What protesters and big business have in common

All companies and all protest movements now feel the need to virtue-signal over trans rights.

Jo Bartosch

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The latter-day crusties of Extinction Rebellion and the besuited drones of the corporate world agree on at least one thing: trans rights matter. In these times of division and strife, it should be comforting to see such ostensibly disparate groups unite around a single issue, though why the interests of 0.3 per cent of the population are centred by either remains a mystery.

With the much-anticipated announcement about the Gender Recognition Act looming, big businesses have stepped up their efforts to show they care. Corporate movers and shakers in the fields of entertainment and media last week signed a letter urging Boris Johnson to ‘remove additional barriers to trans people being able to identify and live authentically’. Signatories include the Walt Disney Company, Sky and the Financial Times. This comes shortly after Google UK created a template letter to be sent to local MPs, citing a ‘threat of rollbacks to trans rights, dignity and legal protections.’ It seems unlikely that the transgender movement has captured the notoriously hard hearts of business-leaders, so one has to wonder: what’s in it for them?

Journalist Jennifer Bilek posits that the drive for so-called transgender rights ‘is body dissociation made normal, driven by elites with an agenda’. She argues that transgenderism ‘is where the real money is, which is why corporations, banks, governments, politicians, the UN, the ACLU, etc are all on board for trans and driving it institutionally at warp speed, including into grade schools’. For Bilek, splitting mind from body offers a new money-making opportunity, fundamentally destabilising people and creating a market of more pliable consumers. Whether one agrees or not, it is clear the opportunities to make money from trans extend beyond the pharmaceutical industry gaining a few life-long pill-poppers. More widely, it is fair to assume that support for causes such as ‘transgender rights’ is good public relations.

The efforts made by corporations to demonstrate their woke credentials leave little space for protest movements. To keep their edge, the remit of today’s fashionable campaigns has been extended. For example, one might expect Black Lives Matter primarily to fight racism. And yet embedded in their core values is a promise to ‘foster a queer‐affirming network’ while ‘freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking’. This is not limited to BLM. In 2018, the Women’s March took the somewhat surprising decision to invite Munroe Bergdorf, a man who identifies as transgender, to give a keynote speech. Similarly, last month Extinction Rebellion issued a statement decrying ‘unrelenting attacks from Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, the media, elected politicians, and even from leading voices within the environmental movement’. Adding that ‘trans comrades are at the front and centre of our struggles, and long may they remain so’.

Many longstanding protesters have been left feeling alienated by this shift. A veteran activist who asked to be known as Georgie told me:

‘I don’t understand where this has come from. Sure, there’s always been a crossover with other campaigns, but since when did it become “wrong” to have a different view? I haven’t any hard feelings towards trans people, but as a mother and grandmother I am very aware that transwomen are men. That’s not harsh, that’s a fact. And as an environmentalist, I worry about damage from hormones – I want people to feel good in their bodies without lopping bits off or taking pills. Where do I fit now? I have been sent to Coventry by some local organisers – I was told my presence makes people “unsafe”. Well, fuck those small-minded gits!’

Today’s protest movements evolve under the constant glare of the social-media Stasi, and, as such, they must be impervious to critique or accusations of ‘isms’. As demonstrated by a recent Ipsos Mori poll, ‘support for transgender rights differs significantly with age’, with younger people far more likely to believe that ‘transgender rights have not gone far enough’. Given the demographic of both protests and social media, arguably it is no surprise that the concerns of older people – and in particular older women – are derided and sneered at as ignorant or hurtful. Just as with protest movements, corporations are also mindful that in order to stay on trend they must pay heed with the click-deep concerns of their online audience. This is virtue-signalling on organic, fair-trade crack.

Today’s popular protest movements are not about lobbying for change on single issues — they are about signalling support for a specific set of values. For whatever reason, support for so-called transgender rights is the shibboleth that marks out ‘right thinking’ left-leaning people. Campaigns are collapsing into a singularity of wokeness, stifled by scrutiny of a social-media generated leftist monoculture. Arguably for many, attending protests is a little like attending church – a conspicuous act to show one’s devotion, to prove that one is a ‘good’ person.

