In defence of Suzanne Moore

15 January 2013

6:30 PM

15 January 2013

6:30 PM

Tell me if you have heard this already but it appears that Suzanne Moore has offended the trans-gender lobby. She did this by writing an essay about women’s anger for a Waterstone’s collection of essays, which was then republished by the New Statesman. The following sentence caused deep offence (is there any other kind?):

‘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.’

Faced by the not-inconsiderable wrath of the trans-gender community, Suzanne responded in characteristic fashion with a counterblast in the Guardian:

‘In Iceland, they put bankers in prison for fraud. Here, we give them knighthoods. So to be told that I hate transgender people feels a little … irrelevant. Other people’s genital arrangements are less interesting to me than the breakdown of the social contract. I am asking for anger and for alliances. Less divide and rule. So call me a freak.’


Suzanne Moore is, and, as far as I know, always has been a freak. Of all the people I know, she is the last person I would have imagined offending the LGBT community and the most likely to invite a Brazilian transsexual for tea – especially if she had fled to Britain for fear of attack from ‘transphobes’ in her own country.  I’m sure the last thing she needs is the political editor of the Jewish Chronicle jumping to her defence on the website of a right-wing magazine. These acts of solidarity can sometimes be taken the wrong way, as Julie Burchill discovered when she wrote in the Observer this weekend about the issue only to see her article pulled from the website by a repentant editor. But solidarity matters when the left has the scent of a traitor in its nostrils, as I know from bitter experience.

Now Lib Dem Minister Lynne Featherstone has intervened and called for Julie Burchill and Observer editor John Mulholland to be sacked. Author and activist Ros Kaveney used a Guardian blog to cry ‘bully‘. It is all getting out of hand and Dan Hodges has suggested this is the radical left at its worst.

Now Suzanne has reappeared on Twitter to apologise, a move welcomed by Trans Media Watch (an organisation I must say I did not know existed before this row). To most readers of the Spectator this must all seem utterly baffling. Indeed some on the more traditional side of the sexual politics debate must feel mildly reassured as the feminists fight it out with the transsexuals for the moral high ground.

But this is not just another example of the left’s instinct for sectarianism (although it is that too). It is not just another example of the Twitter mob run riot (although it is that too). People are passionate about these issues because they matter. It is a shame that the substance of Suzanne Moore’s original article has been forgotten in the wave of offence over a throw-away remark. But these were not the words of a ‘transphobe’. As Suzanne said herself in one of her tweets: ‘To think I am opposite side of anyone who has had to think long and hard about gender is horrible. I am not your enemy.’

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Show comments
  • CrazyandKirst

    Unbelievable – some people just will not live in the real world! Same here in the UK! Thanks for the post.

  • jacqueline brewer

    I went on a transgender website and saw a video on ‘how to talk like a woman’.Which woman ? I then went onto another site where there was a lively exchange of comments mainly between trans women but also some men . A woman then made her own fairly strong comment. I looked forward to reading a response to this but there was none , the trans women and men carried conversing on as if she wasn’t there . Nothing new there then. A bit demeaning don’t you think .Is it alright for me to say I find this offensive as I don’t want to cause offence ?

  • Algeria Touchshriek

    It is fitting, I suppose, to see that the most ardent defenders of Moore’s meltdown and Burchill’s article are right-wing racists and homophobes. I’m sure the bit about minstrel shows struck a nostalgic chord in many hearts like that of Bright.

    Second-wavers really are stuck well behind the 21st century mark. It’s an embarrassment, honestly.

  • bekibunny

    Totally agree with this article, and I think it’s really disturbing that this twitterstorm has buried what are very real issues for the majority of women. Go over to her new article in the Guardian and you’ll read comment after comment where Suzanne – a woman – is viciously verbally abused by men and those who started their lives as men. Makes me despair for any sign of solidarity really 🙁

  • mumble
  • mumble

    Let’s get this straight: is Martin Bright to be flayed for saying “transsexual” or is he to be flayed for saying “transgender”. To be safe, I’ll assume the answer is both.

  • Charlottey

    “Tell me if you have heard this already but it appears that Suzanne Moore has offended the trans-gender lobby.”
    If someone – like that stupid bigoted yank Chuck Hagel, for instance – incorrectly refers to the Israeli lobby as the ‘Jewish lobby’ then this is clearly anti-semitism as opposed to criticism of Israel’s supporters in the USA as many Jews are actually highly critical of Israel and, by contrast, many of the most uncritical ‘I support Israel right or wrong brigade’ are actually non-Jewish evangelical Christians.
    Likewise, when Mr Bright refers to a ‘transgender lobby’ he is being as disingenuous, short-sighted and as transphobic as those empty-headed, feckless failures who fall victim to the propaganda of far-right Nazis who hide behind criticism of Israel as a means of packaging their Hitlerian anti-semitism in a palatable political format. Food for thought.

