PODCAST: Looking at feminism and trans issues from a philosophical perspective

Early in January, an already heated debate about transgenderism and feminism intensified due, in part, toan article written by Suzanne Moore called “Seeing Red: The Power of Female Anger.”  She remarked, in the article,  that women were meant to aspire to extremely unrealistic expectations in terms of what their bodies “should” look like, saying: “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.”  As a result of her comment, she was not just criticized, but viciously attacked online, to the point where she closed her Twitter account.

Moore responded, saying:

“This whole shebang raised a few issues for me that won’t go away. The wrath of the transgender community has been insane. They say I haven’t apologised enough and I probably haven’t. No one has apologised to me for saying that I should be decapitated and I support the English Defence League. The sexual and political confusion is nasty and, while I accept some of it is my fault, is it all my responsibility?”

Meanwhile, in an attempt to defend her friend, writer Julie Burchill wrote an article for the Observer, called “Transsexuals Should Cut it Out.” Burchill’s article was promptly pulled (though it was later republished at The Telegraph) due to what many said was hate speech. John Mullholland, the editor of The Observer stated:

“We have decided to withdraw from publication the Julie Burchill comment piece ‘Transsexuals should cut it out’. The piece was an attempt to explore contentious issues within what had become a highly-charged debate. The Observer is a paper which prides itself on ventilating difficult debates and airing challenging views. On this occasion we got it wrong and in light of the hurt and offence caused I apologise and have made the decision to withdraw the piece. The Observer Readers’ Editor will report on these issues at greater length.”

In response to both the articles, as well as the surrounding discourse and the fact that these conversations are extremely difficult to have at times, polarized in a way that often prevents reasoned and respectful discourse, Rupert Read wrote an article called: “Don’t throw out the feminist baby with the Burchill bathwater.

Applying a philosophical analysis to the issues, Read argues that it is possible to both acknowledge and address the oppression experienced by trans women without seeking “to dissolve the category of ‘woman’ altogether.”

Rupert Read
Rupert Read

Dr. Read is a teacher, author, and a blogger, as well as a Reader in the UEA School of Philosophy, Green Campaigner in Norwich, and Chair of the ‘Green House’ thinktank.

I spoke with him over the phone from his home in Norwich.

PODCAST: Looking at feminism and trans issues from a philosophical perspective
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.