Why should trans women have to keep quiet in the name of ‘equality’?


8:11 pm - January 13th 2013

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by Rachel Coldbreath

There was an outcry on Twitter this week when Suzanne Moore left. She left Twitter after a row that was sparked after she used “Brazilian transexuals” (meaning trans women) as shorthand for “a body type all women aspire to but which none of us will attain because it is, by definition, not female.” (Latter quote is my words, not hers.)

Everyone who read those two words in the context of her otherwise excellent article about what is being done to women could not fail to understand her meaning. And on the surface of it, her meaning was harmless. It certainly appeared to be without malice.

But the image those two words sum up, used in that context, is insulting. It’s basically saying “trans women! You don’t look like REAL women.”

That may not have been her intention – indeed I suspect it wasn’t. But if it was not her intention, it was the clumsy outcome nonetheless. People took her up on this. She responded horribly, which we are all wont to do sometimes, and made everything worse.

Well, here’s the thing. I love a punchy feminist, and while there are lots about, Suzanne Moore has a unique voice and is high-profile. She’s important to feminism. We want to keep her, please. I respect her experience of decades of progressive liberation, of and from gender, of and from cis sexuality, and her experience of decades of women being second class citizens, clawing their way up, being stamped down again.

But if you’re going to write in a devil-may-care way, un-heedful of causing offence, you’re going to have to deal with the consequences. The rules of being a punchy fucker are short and sweet. They go:

1) Punch the right target.
2) Be aware they will punch you back.

I believe she fell down on 1). Because the target in this case is the people who are oppressing women – all women, cis and trans. And she ended up in a big ol’ bunfight with trans activists. Somehow what has emerged from this is that the trans activists are in the wrong, that they were over-sensitive, wanted to be offended, and that they should have shut up and put up for the greater good.

Wait, WHAT?

Suddenly on twitter we’ve got trans activists bullying a mainstream, successful feminist columnist off the site. And there are an awful lot of people saying how ghastly that is, how counter-productive for feminism. How people should set aside these petty offences in the name of the greater cause of all women – trans and cis and every sort – banding together against a greater evil. People are saying that intersectionality is diluting and undermining valid arguments against the crushing problems women (or any oppressed set of people) face.

And that is an absurd thing to say.

If the left is about equality and if feminism is about women, then in the left, everyone should have an equal voice, and in feminism, all women should have an equal voice. Nobody – NOBODY – should be required to button their lip until we get to some unidentified benchmark in the great struggle for equality, whereafter their concerns will magically become valid.

If I am offended by someone remarking on my tits on a bus, that’s valid. If a trans woman is offended by a high profile journalist writing something insulting about her body, that’s every bit as valid.

I hope she comes back. I like her. Feminism needs her. I think this was basically a disconnect, a misunderstanding, and it blew up and people got hurt and things were said. But if the price of her return is that trans women have to shut up and put up, then no, I’m not paying it.


Rachel tweets as @chiller and blogs here

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[deleted]

2. So Much for Subtlety

If a trans woman is offended by a high profile journalist writing something insulting about her body, that’s every bit as valid.

Sure. But the problem here is the self-righteous bullying that the Left has become famous for. So it is not enough to say to someone like Moore that she said something offensive and hurt other people’s feelings. She has to be bullied into silence as well.

As she has been.

This is only unusual because it is a case of friendly fire. Had she been on the Right no one would have cared. That is what that sort of bullying is for. We need to return to a time when people could disagree without the PC Taliban seeking to destroy their enemies by any means necessary.

“This is only unusual because it is a case of friendly fire. Had she been on the Right no one would have cared. That is what that sort of bullying is for. We need to return to a time when people could disagree without the PC Taliban seeking to destroy their enemies by any means necessary.”

As a socialist, I’m shocked to say I agree with this. A culture of vilification has developed among certain feminists, encouraged by the lack of self-criticism within the feminist movement.

Compare feminists to socialists – we are constantly regretting our past mistakes and debating out own shortcomings. Feminists don’t do this. There’s a culture of self-righteousness and “ends justifies the means”.

Really, Miss Moore didn’t do anything wrong. So she offended a few people? Who cares? Offending people is not bad. I get offended every day, but I don’t claim this shouldn’t happen. I love offending people. It’s cathartic.

Really, what she said is small beer compared to some of the stuff certain feminists have said about transsexual people.

Doesn’t radical feminism have a somewhat troubled past with trans women anyway?

“Really, Miss Moore didn’t do anything wrong. So she offended a few people? Who cares? Offending people is not bad. I get offended every day, but I don’t claim this shouldn’t happen. I love offending people. It’s cathartic.

Really, what she said is small beer compared to some of the stuff certain feminists have said about transsexual people.”

