What do you do when you like a transphobe?
Catherine Bennett, who writes in The Guardian, is a transphobe. Consider this article, which claims entirely reasonable women with reasonable concerns about men pretending to be trans- not about trans women at all- have sincere political meetings, and activists demonstrate outside. She wants the concept of transphobia limited to hate-crime. Trans people and “veteran campaigners for gay rights” support LGB All Liars and WPUK. Trans people campaigning against transphobia are “disturbingly undemocratic”.
The article is deliberate distortion, with half-truths used to pretend the reasonableness of transphobes, and ordinary trans women demonised.
Here’s another, in which the word “transphobe” is called bullying, an “imputation of backward irrationality”, “the progressive way of telling women to shut up”, and “hate speech”, and transphobes are called brave people who think, wonder or have reasonable concerns. Her article comparing trans activists to incel murderers I discussed here.
I have no wish to defend her, but as a lawyer come up with some semblance of a counter argument. She is proudly feminist, aware of male privilege and hostile to any sense of women being silenced. Her instincts are with other feminists. She sees WPUK campaigners as feminists- indeed, many of them have made names for themselves as campaigners on feminist issues- and stands with them. However, she sees trans women as men, and spreads the myth of predatory men patiently waiting on a change in the law to pretend to be trans in order to attack women.
I found three articles in four years. There may be more, and she may allude disparagingly to trans rights or trans people elsewhere, which my search has not picked up. I have no wish to go through her twitter for the last ten years. She is a committed transphobe, but not an obsessive one, thinking about nothing else. (20 September- here’s another. The transphobia is pungently expressed, and repetitive- reasonable women with reasonable concerns against vicious transactivists; misogyny should be a hate crime. Yawn.)
Then I read this. I like it. It is a strong attack on the Tories, who, having caused tens of thousands of extra deaths by their mismanagement, as if they did not have any conception of what good government could look like, now show little concern about the covid deaths. It is selective and unfair: she writes of the health secretary’s elation over horse racing: “wonderful news for our wonderful sport” (30 May, 215 more deaths). That sounds worse than it is: I knew he was MP for Newmarket, actually his constituency is West Sussex which includes that town, famous for horseracing, but checking this found he trained as a jockey.
She is not a writer to give a balanced, even handed account of anything. Her word “disgusting” of government attitudes brought me up short. I want balance, and I love her style. I thought of adjectives for it: “Attack dog”, “stormtrooper”- don’t compare her to an animal or a Nazi, but those had the right shocking level of bite. “Tribune”, perhaps, the fearless defender of the people. I think she is right about the government. So she marshalls facts against the Tories and expresses them acidly. She arranges them in a melodic way- she takes us through different emotions, so notes of sympathy and sadness make our righteous anger stronger. I noted a sign of lack of self-belief: “For once… I may have some vaguely relevant experience”. I read this as disparaging her own style, a sign of female lack of privilege, and feel sympathy.
I could be sad because she, with her writing, has made me sad, with tales of heartless Tories interspersed with stories of death, bereavement and loss. Or because of her self-deprecating line. I want to deny it, saying “That doesn’t matter. You’re brilliant.” I am a fan of her writing though I cannot imagine writing like she does. But really I am sad that one of the battles she fights is against people like me.
3 October 2021: the latest is a diatribe against David Lammy, who objected to anti-trans campaigners, then to police responses to the death of Sarah Everard. The subeditor gave the title “You can’t opt in and out of taking violence against women seriously”. That shows where the disagreement is. No, you can’t; but you can disagree that trans women and trans inclusion are not a particular threat to women. Lammy always takes violence against women seriously; but he does not think that trans inclusion is a threat to women, and Bennett cannot see that position as having value.
28 January 2023: just as she compared trans people mouthing off with an incel murderer, so she compares trans allies to Andrew Tate. She starts by quoting Tate’s more florid misogyny- “You stay in the house, you don’t go nowhere”, “Sit at home, be quiet, make coffee”- then apparently thinks Lloyd Russell-Moyle interrupting Miriam Cates is as bad. She commiserates with Rosie Duffield, who says she is isolated by the PLP (transphobes can’t help sharing good news) and calls Joanna Cherry “Impressive”. She refers to the rapist Isla Bryson going initially to a women’s prison, conveniently forgetting to mention that she was transferred out. It’s pure hate.
I have been sharing pictures of Athena, or Minerva. It is striking how few of them make her look like an actual goddess, with power: