I'VE been trying to think about a point of unity, something about which we are all of one mind, in this most recent divisive public debate.

Gloomily, I'm coming up stumped. The vote on the Gender Recognition Reform bill might seem like it should be a full stop on the discussion around trans rights and women's rights but it won't be, of course.

Instead it is the catalyst for the next chapter in an ongoing debate about whose theories and analysis on the impact of changes to obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate are correct.

The various camps are passionate in their views, it goes without saying. Those who are not worried about speaking out – and many are concerned about saying anything publicly – are forthright about their position.

From the maelstrom of opinion, will there ever come calm? What next for Scottish feminism and its clear factions? Will divisions persist and does that, ultimately, matter? Divisions have always existed, of course, and progress has still been made.

One of the ongoing themes of the discussion over the past few years has been that of women's vulnerability. The facts stack up that women are vulnerable to male violence.

This doesn't seem like it should be particularly contentious. The Scottish Government has a specific strategy around tackling violence against women and girls, made necessary because this is a pervasive problem.

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The statistics around male violence against women, sexual assaults and street harassment make for bleak reading.

And yet one of the characteristics of the ongoing trans and women's rights debate is a lack of understanding of or empathy for women's vulnerability.

It's common to see this from men who barney about the issues on social media but it's also common to see this from women themselves.

One of the women who had been in the public gallery during the Scottish Parliament vote on the GRR bill tweeted, after it ran on into the night, of feeling unsafe making her way home from Edinburgh city centre.

For this she was roundly mocked. This is a well-lit route, a busy city centre, a safe city centre, a place with decent public transport and populated by tourists out for a nice time. As if assaults don't happen in well-lit areas – they do. Or in city centres, no matter how low the crime rates – they do. Or in tourist areas – they really do.

The response showed a clear empathy deficit that has been prevalent for the length of this debate in relation to women feeling vulnerable. Much of the foundation of women's views regarding the need to protect single-sex spaces is built on a fear of male behaviour. That fear is justified, even if you don't agree with their views on how to mitigate risks.

Much of the concern has stemmed from fear. Not, as is frequently the charge, fear rooted in bigotry, but justified fear of men.

There has been, from men who would otherwise call themselves feminist allies or at least allies to women, a cynical dismissal of this genuine fear.

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Quite often it's men having a shout at women about this – without any sense of irony. Women, motivated by the fear that comes from personal experiences, express their concerns only to be told to shut up and be kind.

What motivates other women to join in with this behaviour?

The perception is that younger feminists are looking at older feminists and despairing at what they view as their anti-trans ways, and older feminists are looking at younger women and wondering where it went so wrong that they want to give their rights away.

However, there are plenty of gender-critical feminists in their 20s. There are plenty of trans rights activists in their 70s. There are plenty of women of all ages and backgrounds who would see trans activism and feminism as a single piece and take afront at the notion of conflict.

However, it does tend to be younger women who seem to balk at this notion of female vulnerability.

It's a topic that has been at the forefront of the debate over the past few years. In order to try to justify a position, women are compelled to talk about their own awful experiences of sexual assault or their worries for their daughters and nieces.

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In this debate women tend to emphasise the hardships of womanhood in order to emphasise why they want to safeguard protections for themselves and their sisters.

Women of my generation and younger are raised – rightly – to believe ourselves the absolute equals of men. At the same time, girls are warned that womanhood means they're likely to be sexually assaulted, catcalled, abused in the street. The perpetrator is unlikely to be caught. They'll be made to feel these incidents are their fault.

They'll work as hard as their male peers, they'll have the same qualifications, but they'll be paid less and appreciated no more. Newspaper columnists will print misogynistic bile about them and social media will be a hostile place for no reason other than they're girls.

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It's a bleak picture. What effect does this have? Denial of vulnerability seems like a reasonable response. Wholesale opting out makes a good deal of sense.

Some women simply do not want to admit to any vulnerabilities, and as a consequence of this they find feminism embarrassing and end up cheerleading for the men who pretend to have their best interests at heart but who are pretending only.

It would be such a positive, this rejection of women's vulnerability, if it came from a position of true equality. It doesn't; we're not there yet.

It's a wonderful thing to feel invincible but that shouldn't come along with failing to recognise that others feel very differently.

Scottish feminism is left asking searching questions about who it excludes and who it includes and how to come to a place of consensus. Empathy from all to all is a good start, as is recognising that while you might feel alright, others don't and for good reason.