To be free of the leash

Jenni Murray on why she decided to walk away from Woman’s Hour and the BBC:

I was not leaving, contrary to popular rumour, as a result of ageism on the part of the BBC. I made the decision a year ago when it became clear to me that it was time to move on and be free of the leash which, in recent years, had caused me to be what I can only describe as ‘cancelled’.

First came the furore concerning an article I had written in which I acknowledged that I was entering the most controversial and, at times, vicious, vulgar and threatening debate of our day.

I made clear that I was not transphobic or anti-trans. Indeed, I emphasised my belief that everyone — whether transgender or those of us who hold to the sex assigned to us at birth — should be treated with respect and protected from the bullying and violence that so many like me have suffered.

I merely asked the trans activists to acknowledge the difference between sex and gender, a trans woman and a woman, respect our right to safe single-sex spaces and abandon the nonsensical idea that we should be known as ‘cis women’.

Merely. Merely, she says. Women have been fed to the lions for less.

We are women. No need for further definition. I begged trans activists to understand feminism and the struggle we had experienced in fighting for our right to be viewed as equals to men.

I reminded them that feminism had fought against sexual stereotyping, and that it was ridiculous to assume a girl who liked cars and trousers really wanted to be a boy, or a boy who loved dolls was ‘born in the wrong body’ and needed to be a girl.

Of course, I was branded a TERF — a Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist — on social media and threatened with all kinds of violence. But what shocked me most was the BBC’s response.

I was roundly ticked off publicly and informed that I would not be allowed to chair any discussions on the trans question or the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. I had lots of emails and tweets asking me why I had not been involved in this debate, as it was so important to Woman’s Hour listeners. You have the answer.

This is despite the fact that her show is Woman’s Hour. Women must echo the party line on trans women or be silenced; there is no other path.

It’s an interesting word, impartiality. For years, until recently, I and other broadcast journalists have written articles and books. In my case they were often controversial ones on marriage, abortion, pornography or bringing up boys, and I suffered no comeback from the BBC. At one point I was actually encouraged by a channel controller to write a regular column as a way of widening awareness of Woman’s Hour and Radio 4.

Impartiality was perceived as what a presenter demonstrated in the studio. It was not assumed that the radio or television audience expected the men and women who entered their homes on a daily basis to be dull ciphers with no opinions or personalities.

But that was before The Age of Trans Everything.

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