Everyday Feminism pulls article by Alice Dreger about sex ed; cites disagreement about ‘trans issues’

alice dreger

News from the modern day witch hunt: Today, Everyday Feminism pulled an article about teaching kids that sex should be mutually pleasurable because the author, Alice Dreger, has been smeared as “transphobic.”

This accusation stems from her defense of Michael Bailey, who offered an alternative analysis to the commonly accepted idea that all trans people are simply “born in the wrong body” or have an innate gender identity opposite to their biology in his book, The Man Who Would Be Queen.

The subsequent campaign against Bailey was vicious and very damaging to his reputation. One of the leaders of the charges against Bailey was a transwoman named Andrea James, who, Jesse Singal reports,

“… Went after Bailey with at-times-scary ferocity, engaging in a host of intimidation tactics: She posted photos of Bailey’s young daughter online with nasty text underneath (in one case calling her a ‘cock-starved exhibitionist’), sent angry emails to his colleagues, and quickly turned on anyone who didn’t join in her crusade — including some who said that they felt that their own life stories had been accurately and sympathetically captured in Bailey’s book.”

Bailey was accused of scientific misconduct and a number of ethical breaches, all, apparently, phony. Dreger wrote, in her book, Galileo’s Middle Finger:

“After nearly a year of research, I could come to only one conclusion: The whole thing was a sham. Bailey’s sworn enemies had used every clever trick in the book — juxtaposing events in misleading ways, ignoring contrary evidence, working the rhetoric, and using anonymity whenever convenient, to make it look as though virtually every trans woman represented in Bailey’s book had felt abused by him and had filed a charge.”

Dreger herself spent a large chunk of her career advocating on behalf of intersex people, pushing back against practice of physically altering the genitalia of newborns and prescribing hormones in order to force kids to “fit neatly into one established gender category or the other,” Singal writes.

Yet, for her defense of Bailey, she too has been subjected to attacks and blacklisting.

The article Everyday Feminism requested for reprint was pulled when “a reader” alerted them to the fact that, in fact, Dreger was a witch.

I don’t use the term “witch” lightly here. The McCarthyist campaign against women, particularly, who fail to toe the party line when it comes to feminism and gender is very much comparable to the witch hunts that extended throughout much of the 20th century. Women are quite literally being silenced and persecuted for speaking out against a kind of dogma that naturalizes the idea that innate gender identity exists from birth, as well as for the crime of understanding that, historically, women’s oppression has been directly attached to their female biology.

As feminists and as critical thinkers, it is our responsibility to push back against the silencing and censorship of women’s voices. It is neither wrong, nor dangerous, to question the idea of innate gender identity or the existence of a gender binary, created and enforced through patriarchy. It is unacceptable that a purportedly feminist publication would buy into and support this kind of smearing, which only serves to further entrench a culture of fear, effectively discouraging their young readers from thinking for themselves and exploring ideas critically.

In her book, Scapegoat, The Jews, Isreal, and Women’s Liberation, Andrea Dworkin wrote about women who turned over other women to the Nazis, explaining how “It fell to women to report suspicious strangers,” who would point to their sisters in order to save themselves. She writes, “Ugly, but familiar, this is how women accommodate to danger: Take her, not me.”

This movement is not about fear, it is about courage. It is about daring to speak the unspeakable. The ongoing blacklisting and silencing of women who’ve been labelled as “witches” works against our liberation. It was not so long ago that women were being burned at the stake, tortured, and subjected to public humiliation for being “troublesome.” The cliched quote, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” is apt.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    I don’t fully understand why it is so threatening to some in the transgender community to say that gender is a social construct. To me, that does not deny the reality of their feelings or experiences. “Born in the wrong body” may be a convenient-seeming explanation but it creates a whole host of other problems which we should be allowed to discuss.

  • midwifemama

    I wonder if Dreger will wake up and realize that you can’t find common ground with the gender tyrants or if she will agree to a forced public conversion with obligatory self-flagelation.

    • northernTNT

      We need to go back to the very ROOT of this problem which is the very notion of “sex change”, going back to the very first cosmetic mutilations practised by patriarchy to enforce sexist stereotypes. When a male gets a “sex change” operation, now called a “gender confirmation” operation, better named a “stereotype embracing” operation, they are not getting a female endocrine system, they are not getting a female uro-genital system, they are not getting a female musculoskeletal system.
      The problem lays with the original lie. Let’s go back to the root of this problem.

