Morning Star cartoon: You’re offended. I’m offended. So what?
Weeks ago I drafted a blog post but then I got ill and, by the time I recovered, I had all sorts of other things to worry about and I forgot all about it. I’ve just found it again and, although it hardly newsworthy now…hell, I wrote it so here it is.
The Morning Star newspaper recently published this cartoon:
When I first saw this cartoon, I immediately took it is as lampooning the policy of allowing gender self-identification and the idea that a man should be accepted as a woman just because he says he identifies as one.
It is highlighting the concern that has been raised repeatedly about what could happen had the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act gone ahead. If, as Professor Sally Hines says, a woman is “anyone who feels that they are one” and if we have to go along with that absurdity, which reduces womanhood to a “feeling”, then actual women and girls are put at risk.
And, by the way, I’m not just talking about sexual assault here. I think too much emphasis is put on sexual or any sort of physical assault. It seems that we should only complain if we are physically hurt but it’s the feelings of trans people that matter. As I know from personal experience, if we are physically attacked then trans activists will say we deliberately provoked it or even that it didn’t happen.
Using the wrong pronoun about a trans person is “violence”, say some of the less rational ones. But what about our feelings? What about the psychological and emotional well-being of women and our need for privacy and dignity? Why does that never seem to be considered worthy of mention by these people who are so bothered about their damn pronouns?
There were a few occasions when I was in my teens and early twenties when I remember being so distraught, so stressed and so frightened by guys following me in the streets or hassling me in clubs that I would escape to any toilets I could find to hide and cry.
I don’t expect to be sexually assaulted these days – although, of course, it does happen to older women. But I am frightened of the idea of people like my assailants – especially Tara Flik Wolf, who I believe is a psychopath – or any of the horrific abusers we encounter online all the time, coming into what should be women-only spaces and recognising me.
And I never cease to be amazed at the lengths some men will go to, to spy on women in public lavatories. On this page, I’ve collected examples of men who’ve been caught with cameras recording women using the toilet. Decent people will recognise this is a legitimate concern and, like all our legitimate concerns, it is dismissed out of hand by trans activists.
As far as the cartoon is concerned, it’s not that original. Times columnist Janice Turner used the metaphor of a fox in a henhouse in a piece she wrote after a rapist who calls himself Karen White was sent to a women’s prison just because he did what that crocodile does in the cartoon and claimed to be something he isn’t. Once there he sexually assaulted women prisoners.
However, I do understand that if you choose to, you can interpret that cartoon differently. It could conceivably be saying that every male-born trans person is a fake, a predator who just wants to access women and I can understand how that would be offensive.
While some trans people − including my friends Miranda Yardley and Fionne Orlander − have defended the cartoon, others that I’m also friends with have condemned it and they’ve had the support of some individual feminists I respect and WPUK. Some of the comments from trans people and their allies were so bonkers I won’t even go there.
But look at the execrable Owen Jones:
The Morning Star is not waging a “vicious, obsessive and unrelenting campaign against trans people” but it has been the only daily newspaper left of the Mail to support feminists standing up to transgender ideology and oppose gender self-ID, which amounts to the same thing to Owen Jones, who is as irrational as he is insufferable.
And look at the one he’s retweeting from ‘Torr’, whoever that is. Remind me where in the great traditions of socialism it says anything about it being OK for men to ‘identify’ as women and enter our spaces. Whose liberation is that then?
One of the worst responses of all comes from the trade union UNISON, whose assistant general secretary, Liz Snape, wrote a letter about the “shocking, vile, transphobic cartoon”.
Citation needed. It’s one thing to say that trans people are victimised – disproportionately victimised even – but to categorically state that their safety is most at risk needs to be backed up by data, which I don’t believe Liz Snape has.
That cartoon was making a point about predatory men self-identifying as women – a policy that UNISON supports – to get into women’s spaces. Getting into women’s spaces is something that some men are very keen on doing but UNISON, funnily enough, has nothing to say about the issue of women’s safety being at risk as a result of gender self-ID.
That’s the worst argument in history. Saying something is ‘just like what the right-wing would say’ isn’t even an argument. Arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not whether the person making them is right-wing or left-wing. Let’s remember that it was under a previous Tory administration that gender self-ID in England and Wales was proposed. Thanks to opposition from a broad cross-section of the public – including some trans people – the current administration has kicked the idea into the long grass for now. Hopefully, it will die there.
The Morning Star, throughout its history, has consistently supported the working class, the trade union movement and has spoken out against the oppression of minorities. How dare they accuse it of not caring about discrimination, prejudice and abuse of trans people?
The UNISON letter reads like something written by a petulant adolescent. The only argument that can seriously be made against this cartoon is that it is open to misinterpretation and could hurt people’s feelings. Given that the Morning Star is in a ceaseless struggle to survive, that is reason enough not to have published it. Unfortunately, the paper – which, by the way, I used to work for back in the seventies when it was supported by what was called ‘Moscow gold’ – is now literally dependant on the support of trade unions for its survival. So the editor has had to issue a cringe-worthy apology as a capitulation to the bullying trade unions, who were reportedly pulling adverts, banning them from having stalls at events, threatening boycotts and withdrawals of their investments in the paper. For crying out loud. Do they really want to sink the only paper that is consistently on their side over a silly cartoon? Get over yourselves!
As I said, I can see why trans people might be offended. What I don’t see is why it matters. You’re offended? That’s OK – be offended. Do you think you have the right not to be? This is real life. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be offended or that you shouldn’t be free to express the fact that you are. I will absolutely defend your right to be offended and to vociferously express your offence wherever you like.
I am saying that nobody has to care whether you’re offended or not.
I’m offended by lots of things all the time and nobody cares. For example, I’m offended by being called a ‘ciswoman’ as if there are two categories of women – trans and cis. There aren’t.
I’m offended by the word ‘TERF’ when it is used to dehumanise feminists and our supporters. I’m especially offended when those who use it are too cowardly to admit it’s a slur and pretend it just an acronym for trans exclusionary radical feminist.
I’m offended by the claim made by some trans-identifying males and their allies that they are women who should be fully accepted as such and that they should have access to our spaces – even those where the most vulnerable women are to be found: refuges and prisons.
I’m offended by those who really don’t care about crushing the dreams of sporting success of young women by allowing men to compete in their events just because they ‘identify’ as women.
I’m offended that male criminals responsible for some of the most revolting, horrible crimes are referred to as ‘women’ in news reports because they claim to be transgender.
I’m offended by the vile abuse feminists get because we object to any of the above. Trans identifying men are responsible for the worst online abuse against women I’ve seen since the beginning of the internet.
And finally, I’m offended by the fact that trade unions and the TUC have failed to take on board any of these complaints, have failed to offer solutions and have totally disregarded the feelings of most women.
Shame on them.
Edited to add: Cartoonist Stella Perrett’s right of reply to Morning Star readers 12.07.20
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