A personal and professional impossibility

Sarah Ditum in the Independent on Jenni Murray and the BBC and who gets to say what a woman is:

Jenni Murray has presented the BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour for 30 years, and she’s been a woman for even longer than that. At the weekend, the Sunday Times published an article by her titled “Be trans, be proud — but don’t call yourself a ‘real woman’”. Under that headline, Murray criticised some claims of trans activism (and she was careful to say she was talking about the extreme of the debate): that anyone who identifies as a woman has “always been a woman” no matter the age at which they transition, and that references to the female body should be censored in the interests of inclusion.

Not having an opinion on these issues is presumably a personal and professional impossibility for Murray. After all, it was in a Woman’s Hour interview with Murray that India Willoughby, a former ITV news presenter who transitioned in her 40s, declared that women with unshaved legs are “dirty”. How are we supposed to interpret that – a grossly sexist comment – without acknowledging that Willoughby’s views are shaped by decades of living as a man, and, although she may not have personally felt them, did nevertheless enjoy the structural privileges that came with being male? How is Murray supposed to feel about it, knowing that the BBC and the media in general has a miserable track record of sexism and ageism?

Those are things that I wonder too. I do think decades of living as a man make a difference, and that it’s reasonable to acknowledge that and both unreasonable and unfair not to.

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