The other day, columnist Suzanne Moore wrote a reasonably decent article about anger. I say “reasonably decent”, because it contained a honkingly problematic line:
We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.
This line, when viewed in the context of the sheer number of trans Brazilian women who are murdered, is not a good thing to write, as this blog by Edinburgh Eye–which I recommend you read fully–explains really well. At that point, when this was drawn to Moore’s attention, she could have apologised for a thoughtless, flippant line, apologised, learned something and we could all go on to appreciating her reasonably decent article about anger.
If you’ve read the title of this post, you’ll know this wasn’t the case. Instead, she responded with open, vitriolic transphobia about “cutting dicks off”, and complaints that we were not focusing on the real issues. Fairly standard shit, including whinging about intersectionality, and listing all the books she’s read which somehow shows she definitely can’t possibly be transphobic. I storifyed the first 24 hours of it. You don’t have to take my word for it and can view the whole thing in context. Particularly notable was when she shared a flippant joke with Caitlin Moran about the whole thing.
I’d hoped that was the end of that, and we could all go back to our lives, but apparently I was wrong, and Moore’s still digging, deeper and deeper.
She wrote an article in the Guardian, complaining about the whole thing. It’s largely a rehashing of the tweets. She starts off with the “some of my best friends are trans” argument in record time, moving swiftly into once again listing some books she’s read that (possibly) show she’s right. Then she dips her toes into how the big mean intersectionals are shutting down discussion, claiming she’s read bell hooks. Then comes Suzanne Moore’s point: that we shouldn’t care about tiny little things like the oppression of trans people and her contribution to it, but we should instead focus on the cuts, literally saying this:
So to be told that I hate transgender people feels a little … irrelevant. Other people’s genital arrangements are less interesting to me than the breakdown of the social contract. I am asking for anger and for alliances. Less divide and rule. So call me a freak.
For all her having read bell hooks, it looks like Suzanne Moore missed a vital bit:
“The vision of Sisterhood evoked by women’s liberationists was based on the idea of common oppression. Needless to say, it was primarily bourgeois white women, both liberal and radical in perspective, who professed belief in the notion of common oppression. The idea of “common oppression” was a false and corrupt platform disguising and mystifying the true nature of women’s complex and varied social reality…
The emphasis on Sisterhood was often seen as the emotional appeal masking the opportunism of bourgeois white women. It was seen as a cover-up hiding the fact that many women exploit and oppress other women.” -bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
And yes. In her call to unite around the thing she wants us to unite around while sweeping her own contribution to the oppression of other women under the carpet, Moore has been part of the problem hooks highlighted.
Once again, Moore said some shitty things on Twitter:
Not one trans activist has engaged with economic argument or attack on welfare. Why not?
At this point, the utterly fabulous trans activist Roz Kaveney pointed out that she had, amongst participating in her other interests (which included writing the Rhapsody of Blood novels, of which volume 1, Rituals, is now out and you should read it, because it’s excellent. A truly queer, feminist fantasy novel. Sorry for the digression, but it’s brilliant). Roz then gently explained why there was a level of anger about Moore’s initial comments, to which Moore embarked on a bizarre rant about “Latin culture”, and culminated in a rather dismissive “I get that . I must not say the penis thing.”
It’s abundantly clear that Moore doesn’t want to learn from this issue, to the point where she just flat-out tweeted this:
I am not going to apologise. Get it?
This sort of reaction is horribly unhelpful and stands in the way of ever being able to unite against other forms of oppression, such as the brutal government attacks on anyone vulnerable. Moore fucked up. It was a minor fuck-up at first, but with her reaction, it escalated into something far uglier and far harder to heal. Moore feels like we can never move ahead if we worry about such trivialities as the oppression of trans people, but the reality is that this oppression is far from trivial. It might seem tiny to Suzanne Moore, but that’s only because it’s something that she doesn’t have to worry about herself. In order to build a movement that can actually unify, though, she should care about it, and should monitor her own contribution to oppression of other people–a lot of whom are women. An apology would be a nice place to start.
Suzanne Moore has shown she holds some nasty views. Some defend her actions as a response to the vociferous criticism she received, yet the level of bigotry in her tweets shows that if these tweets were in anger, they were always there, lurking under the surface. Likewise, if she is being flippant and sarcastic, it denotes a lack of empathy and interest in the struggle of a fellow group of humans.
It’s quite sad, really, because Moore’s article on anger was reasonably decent, and did make some points about gigantic problems in society. It’s a shame, then, that as well as addressing some, she also contributes to others herself. No one oppression is so important that all other oppressions must be neglected and ignored. There is no “let’s do this tomorrow, after we’ve fixed the real stuff.”
This is all real. It’s all important. You can be good on one thing and absolutely terrible on another. And isn’t it better to try not to be terrible on anything?