Rebutting a rebuttal

Yesterday, noted Twitter transphobe Jane Clare Jones published “Why British Feminists Are Such a Bunch of Evil Witches” on her WordPress, a rebuttal to Sophie Lewis’ NYT opinion piece “How British Feminism Became Anti-Trans”. So now I’m continuing the chain by writing a rebuttal of the rebuttal for your enjoyment, like some Sisyphean torture where you constantly have to read articles which are written and argued worse than the article they’re rebutting.

someone came up to me on Twitter on Saturday morning and told me this was in the works, and knew the person writing it. I suggested she ask the author to get in touch and talk to us before she did, which seems not unreasonable by, y’know, normal journalistic standards…

I’m not a journalist, but I don’t think right of reply applies to opinion pieces. Funnily enough, Jones doesn’t seem to have gotten in touch with Lewis before telling us all what the writer actually thinks.

Anyway, I’m sure Sophie Lewis was just working in the interests of getting to the bottom of this whole mess and that there’s nothing remotely ideological going on here at all.

Right underneath this is a screenshot of the headline, with “Opinion” just above it.

Posie and Julia went into a room and door-stopped Sarah McBride. […] Socrates made a lifetime-career out of going up to people with power and being an awkward little fucker. He was executed for his trouble by the Athenian state, and in the process, philosophy was gifted its founding story, so….

I think she’s being slightly tongue-in-cheek here, but it’s still quite a vapid argument to make. Sarah McBride isn’t a “person with power”, she’s the press secretary for an LGBT charity.

Ms. Parker told the podcast “Feminist Current” that she’d changed her thinking on trans women after spending time on Mumsnet, a site where parents exchange tips on toilet training and how to get their children to eat vegetables. If such a place sounds benign,

Oh seriously, fuck off with your bullshit misogynist stereotype that mothers are required by patriarchal fiat to sit around looking ‘benign’ while doing nothing more political than mushing carrots and making cupcakes. I am so sick of this endless idiotic pearl-clutching about Mumsnet. Newflash people – mothers are human beings.

Double blockquote alert! I don’t think this is stereotyping of women; it’s stereotyping of Mumsnet. I just had a look at the homepage, and all the “top discussions” are about either pregnancy or the best way to bring up your children (in a general sense). Lewis isn’t saying the mothers are supposed to be ‘benign’, just that generally speaking, most people wouldn’t draw an immediate link between parenting tips and controversial social justice issues.

It seems like Jones is bemoaning the subconscious belief many have that for mothers, their whole life revolves around being a mother, and they’re not allowed to have opinions of their own. That’s a reasonable complaint to make, but I don’t think it applies in this context. Motherhood isn’t the sole defining feature of mothers, but it is, arguably, the be-all-and-end-all of a website literally called ‘Mumsnet’.

It is not in any way mysterious why a group of women who have pushed new humans out their vaginas, and then dealt with the social experience of mothering in this culture, would be remarkably unreceptive to an ideology claiming that their sex is politically irrelevant.

She doesn’t explicitly say it here, but there’s quite a common implication among these people that women who haven’t given birth don’t really know what it’s like to be a woman.

Now that’s misogynist.

Babe, you’re writing for the NYT here. This is sub-basement Twitter discourse. Up. Your. Game.

Bit patronising.

The term coined to identify women like Ms. Parker and Ms. Long is TERF, which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.

You wanna say anything about either the history or use of this word? Would you like to say anything about the way it’s been used over the last five years to dehumanise, vilify, and socially coerce any person – woman or man, feminist or non-feminist – who asks any questions about trans ideology or its effects?

“Why are you writing about what I want you to write about?” It’s a 1200-word article Jane, God knows what’s already been cut out of it.

In Britain, TERFs are a powerful force.

This is some mad Star-Wars-come-Star-Trek shit. I swear they chose the word TERF because it has the same plosive all-caps hardness as the BORG.

