A Politics of Inclusion or Exclusion?
I agree with Katha Pollitt regarding the overall point of her column “Dangerous Words” [Nov. 23/30]. But I don’t think Germaine Greer and other feminists should be let off the hook for the harm they’ve done to trans people over the years. No group has more to gain from the feminist movement as a whole than the transgender community. What patriarchy does to marginalize and exclude women is even worse for male-to-female transsexuals. The harm has been compounded by feminists who have attacked, dismissed, and excluded us as much as the rest of society has. For a trans person, the betrayal of these feminists hurts far more than anyone else’s. While I agree that feminists such as Greer shouldn’t be dismissed or barred from speaking, the trans community cannot simply be thrown under the bus for the convenience of everyone else.
Thanks to Katha Pollitt for her column. I’d stress three related practical points. First, long-term, effective politics (plural) are coalition politics; lines have to be drawn, but ideological purity is an impractical, impossible, and ultimately self-defeating goal. Second, if the powerful are allowed to determine who gets to speak, it’s not going to be a left message that is heard in most places; freedom of speech, with responsibility for what one says, is to be supported on the left not only because the principle is right, but because we depend on it. Third, there are real conflicts of interest and other differences on the left and within feminism; these need to be argued out civilly and without trying to silence real opponents on an issue, especially those who are mostly allies or at least co-belligerents.
R d Erlich
The only anti-Greer voice quoted in Pollitt’s column is Rachael Melhuish, the author of the petition referenced in the article. She identifies as a straight cis ally. People accused of homo- and transphobia, like Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel, are named and cited; LGBT critics of Greer and Bindel are not.
This is at least the third consecutive article published by Katha Pollitt about LGBT issues that doesn’t name or quote one single actual LGBT person. The others are “There Are No Abortion Cakes” [which appeared online April 8] and “Why Marriage Trumps Abortion” [which appeared in the May 11 issue]. In her response to a letter to the editor written about another article, “Who Has Abortions?” [March 13], Pollitt also doesn’t quote any “transgender people,” although she does reference “Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of the South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas.”