Making some of everyone feel included

It’s all about impartiality.

The BBC retreated from Stonewall’s divisive Diversity Champions scheme because it needs to be “squeaky clean” on impartiality, an executive said.

He and Emma Barnett had a long conversation about it: he kept pressing a distinction between Stonewall’s advice on employer policy and making everyone feel included, and editorial decisions about content.

Fair enough, but as he said it over and over I kept wondering how much the BBC worried about making women feel included. I wondered, and still wonder, what it did about the imbalance between hand-wringing concern over about 400 trans employees and, I’m guessing, a rather larger number of women employees. I wondered and still wonder why he got such an anxious tone when he insisted on the inclusion bit, and why at the BBC as at so many institutions the worry about trans feelings seems so massively out of proportion to the worry about women’s feelings. I wonder why it seems as if women are so last century, and so thoroughly Included and not disadvantaged or overlooked or treated differently in any way, compared to the emergency status of trans people.

It was just a few years ago that there was that big uproar about the massive pay gaps between women and men at the BBC. Where was all the anguish about inclusion then? Why didn’t that scratch everyone’s conscience until the blood ran? Why are women seen as both old news and completely without any disadvantage compared to other people, like for instance men?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. I’d quite like to.

Critics say that the initiative acts as a lobbying vehicle. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that Stonewall has, for example, instructed public bodies to remove gendered words such as “mother” from their human resources policies.

Yes and this matters, you see, and it matters particularly because women are not part of the privileged demographic who don’t have to worry about words. If you start erasing women from the language you’re not going forward, you’re going backward. It’s not like changing “men” to “people” in news stories when in fact people really is what you mean – it’s the obverse of that. It’s not progress, it’s regress. Women still get overlooked in a way that men don’t, so Stonewall busily erasing us isn’t just partiality, it’s also bad for women.

Talfan Davies acknowledged that retreating from Diversity Champions had led to “some real tension and discomfort internally”. Tim Davie, the director-general, and Fran Unsworth, director of news, are expected to try to reduce the tension by addressing members of BBC Pride, a network for LGBT staff, yesterday morning. “The key thing is to engage with those staff groups to discuss our thinking and our reasoning and to listen to their responses,” Talfan Davies said.

Yes but what about women? It’s not only LGBT staff who have a stake in this, it’s also women. What about engaging with women? What about listening to women’s responses? Why does nearly everyone think the concerns of trans people are vastly more urgent and profound than those of women? Why does nearly everyone think (or pretend to think out of terror) that when there is any conflict between the two it must be trans people who get their way?

Emma Barnett, the Woman’s Hour presenter, pressed Talfan Davies on specific issues that BBC journalists may face when reporting on gender identity stories. She asked if it would be offensive for a sports reporter to describe a trans woman, competing in a female category at the Olympics, as a “biological male”. Talfan Davies said that a discussion would be had prior to broadcast and it would be right to consider what is “appropriate and sensitive”.

Why sensitive? Why is there never talk about being sensitive to women’s concerns? Why is all the sensitivity and handholding reserved for trans people, while women are expected to suck it up and do what they’re told?

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