At this juncture, a confession is in order. I have always enjoyed a good protest. There is something vital in the heady mix of righteousness and anger, the comfort of being in one’s tribe and the spectacle of seeing diverse people united in a single cause. But the self-appointed spokespeople who are the face of today’s on-trend causes represent a narrow-minded minority. In insisting followers lock-step on transgender rights, they are marching towards irrelevance, reducing what were once powerful movements for liberation and change to a fashion statement for the woke.

Jo Bartosch is a journalist campaigning for the rights of women and girls.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

Vivian Darkbloom

20th July 2020 at 10:30 pm

It’s funny how someone like Robin DiAngelo never mentions USA imperialism which has rampaged around the world since at least WW2. Also that she’s a white woman lecturing other white people about bizarre ideas such as white supremacy and white fragility. Has anyone stood up during one of her extremely lucrative talks and said “shut up you white privileged Yank?” I expect serious pushback from black people about this. The bougie whites are going to just sit there and nod then go back to their desks. Their black colleagues are going to think “hang on, I’m not oppressed. I get get paid more than those magnolias in the post room and exactly the same as my white mate who sits next to me with whom I have a laugh every day.” Etc. DiAngelo’s shtick only benefits her bank account. One question from a Brit to a Yank: how come this terrible all-pervasive all-powerful system of evil white supremacy allow you to say what you say and enrich you into the bargain? Surely these strange and mysterious white supremacists would have stopped you by now?

theodore smuglout

20th July 2020 at 8:12 pm

Jo writes:

“Arguably for many, attending protests is a little like attending church – a conspicuous act to show one’s devotion, to prove that one is a ‘good’ person.”

I’m afraid I find this comparison a little cynical.

I am a church organist, aged 72. I am not a practising Christian, but I have become acquainted with, and made many friends of people who are, from many church congregations over the years.I enjoy playing and I enjoy the fellowship and banter (or used to before lockdown) after the service, even if the stimulant in the beverages on offer is restricted to caffeine. Yes – banter! Christians do have a sense of humour (surprise, surprise!)

Whatever Jo may think about the Christian religion (probably that it’s just for unhinged people who believe in a sky-fairy) virtue-signalling isn’t a characteristic that would fairly describe many of the people I’ve met.

A thought experiment. Try substituting “mosque” for “church” and imagine what might happen!

Mark Beal

20th July 2020 at 7:27 pm

I think that some of this has come about because it’s no big secret within companies that a sizeable portion of the general public has for a long time been suspicious of claims made in advertising. Today’s minefield is of course the environment, where companies feel obliged to tell us all how much they’re doing, but always run the risk of being caught doing things that contradict this narrative.

Far easier, then, to show their support for causes that bear little relationship to the things they actually sell. Thus ice cream companies can genuflect to BLM, because there’s no obvious double standard involved. Supermarket chains can waffle on about trans rights because unless they chance to ban a trans person from a store for some reason, who’s to say they don’t care about trans rights? And anyone can stick a rainbow flag in their window. Causes that don’t demand putting your money where your mouth is are gold to corporations. And since they’re all doing it, boycotting any individual business is difficult, and tends to be done by individuals, not as an organized campaign – which only becomes obvious when a company like Gilette makes an ad that’s so blatant that it rubs huge numbers of consumers up the wrong way at once.

The considerable overlap between the likes of Extinction Rebellion, BLM, trans-proselytizers and the rest, on the other hand, shows clearly how being a “good person” has now, on the (il)liberal left become a question of holding a package of beliefs, the constituent parts of which either have no obvious connection (I have no idea in what way a concern for the environment necessitates support for men believing they’re women and vice versa) or contradict one another (Amnesty International’s approval of MeToo).

The hope one might hold is that all of these organizations will alienate a vast majority of the population precisely because they require adherence to beliefs that have nothing to do with their core issue. That they all appear to be cut from the same cloth and endorse each other’s beliefs may, in fact, be a sign that this alienation is already a fact. Having driven out sensible people, only the hardcore activists are left, those who are desperate not to fall foul of their peers, knowing only too well how vicious the Twitter mob is.

