Monthly Archives: October 2014

A womb is not an aircraft under the Commonwealth Migration Act

Under the Migration Act 1958 (as amended) it has been confirmed that a womb is not an aircraft and ergo is an illegal maritime vessel that is to say a boat.

The Australian legal system reached a new low this week when a Federal Circuit Court judge refused to grant 11-month-old Ferouz Myuddin, born in Brisbane Mater Hospital, the right to apply for a protection visa. For the record, Brisbane Mater Hospital is in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, a large north-eastern state of the mainland of the continent of Australia.

ABC radio current affairs flagship PM provides a transcript of a dialogue between the host and a reporter outside the Federal Court in Brisbane.

According to the reporter Stephanie Smail:

“The judge accepted the Federal Government’s argument that the law states if asylum seekers enter Australia by any means other than an aircraft, they effectively arrive by boat. So even though he was born in Brisbane’s Mater Hospital, he wasn’t on the boat that his parents arrived on Christmas Island on, they were then transferred to Nauru, his mother was flown to Brisbane to give birth to Ferouz. Technically because they didn’t arrive by a plane, they’ve arrived by a boat.”

This was followed by apparent clarification of the “non-aircraft equals boat” business, which non-lawyers refer to as legal technicalities. We can assume that counsel used standard techniques of legal argument, and the judge used standard techniques of statutory interpretation. These are referred to as legal technicalities by non-lawyers. It is in fact how all common law becomes part of the common law.

The reporter then recounted some “interesting” judicial remarks. She was absolutely on the money to highlight these statements. The judgement is not yet online, but the remarks appeared to contain one of the most astonishing pieces of so-called legal reasoning that I have heard in a while. And that is from someone who works with the peculiarities of legalese – pronouncements passed off as legal reasoning – every day of the week.

“Interestingly the judge also told the court if he had granted Ferouz approval to apply for a protection visa or his lawyers, his family obviously – he’s a baby – that it might encourage other pregnant asylum seekers to enlist people smugglers and make the dangerous journey to Australia.”

This extraordinary manipulation of facts is not a new trick by the law. I fondly remember the High Court decision in Thomas v Mowbray [2007] HCA 33, where Jack Thomas (not the actor) was the first Australian to be subject to a control order under the 2004 LNP-induced terror hysteria. You might recall his nickname, Jihad Jack. It is an unwritten rule of Australian culture that brown people can not be in the headlines for too long without acquiring a casually racist and otherwise misleading nick name.

In Thomas v Mowbray, the High Court ruled that the expansion of the Commonwealth defence power under s. 51(vi) was constitutional on the basis of “notorious facts”. Notorious facts are not scientific facts, or empirical facts, or legal facts or legal fictions or, in fact, facts. Notorious facts are baseless claims. In this case, the baseless claims were accepted as notorious facts by a majority of the High Court bench – because terrorism. To not accept these baseless claims for which there was no evidence would be ‘September 10 thinking’. Gawd. The great Michael Kirby, of course, disagreed.

Some background:

The Migration Act 1958 (Cth) was drafted in the context of meeting our obligations under the Refugee Convention, which in turn was drafted in the aftermath of World War Two. Its articles reflect the collective conscious-stricken remorse of a world which had turned its back on the plight of Jews from Germany and eastern Europe.

The West had collectively refused entry to boatloads of Jews seeking refuge from persecution, including the British colonial governance in Palestine. The West then also collectively witnessed the liberation of the death camps, whether first-hand by members of the allied forces, or via newsreel. As such, there was an unprecedented impetus to assert our collective humanity and make a concerted effort to safeguard against genocide -and against blowing ourselves up.

The global response to the second world war forms the foundation of modern human rights law: the Nuremberg Trials and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration is formally codified in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant of Economic and Cultural Rights (ICECR). Among the many other Conventions that followed the Universal Declaration, the Refugee Convention was one of the first. It facilitated the great post-war migration waves that saw the birth of modern multicultural Australia. Waves of migration to Australia are not new.

People have arrived here by boat from earliest times, now estimated at over 60,000 years ago. The next wave included British colonial invasion and occupation, Afghans with their camels allowed in to traverse the central desert, and the attractions of the gold rushes to people from all over the world, often remembered for the number of Chinese migrants.