    • mumble

      If someone – like that stupid bigoted yank Chuck Hagel, for instance – incorrectly refers to the Israeli lobby as the ‘Jewish lobby’ then this is clearly anti-semitism

      Bollocks. What do you call it when people mix up “England” with “the UK” and claim that Ireland is in Britain?

    • abtthjh

      jews and israel are one, so any pro-israel lobby is either jewish (like ADL nad AIPAC) or at least financed by jews (christians for israel).
      side note, it is funny to hear the white caucasian euro jews, who are the majority in israel, call themselves semites.

  • Charlottey

    …And while the likes of Moore, Burchill and Peck are attending each other dinnner parties in the leafy suburbs of Islington, sobbing with upper-middle class angst into their £1,000 glasses of bollinger at the thought of the proletarian mob being so above our stations that we’ve now even started to answer back, actual Brazilian transsexuals are being brutally murdered:
    Don’t berate trans people for this body of a Brazilian transsexual – you can blame transphobes egged on by hate-peddling institutionally transphobic media for that.

  • Angus Swan

    Sorry, i am by no means a lefty – and i giggle at lefty infighting – but your article is just littered with inaccuracies and semi-truths. I suggest before you lend your unwavering support you actually read some of the things Suzanne Moore said last week after her original throwaway comment about Brazilians was made: she said some really nasty things, that I think she should properly apologise for. Oh, she has, has she? Well I suggest you then read the apology which is a complete joke. As for the Burchill article…well, i won’t give it further oxygen but it’s a vile piece of writing. There’s no point of imagining an apology will emanate from that particular troll’s den, so let’s go back Moore and her piece. No, i don’t personalyl think she or the editor should be sacked, but it’s sad someone is so brittle and narcissistic they cannot face their detractors in the eye and simply say ‘sorry’. No ifs, buts and justifications based on what the Coalition is supposedly doing or her working class credentials (both her and Burchill wield this ludicrious justification out to run salt in the wounds). Bad behaviour is bad behaviour. Apologise and have done with it. There’s nothing lefty in that analysis.

  • Jane Fae
  • FrankS

    What’s wrong with what Suzanne Moore said? Brazilian Transsexuals ought to be rather flattered to be held up as a model of female beauty!

  • Badly Done Emma

    Folk are spineless. I have over my lifetime been bullied for being redheaded, having a disabled father and mixed race siblings, for being posh, not posh enough, for being well read, not well enough read, working outwith the home and working from home. The list is endless but it doesn’t stop me having a sense if humour about it all. Sneering articles I generally don’t enjoy but found both Moore and Burchill clever and funny. Free thinking is refreshing to read and should be applauded.

    • pollik

      Have you been assaulted, murdered or raped lately, for being you. Last year some 270 trans women were murdered, just for being trans. Moore made a single poor judgement (why Brazilian transwoman, for heaven’s sake? How about Barbie doll or Pamela Anderson look alike), and chose to go off on one rather than fix it.

      Burchill’s piece had a single purpose – hate speech against trans women. It is just about offence. It is about her validating someone’s perceived right to hurt trans women, physically. Been followed by a jeering group of men lately? That is what Burchill’s piece will be taken to justify. There was no other content in a piece from an intelligent, but on this occasion deranged woman.

      Hate, pure and simple.

      • Badly Done Emma

        Actually I was murdered the other day by an irate blogger whose opinions I didn’t agree with.. Asked any stupid questions lately? I don’t agree that Burchill’s article was a hate piece at all. Alison Pearson in yesterday’s Telegraph puts it better than I could. In the meantime let’s calm down and not get our g-strings, boxers or size 14 M&S knickers in a twist. You see you don’t know if I’m a man, woman, transgender, gay, straight or a surprisingly dextrous donkey – it doesn’t matter and neither does it matter to you whether or not I’ve ever been raped or assaulted.

        • pollik

          Well, thanks for that, Emma.

          A brazilian trans woman is murdered for being trans every two and a half day, on average, for being trans.

          Let’s compare your hate experiences with those of people on the slab in the mortuary.

          • Katrina_Angell

            And you know what, pollik? They’re not being murdered by feminists, they’re being murdered by men – just as other women are being murdered by men. That’s why it’s ridiculous to have a go at Suzanne Moore when she’s basically on the same side as them.

