Trigger Warning: Exhaustive response to a patronizing article written by a man.
Virtually any time an article begins with “it’s time to,” you can guarantee that what follows will be a whole mess o’ mansplaining, or transplaining, or both. Tim Johnston’s article (that begins, “it’s time to”) in the New Statesman is no different. In the article Tim Johnston, a man, like many men before him, spends a number of paragraphs imploring the ladies to “do feminism right.” More specifically, he tells feminist scholar Sheila Jeffreys that she’s “doing feminism wrong” because she points out realities that hurt people’s feelings, and because she writes critically of the transgender phenomenon.
I kinda doubt Johnston actually read Gender Hurts because there is virtually nothing specific to back up his claims about the book – just a whole lotta whining that Jeffreys is being “hurtful and inflammatory.”
I, however, have actually read the book and have a few things to say to Johnston and his ilk.
The first patently false claim Johnston makes is this, “[Jeffreys] simply asserts controversial hypotheses without providing arguments, data, or other support to back them up.” This is an absolute lie. The book is rife with data and references to academic, medical and psychological works relating to her subject matter. I’m certain that many people don’t LIKE Jeffreys’ secondary sources (they hurt feels), but they do exist within her work. Or maybe secondary sources are subject to po-mo questioning too? I mean, really, what is a secondary source? Who’s to say what a citation is? I mean, isn’t using peer reviewed scholarly sources demeaning to all the unreliable information that feels like it’s been peer reviewed?
“The entire text is a striking example of how not to criticize a group of which you are not a member,” writes Johnston. (After clarifying that it’s fine for HIM to criticize a group – radical feminists – that he doesn’t belong to, because . . . um . . . he says so.) And why, according to Mr. Johnston, is Jeffreys’ text a “bad critique”? Mainly because she fails to “use transgender peoples’ preferred names” and because she “ignores their individual humanity.”
Okay, first of all, when one engages in analysis, one must generalize. So there’s that. Secondly, this isn’t a book about special names and feelings. This is a work exploring how problematic gender constructs are – not only for women, but also for men. Gender Hurts is NOT, as Johnston and many others would like people to believe, some screed against trans folk. Does it ignore “individual humanity”? Yeah, I suppose, because this isn’t a fucking Studs Terkel tome about all the special people who inhabit transland. This is a scholarly work that examines gender, not “individuality.”
This next quote really spoke to me though. Here, Johnston (a man), posits that, “[Gender Hurts] is not a meaningful contribution to feminist theory.” Well thanks for clearing that up, dude! I happened to think it was a refreshingly radical contribution to feminist theory, particularly in a world where the predominant “feminist theory” amounts to, “Yay! Porn!” and “Yay! Anyone can be a woman!” As a woman, as a feminist, as a prolific reader, I found Gender Hurts to be one of the first contemporary works of feminist theory that didn’t make my brain turn to oatmeal. I felt that Gender Hurts was an essential, if not challenging, read for women in a world where we’re being told that conforming to gender norms is “only natural.” So maybe, Mr. Johnston, given that women don’t run around screaming about what’s “meaningful” for gay dudes, you can let women, moreover feminists, decide what is “meaningful” for us.
Moving along . . . toward the article’s merciful end, Johnston illustrates the distinction between radical feminist philosophy and queer-trans philosophy. He concedes that “feminists have a good reason to be attached to this foundation” because “women are violently persecuted because of their sex” and “methods like [. . .] forced reproduction often involve female anatomy.” Um, “often” involve? Come again, bro? Try always. Always involve – unless, perhaps, Johnston is of the belief that neo-vaginas can be subject o “forced reproduction” (they cannot). Was he afraid to imply that some forms of persecution – like “forced reproduction” – don’t always involve women because in doing so he might hurt some MtT’s feelings? I don’t understand.
The section where he attempts to explain trans-philosophy is decidedly less clear, and more about showing how mean feminists with their critical thinking hurt trans feels. In this paragraph he says, “Cisgender people must realize that a trans woman did not become a woman after transitioning, she has always been a woman, and because she is a woman she deserves access to women-only spaces.” This is motherfucking rich! I mean this is positively WONDERFUL coming from a MAN. Ladies, listen up while this man here explains how delusion reality works. Ladies, this man, who hasn’t the slightest clue what it’s like to live as a woman, is here to tell you that you better let anyone who imagines themselves a woman into your spaces.
How about this? How about women who feel like men start, en masse, going to your gay male events and joining your gay male organizations? And how about you start sleeping with women who feel like men and if you refuse, happily accept that you are now labeled a bigot? How about that? Until men have to deal with the impostions of the trans agenda the same way lesbians and radical feminists do, I don’t give a flying fuck what they “think” about the issue.
After his “males have always been women if they say so” symposium, Johnston goes on to cry about “the fact that every person has a unique relationship to their body” and that Jeffreys’ is a big meanie for not acknowledging it in her book about gender constructs. This is what really makes me laugh about the queer/trans movement – the notion that everyone is so fucking special and important that one cannot engage in critical analysis because someone’s unique experience might be overlooked. We all have “unique relationships” to our bodies. This is a completely moot point. It’s like saying, “Jeffreys shouldn’t have written that book because she doesn’t acknowledge that some people prefer poetry!” Who fucking cares? The narcissism of males and the queer/trans movement is truly astonishing.
Lastly, Johnston says, “I feel comfortable ignoring [Gender Hurts].” Yeah? Good for you, bro. Then why didn’t you ignore it? Why doesn’t everyone who thinks women should embrace queer/trans’ bullshit dogma ignore this book? You know why they don’t ignore it? Because Gender Hurts pulls back the curtain on the misogynist lies perpetuated by the trans agenda, because Gender Hurts illustrates in compelling, logical terms the devastating harm that comes, particularly to women and girls, from conflating sex with gender. The reason why Johnston didn’t ignore the book he “feels comfortable ignoring” is because he doesn’t want women to read it. Men don’t like when women read things that wake them up to their own oppression. Men don’t like when women read things that might cause them to challenge patriarchal constructs that benefit men.
The takeaway? “Ladies, you can read Fifty Shades of Grey and Jezebel, but you definitely should not read this book by a noted feminist scholar and activist because it might make you realize queer/trans ideology is bullshit and that you are being mislead.”
If you must, you can read the original fuckery here: http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/06/it-s-time-end-divisive-rhetoric-sex-and-gender-and-create-trans-inclusive-feminism