steepholm: (tree_face)
I was kind of annoyed by a Film Programme discussion the other week with Stephen Woolley, the producer of The Crying Game. The thing that annoyed me was this discussion of the film's famous twist:

We started the campaign [not to reveal the ‘twist’] in the UK. I wrote a personal note to all the film critics when the film was released, and I think 99.9% of them kept it quiet. … That twist became part of the reason the Americans flocked to see the film. At the height of its popularity in New York I used to slip into the back of cinemas, just for the moment, just for the revealing moment, because the audience would go crazy. … Obviously, it did work as a sort of hook for the film.


Well, of course I've talked about that film here before, since (because I like it in other respects) it got me thinking a bit about twists in general, what they do and when and why they work, or not - and when they're plain objectifying. That discussion is here.

But Woolley said something else that was rather interesting, and tangential to the other discussion. They were talking about the positioning of the twist and its relation to genre. Many twists come at the end of the story - but in The Crying Game it comes somewhere round the halfway point. And the effect is to change the genre of the of film - in this case from a fairly hard-bitten thriller about the IRA into something quite different (what would you say the genre of The Crying Game is by the end?)

Woolley's comparison was with Pyscho - where the midway murder of the apparent main character signals the change from its being a crime thriller to a psycho-drama. Another example that springs to mind is, of course, Madoka Magica...

I feel there must be at least a few others - stories that that reveal that the audience (and possibly the characters) have been wrong-genre-savvy, and make them reevaluate everything that's happened through the prism of a different genre template, but that also give them the time to do so, rather than using the revelation as a final-scene pay-off. A twist in the tail is fine, but a twist in the torso is better. It's a model that appeals to me, anyway - but how common is it?

Examples, please!
steepholm: (Default)
I was kind of annoyed by a Film Programme discussion the other week with Stephen Woolley, the producer of The Crying Game. The thing that annoyed me was this discussion of the film's famous twist:

We started the campaign [not to reveal the ‘twist’] in the UK. I wrote a personal note to all the film critics when the film was released, and I think 99.9% of them kept it quiet. … That twist became part of the reason the Americans flocked to see the film. At the height of its popularity in New York I used to slip into the back of cinemas, just for the moment, just for the revealing moment, because the audience would go crazy. … Obviously, it did work as a sort of hook for the film.


Well, of course I've talked about that film here before, since (because I like it in other respects) it got me thinking a bit about twists in general, what they do and when and why they work, or not - and when they're plain objectifying. That discussion is here.

But Woolley said something else that was rather interesting, and tangential to the other discussion. They were talking about the positioning of the twist and its relation to genre. Many twists come at the end of the story - but in The Crying Game it comes somewhere round the halfway point. And the effect is to change the genre of the of film - in this case from a fairly hard-bitten thriller about the IRA into something quite different (what would you say the genre of The Crying Game is by the end?)

Woolley's comparison was with Pyscho - where the midway murder of the apparent main character signals the change from its being a crime thriller to a psycho-drama. Another example that springs to mind is, of course, Madoka Magica...

I feel there must be at least a few others - stories that that reveal that the audience (and possibly the characters) have been wrong-genre-savvy, and make them reevaluate everything that's happened through the prism of a different genre template, but that also give them the time to do so, rather than using the revelation as a final-scene pay-off. A twist in the tail is fine, but a twist in the torso is better. It's a model that appeals to me, anyway - but how common is it?

Examples, please!
steepholm: (tree_face)
The other day I listened to The Film Programme's discussion of Alice Guy's 1906 film, "Les Résultats du féminisme", in which we are shown a world where "feminism" has triumphed and men and women have effectively exchanged roles. You can see it here (it's only 7 minutes):



Apparently Guy (by then Alice Blaché) made another film with a similar theme but a future setting, In the Year 2000 (1912). Alas, that one is now lost.

The studio discussion assumed that Guy was making a feminist point herself, highlighting the treatment that women receive in the real world by showing it happening to men. That may well be right - but more than anything I was reminded of the anti-suffrage postcards produced around the same time, with very similar images of a world in which feminism has triumphed and men are reduced to domestic servitude while their wives carouse and put their feet up. Nothing very feminist about those - nor indeed about the Two Ronnies sketch series The Worm that Turned (1980), which is actually cited as a parallel by one of the studio guests. (This compilation I've linked here is 90 minutes long, but watch the first four minutes and you'll find you've had quite enough. I remember it all too well from 37 years ago.)

