Tag Archives: Feminism

Feminism Needs The Transgender Community

13 Jan

Julie Burchill

The problem with being a celebrated feminist writer, is that many people will analyse everything that you say, even seemingly meaningless throwaway analogies. The journalist Suzanne Moore, found this out to her peril recently, when during an otherwise excellent piece about the power of female anger in The New Statesman, Moore made a comment about women aiming for the body of a “Brazilian transsexual”. Many people disagreed with this statement, and Moore was questioned about it on Twitter by a number of people, and verbally abused by others.

Although Twitter is never the best place to have an argument, or attempt to question another person at length about a serious subject as the 140 character limit is too damn short, Moore’s defensive and evasive tweets on the matter, and her subsequent follow-up piece in The Guardian, I Don’t Care If You Were Born a Woman Or Became One did little in some people’s eyes to make up for the hurt caused, and so, Moore decided to leave Twitter. Not to be outdone, the journalist Julie Burchill wrote a response in The Guardian’s sister paper, The Observer, and then the proverbial shit really hit the proverbial fan.

Titled, Transsexuals Should Cut It Out, Burchill’s impassioned defence of her “brilliant writer” friend Moore, reads less like a well-balanced and well-argued analysis of the situation, and more like a threat: “You really won’t like us [me] when we’re [I’m] angry.” But puerile threats aside – I’m sure trans people have much more to worry about than Burchill’s promise to get angry – what should transsexuals cut out, exactly? Standing up for themselves? Correcting hateful and incorrect language? ‘Bullying’ her mates? Undoubtedly, some people went too far in their abuse of Moore, and were probably not going to be satisfied with any of responses, but they had every right to challenge her. However, once what should be an impassioned debate becomes difficult and abusive, then all sides are at fault. If Burchill, believes that the transgender community is wrong because a few of its members have bullied her friends, then Burchill’s article, makes her, by her very own definition, a bully.

If Moore’s initial piece was problematic in its wording regarding trans people, then Burchill’s article is simply abusive. It uses a number of hateful and upsetting terms, most noticeably  “shemales”, “shims” and “dicks in chicks’ clothing”, which should not have been published in any newspaper. Her insistence that the trans people not only want to be treated as women, but receive special privileges above those of “natural-born women” is both worrying and inaccurate. Burchill’s article reveals a woeful ignorance, if not hatred, of trans people, and it is ignorance that causes fear, paranoia, anger and leads to the abuse of, and violence against, trans people.

But there is a bigger issue at play here, and that is that women, and therefore feminism itself, are exclusive terms, and that only certain people can identify as women and feminists. If you really, truly identify as a woman, whether you were born in a female body or not, then you should live as one, freely and without judgement from anyone, let alone other women.

If you identify as a women, then you’ll probably identify as a feminist, because you want women to do and feel better, and if you believe that women deserve better, then you are a feminist. Whether you’re cisgender or transgender, you are welcome here, and you are very much-needed in feminism. It’s time for trans people to stop being used as an easy target for abuse and ‘jokes’, it’s time for us to come together, to get angry, and to use that anger to grow our movement, to increase our followers and bring us all one step closer to equality.

I am a woman, I am a feminist, and you are welcome here.

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Why Does the Government Hate Women?

6 Oct

In the same week that the Minister for Women, Maria Miller announced that she would back a reduction in the abortion limit from 24 to 20 weeks, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt has announced that he backs the reduction of the limit further, to just 12 weeks.

Miller’s support of lowering the abortion limit from the current 24 weeks to 20 weeks, is not a decision backed by medical science, or the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which announced in 2009 that it had found no medical evidence to justify such a cut. Similarly, Hunt’s support for a 12 week limit on abortions, though a decision he says he came to “after studying the evidence”, although he hasn’t yet cited the evidence for this decision. He has also denied that his faith has been one of the driving forces for his decision.

But just as Miller’s support for a 20 week limit has been met with derision, so has Hunt’s desire to cut the limit to 12 weeks, a decision slammed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who have criticised Hunt’s stance on abortion. Speaking to The Times their spokesperson Kate Guthrie said:

“The politicisation of women’s health is absolutely shocking. Politicians talk about putting patients at the centre, which is quite right.

How is the woman at the centre of her healthcare with something like this?

If everybody had to have abortions by 12 weeks, my worry would be that women would be rushed into making decisions: ‘I have to have an abortion now or I can’t have one.’

That’s an absolute shocker. You will absolutely create mental health problems if you start dragooning women into making decisions before they have to.”

Abortion is a sensitive issue; it is a difficult issue for some people, but above all else, it is an issue that should concern the women who are experiencing a surprise pregnancy. Women deserve the right to have autonomy over their own bodies, we are entitled to make the decision to end or continue a pregnancy if that is what we want to do. The decision to have an abortion is a difficult one, and is influenced by many factors, not least by the existing time limits.

Let me be frank, Miller and Hunt’s desire to lower the abortion limit will not mean fewer abortions will be carried out. It will mean that women that rely on the NHS will be forced to make a decision with very little time to spare, while women with money will be able to afford to access an abortion in other countries with a higher time limit. Those women without the means to pay for their own abortion, or ability to travel to another country to have one will be left with fewer options and a lot of desperation and worry. Desperation will cause women who want to end their pregnancy to turn to unlicensed backstreet abortion which led to hundreds, if not thousands of women contracting serious illnesses, becoming infertile or dying from their injuries. The amount of women who became ill or died following an illegal abortion before 1967 cannot be verified, but it is estimated that 47,000 women have died because of unsafe abortion. Is this what we want for women in the UK?

Unwanted pregnancy rates need to be targeted by the government, but not by reducing the abortion time limit. Improving access to contraception would help deal with the issue. This has been proven time and time again by studies, with the most recent one, carried out by Washington University in St Louis, concluding that better access to contraception means fewer abortions. In addition, improving pre-natal testing for genetic abnormalities, would help make parents more aware of any issues with a pregnancy well in advance of the 24 week mark. As would working to stop end any delays that some women considering abortion may face.

So, Miller, you’re Minister for Women, start acting like you’re on our side; stop describing yourself as “a very modern feminist” and trust women to make the right decisions about our own bodies and futures. As for Hunt, the Health Secretary should recognise that lowering the abortion limit will not mean fewer abortions, it will mean fewer documented abortions and more women putting their lives at risk in order to end a pregnancy that they either cannot or will not continue with due to choice, or the health of the foetus. Late abortion is accounts for a very small percentage of abortions in the UK, less than 2% of the 200,000 abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2011, were late-term abortions.

If Hunt and Miller were really interested in stopping unwanted pregnancies, they would start by looking at access to contraceptives and improving sex education, not by punishing women who have an unexpected or non-viable pregnancy. This is the latest step in the Conservative’s war on women, and we must fight to make sure that all women have access to safe and legal abortion – should they need or want one.

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