“It’s basic rights we are defending”: the Meghan Murphy interview

Meghan Murphy is a Canadian writer and journalist She runs the Feminist Current website which she founded in 2012.  She was a keynote speaker for the Feminism2020 conference in Wellington this month. When Massey University cancelled the original venue booking Feminism2020 was hosted in Parliament by MP David Seymour. Meghan has challenged gender identity ideology and upheld the rights of women and girls to have some separate spaces. For this she has been labelled “highly controversial”. A year ago Twitter permanently suspended her account after she referred to Jonathon Yaniv, a trans-identified male (now known as Jessica), as “him”.  Yaniv at the time was suing female beauticians for refusing to wax his balls. Daphna Whitmore spoke with Meghan while she was in New Zealand.

Daphna Whitmore interviews Meghan Murphy on gender identity ideology

Why has gender identity ideology taken such a hold in Canada?

I ask her this and she says it’s a question she gets asked a lot. “Canadians are so polite. They are afraid of conflict, they like to consider themselves very open-minded and accepting, and they don’t like debate. So people have gone along with it, or are too afraid to speak out.”

In 2017 Canada introduced Bill C16, a law that gave gender identity special status. It makes it easy to change sex on any ID, and has led to a raft of policy changes. “With Bill C16 people just weren’t aware, it came up and was pushed through, and nobody really even got a chance to understand or pay attention to it”, says Meghan. “People were like, ‘sure, we want to protect gender identity, that’s discrimination, why would we not,’ and they saw it as the same as gay rights”, she says.

“They’ve been told this is an oppressed minority, and they are suffering, and they need to be protected and they are always killing themselves. People who did have concerns about Bill C16 were just too scared to say anything.” They also found it virtually impossible to be published. Meghan says she pitched op-eds to every single media outlet that had previously published her writing.  “Mostly what I’d published before was around prostitution, objectification and violence against women. There were always a ton of leftists against me because of the prostitution issue.”

“When Jordan Peterson said something about Bill C16 it blew up all over the place. But the feminists couldn’t get anything published and people didn’t realise what was going on and the implications of it.”

When Meghan did finally get somebody to publish something on the subject it was for free, with a publication that refused to pay her to write something that would be controversial.

‘Third wave feminism’ is a backlash against feminism

Meghan was also writing critically about ‘third wave feminism’ and was controversial in Canada for that. “Third wave feminism is a backlash against feminism. The ideology is in opposition to everything that first and second wave feminists fought for and said. For example, third wave feminists advocate for prostitution as empowering, and say pornography can be feminist. They say self-objectification is a choice.” She sees third wave feminism as “super individualistic and lacking in historical and social context.”

The trans issue has revealed some deep-seated misogyny. Meghan points out “they go on about empathy, and I think why don’t they have any empathy for women?”

The link between support for the sex industry and trans rights activists is an interesting one. Meghan was called ‘whorephobic’ and a SWERF (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist) before she became gender-critical. Now new abuse is hurled at her. She is called a TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist), a term that is a slur designed to silence women.

“They tried to have me fired from Rabble when I was writing for them on prostitution. It really was controversial and there were some Canadian media outlets that wouldn’t publish my critiques of prostitution, so I thought that was bad, and then I started talking about this!”

What got Meghan really engaged in the gender ideology debate was what was happening to the Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR), which is the last woman-only women’s shelter in Canada. “I’ve known those women for a long time. They’re attacked constantly for their women-only policy,” she says. “In the 1990s they were taken to the Human Rights Tribunal by a transwoman named Nixon, who went to a training session for counsellors. The Vancouver Rape Relief said no to Nixon, ‘this is women only.’ Nixon took them to the Human Rights Tribunal but the Vancouver Rape Relief won the right to determine their own membership. That right applies to other groups, like indigenous people, and isn’t exclusively about the right to have women-only space.”

The VRR  were recently in the news after they lost a $30k grant to do public education because they maintain their women-only status.  “The VRR are constantly under attack,” says Meghan.

Seeing the importance of women-only spaces, and seeing women such as Germaine Greer being attacked and de-platformed, opened Meghan’s eyes to the problems with gender identity ideology. Then Bill C16 came along in 2017.

