Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Bindel Effect

I'm sorry, I know I've been utterly useless at regular posts as of late. In my defence, unlike so many bloggers I do have a job (that isn't blogging) and with that, and my thus far poor efforts to crack on with my book, finish some articles and putting together some journal special issues, finding the space in which to reflect and write blog posts has proved challenging! Nonetheless, I hope you'll persevere with me and should you really want to follow my string of consciousness, I remain as active as ever on FB and Twitter (links on the right).

Anyway, to Julie Bindel. Now then, there is a chance you have no idea who she is. She regularly pops up in the Guardian where she describes herself as 'a freelance journalist and political activist'. For what it's worth, let me make clear that I think she's wrong on most issues and continues to perpetuate myths (notably around sex work). However, I do respect her right to put forward her views and I do not find a deep uncontrollable anger swelling inside me as soon as I see her name (I save that for Tory MEP Daniel Hannan). Yet, for many in the queer and trans communities she does exactly that whilst many researchers and academics who engage in the study of sex work are understandably vexed at her pronouncements.

Earlier this week she put in an appearance at Queer Question Time in London. For those of us not on the London queer circuit, it's something of a parochial event but for many commentators, it is of course on their doorstep and all hell was seemingly let loose. One blog describes (and shows) the protest which included 40 people. Yes, we're talking small numbers but from the online reaction you'd think it was 40,000. Gay novelist and commentator Paul Burston posted Facebook statuses in support of Bindel and changed his picture to a photo of her. The blogosphere repeated the list of charges against her such as on this blog by the trans poet Adam Fish, whilst many bloggers such as the self described 'kinky tranny dyke' Sarah brown described the series of events and cyber upset on her blog.

I'm not sure the protests made a huge amount of difference except perhaps to raise the fee Bindel can ask for her next op-ed piece. If Bindel is to be challenged, it must be done rationally and with clearly marshaled arguments. Then again, Bindel does sometimes make it hard to respond rationally. As with Nick Griffin on the BBC's Question Time, they should be allowed a democratic space but we should not make their voice reach further or be heard louder than it might otherwise have been by our own reaction to their presence.

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Anonymous said...

Bindel has been challenged rationally, several times, most notably by US academic Susan Stryker, in a debate in Manchester a year or two ago. Stryker wiped the floor with her, which isn't difficult as Bindel deals in opinion rather than solid evidence, and her contrarian viewpoint cannot withstand serious scrutiny.

The difficulty is that Bindel has little or no regard for factual evidence which contradicts her viewpoint: her idealogy will always be prioritised. Rational debate slides around her: she nods, concedes her lack of expertise, then proceeds to write another transphobic article.

She is superficially personable, and many trans people have expended time, energy and patience with her, explaining and showing the reasons why the ability to make a supported transition from one sexual/gender pole to another has been a literal life-saver for them. She ignores that wealth of testimony, preferring instead to troll Facebook pages, blogs and message boards (sometimes under pseudonyms, as with, stirring dissent then selectively quoting the more extreme minority and claiming it is representative of trans people as a whole. She appears to thrive on victimhood.

So yes, in principle you're quite correct. In practice, Bindel is a fundamentalist in the truest sense of the word, and debate merely serves to frustrate.

Law & Sexuality said...

Thanks anonymous - that's a really interesting and helpful comment. So many people have said to me that Bindel appeared to them 'superficially personable' at first and that she subsequently turned, in some times using information people had given in confidence against them.

I certainly wasn't saying she has never/is never challenged rationally - rather that, my impression was that there seems to have been a lack of it in the context of the QQT controversy.

Anonymous said...

a perfect example of JB's flawed claim that she has been 'campaigning on violence against all women for 30 years' can be seen in a facebook screenshot on Sarah Brown's blog (she of the 'worst transsexual' infamy ascribed by the B*ndel):
Curiously transgender women are apparently excluded from this category by JB as this would challenge the fundamentalism "womyn-born-womyn-only" second wave feminism, so bring on transphobic hate crime, murder, suicide and zero healthcare for transwomen, according to JB.


Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the decision to invite Bindel to be a panellist on Queer Question Time was either ignorant or wilfully perverse. The combination of Bindel's fundamentalism and QQT's format (no "balancing" trans/queer voices on the panel, limited time - five minutes max - to address the topic, no questions from the floor, a compere who seemed set on dumbing down any potentially tricky questions) was always going to be an explosive one.

Given the understandable strength of feeling within the trans community, holding the discussion at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was also thoughtless. You mention Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time but I'd argue that the situation differed in that Griffin's appearance on QT was balanced with other panellists familiar with his history and well-placed to counter him, an audience clued-up on his backstory and a significant amount of time devoted to exposing and rebutting his odious views.

A more apposite analogy would be inviting Nick Griffin to appear in a Brixton community venue during Black History Month. Yes, there's the "democratic space" principle in theory; in practice, one would hardly expect a wholly rational, constructive outcome.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that Bindel, the arch-social constructionist, uses the phrase, "born-woman".

Kevin said...

well Bindel and other bourgeois women are conspiracy theories

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