It's not that I don't believe Guy's film is feminist: without knowing something of her political opinions, I really couldn't say. But it's a striking instance of how the very same (or very similar) images can have opposite meanings, depending on the assumptions with which one approaches them.
steepholm: (Default)
The other day I listened to The Film Programme's discussion of Alice Guy's 1906 film, "Les Résultats du féminisme", in which we are shown a world where "feminism" has triumphed and men and women have effectively exchanged roles. You can see it here (it's only 7 minutes):



Apparently Guy (by then Alice Blaché) made another film with a similar theme but a future setting, In the Year 2000 (1912). Alas, that one is now lost.

The studio discussion assumed that Guy was making a feminist point herself, highlighting the treatment that women receive in the real world by showing it happening to men. That may well be right - but more than anything I was reminded of the anti-suffrage postcards produced around the same time, with very similar images of a world in which feminism has triumphed and men are reduced to domestic servitude while their wives carouse and put their feet up. Nothing very feminist about those - nor indeed about the Two Ronnies sketch series The Worm that Turned (1980), which is actually cited as a parallel by one of the studio guests. (This compilation I've linked here is 90 minutes long, but watch the first four minutes and you'll find you've had quite enough. I remember it all too well from 37 years ago.)

It's not that I don't believe Guy's film is feminist: without knowing something of her political opinions, I really couldn't say. But it's a striking instance of how the very same (or very similar) images can have opposite meanings, depending on the assumptions with which one approaches them.
steepholm: (tree_face)
My friend Marie was kind enough to invite me and a plus-one to the preview of the Strange Worlds exhibition on Angela Carter which she's curated at the RWA, so last night I went along with my other friend (I do have more than two friends, I hasten to disambiguate), Htay. It's a truly fabulous exhibition, and I highly recommend it if you have more than a passing interest in that old Bristolian, or in unsettling art generally. I saw quite a few of my old colleagues and students too, which was nice.

While I was there, I was buttonholed by a researcher doing a survey on reactions to the exhibition, which I happily gave. At the end there was the usual information about age, race, etc., for their equality stats, and as usual under "gender" they had "Male", "Female" and "Transgender" as three separate and mutually exclusive options - language which mirrors the Equality Act (2010), which habitually refers to "men, women and transgender people" as if there were no possible intersection between these categories.

This is annoying in several related ways. First, it forces trans people to choose whether to erase their gender or the fact that they are trans. Given that choice, I imagine that most (like me) answer according to their gender; but if they want the information for some legitimate statistical reason, the information on the number of trans people will inevitably be rendered inaccurate in consequence. At an art exhibition this is probably of no great moment; but in other contexts it could be used as an excuse for not providing services for trans people because we're too few in number.

But also, it's just such a clunking category error: a bit like saying, "Which is your favourite kind of car? Fiats, BMWs or blue ones?" Trans is not a gender, after all, but a fact about the relation of one's gender to one's body. Logically, they should have boxes marked "trans" and "cis" if they want to collect that information - but that of course would be horribly oppressive to cis people...
steepholm: (Default)
My friend Marie was kind enough to invite me and a plus-one to the preview of the Strange Worlds exhibition on Angela Carter which she's curated at the RWA, so last night I went along with my other friend (I do have more than two friends, I hasten to disambiguate), Htay. It's a truly fabulous exhibition, and I highly recommend it if you have more than a passing interest in that old Bristolian, or in unsettling art generally. I saw quite a few of my old colleagues and students too, which was nice.

While I was there, I was buttonholed by a researcher doing a survey on reactions to the exhibition, which I happily gave. At the end there was the usual information about age, race, etc., for their equality stats, and as usual under "gender" they had "Male", "Female" and "Transgender" as three separate and mutually exclusive options - language which mirrors the Equality Act (2010), which habitually refers to "men, women and transgender people" as if there were no possible intersection between these categories.

This is annoying in several related ways. First, it forces trans people to choose whether to erase their gender or the fact that they are trans. Given that choice, I imagine that most (like me) answer according to their gender; but if they want the information for some legitimate statistical reason, the information on the number of trans people will inevitably be rendered inaccurate in consequence. At an art exhibition this is probably of no great moment; but in other contexts it could be used as an excuse for not providing services for trans people because we're too few in number.

But also, it's just such a clunking category error: a bit like saying, "Which is your favourite kind of car? Fiats, BMWs or blue ones?" Trans is not a gender, after all, but a fact about the relation of one's gender to one's body. Logically, they should have boxes marked "trans" and "cis" if they want to collect that information - but that of course would be horribly oppressive to cis people...
steepholm: (tree_face)
Perhaps, like me, you've often seen memes mocking fundamentalist Christians who condemn homosexuality or crossdressing because they're banned in Leviticus or Deuteronomy, while blithely ignoring other practices outlawed in the same places, such as eating shellfish, mixing linen and wool, wearing tattoos, etc.

Where did this meme begin? I don't know, but I give you a contender for the earliest example: Sir Richard Baker, Theatrum Redivivum, or, the Theatre Vindicated (1662):

Indeed, he cites a text of scripture for it, Deut. xxii. 5: 'The women shall not wear that which pertaineth to the man, neither shall a man put on a woman's raiment.' A pregnant place indeed, but where finds he this precept? Even in the same place where he finds also that we must not wear clothes of linsey-woolsey; and seeing we lawfully now wear clothes of linsey-woolsey, why may it not be as lawful for men to put on women's garments? But if he will have this precept to stand in force, though it be no part of the moral law, yet because it may have a moral construction; how will he then defend his own eating of black-puddings against the precept for the eating of blood? For this precept against eating of blood hath a stronger tie than that for wearing of garments.


There is nothing new under the sun, sayeth the Preacher.
steepholm: (Default)
Perhaps, like me, you've often seen memes mocking fundamentalist Christians who condemn homosexuality or crossdressing because they're banned in Leviticus or Deuteronomy, while blithely ignoring other practices outlawed in the same places, such as eating shellfish, mixing linen and wool, wearing tattoos, etc.

Where did this meme begin? I don't know, but I give you a contender for the earliest example: Sir Richard Baker, Theatrum Redivivum, or, the Theatre Vindicated (1662):

Indeed, he cites a text of scripture for it, Deut. xxii. 5: 'The women shall not wear that which pertaineth to the man, neither shall a man put on a woman's raiment.' A pregnant place indeed, but where finds he this precept? Even in the same place where he finds also that we must not wear clothes of linsey-woolsey; and seeing we lawfully now wear clothes of linsey-woolsey, why may it not be as lawful for men to put on women's garments? But if he will have this precept to stand in force, though it be no part of the moral law, yet because it may have a moral construction; how will he then defend his own eating of black-puddings against the precept for the eating of blood? For this precept against eating of blood hath a stronger tie than that for wearing of garments.


There is nothing new under the sun, sayeth the Preacher.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I find the sight of people wearing lanyards depressing, especially en masse. When I passed my son's old school at lunchtime today, and saw scores of pupils (and some staff) wandering out for a break, 90% of whom had lanyards dangling from their necks like so many cow bells, a huge distaste rose within me. I bless the child who took hers off and stuffed it in her pocket. She may have been doing it for safety reasons rather than to reclaim her individuality from the corporate Borg, but whatever the reason the gesture warmed my desiccated old heart.

At my old university, I saw the lanyard habit spread inexorably as the years passed, especially once cards became mandatory for swipe access at every door and floor, but I never considered keeping my own card anywhere but my pocket or purse, out of sight. There's something feudal about wearing your school's livery (or your employer's).

I'm reminded of an old Charlie Brown cartoon (I suppose they're all old by now) in which a neighbour explains that his father has renamed all his children with numbers. "Is it his way of protesting against the system?" asks Charlie Brown. "No, it's his way of giving in."

The truth is, my gut despises the lanyard wearers.

Before I run to Portmeirion shouting "I am not a number!", I should add that I realise my gut's reaction is over the top. It comes (as they say) from a very young place. I'm particularly suspicious of it because it feels much like the visceral resistance I used to have to having my fingerprints taken or retina scanned, which prevented me from going to the States for almost a decade. That dissipated like magic when I transitioned, and therein lies a big clue, I think. As a trans person in the climate of a small town in the '70s secrecy was instinctive, and it's easy now to forget how that secrecy dominated my first 44 years. So, perhaps my distaste for seeing people happily proclaiming their identities on lanyards has to do with that - it's a kind of retrospective jealousy dressed as individualism?

I still don't like them, though.
steepholm: (Default)
I find the sight of people wearing lanyards depressing, especially en masse. When I passed my son's old school at lunchtime today, and saw scores of pupils (and some staff) wandering out for a break, 90% of whom had lanyards dangling from their necks like so many cow bells, a huge distaste rose within me. I bless the child who took hers off and stuffed it in her pocket. She may have been doing it for safety reasons rather than to reclaim her individuality from the corporate Borg, but whatever the reason the gesture warmed my desiccated old heart.

At my old university, I saw the lanyard habit spread inexorably as the years passed, especially once cards became mandatory for swipe access at every door and floor, but I never considered keeping my own card anywhere but my pocket or purse, out of sight. There's something feudal about wearing your school's livery (or your employer's).

I'm reminded of an old Charlie Brown cartoon (I suppose they're all old by now) in which a neighbour explains that his father has renamed all his children with numbers. "Is it his way of protesting against the system?" asks Charlie Brown. "No, it's his way of giving in."

The truth is, my gut despises the lanyard wearers.

Before I run to Portmeirion shouting "I am not a number!", I should add that I realise my gut's reaction is over the top. It comes (as they say) from a very young place. I'm particularly suspicious of it because it feels much like the visceral resistance I used to have to having my fingerprints taken or retina scanned, which prevented me from going to the States for almost a decade. That dissipated like magic when I transitioned, and therein lies a big clue, I think. As a trans person in the climate of a small town in the '70s secrecy was instinctive, and it's easy now to forget how that secrecy dominated my first 44 years. So, perhaps my distaste for seeing people happily proclaiming their identities on lanyards has to do with that - it's a kind of retrospective jealousy dressed as individualism?

I still don't like them, though.
steepholm: (tree_face)
This ought to be a proper post, festooned with links, but I'm too lazy to do that; and also, I've not really thought the subject through to the extent that I'd like to present this as some kind of finished position, rather than (what it is) an invitation to others' thoughts. Suffice it to say, I could produce the links if I were arsed - but then, so could Professor Google.

Anyway, I was thinking about the primacy given by some self-described radical feminists to chromosomes when it comes to determining sex. For example, Gia Milinovich defines sex wholly in chromosomal terms, and Germaine Greer (an early adopter) does much the same in The Whole Woman. I was reminded of this habit most recently while listening to Midweek (17:40) the other day, where I heard Libby Purves quote the old feminist slogan "biology is destiny" [shurely some mistake? Ed.] to put actor Ed Zephyr in their place and remind them that "in chromosome terms there are male and there are female and you can't quite get round that".

Zephyr responded by pointing out that there are many variations even on that basis. And that is a good answer, as far as it goes - intersex erasure is a real problem. (For that matter I've never had my chromosomes tested - have you, dear reader?) But it left me wondering why it is that in many people's minds chromosomes trump gender identity; trump socialisation; trump hormones; trump phenotype. Only chromosomes, it seems, really count as "scientific". Is it because the only way to find out someone's chromosomal make-up is by looking down a microscope? How phallocentric!

While we're at it, why must there be one answer, one sure-fire, all-or-nothing test? Doesn't that speak to a far more brittle insecurity, to say nothing of an empathetic and intellectual sclerosis? I think so; and propose the name Greer's Syndrome for the condition, after its most eminent sufferer.
steepholm: (Default)
This ought to be a proper post, festooned with links, but I'm too lazy to do that; and also, I've not really thought the subject through to the extent that I'd like to present this as some kind of finished position, rather than (what it is) an invitation to others' thoughts. Suffice it to say, I could produce the links if I were arsed - but then, so could Professor Google.

Anyway, I was thinking about the primacy given by some self-described radical feminists to chromosomes when it comes to determining sex. For example, Gia Milinovich defines sex wholly in chromosomal terms, and Germaine Greer (an early adopter) does much the same in The Whole Woman. I was reminded of this habit most recently while listening to Midweek (17:40) the other day, where I heard Libby Purves quote the old feminist slogan "biology is destiny" [shurely some mistake? Ed.] to put actor Ed Zephyr in their place and remind them that "in chromosome terms there are male and there are female and you can't quite get round that".

Zephyr responded by pointing out that there are many variations even on that basis. And that is a good answer, as far as it goes - intersex erasure is a real problem. (For that matter I've never had my chromosomes tested - have you, dear reader?) But it left me wondering why it is that in many people's minds chromosomes trump gender identity; trump socialisation; trump hormones; trump phenotype. Only chromosomes, it seems, really count as "scientific". Is it because the only way to find out someone's chromosomal make-up is by looking down a microscope? How phallocentric!

While we're at it, why must there be one answer, one sure-fire, all-or-nothing test? Doesn't that speak to a far more brittle insecurity, to say nothing of an empathetic and intellectual sclerosis? I think so; and propose the name Greer's Syndrome for the condition, after its most eminent sufferer.
steepholm: (Default)
This image has been floating around Facebook recently: "Aren't you thankful that your childhood happened before technology took over?"