I think the issue is that there’s been so little progress on attitudes towards trans issues that the community feels entitled to be touchy. And “lol transsexuals” is the sole punchline of so many jokes, it goes beyond poking fun or whatever.

But indeed, it’s not always productive to jump down people’s throats. I haven’t seen every comment which was directed at Moore from the community, and I hope there wasn’t anything genuinely nasty. Paris Lees wrote a great open letter to Moore here which was respectful and polite: http://www.divamag.co.uk/category/comment/an-open-letter-to-suzanne-moore.aspx

“We need to return to a time when people could disagree without the PC Taliban seeking to destroy their enemies by any means necessary.”

Does that mean returning to before the internet or before language?

I think this article is spot on: Moore used transexual women as perjorative sterotype, probably without meaning to, she got called out, things were said, she reacted badly because she didn’t understand how her language sounds to transexuals, a twitmob ensued, posititions entrenched and everyone’s worse off for it.

7. Just Visiting

So the ‘transphobia’ label is used: and some say used to stifle debate.

Transphobia, Islamophoba: it’s always handy to label and silence those who disagree eh!

If Moore had just said “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend”, then everyone could have calmed down and found something else to occupy them. Instead, she insisted on hanging on with her teeth and not letting go, which she might think makes her sound brave and daring, but is hardly going to help if you want people to leave you alone. Everyone does dumb shit and upsets people because they didn’t think, but the way to deal with that is to say “maybe I shouldn’t do that again” and then stop digging your fingernails into the scab. After all, this is the internet, we would have forgotten about it by the time the next funny cat picture came along, if it could just have been abandoned before it developed.

Incidentaly, here is a picture of a cat in a bidet:

http://i45.tinypic.com/2rmo3fr.jpg

9. So Much for Subtlety

3. Glaor

Compare feminists to socialists – we are constantly regretting our past mistakes and debating out own shortcomings. Feminists don’t do this. There’s a culture of self-righteousness and “ends justifies the means”.

Yeah because the Left was so nice to Enoch Powell and Sir Keith Joseph. And Carol Thatcher. In fact the list is too long to even start. The Hard Left gave Britain that culture of self-righteousness and the idea the ends justify the means. It is still found there. This is, as I said, just a case of friendly fire. Had she been a Tory it would have been nastier.

4. Cylux

Doesn’t radical feminism have a somewhat troubled past with trans women anyway?

Well some radical feminists do. I do like Julie Bendel talking about trans people. But only at a distance. A long long distance.

5. Hodge Podge

And “lol transsexuals” is the sole punchline of so many jokes, it goes beyond poking fun or whatever.

You know, I don’t think I have heard a transsexual joke in my life. Not one. Certainly not one with that as a punchline. So there can’t be that many of them out there.

6. Dan

Does that mean returning to before the internet or before language?

It means to return to before 1968 I would guess. Charles Lindhburg was not strong on going to war with Germany. But what is interesting is that in more civilised times, he was still on the Presidential Commission advising the President years and years later.

7. Just Visiting

Transphobia, Islamophoba: it’s always handy to label and silence those who disagree eh!

It is one of Alinsky’s rules innit? Borrowed from Stalin. Label your opponent and his views. Demonise those views. Watch him futilely try to defend himself.

8. Celia

If Moore had just said “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend”, then everyone could have calmed down and found something else to occupy them. Instead, she insisted on hanging on with her teeth and not letting go, which she might think makes her sound brave and daring, but is hardly going to help if you want people to leave you alone.

What if she wants some basic respect? I agree that backing down often helps with bullies. But they usually come back.

I should point out, I think the original author had a point, but did a VERY bad job expressing it; men generally have less body fat than women, and are generally taller, and often trans-women follow this trend. If the trans-woman can afford plastic surgery, the expected result is a tall, thin woman with large breasts. Obviously this does not apply to all trans-women, but the idea of it, that trans-women end up as super-models, and end up doing it better than born-women, is of course very insulting to born-women (and trans-women as well), because it implies that what humans see as beauty is not in fact something that is easily achievable (by either trans-women or born-woman). Of course, not all trans-women do end up as super-models (it’s very silly to suggest so), but look at which trans-women are famous (do a google search for ‘famous trans women’ vs. women and look at the images) – the top images for trans-women are the beautiful ones, while the woman ones (while still skewed towards the prettier women), are more normal, with less make-up and/or plastic surgery. Basically, my point is that the mental image people have of trans women is of the super-models, and that it’s easy for trans-women to be super-models, while born-women are very rarely super-model-pretty. Of course, this ignores the reality of the cost of plastic surgery, the pain, the damage, the chances of dying under the knife (while some born-women do get plastic surgery, and some require it for medical reasons (being born with a hairlip, needing a breast-reduction to help with back-pain, etc.), etc. that trans-women are expected (by society) to go through to be considered trans-women as opposed to just cross-dressers/etc.