  • jdndcus

    Any chance the Streisand effect is occurring, and these censorship efforts have been backfiring?

    • Hierophant2

      That only works if the ambient society can see that they’re shooting themselves in the foot. In our case, this is rather unlikely, since society is already on their side for the most part.

  • pandora50

    I can’t believe the world as it’s unfolding before me. I’m so very thankful for those, like you Meghan, who put themselves out there and speak truths, which apparently so many are unwilling to see because of the pc, now mainly trans, police.

  • anne

    I am not surprised in the slightest. It’s things like this that make me feel like some of the most verbally aggressive trans women are absolutely acting out of learned male privilege, stomping on women as easy targets within the patriarchy, demanding to be unquestionably accepted into ‘womanhood’ and damning any biological woman that says something they dislike. At times it feels as if they are gaslighting biological women, about what woman is and isn’t.

    • Hannah

      They are gas lighting women left right and centre.

  • Rididill

    Hi Megan what do you think of this proposed law? Will it make it illegal to critique transgenderism and/or genderist ideology? http://christiantimes.com/article/anti-transgender-speech-in-canada-punishable-by-two-year-jail-time/55959.htm

  • Rusty

    When her article was first published on Everyday Feminism I immediately thought “Oh that’s not gonna be up long” and felt kinda sorry for whoever approved it because I knew they were gonna learn the hard way that you do not, under any circumstances, give the appearance of promoting or even implicitly approving of any work done by a woman who has ever been accused of TERFery, regardless of whether or not such TERFery can be proven (or defined, for that matter). In fact, if you don’t actively participate in public shaming of the accused, people will throw your name around as a likely TERF sympathizer. The witch comparison is appropriate and frightening.

    The good news is that there is absolutely a backlash happening against this new Red Scare. There are more feminists and free speech advocates willing to speak up and denounce this kind of silencing than there was even a year ago. We just have to keep exposing it, keep talking about it, keep defending womens’ right to speak our truths. I’m hopeful.

    • Cassandra

      I know I bring it up to anybody who will listen, every chance I get. I’m the mariner waylaying the wedding guest re the devastating consequences of genderism for women. 🙂

  • Wren

    Is this whole transphobia thing simply a clever construct design to discredit all radical feminists??? Is it a diversion, something to make people so paranoid that they stop thinking about violence against women, porn, prostitution, child abuse, blah blah all the things misogynists love?? I mean, I honestly cannot understand the reason for this ridiculous explosion of the issue. It’s been around forever, but why now?? Why now has the media and the pundits embraced it??? What purpose is it serving??

    • Bleep

      It’s certainly suspicious that MRA’s and other anti-feminists have latched onto the issue so… graciously.

      • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

        I’ve seen more MRA’s than I can count bring up “well what about the transgenders” to discredit nearly everything feminists try to fight for. It’s quite telling that it is indeed male privilege at the root of this.

    • northernTNT

      They learned all their tricks from the “Islamophobia” crowd.

  • Wren

    Is your avatar you or Emily Blunt from Live, Die, Repeat?? Awesome movie, btw.

    I would love to read more of your thoughts on this issue. Thank you.

  • Prank Fembleton

    “[James] posted photos of Bailey’s young daughter online with nasty text underneath (in one case calling her a ‘cock-starved exhibitionist’)”

    James, who was nearly 40 at the time, said this about a nine year old girl. Think about that for a moment. James also accused Bailey of molesting his children and has been banned on Wikipedia for excessive article edits, removal of information that does not fit James’s POV, and editing articles to present a normalizing view of pedophilia.

    This is just one example of those leading this witch hunt against academics, journalists, and scientists.

    • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

      And why is it that this informaton is not brought to light, but the fact that Dreger wrote an article this psychopath doesn’t like is somehow relevant?! Absurd!

  • fragglerock

    JUST RECENTLY read “Scapegoat”–powerful stuff. Unquestioning acceptance and ostricization of skeptics are hallmarks of cult mentality. The witch hunt that’s happening now reminds me of what I read about the early days of psychiatry–when women were locked up or medicated for questioning the status quo. Questioning is vital to human survival! Don’t let yourselves be silenced!

