These debates should be heard, not silenced

Meghan Murphy says why she will no longer write for

This has been a long time coming for a number of reasons, but I chose to stay on in the past because I knew that if I left, never again would we see an abolitionist or radical feminist voice or analysis there, and I felt it important to ensure a feminist analysis existed in a space that claims to be a progressive and leftist one.

Recently, I felt I had no choice but to draw a line due to a decision made by a number of editors to publish, then remove (about seven hours after publication), a piece I wrote that was critical of the dehumanizing language Planned Parenthood has adopted to discuss women, reproductive rights, and women’s reproductive capacities.

Women’s rights exist because women are discriminated [against] on the basis of sex — because they are the only people on the planet who can get pregnant. Erasing that reality poses a serious risk to hard-fought-for protections women have and to our ability to claim discrimination on a legal basis.

After my piece was removed from the site, I waited for an editor to contact me to explain, 1) That this had happened, and 2) Why this had happened. No one contacted me, so I emailed the then-news editor (who had removed the piece) and the blogs editor, asking what was going on. The editor who removed the piece never responded to my query or accounted for her decision/actions, instead, the male blogs editor responded to me saying only, “Your article was removed because it contained transphobic language and violated our journalistic policy.” I responded, asking what specific “transphobic language” was contained in the article. I looked over the journalistic policy numerous times (and was, of course, already familiar with it) to see if something had changed within it, but could not find anything that defined any of the the language used in my article as “transphobic.” My follow up question was ignored by both the news editor and the blogs editor. To date, I have not heard from a single editor at rabble about this issue or my question.

I find that horrifying, but unpleasantly familiar.

This is censorship. As far as journalistic ethics go, editors should not remove already published pieces unless there is a libel or legal issue. Beyond that, many feminists and many progressives find various aspects of the current/popular discourse around “gender identity” troubling for numerous reasons. These debates should be heard, not silenced.

Historical revisionism and baseless accusations of “phobia” (which, in the current context of this debate, is a term equated with some form of “bigotry”) have no place on the left or in our so-called progressive, self-proclaimed “feminist” publications. Women are allowed to speak about their own realities and oppression. It is not our job to accommodate men in our movement, nor is it our job to validate the chosen “identities” of a few individuals.

It’s especially not  our job to validate the chosen “identities” of a few individuals at a time when the meaning of the word is so unsettled and contested and just plain incoherent. People like to say “anyone can identify however they choose” but that’s not actually true, unless by “identify” we mean just “think of inside one’s own head.” Sure, internally, we can all “identify” i.e. fantasize any way we like. Inside our heads we can be Elizabeth Tudor one minute and a fighter pilot the next. But can we “identify” any old way we like in the external world? No. Crossing borders we can’t do that, showing photo ID in various situations we can’t do that, on the job we can’t do that – and so on. I can identify as French inside my head if I like, but if I try it outside my head my French will be way too halting and clumsy to fool anyone. Donald Trump can identify as presidential, and many people will validate his identity, but more people won’t. External identity is social, and it just is not true that we all have to validate any and every identity other people might choose. It’s not even close to true.

I hope my decision to push back and to speak out publicly about this will lead rabble and other progressives/progressive organizations/media outlets to consider what they want political debate to look like. Perhaps nothing will change. Either way, I consider this response to and treatment of my work to be unacceptable and unethical and I will not stand idly by while women are erased, while feminist activism and theory is silenced and marginalized, and while history is rewritten in order to avoid offending a small minority of people and to avoid controversy.

The so-called left is failing badly when it comes to critical thought and analysis, but also when it comes to upholding principles and ethics that are imperative to ensuring political discourse is rigorous, honest, and rooted in a genuine desire to create a better, more equitable society, free from violence and oppression. I will not stand by and watch censorship and silencing replace critical thought and while women — the group of people who remain at the bottom of the social hierarchy, raped and beaten and murdered daily by men — are made to shut up about their own oppression and the source of that oppression.

My politics and work have never been determined by what makes others feel comfortable. Liars and cowards are aplenty. And if that’s who the left wants speaking for them, we are destined for failure.

The feminist movement has never shied away from speaking the truth, and we are not about to start now.

It’s so interesting, in a sickening way, that women are the one subordinated group that the left is willing to throw under the bus.

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