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What’s a woman? That’s a tricky question

22 November 2021

Ellie Mae O'Hagan is the Director of CLASS

“I actually don’t know why some people are women and some people are men... and anyone who claims to know the answer to that question is a liar.”

There have been three long term consequences of the historically low levels of working-class activity and the absence of any successful revolutionary project globally for several decades.

The first is that those small numbers who are attracted to radical politics often do not see the replacement of the ruling class as a political reality. They may despise particular expressions of bourgeois politics, but as the Sanders and Corbyn movements revealed, they have no alternative to it.

The second is that without the experience of a self-confident working class engaging tens of millions in struggle, those who are attracted to the radical left seek other forms of activity such as identity politics.

The third is that the real world is ignored to fit in with ideas popularised in universities during this prolonged period of working-class passivity.

We should be grateful to Ellie Mae O’Hagan for encapsulating this in the quote at the head of this article. She was on the BBC’s Politics Live programme, so this isn’t the sort of nonsense anyone can be forgiven for saying after a few beers.

O’Hagan is mainly interesting as a representative of a certain type of radical bureaucrat. Her biography says she “worked as a strategic communications consultant. Ellie has worked under the mentorship and guidance of Arun Chaudury, one of the most important figures in global progressive politics who served as the official White House videographer for President Obama”, which appears to be considered a good thing. She is now the boss of The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) which describes itself as a “leading left think tank”.

Embracing irrelevance

The implications of what she says are worth teasing out.

It means that doctors or nurses can have no way of knowing for sure if a patient is male or female unless that person is able to tell them. Midwives who’ve been telling people for centuries that they work with women are frauds.

Every woman who’s believed all her life that she knows what her biological sex is has just been lying to herself.

It means that men who sexually assault women have no way of knowing if their victim is male or female.

A couple who want to have a child can never know for sure what reproductive organs are needed.

O’Hagan and those who affect to share her uncertainty on the reality of biological sex want people to be kind. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in the real world it is always women who are being obliged to be nice. They are being told they are bigots if they don’t want men in their changing rooms, refuges or even in their prisons. Unlike the radical intellectuals, working class people know what the difference is between a man and a woman and in their majority are accepting of people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes.

A left which says that you are a liar if you can tell the difference is embracing ridicule and irrelevance.

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