Thu Jul 19th, 2007 at 06:45:31 AM EST
I attended a recording for an episode of the Radio 4 series of debates called "Hecklers" last night. This episode was enititled "Sex change surgery is unnecessary mutilation" with the keynote address given by that implacable foe of transgenderism, Julie Bindel.
The substance of the debate was neither here nor there, this is not intended to be a transcript and the programme itself hasn't yet been broadcast. However, it was broken down into three sections, with light relief being brought when the second section concerned itself entirely with the various success or failure rates for the procedure claimed in various studies and the differing definitions thereof. I say light relief because, at the end of it, the chair made his only useful contribution of the night by asking Ms Bindel if the rates mattered in terms of her argument and she confessed that it didn't. So, one wonders, why spend time discussing it ? Unless, one suspects, the entire argument is similarly specious.
But, nevertheless, the evening did allow me to arrive at a tentative answer to something that has always intrigued me; why does Bindel bother about the transgendered ? What is it about us that so offends her that she is willing to expend effort in creating fact-free tirades against our very existence that undermine her credibility in her every other endeavour ? She has carved out a niche in reporting on women's issues and is a lecturer in Women's Studies. Indeed her career is entirely about having waded through the ghastly underside of women's exploitation; prostitution, slavery, pornography, rape, impisonment, mental health, child separation. Everything in her life is about revealing the rottenness of women's experience to the extent that one is not surprised that she has stated quite openly that she hates men. It's a ghastly job, but why does she then worry about something entirely outside of her concern ?
Last night I think I was able to discern an answer. Follow me through the whole mess.
JB referred serially to women's oppression, how she personally felt about being oppressed as a person on account of her gender. She discussed thereality of the physical threat men/patriarchy place her under. For her the verye idea of womanhood is defined as living under the curse of patriarchy, of oppression, the very real threat of rape. Womanhood is equated to the victimhood that goes with this nightmare.
Well, whilst I'm sorry that she's not enjoying life, I have to ask what it has got to do with me ?
I got my clue when she was lambasting the "entitlements" that transgendered people can now aspire to, including being a rape-crisis counsellor. Now I confess to ambivalence on this one, I don't know and am not going to go there. But of all the issues you could mention, her alighting on this particular one was instructive. It isn't that TGs don't get raped, indeed men do as well, but to her the offensiveness came from a TG person not having endured the lieftime of victimhood that she feels is central to women's identity. So how could we empathise with this further indignity ?
As I say, I'm not going to discuss that issue, but it told me that what JB can't stand about TGs is that we claim to be women without having gone through the victimhood, the oppression, the sheer bloody-shittiness of being a woman that is central to her understanding of acquiring women's identity. How dare we ?
However, whilst I know most women moan about men from time to time, I don't see too many who have such a stark and miserable idea of their lives and their role in life. And you realise that JB is like Blair, Blunkett and Reid reacting to the idea of an islamist threat by running around like civilisation is under threat, enacting draconian legislation cos it makes them feel hard and salivating at the prospect of torturing the real truth out of these "suspects" just like Jack does. Meanwhile the rest of us go about our daily business getting annoyed about the silly restrictions on our movements and becoming increasingly blase about terrified politicians who can't understand why we're not terrified too.
And that's the point. Bindel is having a rotten life surrounding herself with all the miseries of the world. She can't imagine that most women don't see the world as she does, but she knows that the transgendered cannot possibly share her view and so, QED, we cannot possibly know what it is to be a woman. So why should we be allowed to try ? Why should society indulge us at the expense of the already oppressed 50% of the population ?
I feel sorry for her, but she has an influential voice on an infuential newspaper and that makes her wrong-headedness dangerous. Especially when JBs objections aren't about us at all. It's all about her; her and her rotten life.