Sonia Sodha

Sonia Sodha of the Guardian understands online radicalisation and obsession. Why does she not see her own?

She had a rare sensible article in The Guardian on Sunday 6 February. She said that people talking nonsense double down when corrected. Myth-busting backfires because it reinforces myths. Tribal arguments where rhetorical flourish scores points does not produce understanding. Expressing reasonable-sounding doubts can persuade people of falsehood, where extremist ranting and raving fails. Mocking the extremists makes less extreme doubters feel mocked and sneered at. It is not true to imagine that there are people persuaded on both sides, and a persuadable group in the middle: people might appear to be on one side or the other depending on how a debate is framed. Social media platforms make money out of hardening our views by making us angry, so good rational argument will not always win.

On 7 November 2021 she argued that social media narcissists for social justice might make less right-on users feel guilty, rather than build alliances. So we move to extremism, only listening to those closest to us in view. The morally certain dehumanise those they disagree with.

All these are good points. I agree. So why does she not realise she is entrapped by the extremism she skewers here? Sodha is a militant anti-trans campaigner, insulated from rational argument by the same forces she explained.

On 2 January, she wrote an article supporting the chair of Laurence Fox’s “Reclaim Party”. The Macpherson report recommended investigation of “non-crime hate incidents” as a way of overcoming institutional racism, but Sodha objects because she opposes overcoming institutional transphobia. She claims single-sex spaces and sports, the “reasonable-sounding doubts” the anti-transers obsess over, could be “wholly replaced by gender identity”. She then repeats other extremists’ claims of martyrdom, already repeated endlessly.

On 6 June 2021 she used domestic violence statistics- one in three women experience domestic violence, a woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every four days, seven in ten women are sexually harassed in public spaces- to demand trans women were excluded from women’s services. Trans women are victims too, and excluding trans women will not protect from violent men. Just as, the effects of covid are far more damaging than any side-effects of vaccines. But Sodha is blind to her own extremism, and all the arguments she makes for listening, explaining carefully, and about the risks of echo-chambers are forgotten.

Sodha alleges Stonewall campaigns “to abolish legal provisions for single-sex spaces”. She puts her argument in the most extreme form imaginable. Of course Stonewall do not campaign to abolish single-sex spaces, only to tolerate and accept trans women, a tiny minority. Sodha claims accepting trans women means believing womanhood is “solely based on a feeling”. That trivialises trans people’s experience, and ignores that in a trans-inclusive society the overwhelming majority of women are cis.

The EHRC is a transphobic front organisation for the Conservative Party after politicised appointments to its board. It now downplays racism in the UK. But Sodha’s fingerprints are on this Observer editorial of 30 January. As Nicola Sturgeon says, gender recognition reform does not affect single-sex spaces, but the editorial echoes uncritically the EHRC claim that it does, and even claims the new leadership of the EHRC has made it fair and impartial.

Even the New Statesman has published an article on how the single-minded obsession of the anti-trans campaigners makes them ignore any other feminist issue. It quotes some of the abuse a trans-inclusive feminist suffers. Anti-trans campaigners memorise arcane details about trans women in women’s prisons, many of them inaccurate, but ignore the problems of women prisoners completely. Meanwhile Sodha is aware of the dangers of all internet extremism except her own.

6 March: Sodha disfigured a derivative but otherwise unobjectionable article about male violence against women by referring to “single-sex” prisons, hospital wards and domestic violence shelters (which do not exclude sons). She will take any chance for a sly sideswipe against trans women.

29 May: Sodha wrote an article on Allison Bailey’s vile tweet attacking Stonewall and its employee Morgan Page as coaching trans women (“heterosexual males who identify as lesbians”) to “coerce” lesbians into sex. Morgan Page was involved in the unfortunately named “cotton ceiling” seminar. Sodha used the article to claim trans women are male as if gender does not matter, and that there is gender ideology saying gender is more important than sex, rather than gender-critical ideology claiming transgender does not exist. She also claimed that gay children are having trans identities “foisted on” them, as if anyone who is homophobic is not also transphobic.

26 June: Sodha excelled herself: the overturn of Roe v Wade is trans people’s fault. “Women are a sex-based class,” she thundered, but “women” is called an offensive word. The headline called abortion a “sex-based right”.

2 October: Sodha wrote an attack on the Labour Party and its support for trans rights. Here is a refutation.

21 January 2023: Sodha wants the Equality Act amended to define sex as biological sex. That is, she wants women’s services to exclude all trans women, without exception. Never mind our human rights, never mind our needs.

2 thoughts on “Sonia Sodha

  1. “If we could see ourselves as others see us, we would vanish on the spot.” Emil Cioran

    Part of me would like to know how someone becomes radicalised and also what it is that brings someone out of it too. However, I’m not sure I want to read – and risk absorbing – some of the toxicity that draws folk in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose it looks like the campaigners themselves have over the last few years. A motion from “I don’t mind real, genuine transsexuals, but they are going to let any man in” to “Trans women are men”. But, with a great deal of reassurance about how normal they are, from the inside it probably feels like being rational all the time, with no particular change.

      Getting out of it- Amy Dyess escaped.


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