Suzanne Moore, Julie Burchill, Lynne Featherstone & Transsexuals - Time For Some Perspective
13 Jan 2013 at 17:36
Let me say from the start, that I have never been a fan of Julie Burchill. I started one of her books once but didn’t last long. Puerile rubbish. I’ve always thought her writing to be ordinary in the extreme, and have struggled to understand why she appears to be so popular. The only conclusion I can come to is that she likes to shock. And she’s done it again today with her trenchant defence of her friend Suzanne Moore.
Just to bring you up to date, Suzanne Moore wrote an article in the New Statesman, headlined SEEING RED: THE POWER OF FEMALE ANGER. Well it wasn’t female anger that she provoked, it was transsexual anger. In the article, Suzanne wrote this…
Caitlin Moran’s bestselling How to Be a Woman is a brilliantly funny read because it is so warm and not really very angry towards men. We can all be dudes. But former Sex Pistol John Lydon’s chant , “anger is an energy”, is still my cri de coeur. The cliché is that female anger is always turned inwards rather than outwards into despair. 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. We are angry that men do not do enough. We are angry at work where we are underpaid and overlooked. This anger can be neatly channelled and outsourced to make someone a fat profit. Are your hormones okay? Do you need a nice bath? Some sex tips and an internet date? What if, contrary to Sex and the City, new shoes do not fill the hole in your soul? What if you aspire to another model of womanhood than the mute but beautifully groomed Kate Middleton? What if your anguish is not illogical but actually bloody spot on?
Did you spot her offence there? If it hadn’t been pointed out to me, I’m not sure I would have to be honest. For clarity, it was the bit about the Brazilian transsexual. Now I am not wholly familiar with what Brazilian transsexuals look like – I must watch more porn – but I am assuming she means they have a perfect hour glass body figure. But it sent the transgender community into orbit. They were offended. Offended, I say. Some of them were so offended that they deluged Suzanne Moore with threatening tweets. So threatening that they drove her off Twitter. Now I don’t know if you have ever met Suzanne Moore, but she is a woman not easily intimidated. But this vicious hate mob achieved their goal and silenced her purely because they had the temerity to be offended over what most reasonable people would have regarded as a fairly harmless comment. How they imagine it was an incitement to hate transsexuals, Christ alone knows.
Anyway, in with her size nines waded Julie Burchill. This is a woman who really does know how to offend. Here are a few choice excerpts from her provocatively headline (TRANSSEXUALS SHOULD CUT IT OUT) article in today’s Observer…
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 chicks’ 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 and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look. That rude and ridic.
I must say that my only experience of the trans lobby thus far was hearing about the vile way they have persecuted another of my friends, the veteran women’s rights and anti-domestic violence activist Julie Bindel – picketing events where she is speaking about such minor issues as the rape of children and the trafficking of women just because she refuses to accept that their relationship with their phantom limb is the most pressing problem that women – real and imagined – are facing right now.
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”. Ignore the real enemy – they’re strong and will need real effort and organisation to fight. How much easier to lash out at those who are conveniently close to hand! 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 that 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.”
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.
There’s more, but you get the drift. Today numerous people have alleged that The Observer should be ashamed for publishing such a vicious and hate-filled diatribe. Others have likened it to Jan Moir’s article after Stephen Gateley died. People have been very, er, offended. That word again. Lynne Featherstone, the LibDem International Development Minister has even called for Julie Burchill to be sacked. Quite something for a government minister to do. Especially one from a party that has the temerity to include the word ‘Liberal’ in its title.
Why is it so difficult to understand the fact that both Moore and Burchill are polemical columnists. Offending this and that group is what they are kind of there to do. We all get offended by different things. Some offences are worse than others, but no one has yet been able to abolish to the right to be offended in this country. Yet. even the saintly Owen Jones has come under attack on Twitter for some sort of injudicious remark, and yet he was actually defending the transsexual community! What he tried to point out, as I understand it, was that there is a group of hard left transsexual activists who act like trolls and give the rest of the community a bad name. Essentially, he was saying what Julie Bindel, through bitter experience, has said for a long time, and what Julie Burchill described in a particularly graphic and OTT way.
Transsexuals have an absolute right to defend themselves and argue against anything Suzanne Moore has written. What they do not have the right to do is bully her off Twitter. They will no doubt start on Julie Burchill now, but if they do they will just add fuel to the slightly incendiary points she was trying to make. Protecting our freedom of speech is one of the most important things we should all do. It must be cherished, even when a columnist writes something which is bound to cause massive offence to some people. I get offended by things people write about me most days of the week. I usually hit back, sometimes i ignore it. But I don’t expect others to intervene and try to get the culprits banned or to drive them from Twitter or anywhere else.
So let’s keep this in perspective, and ask everyone to calm down.
I cant imagine what transsexual people go through. I don’t know any transsexual people to even be able to ask them. But I know enough to understand that it’s not just the sticks and stones which must be very painful. People fear what they do not know. Transsexual people put up with far worse, I suspect, than gay people ever have, and therefore we must have empathy and understanding. If people write what might be considered ignorant and offensive columns they should be highlighted and argued with, not viciously attacked and driven off the internet. The perpetrators of these attacks are no better, and I would argue worse, than the very people they find so offensive.
UPDATE: A very thought-provoking open letter to Suzanne Moore from @ParisLees can be read HERE