If you look at a trans-website, look at their image of a trans-woman. The idea that trans-women are tall, thin, super-model types isn’t just the fault of cis-people. Plus, how many trans-women would decide NOT to look pretty if? Decide to get only A or B cup implants? Decide to leave their nose big (and yes, not all trans-women have big noses, I know), instead of playing to the rule of having a tiny nose. The fact is, the beauty rules for women are awful, and there is a perception (on both the cis and trans side) that trans women end up as supermodels: http://www.genderrights.org.au/index.php/blog/opinion/11-transmen-and-transwomen-unite
Transmen and Transwomen Unite!
http://www.genderrights.org.au
There seems to be a massive cultural and political divide between trans men and …See More

11. Hodge Podge

@9 On comedy, I was watching Live at the Apollo when someone unexpectedly came out with the line “but you know their vagina looks like a shotgun wound” without much build up.

12. Hodge Podge

7. Just Visiting

“Transphobia, Islamophoba: it’s always handy to label and silence those who disagree eh!

It is one of Alinsky’s rules innit? Borrowed from Stalin. Label your opponent and his views. Demonise those views. Watch him futilely try to defend himself.”

“Racism” is a word… would you rather we replaced every instance of “transphobia” with “anti-trans bigotry” or something? It’s fine to criticise and ask questions, but you do get a lot of people talking out their arse on trans issues.

13. Chaise Guevara

Excellent article. Bang on the money

@ Cylux

“Doesn’t radical feminism have a somewhat troubled past with trans women anyway?”

I remember we had a minor flame war with a Mumsnet thread after some feminists were derogating trans women for daring to consider themselves female.

It’s a big and varied movement and, as such, has its share of zealots and arseholes.

14. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 Just Visiting

“So the ‘transphobia’ label is used: and some say used to stifle debate.”

“Some say”? Weasel words, those.

“Transphobia, Islamophoba: it’s always handy to label and silence those who disagree eh!”

Politically correct nonsense on your part, JV. If you enter a debate you invite criticism of your views. I don’t see why we should grant special immunity for prejudiced people.

15. So Much for Subtlety

11. Hodge Podge

On comedy, I was watching Live at the Apollo when someone unexpectedly came out with the line “but you know their vagina looks like a shotgun wound” without much build up.

I fail to see the humour but I will take your word for it. That is one person who has heard one joke. I have heard about as many jokes about near relatives who served in Auschwitz told by really fat northern men who were of part Jewish descent. That is, one.

12. Hodge Podge

“Racism” is a word… would you rather we replaced every instance of “transphobia” with “anti-trans bigotry” or something? It’s fine to criticise and ask questions, but you do get a lot of people talking out their arse on trans issues.

No, I would rather you dealt with the person and their comments as individuals and individual comments. But I do agree a lot of people talk out of their arses about the transgendered. Especially as there are virtually none of them in Britain.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 15 SMFS

“That is one person who has heard one joke. I have heard about as many jokes about near relatives who served in Auschwitz told by really fat northern men who were of part Jewish descent. That is, one.”

Well, in the article being discussed in the other thread, Julie Birchill made a crack about “losing your nuts”. But personally I don’t think that these guys are the subject of jokes more often than groups like holocaust victims or homosexuals.

I remember we had a minor flame war with a Mumsnet thread after some feminists were derogating trans women for daring to consider themselves female.

It’s a big and varied movement and, as such, has its share of zealots and arseholes.

I was thinking more along these lines where they actually wrote a letter to the UN Commission on Women saying that protections for trans people are dangerous because they undermine protections for women. Then there’s the whole Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival trans ban. Not to mention that Julie Bindal, whom SMFS likes talking about trans peeps, is pretty high up on the list of Transphobic-to-fuck high-profile radfems.

Anyway, I should point out that radical feminism is not necessarily the same as feminism, followers of the former have a tendency to find the existence of trans peeps to be ideologically inconvenient.

most straight men in relationships married or not,have a secret fantasy of dressing up in womens clothes,i have many a married freind who when there partners go out for a girly nights out get upstairs to the bedroom warbrode to test out what it would be like to wear womens lingerie,suspender,bras,stockings etc.thats a fact.

19. Chaise Guevara

@ 17 Cylux

“I was thinking more along these lines…”

Gah. I wasn’t aware of how deep this problem is. Well, anyone who claims to be looking out for one demographic, while cheerfully stamping all over a more vulnerable demographic, can fuck right off from where I’m standing.

“Anyway, I should point out that radical feminism is not necessarily the same as feminism, followers of the former have a tendency to find the existence of trans peeps to be ideologically inconvenient.”

Obviously, but it’s a category thing: radfems will probably hold that their beliefs are “real” feminism.

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 18 stuart

“most straight men in relationships married or not,have a secret fantasy of dressing up in womens clothes”

I think you might be overstating the case by saying “most”, but I dare say it’s more common than people think.