The evidence of what can go wrong with laws like C16 did not take long to appear. The Jessica Yaniv case put it in the spotlight and forced people to see that what Meghan and others had been saying all along: “that if you allow just anybody to self identify,  someone will self identify and demand his balls be touched. That’s the main issue with self-identity, anybody says he’s a woman is a woman.”

The Canadian ‘left’ is all about identities

Meghan does not see the Canadian left – which has embraced social justice ideology – as progressive. “It’s all about identities, It’s lip service, it’s not real.” She talked about the existence of an Antifa in Canada, despite there being no fascist nazi movement in the country, and she described how the Canadian left imagine there’s extreme racism and police violence.  “There’s very few black people in Canada, so the demographics of people of colour are Indigenous and South Asian. There’s a lot of racism against Asian people and Indigenous people”. The people in Canada who are marginalised, she says, are the Indigenous people. “People tend to understand racism in very Americentric ways (especially Americans!), so ignore racism that targets groups that aren’t Black, and the demographics and histories in Canada are different in the US so racism plays out differently in Canada, and targets Indigenous people and South Asian people particularly. The left avoids looking at context in favour of virtue signalling, thereby failing to address the real issues.”

Canadians on the left are “not defending free speech and for the most part they are not condemning the violence against gender-critical women”, she says. “Labour and the Liberals are total phonies, and also don’t give a damn about women.”

There are trans activists in Vancouver who have a lot of power – in academia and in the media in the labour movement, and in the unions.

The woke women of the ‘left’

The sight of many women protesting outside a talk Meghan gave in Vancouver in November this year was shocking to me, especially as there were two women carrying a cardboard guillotine. I asked Meghan what makes women come and protest against their own interests?

“They want the woke points”, she says. “I feel like on some level it is trying to get male attention. ‘See me’. It is virtue signalling. They want the pat on the head. They have also been so brainwashed.”

Compared to many parts of the world women in Canada are doing well. “You can vote, drive, get a graduate degree, get an abortion” says Meghan. “Abortion is not really a debate in Canada at all. Obviously there are a few pro-lifers but it’s not a big debate.”

For middle class women self ID may seem like a non-issue but, as Meghan points out, it is mostly marginalised women who are in prisons, refuges, and shelters and being put at risk by men accessing their spaces. “One woman was in a shelter for addicted women and a male came and said he was a ‘transwoman’. The woman was told she would have to share a room with him. She freaked out. She is a rape victim, she had PTSD, insomnia, drug addiction, and mental illness and she’s being told she’s a transphobe because she doesn’t want to share a room! He got to stay and she had to leave. She’s had to sue.”

Meghan sees gender ideology is setting girls up for abuse. “Girls don’t have boundaries, girls can’t say no, they are socialised to be nice to their elders, now they are being gaslit to accept a grown man is a woman, and have to accept his penis in her spaces like changing rooms.”

It’s their moral panics

The constant refrain is that if we don’t accept all the demands made by trans activists then trans people will suffer, and will kill themselves. Meghan believes these things are repeated so often that people believe it. “As women we are socialised and conditioned to care about everyone else and put our needs last and taught we don’t matter,” she says. “The research on trans shows there is suicidal ideation, but when it comes to suicide it is men who kill themselves more than anyone else. Trans people are not subjected to any more violence than anyone else. It’s men who are subject to violence more than anyone else, through male-on-male violence.”

When people say concern about women’s rights is all moral panics it’s the transactivists who are doing the moral panics, says Meghan. “The claims that they are ‘all killing themselves’, or that the transwomen are ‘being hunted’ is a moral panic.” The way she sees it, “everything that they say is a reversal. They say we are violent; no, you are violent. That we are a threat; no, you are threatening. That we are making them feel unsafe; no, you are making women feel unsafe. That we are bigots; no, they are behaving in these incredibly bigoted ways, refusing to engage or hear other opinions.”

She is calling them out: “They have some nerve calling our concerns a moral panic. It’s basic rights we are defending”.

Journalism school is full of middle-class kids

Meghan’s trip to  New Zealand got quite a bit of media coverage. Some of it was hostile and biased, some was more open-minded. The Nation  had a ten-minute sit-down interview with Meghan which screened on national television. She also had a two-hour interview podcast with Pat Brittenden at the Department of Conversation.  When she was in Britain earlier this year she also got tons of media coverage. In contrast, in Canada no mainstream media has done an interview like that, she says. “In Canada they’ll interview me when we have an event and only show a five second clip.”

