This weekend, the Web played host to a volley of transphobic hate speech and the subsequent backlash that erupted over social media. And though we as a society are unfortunately inundated with hateful internet rants, this particular spat was particularly shocking due to its source—a handful of British feminist journalists.
The trouble began with Suzanne Moore’s essay for New Statesman, “Seeing Red: the Power of Female Anger”. Though the piece is mainly concerned with how misogyny blossoms during economic recessions, it was her quip of a different color that got readers riled up. At one point in her essay, Moore claimed that women “are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.”
This offensive notion was met with immediate backlash on Twitter, where the ire became so severe that Moore deactivated her account with this charming sign off: “People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.”
Things became even more problematic when Moore’s contemporaries Julie Bindel and Julie Burchill leapt into the fray. Burchill, a writer for The Observer, put out a response to the incident titled “Transexuals should cut it out”. In her article, Birchill employs just about every transphobic slur in the book. But her tirade gets even more outrageous when she spells out her defense of Moore and Bindel:
[We] are part of the 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.
What the what, now? Burchill’s entire argument boils down to a game of "who's suffered the most". This kind of misdirected hate is the perfect counterpoint to progressive thought. Burchill dismisses the fact that both women and transgendered individuals are fighting similar battles for rights, respect, and freedom. Instead, she chooses to draw a line in the sand about what it means to be a woman and defend it with offensive, polarizing language.
Plenty of people have already called for the firing of Burchill and the redaction of the offensive hate speech in question. And while higher-ups at The Observer and readers alike are vocally opposing Burchill's article, the fact that these hateful ideas were published at all is disheartening and absolutely baffling. Call me sentimental.
Photos via The Guardian