The NYT misrepresents British feminists, and ignores their American counterparts
The New York Times commissioned this editorial on our visit to Capitol Hill last week, and didn’t even get a full paragraph without an error of fact. Since the author never bothered to ask anyone involved, it’s not a surprise that they embarrassed themselves right out of the gate. As the paper has repeatedly ignored many past offers, by ourselves and others, to directly rebut their published misrepresentations on gender identity, we might as well post here.
The full title of this longform, low-fact, social media-style clapback is, “How British Feminism Became Anti-Trans: A surprisingly mainstream movement of feminists known as TERFs oppose transgender rights as a symptom of ‘female erasure.’”
The headline suggests the paper’s staff is worried people will remember they ran a gender critical editorial entitled “What Makes A Woman,” in 2015, and are terrified anyone will think they don’t deeply regret running it. This posture of bowing and scraping is only exceeded by their mysterious confidence that no one will ever fact-check them on the topic, not for so long as they keep clapping for their Tinkerbell story about the existence of “male lesbians.”
First paragraph: “Last week, two British women stormed onto Capitol Hill in Washington for the purposes of ambushing Sarah McBride, the national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.”
Posie and Julia were there that day to talk to US legislators’ staff about the harms of self-identification of gender being allowed to override sex in law and policy. We were there to warn legislators that children are being subjected to extreme medical harm and experimentation, and to ask them to act to prevent it.
It was a complete coincidence that we even ran into anyone from HRC, given that we didn’t know they were going to be there and happened upon them as we walked up to our first meeting of the day. Posie and Julia took the opportunity to ask some questions because I had pointed out that McBride was the top communications staffer for the Human Rights Campaign when we went by. In other words, they went over after the film crew was done with their interviews, in the hallway of a public building, because McBride is a powerful, public figure whose job it is to answer questions and sell HRC’s policy stances to the media. That day, McBride was there to promote the idea that you could know that a child needed to transition for life by the age of four, and it’s a good thing that someone was there to question them about it.
Three more paragraphs follow describing this questioning of a press secretary for about two minutes, on policies of their organization that affect the questioners, as “harassment.”
The sincerity of this interpretation can be dismissed out of hand. Here’s the New York Times op-ed written by the woman who jumped into an elevator to ask Sen. Jeff Flake about his healthcare vote, with nary a critical reflection about someone ‘barging in’ to spontaneously question a public figure on video. Here’s a regular columnist of theirs, a conservative, showing sympathy for both sides of the incident where Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a restaurant.
Here’s another of the NYT’s regular columnists defending liberal protestors publicly shaming everyone from alt-right extremists to Trump administration officials, up to and including getting them kicked out of private businesses while they were not at work. This op-ed includes the point that “mendacious press secretaries” are not a protected class under civil rights laws. That’s particularly relevant here because it’s McBride’s job as a press secretary for an influential, multi-million dollar organization that was at issue, but couldn’t come up with a single thing to say in response about the rights of the women that HRC claims to represent.
Next, the author uses a quote that compares Mumsnet, a UK parenting forum mainly for mothers, to 4chan. 4chan is a website that seems to encourage “swatting,” and allows users to post pictures of people abusing children or raping corpses, in among death and rape threats aimed at specific women. The comparison would be more comfortable in a tabloid.
This steps up into additional hyperbole implying that feminists are questioning “trans people’s right to exist.” This is not the question. The question is whether human beings can change sex. The New York Times seems to hold the position that we can change sex, if we say so. The feminist position, indeed the position of almost everyone on the planet, is that sex is immutable. To tell a man that a feeling and a dress doesn’t make him a woman is not to question his rights of existence. Men exist! If a woman gets a mastectomy and wants to be called Tim, she’s still a woman. Women exist!
Moreover, the people saying that I and other feminists should “get the wall” or should have our rights and liberties taken away are gender identity activists. Whose right to exist is really being questioned in this dispute?
Several paragraphs follow suggesting that there’s no such thing as anyone on the left in the US who opposes gender identity policy, the evidence for which is given as an editorial written by the US staff of the Guardian, and the closure of the Michigan Women’s Music Festival in 2015. Any criticism from media or feminists in the UK is waved away as sounding like US conservatives, which is odd because I can’t think of another topic on which the New York Times would generally regard any position as illegitimate merely because some number of conservatives also hold it.
There follows a winding argument about colonialism and globalization that boils down to suggesting that white women in Britain still think that sex is real because they haven’t been educated properly, like their American counterparts. Gender activists often like to argue that only white people know how babies are made, and that this allegedly mistaken belief only spread to the rest of the world through colonial conquest and occupation.
This argument is racist and ridiculous. People should stop making it.
White people didn’t invent knowing about sex.
The essay closes by noting that Posie Parker went to the Heritage Foundation on her trip, again to cast doubt on the idea that she could be any kind of women’s rights advocate, or have anything relevant to say.
The author doesn’t mention that she was there with American feminists, or that we’d all been invited by the parents of children who suddenly began claiming they were the opposite sex–and there our complete omission from this just-so story snaps into focus. The entire trip was planned with US feminists who agree with Posie Parker and Julia Long that human beings can’t change sex, some of whom have been working for years organizing women’s festivals, petitioning our state and federal agencies for redress, and filing briefs in US courts to press for the rights of women and girls. We can’t be present in this narrative though, or it might complicate the false dichotomy between the supposedly righteous, pro-trans forces of a united, US left, vs. conservatives who haven’t come on-side as allies yet.
Even Andrew Sullivan, never the biggest fan of feminism in my experience, managed to notice that we exist. So it seems that to have left this out, the author, and probably staff at the nation’s paper of record, must have gone to some lengths to avoid admitting it.