James Knight

20th July 2020 at 1:21 pm

Please can we just get rid of all “protected characteristics” and get back to the idea of equality by treating people as individuals. The smallest “minority” is the individual.

Barry O’Barmy

20th July 2020 at 11:19 am

Trannies are psychiatric cases who need treatment, not being pandered to. Men have XY chromosomes, women have XX and rare syndromes like Klinefelter’s have XXY.. People who imagine they are of another sex are simply potty and should be treated thus.
No doubt this comment will be subject to “moderation” for unknown reasons…..

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 11:11 am

‘Virtue signaling” is just a phrase.

My mum and nan bough their poppies every November then insisted the men in their lives do the same. Had to have a poppy. Or in Spiked’s circles: “poppy fascism”.

Then at Christmas it was a case of “must send a card to weirdo Keith – wonder how he’s doing but we haven’t bothered to find out for 25 years”.

And it was the same in millions of families but no one spoke of “virtue signalling”.

Spiked reading intellectuals would be amazed how many Brexit voting pensioners have an adopted donkey that they send money to every December.

Mor Vir

20th July 2020 at 11:45 am

Your argument is that most people virtue-signal in various ways, it was not previously described as such, and therefore it is ‘just a phrase’. But what else is a phrase intended to do but to describe what goes on and to provide a locus for the discussion and analysis of the phenomena? All words are ‘just phrases’ but they make understanding and communication possible.

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 12:20 pm

My argument is that “virtue signalling” is a lazy catch all frequently deployed to attack people. Like accusing everyone at the BBC of being “right on” or complaining that the Tory party is “infested with the politically correct nowadays”

Phrases can be used to dumb down communication and spread misinformation. Garbage in = garbage out.

Mor Vir

20th July 2020 at 2:20 pm

It is genuine phenomena, as are PC and right-on. Cope with it.

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 3:32 pm

Yeah I cope with it all just fine because it’s not me furiously boycotting Radio 4 or Marvel comics on the grounds that their output “fails to adequately reflect just how much me and my wife despise homosexuals and latte drinking Londoners”

George Whale

20th July 2020 at 12:59 pm

There’s s difference between quietly supporting a good cause and shouting about it from the rooftop.

George Whale

20th July 2020 at 1:00 pm

(a)

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 1:55 pm

Who defines those differences?

Spike Lee has a company with a certain name. An 87 year old woman in Dorset might respond to that mundane fact with “Why is this Spike Lee – whoever he is – rubbing my face in his views? Not interested in him. Sick of it.”

If my local newspaper is covering a charity bake off to raise money for the local hedgehog hospital, chances are I will turn the page after scanning the headline. Charity. Hedgehogs. Cake. I get the gist of the story in two seconds.

Two women in a photo holding a cake? Sure, I’ll maybe pause to see if either woman is attractive but then I’ll turn the page.

christopher barnard

20th July 2020 at 10:05 am

Most of the protesting classes are middle class white people who have done very well in our capitalist society even as many of them tell us they don’t like capitalism.

Big business knows they have money to spend and so it needs to keep them happy.

Mark Houghton

20th July 2020 at 8:53 am

Just because you can graft an artificial cock onto a woman doesn’t make her a man just as if I graft artificial dog ears onto my head doesn’t make me Fido.

Ray Diator

20th July 2020 at 10:15 am

You may however be allowed to put ‘Dog’ on your passport

Mike Talbot

20th July 2020 at 10:28 am

Adding or removing body parts isn’t necessary. I could stand up in front of a crowd of trans-activists with my knob out and declare I am woman – just as much as the gal next to me – and get an approving applause.

James Conner

20th July 2020 at 12:01 pm

” I could stand up in front of a crowd of trans-activists with my knob out and declare I am woman – just as much as the gal next to me – and get an approving applause.”

But that might just be because you have a tiny knob…

Mike Talbot

20th July 2020 at 1:50 pm

“But that might just be because you have a tiny knob…”

Touché. Should have seen that coming

Christopher Tyson

20th July 2020 at 12:23 pm

But Mark Almand’s nan might send you a few quid at Christmas.