            • pollik

              Did you read any of her tweets? I think I am on solid ground when I say Burchill is not on the side trans people. And, too, ridiculing brazilian trans women by holding them up as an example of the stupidity of women aspiring to artificial standards of beauty imposed by the media. No, not on the same side as trans women, at all.

              I didn’t and don’t have a problem with her original piece, which was quite good, apart from the sensation seeking trans comment. My problem with her start from her tweets and goes on from there.

              The Pink News published a piece about the murder of Brazilian transsexual. In itself, this is not news, because they are murdered at the rate of 3 every 5 days on average, but they linked with Suzanne’s unfortunate reference. So she publishes, twice, that she is going to instruct solicitors and that the piece is actionable. She does this on two separate social media sites. And today, she publishes a piece against the supposed attack on free speech. Eventually, someone must have told her about the inherent irony in writing a piece on free speech while undertaking legal action against the Pink News. I say this because now she is saying that the threat of legal action was a joke.

              The problem with this is that few people are going to believe, even if it were true, which I doubt. The road from Twitter is littered with the bones of people who tweet something they later regret and then tell us it all a joke, doncha know, ha ha. It is no longer plausible, if it ever was.

              The funny thing is this. If, when the non-trans (yes, I think this needs to be said again, non-trans) feminist had drawn attention to the inappropriate comparison, Suzanne had said something like “Do you think so? OK sorry about that, I will change it.” or even if she had said “No, I disagree. I think it is relevant because ….”, then none of this storm would have arisen. But she didn’t do either of those things. She launched a tirade of transphobic tweets and the rest is history.

      • Michelle Ashworth

        Just to put your ‘Last year some 270 trans women were murdered, just for being trans.’ into context, there are MILLIONS of females murdered each year just for the temerity of attempting to be born female. No judgement, no one-upmanship, just context.

        • pollik

          You are right of course and thank you. I know it to be a major issue in countries like India and it appalls me. I am sure we are both able to point to a great many other wrongs desperately in need of being righted.

          It is always difficult when a single strand is singled out for debate.

          I don’t know how you see it, but I am sensing something of a change in the narrative. The public outrage in India about the gang rape (a separate issue from the one to which you refer, but still connected by perception of and attitudes toward women) is, I hope, pointing towards a change in attitudes. I see other changes in public attitudes in the response to the Burchill piece.

          I see cause for hope, if not full optimism, but is it tied in with a great many issues and conversations taking place right now.

        • Kimberly

          I appreciate your efforts to put things in context. The only thing that I wonder about is the larger context – how many of each group are there? It is wrong to murder anyone for simply being who they are, but there are 3 billion women on the planet, and probably only tens of thousands of trans women. The 270 murdered last year is a verifiable number. While the “MILLIONS of females” may be true, what is the exact number? Knowing that number would advance the debate (or quash it).

          If we have the precise numbers, we can more correctly assert which % of each population gets murdered each year – thus creating a realistic context. Irregardless, the loss of even one life in either community is tragic.

  • Charlottey

    So as political editor of The Jewish Chronicle, I’m assuming that if obnoxious holocaust-denying revisionist ‘historian’ David Irving had put up an article in The Observer complaining that he was indignant that we Jewish people were daring to criticize his views and made gratuitous use of anti-semitic slurs and offensive, lying stereotypes to refer to us throughout, then Martin Bright would similarly be here speaking up in his defence today and screaming that it was such a bad day for freedom of speech when it got taken down?!

    • richardarmbach


  • Philipa Langstrumpf

    It’s all b*llocks. Ironic huh?

  • Nele Schindler

    I loved Julie Burchill’s article – she homed in on the issue at hand, and if you read it properly, only lashes out against a certain section of the ‘transgender community’ (whatever that might be), namely the professionally offended with PhDs in idiot studies.

    She also has a brilliant point about men with interesting surgery demanding – not asking, but demanding – to welcome them to the fold and regarding them as female. While I will do so out of politeness and good manners and in the interest of getting along with everybody, I still think it’s a sham.

    The violent backlash and the sheer hate poured on these women over some spirited words kind of proves these people’s maleness beyond a shadow of doubt.

  • steve

    And just to add: ” Julie Burchill discovered when she wrote in the Observer this weekend about the issue only to see her article pulled from the website by a repentant editor.” People weren’t attacking the messenger, they were attacking Burchill’s unbelievably bigoted message. Do you SERIOUSLY think that should have been approved for publication? It was pure bigotry from start to finish, going directly against the PCC code. Even those who were enthusiastic about it initially like Nick Cohen (who quoted her bigoted, racist ‘black and white minstrels teaching Bolt how to run’ analogy approvingly) have realised this by now.