The media in Canada have either adopted gender identity ideology or are saying nothing. Part of the problem Meghan sees is that journalism school in Canada is full of middle-class kids. “You can’t be working class and go to journalism school,” she says. “ It’s a fulltime course and they don’t allow students to work. Student loans pay tuition costs, but it doesn’t pay the rent. So it’s middle-class kids going to journalism school and they don’t know anything about being working class.”

The middle class are much more concerned with wokeness than the working class. This is likely a factor in the type of shallow journalism seen in Canada, and in New Zealand with sites like the Spinoff, where a classless social-justice outlook prevails.  Meghan notes these middle-class kids “don’t really know anything about being marginalised, or about poverty, and they don’t care, they just pretend to.”

Universities are also failing to defend free speech or a diversity of views. A recent Vancouver event on Media Bias and the Gender Identity Debate was to be held at Simon Fraser University, where Meghan got her Bachelors and Masters degrees. The university pulled out two days before the event because of violent threats. “We ended up doing it at the Pan Pacific hotel. The Pan Pacific don’t care. They were awesome, they did not give a fuck.”

Meghan is often asked  “what does it matter to you?” She points out it doesn’t really matter to her personally, it doesn’t really affect her that much. It is not about her, “it’s about all women, and it’s about the fact that this is going to hurt marginalised women and girls the most.”

12 comments

  1. Is it getting to where we all need to learn to fend off unwanted advances whether of same or opposite or any sex, gaming or serious? Some sort of martial art? But maybe a drain on our total resources.

  2. I have some real problems with some of the comments made in this interview by Meghan Murphy.

    “There’s very few black people in Canada, so the demographics of people of colour are indigenous and South Asian.” Well this is not true. “According to the 2011 Census, a total of 945,665 Black Canadians were counted, making up 2.9 per cent of Canada’s population. In the 2016 Census, the black population totalled 1,198,540, encompassing 3.5 per cent of the country’s population” and “In 2016, there were 1,673,785 Aboriginal people in Canada, accounting for 4.9% of the total population.” So yes, there are slightly more Indigenous people in Canada than black people and, of course, the history of colonization of Indigenous peoples requires a specific analysis of the systemic racism they experience. But this does not mean that “There’s no racism against black people in Canada …” That is a shocking statement. Canada has a long history of documented racism against black people. And yes, “there’s a lot of racism against Asian people and indigenous people”. But there is also a well-documented history of racism against brown people and, recently, specifically Muslim people in this country.

    Canada’s history of “extreme racism and police violence” right up to the present moment is not “imagined”. These comments represent a shocking failure in terms of intersectional analysis and make solidarity between anti-racist groups and specifically anti-racist feminist groups with the growing resistance movement focussed on the threats to women’s rights posed by issues related to “gender identity” and “gender expression” more than difficult.

    I hope Meghan Murphy will address these concerns.

    • Elizabeth could you give some examples? I don’t doubt there is racism but the point that I think Meghan was making was in the context of identity politics the ‘left’ in Canada is not particularly focused on hard facts. The situation in Canada is rather different to the US, over half of Canada’s black population are new migrants, and mostly from the Carribean, compared to the US where there is the legacy of slavery and deep institutional racism and state repression.

      Systemic racism and police brutality clearly exists in the US where there were 512 killings by law enforcement in the past 2 years. When I looked at killings by law enforcement for 2018 in Canada there are 4 cases in total. One an Asian, one an indigenous, one black and one white. In 2019 there were again 4, one white, one black and 2 indigenous.

      • The fact that racism is different in Canada does not mean that we don’t have problems of “extreme racism” towards black people in Canada. We kill far fewer people in Canada than the US kills, even black and brown and Indigenous people. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a serious – even extreme problem.Systemic racism and police brutality towards black people clearly exists in Canada and is not “imagined” and is quite consistently addressed. I kind of can’t believe I’m having this conversation. I’ll leave it to you.

      • Presidential Advisor Ivanka Trump talks about the need for jobs appropriate for the training we are giving people. That might help.

