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.
— Alice Dreger (@AliceDreger) June 1, 2016
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.