  • steve

    Sorry – you have got this completely wrong. Factually wrong.

    “Faced by the not-inconsiderable wrath of the trans-gender community”

    And the wrath was justified. But the wrath was not the result of the original article – which contained an offensive term which she could’ve apologised for since she is – after all -‘asking for alliances’ – but she went on a bigoted rant on Twitter. It doesn’t matter what others were saying (and actually not much of it was that nasty anyway – some of the examples she has given were OBVIOUSLY satirical), but she then went on to say ” I dont prioritise this fucking lopping bits of your body over all else that is happening to women” and then, despite none of her critics saying they DO prioritize this over austerity, poverty etc, when she was told this excluse focus on genitalia and mutilation is offensive – and it is – she said “People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.” And even after all of this she’s on The Quietus yesterday focusing exclusively on genitalia and mutilation: “Genitoplasty Penectomy Orchidectomy Vaginoplasty would have made it all so much better”.

    I understand you, Julie Burchill, Nick Cohen et al are Suzanne’s personal friends, but seriously, you need to accept that she got this badly wrong. She might say this:

    “‘To think I am opposite side of anyone who has had to think long and hard about gender is horrible. I am not your enemy.’”

    But her actions over this issue contradict it completely. SHE is the one who is not interested in solidarity with transgender people and spews bigotry against them. SHE is the one whose friends approvingly quoted Julie Burchill’s gobsmackingly (double) bigoted ‘black and white minstrels’ claim. I know you’re friends with her but you and all of her other friends are making this worse, not better.

  • Jane Fae

    What a lovely piece…and maybe further evidence that a lot of the folk who write for the national press couldn’t investigate their way out of a paper bag.

    Suzanne Moore was NOT especially attacked for the Brazilian transsexual remark. A NON-TRANS feminist pulled her up on what felt like an unnecessary throwaway line about one of the most discriminated against minorities in the world (check out the murder rate for that group).

    If i’d done that in anything i’d written, i’d have said sorry…wasn’t aware i had caused offence…and moved on.

    It was first, Ms Moore’s refusal to do something so simple that notched the emotional temper up a little…and it was then her absolutely deliberate decision to compound the matter by using her privilege as a national writer to lodge a piece in the Guardian that was dripping with abusive language about trans folk. The sort of language that, translated into any other context (race, gender, orientation) would probably be unlawful…and almost certianly unpublishable.

    It was at that point that the row escalated…but that’s about it. An escalating row. Ms Moore made comments that implied physical violence against trans folk. Some tweeters are alleged to have responded in kind…though despite multiple claims that this happened, so far i have seen little hard evidence of this.

    Then she flounced…left twitter. And two days later, came back. Then left again. And so on….

    And that’s news? Or a fit platform from which to launch Msd Burchill’s venomous diatribe? Come off it!

  • richardarmbach

    Suzanne made an off the cuff remark the response to which was ridiculously OTT. She is not the issue. Birchill’s disgusting rant is the issue. Substitute for transgenders blacks or homosexuals or Jews or muslims or whatever and people wouldn’t be screaming about the right to give offence, they would, quite rightly, be screaming about incitement.

    • Jane Fae

      Nope. Suzanne Moore made an off the cuff remark that most peeps couldn’t have given two hoots about. That’s where the story should have ended.

      She chose instead to compound that by a piece in the Guardian that was abusive. That is the jumping off point for this.

      Julie Burchill was merely the icing on the cake.

  • Karen Barclay

    I’m sure she is lovely – but it was Suzanne who over-reacted to a non-trans feminist picking her up on her sub-Germaine Greer use of ‘a Brazilian transsexual’. For no reason at all she started insulting trans-women & then stomped off twitter in a huff & then wrote a huffy article about being bullied & then Julie Burchill wrote a unfair hate article against all transsexuals that annoyed practically everyone (of any gender) who read it…. It was all Suzanne’s own fault & she should man-up, say sorry & carry on regardless (minus the meltdowns over criticism).

