Remember when Kveller, the Jewish parenting web site, published a really trans-phobic, nasty story, and then (mirabile dictu) consulted with leaders from the LGBT community and pulled the piece and ran a thoughtful apology? We enjoyed that. Alas, two nastypants British lady writers did not make us feel enjoyable feelings.
Jezebel has the full story. First Suzanne Moore wrote an article in New Statesman about the power of female anger, including an offhand comment: “We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape—that of a Brazilian transsexual.” On Twitter, a woman who goes by @jonanamary took Moore to task: “Trans women deserve solidarity, not implicit shaming,” she tweeted. Moore tweeted back: “I use lots of ‘offensive’ words. If you want to be offended it your prerogative.” (Is it not fascinating how often, when called on racism/sexism/homophobia, the offender accuses the accuser, implicitly or explicitly, of attempted censorship? And focuses on words, just words, rather than the meaning of the phrases they’re nestled in?) Twitter Jo valiantly tried again, saying, in two tweets I’ve edited together for clarity:
Moore responded in two blazing tweets (her entire side of the convo has been removed from her Twitter feed, shockingly) (not), but is still screen-capped on Jezebel:
I dont even accept the word transphobia any more than Islamaphobia You are using ‘intersectionality’ to shut down debate. Its bollocks.
People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.
And the tiny corner of the Twitterverse not dedicated to Lindsay Lohan exploded in irked chatter. Like a knight in shining armor, except with a God-given vagina, Moore’s friend and fellow writer Julie Burchill rode to her pal’s defense. In the Sunday Observer, she wrote a piece called “Transsexuals Should Cut it Out” (WITTY WORDPLAY! Oh ho ho!) in which she went absolutely nutballs (SEE WHAT I DID THERE? I AM NOEL COWARD ALL UP IN HERE!) (and by here I mean MY VAGINA! Which I was BORN WITH, which makes me BETTER THAN!). You can read Burchill’s screed here, but it amounts to “transgender people criticized articles by TWO of my friends!” (Trans activists had taken issue with an earlier article by Burchill’s pal Julie Bindel saying that gender-reassignment surgery “is unnecessary mutilation – in my opinion there is nothing ‘wrong’ with those who are currently seen as candidates for transgender surgery – they just don’t fit the gender stereotype,” and “This idea that certain distinct behaviours are appropriate for males and females…underlies feminist criticism of the phenomenon of ‘transgenderism’.” Note the quotation marks. As if being trans were not a real thing. Actual SCIENCE, as opposed to airy opinion-writing, views it as a real thing.)
I think the most jaw-dropping line among many in Burchill’s piece was, “The reaction of the trans lobby reminded me very much of those wretched inner-city kids who shoot another inner-city kid dead in a fast-food shop for not showing them enough ‘respect.’” How many different ways can one sentence make a person shudder? It’s practically a Zen koan. Also, the powerful “trans lobby”! They are like the NRA of persecuted peoples! Adding insult to injury, Burchill employed the term “trannies,” offensive to many trans people, and said, “To have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women – above natural-born women, who don’t know the meaning of suffering, apparently – is a bit like the old definition of chutzpah: the boy who killed his parents and then asked the jury for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan.” (Oy, Julie, please, when you invoke Jewish humor in defense of bias, you are not doing our people any favors. Also, I’d like to know how the comparative suffering of “natural-born” women vs. trans women was scored. Was there a curve? Do you and I get extra points for being Jews, but points subtracted because we just have the normal self-hate of women in Western culture as opposed to the agony of feeling born into the wrong body and facing hatred and bias every single day? Can I have a few extra points for my fat ass and gray hairs? Who do I talk to about this?)
My dewy little hero Lindy West–I like to think of her as the Lena Dunham to my Tina Fey–made a lovely .gif analysis of Burchill’s entire letter. You should go to Jezebel and enjoy. Youthful, yes, but I like it too.
Where were we? Ah yes. Inexplicably, Burchill’s piece did not suddenly make everyone agree that the powerful trans lobby was silencing the vast swaths of legitimate vaginas attached to British women writers. Yesterday, John Mulholland, editor of the Observer, issued an apology and pulled the piece from the paper’s web site. “The Observer is a paper which prides itself on ventilating difficult debates and airing challenging views,” he wrote. “On this occasion we got it wrong and in light of the hurt and offence caused I apologise and have made the decision to withdraw the piece. The Observer Readers’ Editor will report on these issues at greater length.”
I am semi-appeased by the promise to discuss these issues later (I’m guessing the Readers’ Editor is the equivalent of our ombudsman — or should I say ombudsperson, or ombud? Sexist language is making me so TIIIIIIRED). I hope the paper will spell out precisely what was offensive about Burchill’s piece (demeaned an entire class of people, reveled in bias, showed lack of scientific awareness, used national platform for personal vendetta…). “Got it wrong” is not specific enough.
The whole business is most unpleasant. As ever, when women behave badly toward other women, I’m sorry to have to bring it to your attention.