  • Meghan Murphy

    Indeed, when I was in university, my prof, who taught a course about the medicalization of sex, taught us that the difference between intersex people and trans people was ‘choice’, which is to say that people who are born intersex have no choice in that matter, whereas people who are trans choose whether or not they transition/live as a transwoman or transman. That was less than ten years ago — I wonder if she’d be persecuted for saying such a thing today? I mean, what is so wrong with acknowledging it as a choice anyway? It’s a choice people make in order to live in a way that makes them feel happier or more comfortable in their skin, which is fine. But it’s still a choice….

    • TrannysaurusLEX

      Yes Meghan, TOTALLY agree. OH she’d most definitely get a decent amount of hate from the “trans” ranks. It’s a great distinction though, I like that a lot. I certainly didn’t choose my socialization and upbringing. Nor did I choose the feeling of piloting a body that I found shameful and wrong. but to say I didn’t choose to transition is just intellectually dishonest. Its the same when I hear tired lines that try to redefine terms, like saying they were born a woman when clearly they started with anatomy that is inarguably MALE. its just not possible for anyone thinking critically to swallow that. I feel like perhaps those individuals have a lot of insecurity about their identity. Especially if little stuff like that can upset their identity so much. I feel not the slightest bit invalidated by the fact I was born with a penis.

    • Anna Djinn

      It just struck me how curious it is that in this matter, which really is a choice, the transactivists and their supporters refuse to acknowledge it is a choice. Yet in the issue of prostitution, where for so many women and girls there really is no alternative option, the same people justify it by saying it is her choice.

  • Wren

    There is definitely something about class with all this, I agree. Most of the trans people I knew were prostituted because they couldn’t avoid standing out and had suffered so much abuse. They didn’t want any attention; they just wanted to be like everyone else.

    I don’t understand why being trans can’t be a completely unique experience from being born man or woman. I certainly could never say I know what it’s like to go through what you have, and I’m glad you transitioned.

    My biggest fear is that when the inevitable backlash against this whole transmania hits, people like you are gonna feel it, too, and all the real progress will be withdrawn. Please tell me this won’t happen 🙁

  • J. R. Tomlin

    In other words, attacking transsexuals is a good thing and to be lauded. Not by THIS feminist, thank you. Go suck up to the male power structure without me.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I hope you’re joking.

    • will

      0 for reading comprehension, J. R. Tomlin. Try again.

  • northernTNT

    Speaking of sceptics, who’ve been sceptic about everything and anything in this sphere, these dear sceptics have been monstrously silent on this Koolaid. Time for Penner and Tell to get their magical heads out of their asses!

  • northernTNT

    This is not a new problem, it started when surgeons started doing fake “sex changes” and governments starting accepting this false notion. Today’s situation is a direct outgrowth of this lie at the root of all.

  • dandelionseed

    I have deep concern about the trajectory of all this for American women. If it becomes law that the subjective feelings of another being trump women’s right to bodily privacy, I worry that really opens the door for ending both Roe and Griswold, the right to abortion and birth control, because both of those rights are predicated on women’s rights to bodily privacy. If a TW’s feelings and needs are more important than a woman’s bodily needs, why wouldn’t a man’s be, or those of a fetus’ or of a body politic in general? In the US, the right to privacy is predicated on the expectation of privacy, and the more women lose that expectation the more they lose the actual right.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I don’t understand… Are you arguing that the gender binary is real? Or that people are innately ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’?

  • Meghan Murphy

    Who is carrying out attacks on trans? How so? Please be more specific.

    • Just Passing Through

      Those chirping crickets are still a chirpin away aren’t they lol. I don’t know, 3 months? Probably not gonna hear back from this one. The gender cultists always run off when asked to please provide specifics to back up their declarations. Happens every time doesn’t it?

  • Meghan Murphy

    What are you responding to? Who is “whining?” Being blackballed, losing your job, being silenced, being called misogynist names is all something feminists should accept, quietly and passively? Why? Lest they be accused of “whining?” I don’t for one second believe you are any kind of feminist if you think women should just shut up and take smearing and censorship because of baseless bullying. Women and girls die every goddamed day, all around the world. SIMPLY FOR HAVING BEEN BORN FEMALE.