I can see what they're getting at, of course. This LJ has contained many a fond reminiscence about the 1970s, and I don't suppose I'd have liked being for ever available at the end of a mobile phone then any more than I would now. But for LGBT kids and other people who might find themselves isolated (as I was) in small-town and rural communities, with little information available and no visible* peer support, the internet in particular has been transformational. Don't expect me to yearn for the days when the only way people like me could find out about ourselves was by reading the two or three vaguely relevant books in the local library, all of which assured us that we were mentally ill, evil or both. (That, admittedly, wasn't just a technology problem.)

In fact, it occurred to me the other day that although I first came out to another human being only ten years or so ago, I came out to a machine a quarter of a century earlier. That was when I bought my ZX81, with its colossal memory (for the time) of 1kb. (I would later go to London especially to buy an expansion pack that took that up to a mind-blowing 16kb.) While I was teaching myself BASIC, I wrote programs that allowed this computational behemoth and me to have affirmational conversations on these lines:

Me: Am I a girl?
ZX81: Yes, you are a girl.
Me: Really?
ZX81: There's no doubt about it.


It was nothing sophisticated, as you can see, and of course I'd written the code, so in a sense it was no more than talking to myself; but it was very comforting to see those words outside my own head, appearing in someone/thing else's "voice". I was careful to delete the programs afterwards, of course.

Yes, I know it's sad (in more than one sense), but in 1981 that was as good as it got. I'm glad to say that things have advanced considerably since then on quite a few fronts.

* I stress "visible", because it turns out that a large percentage of the kids in my year were in fact gay, and desperately hiding it. Witch Week was my classroom!
steepholm: (tree_face)
This image has been floating around Facebook recently: "Aren't you thankful that your childhood happened before technology took over?"

I can see what they're getting at, of course. This LJ has contained many a fond reminiscence about the 1970s, and I don't suppose I'd have liked being for ever available at the end of a mobile phone then any more than I would now. But for LGBT kids and other people who might find themselves isolated (as I was) in small-town and rural communities, with little information available and no visible* peer support, the internet in particular has been transformational. Don't expect me to yearn for the days when the only way people like me could find out about ourselves was by reading the two or three vaguely relevant books in the local library, all of which assured us that we were mentally ill, evil or both. (That, admittedly, wasn't just a technology problem.)

In fact, it occurred to me the other day that although I first came out to another human being only ten years or so ago, I came out to a machine a quarter of a century earlier. That was when I bought my ZX81, with its colossal memory (for the time) of 1kb. (I would later go to London especially to buy an expansion pack that took that up to a mind-blowing 16kb.) While I was teaching myself BASIC, I wrote programs that allowed this computational behemoth and me to have affirmational conversations on these lines:

Me: Am I a girl?
ZX81: Yes, you are a girl.
Me: Really?
ZX81: There's no doubt about it.


It was nothing sophisticated, as you can see, and of course I'd written the code, so in a sense it was no more than talking to myself; but it was very comforting to see those words outside my own head, appearing in someone/thing else's "voice". I was careful to delete the programs afterwards, of course.

Yes, I know it's sad (in more than one sense), but in 1981 that was as good as it got. I'm glad to say that things have advanced considerably since then on quite a few fronts.

* I stress "visible", because it turns out that a large percentage of the kids in my year were in fact gay, and desperately hiding it. Witch Week was my classroom!

Elbe Room

Jan. 28th, 2016 02:23 pm
steepholm: (Default)
I wasn't going to write anything about The Danish Girl here, because it's all been well said in various other places, but since I had to give a little impromptu talk on it the other night after a film showing and was subsequently asked to write it up for a newsletter, I may as well put the summary here too. (I'm not going into the details of the plot, as the circumstances of the talk made this unnecessary.)

tl;dr I'm ambivalent, but mostly disappointed )

Elbe Room

Jan. 28th, 2016 02:14 pm
steepholm: (Default)
I wasn't going to write anything about The Danish Girl here, because it's all been well said in various other places, but since I had to give a little impromptu talk on it the other night after a film showing and was subsequently asked to write it up for a newsletter, I may as well put the summary here too. (I'm not going into the details of the plot, as the circumstances of the talk made this unnecessary.)

tl;dr I'm ambivalent, but mostly disappointed )
steepholm: (tree_face)
Banning or not banning Donald Trump from Britain, like inviting or not inviting someone to give a distinguished address at a university, is not really a freedom of speech issue. At all. Because Donald Trump has freedom of speech by the bucketful. He plays nightly on millions of TV screens, including those in Britain. Yet that's the way it's frequently presented.

