All Things to All People: Some Brief Notes on Solidarity and Free Speech

If transgender people have a “superpower” it is our remarkable ability to stand for anything:  living, breathing “floating signifiers.” Our meaning d’jour is, for some on Fleet Street, “a professionally offended, Left wing lobby group” that is now the latest “post-Leveson” threat to free speech and a free press. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of things—fleeting as these meanings are, such that we can even speak of stable oppositions—Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill had accused trans people of dividing and distracting the Left from its “important” goals and its “true” cause. If this seems exasperating and contradictory, you ain’t seen nothing yet, as they say. But for now, it is enough to deal with these two absurdities one at a time and bring a bit of light to a decidedly un-illuminating heat. Free Speech: From Posturing to Substance Toby Young and all the other vacuous, fly-by-night defenders of “free speech” filch lovely rhetoric that whistle stops past all manner of liberal … [Read more...]

The Ministry of Strength

Anyone involved in any sort of emancipatory activism, from flame wars in forums to robust street protesting, is bound to be familiar with the phenomenon I’m about to describe: “What’s the big deal!?” This is most often asked when you broach a subject of media criticism or a critique of seemingly innocuous language. You’re told that it’s ‘not a big deal’ if someone says, say, ‘fag’ persistently in the most derogating way possible. It’s ‘not a big deal’ if a commercial is in any way commodifying or objectifying women. It’s ‘not a big deal’ if, say, a late night talk show host predicates a gag on trans panic. Et cetera. Et cetera. Such is the power of privilege that the obvious, and in any just universe the only needed, answer never occurs to the offender for even a moment. “It’s disrespectful” ought to be enough, yet somehow it never is; so we are left justifying our anger at a seemingly small bit of errata that must appear like a speck of dust in the night to the privileged … [Read more...]

PC is for Cookie

In one’s travels through the Tubes you’ll often find rather a lot of fecal matter clogging it all up. Perhaps the grandest of these turds is the notion of ‘political correctness.’ There have been long and thoughtful deconstructions of this ultimate, Voltron-like straw man, but suffice it to say: the next time someone chides you for being “PC” just replace ‘politically correct’ with ‘respectful’ in your mind to keep your focus on what it is the speaker is actually trying to communicate. Privilege is many things. Pervasive, invisible, colourless, odourless, noxious. It’s a lot like carbon monoxide. In this particular case, privilege manifests itself as the simple belief that you are entitled to a higher level of respect than other groups of people. At heart, that’s what it’s really about. The idea that being decent and respectful- values many of our parents raised us with- is somehow uncouth or even verboten when one is talking about Black people, or Muslims, or trans people is simply … [Read more...]