Jenni Murray, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s woman’s hour has recently shared her viewpoint that Transgender women are not ‘real women’ in her piece in Sunday Times Magazine entitled: “Be trans, be proud — but don’t call yourself a ‘real woman‘”
1. I do not seek to silence you
There are those that feel that respectable press and institutions should not give a platform to right wing individuals such as Germaine Greer and Jenni Murray to peddle their views. In fact right now, there is currently a petition to prevent Ms Greer from talking in Brighton at the Dome on International Woman’s Day 2017.
For the record, I find her views offensive, small minded, flawed and privileged. I also have enormous respect for the organizers of the petition as activists and as people that have increased the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community. However, it is clear that there is a large group of women that hold similar views as Ms Greer and Ms Murray. Silencing them will only make those that hold similar viewpoints feel more disenfranchised. The reality is that echo chambers are what lead to Brexit and Trump. The path to progress is through debate, not through oppression.
I am not saying that the opinion of these people is valid; In so far as if a survey revealed that more people thought 5 was a bigger number than 15, then it doesn’t suddenly make what they’re saying correct. Opinion does not equal fact. Nor am I saying that I am happy for my identity to be decided in the court of public opinion, but preventing people from sharing their views, however offensive doesn’t stop their views going away and in the long term does not help our community.
If our movement is valid and just, it can withstand people holding opposing views. However, we must resist “The bias towards fairness”.
Within our society, we strive to look at both sides of the discussion; To find balance. This is most easily seen when there is a topic being discussed on the news. The anchor-person will almost invariably bring in an expert to talk about the issue and then a person with an opposing viewpoint.
Political comedian, John Oliver, did a segment on climate change asking why given the fact that 97.1% of scientific papers published on climate change supported the position of it being man made, why is this still up for debate?
His thesis is that the media always presents it as 50:50. There is always one person for and one person against.
He then went on to host a tongue in cheek debate with 3 climate change deniers and 97 climate change advocates.
It’s an amusing four minutes of your life, but it makes a serious point about our cultural habit of creating balance where none exists.
Writer of “The West Wing’ and “Social Network, Aaron Sorkin plays with this concept in his show ‘The News Room’ and calls it “The Bias Towards Fairness”
“It seems very important that if someone on the right in the news screws up in a really bad way, that the media find someone on the left who screwed up in some kind of way so that we can have a “One From Column A, One From Column B” kind of situation. And that if there are five from Column A, there can’t be only three from Column B, because then they’ll be accused of liberal bias.”
So I have no problem with the media giving voice to a minority, exclusionary right wing view just so long as they are giving a proportional voice to the more widely held, inclusive viewpoint. The real question is are these institution giving a proportional voice to trans accepting voices? I think broadly speaking that the Times and the UK mainstream media does a pretty good job in elevating the voices of the transgender community.
However it is worth noting that the media have a responsibility to be assessing whether this constitutes hate speech especially when the group is so vulnerable. I think that the article makes clear that this is her view and it isn’t written as reported fact.