Here's my analogy, make of it what you will. It's a very middle-class one, but hey, that's my cultural milieu. You are holding a dinner party and inviting guests. You consider inviting your Uncle Donald or Aunt Germaine, out of politeness - but then you remember that Uncle Donald is a messy eater who is likely to throw profiteroles at your black guests, while Aunt Germaine is an aggressive drunk who (last time she came) ended up calling everyone "Ghastly parodies". On reflection, and considering the feelings of your other guests, you decide to leave them off the list.

The next day the headlines read: "Donald and Germaine left to starve!" Newspaper columnists line up to argue that "Food is a human right" and that by not inviting Donald and Germaine to dinner you have effectively denied them that right. This puzzles you, because the streets are full of supermarkets, restaurants and cafes, and neither Donald nor Germaine is short of a bob or two. Besides, they both get invited to dinner by other people most nights of the week. But many a column inch is devoted by journalists to arguing passionately that unless Donald and Germaine can sit themselves down at any dinner table in the land they are effectively being denied the right to food.

Ridiculous, huh? It would never happen. But when it's speech rather than food, that's exactly the argument we hear on a regular basis. And the headlines, rather than being laughed off, are earnestly debated by public and politicians alike. Why is this? Not because freedom of speech is so much more important than the freedom not to die of starvation, presumably. After all, starving tends to rob you of speech pretty effectively anyway.

In Trump's case, of course, it's more a freedom of movement issue than a freedom of speech one, but considering his own proposals involve denying freedom of movement to 1,600,000,000 people, I'm not surprised that aspect hasn't been stressed.
steepholm: (Default)
Banning or not banning Donald Trump from Britain, like inviting or not inviting someone to give a distinguished address at a university, is not really a freedom of speech issue. At all. Because Donald Trump has freedom of speech by the bucketful. He plays nightly on millions of TV screens, including those in Britain. Yet that's the way it's frequently presented.

Here's my analogy, make of it what you will. It's a very middle-class one, but hey, that's my cultural milieu. You are holding a dinner party and inviting guests. You consider inviting your Uncle Donald or Aunt Germaine, out of politeness - but then you remember that Uncle Donald is a messy eater who is likely to throw profiteroles at your black guests, while Aunt Germaine is an aggressive drunk who (last time she came) ended up calling everyone "Ghastly parodies". On reflection, and considering the feelings of your other guests, you decide to leave them off the list.

The next day the headlines read: "Donald and Germaine left to starve!" Newspaper columnists line up to argue that "Food is a human right" and that by not inviting Donald and Germaine to dinner you have effectively denied them that right. This puzzles you, because the streets are full of supermarkets, restaurants and cafes, and neither Donald nor Germaine is short of a bob or two. Besides, they both get invited to dinner by other people most nights of the week. But many a column inch is devoted by journalists to arguing passionately that unless Donald and Germaine can sit themselves down at any dinner table in the land they are effectively being denied the right to food.

Ridiculous, huh? It would never happen. But when it's speech rather than food, that's exactly the argument we hear on a regular basis. And the headlines, rather than being laughed off, are earnestly debated by public and politicians alike. Why is this? Not because freedom of speech is so much more important than the freedom not to die of starvation, presumably. After all, starving tends to rob you of speech pretty effectively anyway.

In Trump's case, of course, it's more a freedom of movement issue than a freedom of speech one, but considering his own proposals involve denying freedom of movement to 1,600,000,000 people, I'm not surprised that aspect hasn't been stressed.
steepholm: (tree_face)
And so, with this Sunday’s papers, the end of the latest Greer spat has probably been reached. Much of it has covered extremely familiar, indeed predictable territory, and it’s not really worth going into what Greer had to say, none of it being new, true or helpful to know. Besides, there's masses of comment out there already, and has been for years - for she is repetitious. Such interest as there is lies in the complicity of the media with her shenanigans.

Now, Greer is a fairly smart operator, but on this occasion she really didn’t need to be, since the media (broadcast and paper) were falling over themselves to help get her message out there. Consider the facts. First, she is invited by Cardiff University to give a talk - a pretty un-newsworthy event, in truth; then the Women’s Officer of the SU starts a petition to no-platform her, and that gets a bit of traction. Immediately she is invited onto Newsnight to say that she’s pulling out – cue protests at the infringement of her free speech (even though the invitation hadn’t been withdrawn), and predictable outrage at the transgender "lobby" (even though the person who started the petition wasn’t trans).