Nevertheless, the contemporary era of migration to Australia and our modern multicultural state is traced to European migrants escaping post-war Europe. This was the beginning of the end of the White Australia policy, and political leadership makes a difference. Escape from war and persecution characterises subsequent waves of people arriving from Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq.

This is not to ignore the gradually increasing numbers of refugees escaping war and famine in Africa, particularly then-Sudan (now mainly South Sudanese refugees). African migrants typically arrive in Australia via the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Africans boarding boats are much more likely to head for Italy. This is the rub. Up until very recently, every wave of migrants to Australia, over tens of thousands of years, has arrived by boat.

There is an undeniably obvious reason for this. Australia is a very large island dotted around by lots of smaller islands. Until the invention and commercialisation and mass movement of people by aircraft, there was no other way to get here. There are no land bridges to Australia from any other country.

Our borders are clearly delineated, more so than the map markings across any other continent, even more so than islands such as the United Kingdom with its internal struggles, or archipelagos like Indonesia with its outlier cultures which retain independent identities. Even Japan has border disputes with Russia to this day. Possibly only New Zealand is comparable in terms of its borders, though its size and political decision-making (such as not to march lock-step with the USA on foreign policy and military adventurism) renders it far lower in profile in global terms.

So for millennia, by necessity, every person in Australia has reached the place by boat. Our current national political leadership has decided to reverse this reality. It is now unlawful to seek a protection visa, to seek refuge from persecution, even from countries where the Australian armed forces have participated in the destruction of your home and the killing of your family, unless your mode of arrival is by aircraft. The relevant definitions are found in section 5AA of the Migration Act 1958 (as amended).

Capital letter(s) after a section are usually a signifier of multiple amendments, which in turn signifies that the section governs a policy area that is contested and amended by successive governments. A political hot potato of the highest order, in other words, is what we find in these sections with capital letter amendments. This signifier puts paid to any notion that the law is objective or neutral, because it has been re-written and voted into law by politicians who can not agree on which ways to mobilise and exercise executive power over other people’s lives – nor cease to meddle therein.

This is what produced the absurd injustice that saw a federal circuit court judge deem a baby born in Brisbane to have arrived in Australia by sea:

MIGRATION ACT 1958 – SECT 5AA
Meaning of unauthorised maritime arrival
(1) For the purposes of this Act, a person is an unauthorised maritime arrival if:
(a) the person entered Australia by sea:
(i) at an excised offshore place at any time after the excision time for that place; or
(ii) at any other place at any time on or after the commencement of this section; and
(b) the person became an unlawful non-citizen because of that entry; and
(c) the person is not an excluded maritime arrival.
Entered Australia by sea
(2) A person entered Australia by sea if:
(a) the person entered the migration zone except on an aircraft that landed in the migration zone
[s. 245A]: “aircraft” includes aeroplanes, seaplanes, airships, balloons or any other means of aerial locomotion.

This particular piece of weirdness means that a baby born in a major maternity hospital in a state capital is deemed at law to have arrived by boat. Had Farouz Myuddin thought to arrive in Australia by air balloon rather than by the traditional method of exiting his mother’s womb, his legal status would be altogether different.

There are common law rules around these kinds of case law interpretations, because otherwise the justice system produces injustices. The problem with the rules is that they are only as good as those who make common law decisions. Those people are called “judges”. The judge presiding over the case of Farouz Myuddin felt bound by law to produce an unjust absurdity, which is what the common law rules exist to prevent.

Such decisions are made by members of the judiciary all the time, of course. Many are accepted as necessary application of the legal reasoning process. When the rules produce historic justice or corrections of injustice, such as in the Mabo case, the right-wing commentariat call this ‘judicial activism’. The implication is that judges are usually neutral and impartial, but when manifest injustices such as terra nullius are recognised, a rogue judge has randomly lost their neutrality hat.

These assumptions and implications are not true. Judges are not objective, no-one is. The law is not impartial, it is partisan. We know this, because legislation is introduced and voted on by politicians who belong to political parties. Particularly when we see a law with multiple capital letters after the section number, we can absolutely certain that the piece of law at which we are looking has been subject to multiple partisan meddling. And so it is with section 5AA of the Commonwealth Migration Act 1958.

