‘If they can make you believe men are women, they can make you believe anything’

Sall Grover on her legal battle to define what a woman is.


Topics Feminism Identity Politics World

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What is a woman? For most people, the answer is simple: an adult human female. Until relatively recently, questioning this definition would have seemed absurd. You may as well have asked whether two plus two equals four. But in Australia, what it means to be a woman will soon be decided by the verdict of a single court case: Tickle vs Giggle.

At the heart of this case is Sall Grover, the founder of a women-only app called Giggle. Sall set out to create a space on the internet that women could truly call their own. But the app was immediately inundated by transwomen. As she sought to keep her app free of men, she was dragged into a legal battle to defend the biological truth of womanhood.

Sall joined Brendan O’Neill for last week’s episode of The Brendan O’Neill Show to discuss what Tickle vs Giggle means for women’s rights worldwide. What follows is an edited extract from the conversation. Listen to the full thing here.

Brendan O’Neill: Could you give us a brief outline of the Tickle vs Giggle case and where it currently stands?

Sall Grover: This is the ‘What is a woman?’ court case. It all started because I created an app – Giggle – exclusively for women. Giggle was then attacked by men who claimed to be women. I wasn’t fully aware of this until 2022, when a trans-identifying man called Roxanne Tickle filed an Australian Human Rights Commission complaint against me. He argued that removing him from Giggle was gender-identity discrimination. This soon escalated into a federal court case, which was heard last month. We’re now waiting for the verdict of that case.

Tickle vs Giggle has forced Australians to confront a simple question: is a man’s gender identity more important than the rights of biological women to have single-sex spaces? In Australia, the case tests the validity of amendments made to the Sex Discrimination Act in 2013, which effectively changed the definition of a woman from one based on biology to one based on identity.

The case also has global implications, as it tests whether the Sex Discrimination Act violates the the definition of ‘woman’ in the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This is an international bill of women’s rights, created in 1979 and signed by 189 countries. If Australia is able to define women’s rights as applying solely to biological females, then other countries that have ratified CEDAW – like the UK – can coast off our success. What started as a controversy over my app has escalated beyond anything I could ever have imagined.

O’Neill: What kind of impact has the court battle had on your political outlook?

Grover: I never set out to make a political statement with Giggle. I was working as a screenwriter in the US for almost 10 years, from 2009 to 2018. That was very much a pre-MeToo world, and it was as horrible as all of the accusations claimed it to be. When I came back to Australia, I went into therapy to deal with some of the experiences I had over there. One day, my therapist told me that what I needed in Los Angeles was a really strong female support network – and that was a lightbulb moment for me. Hollywood is a very competitive, isolating place. I could see all the ways in which my life would have been different if I could have relied on genuine support.

After talking to my mum about issues I had finding a safe room in the US, the original idea was to create a roommate app just for women. But, over the course of a week, we started to ask: ‘What if it isn’t just for roommates, but for lots of different things?’ This idea quite quickly morphed into Giggle – a corner of the internet where women could come together to connect and talk. Where they could find roommates, look for freelance work, date or simply have a voice without male interruption.

We soon began developing the app. But before we even got to properly launch it, trans activists found it, infiltrated it and attacked it with thousands of one-star reviews. This sent Giggle into an algorithmic black hole that we could never recover from. The app itself never got a chance to get off the ground, and it’s offline at the moment due to the ongoing court case. Trans activists have completely and utterly turned my life upside down. We just wanted to create an app for women. And now I’m fighting a legal case that could decide what a woman is.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for the democratic process and took it seriously. But the fact that a government body – the Australian Human Rights Commission – is telling me to accept that men are women has made me rethink everything. It tells me that this institution never cared about my rights as a woman. It also tells me that, when there is a clear conflict between trans rights and women’s rights, it couldn’t care less about resolving it in any fair way.

Legislators are aware that this is going on, and the fact that they don’t do anything has made me lose complete trust in the government. They seem to believe that there are no votes to gain solely on the issue of trans rights and women’s rights. That might be true. But gender ideology fundamentally threatens freedom of speech, the bedrock of our secular, liberal-democratic society. After all, is there anything crazier than insisting that human beings must believe that men can be women and women can be men? That human beings can change their sex?

For me, this is one of the most important issues of our time. If they can make you believe that men are women, they can make you believe anything. Once that happens, all bets are off. You will have no rights whatsoever, because you will have lost the right to acknowledge reality. I didn’t think that was something I would ever experience in my lifetime.

Sall Grover was talking to Brendan O’Neill on The Brendan O’Neill Show. Listen to the full conversation here:

Picture by: Sall Grover.

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Topics Feminism Identity Politics World


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