SARAH VINE: Swimming has seen sense but the war on women still rages

SARAH VINE: Swimming has seen sense but the war on women still rages


SARAH VINE: After years of growing frustration and humiliation for female athletes, swimming has seen sense… but the war on women is still raging

The news that swimming’s governing body has voted to ban anyone who has undergone male puberty from competing in elite women’s events is a huge breakthrough.

It comes after years of growing frustration and humiliation for female athletes who could never hope to match the sheer physical prowess of the increasing numbers of male-bodied opponents competing alongside them.

Since the announcement, several other sports governing bodies have intimated that they will follow suit. But this is more than just a victory for women’s sport, it’s a victory for women everywhere.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s almost on a par with women finally winning the vote in 1928. Back then, women had to fight to be heard, to have our basic rights taken seriously. We never imagined we’d have to do it all over again — yet that’s exactly what has happened.

Lia Thomas, pictured right, and teammates celebrate victory in the 400 yard Freestyle Relat at the Women’s Ivy League Swimming & Diving Championship in February. Thomas has been at the centre of a row over trans swimmers

Women who feel uncomfortable with allowing male-bodied trans women into every intimate aspect of their lives are branded bigots. Women who want to celebrate the achievements of their sex are classed as transphobes.

The irony of groups such as Stonewall and others pursuing what in my view amounts to the bullying of an entire gender into submission while claiming to be fighting discrimination would be laughable, were it not so scary. But it’s deadly serious.

Because while things may be looking up in women’s sport, on the streets and on social media, the mood against women who dare to assert their identities has never been uglier.

Last weekend in Bristol, a group of feminists attending a talk on Father’s Day were abused and attacked by masked men wearing black and screaming insults.

The derogatory term often fired at such women is TERF — which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist — and the Bristol protest was no exception.

Former Olympic athlete Sharron Davies speaks about the importance of maintaining femalee sporting categories in Edinburgh last week

One demonstrator carried a sign saying: ‘TERFs can suck my d***.’ Another wrote a chilling message on the ground: ‘After Colston, TERFs are next.’ In other words, if you don’t do as we say, we will throw you in the river — just as a mob in Bristol did with the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston two years ago.

Hang on — isn’t that what they used to do with women accused of witchcraft in the Middle Ages? The police, meanwhile, were strangely restrained. Perhaps that’s what they teach them on all those diversity courses. One thing’s for sure: if that had been a group from a minority ethnic or religious background, those protesters would have been — rightly — rounded up and prosecuted for hate speech.

And it’s not the only recent incident: last month in Manchester, a woman was allegedly assaulted while attending a free speech gathering next to a statue of the feminist Emmeline Pankhurst, by a group of similarly dressed trans activists.

This time, the victim claimed the police threatened to arrest her. J. K. Rowling later came out in support of her, tweeting with her usual delicious sarcasm: ‘I never expected the right side of history to include so many people in masks intimidating and assaulting women, did you?’

The real question here is how much of this is to do with trans activism, and how much is just misogyny? How much of the trans cause — fundamentally a noble one — has been hijacked by vile opportunists who see it as just another way of expressing hatred for women?

And if that is the case, you have to ask yourself why. To my mind, the answer is simple: in a world where the leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer, can’t even answer the question ‘what is a woman?’, is it any wonder these sinister people feel so emboldened?

So yes, a victory for women in sport. But until more people in authority speak up, women will always live in fear of cowards in balaclavas who threaten to do them harm.

Being able to balance on one leg for ten seconds is an excellent indicator of general health, scientists say. I just have one question: is that before or after my evening gin and tonic?

Queen’s lesson for Zelensky

Volodymyr Zelensky needs every last anti-tank missile he can get his hands on. But wars are not won through brute force alone, which is why Boris Johnson’s choice of gift to the Ukrainian PM last weekend might turn out to be rather inspirational: a copy of my colleague Robert Hardman’s new royal biography, Queen Of Our Times.

Zelensky will read how, aged 14, Elizabeth made her first ever broadcast at the height of the Blitz, promising evacuees that ‘in the end, all will be well’. As for bravery, Hardman writes of the efforts by Jim Callaghan’s government to stop the Queen visiting Northern Ireland during her Silver Jubilee in 1977, for fear of the IRA. She insisted on going regardless. The Thatcher government tried to stop her going to a summit in Zambia in 1979, having been warned of missile attacks on her plane. Still she went. And Macmillan’s government had tried to keep her away from Ghana in 1961 — more bomb threats — but her refusal to be cowed was a diplomatic triumph.

In fact, her whole reign has been a vindication of that cliched but vital virtue: Keep Calm and Carry On.

Gary Lineker claims to have been the victim of racist abuse because of his ‘darkish skin’, despite being ‘as English as they come’. Forgive me, but that’s like me saying I was victimised for being from Wales because someone once called me a ‘sheep-botherer’. It’s really not the same as someone making monkey noises every time you walk on to the pitch.

My sinking feeling about heels

Four-inch heels can turn any woman into a goddess, says Kate’s shoe designer. Not me! If I had to tiptoe across the grass at Ascot in stilettos like the Duchess of Cambridge, I would soon find myself sinking into the turf as though it were quicksand in a most un-goddess-like fashion. 

Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, pictured wearing high heels at Royal Ascot last week

Leave PM’s sinus alone

What’s all this absurd Lefty carping about Boris Johnson getting priority treatment for his sinus operation? I should jolly well hope so. He’s the PM. He’s running the country. We are in the midst of a cost-of- living squeeze, the country is paralysed by strikes and there’s a war in Ukraine. Whatever you think of how he may be handling things, we need him fit and well. 

Happy belated birthday to the Duke of Cambridge, who turned 40 yesterday. I don’t have much useful advice to offer him, save to say that if you don’t already own a pair of nose-hair clippers, I strongly suggest you get some. Trust me, you’ll need them. 

Prince William says that that he found studying the Renaissance at university ‘amazing’, but that when it came to modern art ‘I started to get a bit dozy’.

Pretty much sums up the history of art over the past 500 years.

Caroline Quentin says Men Behaving Badly would never get made today because it wouldn’t pass the woke test. But the genius of that show was that it dealt with sexism and general laddish behaviour with humour and wit — and in so doing made its point far more effectively (and amusingly) than some po-faced MeToo lecture ever could. 

Scientists have set up new criteria by which to measure the female orgasm — and apparently moaning is not a reliable indicator. I’ll say. The only female moaning that goes on in most households is complaining that he’s failed to unload the dishwasher yet again. 

Jessie Wallace — aka Kat Slater in EastEnders — has been arrested after a foul-mouthed rant outside a Burger King. Talk about life imitating art. Still, it’s nice to know she’s as classy in real life as she is on screen. 

Jessie Wallace, pictured here as Kat Slater in a scene on the BBC soap EastEnders

I can understand Spanish authorities not wanting people to urinate on beaches, but imposing huge fines — up to £650 — for relieving oneself in the sea seems a bit mad. Quite apart from the question of how you identify offenders (mobile DNA testing labs?), surely a quick widdle in the water is far more preferable to every sun-worshipper using the same fly-infested toilet block. 

Uber was reportedly charging £27 for a three-mile journey during the strike yesterday: quite the capitalist bonanza.

I wonder how that plays to the socialist principles of Angela Rayner and her fellow Labour MPs? Or is rampant profiteering not an issue for them so long as it suits their agenda?

According to an NHS official, ‘fewer appointments are better for the environment’. So are fewer human beings, and the fewer chances we get to see our doctors, the fewer of us there will be. Maybe then the eco-zealots will be happy.

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