It is the judicial remarks that throw most light on the political sensibility of the judge presiding over this case. As reported by ABC radio, the judge expressed concern that a finding in favour of baby Farouz “might encourage other pregnant asylum seekers to enlist people smugglers and make the dangerous journey to Australia”.

There are roughly seventeen separate ways wrong with this statement. Even if it is not a verbatim or accurate account of what the judge in fact said, it is what a trained journalist heard and thus what the audience heard. So if the judge has been misinterpreted, the statement should have been expressed more carefully in the first place. On the face of it, this sentiment is absolutely abhorrent.

First, the phrase ‘other pregnant asylum seekers’: this obscurantist nonsense is steeped in sexism. The most obvious point is that Farouz has been denied the right to exercise the rights of asylum seekers under the United Nations regime, the Universal Declaration and the Refugee Convention. So to call anyone in this context an “other pregnant asylum seeker” is grossly inaccurate and internally inconsistent. Farouz was in the same breath legally defined out of asylum seeker status. There is no other because there is no-one in the case at hand being granted the rights of asylum seekers under international law.

This is probably sloppy and inadvertent – it is always sloppy and inadvertent. White man elites do not get called out or have any imperative to recognise their own obscurantism and the inherent denialism that the English legal language generously provides – to them. Happily, critical discourse analysis of the English language also provides us with the tools to see this kind of phraseology as a misrepresentation of fact and of law.

The phrase ‘other pregnant asylum seekers’ is busy obscuring another truth, the simple truth that all peoples, all cultures, all of the history of the human species knows to be a very special status: that of women carrying a member of the next generation of humans. To say “other pregnant asylum seekers” is to ignore a basic biological fact. Men do not get pregnant. Men do not do the hard labour of producing the next generation of humans. There is no such category of human as ‘pregnant people’. There are only pregnant women.

This ugly usage obscures the ugly inhumanity of denying human rights to women fleeing persecution, women who may be pregnant, women who are doing everything in their power to escape the atrocities and destruction and abuses that are exacerbated during wars, and wars are waged by men. To obscure these basic facts of humanity by implying that women are sneakily getting pregnant to reach Australia and simultaneously denying the most basic of human rights to a baby is a hideous thing to do.

And it gets worse.

The suggestion is that a finding in favour of baby Farouz “might encourage other pregnant asylum seekers to enlist people smugglers and make the dangerous journey to Australia”.
By drawing a very long bow, and looking at this remark in isolation, we can concede that it might contain a small degree of possibility. It may be that unknown women in unknown locations might become pregnant at some unknown time in the future and subsequently seek to reach Australia while fleeing persecution in her home country. Certainly the expansion of military aggression by US and Australian governments increases the likelihood that women in Iraq and Syria will seek to escape the death and destruction wrought by our decisions.

This kind of judicial reasoning contains a policy component. That is, the judge looks beyond the facts at hand, and also takes into account wider public policy considerations. It is not especially unusual, and Justice Deane and Justice Kirby, compassionate and passionate advocates for justice both, were well recognised for their agile policy-based reasoning. Such reasoning requires careful connecting of legal dots from an international human rights law instrument (for example) to the case before the court. Again, if this type of reasoning displeases particular people with particular agendas, it is labelled ‘judicial activism’.

Policy-based judicial decision-making is not some kind of free-for-all for rogue judges, however the overturning of terra nullius or acceptance of cruel Migration Act amendments may be perceived by the audience or portrayed to the public. The actual concern around policy-based judicial reasoning is to do with temporality. Here is the basic legal thinking around such approaches. The “introduction to law” version. Note to lawyers: I am talking to non-lawyers.

Legislation is prospective law-making. The political party in power, or parties in the case of our current federal government, drafts legislation which will operationalise its political objectives, such as changes to the Migration Act. Once the law is drafted and passed by both Houses and signed off by the Governor-General, it swings into action. Now people who breach that law can be legally dealt with by authorities whose job it is to detain them or charge them or bring them before a judge or whatever. The crucial thing here is the direction in which law-time is travelling.

In our system, a law is passed, and unless it is retrospective, it can not govern over people until it meets each of the relevant criteria for coming into force. Yes, force. That is the language used at law, and for good reason. Once the law is in force, the state can forcibly detain people, or do all sorts of other things to interfere in the lives of the people under its jurisdiction.

