Tuesday, 15 January 2013

On Julie Burchill and the Observer

It's been a while since I had any great affection for the Guardian and its sister paper, the Observer - the constant drip-drip of misandry from their columnists has alienated me from just about everything they do bar their football coverage, whose sarcastic humour I enjoy. But Julie Burchill's piece for the Observer last Sunday shocked me.

I won't link to it, because the Observer has taken it down, but it's been posted elsewhere on the internet, and if you really want to read it, googling "bed-wetters in bad wigs" or "dicks in chicks' clothing" should find it. In brief, Burchill's co-cliquist Suzanne Moore wrote something in an article that some trans activists didn't like, and told her so on Twitter. I don't know whether calling the ideal body shape women feel pressured into aspiring to that of a "Brazilian transsexual" is transphobic or not. I do know Moore's response to the criticism - "!) People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them." - probably is.

Then Burchill weighed in, with a rant full of anti-trans slurs - "trannies", "shemales" and "shims" being used repeatedly - ending on a not-very-veiled threat. It's a bit like sticking up for a friend who you think has been unfairly accused of being anti-semitic by going on a Mel Gibson-style rant about Jewish conspiracies liberally spiced with references to hooked noses, money-lending and gas chambers.

It didn't shock me that Julie Burchill would write something like that. Julie Burchill has never been anything other than a ham-fisted shit-stirrer, and why the allegedly "quality" papers keep giving her house-room is a mystery to me.

It didn't shock me that a Guardian-group feminist would write such a thing. For all they talk of gender as a social construct that can be challenged, columns from the likes of Julie Bindel and Suzanne Moore have often taken on the job of what Brooke Magnanti aptly called "polic[ing] the borders of womanhood", treating it like some kind of holy state that no-one who's ever had the taint of a Y chromosome or a penis can possibly approach.

But it did shock me that the Guardian group would publish it. For all my frustration about their misandry, men, although our basic human dignity might be denigrated unfairly and our legitimate complaints dismissed, are really not a vulnerable minority the way trans people are, and I honestly still had a higher opinion of them than picking on a vulnerable minority in such unequivocally prejudiced language. And it shocked me that journalists on the Independent and the Telegraph would stick up for her - it seems, largely on the basis that she's a mate.

I have no special insight into the trans experience. I can't claim to know any trans people well. But I was brought up to try not to be prejudiced. I was told it's wrong to think less of someone because they're black, or gay, or Catholic, and I was able to extrapolate that to a general principle - don't think of less of someone because of something they can't help. The modern left, with its competing identity-politics sects, seems to have come to a different conclusion, at least if its most prominent publications are anything to go by. It looks for loopholes. So I'm not allowed to think less of someone because they're black, or gay, or Catholic - what groups haven't I been specifically forbidden to be prejudiced against? And so they pick on trans people, because nobody's specifically told them not to.

That an editor on a left-wing paper read this and thought it publishable, especially post-Leveson, boggles the mind. The press clearly still have a lot of lessons to learn.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Patrick. That article was prety breath-taking. You didn't have to be trans to be appalled. In fact Burchill showed a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise care the level of raw hatred trans women face.

    And it was more than a little sad, a grown woman acting like she was in some playground dog-fight coming to a packmate's aid.