Growing up in a council flat in Kentish Town in the mid-80s with a my bulimic single mum and a copy of Fat Is a Feminist Issue on the kitchen table meant I was a feminist before I could even walk. Mum wore the trousers, put food on the table and was liberal in her parenting. I fetched tampons from the corner shop for her, watched her bath whilst discussing my emotions and encouraged to wear whatever I wanted. As an adult I spend half of my life in women's clothes, throwing the gender handbook out of the window and the other half slightly less girly. It's no wonder last week left me a fat feminist femme open jawed, angry and alienated by some of the leading public facing feminists.
For those of you who haven't encountered this week's hate crimes as published by the left wing press, journalist Suzanne Moore kicked off with an article in the New Statesment eloquently expressing how misogyny flourishes during economic downturn. Moore quickly loses her argument/respect when she claims the perceived ideal body for a woman was that of a "Brazilian transsexual" which understandably rustled feathers across social media. The Twitterverse demanded she retract her statement. Moore responded via the Guardian (of course): she wasn't up for saying sorry and she'd worked with trans people so it was OK. Later that day she threw a wobbly on Twitter and told her followers to cut their dicks off if they wanted to be 'more feminist' than her; this led to Moore dramatically exiting stage left with the back of her palm on her forehead and leaving twitter - FOREVER!
Not wanting to be left out of a bit of lazy journalism, national treasure Julie Bindel used her 140 characters to accuse LGBT news site PinkNews of running a 'tranny cabal' against her mates- most of whom who use the word transsexual like a 1970's sitcom would use the word 'darkie'. Bindel goes on to tweet that the trans community are bullies, #irory.
Feminists up and down the county are pulling their hair out before Ann Hathaway even has the chance to get hers cut off. Before you can say Les Miserables renowned femme writer Julie Burchill completes the Holy Trinity of Fallen Feminists with yet an Observer piece on the subject that would leave me shouting at a dashboard on the A2 to Margate on a Sunday afternoon.
Burchill's piece provocatively titled 'Transexuals should cut it out' for the Observer outlines why the trans community should leave her mates alone: basically 'cause we wouldn't want to see them angry as they are all going through the menopause. If this statement wasn't ridiculous enough the rest of the article it is littered with what can only be described as disgusting and intolerable transphobia.
Her opening proclamation details how well she knows Suzanne- they've glugged Bolly and scoffed lobster together! The Patsy and Edina of journalism! Burchill is even godmother to Moore's daughters so if anyone can put this into perspective it's definitely Burchill.
Burchill calls those who oppose the views of not only her pal Suzanne but 'the other JB' a bunch of "dicks in chicks' clothing". Let me remind you this statement comes from a feminist, thinker and acclaimed writer for a lefty publication. Other transphobic remarks include talk about having nuts taken off because 'its all most of them are fit to do', 'their relationship with their phantom limb' and various references to cutting things off and 'expecting' privilege - I can't picture the situation in which the editor thought these were all reasonable, measured and insightful things to say so why they where published? As of yet no one from the editorial team at the Guardian or Observer are publicly owning up to the transphobic diatribe.
Throughout Burchill's ill informed piece there seems to be a fascination with men and their genitalia because only men with penises are transexual. For the record Burchill, gender isn't about what is or isn't between your legs, its far more complex than Xs and Ys. If I constantly told you that your vagina was your identity would you find it hard to swallow?
Bindel is noted for being a 'veteran women's rights and anti-domestic violence activist' as if this was evidence that no person with such attributes could be transphobic. Burchill also states both she and Bindel are from working class origins in an attempt to highlight where they sit on the ladder of oppression - her argument is flawed at every hurdle.
I am bitterly angry that these pithy opions were able to be aired in such a nasty and vitriolic nature that not only break guidelines around inciting hatred towards trans people but I believe break the law under hate crime.
I'm not annoyed Burchill wanted to stick up for her mates, I'm not angered she is uncomfortable with anyone who sits outside of binary gender. I'm outraged at her use of language, bullying tactics and uneducated opinions on trans people. The journalists in question are educated, well read and informed women, and their comments under the Observer/Guardian banner. In a strange sort of way I wouldn't be shocked if the 'Daily Fail' published something like this, We're used to seeing phobic fear mongering from them but it seems that now even the left wing media in the UK deem it appropriate to give transphobia a platform as well as fund it.
As I write this the piece Burchill's bullying has had over 2,000 comments, 6,000 facebook shares and Twitter has been trending more times than Julie has has lobster. I worry about the effects this will have on the trans community, as Roz Kaveney explains in her Guardian response "do you think that what you've written makes it more or less likely that an elderly trans woman living on a housing estate will get jostled on the stairs by her neighbours? Or that a teen trans man will be punched in the street?". Burchill is a femme icon for many young women and young feminists like myself. With this icon status comes a responsibility. Her views endorse transphobia to her many fans and followers, they are factually incorrect and with this prejudice is able to thrive.
I expect the Guardian and Observer desks are manically preparing some sort of damage limitation package but the damage has been done. We all know trans people are not the bed wetting academics that Burchill would have us believe but we need use our voices, blogs and outlets to have it known.
A wise feminist once said to a fat, femme closeted 15-year-old year old from Kentish Town: "If you want to live in a world where you hold you partner's hand walking down the street or have their picture on your desk at work then live in that world, hold your partners hand and have that picture on display." The transphobic outbursts of Burchill, Bindel and Moore last week disapointingly highlight that transphobia is alive and well in circles that should know better. The responsive outrage from feminists of all genders will hopefully lead to solidarity in the face of hate. And trans people will continue to hold hands, display pictures on their desks, and live the brave, bold lives they always have.
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