But that was a lie, because of course she didn’t pull out at all, and in fact gave the talk last Wednesday. This was then reported as her bravely standing up to the trans bullies who’d been out to silence her, a narrative the rattled university duly legitimised by arranging for police to be on hand to hold back the raging hordes. (In fact there were I believe about a dozen peaceful protestors.)

In the talk, apparently, she declared “I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock” – a statement reported as if it were some kind of slam-dunk anti-trans zinger rather than a statement of the obvious. Does anybody believe in the equivalence of those terms? (The only men without cocks I know are trans men – but something tells me she wasn’t trying to affirm the authenticity of their identity.)

More interesting than such click-bait apothegms themselves is the way they’ve been reported - often with a prurient glee at being able to repeat something rude because it’s in quotation marks, sometimes with a defiant “Je suis Germaine” flourish, as if it were only the freedom to insult transsexuals that stood between us and ISIS (though, to be fair to ISIS, they’d love to join in the fun and would certainly top off the evening by killing us en masse). In general, either the media has been very stupid in not seeing what’s going on under their noses with the whole business of Greer and the sacred right to Free Publicity, or else they’ve been happy to go along with her narrative. While I would never want to underestimate the stupidity of the Press, I’m pretty sure the latter is the case here, partly because many of them agree with her, and partly because she always makes good copy, allowing them to alternate between “You are awful – but I like you” articles and ones hailing her as a victim of the All-powerful Trans Cabal (whose voices, despite their cultural dominance, were as ever strangely absent from the papers, Newsnight, etc., almost as if they weren’t that powerful at all). In this way she’s a rather similar figure to, say, Jeremy Clarkson – and indeed, both have found similar niches on programmes like Grumpy Old (Wo)men and Have I Got News for You. The main difference is that my university is unlikely to invite Clarkson to give a distinguished address on the future of race relations.

And now I’m bored of talking about it. But please consider the above a kind of warm-up act for two excellent articles that came out of this latest incarnation of the same row we’ve seen so many times before. Both focus on the reporting, and (from different directions) effectively skewer the hypocrisies of the liberal left. Do read.

First, the excellent Julia Serano (of Whipping Girl fame), on writing a “Political Correctness Run Amok” article from a liberal left perspective.

And, in a very different idiom, here’s Paris Lees on the hypocrisy of the Left. Read for the argument, but stay for the links that underpin that argument over and over and over again.

Oh, just before I go, I'm going to share something that's been knocking round my head for a while, but which I've been reluctant to air because I'm not a big fan of pop-psychological diagnoses of people I've never met. But in Greer's case, since she's diagnosed me as a Norman Bates figure not only without meeting me but without even being aware of my existence, I feel no such scruple is necessary.

One thing I've noticed over many years is that Greer's animus against trans women derives in large measure from her inability to believe that anyone could find the idea of being a woman anything other than horrific. Unless, that is, they're Norman Bates, or desperately trying to avoid facing up to their inadequacy as men, or involved in some kind of sinister attempt infiltrate womankind as a fifth column. And while there are of course some good reasons (cf. Patriarchy) why a woman's lot might seem less desirable than a man's on many fronts, in Greer's case her animus seems to derive very specifically from the idea of being in a female body. She talks about the horrors of menstruation and of pregnancy, and has repeatedly claimed that if it were possible for the full female reproductive system to be transplanted into male bodies we would see the end of trans women overnight, because of course even they wouldn't want that horror. This remark is of course notable on the one hand because it shows just how laughably unacquainted Greer is with trans experience and desires; but it's just as remarkable in showing how unpleasant - indeed, repellent, she finds the female body. Which is kind of problematic for a feminist.

This thought saddens me, in fact, because the one thing I remember from reading The Female Eunuch back in the 1970s (it was a friend's copy and I'm afraid I didn't finish it) was a kind of hymn to the vagina, in all its wonderful flexibility and sensitivity - a passage I read as a teenager with a good deal of wistful envy. But more recently they've become "big, hairy, smelly vaginas", and I now suspect that she always rather wished she didn't have one - not because I think she's trans, necessarily! - but because, well, cooties.
steepholm: (Default)
And so, with this Sunday’s papers, the end of the latest Greer spat has probably been reached. Much of it has covered extremely familiar, indeed predictable territory, and it’s not really worth going into what Greer had to say, none of it being new, true or helpful to know. Besides, there's masses of comment out there already, and has been for years - for she is repetitious. Such interest as there is lies in the complicity of the media with her shenanigans.

