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You Can’t Advance Women’s Rights by Bashing Trans People

You Can’t Advance Women’s Rights by Bashing Trans People
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Julie Burchill is a writer for the Observer, a sister publication to the Guardian. On Sunday, Burchill set out to defend a friend, Suzanne Moore, who while complaining about beauty ideals wrote a sentence that was tremendously unfortunate, saying women “are angry at ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly, and not having the ideal body shape — that of a Brazilian transsexual.”

The sentence was bigoted, and that drew anger from the transgender community. Moore could have — and should have — responded by apologizing for using transphobic language, and that would have been the end of it. Instead, she doubled down, complaining that those who called her out were harming feminism. “Other people’s genital arrangements are less interesting to me than the breakdown of the social contract. I am asking for anger and for alliances. Less divide and rule. So call me a freak.”

Of course, demanding that trans people simply shut up and listen to the nice cis woman isn’t the best way to defuse a situation, and Moore eventually ended up departing from Twitter rather than apologize.

One of the worst human failings is our willingness to trample on others. Individuals do this, of course, but it never is more disappointing than when it’s done to a whole group of people. In these cases, it’s rarely the best-off who suffer. Instead, people who face oppression kneecap those who face different oppression, piling on with their own oppressors.

Modern feminist philosophy recognizes this problem as intersectionality, and while it’s done so imperfectly, it has tried to grapple with the idea that bashing other groups hurts an awful lot of women, and doesn’t advance the goal of ending oppression. If, for example, African American women have different ideas about feminism than white women, that’s not only to be expected, it’s to be acknowledged, accepted, and acted upon — because a feminism that does not recognize the way identities intersect is doomed to fail.

Unfortunately, this basic truth has not filtered out to all those who claim the mantle of feminism. And this brings us to Julie Burchill.

Moore’s pieces were insensitive and clueless, to be sure. Burchill’s was much, much worse.

To wit:

I was incredulous to read that my friend was being monstered on Twitter, to the extent that she had quit it, for supposedly picking on a minority — transsexuals. Though I imagine it to be something akin to being savaged by a dead sheep, as Denis Healey had it of Geoffrey Howe, I nevertheless felt indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chick’s clothing.

To my mind — I have given cool-headed consideration to the matter — a gaggle of transsexuals telling Suzanne Moore how to write looks a lot like how I’d imagine the Black & White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look. That rude and ridic.

Ignore the fact that this doesn’t make any sense — why wouldn’t a trans person be able to write? — and you see the pure bigotry seething beneath the surface. The Black and White Minstrels were, for those of you who like me are not British, exactly what it says on the tin — a minstrel show. White people dressing up and pretending to be black, just as trans people are dressing up and pretending to be women.

Burchill continues on, arguing that fighting against transphobia is foolish, because “their relationship with their phantom limb is the most pressing problem that women — real and imagined — are facing right now.” Never mind that this argument is the equivalent of arguing that we shouldn’t discuss access to birth control because women are dying in Afghanistan — it’s the hatred that startles. “Phantom limb?” Really?

Burchill continues on to show an utter lack of self-awareness:

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 him enough ‘respect’. Ignore the real enemy — they’re strong and will need real effort and organization to fight. How much easier to lash out at those who are conveniently close to hand!

Indeed, this is true. So why is Burchill spilling so much bile against trans people, whose argument from the start has been, simply, “Hey, this is offensive language, could you not use it please?” If we’re choosing to fight the “real enemy,” isn’t the proper response a simple, “Okay?”

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132 comments

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5:20AM PDT on Jun 11, 2013

Thank you for the article ☺

11:42AM PST on Jan 23, 2013

Thank you Melody, for a well balanced 'open minded' view & coordinated response. Thank goodness for the majority being prepared to see both sides of the argument. Just a shame that there are a few, who can't see beyond the end of their nose, because they're too intent looking down it like a jumped up, self appointed, self opinionated, pre-Madonna. I thought such an aggressive behaviour was akin to an aggressive testosterone-fuelled reaction, typical of men. I hope that more, like Melody, can see more clearly what the 2 partners in crime have tried to do. Divide & disrupt, by pitting women against trans women. The latter just wishing for acceptance. Nothing special, just the same as any other woman. At the end of the day, . .we're all human beings. Such a pity, that a minority behave in such an alien manner, as would befit their predicted behaviour.