    • Meghan has clarified what she meant and I’ve edited the text so it now reads “People tend to understand racism in very Americentric ways (especially Americans!), so ignore racism that targets groups that aren’t Black, and the demographics and histories in Canada are different in the US so racism plays out differently in Canada, and targets Indigenous people and South Asian people particularly. The left avoids looking at context in favour of virtue signalling, thereby failing to address the real issues.”

      • Racism can get mixed with feelings about immigrants who may bring a certain vitality but you may be left watching from the sideline if you no longer have a job. Immigrants may be clever or they may work for low pay. Then without jobs some people will become snipers from the sideline possibly trying to be part of a pecking order. What is happening in London UK where white Brits are down to 45%?

  3. Well, in fairness Elizabetgh, she said South Asian and Indigenous, not just Indigenous. Indigenous and South Asian make up 4.9 (Indigenous) plus 5.6 (South Asian) of the population, so that’s 10.5% of the Canadian population. Three times as many as black Canadians. And, of course, South Asians include quite a few Muslims. She also never said there hadn’t been “extreme racism and police violence” *in the past* against black Canadians or that it was “imagined”, as you suggest. She said there isn’t “extreme racism and police violence” *now*.

    If you are arguing that there is “extreme racism and police violence” against black Canadians now, it would have been helpful if you had have elaborated on this and how it manifests. Are there regular police slayings of black males by police men in Canada as in the United States, for instance? I know there were certainly a slew of police killings of black Canadians in Toronto in the 1980s and early 1990s, but it ended and Canada is now ranked among the less racist countries in terms of anti-black racism.
    However, I also see that Statistics Canada recorded in 2011 that almost a third of black Canadians reported being subject to racism of some type “sometimes” or “often”. A third is still a significant number but, again, Meghan was using the term “extreme racism and police violence” and you have not produced any evidence that these are features of daily life for black Canadians.

    One of the things that bothers me is that a lot of the left these days is prone to exaggerate, instead of making any sort of real Marxist or anarchist case against capitalism. They often fail to take into account the degree to which capitalism has accommodated the demands of the ‘new social movements’ over the past several decades. The ruling classes in the imperialist world in the 21st century are not the boorish old social reactionaries – anti-worker, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-anyone who isn’t white – that they were earlier. Sections of the left just act as if laws and social norms and state practices are the same now as 50 years ago. What this does is make these sections of the left look silly and/or dishonest in the eyes of workers, so the left becomes more and more a middle-class liberal left rather than a left based in the working class.

    I agree with you about the importance of the kind of alliances you mention. From what I know of her, I doubt Meghan is at all opposed to them, although her chief fight is the defence of women’s rights and given the extent to which gender self-ID has gone in Canada, that’s hardly surprising. And, as she said in the interview, it is the most marginalised women who are most under attack from transactivists and transgender ideology. Women prisoners, Muslim women facing having to share toilets and changing facilities etc with male-bodied people, etc etc.

    We do appreciate your feedback. It’s always good to get thoughtful criticism and we certainly took your comments in that vein. Also Meghan had contacted us to clarify her point. This is, of course, something that is much more likely to arise in an interview situation than when someone is writing and can rethink and rewrite.

    • Well I’ll let you do the research on police brutality towards black people in Canada. There are trials ongoing right now – and that’s just what’s being adjudicated. Check out “carding” of black people in Canadian cities. And black people, particularly black women, form one of the fastest growing prison populations in Canada. I agree with Meghan about trans issues and know what her chief fight is. I am not willing to ignore the issues around race. Believe me, “extreme racism” towards black people is not an exaggeration but as I said, I’ll let you do the work.

  4. There are quite a few similarities with New Zealand and Canada and the ‘left’. Meghan notes there’s an Antifa in Canada despite there being no nazi movement there! In NZ the left likes to get excited about a handful of neo-nazis or skinheads and calls for demonstrations against these tiny, tiny groups. While they do that and feel heroic ‘fighting fascists’, they are oblivious to the fact that these grouplets have no support, and no institutional power or influence.

    At the same time the left routinely ignores the racism of the Labour party, even when it is in power. They called for a vote for Labour (because they think Labour is much better than National) at a time when Labour had run a campaign against ‘people with Chinese-sounding names’.

    Fighting the actual capitalist class, in its modern form, is much harder than battling imaginary enemies. That so much of the left are supporting gender identity ideology, and are happy to be running around saying, “yes, some women do have penises” shows how much of an imaginary world they live in.

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