Case law is different. When a case comes before a court, it looks back in time. It is not prospective, as legislation is supposed to be, in most circumstances. Someone does something, their actions come to the attention of the authorities, and if the authorities act, the person is brought before a court of law and their past actions (and intentions and evidence and so on) are scrutinised in an open court. These are basic tenets of our system of law.

When the government departs from its usual model of enacting legislation which operates prospectively, there is usually some concern about those who will be caught by retrospective legislation. Lawyers tend not to like retrospective legislation (except administrative formalities that streamline inconsistencies and errors as they are discovered) because it is extremely difficult to build a defence for a client who has been charged with an offence which was not an offence at the time your client was allegedly involved.

Similarly, judicial decisions that put the facts to hand to one side and instead are based on what an unknown number of women in an unknown place at an unknown future point in time may or may not do whether or not they are pregnant, is highly problematic. This kind of reasoning is unlikely to be sound reasoning. It is even more troubling when such judicial reasoning is closely streamlined with the political rhetoric of the government of the day. We have the doctrine of the separation of powers in this country, at least in theory. For a judge to base a decision on prospective policy grounds is to see the ancient power-sharing arrangements of democracy crumbling before our eyes. And that’s not even skimming the surface of the sheer inhumanity of the treatment of this baby, at least one hundred other babies in the same position, their families, and all the people seeking to escape persecution by reaching our wealthy wealthy island in the sun.

Calling a woman a woman

The apparently vexed question of what men ‘should’ call women keeps resurfacing. It is not in fact a vexed question. It is a simple one.

If a woman states clearly that she would prefer not to be called a girl, then do not call her a girl. If a woman asks that you not refer to her as a lady, then do not call her a lady. If a woman says hey guys I know you are really confused and desperately oppressed so please, fill this conversation thread with your views on what women should or should not say or do, then go ahead. Derail the conversation, ignore women’s voices, and act as though men’s views on women-anger is the relevant issue.

Given the infinite variation of human opinion, it is not in the least surprising that women have different stances on how we refer to each other, or on how we are referred to by men. This is so whether we are talking about online conversations or the comfort of our own homes or those we love or in public by complete strangers. My own stance, and the reasoning behind it, are set out below.

But first, I mention the monotonous similarity of men’s voices on what to call women. I am referring to online comment threads when this simple question arises. Women take a variety of considered positions. By contrast, in most cases, men take reactive yet very similar positions (to each other) on the same question. Or those who stay in the conversation take very similar positions. Staying in the conversation in itself requires a stamina all of its own. A meaningless stamina, compared to (say) efforts for world peace, but there it is.

Remember, the answer is simple. If you actually do respect women and wish to assert that you respect women, here is what to do: listen to what the woman says she is OK with being called, and call her that. It is not difficult. It is easy. It is unlikely she is angry. It is likely she is tired of this shit. But for whatever reason, she has summoned the energy to have this tedious conversation again, and simply and clearly stated her preferred term for her womanhood. She probably paused before telling you, because she knows what will ensue. Either way, she has made an active and conscious decision to state what she thinks, knowing full well what the response is very likely to be.

The online conversation goes something like this:

Me: Mate, as a 44 year old mother-of-three, I am hardly a girl.

Him: Oh I just ran out of space/didn’t think/ got in trouble for saying ladies.

Me: All good, but saying women is fine.

Him: I know lots of women who call themselves girls.

Me: Do you think I don’t? We’re not talking about what women call women.

Him: Jeez I tells ya. Can’t get nothing right. I never say female, it sounds condescending.

Me: Yep. I prefer ‘woman’.

2nd Him: Impossible ain’t they? Can’t please none of ‘em.

Me: Just stating my preference.

1st him: I am done with this conversation. If I’ve offended anyone, I’m sorry.

Me: acknowledges comment, leaves conversation.

3rd Him: They’re all angry all the time.

2nd Him: You try and show respect and where does it get ya?

1st him (re-enters conversation despite previous sign-off): Hey, I respect women. I just ran out of room so I said girl.

2nd him, 3rd him, 4th and 5th hims, 1st him, more hims …. Endless comment thread about the onerous oppressive dilemmas encountered by good guys, men who respect women, who are just trying so hard to do the right thing.

…conversation becomes crude and includes references to masturbation.

This is a representation, but in my experience, it is a very typical one.