@18 stuart

Speak for yourself.

I’ll get me kilt…

22. So Much for Subtlety

17. Cylux

Not to mention that Julie Bindal, whom SMFS likes talking about trans peeps, is pretty high up on the list of Transphobic-to-fuck high-profile radfems.

Well first, this is part of what might be called the creeping totalitarianisation of British politics. It doesn’t matter if Ms Bindel comes to her views because of some deep secret fear. What matter is her ideas. Respect her right to hold whatever view she likes and deal with what she has to say. Also it may not be trans-phobia. She may have a perfectly consistent and logical political position which happens to be unfriendly to trans-people. That makes her views as a result of some other factor besides fear and prejudice.

Anyway, I should point out that radical feminism is not necessarily the same as feminism

Yeah but they will have huge over lap.

18. stuart

most straight men in relationships married or not,have a secret fantasy of dressing up in womens clothes,i have many a married freind who when there partners go out for a girly nights out get upstairs to the bedroom warbrode to test out what it would be like to wear womens lingerie,suspender,bras,stockings etc.thats a fact.

Well that is unlikely to be true, but even if it was true, it is irrelevant as it doesn’t make them trans. Not all people who have sex with people of the same gender are gay. Ask in any prison. Not everyone who has been, shall we say, Frock-curious is trans. Or even close.

21. Cherub

I’ll get me kilt…

Not, of course, in the correct cultural context, women’s clothing.

It doesn’t matter if Ms Bindel comes to her views because of some deep secret fear. What matter is her ideas. Respect her right to hold whatever view she likes and deal with what she has to say. Also it may not be trans-phobia. She may have a perfectly consistent and logical political position which happens to be unfriendly to trans-people. That makes her views as a result of some other factor besides fear and prejudice.

Ace. A reply focusing on the phobia part of transphobia. That one never grows old. Next I’ll be getting people telling me they can never get a note out of a shoehorn no matter how hard they blow on it.

Plus I do respect her right to hold whatever views she likes, I also have the right to call her out on them and condemn her for them.

@ cherub@chaise guevara @so much for subtiety,i will say this,best to be honest,i have dressed up in my girlfreinds lingerie on one occasion,3 times in fact.of course she was out at the time,i was just a bit curious you see what is was like to walk in a womans shoes,you know what,i felt liberated,i really did.

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Cylux

“Plus I do respect her right to hold whatever views she likes, I also have the right to call her out on them and condemn her for them.”

It’s such a lazy rhetorical trick, isn’t it? Try to gain points by demanding respect for people’s right to an opinion, when nobody’s said anything to suggest that right shouldn’t exist.

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 24 stuart

“i will say this,best to be honest,i have dressed up in my girlfreinds lingerie on one occasion,3 times in fact.of course she was out at the time,i was just a bit curious you see what is was like to walk in a womans shoes,you know what,i felt liberated,i really did.”

Cool and fair play to you. I’m just saying that it seems very unlikely that over 50% of men are into it.

Good article.

“….. [I]n the wrong, that they were over-sensitive, wanted to be offended, and that they should have shut up and put up for the greater good.”

Funny that, because that’s exactly what feminists always get put down with when they challenge prejudice against them.

This debacle is very good for various reasons. First off because it exposes the Burchill-Bindel-Moore clique for the back-slapping, over-privileged, mean-minded and prejudiced people that they are. Second because it is another useful illustration of how some of these yuppie feminists all too easily turn to puritanism and authoritarianism.

The similarity of interest between certain kinds of feminism and the religious right is a lot greater than might at first appear.

@17 Cylux, thanks for that info. There’s also Bristol Labour Women’s Group who threw Rosalind Mitchell out of their meeting on the grounds she’s “not a real woman”:

http://www.lgcplus.com/lgc-news/sex-objection-to-bristol-woman/1468080.article

Some feminists obviously have difficulty dealing with other people who are different from themselves, especially where those people challenge the feminists’ (ahem) bourgeois views on sex and sexuality.

28. white trash

“The similarity of interest between certain kinds of feminism and the religious right is a lot greater than might at first appear.”

Julie Burchill’s outburst also had me looking at her Wikipedia page where, it turns out that she has described herself as a Christian Zionist.

In which she chose to keep company with Glen Beck, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_Burchill#Personal_life

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Zionism

Makes yer fink, dunnit …

29. domestic extremist

It’s counterproductive to make statements like “A body type all women aspire to but which none of us will attain because it is, by definition, not female.” What reason is there to suppose that all women aspire to any particular body type? Isn’t it highly likely that many women are perfectly content with whatever body type they have? Absurd over-generalisations like this one are not conducive to getting attentive readers to persist with an article. Also, using arcane terms like cis without offering a definition doesn’t help.


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