  • Sci

    How unfortunate! Alice Dreger is a phenomenal advocate for intersex rights, and I think everyday feminism has made a mistake (wouldn’t be their first…). I can’t say I agree with Michael Bailey (he seems to support really outdated and rejected theories of “transsexuality”… maybe he’ll revisit Lamarckian evolution, too), but it’s not as if Dreger’s main work is at all compromised because she supports one bad scientist. As far as I know, Dreger certainly hasn’t said anything overtly transphobic, and has in fact advocated strongly for trans rights, although I’m not familiar with her entire body of work (or the book in question, “Galileo’s Middle Finger”).

    Ahh. More and more I’m considering just dropping Everyday Feminism from my bookmarks, but it still has something pretty good every so often. And sometimes they have something so breathtakingly awful you just have to laugh so you don’t cry (the article written by a Trans man about why Butch women have male privilege comes to mind…).

  • Andrew Cole

    “This movement is not about fear, it is about courage. It is about daring
    to speak the unspeakable. The ongoing blacklisting and silencing of
    women who’ve been labelled as “witches” works against our liberation.”

    Everyday Feminism needs to decide what kind organization they want to be. Censoring people is never the right move. Sadly, that’s what the internet has become. People sort themselves into little bubbles and echo chambers. If you don’t like an argument, fight it with a better one, and if you can’t then maybe you should reconsider your position; but trying to silence people who disagree with you so your audience can get only your message is cowardly.

  • Sci

    On the one hand, I agree with your point broadly, and think that some niche feminists’ hyper-focus on attacking trans women is unproductive and collaboratively-oppressive. Alice Dreger is not one of those niche feminists. And in this specific instance, it’s more than just Alice Dreger not being published by Everyday Feminism (which is their right as an independent blog), as Meghan Murphy expanded upon.

    • Morag999

      It’s par for the course that women’s self-defence is construed as “attack.” And who is most likely to name a woman’s defence as an “attack”? Why, the very person who is abusing and attacking her.

      And so it is with the trans lobby. Which, in case you haven’t noticed, has a male, well-funded, friends-in-high-places advantage over the mere girls, women and feminists who have the GALL to resist our being erased — as female human beings — in language, social life and law.

      The trans lobby has such a huge advantage, in fact, that everywhere you look now, they’re winning. Legally speaking, the immaterial, squishy, ill-defined, metaphysical, subjective identities must supercede the lowly, sexed body. But not just for transgenderists — no, no!

      Everyone’s bodies, especially women’s, must be, in language and law, neutered and rendered an abstraction. You know: “what is a ‘woman,’ anyway”? With the pesky body now conceptually neutralized, the way is paved for the traditional answer: a woman is whatever a man says she is. Except that we have “progressed” and a man may, of course, be a woman himself. All the better!

      But feminists are the “oppressors”? Bullies have their rights, correct?

  • Carolyn Parsons

    I understand the fear that questioning the underpinnings of the transgender movement brings. It seems like an attack of transgender identity when you question a part of the dogma that makes up the foundation it is built on. How can we have rich and complex gender identities and ideas but at the same time have rigid genders socially and politically. The mismatch is what I have a problem with. If the transgender rights movement has built itself on a foundation that does not reflect the diversity of gender identities we are increasingly getting to know, it’s difficult for that movement to remain true.

    Additionally, a scholar and scientist must question, that is their reason for being. What a scholar says should be taken in the spirit of the scientific method and questioned in a scientifically sound way. I question Alice Dreger’s conclusions like I would any scientist, but quite often I find her conclusions are supported by the evidence that is currently available. Questioning is healthy, changing one’s mind is healthy, changing social movements is healthy. Transgender people deserve full legal rights and respect regardless if gender is fixed or changeable. We don’t need to rely on dogma to accept the full humanity of transgender people, and I know Alice accepts transgender rights, identities and humanity.

  • northernTNT

    Trans “identities” are contrary to women’s rights. I am for trans* rights as long as they do not worsen the condition of women’s lives. I will not give up fighting sexism. To have a feminist group that favours males over feminists is simply ridiculous.

  • Meghan Murphy

    McCarthyism means the practice of making unfair and/or unsubstantiated allegations and attacking the character of political adversaries in order to restrict dissent or political criticism. Your framing of this as ‘marginalized vs privileged’ is inaccurate and disingenuous. Shutting down criticism by vilifying and misrepresenting those whose opinions you don’t like or that make you uncomfortable is unethical, no matter who you’re doing it to, but to pretend as though this practice is ok if it’s aimed at women because women are ‘privileged’ (in a patriarchy?) is ridiculously obtuse.