Alice Dreger is a bioethicist and the author of Galileo’s Middle Finger, a book I’ve just started reading. It’s been recommended by several friends, and I gather it has something to do with her demonization by colleagues for her research on intersex individuals. But I’ve read only 30 pages and can’t yet tell. If anybody’s read the book, weigh in below.
On her personal website yesterday, Dreger wrote about her continuing ostracism by the Left in an essay called “Zero Tolerance: Censored by the Left.” What happened is that one of her very popular pieces of writing, “What if we admitted to children that sex is primarily about pleasure?“, was noticed by the website Everyday Feminism, which wanted to reprint it. She asked for a proper citation to the original publication, mention of her two most recent book, her approval if the site made any changes to her piece, and a modest fee. That’s exactly what I’d do.
Everyday Feminism did publish the piece, but then suddenly pulled it. Dreger reports:
I thought to myself, “I’ll bet someone told them I’m supposedly an enemy of transgender rights, and so they pulled it.”
Today by email, from Josette Sousa, Program Coordinator for Everyday Feminism, when I wrote to ask “wtf”:
“What happened was that we decided to pull the article from circulation shortly after it went up. When we asked permission from it we weren’t aware of some of the articles you’ve published on trans issues and after a reader brought it to our attention and we looked into them. We then realized that while we very much valued the information in the article on teaching children that sex is about pleasure, the views expressed in several of your other articles directly conflicts with the work we’re trying to do in Everyday Feminism. For that reason, we decided to pull the article.”
So supposedly something I’ve written about trans issues is so terribly offensive, Everyday Feminism doesn’t dare publish a piece by me on talking to your kids about sex!
This is the literary equivalent of no-platforming: refusing to use any of an author’s pieces because you object to something they’ve written elsewhere. If we did that with Christopher Hitchens, nobody would reprint any of his work if they objected to his published defense of the Iraq war. And it’s unconscionable. We’ll never agree with everything everyone says, and if you’re a member of the Highly Offended Left, that means that you’ll reprint work only by those deemed 100% Morally Pure.
But is Dreger really a transphobe? She claims not, and her citations support it:
And what are the “viewed expressed in several of [my] other articles that directly conflicts with the work [they’re] trying to do”? Of course they don’t say. Because I think they’d have an awfully hard time pointing to any such thing.
A number of my fellow feminists have pointed out that today, women like me can subject to silencing simply on the basis that they have supposedly said something that is anti-trans rights, even if they have not. Anyone so labeled also gets labeled a “TERF”: trans-exclusionary radical feminist.
But it does no good. Because as soon as you assert anything that someone with the trans identity card claims is anti-trans, you are stripped of your rights to be a sex-positive feminist talking about sex ed at a feminist website. At least in the case of “Everyday Feminism.”
. . . I’m still on the left. I’m still pushing for trans rights. Try and stop me.
The Left is, to a large extent, destroying itself by eating its own. If you don’t meet someone’s Purity Test, you’re rejected lock, stock, and barrel. Indeed, this may cost the Democrats the Presidential election this fall if disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m not a big fan of Clinton, but I know that the election of Trump would destroy this country: an immense loss for all liberals and progressives. In the case of Dreger, I don’t know on what grounds she’s accused of being a transphobe. But the links above suggest she’s not, and is being demonized not by facts but by rumors.
What a shame that Everyday Feminism won’t publish a very nice article because its author has supposedly failed to meet every criterion for being a good Third-Wave Feminist. How does such censorship advance either feminism or liberalism? It reminds me of those leftist secular bloggers who spend all their time not improving society, but calling out the flaws of other liberals and secularists. To paraphrase Marx, “The point is not to criticize the world, but to change it.”