‘Liberals are largely to blame for the normalisation and widespread nature of the new censorship. Now they are being targeted’
In April I found myself hosting a charity event on behalf of a small, volunteer-run library in Canada. I was raising funds to replace damaged stock — books, posters, and other memorabilia from the first wave of feminism that the organisers had lovingly curated to make a display for those interested in the issue of women’s liberation and the history of radicalism.
The venue had been damaged not by anti-feminist bigots such as men’s rights activists, but by the new wave of so-called “radicals” who are in fact anything but. Transgender activists and their allies had stormed the opening night of the library, located in a small artists’ studio that the collective had raised money to rent, shouted abuse and threats at both the organisers and the crowd that had come to celebrate this new venue, accusing them of excluding “trans women, sex workers, and non-binary people”. They objected to some of the feminist texts in there, such as classics from the 1970s, saying they were “trans-phobic”.
Red wine was thrown on the books, posters were torn down, and the women who had come for what they thought would be a pleasant evening of chat, laughter, and the requisite warm white wine were taken aback at being the target of a mob.
The protesters handed out a pamphlet that said: “This library is run by women who hate other women.” One ripped down a poster while another set off the fire alarm, at which point the police arrived.
It would be easy to dismiss this incident as a one-off, perpetuated by bored attention-seekers who no one takes any real notice of. But unfortunately this is not the case.
Despite being a feminist and human rights campaigner all my adult life, for the past 13 years I have been targeted by baying mobs, both in the UK and elsewhere, who accuse me of being a “bigot”, “fascist”, “as bad as Hitler”, and various other horrendous slurs against my character. Why? Because I dared to write an opinion piece in a liberal newspaper in which I complained about a man who identified as a woman claiming that he was entitled to counsel rape victims. I have been “no-platformed” from events at which I was due to speak about rape and child sexual abuse, and prevented from lecturing students on violence against women, despite being invited by feminist societies.
Other feminist allies and progressives, such as the redoubtable Maryam Namazie, have been no-platformed and pilloried for pointing out that religious fundamentalism is harmful to women, and for daring to challenge the cultural relativists who support the “right” of women to be covered from head to toe in the name of “modesty”.
The accusation by an NUS representative that human rights activist Peter Tatchell was guilty of “racism and transphobia” was the final straw for many liberals. “But Tatchell is a national treasure,” they bleated over their organic muesli, recalling with horror when another hero of the intellectual elite, Professor Mary Beard, came under fire for daring to sign a petition against censorship.
Tatchell and Beard are both figures lauded by mainstream liberal society, whereas radical feminists such as myself are seen to be a bit too edgy for them to support. During the time I was being censored and picketed, few progressives spoke out publicly in support of me, for fear that they would also be given the “Bindel treatment”. But when the bullies began to target the liberal lovelies, all hell broke loose. After all, this McCarthyite madness could actually affect them.
The latest casualties in this war on logic are two women who are largely unused to controversy, both of whom are well-loved establishment figures.
The novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been called “transphobic” and told to apologise because she dared to rely on logic and truth as opposed to wheeling out a naked emperor when she said in an interview on Channel 4 News, “When people talk about ‘Are trans women women?’ my feeling is trans women are trans women.”
Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray, who is a classic liberal feminist and tends never to involve herself in controversial issues, also refused to capitulate when the trans activists and their cronies came after her following a piece she wrote in a Sunday newspaper. What was so terrible about the piece as to provoke calls for her to be sacked from the BBC, and subsequently to being picketed at a literary festival? Murray made the startling observation that men who chose to live as women in later life have had a different experience in growing up from women raised female.
The values at stake are liberal ones, and yet the liberals are largely to blame for the normalisation and widespread nature of the new censorship. The trans activists and their allies do not go after bigots, fascists or right-wing moralists, but progressives, while the liberals say nothing and hope they remain out of range.
Prior to Tatchell and Beard being targeted, I was more or less alone in the criticism and bullying I encountered from those who told me I was a fascist for saying, for example, that a penis is not a “ladystick”. I received daily messages from people saying they were appalled at what was happening, but dared not speak out lest it happened to them. Indeed, both Tatchell and Beard defended themselves by agreeing that I was “transphobic” and that they disapproved, but free speech, etc, etc. Now the new McCarthyists have come for Adichie and Murray, will the elitists finally drag their heads out of the sand and speak up?