There is any number of problems with these threads, not least the dull and predictable repetition of the content; and the reliably reactionary trajectory of the narrative every time a woman states her preferred term of reference. Not once did the Hims in the above representation refer to women as women, or agree to refer to women as women, or complain that they have been corrected when they refer to women as women. This is because none of these things ever happen. Men who refer to women as women do not get asked ‘oh, please. Call me a girl’. Or ‘Hey mate, how many times have I asked you to say female’? Or ‘Dude, dude, dude, it’s not woman, it’s LADY’. These things never happen, because women prefer to be called women.

At the same time, women who state that we prefer to be called women are trivialised, and spoken over, and ignored, and sidelined, and above all, called ‘angry’. Not called women when we ask to be called women. But inevitably called difficult and angry when we ask to be called women.

It was probably at least twenty years ago that I decided that as a woman I would like to be referred to as a woman. Nothing has changed to change my mind. I am not particularly angry about this. I am angry about many things, but nomenclature is the least of it. And there is certainly nothing difficult about it. When men claim that such a simple stance is difficult and angry, they are usually finding feminism difficult, and are angry about it, and take the time-honoured stance of blaming women for the difficulties that feminism poses to their male lives, and the anger they feel about that.

Which is all a bit of shoulder-shrugging whatevs to those who do not struggle every day as a woman in a man’s world.

As an educated white woman, my struggle is usually invisible. My struggle is nothing like the struggle that Aboriginal people face in this sexist racist ablist sectarian homophobic country with its dark stain of dispossession that continues seemingly forever and has never been adequately examined, let alone remedied. My struggle is nothing like that of many migrant individuals and groups, or of those facing double and triple discrimination, abuse and hate due to their disability, sexuality, religion, or gender identity. My struggle is not the hardest struggle, or the most important struggle – the Aboriginal struggle is by far and away the most important for our national identity.

But in my jobs, empowering girls and using words well matter more than anything else. I have two jobs.

The first is that I am the only functioning parent in my children’s lives. By functioning, I mean I am the only provider and take full responsibility for not just their basic human needs but also their social and ethical relationships, their health and education and safety.

My second job is the paying job. I teach law to hundreds of future lawyers, and part of that role includes explaining, clearly, that our system asserts the use of words (over fists) to resolve disputes. The Rule of Law is the rule of words. Some take it down the back of the carpark to have it out. Some prowl the streets for vigilante justice when a paedophile is reportedly near. It happens, but it is not legal. The legal resolution to conflict is done with words.

So.

Calling me a girl is inaccurate. I am not a girl. If, however, I am among a group of women who refer to us, collectively, as ‘the girls’, I do not protest. Why would I? We are together, having fun, in a space created by and for women. It is distinguishable from the rest of our lives on that exact basis. We spend most of the time in spaces created by and for men. And while we can and sometimes do have fun in these man-spaces, more often we are working and/or on our guard against tempers, criticism, put-downs and exclusion – various forms of sexism, misogyny, and abuse.

The number of women you have overheard referring to ourselves as girls is relevant in one way, and one way only. We are delineating a space for women. Please return to the man spaces you have created all around us.

Here is the tricky bit (except it is not difficult at all).

When we refer to ourselves as girls, it is not an invitation for men to refer to us as girls. In many cases, it is a message for you to leave. Back away slowly, make so-called jokes as so many men do, say Oops better not go in the kitchen, the girls are on fire. Blokes know this scenario. They have been there, done that. But hearing a feminist voice explaining it is somehow confronting. Even though they already know.

Remaining apparently jocular and completely unserious is a typical male approach to feminism. I mean, what can feminism really matter? Surely it is not that important right? There she goes again. Has she got a fucking point? Why check? The dominant man-narrative is so consistent, so ready-to-go, that feminism can be sidelined at the tweet of a wink. And with the side-lining of feminism, of course, comes the sidelining of women. No conspiracy required, just a common man mind-set that is so easy to join that those who out this bullshit are shouted down and often walk away, exhausted by the whole repetitive business.

It is not difficult to shut up and listen. Men do it around bosses and other dominant males all the time. Women are used to being told to shut up and listen (and obey). Most of us are – by our parents, for a start. These days, in the public realm, it even has a name: mansplaining.