11:31AM PST on Jan 23, 2013

Half my comment to Suky Gill wasn't printed. I was asking, . ."would you like it to be shur away from all the feminine things that you take for granted. Having had some bigot dictate how you were expected to live your life. No you wouldn't & neither do I. Also, if you had "finished reading," you would be armed with all the facts & see that Ms Moore was the instigator & Ms Burchall was the antagonist. Others were condemning their behaviour or defending their own corner. So only armed with half the facts make you ranting on about something you weren't well informed about. A critic, no. Just another ill informed hypocrite. Whats good for one is good for another. You can't have 2 sets of rules to suit your own agenda.

11:18AM PST on Jan 23, 2013

Absolutely disgusting. Here in Canada this story is very under the radar. Luckily I have a few trans activists friends from the UK on fb and saw the beginnings of this hate filled brain paste, but I had no idea they she was this horrible of a person. Equality is for all not for who you deem equal. People unite! Support Trans Rights!

4:36PM PST on Jan 22, 2013

To 'Suky Gill.'

Hello
Please may I "respectfully"ask what makes you judge transgender people in such a negative light? A 'tranny' is how people refer to transvestites. . .not transgender (transsexual). The former is not a description that I identify with. But I don't judge them. . .Live & let live. "There, but for the grace of God, go I." The latter is a term which identifies me and others who feel they are female in their mind. The former dresses to achieve one kind of pleasure or another. The latter, as a necessity of every day life, like any other woman. Well, I'd get arrested, if I didn't dress in public at all, (just trying to lighten the mood a little here, haha). Its just common decency to be appropriately dressed in public. I don't get any sexual thrill or any other perverted buzz from 'presenting as female.' My gender is between my ears, within my mind, and not between my legs. The appendage down below is extremely repulsive and alien to my body. Its not how I should have been born. The depression that is a secondary result of my condition, referred medically as 'gender dysphoria,' resulted in suicidal thoughts and one attempt to take my own life, before I got help.
If society put you in a dark & dingy room, took away all your pretty clothes, jewellery, shoes and other feminine things that you enjoy in life. Then gave you a pair of plain grey overalls to wear, then told you, that's how you will be for the rest of your life, with no way out. . .Would yo

5:27AM PST on Jan 22, 2013

oh my goodness, I couldn't even finish reading it, bunch of sick nonsense, bashing a woman is who so by nature and defending a bunch of trans, there are so many sickos in this world, its unreal, we are expected to put up and shut up, well I won't, thank God for places like this where I can express my feelings, women should have shame for attacking suzzane moore, I don't particularly want to be compared to a tranny, no not everyone views things in the same light, as some are taught the difference between wrong and right, when Gods judgement comes upon earth, will be the best thing that happens to the human race, for truly his will, will be done!

3:10PM PST on Jan 21, 2013

Thank you Tiffany, for your wonderful support of transgender people and seeing us in a good light. It warms my heart to see there is goodness & decent people in the world. All we seek, is to be accepted within society. We're certainly not 'demanding,' or 'asking for any special rights or considerations.' Just to be allowed to live in peace & have the same rights as anyone else. Happy New Year to you all. x

1:33PM PST on Jan 21, 2013

I agree with Holly L...

12:08AM PST on Jan 21, 2013

Thanks,.

8:33PM PST on Jan 20, 2013

Burchill and Moore sound like very nasty/hateful people! Probably just jealous of how beautiful most transgendered people are, and I am not just talking asthetics. Burchil and Moore do not speak for me as a liberal woman!

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