The word “force” is used outside Star Wars, you know. Its use in this context isn’t even close to its sci-fi meaning. Also, I’m fairly sure “Borg” isn’t usually capitalised. It’s not even an acronym.

I think the thought process here was “force” = “Star Wars”, “Borg” has four letters, so does “TERF”, so, let’s say this sentence = Star (Wars + Trek). (Little maths joke for you there).

Also in this context it’s usually spelt “cum”, but understandably a lot of people don’t feel comfortable with that.

Note: I’m saving my energy to get through the rest of the article, so I’m not gonna read the massive 16-line chunk of text that’s just come up. Please, use paragraphs.

Many prominent figures in British journalism and politics have been TERFs;

Who? There is a handful of gender critical journalists at The Times, some at The Spectator, a few of the women who write for the New Statesman, and a couple of the female columnists at The Guardian. Who else?

Well for one thing, that’s quite a lot of people already, especially if we’re talking about “prominent figures”. And you’ve sneakily left out every paper to the right of the Times.

Some of The Guardian’s United States-based journalists published a disavowal, arguing that the editorial’s points “echo the position of anti-trans legislators who have pushed overtly transphobic bathroom bills.”

Americans-read-British-politics-only-through-their-own-lens shocker.

It’s true that this does happen a lot, but “this thing happening in your country reminds us of a very similar thing happening in ours”… isn’t it.

Incidentally, one of the women who wrote that article was British.

and its influence within the British establishment,

What influence? The one that means the police keep visiting us for committing thoughtcrimes?

It’s amazing how easily left-wingers take up the right-wing mantra of “spreading hate against a marginalised group is a politically-correct thoughtcrime”.

witness the billboard Ms. Parker paid to have put up last fall dryly defining a woman as an “adult human female.”

You can call it ‘dry,’ or you can call it ‘the first thing it says in the dictionary.’

I’ll stop pointing out that using dictionary definitions in your argument is incredibly weak when they stop doing it.

 Imperial Britain imposed policies to enforce heterosexuality and the gender binary,


while simultaneously constructing the racial “other” as not only fundamentally different, but freighted with sexual menace;

Let’s just throw in the suggestion that we’re all racists. I mean, you’ve done ‘fascists’ and ‘homophobes’ already so you really have to go for the full trifecta of evil-imputation don’t you?

I think there’s a difference between “I think there’s a similarity between their ideology – which, incidentally, discounts the fact that many non-Western cultures have historically seen a separation between sex and gender – and the way in which the British Empire imposed its own views on this issue on other cultures” and “You’re all racist”.

(Significantly, many Irish feminists have rejected Britain’s TERFism, citing their experience of colonialism explicitly as part of the reason.)

Oh, well that proves your intellectual gibberish must be true then doesn’t it?

Christ, that’s a weak rebuttal. And that’s coming from me.

Do you not remember the bit when American Intersectional Twitter killed Suffragette dead by reading it entirely through an American lens that made no sense to the political context of early twentieth century Britain?

Call me ignorant but: no, I don’t, and I doubt many other people do either.

It is revealing, however, where Ms. Parker feels she still has friends: On her same trip to Washington, the woman claiming to be a feminist, standing up for the rights of lesbians everywhere, made sure to drop by the right-wing Heritage Foundation.

Oh, there it is, the reason, which you completely fail to link to the point above, so very inexplicably. It’s probably just as well to finish on a disingenuous note anyway, full marks at least for your consistency.

Note the lack of an attempt to explain why Posie Parker has been buddying up with the Heritage Foundation. It’s much each to attack an attack than to defend-

Wait, that’s what I’m doing. Shit.

Sophie Lewis, a feminist theorist and geographer, is the author of the forthcoming “Full Surrogacy Now.”

Of course she bloody is.

I love how she puts this in at the end so we can all have a good sneer at Lewis’ career. Ooh, that rhymes.

Sophie Lewis’ article

Jane Clare Jones’ blogpost


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