For over a century, feminists have campaigned for women’s sex-based rights, despite the violent backlash from men. They recognised that women’s health and well-being, participation in public life and their ability to escape abuse were the most urgent human rights issues affecting the female sex. The backlash from men was carried out in the physical – by using oppression and violence – but it was justified with metaphysical theories about women’s brains, a feminine psyche and the innate nature of gender stereotypes. Obscure scientific methods of dubious significance, like phrenology, kept being devised to try and substantiate this empirically.
Needless to say, such methods have been abandoned as quackery, and we now know that none of the assumptions about women on which male supremacy was based were correct. Despite this, the tendency toward justifying discrimination against women and girls has not disappeared with technological advancements in the 21st century. Now, instead of phrenology and fanciful ideas about “wandering wombs”, we have brain scans being used to allegedly prove that feminine males and masculine females were “born in the wrong body” and that their psychological distress can be cured by medical and surgical procedures designed to make them resemble the opposite sex.
This collection of essays is my testament to the feminists who have campaigned so painfully and courageously, and for so long, and those that continue to fight to this day – and beyond.