The crisis of the day on the gender wars front is that Dame Jenni Murray won’t be speaking at Oxford. The reason being that certain students think she’s wrong on a minor detail of the disagreements about trans people. That idea that perhaps people you disagree with should be listened to, debated, not having occurred to the students which is a bit of a pity. That rather being the point of university, to gain knowledge from others.
Jenni Murray has pulled out of a talk at Oxford University after LGBTQ+ students claimed that she is “transphobic” and attempted to “no platform” her.
The veteran BBC broadcaster and Women’s Hour presenter was due to speak this Saturday at an Oxford History Society event, as part of their “Powerful British Women in History” series of events.
But on Wednesday Murray told the History Society that she is no longer able to attend the event due to “personal reasons”.
Earlier this week, three student groups wrote a joint letter urging their peers to “publicly condemn” Murray’s views and “if possible, cancel the event”.
The essential wibble here is that Murray thinks that transwomen won’t be fully women in the same manner that other women are. This being anathema to some of the trans activists. Murray’s actual point has a great deal of validity to it.
What Murray is saying is that the experience of growing up as a woman is going to be a certain part of what it is to be a woman. We could say that only those who have suffered the oppressions of the patriarchy for decades – as opposed to those of it for those decades – are formed into women in the same manner as other women. We might equally tone it all down and just agree that lived experience is going to be part of character formation. The point is still equal. And also nothing at all to do with equality. Someone who lives male and transitions is going to have had a different life experience than someone who grew up female. That’s a difference, even if both should be treated equally.
The part that interests here though is quite how this little fight over on the left is being fought. It’s a standard part of the rhetoric that genes matter very little to not at all. We’re not made that way, society shapes us that way. Women’s different choices on this and that – career say – are fully formed by the patriarchy not anything innate. Yet when it comes to expressions of gender – perhaps choices of – it’s all innate, it’s not the imprinting of society at all. Trans really are women (or men, moving the other way) and Murray’s insistence that the lived experience also matters is a hateful, transphobic crime.
That is, the trans insistence is that the tabula rasa argument is simply wrong, entirely so. It’s just that if you were to question most trans rights supporters on all the implications of this – genes matter for intelligence, it’s not the patriarchy which leads to women doing the child care etc – they’d indignantly deny the very contention. Which is amusing, no?