Vogue is a fashion magazine known the world over. It is a magazine aimed at women and celebrates fashion and glamour. Sensing a move in the gender political zeitgeist it is the latest media outlet to bow down to the fashionable ideology of transgenderism. With not even a nod to some of the concerns women and girls are expressing about an ideology which reduces womanhood to a state of mind, the new gay male editor Edward Enninful has gone down the easier avenue of choosing the most attractive and feminine looking transwomen, plus a couple of transmen to feature in its November issue magazine. Paris Lees, who was the first transgender person on its front cover earlier this year has now been appointed a regular columnist. Lees has undergone extensive feminisation facial surgery to attain the looks of a woman good enough to grace Vogue’s cover. Good for her. (So Vogue in one move ticks the box for being edgy and radical whilst still perpetuating a stereotypical image of women). But in her first column Lees has chosen to criticise feminists, claiming to understand ‘true’ feminism despite living almost her entire life as a man. As a lifelong feminist and someone who has worked with improving women’s equality in the workplace as well as occasionally thumbing through Vogue, I just cannot let Lees’ comments pass, or Vogue’s collusion with them.
If trans people can pass as the opposite sex then that’ s great for them, but it still doesn’t alter the basic fact that they only do so because of extensive surgery and hormones. Does this matter? I never thought so until relatively recently. Because as well as recognition of being trans and accepted as that, some trans activists insist that that is not enough. If they are not accepted as real women then somehow this is an attack on their trans ‘rights’, more so even an attempt to erase them. I am not sure where the logic of this position can be found as I have yet to hear anyone articulate it clearly. Perhaps Vogue can tell us as Vogue has chosen to call this new trans campaign ‘We shall not be erased’. No one wants to erase them. But this headline provokes immediate sympathy and outrage and support for whatever comes next.
Paris Lees is to write a regular column and it is heavily marketed as a trans voice. So it is interesting that Paris chose to use this first column as an attack on women. Because by attacking feminists particularly those that have spent their lives improving women’s lives, Lees is attacking women. In the article Lees goes through the roll call of well known celebrity trans people – models, actors, Kellie Maloney – the boxer who beat up his wife- and of course Lily Madigan, the Labour Party’s women’s equality officer and the most famous Caitlin Jenner who was Bruce Jenner of the Kardashian family fame, yet concludes that despite all the attention this trans community is getting, that trans people are now suffering a backlash and a cruel one. And who are the villains? Feminists! Some of us just will not agree with the ideology that womanhood is in your head and not your body. How annoying! If this is received as trying to erase trans people then this is a narcissistic reaction. Narcissists cannot tolerate criticism or challenge as their egos are too fragile and they actually feel they are being erased. I cannot think of any other reason for this extreme reaction.
Despite the examples of the trans celebrities listed in the article Lees also maintains that the media is soiled with ‘anti trans’ commentators. This is simply not true. I can name only a total of five or six journalists (men and women) who have questioned the ideology and reported on disrupted meetings whilst in no way expressing anything anti trans. Disagreeing with an ideology is not the same as ‘hating’ or being anti a person. Surely we can agree on that. But the backlash for writing on this subject is ferocious. Twitter even shuts down accounts where people question whether men can be women. The Labour Party suspends members who do the same. Feminist figures like Jennie Murray, Julie Bindel and Linda Bellos have all been no platformed because of their views. But the majority of public figures and journalists are silent.
No one would dispute that trans people should be allowed to live they way they want to without discrimination and hurt. But the current trans ideology goes way beyond that as well Lees knows, and has implications for everyone, despite trans people being only 0.5% of the population. Therefore people should have a right to debate the demands that may impact them as well as the ideology that informs them. So when public toilet facilities began to go mixed sex, trans women with male bodies compete in women’s sports, take women’s places on shortlists etc. etc, do people like Paris Lees really think that this should continue without any input from the 99% of the female population who are the most affected?
The refusal to even debate with women about the impact of self-ID and sharing spaces with male-bodied people tells its own story but it is the appalling abuse and behaviour of some trans activists that has probably caused any backlash to trans people…not feminists.(see previous post)
Lees is disrespectful of feminists without whom the likes of her would not be able to be who she chose to be today and who have always supported the trans community. Lees labels detractors of the ideology that if you think you are a woman you are one as ‘fake feminism’. Pardon me? Then Lees knows nothing of feminism and the lives of ordinary women.
Women may have concerns about male bodied people coming into their spaces because after all that is why there are female only spaces in the first place. Sadly there is a number and it may be small of trans women, biologically men, who are sexual predators, particularly in prisons. For many women who have been abused by a man, a male body is terrifying- full stop. What about their rights? If trans women like Lees want to identify with women they need to understand the need for women only spaces as many trans people already do. Responding with the ‘Sadly, there are awful people from every walk of life, of course, but the research shows trans women are more likely to suffer violence and sexual assault.’ , is actually plain wrong. Women are killed by men at the rate of two a week… the violence to women is far greater and more endemic than it is to trans women. One trans woman was killed in the UK last year. And there was one killed each year before that since 2009. Please get facts right if you want to use them.
Lees asks to be treated with respect. Respect is a two way street. Women today have the freedoms they have because of feminists. Yes, the kind of feminists that do not agree with Lees’ trans ideology. Feminists who, like myself, believe in a concept of both biological and socialised womanhood that is the foundation of feminism and which clashes with the trans ideology that you can think your way into womanhood regardless of your biological sex. Gender is not a feeling in your head. Taking gender stereotypes and essentialising them is what feminism has been fighting against for years. It is also disingenuous to collate different types of women and put trans women into the mix as the same… I think that disabled, black and ethnic minority women etc. all share something in common — the same biology and socialisation as women, despite our many, many differences.
Vogue, if you want to be truly radical ask an experienced feminist to write a column. About feminism.