This assumes that Burchill is something other than a horrible, transphobic person, reveling in her cis privilege, assuming that she can lean on her identity as a woman to prove that she isn’t a horrible person. Her next paragraph clinches it.
But they’d rather argue over semantics. To be fair, after having one’s nuts taken off (see what I did there?) by endless decades in academia, it’s all most of them are fit to do. Educated beyond all common sense and honesty, it was a hoot to see the screaming-mimis accuse Suze of white feminist privilege; it may have been this which made her finally respond in the subsequent salty language she employed to answer her Twitter critics: “People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.”
Truly, how can one accuse Burchill and Moore of privilege, just because they crossed the line to outright bigotry? Yes, yes, it’s hilarious to engage in gendered language to attack the transgender community, but in doing so, Burchill manages to take a swipe at cis women as well. If having your testicles removed makes one only fit to carp at others, what of those who never had them at all? Don’t get me wrong — I reject the idea that fortitude is found in gonads outright. I suspect Burchill claims to as well. But so keen is she on attacking the transgender community that she’s willing to attack herself.
Burchill continues with language that is frankly offensive, and an unfamiliarity with Latin roots that speaks poorly of a professional writer.
She, the other JB and I are part of the tiny minority of women of working-class origin to make it in what used to be called Fleet Street and I think this partly contributes to the stand-off with the trannies. (I know that’s a wrong word, but having recently discovered that their lot describe born women as ‘Cis’ — sounds like syph, cyst, cistern; all nasty stuff — they’re lucky I’m not calling them shemales. Or shims.) We know that everything we have, we got for ourselves. We have no family money, no safety net. And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.
First, let’s unpack the language. Cis is not used to describe men and women whose gender identity lines up with their birth gender because it rhymes with cistern. It is used because it is the Latin prefix for “on this side.” Its opposite is trans, the Latin prefix for “across.” It’s a sad commentary that Burchill can’t be bothered to open a dictionary, or use Google.
Since she’s unwilling to grapple with such basics of language, it’s unsurprising that she’s unwilling to look up the meaning of privilege. Because privilege doesn’t just mean rich. In this case, Burchill and Moore most definitely are privileged. They are cisgender women. They never had a point where they felt like their birth gender did not match up with their internal concept of their own gender. They were lucky — they didn’t have to go through the fire of oppression just to be defined as the gender they defined for themselves.
That doesn’t mean that Moore and Burchill don’t face oppression, of course — as women, they most certainly do. It’s just that they don’t face the same problems as trans women.
Burchill closes with a disgusting rant.
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.
Shims, shemales, whatever you’re calling yourselves these days – don’t threaten or bully we lowly natural-born women, I warn you. We may not have as many lovely big swinging Phds as you, but we’ve experienced a lifetime of PMT and sexual harassment, and many of us are now staring HRT and the menopause straight in the face — and still not flinching. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. You really won’t like us when we’re angry.
Asking for basic decency is not pleading “special privileges.” It’s simply asking for a modicum of respect, an understanding that others have it tough, too.
Burchill is unwilling to allow for this. She tells trans women, flat out, that they are not women and never can be. That only “natural-born” women count. That to suggest that trans women face different struggles — not better, not worse, but different — is met with a full-throated roar, a string of invective, and a threat.
This doesn’t do anything to advance the cause of equality.
Indeed, it sets it back quite a bit. If Burchill’s feminism is seen as representative of the struggle for gender equality, then feminism comes off as quite a sad movement indeed. It becomes a movement that is not about lifting all people up, but only a subset. If women — the right kind of women — get ahead, that’s all that matters. Who cares about those “shemales?” Burchill’s willingness to attack women in service of attacking the transgender community is instructive — this is a battle that doesn’t lift anyone up, and hurts everyone.
If Burchill spoke for feminism, as a feminist ally, I would despair. But I do not believe that. Feminists from Roz Kaveney to Aoife O’Riordan to Bethia Stone have taken Burchill to task for her writing. They have done so for the right reason — a simple recognition that trans people are, first and foremost, people, and deserving of all the respect and common courtesy of all other people — but their willingness to stand and defend others who suffer from oppression is good for feminism itself. Oppressive systems count on those who are oppressed to turn on each other. Recognizing each other’s common humanity, and showing respect for each other, is the best possible way to avoid that trap.
Burchill, sadly, doesn’t recognize that she’s doing real harm to feminism. Fortunately, I think her lack of perspective is rare. For the sake of a future where women — whether cis women or trans women — enjoy fully equal standing with men, I hope so.
Image Credit: Women's eNews
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