  • everyone sucks
    • Mistie Holler

      The article you linked to says this:
      “Trans women are women, and to say otherwise makes you sound like a batty old dinosaur. It is extremely othering and exclusionary to hold up trans women as a counterexample to “real” women.”
      I’m sorry but it’s just a biological fact that trans women started their lives as men, and men put on less weight in fat than women. Therefore when they transition to become women, they may well remain thinner and more toned and hard-bodied than cis women. This is the current ‘ideal’ shape for a model, since clothes hang better on thin women. Nobody’s saying that trans women aren’t women. It’s just that some kinds of women are the feminine ‘ideal’, and some aren’t, and clearly the trans ideal is one that women who were born women will find to be unattainable. And yes, it’s a stereotype but so what? It’s shorthand for something. That’s just what people do when they write.
      Burchill’s article, on the other hand, was a disgrace and she clearly needs to check her privilege (although judging by the article she doesn’t seem to even understand what ‘privilege means).

  • goteamben

    In all honesty, the alleged offensiveness (or lack thereof) in the Moor article did not register with me. I’m now aware that the transgender ‘lobby’ found the comment flippant and insensitive given the plight of male-to-female transsexuals – they aired this view an things seemed to escalate – it all struck me as a little unfortunate.

    I read Burchill’s article prior to learning of the above and was absolutely appalled that such a piece was published in a national newspaper. There seems to be some revisionism in the press, suggesting that it was an attack on the transsexual lobby, but in using the slurs she used, Burchill attacked all transsexuals, even those completely unaware of the Twitter storm.

    I also found her article rather ignorant in that it conveyed all transsexuals as male-to-female. I know one person who might well be part of the transsexual lobby and he was born with a female body.

    In short, I dont feel Moore requires much defending, particularly in light of the subsequent apology. Burchill’s peice, on the other hand, was disgraceful.

    • richardarmbach

      Suzanne is cool she is not the issue. If it weren’t for Jewlie Birchill’s intervention it would all be dead in the water. Though I guess Martin has to trot out his paymaster Pollard’s line. One has to pay the bills I understand that.

      • Matthew Blott

        Good point. Also agree, Suzanne Moore is cool 🙂

      • Tim Sewell

        So transphobia’s a no-no but anti-semitism’s ‘cool’? How surprising.

        • Overleaf

          Typical leftwing anti-semitism. Nothing surprising. After all, Lenin and Stalin singled out Jews.

          • abtthjh

            do you know that marx, stalin, trotsky and lenin were jews? trotsky led the bolshivik revolution that resulted in the murder of millions of christians in russia and other eastern european countries.

            • Overleaf

              Stalin is Jewish? Then so am I, I am his granddaughter. Get a life. One of Lenin’s ancestors was Jewish. He was more Christian than Jewish.

            • William Roman

              Stalin?! You must be somewhat delusional

  • Matthew Blott

    I agree with a lot, although not all, of this. A few points:

    1. I didn’t really think there was anything transphobic about Suzanne Moore’s initial comment. The inference that some woman desire to look like a Brazalian transexual was presumably because they are seen as ultra feminine – hardly along the line of the Sun’s spot the trannie feature. As such I doubt the twitter mob spoke for most transexuals – a lot may have seen this as a compliment. But a mob can quickly build to the point where latecomers aren’t even aware of what sparked the fuse and due to the noise they generate onlookers believe they fully represent the group they claim to. Julie Burchill might have considered this before she opened her gob (but then opening her gob is what she’s made a career out of).

    2. Julie Burchill’s piece was vile, it really cannot be described as anything else and the transgender community were understandably hurt by this – and I don’t mean the idiotic mob picking on Suzanne Moore. Suicide and murder rates among the transgendered are horrific so it’s hardly surprising that many of the left have broken ranks yet I think it’s unfair to accuse those of doing so of being sectarian. I am no tribal leftwinger and despair of my comrades who are – that is not the way to advancing the causes we wish to promote. But I find it hard to stand in solidarity with Burchill when she attacks a very vulnerable group in society in such a derogatory way. Just as I find it hard to stand in solidarity with the useful idiots who think standing on a platform with anti-semites and misogynists is okay because they are allies in the fight against imperialism.

    3. Dan Hodges opinion on left-wing politics is no more worth listening to than Richard Littlejohn’s. I used to read his pieces in the New Statesman and I had some sympathy when he was moved on but everything he now writes is just a polemic against Ed Miliband because he blames him for being turfed out. It really is pathetic stuff.

    • Wessex Man

      Matthew Blot, you see no wrong then in a Member of the Government demanding the sacking of Julie Burchill and the Editor of the Observer. I didn’t know that laws had been passed to control the Press already, given this and the “friendly word in the Telegraph’s ear.” I dread to think what sort of Press we will have in the future.

      Lynne Featherstone, Lib/Dem Minister says it all really.

      • Matthew Blott

        Where did I say what you purport me to have said?