Christopher Tyson

20th July 2020 at 12:25 pm

That was a reply to Mark Houghton

Philip Humphrey

20th July 2020 at 7:14 am

One would have thought they would have learned from the experience of Gillette with their disastrous “woke” advertisement castigating men (their main customers) that may well have lost them a significant amount of sales and money. Or the recent experience of Goya foods, whose CEO endorsed President Trump (as he had Obama when he was in office) and attracted the ” wrath” of the woke. But their boycott was canceled out and overwhelmed by a “buycott” by conservatives keen to support Goya foods.
So perhaps CEOs need to learn that by virtue signaling and appeasing the “woke” they may well be offending the rest of their customers. Better still to stay out of politics altogether and concentrate on sales.

Alison Smith

20th July 2020 at 7:49 am

Agree 100%.

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 11:01 am

Do you know any English men boycotting any razor brand because of an American-centric corporate advert?

I’ve never heard any man in England discussing it, in real life.

I am aware that in the 1980s some English dads refused to let their teenage sons watch Grange Hill, The Young Ones, Dennis Potter and Miami Vice but such dads didn’t exist on my South London housing estate so we all watched those shows.

My best friend was sent to prison at the age of 18 for drug dealing – the idea of him being upset by an American razor advert is like trying to imagine young English men in 1990s London boycotting Pulp Fiction because it features a scene in a shop dungeon with a gimp.

Ever heard of a young English man refusing to watch Pulp Fiction? I never have.

I can’t speak for all American right wing men, of course, but given the rubbish they’ve seen/enjoyed over the years I’m pretty certain American adverts featuring cheesy messages won’t have upset the vast majority of them.

Any American right wing man who can sing “God bless America‘ without feeling like an idiot, and who has worn a suit to church to listen to his woke preacher and had seen Top Gun and who lives his daughter can cope with that razor advert.

The idea that the 4chan generation of kidults was triggered by that advert is too funny. Course they weren’t.

The idea that America’s meth heads are busy boycotting Gillette because of that advert is stupid.

I accept some Conservative men are so unhinged that they tell their wives they’ll never buy Giltter again, yes – the same way we accept some American men refuse to have anything to do with the ‘Satanic” Harry Potter or Stephen King.

You would have to guess exactly how many English wife beaters, soldiers, prisoners, drug users, gym bunnies, physics students and football hooligans are refusing to buy Gillette in a Superdrug special offer. My guess it’s close to zero.

The idea that a 55 year old American working class woman who have lived through divorce, breast cancer and the death of a son in war could be upset by a cheesy Gillette advert is absurd. Like trying to imagine your mum and gran being upset by a Walkers crisp advert in which Gary Lineker says something nice about the French.

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 11:03 am

*I accept some Conservative men are so unhinged that they tell their wives they’ll never buy Gillette again, yes.

Ray Diator

20th July 2020 at 1:14 pm

Having said that, there are an awful lot of men wearing beards

Nick Catt

20th July 2020 at 1:47 pm

Well, if you’ve never heard any men in England discussing boycotting Gillette then it can’t have happened. Proctor & Gamble’s Gillette $8bn write off last year must have been for something else.

Peter Anthony

20th July 2020 at 2:45 pm

Yes I do-quite a few in fact-and oddly its men from resolutely working class backgrounds that when aware of this take offence.Howveer-don’t take my word for it-look at their sales stats-they tanked almost overnight-

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 3:51 pm

‘Well, if you’ve never heard any men in England discussing boycotting Gillette then it can’t have happened”

Would anyone here care to let me know exactly how many ordinary English men they’ve discussed boycotting razor manufacturers with over the last thirty years?

Be honest, now.

Just be honest.

I would never dare to claim that no man in England has ever spoken about their passionate boycott of the video games of Codemasters – it takes all sorts – but I would say it’d be utter nonsense to claim that men in England spoke about boycotting Codemasters in large, passionate numbers.

Certainly, not one man in my family or circle has ever spoken to any woman in England about Codemasters video games.

There has been no boycott of Codemasters games in my village.

A mass boycott of Gillette razors never happened amongst ordinary English men. For the exact same reasons there will be no mass boycott of Orange Club biscuits in England next month even if Orange Club were to run a “woke” ad campaign in the pages of an American sports magazine.

