Journalist Suzanne Moore says she was “betrayed and bullied for saying that women should not be silenced”, quitting her long-time job at The Guardian newspaper after writing an article in March this year reiterating her view that “women are women”, that sex is a biological fact, rather than a construct assigned at birth (unlike gender, which “suggests boys and girls should behave in a certain way”).
Following her comments, 338 colleagues wrote a letter to the (female) editor urging her to do more to make the newspaper “a safe and welcoming workplace for trans and non-binary people” and criticising its “pattern of publishing transphobic content”.
In an article she has published at UnHerd — a site dedicated to pushing back against the herd mentality and to providing “a platform for otherwise unheard ideas, people and places”, she argues she has been treated in a similarly brutal way to others, like J.K. Rowling, who have tried to have a rational conversation about the trans issue.
Her efforts, which went back to the late 1980s, were greeted with attacks from “people telling me how they were going to rape me, decapitate me… burn me”:
The worst threats were from people who knew where I lived and said that they would give my then 11-year-old a good fisting… The sewer was opening, a torrent of women-hatred was pouring out, no one seemed to be able to control it. (Was this helping trans people? Was it coming from them? Mostly I think not.)
Moore writes that a new word was coined: TERF — “trans exclusionary radical feminist” — and it was used as a slur: “On this row went. The label ‘transphobe’ may as well have been tattooed on my forehead.”
Looking back, I see that by the late Eighties and early Nineties, I had already picked up on something that perturbed me. A denial of female biology, of our ability to name and define our experience. Some of this came from certain strands of postmodern theory where objective reality gives way only to multiple subjectivities. A kind of gender tourism became possible. Everyone could be everything. A new kind of feminism came into being, one in which flesh and blood women and our desires became somehow a bit dull. Feminism without women. Grow a child inside you and push it out of your body and tell me this is a construct.
I believe quite simply bodies exist. I have been there when babies are born…
Yet somehow morality had entered the debate. To be good — ie, modern — one didn’t interrogate the new trans orthodoxy. Sex was no longer binary, but a spectrum, and people didn’t need to change their bodies to claim a new identity. All this was none of your business, and had no effect on your life.
It all came to a head when she wrote in The Guardian that she believed biological sex to be real and that it was not transphobic to understand basic science. To her mind the column was fairly mild. “The next thing I know”, she says, “there are loads of people on social media thanking me for saying what needed to be said. And then another lot: the ‘die in a ditch terf’ lot, amazingly telling me to die in a ditch.”
At the same time she says she experienced pressure at The Guardian to self-sensor. And the fact that self-censorship should hit The Guardian, which has always regarded itself as a beacon of liberal thinking, strikes her as particularly sad.
Even more ironically, it does not seem to have struck Ms Moore, winner of last year’s Orwell Prize for journalism — and someone who, she says, was “able to campaign alongside people she disagreed with on certain points, and they with her” – that the censorship under which she herself has suffered has for decades been meted out to feminists who disagree on what has become the untouchable, totemic issue of feminism: abortion.
In her offending column, she lamented the culture of cancellation and no-platforming, and spoke her sadness at the way a once-united campaign for sexual freedom — where women wanting abortion reform marched alongside men and women seeking gay rights and vice versa — has fragmented into factions, “at one another’s throats”.
If the treatment meted out to Ms Moore and other trans-critical feminists is harsh and unjust, it is no less harsh and unjust than the treatment meted out to abortion-critical feminists, who are now — especially in universities, those famous bastions of free speech — routinely silenced and de-platformed.
Only last year the Students’ Union at Cardiff University proclaimed itself pro-choice and banned students from using the word “baby” to describe the unborn.
Aside from this, has Ms Moore spoken out against sex-selective abortion, which mainly targets baby girls? About abortion regrets? About forced abortions? About abortion to cover up rape? About women dying after taking the abortion pill, now sent to them through the post? About attempts to ban free speech and even silent prayer outside abortion clinics, where pro-life volunteers offer to help needy pregnant women?
Has she denounced attempts to outlaw such protests, like those of Stella Creasy, and fellow Labour MP Rupa Huq’s parliamentary bill, which proposed sentencing those merely trying to save lives to six months in jail for expressing any opinion on abortion within 150 metres of an abortion clinic?
Did Ms Moore spare a thought for Julia Rynkiewicz, the 25-year-old Catholic midwifery student who was banned from her hospital placement and faced suspension and a four-month fitness-to-practice investigation because of her involvement in Nottingham Students for Life, an anti-abortion society?
Nottingham University later backtracked on its decision and dismissed the case against her. However, only after she filed a formal complaint against them did the University concede a settlement and apology .
Would she regard it as an advance for women that a young woman dedicated to bringing new life into the world is considered “unfit to practice” because she was unhappy about despatching new life from this world — for which she is called “anti-abortion” and dismissed as “Catholic”? So much for diversity, but this is the unhappy pass to which pro-abortion feminism has brought us: the most important thing is abortion — more important than the welfare of women and even of babies that feminists would see as wanted.
Ms Moore is right to say that men are men, and women are women — but if women are women, why aren’t babies babies? Half of them are female — and if abortion is so great, why is no one allowed to talk about it unless they are wholeheartedly for its decriminalisation and its availability up to birth for any reason? Why is the suggestion that our abortion laws discriminate against the disabled treated as a threat?
If nobody (apart from Ms Moore and her fellow-thinkers) is allowed to discuss what abortion involves, how it affects women, and especially how it affects their babies, more and more women will fall into the trap of thinking that abortion has no downside, but that without it women cannot be equal.
Unfortunately, Ms Moore’s “sexual freedom” has turned out to be a self-imposed jail sentence for those who embraced it and found themselves imprisoned by guilt and misery for their whole lives for doing the very thing she promoted. Thankfully, some of these women have decided to be silent no more.
And although people should not be silenced for warning that individuals falling into the “trans trap” are at risk of even more unhappiness as they find themselves permanently trapped in their own mutilated bodies, the signs are that Suzanne Moore will not be silenced. However, neither should anyone be silenced for pointing out that perfectly healthy pregnant women are being subjected to unnecessary surgery to kill their babies.
If only the modern feminist movement had not rejected the philosophy of its pro-life founders, much misery could have been avoided; but it is more than a little ironic that the most enthusiastic advocates for suppressing the views of abortion critics are now falling into a trap of their own making.