And here is a tip to mansplainers and man-apologists everywhere. Whiny, needy, self-pitying and victim-role-hijacking men are not sexy. I mean, just not. Do not ever try to woo a feminist that way. Do not ever try to woo a woman that way and maintain self-respect. Self-pity may succeed with some younger and less experienced women, but this is no achievement. In fact it is a failure. And exploitative. And kind of gross.

My personal grounds for not wishing to be called a girl are that I am a 44 year old mother of three with a wealth of knowledge and experience. There is also a girl in the household, and we are not indistinguishable. She is beautiful and young and has her whole life ahead of her. I am none of these things. She is under 18, and as such especially vulnerable in our hyper-masculine world. I have long and practical experience in dealing with the patriarchy, and even spend some time as the leader in public spaces (the lecture hall) as well as private environments (head of household).

At the moment, it is school holidays. I have a friend sent straight by the goddess, another working mother and head of household. She came and collected my children so I could go about two days of lectures without worrying about the kids’ whereabouts or having to take them into work (they are at the age where this is no longer coercible). When we spoke on the phone the next night, my daughter said a group of mates – all teens – went to play Ultimate Frisbee (whatever that is) and she ended up on a team of all boys.

Did you show ‘em? I asked.

Yes, she said.

Did you win? I asked.

Yes, she said. At the end they made me Man of the Match.

Me: Haha, what did you say?
Daughter: I said “Ahem”.

Oh go you. That’s my girl.

I was raised by a feminist mother and traditional (but reasonably willing-to-learn) father, and can therfore safely say I have been a feminist all my life. As my mother before me, I do not especially discuss feminism. Sometimes I join an interesting seminar or online comment thread and express much of what I want to say about feminism. But for the most part I simply go about my days being a feminist, resisting sexism where possible. I also often ignore sexism where nothing I say or do will diminish its foreboding presence. But if an abusive, bordering on dangerous, response is likely, I put safety first, as every feminist knows to do. In those instances I remove myself, and my family if they are with me, as quickly and inconspicuously as possible.

My teenage daughter, what is more, has an experience that is completely foreign to me. My daughter is a talented and committed athlete. This requires a particular type of stamina and persistence and capacity to cope with disappointment, not least because the boys tend to get most of the glory. I have tried to develop some jokey, not-too-protective vocabulary to communicate around this phenomenon. But because I can barely catch a ball and am interested only in sport where one of my children is competing, it falls a bit flat. My daughter gets that I know nothing in this area. It is not an unusual parenting experience. Yet while we do not directly discuss feminism, my philosophy of life has, I hope, served her at some critical times, particularly when she is doing what she loves. She is smart enough to see that her mum knows next to nothing about sport, but quite a lot about surviving and thriving in the very many environments where the masculine paradigm dominates.

Raising a daughter who is remarkably good at sport focuses the mind in many ways. But moving on.

To all those white men who think I can be stopped, or shouted down, or ignored, erased, rubbed out, sidelined and otherwise silenced by their loud voices and supposedly superior expertise: here is breaking news. I have two sons. One is an adult white male. He pays his rent and he pays his taxes. Fancy that.

I raised this young man single-handedly. By single-handedly, I mean I had no financial – and very little in-kind – assistance, as well as massive hindrances, in multiple forms. I am responsible for the presence of a decent white man in the world. I watched him become a man. It was one of the hardest struggles I have ever seen. There was little I could do with and for him, because he was a boy learning to be a man in a man’s world. Seeing my boy negotiating the world we live in, the Australia that white men have created, and find his place in it was … a living nightmare.

Do not tell me I have no idea what it is to be a white man. I know worse: to be a mother watching my own flesh and blood learning to navigate a society dominated by white male behaviours – despicable abuses – that I do not condone, do not practice, and failed to prepare him for in many ways. He had to learn the hard way what a seriously terrible job white men do in the running of this country, and what compromises he will have to make in order to make his way in it. The sheer violence – verbal, emotional, physical and worse – is absolutely gut wrenching.

So I drop out of onanistic comment threads. I call some blokes out, and block others. I leave some arguments quietly, hoping no man ever follows it up. And I write, and raise children, and watch and learn and teach. And say: words matter. Being asked by a woman to call her a woman should be the least of any man’s problems, if the experience of becoming a man in a man’s world is anything to go by. It’s not a problem at all, in fact. It is just a simple request, easily met, with the simplest of tools: words. Words are the only way. The other way makes life worse.