The men of England are, in the main, not stupid enough to boycott a razor blade due to some American idiots crying about a ‘’woke” advert.

We might switch brands as and when it takes our fancy and in the same way we might eat a pot noodle one day but not another.

I do not claim that no man in England hates George Clooney. I only point out the obvious: if you walk around England you’ll struggle to find a dad of 3 who really, really hates George Clooney and furiously boycotts all of his films.

The number of men in England who have discussed their love of EE Cummings with me, or their boycott of Foxes biscuits is, to date, zero.

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 4:36 pm

* I focus on the men of England because they are my point of reference. My peers. My social and business circle. Me.

Women and the deeply religious in a village in Indian might be boycotting Nike trainers, following an advert that they claim insults a deity, for all I know, but here in my patch of England I can sit outside my local Costa and watch thousands of pairs of Nike trainers walking by as worn by British people and foreign tourists.

My local JD Sports – if you’re English you will likely know exactly what brands they’ll be stocking. Regardless of what a woman in India is boycotting or a right wing man in America is avoiding.

Like millions of English men I have various disposable razor blade packets in a drawer in the bathroom, some shaving cream cans (mixed brands) and potions and lotions designed to reduce shaving irritation (mixed brands).

Like many English men, sometimes I will instruct a relative to get me razors when they are in a supermarket. The words “But not Gillette as I found their latest advert offensive” never once being uttered.

Any U.K. tea bag brand would have to really go some in terms of offence or criminality to get the men in my family to vocally take part in a boycott of their tea bags. Open support for a terrorist organisation, for example, or denigration of the war dead. An advert that 57 Mail readers describe as “PC madness‘ simply isn’t going to be enough to make myself, family and friends go “well I’ll never drink that brand again, even if they do an offer of buy 80 teabags get 80 free’

I do not deny that some men might furiously boycott DC Comics following a Batman plot twist they object to – but that is not the kind of thing ordinary dads and husbands in England do. Most married men in England do not read Batman comics.

I can hear two English men outside my widow right now – just from their accents and speech patterns I can guess their age range, the county they grew up in and predict that both men are unlikely to own copies of The Filth by Grant Morrison but can possibly – possibly – recognise a picture of Michael Barrymore were I to show them one.

I’ll wager that both men have seen Only Fools and Horses at least once but neither man has watched the first 3 episodes of Ally McBeal nor even one episode of Dawson’s Creek.

Vivian Darkbloom

20th July 2020 at 8:58 pm

Alan, I knew you were an epigone of ee cummings even before you tried to hide it by the use of upper case. EE Cummings – upper case – is an itinerant vegan chocolatier last sighted in Corfe, Dorset, struggling to obtain a seat on the 12:45 to Swanage in the company of a huge mixing bowl. You know this, don’t you, you old badger? Why the conflation?

James Knight

20th July 2020 at 1:59 pm

Normal rules of capitalism do not apply. Some of those CEOs actually believe this stuff. The author of White Fragility is reputedly on six figure sums for consultancy work with corporations.

Dominic Straiton

20th July 2020 at 7:09 am

Do anyones lives really matter. Not really. Does my white heterosexual life matter to a black “trans”? I doubt it. Do I really care about hundreds of thousands of lives lost in a tsunami. Briefly but not really. Doesnt make me cry. Do I care about all the black men murdered in Chicago south central this weekend. Of course not. Do I care about the lives of people I actually know, absolutely. “lives matter” is a slogan. What they really mean is “my life matters” . Why we have to be constantly informed about this from the most tedious and indulged generation in human history is beyond me.

Mor Vir

20th July 2020 at 11:34 am

Absolutely, and humans are made that way for a reason. It is just how we are. The ‘all lives matter’ slogan presents itself as an affirmation of humanity but really it is an assault on humanity, on a part of what makes us human – the concern mainly for those closer to us.

It is a quasi-religious slogan. A political slogan might be something old fashioned like ‘justice and prosperity for all citizens’. But the new slogan is not focused on social gains, it is focused on our mentalities, and its not like people can change their nature through some quasi-religious conversion.

