Letters to the Editor

Please feel free to use these letters to the editor as a basis for your own letters to local newspapers. Use the text as is or modify it in whatever ways work for your situation.

Privilege or Biology?

What is the deal with the new use of the word “privilege”? It seems a person is privileged if they have anything that another person covets.

Webster’s Dictionary defines privilege as “a right, advantage, favor, or immunity specially granted to one; esp. a right held by a certain individual, group, or class, and withheld from certain others or all others.” To me that definitely points out how wrong it was for segregation to ever have been OK, how wrong it was to withhold the right to vote from women, and how wrong it was for marriage to be withheld from gays and lesbians when it was being granted to another group. So privilege is something that is granted by another person or group to a person or group.

So when transgender people call women born women a privileged group, who was it that granted us the right to be women? You see, it is not granted by any person. We are born with a body that can, in most cases give birth to children, bleeds monthly and is anatomically different than a man’s body. That is not a privilege, it is just biology.

I have nothing against the transgender people until they start telling me what I can call parts of my own body and saying women cannot meet together as women unless they include male-to-transgender persons (men who say they are women). I don’t think all transgender people are so adamantly opporsed to women-only spaces, but there is a very vocal group of transgender people who have shut down women-only spaces all over this country, including in Fayetteville at the Goddess Festival this past March.

Written by Linda Barnes
Published July 24, 2017 in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Minority View Should Not Define what ‘Woman’ Is

Transgender people should be protected by law against discrimination and should certainly be as free as anyone to serve in the U.S. military. But, some in the transgender movement make demands of society that go well beyond bringing an end to discrimination. Over the past ten to twenty years a small minority of the population has begun to insist that a woman is anyone who claims to be one. The Transgender Law Center in San Francisco says that only 15% of transgender people reported having any kind of surgery, so apparently anatomy is becoming altogether irrelevant to being a woman.

Where is the public discussion over who is a woman? My 1991 dictionary defines woman as “the female human being.” Does the public really want to abandon that definition? Laws that change our understanding about who is a woman are already being considered and passed in some states, but there has been very little free and open public discussion among Americans about this question. I certainly want transgender people to live their lives free from discrimination and free to express their femininity or masculinity. But, I’m not ready to change the definition of who is and isn’t a woman on the say so of this small minority.

What do women want? Can there be a public discussion about who is a woman? Is the public going to allow a minority of transgender people to prevent women from discussing important questions like this one, as happened when transgender activists de-platformed speakers at the Goddess Festival and OMNI Center in Fayetteville last March? This silencing of women is happening all across the U.S.!

Where is the public discussion over who is a woman? Who is a woman? What do you think? What do women want?

Written by Jeanne Neath
Published August 6, 2017 in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Silencing of Women

Perhaps you have been hearing the unusual sounds broadcasting from some of Fayetteville’s most valued institutions. First, there were the soft but persistent “RIPs” as event posters were targeted and torn off public bulletin boards. More recently, the noise escalated to more of a “CRASH” as all the bulletin boards were torn down by one community establishment, an establishment that I care deeply about. Until now that organization had provided a central space for community communications for decades. What is causing all the stir?

First, here is a little background information. Since the 1970s feminists have organized and publicized “women only” events in Fayetteville and across the U.S. Like other groups that are discriminated against, women require opportunities to meet just with each other to ensure our safety, the freedom to speak openly with others who share similar experiences of discrimination, to organize to end the discrimination, and just to relax together away from the male gaze. The oppression of women in the U.S. has not gone away. Women still don’t even have equal pay for equal work, despite 50+ years of struggle. The #MeToo campaign is making it quite clear that male violence and sexual harassment of women is epidemic.

But, now when women put up posters for “female only” meetings those posters are ripped down, over and over again, in Fayetteville. What is the political debate that the transgender movement and its supporters are attempting to control by tearing down posters, erasing, and silencing women? The debate is over the question of whether males who become transgender (i.e. “transwomen”) have the right to call themselves women and insert themselves into spaces reserved for women only, such as public restrooms, girls’ locker rooms at schools and feminist meetings.

Do you have an opinion about who is a woman and who should be welcomed into spaces traditionally reserved for women and girls? Have you had the chance to hear and understand the arguments on every side of the debate? Is this debate so settled that feminist voices should be silenced? Should women’s voices, any women’s voices, ever be silenced?

Written by Jeanne Neath
Submitted to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on December 26, 2017
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette declined to publish this letter

Discussion About Hate

I have a two-part reply to Shirley Roe’s letter to the editor. First, there is a big difference between hating a person, country, etc., and disagreeing with a person, country, etc. The fact that so many countries disagreed with Trump’s statement to recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel and move our embassy there does not mean they hate our country. I think it means what so many have stated, that it puts an end to any peaceful negotiations between Palestine and Israel. But this idea that someone hates you because they disagree with your stance on something is really widespread. That seems to be the ploy of anyone who wants to shut down any reasonable discourse between thinking people. For example, if you believe women should have their own sovereign space, you are called hateful and trans-phobic, but that is for another letter.

Back to the subject, the second part of my reply is why the U.S. continues to send money to countries who “hate us.” I want to say our government do anything that is not in the “national interest” aka “corporate interest.” You can bet if they are giving money to a government than we are getting something back in return. People like to think our government is so kind and generous, but that is very seldom true. It is the people of American who are generally kind and generous, not the government.

I agree with Ms. Roe that we do need to spend our money on the infrastructure of this country more than we need to exert worldwide monetary influence, but until the people can take back this country from the control of the corporations and the super-rich, there isn’t much chance of a change in how things are done in Washington, D.C. We must take the money out of politics or we will always have elected officials who are more beholden to their big-money donors than they are to the people they are supposed to represent.

Written by Linda Barnes
Published January 5, 2018 in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette