but he puts it up nonetheless. Why? As Havel explains, "Verbally, it might be expressed this way: “I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.”

In putting up the sign, however, "he has himself become a player in the game, thus making it possible for the game to go on, for it to exist in the first place."

On the other hand, if the greengrocer decides not to put the sign up, he will surely be punished. But something is also won: "The greengrocer has not committed a simple, individual offence, isolated in its own uniqueness, but something incomparably more serious. By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such. He has exposed it as a mere game. He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth . . . If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living the truth."

Forstater intersperses her recounting of Havel's tale with screenshots of tweets, photos, statements by personalities such as JK Rowling, logos, etc. The result is really quite devastating--I hope you will take a look. If you are inclined, I also invite you to contribute to Maya Forstater's CrowdJustice legal funding page, as I have done.

We are not powerless, despite so many attempting to convince us otherwise. Take the sign out of the window; the view is better that way.