Whose dignity?

Zoe Williams at the Guardian tries to rebuke Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for not having approved opinions:

Five years ago, the writer said in an interview: “When people talk about, ‘Are trans women women?’ my feeling is trans women are trans women.” She has written extensively about the fire she came under after that.

This is the driving logic of her fear for free speech: that she can’t say biological sex is inalienable without sparking a storm. “So somebody who looks like my brother – he says, ‘I’m a woman’, and walks into the women’s bathroom, and a woman goes, ‘You’re not supposed to be here’, and she’s transphobic?” We break briefly so I can look at a photo of her brother, who is smiling, tall, bearded and handsome. He’s actually on this trip with her; she has five siblings in all, two sisters, three brothers, all very close. I suggest that he would look different if he were living as a woman.

Oh well that’s all right then. The beard is gone and he’s wearing lipstick so it’s fine for him to barge into the women’s toilets.

“But that’s the thing,” she says. “You can look however you want now and say you’re a woman.” And, she adds, anyone who might take issue with this is “outdated” and needs “to have the young people educate [them]”. I suspect she’s taking an argument – that trans people don’t want to be policed for how they dress and what stage of transition they’re at – and reducing it to the absurd. 

No, she’s not reducing it to the absurd; it is absurd. It’s already absurd, without any help from Adichie. It’s absurd that people think they can change sex, and that men are women if they say they are. The whole ideology is completely absurd.

I suspect she’s taking an argument – that trans people don’t want to be policed for how they dress and what stage of transition they’re at – and reducing it to the absurd. So I tack another way: “Imagine your brother did want to live as a woman. You would support his endeavour with love, right? You’d probably think treating him with dignity and respect was more important than where he went to the toilet?”

“But why is that?” she asks. “Why can’t they be equal parts of the conversation?”

“Maybe because dignity is more important?”

Whose dignity??? Whose motherfucking dignity? Why is it always the “dignity” of men who claim to be women that’s under anxious protection in these conversations, while the “dignity” of women is summarily thrown out the window? Why is Zoe Williams so eager to see women forced to share toilets with men?

“Not if you consider women’s views to be valid. This is what baffles me. Are there no such things as objective truth and facts?”

I’m not having that. “You couldn’t objectively say, ‘All women are threatened by trans women.’ I’m also a woman. That doesn’t reflect my experience.”

Oh, she’s not having it. Isn’t she the feisty one. But the objective truth and facts aspect is about the objective truth and fact that men are not women. That’s it. Men are not women, therefore the two facts that men are stronger than women and that some men will assault or molest women if given the opportunity are relevant to the whole conversation about women’s right to say no to men.

“No, of course not. And it would not reflect the experience of many people. I think that’s different from saying, ‘Women’s rights are threatened by trans rights.’”

I think the opposite is true – and since I’m in the oppressed category whose rights she’s wanting to protect, I think we have to file the matter under, at best, not-yet-settled. Then we drop it since, realistically, we could fight about this all day and she has a flight to catch.

Williams thinks the opposite is true – so she thinks trans rights are threatened by women’s rights? That’s certainly an interesting take. It’s probably not what she meant, she probably meant women’s rights are not threatened by trans rights, but that’s almost as stupid and abject. All these years, and I still find people like her astounding.

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