Rather the slogan functions as a locus of moral condemnation of the masses, ultimately of everyone, even the moral posers, as they are really no different to the rest of us. ‘Anti-r acism’ is ordered to bourgeois material interests, increased labour utilisation; BLM is a bourgeois, quasi-religious front intended to morally disarm the masses from criticism of open borders.

The best response is, as you suggest, to say that not all lives matter equally to anyone personally, get over it. That is just how humans are. Most people support justice and prosperity for all citizens, however.

PAUL ROGERS

20th July 2020 at 7:05 am

“Click deep concerns”. Brilliant.

I like it and shall borrow the phrase. It summarises the nonsense I am seeing in large UK corporate Britain today as we actively seek ‘reverse mentors’ to advise execs of race issues.
But apparently Polish does not count. (I am mostly Turkish.) I am not kidding. And I am furious.

James Conner

20th July 2020 at 6:56 am

The guy who got fired because he organised a “White Lives Matter” fly-by, fell foul of the new ‘woke’ employment laws.

James Clark

20th July 2020 at 10:38 am

You’re over simplifying why he was sacked, other related matters were also taken into consideration.

James Conner

20th July 2020 at 12:03 pm

But you have no idea what these ‘other related matters’ are do you?

Mike Oliver

20th July 2020 at 6:10 am

You are sadly mistaken.
The guy who hired a plane with the White Lives Matter sign was seen as a white supremacist and got fired.
If you say All Lives Matter you are seen as racist.
If you say Blue Lives Matter (police) then you are seen as a fascist as well as a racist.

Michael Thompson

20th July 2020 at 6:41 am

Well then you have to be prepared to be fired or seen as racist or facist. It depends on how important it is to you and it seems its not important enough for many in which case they should stop whining about it.

Ray Gunn

20th July 2020 at 9:00 am

What about ‘brown lives’? Presumably in the hierarchy of mattering they matter somewhat less than ‘black lives’ but more than ‘white lives’.

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 11:14 am

Bobby Seagull was on Any Questions on Friday and didn’t raise that point. You’d need to discuss it with brown people, I guess. But keep in mind not all brown people are the same.

As far as I’m aware, no one in England has declared that Bobby Seagull – or your good self – shouldn’t march around Margate with a Brown Lives Matter placard.

James Knight

20th July 2020 at 1:27 pm

Surveys have shown that people have a more positive reaction to “All Lives Matter”, including among black people.

This is hardly surprising.

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 2:09 pm

All lives matter could lead to angry white men insisting it’s woke nonsense and American Karens angrily making it clear that they think ‘the scum in our prisons don’t matter as much as law abiding folk like me”

If a right wing person is to determined to take offence they will do so, in my experience.

People love a good moan. Witness the straight men making out they’re hard done by because they’ve never been on a straight pride march or their local nightclub doesn’t have a “straights only’ policy.

BLM matter slogan started in the USA because of North America’s history and politics. The idea that B.L. didn’t matter as much as whites kick started the push back.

Mark Almand

20th July 2020 at 2:18 pm

For a white right wing couple to have started a “white lives matter” campaign on the Isle of Wight in the early 1990s would have been absurd for self evident reasons and, indeed, the fact that no such campaign took place is proof of why it wasn’t needed.

Had police on the Isle of Wight had a decades long policy of attacking white straight men then a “white straight men lives matter” campaign on the island might have been started by, say, a woman who was angry her straight white son had been attacked for the 7th time by Hampshire police. ‘He’s no angel, perhaps, but they targeted him because he was straight. Look what they did to his eye.”

Michael Thompson

20th July 2020 at 4:14 am

It won’t be long now before everyone’s life matters. All you have to do is identify with some particular group and get yourself a piece of cardboard as a sign to write down that your group’s life matters. No one can say that your life does not matter. No one would be so inhuman as to say that.

So everyone who belongs to any group can say that there life matters. Pretty soon we will have everyone covered and we can then assume that all lives matter which is where we began. Black people and trans people will just merge into the background of humanity which is where we should all belong.

They will have to find some other attention seeking device.

Ray Diator

20th July 2020 at 6:18 am

When I look around nowadays, I’m starting to think that some lives actually don’t matter

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