Mixed company

God I hate finding myself agreeing with Brendan O’Neill…and not just for political reasons, but because he’s so transparently and irritatingly a Self-conscious Preening Contrarian. But it can’t be helped: for once Preening Contrarian has a point.

If you want to know how crazy, even Kafkaesque, this young millennium has become, consider this: yesterday it was reported that a person with a penis — Caitlyn Jenner — will be named Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year, while over at Cardiff University a woman who has done more than most to secure the liberation of womankind — Germaine Greer — was denounced by a swarm of Stepford Students as ‘transphobic’, someone who should make all right-minded people feel ‘sick to [their] stomachs’.

Does it irritate me that Caitlyn Jenner has been named anybody’s Woman of the Year? Yes, it does. I think there are far better candidates, many thousands of them. I don’t think anything Caitlyn Jenner has done is significant enough or valuable enough for that title. And yes, I also think Caitlyn Jenner won enough titles and trophies and fame as Bruce Jenner competing in a sport that was closed to women; I don’t think Caitlyn Jenner is now somehow magically a great hero or role model to women.

Alarmingly, Cardiff’s feminist students are running the campaign to shut Greer down. The petition for her lecture to be cancelled was started by the student union women’s officer, who says Greer’s views have ‘no place in feminism’. What a spoilt, ungrateful generation, hilariously unaware that their very ability to speak their minds and rouse some rabble is down to decades of intellectual and social agitation by people like Greer. She helped give them a voice; they try to silence hers.

That is, indeed, a big part of what makes it so galling. They contemptuously dismiss us old trouts as “second-wave” while flourishing on the possibilities that feminists like Greer made possible.

‘Trans-exclusionary views should have no place in… society’, says the Greerphobic petition. Who died and made the jumped-up Joe Stalins of student bureaucracy into the gods of what can be said? Greer, and anyone else for that matter, should be free to say whatever they want about trans politics, to critique it and even mock it, to argue that it’s pure hocus pocus to claim someone can change his or her sex simply by declaring ‘I have changed my sex’. Blasphemy is a hard-won right, and we should be free to blaspheme against both the old religions and new ones like transmania. We should be as free to doubt the womanhood of Caitlyn Jenner as we are to doubt the divinity of Jesus.

Of Caitlyn Jenner, yes. Of trans women with fewer advantages and privileges than she has – which would be pretty much all of them – maybe not. Preening Contrarian oversimplifies, as always, but in this case there’s room for him to get some things right.

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