Moore’s criticism of cissexism on the left, ignores the specific abuse trans people face daily.
Recently, for The Guardian, Suzanne Moore wrote about the left’s entrenched sexism. It is a serious problem, and just as common as it is on the right. The problem is that the left is supposed to be the movement for equality. But if men must address their misogyny then the women of the left must tackle their transmisogyny.
There cannot be freedom for women unless that liberation includes all women. That includes the women we may not understand, the women whose experiences are different from our own and the women who endure far worse oppression than ourselves. The left however, has become a hub for angry whorephobia, misogynoir, biphobia – and especially transphobia. When we say women are not safe in left spaces we have to mean more than white cis women.
“There cannot be freedom for women unless that liberation includes all women”
Whether it’s Caroline Flint opposing trans people being able to have access to toilets which is a basic issue of rights, Bindel on yet another rant about sex work and endorsing positions which even Amnesty Interntational say harm sex working women, or Julie Burchill and her infamous Observerarticle that descended into transphobic ranting (too ghastly to repeat but easily searchable if you can stomach it), the left has a serious problem with women.
Sexism isn’t just about white cisgender women. It’s about the oppression of trans women, sex working women, women of colour and bi women. However, whenever anyone ever talks about sexism it’s always in relation to women who actually hold more privilege than others.
Women on the left are policing other women – but that’s no surprise. The left generally is an appalling mess for any marginalised person. The left want to get people to their cause by embracing the concept that they support equality, yet so many marginalised people are made to feel unsafe in left wing spaces.
“Women on the left are policing other women”
Corbyn has proved to be at his weakest when it comes to standing up to hate. He initially endorsed Trump’s win as being anti-establishment rather than acknowledging it was actually about white supremacy, he’s been seen as timid for his comments on Ken Livingstone who can’t open his mouth without offending the Jewish community, and he was slow to react to his shadow equalities minister who wrote for The Sun that Pakistani men were a danger to white British girls. Champion resigned – and was not fired. Corbyn may have been behind the move but he wasn’t willing to rebuke her so openly. Since then, Champion has gone even further with her comments and is painting herself as the only one brave enough to speak out. Clearly, she’s forgotten about the career Hopkins has made.
The left hasn’t evolved at all. Corbyn isn’t leading a new movement but 70s socialism, which focuses entirely upon white men. Marginalised people are an afterthought but that’s an ideology that’s engrained throughout the movement. It includes white cis feminist MPs as much as it includes white men on the left.
The left has to work – which means actually invest labour into – rooting out systematic structures that shut out marginalised people from Labour, and the Greens. It has to work to make sure its policies are inclusive, as well as the political environment. There is a reason why Bernie voters were at risk of switching to Trump, and not Clinton – and it was not just men either. White women voted for Trump too. Clinton was criticised for speaking on identity politics but the fault did not lie with her. It is with everyone who brushes off the prospect of tackling oppression in favour. We all must do better, but cis women on the left don’t get a pass when they’re just as oppressive. Just ask queer activists.