Sunday, 25 October 2015

An analysis of Germaine Greer's claim about Caitlyn Jenner

So Caitlyn Jenner has “become” a transsexual woman in order to share the limelight of the Kardashans. According to the one who knows all about trans people: Germaine Greer. 

Big news, obviously Greer knows all about Jenner, about
trans people, about the Kardashans and about people’s motivations for doing things. Her conclusion is obviously based on in-depth sociological and psychological research triangulated by the latest data collection techniques and after a careful examination of everything Jenner has said in the last few months. 

Or not. 

Greer’s forensic “explanation” for Jenner’s gender identity cited no research, referred to no quotes from Jenner, or any other members of her family, from her manager, or from anyone else who knows her. In fact Greer’s conclusion is based on… absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Indeed it was probably something she thought up all by herself, on her own, with no-one else to help her...

In this sense however Greer’s “observation”, “explanation” “outburst” or whatever you want to call it, is important, although not in the way she intended it. It is important not merely because it represents a typical example of the TERF narrative but because it also reveals the way Greer thinks and because it exposes some TERF strategies.

TERF narratives, especially from so-called TERF “academics” are invariably characterised by a dearth of evidence to support their assertions, or indeed if they do present any evidence, it is generally as a result of a deliberate misinterpretation, misrepresentation or misuse of contested, and usually discredited data. The output of TERF writers, speakers and assorted other bigots is rarely, if ever, based on anything remotely resembling credible empirical evidence, or indeed any evidence of any kind whatsoever. 

Of course most of the assertions they make are demonstrably false, like Raymond’s absurd, and at long last retracted, claim that trans women rape women’s bodies, which was not only incorrect, deliberately recruiting emotive language to describe trans women, but an inappropriate use of the word “rape” (something she has not apologised for). Yet some more subtly so. Somehow they have come to claim that the mantle of TERF “Radical Feminism” speaks for all Radical Feminists or indeed "all women", when actually it only speaks for a tiny minority of fanatics.

What Greer’s outburst does expose in addition to this is how the TERFs are desperate to talk about Jenner almost to the exclusion of any other trans person. Indeed from reading TERF output you could almost be forgiven for thinking the population of trans people was represented by Caitlyn Jenner as a typical example. In fact Jenner is very much a rarity, vastly outnumbered by thousands of young trans people coming out at younger and younger ages. The problem for the TERFs however is that these young trans people, especially young trans women and girls, don’t fit their narrative so neatly. It is easier to make the claim that Jenner has benefitted from male privilege than it is to make the same claim of, say, Jazz Jennings or the numerous other trans girls and boys who have come out at similar ages, or in their teens, something which is today, vastly more common than a wealthy female celebrity coming out as trans. 

However probably the most revealing thing about Greer’s outburst was how it betrayed her own motivations and insecurities. A has-been celebrity “academic” who once wrote a good book, she has been desperately attempting to stay in the limelight for a very long time, numerous stunts and appearances on “reality” TV shows attest to this. She is desperate to avoid being ignored, insecure about fading away into obscurity, afraid of becoming insignificant.

No humiliation is too much for her to attract a few fleeting seconds of quasi-limelight; she is a woman who will do anything to get on TV or in the papers, everything including making a fool of herself over her bigoted opinions. She has had to lower herself to becoming the “feminist” Katie Hopkins in order to keep her precarious ego satisfied, employing whatever embarrassing and demeaning stunt she can come up with to fend off obscurity.

So when Greer starts telling everyone that trans women are “not women” its veracity, and her motives for saying it need to be taken with all of the above bourne in mind...

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