Now, Greer is a fairly smart operator, but on this occasion she really didn’t need to be, since the media (broadcast and paper) were falling over themselves to help get her message out there. Consider the facts. First, she is invited by Cardiff University to give a talk - a pretty un-newsworthy event, in truth; then the Women’s Officer of the SU starts a petition to no-platform her, and that gets a bit of traction. Immediately she is invited onto Newsnight to say that she’s pulling out – cue protests at the infringement of her free speech (even though the invitation hadn’t been withdrawn), and predictable outrage at the transgender "lobby" (even though the person who started the petition wasn’t trans).

But that was a lie, because of course she didn’t pull out at all, and in fact gave the talk last Wednesday. This was then reported as her bravely standing up to the trans bullies who’d been out to silence her, a narrative the rattled university duly legitimised by arranging for police to be on hand to hold back the raging hordes. (In fact there were I believe about a dozen peaceful protestors.)

In the talk, apparently, she declared “I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock” – a statement reported as if it were some kind of slam-dunk anti-trans zinger rather than a statement of the obvious. Does anybody believe in the equivalence of those terms? (The only men without cocks I know are trans men – but something tells me she wasn’t trying to affirm the authenticity of their identity.)

More interesting than such click-bait apothegms themselves is the way they’ve been reported - often with a prurient glee at being able to repeat something rude because it’s in quotation marks, sometimes with a defiant “Je suis Germaine” flourish, as if it were only the freedom to insult transsexuals that stood between us and ISIS (though, to be fair to ISIS, they’d love to join in the fun and would certainly top off the evening by killing us en masse). In general, either the media has been very stupid in not seeing what’s going on under their noses with the whole business of Greer and the sacred right to Free Publicity, or else they’ve been happy to go along with her narrative. While I would never want to underestimate the stupidity of the Press, I’m pretty sure the latter is the case here, partly because many of them agree with her, and partly because she always makes good copy, allowing them to alternate between “You are awful – but I like you” articles and ones hailing her as a victim of the All-powerful Trans Cabal (whose voices, despite their cultural dominance, were as ever strangely absent from the papers, Newsnight, etc., almost as if they weren’t that powerful at all). In this way she’s a rather similar figure to, say, Jeremy Clarkson – and indeed, both have found similar niches on programmes like Grumpy Old (Wo)men and Have I Got News for You. The main difference is that my university is unlikely to invite Clarkson to give a distinguished address on the future of race relations.

And now I’m bored of talking about it. But please consider the above a kind of warm-up act for two excellent articles that came out of this latest incarnation of the same row we’ve seen so many times before. Both focus on the reporting, and (from different directions) effectively skewer the hypocrisies of the liberal left. Do read.

First, the excellent Julia Serano (of Whipping Girl fame), on writing a “Political Correctness Run Amok” article from a liberal left perspective.

And, in a very different idiom, here’s Paris Lees on the hypocrisy of the Left. Read for the argument, but stay for the links that underpin that argument over and over and over again.

Oh, just before I go, I'm going to share something that's been knocking round my head for a while, but which I've been reluctant to air because I'm not a big fan of pop-psychological diagnoses of people I've never met. But in Greer's case, since she's diagnosed me as a Norman Bates figure not only without meeting me but without even being aware of my existence, I feel no such scruple is necessary.

One thing I've noticed over many years is that Greer's animus against trans women derives in large measure from her inability to believe that anyone could find the idea of being a woman anything other than horrific. Unless, that is, they're Norman Bates, or desperately trying to avoid facing up to their inadequacy as men, or involved in some kind of sinister attempt infiltrate womankind as a fifth column. And while there are of course some good reasons (cf. Patriarchy) why a woman's lot might seem less desirable than a man's on many fronts, in Greer's case her animus seems to derive very specifically from the idea of being in a female body. She talks about the horrors of menstruation and of pregnancy, and has repeatedly claimed that if it were possible for the full female reproductive system to be transplanted into male bodies we would see the end of trans women overnight, because of course even they wouldn't want that horror. This remark is of course notable on the one hand because it shows just how laughably unacquainted Greer is with trans experience and desires; but it's just as remarkable in showing how unpleasant - indeed, repellent, she finds the female body. Which is kind of problematic for a feminist.

This thought saddens me, in fact, because the one thing I remember from reading The Female Eunuch back in the 1970s (it was a friend's copy and I'm afraid I didn't finish it) was a kind of hymn to the vagina, in all its wonderful flexibility and sensitivity - a passage I read as a teenager with a good deal of wistful envy. But more recently they've become "big, hairy, smelly vaginas", and I now suspect that she always rather wished she didn't have one - not because I think she's trans, necessarily! - but because, well, cooties.

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